Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Hope of the Gospel

I could easily name this post "Why I Believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture". To do so, would indicate that I'm throwing my hat in the ring of debate. I have largely avoided speaking on the topic of End-Time events simply because of raging debate around it. It is fruitless, and promotes dissension among those who claim to love the same God. We spend so much time nit-picking and attacking, that debate seems to have evolved into a debate for debating sake. Truth gets lost in our own (as opposed to God's) translation. With that said, I'm taking up a seemingly lonely side, truth.

Since the teaching of Saint Paul, End Time events seem to have somehow been separated from it's original owner, Faith. Today we view biblical subjects in categories, in where we separate, and place boundaries. This has caused division amongst those who claim to believe the same God. As they place one "subject" or "area" over another i.e. Baptist; Pentecostal etc. The Salvation of mankind has been a wholesome, complete package designed perfectly by the One who gave His only Begotten Son for it. The expectation of Christ's return and Faith are intricately intertwined. Somehow Christ's return has been separated and categorized with "End Time" events as though one has nothing to do with the other. And during these debates, Faith has little or nothing to do with "End-Time" events.

Up until recently, End-Times events was little spoken of in mainstream churches. Timothy LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins of the "Left Behind Series", truly broke ground in making End-Time events an "approachable" topic for everyone. However, it has always been an approachable topic, Saint Paul spoke of Christ's coming frequently in conjunction with his ministering and teaching. He spoke as though he, himself, was expecting the return of Christ at any given moment. Both books of Thessalonians give us tremendous insight of Paul's expectation of Christ and what we have now come to call the "Rapture".

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and 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: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Wherefore comfort one another with these words." -- 1 Thess. 4:13-18

"Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." - 1 Thess. 5:6-10
The Word is clear only those "who have the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1) are deemed righteous and appointed to salvation. Now it has been assumed that there is only one kind of salvation, salvation from eternal separation from God, which is to say the second death. (Rev. 20:6; Rev. 21:8) If you read scripture from the viewpoint of the author, which is to read scripture within the context of the book, if not chapter, we can see that Paul is referring to salvation from God's wrath in 1 Thessalonians.

Saint Paul spoke and taught of Christ's return as IMMINENT in HIS time. This frame of mind is important to assume when reading and understanding 1 Thessalonians. Chapter 1:1-10 (the beginning of the book),it not only sets the tone for what comes afterward, but speaks of the profound hope He had to see the glory of Lord he was serving.

Reading within the context at your own convenience, look at what the last three verses of the first chapter say:

"For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."


According to Paul, Jesus Christ had already delivered them from the wrath, that is to come. In other words, that had not happened yet, but was expected to happen. Reading further on in the second chapter, 2:1-19, at your own convenience take a look at verses 14-16.

"For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are
in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen,
even as they have of the Jews:
Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own
prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to
all men:
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to
fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the
uttermost."


Now in chapter 5:8-9 Paul states very clearly, "we are not appointed to wrath, but to obtain salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us"! (See the beginning of the post)

There are 4 things we need to recognize:

1. Paul believed and taught the imminent return of Christ at his time.

2. Paul established the salvation of the righteous (via Faith) from wrath.

3. Paul established who the wrath was for.

4. Paul edified the church by the teaching of Faith as a major proponent towards salvation.

"To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." -- 1 Thessalonians 3:13

The 2nd book of Thessalonians reiterates the first. Once again at your own convenience read the book in it's entirety. For the purposes of this post, I will be singling out verses 1:7-11. Paul in speaking of the persecutions of the Church in Thessalonica says:

"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:"


Paul took great pains to define who the wrath was for. If the wrath is for those "who know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord" then it would make perfect sense that the "rapture" explained in the fifth chapter of the first book take place prior to the wrath, or the Great Tribulation that the entire world awaits for with bated breath. Let's not be silly. We all know that THE wrath, is the same wrath (tribulation) that marks the end of man's free reign on earth. It's the same wrath (tribulation) that the prophets of old prophesied of. The same wrath, Christ spoke of in Matthew 24. It's the same wrath Paul taught about. The same wrath that Revelations details.

This belief/prophecy is not only stated in the books of Thessalonians. It is stated throughout the entire bible. From the prophecy of the prophets in the Old Testament to the declaration of Jesus Christ Himself.

Proverbs 11:4 "Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death."

John 3:18 "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" (This scripture goes hand in hand with what Paul states in 2 Thess. 1:7-11)

Revelations 3:10 "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, (as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to do) I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (This scripture goes hand in hand with what Paul states in 2 Thess. 1:7-11)

Let's turn our attention to the fifth chapter of the book of Romans. The fifth chapter begins with "Therefore". You absolutely have to start at the beginning of the book to FULLY comprehend what Paul teaches in the fifth chapter. However, for the purposes of this post I will single out chapter 5. It starts with "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Because we are justified by faith, we have peace with God. What, then, would be the opposite of peace? Violence? Enemies? Unrest? Would those terms do for opposites? If we, then, are justified by faith and have peace with God, through Christ, WHY WOULD WE BE SUBJECTED TO HIS WRATH? Let's skip a few verses and go directly to 8-10. If this doesn't clear it up for us, God help us, I don't know what will.

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

It makes no sense to me that I would experience the wrath of God upon examining on the whole concept of the gospel. The gospel, the good news is that we have salvation through Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whether we LIVE or DIE. Why would we experience the anger He has stored up for those who have rejected Him and His Son? It makes no common sense. The whole point of the gospel (Christ's sacrifice) was to be saved from the consequence of sin (death/eternal separation) and be justified in His sight (forgiven of sin). If we are forgiven of sin (which evokes the wrath of God) why would we be subject unto it??

When we separate parts of the gospel from the whole, we have in effect removed the HOPE of the gospel. Which Paul tells us to use as a "helmet". 1 Thess. 5:8 The "hope of salvation". What we have done instead is "remove the helmet" and make vulnerable our mind and thoughts, as we are attacked with doubts and confusion. When we divide the gospel asunder what we have in effect is a divided belief, which is evident in our varied, culture of professing Christ-Believers. When we dissect and categorize the gospel, we have made the "breastplate of faith and love" ineffectual against the fiery arrows that attack the heart and the hope that should be nourshied within it. In the end, we fail to "comfort another with these words", laying open to siege the TRUTH of Christ, by His enemy, that WILL experience the wrath of God.

It is any wonder that Christianity as a whole, ( I should say in America, Believers ARE being persecuted in other parts of the world, where they are the minority) is not experiencing the intense persecutions that Paul explains of the Thessalonians? Where is our "manifest token of the righteous judgement of God"? 2 Thess. 1:4-6 The pride and faithlessness of our Christian culture has led us right into the devil's trap, in where we are not a threat to him, as was the Church of Thessalonica. We are right where he would have us: Divided, Debating and Confused.

Makes me wonder...is this the reason for the general confusion regarding the rapture? The fact that modern day Christianity has not been "prohibited" from preaching the gospel as the Church of Thessalonica was, and "punished" accordingly by our own countrymen. Are we confused because we do not experience trials/persecutions in this fashion? That we cannot differentiate between the trials, Jesus prayed about in the 17th Chapter of John and the wrath that Paul speaks of throughout the gospels??

In any event, I've said my piece(peace).


"And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister." -- Col. 1:21-23




Author's Note:
All italics and bold in scripture are mine.


6 comments:

  1. Concern over the rapture, etc. is a recent theological development (19th century on). Paul thought Christ was coming back soon. I think that is what we should believe and not worry about the details. I have a blog, too: christianbeliefs.blogspot.com.
    Some of my thoughts on the rapture, etc. are in http://christianbeliefs.blogspot.com/2008/01/for-he-is-not-god-of-dead-but-of-living.html
    I guess I believe Christians need to focus more on those around them and less on theology.

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  2. January Cat,

    Thanks again for commenting and visiting In Spirit :)

    I was hoping to avoid, any impression of "theology" and focus on what is the Gospel of Christ.

    We need to be careful not to "look over" a VALID doctrine of Christ, because it has been unfairly abused by theologians who practice "intellect over Faith", thereby destroying the integrity of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

    My point in my post is focusing on the GOSPEL in a complete package. And THAT includes what is now called "The Rapture". Sure we can focus on just faith and belief, but to do so is to ignore a good portion of Paul's teaching. He deliberately taught Faith in conjunction with the Return of Christ.

    The problem with "Theology" occurs when you remove or take out of context the Word of the Living God. Part of our culture as Christians is to read scripture out of context, it creates an incomplete picture/understanding of the doctrine of Christ.

    I don't claim to know everything there is about the Word, but I DO know and believe wholeheartedly what the WORD says. It tells me that I am not appointed wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:9

    I receive that completely just because the BIBLE says so... IF that is NOT believing, then tell me what is?

    In the Peace of Christ,
    Hannah

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  3. Hi Hannah,

    I agree with a lot of the points you are making here, and I've really enjoyed your blog so far!

    As I understand it, the Great Tribulation and God's Wrath are not the same thing. God's Wrath is the grand finale when all the unbelievers are thrown into the lake of fire. I could be wrong, but either way -- we are called to be ready and waiting for His return!

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  4. Be assured that what the Apostle Paul was given to say about the imminent return of Christ is in reference unto the fact that our own end of this world may come at any second. The same was also said through the Apostle Peter: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. {2 Peter 3:9 NIV} Therefore: may we all want to be ready at all times.

    Be also assured that what has been already given through Justin is truly of our Heavenly Father. For the time for His wrath is not the same as the time for the great tribulation; but in regards unto whether or not there will be a rapture before that time: I do not know. For that is something that He has not personally revealed unto me.

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  5. Justin & Fishhawk,

    Thank you for your comments! I will be responding to them as I've had more time to mediate and pray as to be sure that I'm speaking as He wills not as I will. :)

    Justin, I wanted to say that I am very humbled to have come across your blog and truly appreciate your testimony for the Lord!

    Fishhawk, thank you for your words of encouragement and humility. It is indeed a rare find in the midst of pride and self-righteousness!

    May Peace and Grace be mulitplied upon you both :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hannah,

    I believe in every age, the church
    has expected the soon return of the
    Lord...and was told they would not
    be in the dark...and in Amos it says
    He will do NOTHING that he does not reveal to the Prophets.

    We find in Daniel, that we would not know the true picture about the end times till it arrived....I think when Israel became a nation again, in one day...as the Bible said would happen, the door opened for us to zero in on the fact that
    He is near and the season is indeed
    upon us. I also believe, which I would like to talk to you more in person, or over phone, that certain things about his return have been cast as a shadow pointing to its final fulfillment in Christ....in
    the form of the High Holy days we
    are both quite familiar with.

    Many things of importance fell on these times in the OT which further
    sheds light on their importance.

    I look forward to His soon return.
    Just before the FALSE PEACE TREATY
    which we can see on the present stage of history is confirmed...in the news,is very near. You agree that we will be raptured before that can be confirmed.

    God Bless you both,
    once again,
    BrotherMark

    As you might have noticed,
    I had to enable the comment section
    for approval because of pesky PW
    persons. Oh weeelll.

    ReplyDelete

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