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Archive for September, 2014

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.

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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.

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