Sunday, January 30, 2011

Are You Watching?

Events in the Middle East this past week have generated concern in governments around the world, as well as to those who study the prophecies relating to the rapture of the church. Yet the vast majority of people, including a large percentage of professing Christians, act as if there is nothing unusual about the events we see occurring around the world. The terrorist bombing in Russia, the current administrations overtures to China, the governments in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt in peril or in turmoil, all are seen as simply natural occurrences that are to be expected in the world we live in today. Rather than contemplating the possibility that the world is on the brink of experiencing judgment from God as predicted in the Bible, the world simply watches to see how events unfold.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, I would hope it has become apparent to you that I believe strongly that we are at the very end of what is called the “church age”, and that the rapture of the church, the bride of Christ, is imminent. When that event occurs I believe the world will experience calamities which are a direct result of the events we see happening today. Why then and not now?

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 NKJV

Although the preparations are being made, the world is being protected by “He who now restrains”, who according to the majority of Bible scholars is identified as the Holy Spirit embodied in the individual members of Christ's body, the church. When the rapture occurs, because the church leaves it follows that the restrainer leaves. It is then that we will see the result of the preparations now being made in the world around us.

The following is a commentary by Terry James of Rapture Ready, a website devoted to “watching” that I have often referred you to. In it he examines the subject of the apathy we see around us and the possible reasons for it. My hope is that it will help you to see and understand how close we are to the “end of times” and motivate you to share with an unbelieving world the hope that is our salvation in Christ Jesus.

Scanning a Fearful Future: Part 9
Jesus Christ–God in the flesh—foretold that the time just before God’s judgment and wrath befall rebellious mankind at the very end of the Church Age will be like it was in the days of Noah and of Lot. Although those times were wicked and all thoughts were focused continually on evil, people of the earth were carrying on with normal activities like eating, drinking, planting, building, marrying, buying, and selling.
In the days of Noah, earth dwellers were carrying on business as usual right up until the moment that Noah entered the ark and all who were left on earth were swept away by the Flood. In the days of Lot, there was an air of civility, with Lot even serving as a judge at the city gates during the day. At night, however, the depravity ran rampant when homosexual lust turned to voracious, predatory assault. Lot and his family members were removed, and all people who were left behind in the city were consumed by the holocaust from heaven.
Jesus said He will be revealed when conditions are like they were during those times. We have seen that the time when He intervenes into the affairs of mankind as described in Luke 17:26-30 will not be His Second Coming at Armageddon (Revelation 19:11). It will be another, earlier intervention--but catastrophic, nonetheless.
We have pointed out many times in these commentaries the strangeness of the dynamics of our times. Crises are building in many critical aspects of human interaction. We have wondered in amazement at the insanity of the dastardly mismanagement of economic matters by governments around the world. How, we puzzle over, have the economies of America and the world avoided crashing?
Why, despite threats of the destruction of Israel by the likes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear production facilities not occurred? Why, with the tremendous buildup of arms by the many Islamic Israel-haters in obvious preparation for an attack on the Jewish state, has there not been a major blow-up in the Middle East that would disrupt world stability?
Yet the anxieties about the world sitting on a number of powder kegs afflict only a few people, relatively speaking. Except for those who are unemployed in America, for example, it’s business as usual. The majority of people just don’t worry about the precarious position of the nation and the world. The masses are buying, selling, marrying–even men with men and women with women, I might add. And building continues, despite the housing debacle and trillions of dollars of debt wrought by monetary madness such as that found in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Most troubling, the church in America–and I am referring to those who are born again (see John 3: 3)—is, for the most part, oblivious to world conditions that present strong evidence that we are on the brink of the prophesied apocalypse. This makes this generation of Christians precisely the generation I believe Jesus was speaking prophetically to when He said, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44).
But, as we have been examining, there are those who are scanning the fearful future. Glenn Beck, the Fox News program host, says he sees coming a man-contrived world economic collapse, hyperinflation, and societal collapse that only patriotic, sound-thinking, even spiritually-inclined Americans can begin to fix. He doesn’t know when it will happen, but, he says, it will happen almost overnight. We will awaken the next morning to a world totally different than what it was before we went to sleep.
Hal Lindsey, the author of The Late, Great Planet Earth, says much the same thing. He foresees, as a part of that feared socioeconomic collapse, severe persecution for Christians in America at some point. Jesus’ words, which I believe speak directly to this generation, present a different picture than Beck’s forecast (and to some extent, than Lindsey’s) regarding things about to break upon a mostly unsuspecting world. My own thoughts that follow are based upon what I believe is wrapped up in the Lord’s forewarning to our generation in Luke 17: 26-30.
Two statements are necessary at this point. First, it is God’s staying hand that prevents the impending calamities outlined in this essay from collapsing America and the world into the worst times in history. Second, if things continue on their present course geopolitically and socioeconomically–and if God takes His hand of control off developments--the collapse feared by Beck, Lindsey, and many others will certainly come at some point. The longer the rebellion-engendered crises build, the more devastating will be the crash when it comes.
I begin my analysis of what lies just ahead in that fearful future about which Beck, Lindsey, and others have conjectured, and over which so many emailers have fretted. Again, I believe that the answers reside cocooned within Jesus’ "days of Noah, days of Lot" prophecy. Now, we apply His analogy to the present generation.
Jesus foretold that human activity will be going along in a business-as-usual manner. God, in one day, will take His family–believers—out of harm’s way. That very day, His judgment and wrath will begin falling on those not taken. To reiterate because the point can’t be overemphasized: If one accepts Christ’s words as true, and as literal, as I do, one must agree that things must be going along as normal for the time when the sudden intervention happens. Jesus plainly says that the generation alive at the time of that divine intervention will be removed to safety before the devastating events of judgment take place.
Both Beck and Lindsey say they believe a world-rending socioeconomic collapse is imminent. Beck, at least, believes the crash and totally changed America and world will be brought about by the diabolical efforts of New-World-Order types like George Soros. Both Beck and Lindsey are recommending that we make preparations to survive that coming time of devastating collapse.
Yet Jesus tells us that it will be business as usual right up until the moment He removes believers from the planet. There is no man-made, worldwide catastrophe in Christ’s prophecy. As a matter of fact, Jesus says all will be relatively normal, in terms of human activity, until that removal. Then He will be revealed by way of His cataclysmic judgment that begins to devastate planet earth. It is God who causes the cataclysm, not George Soros or any other human or other entity. Mankind’s involvement in the whole matter is that of displaying total rebellion and refusing to repent of sin, thus bringing on God’s righteous judgment. One era–the Church Age—comes to an end with the removal of believers. The next era then begins at some point with the confirming of the covenant with Israel, as given in Daniel 9:26-27. That period will be the seven years of Tribulation, the last three and one-half years about which Jesus said: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew24: 21).
Next we will look into the fearful future, specifically as it relates directly to America’s near-term financial destiny and to whether believers will face deadly persecution.
Scanning a Fearful Future: Conclusion
My disagreement with Glenn Beck and Hal Lindsey regarding their statements that they believe America is about to suffer economic, thus societal, collapse is only one of degree. There is absolutely no doubt that collapse is coming. It is how that implosion will eventuate and who will be caught in the carnage that are at the heart of my disagreement.
My divergence from Dr. Lindsey’s fears about the immediate future for America and Christians is of the very mildest sort. I look to God using him in a mighty way during the past decades as validation of his mission being God-ordained. Thus confutation is entered with all due respect. That stated, I must give the reasons I believe Beck and Lindsey’s fears for the immediate future are somewhat off the mark, as far as Bible prophecy is concerned.
Every signal across the geopolitical, socioeconomic, and religious spectrum–even signals involving the geophysical and astrophysical— scream through the sirens of forewarning. We are at the very end of the Church Age–on the brink of the Tribulation. Yet most in America–including most believers in Jesus Christ—are going about business as usual. Except for the relatively few voices forewarning of the impending cataclysm, there is no recognition of or interest in the end-times storm warnings.
Jesus, as we have seen, said human activity will be like it is at present when He next breaks into earth’s history like a thief in the night. Again, we look at the Lord’s words in the book of Matthew:
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (Matt 24:36-42)
As we have examined, this break-in upon mankind’s history cannot be describing the Second Advent. It will not be business as usual at that time, when the planet is decimated by wars and God’s judgment and wrath. Jesus is here speaking of the Rapture--His imminent, catastrophic break-in upon earth’s history.
So, we come to our present hour. America is the apex nation of the world. That is, it is the most materially blessed nation and one of the most spiritually blessed nations ever to exist. This, despite the fact that it has degenerated in many ways to become perhaps the most wicked in human history. The United States is so blessed with material wealth that every nation on earth is inextricably linked to its economy in one way or another.
It is true that its dominance is under threat and is eroding quickly. The economic meltdown and unavoidable implosion of America’s monetary hegemony is imminent. But everything of global financial significance still hinges on the health and fate of the American dollar. This is to the great consternation of the people Glenn Beck rails against as wanting to bring the dollar down so that a new monetary regime can be brought to bear on the hapless citizens of what they envision as a Babel-like, one-world order.
Despite incessant assaults, the American economy hasn’t collapsed. It should have by now, but it hasn’t. It is, despite ominous signs ahead, business as usual--just as Jesus said it would be at the end of the age. If America’s economy crashes–as Beck says it will very shortly— the entire world will collapse to rubble. The business-as-usual element of Christ’s prophecy about it being like the days of Noah and Lot would be out the proverbial window.
If the U.S. economy collapsed, taking the world’s buying and selling capability into the darkest times in history, it would take years--if ever--for everything to recover so that things would again come into business-as-usual configuration. Yet the devastating, world-rending collapse is coming. It cannot be stopped. I completely agree with Glenn Beck and Hal Lindsey in seeing that coming economic catastrophe in the immediate future. However, I disagree that the folly of man or the deliberate manipulations of human diabolists will bring the fearful disaster. And the disaster will not happen until God’s prophetic timing allows. It will continue to be business as usual despite increasing harbingers of economic calamity. Perhaps conditions will even look like they are improving. But if so, it will be smoke and mirrors–a sham “recovery.” The damage is done. Recovery is impossible.
This all means that Jesus Christ is poised to do exactly what He foretold. The prophetic signals and conditions prevalent in America and the world should have the attention of every believer. Jesus is about to fulfill His glorious promise as recorded in John 14:1-3.
The Rapture, I believe Jesus is telling us, will be the sword of judgment that pierces the building, festering boil of humanistic rebellion. When the Church is taken to heaven, the minds of those left behind who want to control will no longer have restraint on their thoughts and ambitions. There will cease to be a governor on man’s conscience, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8, because the Holy Spirit will allow the evil within mankind to do its dastardly work.
This will be the time–during the chaos of the days immediately after the Rapture—that all of Mr. Beck’s fears will come to fruition. Neither patriots nor anyone else will be able to save America and the world.
Now to try to answer my emailer concerning whether Christians in America will suffer severe, even deadly, persecution, as I infer Hal Lindsey believes. Christians of America in this pre-Rapture time certainly are not immune from persecution–even from the persecution like that suffered by the Christian martyrs of history. However, it would take a horrendous catastrophe--such as the one Beck predicts—for American society to totally turn its back on Christianity, thus to begin physically attacking Christians in the way Lindsey fears might happen.
The Church, with the Restrainer resident within each believer, will continue to be salt and light--to exert influence over America’s societal and cultural conditions. That influence, although observably becoming less and less effective, will be sufficient to prevent all-out, Nazi-like persecution against Christians in this nation.
When the Church-Age saints go to Christ upon His call to them (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 4:1-2), America and the world will be devoid of the Church’s buffering influence. Those who accept Christ during the Tribulation will undergo the most horrific persecution of human history.
Again, if a calamity like the one Beck forecasts were to befall this nation before Christ’s foretold intervention into earth’s history, such a collapse would take the U.S. and the world out of the time of business as usual Jesus said will be in place when He pays the earth that surprise visit.
Jesus was telling us in Luke 17:26-30 and Matthew 24:36-42 specifically about His coming for the Church, and the general time-frame of that event. With all that is in alignment precisely as Jesus and the prophets described, I am convicted in my spirit that now is that time.
Those who haven’t become part of God’s family–believing in Jesus Christ for their personal salvation—face a fearful future indeed. They will be left behind in an instantly changed world gone mad with chaos infinitely worse than even Glenn Beck predicts.
There is still opportunity in this Church Age for the person who hasn’t accepted the Lord Jesus as personal Savior to do so. But time is fleeting. The Rapture could take place at any moment.
Here is what God’s Holy Word, the Bible, has to say to you, if you want to escape from this world that is soon to suffer God’s righteous judgment. Truly follow these instructions from the heart of the God who loves you and wants you to be safe with Him forever. You will then be assured not of a fearful future, but of a future that is fabulous beyond description.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10: 9-10).

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Need A New Body?

Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 NKJV

To be completely honest, when I was a young believer in my twenties the idea of getting a new body when I got to Heaven never made that big of an impression on me. I mean, it's not a bad idea but at twenty something I was pretty satisfied with the body I had. Now of course, my thinking has changed dramatically. Instead of comparing my body to a new sports car, it's beginning to look a lot like an old antique someone has to invest a lot of time and money into just to keep roadworthy. Yet by study of the scriptures, we find that this body was designed to live forever.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27 NKJV

Man was not created to die, but to live forever. Ray Stedman, in his study of this passage says this;
“...all the Biblical evidence points to the fact that Adam was created an immortal being. That does not mean someone who cannot die, because Adam did die. That means someone who need not die.
Jesus Christ was also an immortal being. He did not need to die, and he did not die by any effort of man. He said, "I have power to lay down my life and l have power to take it again," (John 10:17-18). He did not die because of the effects of crucifixion -- he died because, on the cross, he dismissed his spirit by an executive act of his own will. He laid down his life in that way.” (1)

So what happened? Of course we know, by man's choice, sin entered into the world.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— Romans 5:12 NKJV

As a result, our physical bodies became “corrupted”, and according to Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, cannot enter into, or experience all there is to experience, in Heaven. So what exactly is the difference between our old corrupted bodies and the new uncorrupted ones we will receive at the rapture when “we shall all be changed”? Will we look the same? Younger or older? I'm not sure we can know everything there is to know about our new bodies, but I think the Bible can answer at least some of these questions for us.

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
Matthew 17:1-4 NKJV

The word here for transfigured is metamorphoō, which literally means to change into another form. Yet notice something interesting; although Jesus was changed the disciples still recognized Him. Especially interesting is that they recognized Moses and Elijah whom they had never before met! Nowhere does it say Jesus introduced them, yet they knew who they were! How is that possible? Well, I don't know but I think this tells us that we will know who everybody is in Heaven, even though we have never met them, and certainly our physical appearance will be recognizable as compared with the one we carry now. Another interesting passage is this one from Luke which I'm sure you will recognize.

Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you." But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?" So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.
Luke 24:36-43 NKJV

Now I'm sure all of understand that there is another dimension surrounding us that we simply are not able to see into, much less pass into. We understand that we are surrounded by angels, but certainly can't see them unless like Jesus did, they appear in our world. In his article, “Some Notes About Heaven”, Lambert Dolphin puts it this way; We ought not to think of the heavenly abode of God as remote--far beyond the most distant stars. According to the Bible, heaven is really another dimension of reality--commonly what we call the spiritual dimension. The material world is in fact immersed and embedded in the spiritual world. Therefore heaven is neither far away, nor remote and inaccessible. (2)

So obviously with our new bodies we will be able to pass between different dimensions just as Jesus did. That does not, however, make us a spirit rather than having a physical form. Do you notice that although the disciples thought they were seeing a spirit, Jesus goes to great lengths to show them He had physical form? He tells them to “handle” Him, meaning to touch and feel so that they could know He had an actual body. Even then they did not believe so He goes even further by asking for food and then eating in their presence. We may be changed, but we will still have the ability to touch, feel, sense, and even eat just as we do now.

We might also here have a clue as to what age we might appear as with our new bodies. We know Jesus was crucified when He was 33, and when He appeared to the disciples they recognized Him. Since Jesus had the ability to move between dimensions, we know He was wearing His new, “transformed” heavenly body. If the disciples recognized Him as looking like He did when He was with them only a few days before, does this mean He appeared as the same age He was when He was crucified? Personally I think so, and although the Bible doesn't say we will all look like we did (or will) at thirty-something, there is a part of me that finds this not only appealing, but somewhat logical. After all, that's what Jesus looked like with His new body.

Another thing that may surprise some of you is finding out that our new body is already complete and waiting for us in Heaven.

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NKJV

Though at first reading many might think the subject here is a an actual house, by studying the words and the context closely we find that what Paul is talking about here is our earthly bodies as compared to our heavenly bodies. The best part is the last verse which states that God has already prepared them for us. Our new bodies are in Heaven just waiting for the day we are changed! Again Ray Stedman says this; "The point Paul makes is that it is already ours in eternity. "We have," he says. Notice the present tense: Not, "We will have," "we have a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens," already there, waiting for us to put on. "In this present one," he says, "we groan, we long" for something better."(3)

Because of sin, there is no way the body we have now could ever enter into eternity with God. But by the sacrifice of His Son, we are given a way to receive a new body, incorruptible which can and will experience all that God has prepared for those who choose to believe. Accepting Jesus into our hearts and acknowledging the sacrifice He made for us allows us to receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that our new body awaits us in Heaven. When we hear the trumpet sound, Paul says that in the twinkling of an eye we will be changed, and receive our new bodies as we enter into eternity with God the Father. I can't wait!

Keep watching.

End Notes;

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Out Of Time

Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 NKJV

There have often been times in my spiritual life where I have had to consider the possibility that I think too much. To be sure, some have mentioned that very thing to me as I have had occasion to teach. Yet I believe that is exactly what God has intended for us to do when He chose to reveal Himself through His written Word. I'm sure many of you have heard the phrase “inquiring minds want to know”, and I for one believe this is exactly what God wants from us. It should be our desire to know Him more, and examine His word closely to find the wisdom He has placed there for us.

This passage from Paul's letter to the believers at Corinth has always intrigued me. I remember as a child asking if this verse means that when we die we just sleep until Jesus comes. Yet as I grew and matured I began to see other things in this verse that made me want to look a little closer at the subject of our physical death, and what happens to those believers that have already passed away.

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:8 NKJV

This passage should also be familiar to most of you as it is the one most often used to explain where we go when we die. The accepted belief is that all believers pass immediately into God's presence upon the death of their physical bodies, where they wait with Him for the event we call the rapture when souls of those who “sleep” will be reunited with their old bodies in order to experience the rapture along with those who are alive.

As a child, and as a parent, I can't count the number of times I have asked the question, and heard the question; Why? While many might believe this to be a foolish question, in college I had a professor tell us that there was no such thing as a dumb question. What is dumb is not asking a question so you never get the answer you need in order to understand. When looking at this passage from Corinthians, I couldn't help but ask the question why? If believers who are absent from the body are already with God in Heaven, why do they have to come back to earth and put their old bodies back on? If the answer is because they need for the old body to be “transformed”, my next question is just what were they wearing in Heaven all these years?

Then let's not forget that if those believers who have already died are in Heaven right now, why does Paul define death as “sleep”? Many look at this and come to the conclusion that when we die our soul is somehow placed in a state of “sleep” where we wait for the day of the Rapture when we will be awakened. If so, then where are the souls of those already dead? In Heaven “sleeping”?

I hope that by sharing with you the questions I have had about this passage, you understand I am not trying to in any way offend someone who has already received an answer they are comfortable with. I am simply sharing with you how my thoughts and conclusions about this subject have evolved into what I personally believe, and which may or may not surprise you as I share it.

An event that occurred when I was in college actually helped me become comfortable with what I believe is the answer to these questions. While on spring break I took a ski trip to Heavenly Valley in Lake Tahoe California, (now there is irony for you) where I suffered an injury to my knee which required surgery. It is the only time in my life where I had to be placed under anesthesia, and it literally changed my thoughts on sleep, and this passage from Corinthians. Why? Let me try to explain. We all are familiar with sleep. We usually sleep every night in order to let our bodies rest and recuperate from our efforts during our waking moments. If you are like me, that passage of time is usually accompanied by dreams, and or waking moments where we are aware of the passage of time. Yet when I was put under for my operation I experienced something quite different than sleep as I was used to.

As I laid on the table the anesthesiologist introduced himself as he began his preparation for putting me under. As he worked I told him I had never been out before and wondered what I should expect? Although he was wearing a mask, (I'm convinced they do that so you can't identify them later) I could hear him chuckle as he said I wouldn't remember a thing. Then he began to give me whatever it is they give you and told me to count backwards from 100. I believe I remember 98 but that was it, and then the next thing I remember is hearing someone telling me to wake up! I mean seriously, I heard myself say 98 and then heard someone say wake up. I remember asking why and they told me it was all over, and everything was fine. It wasn't until later when talking with the surgeon that he told me the operation lasted a little over three hours!

Now if you have ever been in the hospital you realize there isn't a whole lot to do but lay there and think. The thought occurred to me that although three hours of time had passed, to my consciousness, it was just an instant. My awareness of the passage of time was suspended completely, and figuratively I guess, I stepped “out of time” and into “timelessness”. In a way you could say that while time went on for those who were awake, for me, time stopped. I then couldn't help but wonder if it was something like this that Paul was trying to convey to the Corinthian believers. While I thought about this, I then began to consider the question of time as we understand it, and the fact that in Heaven it would appear from what the Bible says that there is no such thing as time.

Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."
John 8:58 NKJV

Now here is a verse that really makes my head spin. Often one might come to the conclusion that Jesus is simply saying He existed before Abraham was born, but if that were the case He would have said that. What He says is “I AM”. The truth is we are being told that time as we know it is a dimension of this earth, and not of Heaven. If that is the case then there exists a possibility many may have never considered and it goes something like this; If there is no such thing as time in Heaven, isn't it possible that although believers from ages past might have already died, we all arrive in Heaven at the same moment in time?

Sound strange? At first I thought so too, but the longer I thought about it, the more sense it made and the more questions it answered rather than raised. By now I'm sure you know my intent with this blog is to simply introduce you to subjects or passages for you to study further on your own, and this one is no exception. I want to share a couple of paragraphs from two different sources I used to further my understanding of this idea with you in the hope that they will also help you.

The first is from a physicist named Lambert Dolphin, who has an extensive library online that I frequent regularly as I study. This short paragraph can be found at the link provided at the end of the paragraph, but I also included his web address for you as well.

A paradox concerning the nature of time and eternity is the possibility that neither heaven nor hell are yet populated-all believers reach heaven at the same "time." The dying thief, Stephen the first martyr, the Apostle John-and all the rest of us-may arrive in heaven at precisely the same "instant." When a person in our time frame dies, he or she leaves time and enters eternity and "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," that person "time travels" instantly ahead to the event called the Rapture. By the way, if heaven is still empty, except for Jesus, as seen from our vantage point in time, prayers to Mary or St. Jude or any of the saints are pointless. As far as eternity is concerned, we may all get to heaven at the same "time."
To confuse you even further I might add that in another sense all believers are already in heaven in spirit and soul, though not in body (see Eph 2 and Heb 12:18-29). Without our new resurrection bodies, however, we cannot experience heaven in all its fullness. Yet, since heaven surrounds us on all sides, we are really already there in spirit. All that is lacking is the transformation of our perishing outer bodies!

This next quote is from a book by Arthur C. Custance Ph. D. called “Journey Out Of Time” a study of the interval between death and the resurrection of the body.

When Adam dies, let us say, in 3074 B. C., he steps out of time and passes at once to meet the returning Lord. And when Paul dies, let us say, in 67 A. D. -- over 3000 years later -- he, too, steps at once into the presence of the same returning Lord. Since for both men the return of the Lord marks for them their journey out of time, both men make that journey across Jordan simultaneously, and therefore together -- in company with one another. Where there is no time, there can be no greater or lesser delay in being received by the Lord, no longer or shorter period of waiting depending upon the historical setting of the death of the individual. That historical setting has no relevance. It does in prospect for the individual, but not at the moment of its occurring. It does while we are still dwelling in time and death is still future, but not when we once come to step into Jordan and make the journey out of time. At the moment that our feet touch the waters of Jordan, we each of us instantly move forward to the same point in eternity and pass over together to meet the Lord on the other side. It is clear that since time is eclipsed when we begin this journey, the death of each saint must mark, for him, the end of time. The last day of this life is, for him, not merely his last day but the "Last Day" of which the Lord spoke as the climax of the present age! Moreover, it was then that the Lord said He would raise us up: "I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40). This is therefore tantamount to saying, "I will raise him up on his last day." But more than this: the last day of the believer and the last day of the unbeliever alike becomes also the Day of Judgment (John 12:48(2)). In 1 Peter 1:5(3) the Lord's people are assured of being kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation -- not unto judgment, but unto a salvation that (as Peter puts it) is "ready to be revealed in the last time." Part of our problem has been that we have interposed a space of time between departure from this life and the last day when our bodies are to be resurrected, where in fact there is no "time" for such a space to exist in. We have done this because we have confused time and eternity, making eternity not so much an entirely different order of experience but merely an extension of time, and time merely a fragment of eternity
Journey Out Of Time...Chapter 13, Resolution. pp. 149,150

The Corinthians were asking Paul the same question we have all asked at one time or another. Since time is a reality for us in this dimension, we feel the need to explain the passage of time between death and the rapture of all believers into God's presence at the end of this age. Yet if we can somehow grasp the idea of timelessness, it becomes easier to see how the idea of all believers arriving at the same time is not only feasible, but logical. Besides, let's never forget the following verse;

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:26 NKJV

Where do believers go when they die? To heaven, of course. The better question might be when do they get there? Since Paul clearly says we will ALL be changed at the Last Trump, doesn't it make sense that Paul is telling us the time that we all get there? Study this on your own and come to your own conclusions, but rejoice in the fact that by faith in the resurrected Lord, we as believers know we will spend eternity with Him in a place where there is no time.

Keep Watching.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Heavenly Questions

Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 NKJV

Something that has always intrigued me is the fact that when we look closer at the verses we are most familiar with, we find they are filled with information not necessarily recognized at our first or second reading. It is only when we begin to “peel” away the layers that we find the hidden information God has put there for us to find.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
Proverbs 25:2 NKJV

In the coming weeks I am going to spend a little time examining the Corinthians' passage a little closer with an eye to asking and answering a few questions I believe it raises. Such as;

…..Are the dead in Christ really dead?
…..What is the real difference between our present body and the one we will receive?
…..What age will we appear as in Heaven?
…..Do we go to Heaven immediately when we die?
…..Where exactly is Heaven anyway?

If you look closely at the verse from Corinthians I believe you can see where I came up with some of these questions. The subject of Heaven is one I have always been fascinated by, and one that should interest all of us as believers considering we are going to spend eternity there. Personally of course, the older I get the more interested I become with my “new” body, considering I can see and feel what's happening to the old one.

I traveled to California this past week for a surprise 80th birthday party along with my brothers and sisters that we arranged for our mother, so I am unfortunately not prepared to do more today with this post. Look closer at this verse this week and next Sunday I will begin to explain my thoughts on what I believe God has in store for us, and what information He has hidden in this verse and others that gives us a glimpse of what Heaven really will be like.

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Disappointed To Still Be Here?

From the many e-mails I have received concerning the timing of the rapture, and the expectation that it would occur in 2010, it will follow that many are now experiencing some level of disappointment that we as a body of believers are still here on earth. While I certainly can understand that, and share the desire to be with my Father in Heaven, my level of disappointment might not be as great as some. Why is that? Simply because I think my interpretation of “watching” for the Lord's return may differ from that of others.

Many have asked me for my thoughts and opinions on those who attempt to predict a date for the rapture based on their particular brand of scholarship, and their interpretation of certain scriptures. Understand that I have no objection to anyone doing what they feel they are being led by the Lord to do, yet most of those whose work I am familiar with share one thing in common and that is quoting God's commandment to “watch” as one of their reasons for attempting to set a date for His return.

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. "It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. "Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— "lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"
Mark 13:32-37 NKJV

In this passage we find two distinct words for watch. The first is agrypneō, a verb meaning, 1) to be sleepless, keep awake, watch, 2) to be circumspect, attentive, ready. The second is grēgoreō, also a verb meaning, 1) to watch, 2) metaph. give strict attention to, be cautious, active; a) to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one.

It may seem to be an obvious conclusion that here we simply find we are being told to not “sleep” but be awake and watching so we are not taken by surprise when our Lord returns for us. This is, of course, a totally different thing than trying to predict when we think He might appear. Although many might feel trying to figure out when the rapture might occur is a “way” of watching, I would respectfully suggest it is not.

The question then arises, what are we supposed to do while we wait? Again I believe the answer to that is obvious. A passage in scripture often used in relation to the timing of the rapture is this;

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Romans 11:25 NKJV

Now if in fact God has a certain number of believers He is waiting for to become members of the Body before He calls for the rapture of the Church, would it then follow that our time would be better spent in trying to share the Gospel with an unbelieving world rather than trying to figure out dates? Again, I have no quarrel with those who choose to pursue that path, but I would caution those same brothers and sisters to not make it their priority, but to make evangelism the main focus of their efforts.

It is no wonder we find it difficult to wait upon the Lord considering the vast amount of signs we see occurring around us on a daily basis. Yet that it what is expected of us as believers, so I think it important that we should be looking for some of the reasons God asks this of us. I would like to share just three ideas I have about why we as believers find ourselves in this situation right now.

One: We are being prepared to fully appreciate eternity with our Lord.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB

The more we must endure down here increases the joy we will find when we finally experience the glory of life with God in the place He has prepared for us. The longer the wait, the stronger the anticipation and the greater the appreciation.

Two: We are being strengthened with power from above which allows us to complete the tasks He has set for us here.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 KJV

We know what is expected of us here on this earth, and it should come as no surprise that the opportunities to share our faith will increase dramatically as the end draws near. In a way, you could say this is our time to shine, and God has promised to give us the strength necessary to succeed.

Three: We are to be living examples of His faithfulness.

For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations. Psalms 100:5 KJV

I have three daughters who are grown and living on their own now, and one of the lessons about life that I often have an opportunity to share with them is God's faithfulness. Of course I have to explain to them it's easier for me because I am a little older than they are (okay, a lot older) but having experienced more examples of God's faithfulness makes it easier to accept whatever situation I find myself in. I simply remind them of the situations in their past when they were in agony about waiting for something, yet God always came through. In these situations God demonstrates His faithfulness to us, and also through us so others can see.

At times, waiting can be agony. I won't deny that and neither will you. I am so ready for Jesus to return, but He isn't here yet and we are being asked to wait a little longer. How long? I have no idea, but it certainly doesn't look like it will be much longer until the labor pains will be over and we will be delivered to glory with Him, and the world to tribulation. There are reasons to making us wait. Look to God for strength, and be busy making the most of the opportunities we have in the short time we have left.

Keep watching.