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One day this will be the question that everyone is asking. Where their loved ones, co-workers, and neighbours? When the Lord Jesus was resurrected (came back to life after His death) and returned to heaven it was on the understanding that He will one day come back. There are many references to this and it is a fundamental part of the hope that believers in Jesus have. He is going to return, to reclaim this world as His own, to rule in perfection and justice. One day, heaven really will be on earth.

In one reference to His return He said: “so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24, verses 39 – 42 (ESV). It is quite a famous passage and is often used to refer to the event known as the ‘rapture’. In refers to a day yet to occur when all Christians will be taken off the earth in preparation for the terrible events described in the book of Revelation. There are actually two views on this. The other is that everyone stays on the earth throughout the events of Revelation until the end when it is non-believers who are removed, with the believers remaining on earth. What there is total agreement on is that Jesus returns and then sets up His Kingdom on earth, so both are possible. However, my own opinion is that it is more likely that this passage refers to believers being removed prior to the events described in Revelation. First I’ll explain why, then why it is really important, and finally what it might mean for us.

If you read the entire passage (all of Matthew 24), Jesus says “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (verse 44), and that is the whole point of the passage. It is a day like any other. People are going about their usual business. In today’s language people are at work; they are sleeping; they are eating and getting on with life. As this is a split second occurrence, some will be starting their day, while for others it will be during the night. There is nothing out of the ordinary. Probably in some places there is crisis, there always is, but for most it is an ordinary day. Now read Revelation. If you had just gone through all that it would feel like the end of the world. I don’t know how much of everyday life would be able to continue. It would mean total economic and ecological collapse, along with out of control disease, famine and war. I think I would be expecting the return of the Lord in those circumstances! We also know that those events last seven years, so the end is not a surprise time. So for that reason I think it means that believers are removed prior to the events of Revelation. If I am wrong, it matters not. But if that is the correct sequence of events, we need to be ready for it. Personally, I think Rapture happens first, at a time like now. For most people the very last thing they expect is the return of Jesus.

So won’t everyone know what has happened? It is really hard for us to imagine what it will be like. My personal view is that the events of Revelation will be initially triggered by the removal of believers. Imagine millions of people suddenly going missing. There would be mass panic and economic collapse. Those are the conditions for any number of existing global tensions to be suddenly unleashed. I think we underestimate how fragile our world systems are. Sure, with all things going well we can cope with a disaster. But problems on multiple fronts are entirely another matter. If all the Christians suddenly disappeared people might realise what had happened, but that will not appear to be the case.

Yes, Christians will be taken, and others left, but it will not appear to be like that. Please read my previous post ‘Christians who don’t go to Heaven’ at this point. There are many Christians who are only culturally Christian. In some parts of the world ‘Christian’ means not being of another religion. They have no personal relationship with Jesus. And even in the West here, it is my opinion that most Christians are so in name only. They have no relationship with Jesus. Even within churches, I would not be surprised if the majority are left behind. Perhaps they will realise they have never really loved Jesus and make things right with Him. Perhaps they will form a real and new church immediately after the Rapture. Or, perhaps they will deny that it had anything to do with God and further harden their hearts. I have no idea, but obviously if it is the latter you would do well to avoid churches altogether at that point as there will be no real Christians left in them.

But there is a further major complication that most Christians don’t acknowledge. There are many people in the world today who are followers of Christ but are not identified as such. On the outside they appear to follow other religions, or none, but these secret believers are very much part of the church. So taking those two things together that would result in many churches remaining with few missing, while many people who are regarded as following other religions are missing. The ‘Christians’ who are left will say it is nothing to do with God, and they will point to all the people in non Christian countries who appeared to follow other religions as proof. It will not appear to be as it was.

So what does this mean for us? As believers we need to stay alert. If you, in the next minute, and completely expectantly, were to find yourself in the presence of the Lord Jesus, would you want to be ashamed. Would you want to have been just complaining or arguing or doing something else He wouldn’t like? And if you find yourself reading this after some very strange events, get into the book of Daniel, Revelation and the rest of the New Testament – especially Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The way to be saved has not changed. Repent of all you have done wrong, give your life to Christ and then ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in order to know what to do next. The world will have seven terrible years ahead, the like of which have never been experienced before. Make sure you stay close to the Lord and obey all He says. You will be a history maker.

I believe he would. Listen to this from the book of ‘Revelation’ (found at the end of the Bible). Jesus is recorded as saying, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (chapter 3 and verse 20, ESV). The interesting thing about some fundamentalist, ‘Bible believing’ Christians, is that they don’t believe that God heals, gives us dreams or speaks to us today. As a side note, be really careful what church you join. You want one where you will grown in your relationship with God. If you are an atheist who doesn’t believe in miracles, you might have just found something in common with them! You can read James 5, verse 14 – 15, Acts 2, 17 and Hebrew 3, verse 7 if you see what God actually says about these issues. The issue is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are listening.

We can be thankful that God has provided us with the Bible. It is reliable as His account to us. Christians call it His ‘Word’ because it is His words. In His own words, He speaks to us through what is written down. But how does God actually speak to us? If we read the Bible, or listen to it being read (if we don’t have access to one), you will be hearing in general what God has said to humanity. It is all good, and you will learn the overall plan for us, and this world. A good place to start is in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, as they are accounts of the time of Jesus on earth. You will find all kinds of interesting facts. It is not the case that people then saw Jesus and believed in Him, while now we have to trust it is true. Far from it, they didn’t believe in Him even when he stood in front of them. Eventually they killed Him. But it was all part of God’s plan. He allowed it to happen because He knows that every one of us eventually ends up feeling guilty for something, or many things in our lives. And perhaps worst of all, we don’t have any place for God in our lives. Now if you imagine for a moment that God made us, I’m not speaking of the science here, but the overall concept that He works through physical processes to make us, and also that He loves us, well it is shockingly wrong to turn our backs on Him. If you feel guilty, the good news is that Jesus paid the punishment we deserve for us. And this is where He starts talking to us.

He stands (so to speak) at the door of our lives and knocks. It’s a metaphor of course. Years ago I had an amazing day out with a wonderful friend. We stood looking out at this beautiful view and something very amazing happened. I knew that she liked me. That was wonderful because I liked her, so much and had done so for a long time. She didn’t say anything, I just knew. Sometimes the most powerful communication is without words. Now at that point the sensible thing to do would have been for me to respond with words. To tell her how much she meant to me and to begin a relationship. But I wasn’t sensible. I doubted that I heard right, and left it. There were other moments too, but I let them pass also. And one day the opportunity was gone. I regret that, and I hope you understand that when two people have something special it is only a fool who throws it away through fear or doubt. I was a fool, I just hope I learned a lesson from that. I hope too that you see a parallel. Yes, God has written down an amazing account in the Bible, but as you read a New Testament you will hear God speaking in the way He always does. Not with an audible voice, but with a conviction as you read what He said. He, like that wonderful woman I knew, is in that way standing at the door, calling to you. Then it is over to you. It’s your turn. What will you do about it? Dismiss it as your imagination or respond. Say that you want Him too, let him into your life and be transformed.

“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”. It is a promise. It is not a religion. I don’t like religion; it only keeps people away from God. Even in good churches, people go along and like going along. They often miss out on why they are supposed to be there, the relationship with Jesus. I’m not saying don’t be part of a good church, but be careful, be there for the right reason. The only right reason is that it enhances your relationship with Him. Today, I challenge you to read the New Testament and let God speak to you. If you say sorry for ignoring Him, and your wrong, and invite Him to be all that He wants to be to you, and to transform your life, you will not regret it. Nor will this be that last thing you hear from God. Once you begin with Him, he will speak to you daily and transform your life. I don’t say make it all easy and wonderful, but He will transform you, regardless of your circumstances. He is asking to be in relationship with you.

“But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” Genesis 33: 4 (ESV)

Jacob and Esau were brothers, but their relationship was not an easy one. Jacob repeatedly cheated and mistreated Esau. Things came to a head when Jacob cheated Esau out of his blessing which was intended for him (Geneses 27), and Jacob realising how badly he had offended Esau, left worried that he would kill him. Indeed killing Jacob was exactly what was on Esau’s mind (v 41), perhaps partly out of revenge, and perhaps to regain his blessing.

There are people who are meant to be in our lives, and there are those who are not. Some people are either unhealthy for us, or us for them. One way or another it is best that they are not close. But there are others that are meant to be a big part of our lives. It seems to be suggested that Esau and Jacob should have been together. There will be spiritual or natural family that we are meant to be with too. But as with Esau and Jacob things don’t always go smoothly. If that is the case, this story has important lessons for us when it comes to reaching out to others:

1) God has a role in this, and it’s the most important role. He goes ahead of us and prepares the way, in particular he prepares hearts (Malachi 3:1). While nothing is stated of the process, God prepared both Esau and Jacob’s heart to desire a reconciliation. He moved Esau from hate to genuine love, and he clearly missed his brother. Along the way both would have been sure it was a bad idea, that it wouldn’t ever happen, that it wouldn’t work. But deep down they listened to the other voice, the voice of God who told them to risk it.

2)  God also arranges circumstances. He caused the two brother’s paths to literally cross. They met in the desert, but God will prepare circumstances for us also. He may use a phone call, an opportunity to be in the same place, or some other circumstance for us to find out more about the other person. Sometimes when we know more about someone our opinion of them changes. Or put another way, our assumptions were incorrect!

3)  We also have a role. Our role is to make an effort to reach out to someone else. Esau came out into the wilderness with four hundred men to meet Jacob (32: 6). That was no small effort. Imagine heading out into the wilderness with little idea where to find the person you are looking for, with supplies to keep a staff of 400 going for what was likely to have been at least many weeks, if not months. He put a lot of effort into reaching out. It is likely if someone reaches out to us that they have also put great effort in. It may have taken courage, or a lot of prayer, or a great emotional effort or risk for them to reach out. When someone reaches out to us, don’t underestimate what it means to them, and what it may have cost them.

4)  We can, and should, show honesty and emotion. Read that initial quote again. Back in those days running was not something that respectable people did. Esau, although the wronged party, ran to meet Jacob (note the parallel with the parable Jesus told of the Prodigal running to meet his son). When he met him he cried and told him how much it meant to be together again. He then genuinely asks about his life and his family. We too need to have real honesty when trying to connect with someone else, especially when reaching out to those who should be close to us.

So all was well after this? Not really. God can take us so far. He can do many miracles, and can reunite us with others. But we have to accept what he has done. For some reason Jacob then listed to the voice of fear. He still didn’t fully trust Esau and they went their separate ways. To be fair they were genuinely reconciled, so that was good. But they no doubt missed out on so much. It is true that most people are not trustworthy, and it is right to be cautious, but there is another time. There is a time where God is doing something and inviting us to be reconciled or joined for the first time with someone else. When someone has reached out to us we can either take everything that the opportunity presents, or at least partly walk away. Let us reach out to those God has placed into our lives, and when someone reaches out to us, take them into our lives. It blesses us, and the person who is reaching out. Relationship with God, and after that with others, is the most important thing in our lives.  It is not to be wasted, but it can be enjoyed and really add something to our lives, not to mention the pleasure it must give to God when we respond to the opportunities He gives us.

“Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool”. John 5, v 6 – 7 ESV.

I am increasingly convinced that God’s heart is to be good to us. That is not to say we will always have our prayers answered, God knows better than we do what we need at any given time. But God is good, we need to remember that and have hope. But while I most often hear of prayers not answered, I do sometimes come across prayers not asked, and God’s offer of help rejected. Yes, it is true that many reject God. Jesus came at Easter to set us free. Perhaps you have never met Him. I have news for you; he really is alive. That’s the whole story of Easter. Jesus loved us so much that he spent those hours on the cross slowly dying on your behalf. He willing gave his life to pay a ransom for us (see Matthew 20, v 28), but that was not the end of it. Three days later he came back to life and lives today. He longs to get to know you, and all you have to do is accept His offer of love and seek a relationship with Him. Read about it in the Bible, the book of ‘John’ and speak to Him about it today.

Perhaps you are a Christian thinking what a basic message that is, and how you cant understand anyone not taking up His offer. There are many Christians who have accepted the love of Jesus and responded by wanting a relationship with their Lord. But while I often hear of prayers unanswered, very little is said of rejected answers to prayer. Jesus asked the man at the pool, “Do you want to be healed”. We probably wonder what possible reason there could be for such a strange question. Everyone wants to be healed. Yet that would be wrong. Occasionally God provides an answer to a prayer that is left with the giver to accept or reject. Perhaps it is not what you had in mind. Maybe you would prefer a different option. Or maybe it involves giving something up in order to accept the gift God has for you; such as unforgiveness, pain, avoidance, relationships or something else. Whatever the reason; you say no to God’s blessing. I pray that you see how crazy that is and accept God’s best blessings for you today. It is “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5, v 1), so let us take all the goodness He has for us. It truly breaks God’s heart to see you living a half – life. He has come to give us full and abundant life.

The Lord Jesus, resurrected and in His rightful throne room today still speaks to us through those words. Sometimes He challenges us through them. “Do you want to be healed”? The reply of the man is interesting. It’s very polite. Here’s the thing; if I asked you today if you wanted to be healed (I’m referring to whatever the problem is – health, work, relationships, etc), and challenged you that God has already given you the solution, that He is waiting for you, not the other way around, you would probably be very offended. If it was me, and not Jesus, who said those words to the man his reply may not have been so polite. It might have gone like this: ‘can’t you see I’m paralyzed. What I’m I supposed to do, I try to get into the pool!’ I suspect your own reply might be similar. But I want to challenge you today. Do you want healing? You are applying for jobs. But are you applying for jobs you are likely to get? Why don’t you work as a volunteer? You’re lonely. But why don’t you reach out to other lonely people you know instead of chasing those who have many friends? You get the idea. It may not be an unanswered prayer so much as God waiting for you to act and take up what he has offered you. Do you want to be healed regardless of anything, or do you want healing on your terms?

I just want to end by saying that the vast majority of people and situations I come across are not within our ability to solve. Please don’t think I am saying that ‘its your own fault’. We live through so much, and God is with us through it. He is our comforter and he is gentle with us. But if your situation is one of those that God has provided an answer for, I would encourage you to take it up. He only loves you so much and wants you to enjoy His goodness to you. Ask God in all honesty if you are just not seeing what he has laid in front of you, and be open to all He has for your life. You won’t regret it.

“11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”  Ephesians 6:11-18(ESV)

The Bible speaks of spiritual battles, but what does that actually mean in our lives today?  The Old Testament describes many physical battles.  I would like you to really consider that at that time weapons included swords; spears; slings; and, bow and arrow.  If you imagine for a moment what such warfare would have been like, it is actually a pretty graphic and frightening prospect.  The scenes of death following such a battle would probably to be too disturbing to broadcast if television had been invented at that time.  This is the kind of language the Bible uses to describe the battle we have with the evil forces that are at work in this world.  I believe the reason this language is used is to try and convey to us just how destructive spiritual attack is to us.  If we are not defended it is going to really harm us, as a sword would to your body. 


Where physical attacks cut and destroy our bodies, spiritual attack focuses on our mind and emotions.  There are many ways that our minds and emotions can be attacked.

How do you know if you are under spiritual attack?  Usually the attack will take one of three forms:  1. Deception.  It started in the garden and has continued since.  The devil makes something or situation to appear as it is not.  2.  Temptation.  Read in Matthew 4 about the temptation of Jesus.  Often the devil is not tempting us with some extreme sin, he is doing anything to distract and take us off God’s best path for our life (but remember what we said, this is very dangerous to us even if it does not immediately appear to be so).  3.  Accusation.  If we have committed some sin in the past, the devil, and never God, rubs our face in it.  He discourages us, and makes us feel like giving up.  He will do anything to get you down. 

How do you withstand attack?  With the armour listed in Ephesians.  The belt of truth, meditate on God’s word and get truth into your mind.  When some doubt or lie comes to mind, respond in the way Jesus did: quote the Bible and say out loud ‘it is written’, and the devil will flee.  The breastplate of righteousness, try to life a holy life, it belongs to God after all.  The sandals of peace.  Peace should be our default position.  Faith is our shield, when your mind or emotions are all over the place, head back to what God has said and take refuge in Him.  The Spirit is our sword; let him fight our battles for us.  Finally, put on the helmet of salvation: if you have decided to follow Jesus, you are saved for all eternity to spend your life in a beautiful place with your Father God.

If your mind or emotions are suffering today, take confidence in God.  In the 19th century the British army were very often successful because they could stand.  In the face of a terrifying enemy advancing towards them there is a long period where nothing can be done.  Rifles have a range that is much shorter than cannon.  So under attack they knew how to stand and not run.  You’re human so I have no doubt you can run or fight, but can you stand?  Take confidence in God no matter what your circumstances are today. 

 “and having done all, to stand firm”

King Solomon is popularly known for his wisdom, and is the likely writer of three books of the Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.  When looking for wisdom it is to Proverbs we turn.  Ecclesiastes is difficult because so much of it seems to contradict the Bible, while Song of Solomon leaves many of us wondering why it is in the Bible at all, which is probably the reason for so many strange interpretations of what it ‘really’ means over the years.  However there is much we can learn from all three books.

 “I saw all the oppression that are done under the sun.  And behold the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them!”  (Taken from Ecclesiastes, chapter 4 and verse 1, ESV).  It is not a happy story, but history and experience shows us that it is true.  The key to this verse, and in fact the entire book is ‘under the sun’.  It is a phrase that is meant to indicate the physical reality of life without God, or at the very lest with minimal intervention from God.  This is before the New Testament.  A world without Jesus is summed up perfectly throughout the book of Ecclesiastes.  So before we get too critical, read again the book of Ecclesiastes, but from the perspective of Jesus not having walked the earth.  It assumes the existence of God, but we have no personal relationship, forgiveness or hope.  The book from that perspective is a masterpiece as it explains life as we find it.  There is no justice, there is hardship, and what can we do?  Enjoy what we can, when we can, and don’t ponder it too much.  And it is hopeful for us to read it for two reasons.  If we really get into that world view, it prepares us perfectly for the arrival of Jesus in the New Testament.  In fact it would be an excellent thing to do prior to Christmas in order to really get to grips with why the birth of Jesus and why His arrival was described as “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2, verse 10).

Solomon, as he describes throughout the book didn’t have a hard life.  In fact he probably had one of the ‘best’ lives of anyone who has ever lived.  He had more wealth, more comforts, probably good health, and all the people and company anyone could wish for.  The book speaks of all the different things he had and experienced.  Yet, it didn’t satisfy.  Having it all left him bored with life.  And he saw how much worse it was for others.  For them it was misery, and for all was without hope.  This is the other reason to read Ecclesiastes.  We read it with Jesus having been and risen, and knowing all we do from the rest of the Bible.  But if you don’t know Jesus, it pretty much sums up life today.  Without a personal relationship with Jesus, life is just like he describes in the book.  But if that is your position today, follow it up by reading the book of John and find hope this Christmas.

“People living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned”. Matthew 4:16 (NIV)

Not enough money?

Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” Matthew 6, v 33.   It is often, correctly, said that if we seek God first, we will receive many spiritual blessings in our lives.  But it does also refer to everyday practical needs and specifically mentions clothing and food.  This verse has something to say to people who are facing a lack of money.

 I’ll firstly make a few general points in this paragraph, and then in the next one get to the point I would like to draw from the text.  Why might we be short of money?  First, it might be part of God’s plan for our lives in order to grow us, or for some other reason.  For example, Paul says in Philippians 4, v 11 – 12 “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content…I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need”, and in 1 Timothy 6, v8 “If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content”.  There are also practical reasons.  Perhaps our income is too low, or our expenditure too high.  These are things to pray about and ask about.  Are we giving enough to God?  Are we wasting money?

But I want to suggest that this verse speaks to those who have prayed and thought through these things, and found that they are not solutions.  It is part of a passage that addresses worry concerning having something to wear, or enough to eat.  Now if those people could simply work a bit harder, or stop wasting money, they would have done so would they not?  The fact that they are still worrying suggests the answer is not that simple.  At this point Jesus was not addressing lessons that may well come through adversity, He was speaking to those who should have enough, but don’t.

I will suggest that there are some people (but not all obviously) reading this today who are sure that their financial difficulties are not related to the above points, and I want to finish by talking to you.  God is not teaching you a lesson, your income is just fine, and your expenditure doesn’t include waste.  You have followed God, and your lifestyle is as it should be.  God does not want you to change your job for more money, and He doesn’t need you to reduce your expenses.  Some may accuse you of spending on luxuries, but no one can judge the lifestyle of anyone else.  Yes, I would encourage people to live simply and to share, but what that means for each person is different.  The fact is that some are living right, and even following God you are just seeing your debt increase.  You are not having these needs met.

This is a conditional promise.  It is conditional on seeking God, his kingdom, and his righteousness first.  Or put another way if you aim for God, and His will, you get the rest thrown in anyway.  Aim for the things and you miss them and God. Or put another way, if you are short of money, this is an indicator that something is wrong, and I want to suggest that God is saying today that it is not a financial problem.  Speak to God and ask Him if there is any aspect of your life that you need to surrender fully to Him.  Ask if you are seeking Him, His ways and His kingdom first.  If you listen to what He says, and make the changes He suggests, then He says that “all these things shall be added to you”.  God really impressed on me this past weekend that while this sounds unrelated and illogical, it is actually much more logical than we imagine.  You see, every decision we make in some way changes our circumstances.  You might not be making a financial decision, but in some way it will bring you fully inside God’s will, and will change your circumstances.  God might have a blessing for you, but you sometimes have to stand in the right place to receive it!  You never know what will come your way by taking a different path.

If you are looking for confidential, practical advice on debt, see https://capuk.org/ which may be helpful.