Let us hold fast the confession of [our] hope without wavering, for He who promised [is] faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as [is] the manner of some, but exhorting [one another], and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23-25 NKJV
Have you ever taken a road trip with small children and heard those famous words, “are we there yet”? I remember well taking our first vacation with my children driving over a thousand miles to visit my parents and hearing that phrase for most of the trip. So I used that opportunity to teach my daughters how to watch for the road signs to help answer that question, and it didn't take long for them to concentrate on watching for the signs rather than asking me how much farther we had to go.
It's funny though how that experience taught me something about the coming rapture and Jesus' command to watch for the signs of His return. One of the first things my daughters noticed is that there are no signs telling how far it is to San Diego to be found in Washington. The roadsigns did not begin to appear until we got much closer, and then, the closer we got the more often we saw them. By the time we reached Los Angeles you could see a sign almost every fifteen minutes telling us how close we were.
Now with that thought in mind, might I ask you a question? How many signs of Jesus' return have you seen in the last fifteen years and are those signs decreasing or increasing? I thought so. You see, even those who don't watch are at the point where they are asking what in the world is going on in the world today. The signs of Jesus' return are coming faster and faster almost to the point where it is hard to keep up with them all. Do you think that might mean we are getting close to “arriving” at our eternal destination?
Now did I mention the instructions we would go over as we turned onto the final street where my parents lived? “Be on your best behavior, don't tear the place up, be polite, ask when you want something, remember this is not your house, etc”. We all have done that, yet have you ever thought of what we should do as we approach the rapture of the Church? When I thought of that the passage from Hebrews came to mind and as I read it I was struck by the similarities between what it says and those road trips we would take as a family. So let's look at what this passage says a little closer this morning.
“Hold fast”. Might that translate be patient? It's a long trip but eventually we will get where we are going because our Father has told us so. Many of us have waited a very long time to see the days we are now living in and the closer we get the more impatient we become. Hold fast because the signs are coming so quickly that it can't be much longer before we go.
“Stir up love and good works”. Be on your best behavior? As we approach our final destination, we have the opportunity to share about our faith and give an explanation of what the world is going through. How much more will the world pay attention if we are are seen as a body of believers that are concerned with loving others and doing good works rather than being selfish and self centered.
“Not forsaking the assembling together”. We are family. When one of my daughters misbehaved we didn't leave her by the side of the road and move on. Over the years we have had occasion to hear people tell us how well behaved our girls were, and I must admit that made us feel good about the decisions we made as parents. I believe the most important decision was to attend church regularly so as a family we could meet and form relationships with other believers. Good or bad, what we experienced within the body as we grew as a family helped us form the foundations of our faith which are apparent today. We not only learn from our own experiences, but also the experiences of others.
“Exhorting one another”. We won't learn much if we don't meet together with other believers and also use that time to encourage and lend support to the family we are. The word translated “exhort” in this version is also translated “encourage” and “beseech” in other versions. As I studied this verse I looked to see how this word is used in other passages in the Bible and came to the conclusion that we are being told to “strongly encourage” each other. The word for exhort in the Greek is “parakaleo” and here are a few of those other passages using the same word.
Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
Titus 1:9 NKJV
Preach the word! Be ready in season [and] out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
1 Thessalonians 4:1 NKJV
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,
Ephesians 4:1 NKJV
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your reasonable service.
Romans 12:1 NKJV
One other thing I noticed is that most often this word is also used in the context of our behavior as believers. I think it's important to understand that God is very concerned with how we witness to the world by our actions, and He expects us to strongly encourage others in the body to “love and good works”.
“And so much the more as you see the Day approaching”. Are we there yet? We have all heard that question, and in this case the answer most believers who watch would give is “yes”! We should expect the rapture of the Church at any time, so now more than ever we need to be encouraging each other. Sharing what we see with other believers is a sure way to wake up those who might be slow to see just where we are in our journey home. How soon? I certainly can't say, but I do know this; we are almost there!