Tag Archives: Second Coming of Christ

The Eternality of God

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen. (Psalm 41:13)

I received an email just this week from a man trying to understand how God stepped out of eternity in order to create the universe. He said in part:

What research do you recommend, which helps one understand how God came out of eternity and made Genesis 1:1 come to pass? In other words, how does an endless succession arrive in the present? I understand that God is timeless and that He came out of eternity to create the universe about 10,000 years ago. But what was the Trinity doing prior to 10,000 years ago?

Reader, if you have struggled with this question, you are not alone in your bewilderment in understanding eternality of God. All of us “finite” human beings have a hard time wrapping our minds around eternity. It is less difficult for us to understand time having a beginning and going on infinitely, but eternity past is something difficult for us to grasp. God declares Himself to “Be”—He just “Is”—He “Exists.” When Moses asked God to identify Himself so he could report back to the people, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14). By the way, Jesus made the same claim: “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The Pharisees that heard Jesus’ proclamation clearly understood what Jesus was saying. “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59, emphasis mine), because to them, His words were blasphemy.

Well, that does not really answer the question, but it does confirm that God has always existed, even before time. Perhaps what we need to understand is that God created time. Time is part of the created universe. Without time, there is no universe. We understand the universe to be triune in nature composed of time, space and matter/energy. The first verse of the Bible establishes this: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, emphasis mine). God made time (beginning), space (heaven), and the earth (matter/energy). Since He is the Creator, He has access to time at any point in time, and since He is eternal, He is also present in all points in time. He is present in the past, present, and future. God is “omnipresent.”  God says, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10, emphasis mine), The psalmist declares, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Psalms 139:7). There is no escaping God, although many attempt to deny His existence. God calls such people “fools” (Psalm 14:1).

No research can demonstrate how God accomplishes this. There are some things we simply cannot know. There are some things that God intended for us not to know; our brains just cannot handle them. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29, emphasis mine).

“Those things which are revealed” are written down in God’s Word, the Bible. Reader, if you do not know God, you can know Him—He can be known. Knowing Him is as easy as ABC. Borrowing from Pastor J.D, Farag of Calvary Chapel, Kaneohe, Hawaii:

Here is an article from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) that talks a little more about the eternality of God: http://www.icr.org/article/time-eternity/.

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Pentecost

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4)

God gave the Feast of Weeks, a.k.a. Shavu’ot, (Leviticus 23:15-22) as the fourth of the Feasts of the Lord and the last of the spring feasts. God gave seven feasts to be observed as holy (i.e., set apart, consecrated, dedicated) convocations where all males over the age of 20 were required to attend. Later in their history, the Jews added Purim to celebrate their divine preservation in Babylon/Persia (Esther 9:20-32) and Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, to celebrate the rededication of the Temple after Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated it in 165 B.C. These last two are rabbinical festivals and do not bear the same significance as the Feasts of the Lord. The Lord’s feasts not only have religious significance, but they are prophetic of the coming Messiah. Jesus fulfilled the four spring feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost) at His first coming; the fall feasts (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles) He will fulfill at His second coming.

Pentecost, a.k.a. Feast of Weeks, a.k.a. Shavu’ot, came 50 days after the Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:16). At First Fruits, the devotee would bring some of the sprouts of the barley crop to the priest as a thank (wave) offering to God for the promise of bountiful harvest. Jesus fulfilled this feast when He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). Forty days later (Acts 1:3), Jesus ascended to heaven, but before He did, He instructed His disciples (not just the apostles), “that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.  For John [the Baptist] truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5, emphasis mine). Pentecost came ten days later. This was the barley harvest celebration. Prophetically, this feast looked forward to the birth of the Church.

On Pentecost, Luke records that the disciples, about 120 in number (Acts 1:15), were gathered together “with one accord” (Acts 2:1), “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:2-3, emphasis mine). This occasion reminds us of a similar manifestation in the Old Testament. When the children of Israel erected the tabernacle in the wilderness, “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34, emphasis mine). Similarly, at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house. (2 Chronicles 7:1-2, emphasis mine).

The tongues of fire resting upon each of the disciples at Pentecost proclaimed that no longer would the Spirit of God be confined to a manmade structure, but in a temple created by God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, emphasis mine). At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit took up residence in the heart of every believer, and thus the Church of God (not the denomination that takes that name) was born.

This year, Pentecost falls on May 31, 2017. The year 2017 is significant to many who study end-times prophecy for a number of reasons, which I cannot go into detail at this time. One of these is that 2017 is a Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-13). Briefly, in 1917, the Balfour Declaration returned the land of Israel back to the Jews. Fifty years later, 1967, the Israelis recaptured their ancient capitol of Jerusalem. Since Jubilee is the time when all property reverts to its original owner, perhaps this year the Temple Mount will be returned to its rightful owners, the Jews.  This is the hope among many faithful Jews. All the instruments for the Temple are ready and even the priests are ready to take up their duties. The only thing missing is the Temple and the land on which the Temple is to be built. Perhaps this Jubilee will be the year that takes place.

There is also much talk about the Revelation 12 sign. Supposedly, on September 23, 2017 the constellation Virgo will appear “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1). That Virgo appears clothed with the sun and the moon at its feet is an annual occurrence.  However, this year the constellation Leo will be accompanied by a conjunction of three planets, Mercury, Mars and Venus. Together with the nine major stars in Leo’s constellation, this grouping will form a crown of 12 stars above Virgo’s head. Supposedly, this particular configuration of heavenly objects has never before been observed, and it would only come about once every 7,000 years. In addition, Jupiter, the King Planet, entered Virgo’s “womb” on December 16, 2016, and will remain there 40 weeks, the normal length of human gestation. Then on September 23, 2017 (Feast of Trumpets), it is due to exit Virgo from between her feet (Revelation 12:5). Many prophecy teachers, while maintaining that they are not “date setting,” see this as a “possible” time for the Rapture of the Church. Other prophecy teachers see the Revelation 12 sign as merely analogous to Israel (the woman) giving birth to Jesus and His being taken up unto heaven.  Those that argue for the Rapture sign rightly point out that prophecies in the Bible often carry more than one meaning. Therefore, they suggest that the birth of this “man child” is the “body” of Christ, i.e. the Church, which is “caught up” (Greek: harpazō) or raptured up to heaven.

However, some suggest that Pentecost 2017 is also a good candidate for the Rapture. They conclude that since Jesus ascended ten days before Pentecost, He did not truly fulfill that feast, and that the “harvest” is yet ahead. Maybe so. Whether the Rapture takes place this year on May 31 (Pentecost), September 23 (Feast of Trumpets), or some other time, Jesus admonished us, “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:14). The Apostle Paul informs us of a special reward that awaits those who anxiously look for Jesus’ return. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8, emphasis mine). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

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Who Is Jesus?

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (Hebrews 1:3)

For the last 2000 years, people have asked that question, but for those who have “ears to hear,” the Bible provides the answer. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1).

From the very beginning, the Scriptures have pointed to Christ. “And the LORD God said unto the serpent … I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; [He] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, emphasis mine). Abraham received the promise: “… in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Isaac received the same promise: “…in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 26:4), and the promise was passed on to Jacob: “…in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). Jacob (renamed Israel) prophesied “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:10, emphasis mine). The scepter signifies rule. A “lawgiver” signifies absolute authority. This One would come from the tribe of Judah, and “the people” (meaning all the people, not just Israel) would be gathered unto Him. This is just in the book of Genesis!

Moses spoke of this Promised One. “And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Deuteronomy 18:17-18, emphasis mine). Job looked forward to the Promised One. He said, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 19:25-27, emphasis mine). The psalmists sang about Him. The prophets predicted His arrival with pinpoint accuracy. The prophet Daniel predicted His presentation to the very day! “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem [March 5, 444 BC][1] unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks [i.e. 49 years],[2] and threescore and two weeks [i.e. 434 years, 483 years total]: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks [483 years] shall Messiah be cut off [April 3, AD 33],[3] but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined” (Daniel 9:25-26, emphasis mine).

The prophets predicted His birth in precise detail. They predicted His teaching in parables and His healing miracles. They predicted every agonizing detail of His crucifixion and even His resurrection. “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [i.e. the grave]; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:10-11, emphasis mine). Not only would He rise again, but as the martyr Stephan reported, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56, emphasis mine).

Yes, but who was Jesus?

“God, … Hath in these last days [i.e. the days in which we live] spoken unto us by his Son [Jesus Christ], whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3, emphasis mine).

He is “heir of ALL things.” The universe and all that it contains belong to Jesus Christ. “He made the worlds.” “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3, emphasis mine). “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16, emphasis mine). He is the Creator and owner of all that exists.

He is “the express image” of God. “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15, emphasis mine). “And the Word [i.e. Jesus Christ] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, emphasis mine). “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18, emphasis mine). In other words, Jesus is the full expression of God in human form. “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness [of the Godhead] dwell” (Colossians 1:19, emphasis mine). “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9, emphasis mine).

Jesus is the One “upholding all things by the word of his power.” He is “the Word.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2, emphasis mine). “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17, emphasis mine). The Greek world translated “consist” is sunistaō, which means “to set together” or “hold together.” In other words, Jesus keeps the universe from flying apart!

Jesus is the Savior.  He “by himself purged our sins.” “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, emphasis mine). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, emphasis mine). Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8, emphasis mine). Is that not amazing! This He did so that, “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). The inverse is also true. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18, emphasis mine).

Finally, Jesus is LORD. He is, and always has been, seated “on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34, emphasis mine). {Who needs Mary!} “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1, emphasis mine). “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1, emphasis mine).  “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12, emphasis mine). Jesus, “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1 Peter 3:22, emphasis mine).

Who is Jesus? He is God. He is Creator. He is sustainer of creation. He is Savior. He is Lord, and He is coming again. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine).

Reader, this is Jesus. Do you know Him? You can know Him. If you will sincerely ask Him to reveal Himself to you, He will. “The Lord [Jesus] is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). Just ask Him. Jesus said, “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:8, emphasis mine).

Notes:


[1]  Ed Hinderson & Thomas Ice, Charting the Bible Chronologically: A Visual Guide to God’s Unfolding Plan, (Eugene, OR, Harvest House Publishers, 2016), 98.

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  Ibid.

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Tasty Book

And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. (Revelation 10:9-10)

Before ascending to His throne “on the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69); Jesus hinted at the possibility that John the Beloved, might live until His return. “Jesus saith unto him [Peter], If I will that he [John] tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:22). In a way, that did indeed come to pass. John is probably the only one of Jesus’ apostles that died a natural death and did not experience martyrdom. Jesus granted John the unique privilege of seeing end-time events from a heavenly perspective.

While exiled on the island of Patmos for the sake of the Gospel (Revelation 1:9), John had a vision of the risen Christ and was “raptured” up to heaven to witness events at the end of time (Revelation 4:1). So, in a manner of speaking, John did indeed tarry until the coming of the Lord.

Beginning with Chapter 6 of the Apocalypse, John witnesses the horrors of the first half of the Tribulation. Following the sounding of the Sixth Trumpet (Revelation 9:13-21), there is a pause in the activity on earth and the scene shifts to what is taking place in heaven.

John describes the scene this way. “And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth” (Revelation 10:1-2, emphasis mine). The “mighty angel” that John saw is the Lord Jesus Christ. We know this by the description given by John. The Mighty Angel is clothed with a cloud as He was when He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9). He is crowned with a rainbow like the one John saw around the throne of God (Revelation 4:3), and “His feet as pillars of fire” take us back to John’s initial meeting with the risen Christ (Revelation 1:15). He stands with one foot on the sea and the other on the land indicating His dominion over all the earth. Furthermore, He declares, “that there should be time no longer” (Revelation 10:6), something only God can control.

In His hand, He carries “a little book open.” A voice from heaven instructs John to take the little book from the Mighty Angel. Fearlessly, John records, “And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book” (Revelation 10:9a). We are awestruck by John’s boldness in the presence of the risen Lord until we recall that this was “that disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:7). “And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter” (Revelation 10:9b-10, emphasis mine).

Eating a book seems rather strange to us, but this is not the first time such imagery is presented in the Bible. The book represents the Word of God. God instructed the Prophet Ezekiel, “But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe. (Ezekiel 2:8-10, emphasis mine). He continues, “So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” (Ezekiel 3:2-3, emphasis mine).

The Prophet Jeremiah experienced something similar when he said, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16, emphasis mine). The psalmist says, “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:9-10, emphasis). “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).

For the child of God, His Word is sweet. It gives comfort, hope and security. Some have called it God’s love letter to the world. It is sweet to feast upon the Word of God. However, its consumption also brings bitterness. Why? Perhaps it is precisely because we are His children that we share His remorse for the lost who reject His Word. “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23). “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11, emphasis mine). “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine).

The Word of God is Good News to the one who accepts it and consumes it; but it is bad news for the one who rejects its warnings. To the one who “eats” of its sweetness, it becomes bitterness knowing that friends and loved ones who reject its message are doomed to an eternity in “the lake of fire: (Revelation 20:15). Still, the Word of God is a “tasty book.”

Reader, if you have not tasted of God’s Word, time is getting short. Do not waste another day!

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In the Twinkling of an Eye

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

For several years now, but more so lately, the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ, occupies my mind almost constantly – hopefully not to the point that I am so heavenly minded that I am no earthly good. As a matter of fact, the prospect incites a sense of urgency within me to share, or better, to warn, the lost around me, especially my loved ones, of the menacing peril that looms ahead for those left behind when Jesus returns for His Bride, the Church. Anyone rejecting Christ, whether by choice or by ignorance, faces seven years of unimaginable horror on earth, until Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to claim His Kingdom on earth for 1000 years (Revelation 20). During that awful period of seven years, people will still have the opportunity to repent and follow Jesus, but they may have to pay for that choice with their lives.

For believers who share my anticipation, I wonder what our call to “come up hither” (Revelation 4:1) will be like? In the starting verse above, the Apostle Paul says that we, if we are not “asleep,” will “be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).  The Greek word translated moment is atomos, from which we get our English word “atom,” and it signifies the smallest, indivisible amount of time. Paul further defines the “moment” as “the twinkling of an eye.” The twinkling of an eye is faster than “the blink of an eye” which is 100-400 milliseconds.[1] I read somewhere that the “twinkling of an eye” is the amount of time it takes for light to enter the eye, hit the retina, and reflect back out;[2] it is a ridiculously small amount of time.

Paul tells us this event takes place “at the last trump.” John the Revelator, who enjoyed a “sneak preview” of this future event, said, “the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither” (Revelation 4:1, emphasis mine). Will we hear an actual trumpet call and automatically understand that we are being called home? In another place Paul says that, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, emphasis mine). Will everyone on earth hear the sound? Perhaps they will, but only those for whom the call is intended will understand the meaning. I recall that when Jesus called Paul into service, “the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man,” (Acts 9:7, emphasis mine). In another place Paul says, “they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me” (Acts 22:9, emphasis mine). The connotation here is that, even though they heard the sound, they did not hear the voice with understanding. The communication was intended solely for Paul and no one else. That is what I think will happen at the Last Trump. Those who are His “sheep” will hear and understand the voice of the Shepherd. The rest may hear something, but not know what it is.

When that call comes, “the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, emphasis mine). In the twinkling of an eye, the decayed bodies of all the saints who are “asleep” (i.e., dead) will be reconstituted, and they will burst forth from their graves and take flight to meet Jesus in the air. In that same instant, “we [who are alive] shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51); in the twinkling of an eye, our bodies will be transformed from mortal to immortal. Will we feel it? What sensation will we experience? Suddenly all aches and pains will cease. Wrinkled skin will return to the firm supple skin of our youth. Grey hair will return to its former natural vibrancy. Heads of skin will be restored to their former glory – without the dandruff! I imagine myself in front of the mirror checking my “gig line.” I look down to check a button I missed, and when I look back up, I am staring at my 30-year old self with a full head of wavy hair! Then in the next moment, my clothes fall off as I pass right through the roof of my house. I look down and watch my house grow smaller and smaller as I zoom skyward like in a Star Wars movie. I look up and see Jesus standing there in space with open arms to welcome me, and I look around me and see millions of others wearing white robes like mine going the same direction I am traveling – toward Jesus. And no one is old. No one is disfigured. No one is bent, broken, or blemished in any way. All those I see are perfect creations like the first pair God made in the Garden of Eden. It will happen in the twinkling of an eye!

Not everyone on earth will go. Behind will be all those who rejected God’s free gift of salvation to face the horrors of hell on earth for the next seven years. Reader, if you have not asked Jesus to be your Savior, you will be included with those who are left behind. Do not let another day go by without asking Jesus to save you. Invite Him into your heart today. In the twinkling of an eye, that matter will be settled, and you can rest secured in His love. Do it now!

Notes:


[1]  “How Fast Is a Blink of an Eye?” http://sciencing.com/fast-blink-eye-5199669.html/, accessed 04/18/2017.

[2]  Question posted at https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/48664/how-long-would-it-take-for-light-to-go-through-a-human-eyeball-and-back-to-the-o/, accessed 04/18/2017.

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Risen Indeed!

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:14)

It has been 1,987 years since Jesus gave His life on the cross and rose again, and many in the world today still deny the fact. This denial began with one of Jesus’ own disciples. “The other disciples therefore said unto him [Thomas], We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25, emphasis mine).

Thomas needed physical evidence in order to believe, and many today still want to see some physical manifestation. They want to see a miracle, experience a “feeling.” or suddenly speak in an unknown language in order to believe. Eight days later, Jesus granted Thomas’ request, but also lovingly reprimanded him for his lack of faith. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine).

For those that demand evidence, God provides abundant evidence, however, “they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). Let us briefly examine just some of the evidence.

First, there is the evidence of an empty tomb.  No court in the world will try someone for murder without a dead body. Where is Jesus’ body? Where are His bones? Not long ago, an ossuary was found in Jerusalem supposedly having the inscription “Jesus son of Joseph,” but that was soon proven a hoax.[1] Besides that, many fail to understand that “James, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary” were very common names in those days, so the inscriptions prove nothing. However, an inscription found on another ossuary said “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” This may indeed contain the remains of James the brother of Jesus.[2] However, the fact remains that the tomb (and there are several suspected) which temporarily held Jesus’ body remains empty.

No body means no victim, and for this reason many suggest that the crucifixion never really took place. One rumor suggests that the betrayer, Judas, was crucified in Jesus’ place and that Jesus walked away free. Those same people are the ones looking for His bones in ossuaries. Muhammad is buried in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Confucius’ body rests in his home town of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. Buddha’s cremated remains (the “relics”) are distributed among several stupas. Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í faith, is buried in Bahji near Acre, Israel.[3] Two main tombs in Jerusalem compete as the burial place of Christ, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb, but both remain empty.

Second, many eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive the third day after His crucifixion and other times thereafter. The four Gospels report that the women (disciples also) that followed Jesus discovered the empty tomb first (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-2, 11-18).  Luke records that Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). Those two return to report to the eleven (Judas had taken his own life because of the guilt he felt for betraying Jesus), and while they gave their report, Jesus appeared to all of them (Luke 24:33-43). John’s account notes that Thomas missed that first appearance (John 20:19-25). All of this happened on Resurrection Day. The next Sunday, Jesus appeared to them again, but this time Thomas, the doubter, was in the group of disciples (John 20:26-29). Thomas’ doubt transformed into belief, “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:28, emphasis mine).

Jesus had many “disciples” (both men and women) besides the twelve “apostles” composing His core group; so when the Gospel writers talk about disciples, they likely include the many that followed Jesus during His ministry on earth. The word “disciple” literally means “student,” so the number of eyewitnesses went beyond the core group. Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, there were many that could testify to His resurrection. The Apostle Paul asserts “After that, he [the risen Christ] was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6, emphasis mine). At the time of Paul’s writing the letter to the Corinthians, there remained many eyewitness that could attest to the resurrected Lord. The Law says that “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15), and Jesus had more than 250 times the number of witnesses required by the Law. Paul himself, never having known Jesus during His earthly ministry, met the risen Christ as he traveled toward Damascus to persecute the followers of The Way. Of all the witnesses, he says of himself, “And last of all he [the risen Christ] was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not [worthy] to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9, emphasis mine). Despite the abundance of eyewitness, some hold to the silly notion that all these witnesses experienced mass hallucinations. Seriously? I will not dignify that with a response!

Third is the matter of the radical change in the lives of all of the disciples. Immediately after Jesus’ arrest, they all went into hiding. Mark, probably writing for Peter, remembers Jesus’ arrest: “And they all forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50, emphasis mine). Mark probably witnessed this firsthand. Speaking of himself in third person (out of embarrassment I am sure), he says, “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked” (Mark 14:51-52, emphasis mine). Peter, who boasted, “… If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all” (Mark 14:31, emphasis mine) was the first disassociate himself from Jesus with a verbal denial despite Jesus’ warning. “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matthew 26:34).  Faced with the challenge of making a public declaration of his association with Jesus, Peter succumbed to fear. “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75, emphasis mine).

Shortly after Jesus appeared to them, the disciples maintained a low profile. They met secretly in the Upper Room and evangelism never entered their minds. At first, they must have wondered if they had all experienced a mass hallucination. The Gospels give no indication that Jesus met with them regularly following His resurrection. Indeed, some could not believe their own eyes with those brief encounters. “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17, emphasis mine). Jesus was alive, but so what! The Jews would kill anyone proclaiming Jesus’ name. Not surprisingly, the disciples wanted to get things back to “normal.” “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3, emphasis mine).

These cowering, fearful men were not likely candidates to “have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) with the message of a risen Christ. Even with their firsthand encounters with the risen Lord, they dared not speak out. These (“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emphasis mine)) would not put their lives on the line for the risen Christ whom they, as John put it, “… have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1, emphasis mine). Why would they put their lives on the line for what they knew to be a lie? Yet only fifty days after the Crucifixion, at Pentecost, these same men boldly stood in Jerusalem and proclaimed the risen Savior to every tongue and nation (Acts 2:1-5). The fear of death no longer silenced them. When commanded to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, emphasis mine). What made the difference? They saw and handled the risen Christ, and they experienced His power, the Holy Spirit, indwelling their lives. Christ is risen indeed!

Reader, we cannot see or handle the risen Christ, but we have the empty tomb. We have the written testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses. Men and women who would rather die than deny what they had witnessed firsthand. We have the continuing witness of the living body of Christ, the Church. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine). You and I are they “that have not seen.” To us Jesus says, “… be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27). Christ is risen indeed. One day, very soon, He will return to reclaim His creation as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Be sure you are ready to meet Him.

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus’ tomb story: Does the evidence add up?” (http://www.icr.org/article/1063/386), accessed 04/14/2017.

[2]  Jackson, Wayne. “The Jesus Ossuary Inscription.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 14, 2017. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/578-jesus-ossuary-inscription-the, accessed 04/14/2017.

[3]  “Burial places of founders of world religions,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burial_places_of_founders_of_world_religions, accessed 04/14/2017.

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The King Is Coming!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)

Around 1,987 years ago on a Sunday afternoon (Mark 11:11), Jesus rode into Jerusalem as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah. The Gospel writer, Matthew, quotes Zachariah in part, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:5, emphasis mine). Matthew conspicuously omits Zachariah’s description of the coming King as “just, and having salvation.” Why the omission? Matthew Henry comments on Zachariah 9:9:

“He is a righteous ruler; all his acts of government will be exactly according to the rules of equity, for he is just. 2. He is a powerful protector to all those that bear faith and true allegiance to him, for he has salvation; he has it in his power; he has it to bestow upon all his subjects. He is the God of salvation; treasures of salvation are in him. He is servatussaving himself (so some read it), rising out of the grave by his own power and so qualifying himself to be our Saviour.”[1] (Emphasis mine)

Perhaps Matthew’s omission (as directed by the Holy Spirit) was purposeful. Granted, Matthew wrote after the fact from a vantage point of hindsight, yet the omission retained the prophetic formula of immediate and future fulfillment. Jesus did something similar when He applied Isaiah’s prophecy to Himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). He deliberately omitted the remainder of Isaiah’s prophecy: “and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2).  Jesus fulfilled the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy at His first coming; “the day of vengeance of our God” will be fulfilled at His second coming when He will set up His millennial kingdom and “comfort all that mourn.”

In the same way, Jesus entered into Jerusalem as the coming King, “lowly [meek], and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). In a matter of days, the adoring crowd crying, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13) would turn into a raging mob shouting, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him … We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They took the King and nailed Him to a cross.

Three days later, He conquered death and once again walked on earth. After forty days (Acts 1:3), He ascended to His throne having “purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). However, He is not done. There remains prophecy yet unfulfilled. Many still mourn. Injustice still reigns. The Lord has not executed His vengeance and His creation still needs salvation. There is yet more to come.

The prophets spoke of God reigning on the earth. His Messiah will rule the world from the throne of David in Jerusalem. Jesus promised to return. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). This same Gospel writer was granted the great privilege of seeing things to come. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God … And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God … And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:1, 11-13, 15-16, emphasis mine).

He will once again enter the gates of Jerusalem, this time on a white horse as a conquering king. “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4, emphasis mine). What an awesome sight to behold!

Lately, I have been hearing many modern prophets suggesting that this year, 2017, will be the year that Christ will return to rescue His people from “the wrath of God” that is to come upon the earth. Their reasoning, from a biblical standpoint, is sound. All the ones I listen to are quick to issue the disclaimer that they are not setting dates. Jesus clearly stated, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36); so I respect that note of caution by these prognosticators. However, I sense, because of what I observe happening all around the world, that what they are predicting may be true. For the Church, the return of Christ has always been imminent, but it is truer today than ever before in the history of the Church. The King is coming! Jesus is coming very soon. Personally, I am looking for and anxiously awaiting His return.

Reader, you will meet Jesus very soon. The best way to meet Him is to be one of His own. Very soon, Jesus will return for His Bride, the Church, the collective body of all who have placed their trust in Him. When that day comes, all the powers of hell will be unleashed upon the world. No place will escape or be immune. You will still have the opportunity to repent when that time comes, but you will suffer tremendously for it. Why not give your life to Jesus now and avoid the horrors that are to come. All you need to do is confess your sin and recognize your need for Him. Ask Him to save you. Invite Him into your heart. Give Him first place in your life; make Him the Lord (the “Boss”) of your life, and trust that He will keep His promise. The King is coming, but this time He will not be meek and lowly. Are you ready to meet Him?

Notes:


[1] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, note on Zechariah 9:9.

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