Author: Alice A. Anacioco

A Bible Study on the Rapture

A Bible Study on the Rapture

The Rapture which is the next great event on God’s prophetic calendar is undeniably one of the most debated issues in Christian theology. Although every Christian denomination affirms its belief in the eventual return of Christ, there exists a wide variety of opinions concerning when and how Christ will return.

In this article, we will examine the biblical doctrine of the rapture.

The Meaning of Rapture in the Bible

Those who object to the rapture are quick to point out that the word rapture is not in the Bible. I must say that’s a fair concern. However, the word Trinity is not in the Bible either, or even the word Bible for that matter. Yet we believe that these things are very real.

So, where does the concept of the rapture come from?

The term rapture comes from the words “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17: “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”

Is the Word Rapture in the Bible

Our English word rapture is from the Latin word rapio or raptus, meaning “to snatch up, to seize, or to carry off by force.” When the great scholar Jerome translated the Greek NT into Latin in the 4th century, he translated the Greek word harpazo in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 into the Latin word raeptius. This word was eventually brought into the English as Rapture.

So, while it’s true that the word rapture does not occur in most English translations, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17 clearly contain the concept of a catching away of living believers to meet the Lord.

The rapture could just be well called the “catching away of the church,” “the snatching away of the church,” “the translation of the church,” or “the harpazo of the church.” But “Rapture of the church” is an excellent description and has become the most common title for this event.

Where is Rapture in the Bible?

The rapture of believers is an important biblical concept that appears in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The idea of believers being “caught up” by God is not limited to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. There are several places throughout the Bible where people were “snatched up” from earth to heaven – providing insight regarding aspects of our future rapture.

There are seven raptures of specific people clearly described in Scripture. These involve Enoch, Elijah, Jesus, Philip, Paul, and the two witnesses. It’s possible that John was raptured as well, which would give us eight.

In light of these raptures, any serious theological understanding of biblical eschatology must include the idea of believers being “caught up” into heaven. Christians may differ on their understanding of the timing of the rapture to come, but not the reality that it will take place.

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Interestingly, some critics argue there is no rapture at all for the church. Yet we see the word we refer to as the rapture used 14 times in the New Testament: Matthew 11:12; 12:29; 13:19; John 6:15; 10:12, 28, 29; Acts 8:39; 23:10; 2 Corinthians 12:2; 4; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Jude 23; Revelation 12:5.

Of these 14 uses of harpazo, four refer to an actual rapture by God. In addition to believers, both dead and living (1 Thessalonians 4:17), these include Philip (Acts 8:39), Paul (2 Corinthians 2:2-3), and the male child (Revelation 12:5).

In addition, several raptures have already taken place in Scripture or are specifically mentioned in the future.

Raptures in the Old Testament

In addition to references to the word translated “rapture” in the New Testament, the Old Testament reveals two occasions on which the Lord “snatched up” a person into heaven. On both occasions, the person was taken alive directly to heaven with the Lord. Thus, the idea of a miraculous rapture of God’s people has precedence in the Old Testament.

Enoch

The first record of such an event has to do with Enoch. He is an intriguing character in Scripture mentioned six times in Genesis, once in a genealogy in 1 Chronicles 1:3, and three times in the New Testament (Luke 3:37; Hebrews 11:5; Jude 14).

Enoch was the son of Jared (Genesis 5:18) and became the father of Methuselah at the age of 65, and later he had other sons and daughters (Genesis 5:21-22). Living in the time of the early patriarchs, he lived to the age of 365. Scripture then notes, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).

Where is the Word Rapture Mentioned in the Bible

Elijah

The second Old Testament person taken alive directly into heaven was the prophet Elijah. Elijah, meaning, “my God is Yahweh,” was a 9th century BC prophet from Tishbe, in Gilead, on the east bank of the northern kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 17:7). Elijah’s early ministry involved several confrontations with the idolatrous Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen of Israel. This reached a climax at Mt. Carmel, where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to call down fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:19-39).

Despite God’s miraculous intervention, Jezebel was determined to have Elijah killed, so he fled to the desert and hid in a cave (1 Kings 19:1-9). There, God called Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:15). Leaving the cave, he found Elisha and “threw his mantle on him” (1 Kings 19:19). For about the next ten years they ministered together, training “sons of the prophets” (disciples) in the various cities of Israel and Judah (2 Kings 2:3).

Second Kings 2 begins, “And it came to pass, when the Lord was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal” (2 Kings 2:1). His servant Elisha refused to leave his side, staying with Elijah as they walked to Bethel, Jericho, and across the Jordan River after Elijah parted the water by striking it with his cloak (1 Kings 2:8).

2 Kings 2:11-12 report, “Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!’ So he saw him no more.”

Raptures in the New Testament

Seven raptures are recorded in the New Testament. These include the ascension of Jesus (Greek, harpasthê) in Revelation 12:50, the temporary raptures of Philip and Paul, the calling up (Greek, anaba) of John, the resurrection and rapture of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:12, and the rapture of all believers in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Jesus

First, Jesus ascended to heaven following His resurrection. This event known as the ascension is described in Acts 1:9-11. It is also mentioned in Luke 24:51.

What is intriguing about this rapture of Jesus is that the angels reported Jesus will return “in just the same way” as the disciples had watched Him go into heaven. What way was this? Jesus left by being “lifted up” (Greek, epêrthê) and received (Greek, hupelaben) by a cloud.

Jesus’ ascension was physical, personal, visible, and glorious. Jesus promised to one day return in the same way at the second coming (Matthew 24:30; Daniel 7:13) as well as to the same place, the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).

Philip

The second rapture noted in the New Testament is also recorded in the book of Acts (Acts 8:25-40). In this passage, Philip is led by an angel to meet with an Ethiopian Eunuch. A Hellenistic Jew, Philip was one of the seven original deacons appointed by the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-7).

After Philip successfully evangelized Samaria (Acts 8:1-8), he was led by an angel to head south toward Gaza, on the edge of the Sinai desert. There, Philip encountered an Ethiopian of African descent who was reading from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Philip shared the good news of Jesus with the eunuch, speaking from Isaiah 53 in response to the eunuch’s question; “Of whom does the prophet say this” (Acts 8:34)?

“Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized’” (Acts 8:36)? This powerful account chronicles Philip baptizing the first known convert from Ethiopia. But the eunuch’s baptism was not the end of God’s power in this account.

After the baptism, Philip’s rapture occurs (Acts 8:39-40). John R. W. Stott observes, in this case, Philip was “removed with miraculous velocity … as at the rapture.” He was “snatched away” and reappeared at Azotus (Ashdod) some twenty miles away.

Though Philip was only temporarily raptured to another location, this event highlights an important aspect of the future rapture of the church: Those who remain on the earth will no longer see those who were raptured.

Where is Rapture in the Bible

Paul

The third rapture recorded in the New Testament involves the apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul refers to “a man” who was caught up to heaven. Though he does not directly identify himself in this passage, from the context it is clear that he is speaking of himself.

Though reluctant to speak about his experience, Paul notes several details referring to his being “caught up” to the “third heaven.” The third heaven refers to the place where God lives – beyond the first heaven, or the sky, and the second heaven, or outer space.

First, Paul was raptured “into Paradise.” It was common to speak of heaven as “Paradise” (Luke 23:43; Revelation 2:7). Following his rapture, Paul was in the presence of the Lord immediately. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 15:52 reveals the rapture of believers will take place “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”

Second, this rapture occurred to “a man in Christ.” John Drane sees this concept as the heart of Paul’s theology. He writes, “The supreme fact for Paul was that he was ‘a man in Christ.’ It was by being ‘in Christ’ that a person could be justified before God, and share in the new life Jesus had come to bring.”

Third, Paul “heard inexpressible words.” One of the beautiful aspects believers can anticipate about being in the presence of Christ is the supernatural fellowship that will occur from being with the Lord.

Paul could not even speak of what took place during his experience. Imagine how much greater of an experience it will be when we live in Christ’s presence forever.

John

The fourth possible rapture recorded in the New Testament is found in Revelation. Due to the anti-Christian persecution that took place under the Roman emperor Domitian, the apostle John was banished to the island of Patmos. While there, he continued to worship the Lord and wrote the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:9-11).

In Revelation 4:1-2, John refers back to this vision and says, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this. Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.”

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John Walvoord observes that while the invitation to John to “come up here” (Greek anaba hòde) is similar to that which the church anticipates at the rapture, “it is clear from the context that this is not an explicit reference to the rapture of the church, as John was not actually translated; in fact, he was still in his natural body on the island of Patmos.”

Nevertheless, the idea of his being transported, even in a vision, shows a pattern of a believer being taken to heaven to gain a new perspective on events that would transpire on earth.

Future Raptures

In addition to the raptures that have already taken place throughout Scripture, two future raptures are noted.

The Rapture of Living Believers

While several passages describe the rapture, the three most direct passages that describe this event include John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Note: The focus of this write-up is on the pre-tribulation view of the rapture of all believers in Christ.

In John 14:1-3, Jesus personally describes some aspects of the rapture. First, He explains that one reason for leaving earth is so He can personally prepare a place for us in heaven. This amazing detail reveals Jesus is actively involved in preparing our future heavenly home.

Second, Jesus teaches in John 14:3 that He will come again and receive us to Himself. The order of events is clear. Jesus will leave (the ascension), He will prepare a place for us in heaven, He will come again, He will take us to be with Him (the rapture), and we will be in heaven with Him.

A Bible Study on the Rapture

The Rapture of the Two Witnesses

We read about the rapture of the two witnesses sent by God to testify to the world on His behalf in Revelation 11:3-12. God will grant these two Jewish men authority to witness and prophesy for 42 months, or 1,260 days – this comprises the first 3 ½ years of the seven-year tribulation that will follow the rapture (Revelation 11:2-3).

These two men will minister outside of the rebuilt Jerusalem temple and have the ability to destroy their enemies (Revelation 11:5). At the midpoint of the tribulation, the beast (Antichrist) will kill these two witnesses and leave their bodies in the streets of Jerusalem for 3 ½ days (Revelation 11:7-8).

The people of the world will celebrate their death (Revelation 11:10). Yet these two witnesses will return to life after 3 ½ days, causing great fear among the people (Revelation 11:11). They will then follow the Lord’s command to “come up here,” and they will be raptured to heaven (Revelation 11:12).

While the term harpazo is not used to describe the rapture of the two witnesses, the fact of their physical resurrection and rapture is clearly indicated. A voice from heaven called them to “come up here” and they “went up.”

The Rapture is the Blessed Hope

A careful study of the Greek term harpazo and these examples of biblical raptures make it clear that the idea of a future rapture of all believers is certainly biblical. The only real debate is over the matter of the timing of the rapture, not the fact that there will be such an event.

Therefore, any serious discussion about the nature, timing, and significance of the rapture ought to be carried out with the utmost respect for this biblical concept.

If the first Christians viewed the rapture as the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), then so should we, regardless of our opinions concerning its timing.

Closing Words

The rapture or the catching away of living believers to heaven is a biblical doctrine. Scripture clearly teaches that at some point in the future, Jesus will come, and every believer in Christ who is alive on earth will be caught up to heaven to meet Him in the air.

One important thing to note: Jesus is not coming for moral people, for people who faithfully attend church, or for people who observe religious rituals, as good as those things maybe. He’s coming for those who are “in Christ” through faith in His atoning death and resurrection.

Are you ready to meet Him?


References:

The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Mark Hitchcock

Can We Still Believe in the Rapture? by Ed Hindson and Mark Hitchcock

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Did God Create Evil (Isaiah 45:7)?

Did God Create Evil (Isaiah 45:7)?

The problem of evil is one of the arguments commonly brought up when talking about the existence of God. Atheists often ask, “If a morally upright God exists, why doesn’t he stop all bad things from happening?” Often people claim that God Himself created evil.

And you know what? They even use the Scriptures, particularly Isaiah 45:7 (KJV) to support this claim. What? No way! Does this verse really teach that God created evil?

In this post, we will look at this verse more closely and figure out how to properly respond to this question.

Is God the Creator of Evil?

One passage of Scripture that seems to teach that God did indeed create evil is Isaiah 45:7. The King James Version of the Bible says this, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”

But does this mean that God is the creator of evil? If so, then He isn’t a good God after all. So, how do we explain the following verse in Genesis?

Does the Bible Teach that God Created Evil

If everything God created was “very good” then how can He be the creator of evil? Is evil something very good? How are we supposed to explain these seemingly contradicting statements?

Making Sense of Difficult Passages

Christian apologist, speaker, author, and pastor of Calvary Chapel Signal Hill Don Stewart, gives us three possible ways in which Bible-believing Christians should address this passage.

Incorrect Translation of the Hebrew Word

It is important to note that only the King James Bible uses the word evil and in this case, some people feel that the Hebrew word was incorrectly translated based on the context of the passage. The word translated “evil” is the Hebrew word ra, which also means calamity, disaster, sorrow, afflictions, and adversity.

Modern Bible translations have translated the passage with a different English word. For example, the New International Version reads:

“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 NIV).

Here we have the word translated “disaster.”

Interestingly, the New King James Version uses the word “calamity. It says, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

Therefore, the Scriptures do not teach that God was the originator of evil. Rather, what this passage is saying is that on occasion God brings calamity or disaster to the world but that He did not create evil itself.

 

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God Created the Conditions for Evil

Although others believe that the Hebrew word does not actually mean that God creates evil, they usually understand it in the sense that God creates the conditions for people to commit acts of evil. In other words, God creates circumstances where people have the choice to either do good or evil and that people sometimes make the choice to do the latter.

So, in a sense, God creates conditions that people can do evil but these conditions also allow people to do what is good. In other words, it is not that God created something evil but rather that He created the conditions for evil to become a possibility.

By giving human beings a choice, God opened up the possibility that humans would choose evil. Adam and Eve did exactly that. They chose to rebel against God and brought sin into our world. Therefore, in one sense, God did create evil by allowing the conditions for evil to originate.

But at the same time, God did not force Adam and Eve to choose evil. To do evil was something they chose to do.

God Allows Evil to Exist for His Own Purposes

Scriptures tell us that God is good, all-powerful, and sovereign. This is why we must recognize that no circumstance escapes His watchful eyes. In other words, God allows things to happen; He permitted evil to infest His creation.

Now, why is that? How could God just sit there and watch evil destroy His creation? When it comes to the problem of evil, the Bible leaves some things unanswered. But one thing it does tell us: God uses evil for His own purposes.

God uses everything for His purpose

We see this in the story of Joseph and his brothers. What Joseph’s brothers did to him was evil. Yet, God used their evil for good – to preserve the lives not only of their family but of the nation of Israel. You can read more about it in this article.

Another example is the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, in several instances such as that in Exodus 7:3 by God, and other instances (Exodus 8:32) by Pharaoh himself. God said this happened not only so that He might show His power in Pharaoh but also for His name to be declared in all the earth (Romans 9:17).

And let us not forget the evilest event that God allowed to happen – the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son (Acts 2:23). All the evil things that the participants in the crucifixion did have been ordained beforehand by God. And yet, the moral blame rested on the people who crucified Christ.

Indeed, God did not create evil. But He uses evil to accomplish His purposes for His own glory and for our good.

Bottom Line

Sure, the Bible recognizes that evil exists. But God did not create evil. We must reiterate that Isaiah 45:7 does not teach God created evil. God is not the originator of evil. The origin of evil lies with humanity. When God created man, i.e., human beings, He gave them free will – the choice to obey or disobey.

Evil came as a result of humanity’s choice. We must recognize that much of the evil in the universe is due to the direct or indirect choice of individuals. Lying, stealing, murder, and the likes cannot be blamed upon God. Each person is given a choice to do good or evil. And when they choose evil, they must be held accountable.


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Recommended Resource: Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions by Clay Jones

“If you are looking for one book to make sense of the problem of evil, this book is for you.” – Sean McDowell

Grasping This Truth Will Change Your View of God Forever

Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions by Clay JonesIf God is good and all-powerful, why doesn’t He put a stop to the evil in this world? Christians and non-Christians alike struggle with the concept of a loving God who allows widespread suffering in this life and never-ending punishment in hell. We wrestle with questions such as…

  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why should we have to pay for Adam’s sin?
  • How can an eternal judgment be fair?

But what if the real problem doesn’t start with God…but with us?

Clay Jones, an associate professor of Christian apologetics at Biola University, examines what Scripture truly says about the nature of evil and why God allows it. Along the way, he’ll help you discover the contrasting abundance of God’s grace, the overwhelming joy of heaven, and the extraordinary destiny of believers.

A Letter from Jeremiah to the Exiles

A Letter from Jeremiah to the Exiles

Jeremiah 29 records several letters: one from Jeremiah to the exiles, including reference to a letter concerning Jewish false prophets in Babylon to which Jeremiah replied; one from Shemaiah to the Temple priests, concerning Jeremiah; and one from Jeremiah to the exiles concerning Shemaiah.

Let us examine Jeremiah’s letters and see how the principles he laid out might and should be applied in our lives today as Christians.

A Letter of Instruction and Encouragement

Sometime after the deportation in 597, Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon to tell them how to behave in their new land. Governed by special laws concerning clean and unclean things, the Jewish people would have a difficult time adjusting to a pagan society.

Jeremiah wanted the Jewish people to be good witnesses to the idolatrous Babylonians, and he also wanted them to be good even though they were separated from their Temple and its services. He addressed himself to the needs of three kinds of people: those with no hope, those with false hopes, and those who have true hope.

Hope in the Lord

Those With No Hope

The exiles had lost everything but their lives and what few possessions they could carry with them to Babylon. They had lost their freedom and were now captives. They had been taken from their homes and had lost their means of making a living. They were separated from relatives and friends, some of whom may have perished in the long march from Jerusalem to Babylon.

No matter how they looked at it, the situation seemed hopeless. So, Jeremiah gives them a Word from the Lord (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Clearly, the Jewish people were in Babylon by the will of God.

Yet, they were instructed to build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for their sons and give their daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters – that they may be increased there, and not diminished.

Also, they must seek the peace of the city where God has caused them to be carried away captive, and to lift it up to the Lord in prayer it; for when the city is peaceful, they will have peace.

Application to the Christian

When something as depressing as this happens to us, how should we handle it? It’s pretty difficult to remain hopeful while we watch everything we hold dear crumble before our very eyes. But no matter how tragic it might be, we must not allow any difficult circumstance to hold us back. Hanging our harps on the willow and sitting around weeping may be a normal reaction to tragedy but it sure won’t do us any good (Psalm 137:1-4).

One of the first steps in turning tragedy into triumph is to acknowledge that God has allowed it (Jeremiah 29:4). We must accept the situation courageously and entrust our lives completely into the hands of a loving God, who makes no mistakes.

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Those With False Hopes

The false prophets in Babylon were giving false hopes to the people concerning Jerusalem and Judah. Apparently, these false prophets had convinced the people that their stay in Babylon would be brief; thus they did not need to settle down and try to resume a normal life.

This word got back to Jeremiah so he wrote to the exiles again not only to warn them about these false prophets but also to tell them just the opposite of what they have been told (Jeremiah 29:8-9).

Since Jewish exiles would be in Babylon for as long as seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10), they would have plenty of time to build houses and set up homes. The exiles needed to have families so that people would be available to return to Judea when the captivity ended. This small Jewish remnant was holding in its hands the future of God’s great plan of salvation, and they must obey Him, be fruitful, and multiply.

The Jews could have easily waged constant warfare against their idolatrous Gentile captors, but Jeremiah instructed them to strive to get along with the Babylonians. The exiles were to be peacemakers, not troublemakers, and they were to pray sincerely for their enemies. (See Matthew 4:43-48; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; Titus 3:1-2.)

Application to the Christian

It was possible to be good Jews even in pagan land; it’s also possible to be good Christians in a secular and wicked world. Remember, if we reject the wooden yoke of submission, we only end up wearing an iron yoke of subjugation (Jeremiah 28:12-14).

Thus, the best course is to yield ourselves to the Lord and to those who are over us, no matter how badly they may treat us. (See Peter’s counsel to Christian slaves in 1 Peter 2:18-25). To indulge in false hope is to miss what God has planned for us.

Those Who Have True Hope

True hope is based on the revealed Word of God, not on the dream messages of self-appointed prophets (Jeremiah 29:8). God had given His people a gracious promise to deliver them from captivity, to gather them from all the nations and from all the places where He has driven them and bring them back to their land (Jeremiah 29:10-14).

And God is faithful, He would keep His promise. All the people have to do is to seek the Lord with all their hearts. According to Jeremiah 29:14, these promises reach beyond the Jews captive in Babylon and include all of Israel throughout the world. Jeremiah was looking ahead to the end of the age when Israel will be gathered to meet their Messiah and enter their kingdom (Isaiah 10:20 – 12:6).

For I know the plans I have for you

Application to the Christian

In every situation, God’s people have the responsibility to seek the Lord, pray, and ask Him to fulfill His promises, for the Word and prayer go together (Acts 6:4). They say that what life does to us depends largely on what life finds in us. If we seek the Lord and want His best, then circumstances will build us and prepare us for what He has planned

If we rebel or if we look for quick and easy shortcuts then circumstances will destroy us and rob us of the future God wants us to enjoy.

Closing Thoughts

God caused the Jews to be carried away captive in Babylon; it was part of His plan in bringing judgment on Judah for their generations of rebellion against Him. And in God’s plan, they would be in Babylon for a long time. But God has not forgotten about them and He never wanted to destroy them.

A man with a heart of a true shepherd, Jeremiah wanted to enlighten and encourage the Jewish exiles in their new life in Babylon.

God wanted the exiles to multiply in Babylon just as they multiplied in Egypt. He also wanted them to be good in their communities and to be a blessing to their Babylonian neighbors.

How was it possible for Jeremiah to get in touch with the Jewish exiles in Babylon? Correspondence like this wasn’t difficult to maintain in those days, for diplomatic missions between Jerusalem and Babylon were regular.

In the same way, God wants His children to be a good neighbor, employee, co-worker, and a blessing even to the meanest people. The Word of God exhorts every believer in Jesus to do everything with all their heart as though they are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).


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Recommended Resource: Hope in the Hard Places: How to Survive When Your World Feels Out of Control by Sarah Beckman

Hope in the Hard Places: How to Survive When Your World Feels Out of Control by Sarah BeckmanHope in the Hard Places is a practical, encouraging guidebook for the weary soul looking for hope in dark circumstances.

In this life, everyone must face trials. Cancer, chronic illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, depression, prodigal children, caring for aging parents, and other unknown terrains can cause people to feel hopeless and helpless.

For those who feel like they don’t know where to turn, Hope in the Hard Places equips readers to walk through their trial with hope rather than desperation.

Sarah Beckman, a speaker, and author, teaches effective and powerful ways to get through the pain with biblical truths and principles. She also includes insight from others who have experienced all manner of trials.

Packed with practical strategies, checklists, encouragement, wisdom from seasoned travelers, and rock-solid biblical truth, Hope in the Hard Places provides a beacon of hope in the darkness so that readers can walk through the depths of hardship with insight, dignity, and certainty.

Why is the Fear of the Lord the Beginning of Knowledge?

Why is the Fear of the Lord the Beginning of Knowledge?

The fear of the Lord is a topic mentioned frequently in Scripture, especially in the book of Proverbs where it appears eighteen times. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

But what is the fear of the Lord and why is it the beginning of knowledge? Fearing God seems to be a strange way of knowing God, don’t you think? How exactly can we know God by fearing Him?

When talking about the “fear of the Lord,” it does not necessarily mean we are to be afraid of Him and so we should stay out of His way. Some people seem to suggest that God is an angry monster who would strike anyone who does anything offensive to Him.

But that is not who God is. Didn’t God sacrifice His only begotten Son for the salvation of the world and He did it out of His great love (John 3:16)?

What Is The Fear Of The Lord?

The fear of the Lord is not the slavish fear of a criminal before a judge but the loving and reverential fear of a child for his or her parents. It is that affectionate reverence by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law (Bridges).

It is also the ultimate expression of reverential submission to the Lord’s will and thus characterizes a true worshiper (Ross).

More importantly, it is our fear of the Lord that will enable us to know God. If we want to understand God’s works and God’s Word, we must maintain this reverential fear of the Lord, for this attitude is the basis for receiving spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Knowing God by Fearing Him

It All Starts With Fear

The starting point of our relationship with God is fear because when we fear Him, we accept His majesty, which eventually becomes the basis from which we can build and grow spiritually.

In Psalm 76:1-12, Asaph uses the word fear three times as he gives a brief history of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The Israelites had seen God’s power and might when He covered the pharaoh’s chariots with the Red Sea and they feared Him (Psalm 76:6-7).

When God sent His judgment to Moses (Psalm 76:8a), the Israelites had been sanctified and prepared to meet God at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:9). Although the people were not allowed to climb the mountain, they were allowed to listen and watch when Moses received the Ten Commandments.

But when they saw the “thundering, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking” (Exodus 20:18), they told Moses they were afraid. In response, Moses said to the people, “Do not fear for God has come to test you and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin (Exodus 20:20).

God’s Might Is Fearful

Next, the psalmist refers to Jehoshaphat’s reign when “The earth feared and was still” (Psalm 76:8). Israel’s enemies feared the power of God, and because of this, there was peace in the land for twenty-five years (2 Chronicles 20:29).

When people lose their fear of God, bad things happen. God’s judgment is swift and certain. When Assyria lost its fear of God, God killed 185,000 of them (2 Kings 19:35). When the church lost its fear of God in the New Testament, He killed Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-11).

Again, this is not to say that God is always looking for people who exhibit no fear of Him just so He gets a chance to bring His judgment upon them. The emphasis here is that when God’s people fear Him, they would not sin and will desire to live under God’s will.

Looking at what is going on today in America, a nation whose constitution was founded on the Word of God is heart-breaking. You see people spreading terror and fear in major cities, crime rates increasing, and all kinds of lawlessness. What happened to this great nation that God has blessed tremendously for many years?

The people have not only lost the fear of God but they also have removed God from their schools, government institutions, and pretty much every section of society. They no longer acknowledge God as the law-giver, the giver of life, and the source of every blessing, victory, and peace.

But it’s not yet too late. Didn’t God say that if His people whom He has called will humble themselves, and pray and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, then He will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14)?

Christian Apparels
Strengthen your faith with Christian Apparels.

Bringing Our Offerings To God

The third reference to fear says that we should “bring presents to Him who ought to be feared” (Psalm 76:11). We make vows to God and fulfill them not because we fear that He might take all of His provisions back. (Note: We need to always remember that everything we have and possess belongs to God as Psalm 24:1 and 1 Corinthians 10:26 say.)

Rather, we present to God our gifts to show our love and respect to Him. But God wants us to bring Him more than offerings. He wants our time and talent in Bible study, prayer, and service. God is not that interested in our money than He is in what we can do to further His Kingdom on earth.

God cares a lot more about souls that will be ushered into His Kingdom through our small acts of kindness towards our fellowmen than any amount we put into the offering basket. And everything we do must be aimed at pleasing our Lord who has called us into His family, rather than the honor and recognition we could get from anyone.

For instance, when we cook a pot of chicken soup for a neighbor or fix a flat tire for a stranger, we should do it as if the Lord Himself were receiving the gift (Colossians 3:23-24).

Fear God, Not Circumstances

They say that the phrase, “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid” appears 365 times in the Bible. That’s one for each day of the year!

Are you afraid of lack? Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). He also said, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

If we are serving God with our whole heart, we have nothing to fear. If we honor God with our gifts, talents, and time, we have nothing to fear. If we love Him enough to put Him first in our lives, we have nothing to fear. If we have given Him our heart, we have nothing to fear.

Fear God & Keep His Commandments

The book of Ecclesiastes ends where the book of Proverbs begins, with an admonition for us to fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

The fear of the Lord is that attitude of reverence and awe that His people show to Him because they love Him and respect His power and His greatness. The person who fears God will pay attention to His Word and obey it.

Why is the Fear of the Lord the Beginning of Knowledge

He or she will not tempt the Lord by deliberately disobeying or by playing with sin. An unholy fear makes people run away from God, but a holy fear brings them to their knees in loving submission to God.

The fear of the Lord must result in obedient living, otherwise, that “fear” is only a sham. The dedicated believer will want to spend time daily in Scripture, getting to know the Father better, and discovering His will.

Closing Words

If we truly “fear” the Lord, we acknowledge from our hearts that He’s the Creator, we’re the creatures; He’s the Father, we’re His children; He’s the Master, we’re the servants.

It means respecting God for who He is, listening carefully to what He says, and obeying His Word, knowing that our disobedience displeases Him, breaks our fellowship with Him, and invites His chastening.

Once again, the fear of the Lord is not the servile fear of the slave before the master but the reverential and respectful fear of the child before his parents.

Do you fear the Lord? Does it impel you to regard Him with respect, reverence, and awe?


Recommended Resource: Where Wisdom Begins: Understanding the Fear of the Lord by Derek Prince

Where Wisdom Begins - Derek PrinceThe Bible says fear of the Lord is the “beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10) and the “beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Proverbs 14:27 even calls it a “fountain of life!”

But do people really understand what is meant by the “fear of the Lord?”

Drastically different from the frightful trembling we feel in response to a threatening person or dangerous situation, the “fear of the Lord” is a deep sense of reverence and awe of the One who created us, loves us, and saved us.

With comforting words of instruction, renowned Bible scholar Derek Prince explains:

  • How the fear of the Lord differs from other types of fear
  • How to gain wisdom and understanding, which are rooted in the fear of the Lord
  • How to overcome pride in order to submit to Christ and to others
  • How to stand in awe of God’s holiness

Experience peace and confidence by cultivating the fear of the Lord, the place Where Wisdom Begins!

What is the Doctrine of Purgatory?

What is the Doctrine of Purgatory?

The Bible teaches that death closes the period of probation that all of us have here on earth and after death comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). All those who die will spend eternity in heaven or hell.

But before we reach our final destination, everyone is in a state of conscious existence after death. Believers are in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Luke 23:43) while unbelievers are not.

However, certain unbiblical views of the intermediate state have arisen. One of them is the doctrine of purgatory held by the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

Origin of the Doctrine of Purgatory

In Roman Catholic teaching, purgatory is the place where the souls of believers go to be further purified from sin until they are ready to be admitted into heaven. Thus, they have to go to halfway place between earth and heaven, that is, purgatory.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church believe that not every Christian who dies goes immediately to heaven. The only people who enter heaven immediately are some martyrs and other highly favored individuals. Even if the person dies at peace with the church, if they are not perfect, they have to go through a time of purging.

Most Christians who are not good enough to go straight to heaven have to go through a time of purging. Although these people have been forgiven of their sins, they are still liable to experience some temporary punishment before their admittance to heaven.

They must be properly freed from the blemish of some defects they had received after baptism and they must work out their salvation in purgatory through suffering and a process of purification in this place. According to this view, the sufferings of purgatory are given to God in substitute for the punishment for sins that believers should have received in time but did not.

Once their sins have been sufficiently purged, they can then enter the perfection of heaven.

Further Teachings About Purgatory

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the suffering in purgatory is proportionate to the sins committed in this life. The time spent can vary from a relatively short period, such as a few hours, to thousands of years. However, there is no consensus as to the duration of stay in purgatory or the type of punishment one receives.

While Christians must spend time in purgatory, it supposedly can be lessened by a number of things. The living can do services and give gifts to the church to shorten the time of their loved one. This included purchasing indulgences or certificates signed by the pope which can forgive sin. This indicates that the pope on earth has some jurisdiction in the next world.

Prayer by priests shortens the time spent in Purgatory
Photo Credits: Crux Now

Prayers by priests as well as having masses in the name of the dead can also shorten the time a person spends in purgatory. The dead can do nothing in purgatory to help themselves. It is only their living friends and loved ones who can help them. They are completely dependent upon them to shorten their stay in this place of purging.

Purgatory is a temporary place that will end when the last judgment occurs. Like death and Hades, it will be thrown into the lake of fire. From that time forward, no more suffering will be necessary because everyone will be perfected, ready to enter heaven.

Is Purgatory in the Bible?

Will Christians have to suffer for their sins once this life is over? What does the Scripture say?

Although the Bible speaks of fire as purification, it does not mention a purifying process between death and resurrection that the believer must encounter. It’s not only that purgatory has no biblical basis but it also contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This, however, has not stopped people from attempting to find biblical support for this non-biblical doctrine. Let us look at some of the passages they use and then respond to them.

1. Isaiah 4:4

“When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.”

Argument: Burning, in this context, refers to the fires of judgment; a hint of the doctrine of purgatory.

Response: Isaiah’s reference has nothing to do with purgatory. It speaks of God refining people in this life, not the next. Therefore, this is not a reference to purging the believer after this life is over so they can eventually enter into the presence of the Lord.

2. Matthew 5:25-26

“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary delivers you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”

Argument: Jesus’ statement in the Sermon on the Mount teaches that prison is purgatory, and the last penny refers to the complete payment of the purgation of saints.

Response: Paying the last penny has nothing to do with paying for sin in the next life.

In Roman law, the plaintiff could bring the accused along with him to the judge. The defendant could, however, settle the matter on any terms with the plaintiff as they proceeded to the tribunal.

However, once they reached the tribunal the issue would be settled according to the law. Jesus is encouraging people to settle their differences before it reaches the judge. There is nothing here that remotely suggests a purgatory.

3. Matthew 12:32

“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Argument: This verse has an indirect reference to purgatory seeing that Jesus left open the possibility of forgiveness in the next world.

Response: This passage compares this world and the next and supposedly hints at forgiveness in the next world. However, the phrase “this age or in the age to come” was a Hebrew phrase meaning “never.”

If we look at the other gospels which give this same account, the phrase is omitted. This is because Mark and Luke are writing for Gentiles. Besides, they each state that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven (Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10).

Nowhere does it state, or imply that forgiveness can be achieved in the next life. Jesus said that those who commit the unpardonable sin can never receive forgiveness in this age or in the age to come. Never means never!

The subject in Matthew 12:32 is the “unpardonable sin.” Consequently, it has nothing to do with purgatory.


4. Matthew 18:34

“And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.”

Argument: This is a reference to the suffering in purgatory. People will remain there and suffer torture until they pay their entire debt for the sins they have committed. They will not be able to leave until their debt is paid.

Response: This is a parable about forgiving others. The torture which the man received was in this life, not the next. The debt he owed was to be paid in this world.

Also, those believers who do not forgive others will suffer in this present life, not in the afterlife. They may lose some of their reward in heaven but they will not be tortured for their lack of forgiveness because Jesus Christ has already paid for those sins.

5. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”

“If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Argument: This passage speaks of the believer being refined by fire which is a clear indication of a refining place called purgatory. Once refined, the believer can enter the presence of the Lord.

Response: “He will be saved through fire” does not mean he shall be kept alive amid hell-fire. The fire deals with the works of a person, not their character. Some of their works will receive a reward while other of their works will not.

In addition, this testing by fire occurs on judgment day, not in the intermediate state. Judgment day occurs after the person is raised from the dead. Again, we find no purgatory here.

6. 2 Maccabees 12:41-42, 45 (NRSV)

“So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen.”

“But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead so that they might be delivered from their sin.”

Argument: This passage clearly states that some type of sacrifice can be offered for the dead. The sacrifices and prayers of the living can help those who have died and are suffering in purgatory.

Response: The teaching of a purgatory found in 2 Maccabees has no relevance at all for believers. The reason is that 2 Maccabees as well as all the apocryphal books are not accepted as “inspired” and therefore should not be taken as an authoritative source of doctrine.

Note: It is in this book that the practice of praying for the dead started.

Believers are in God's presence at the moment of death a

The Doctrine of Purgatory is Unbiblical

Purgatory, a supposed place which exists somewhere between earth and heaven where the righteous are purged of any sins which have not been paid for so they can enter heaven, has absolutely no biblical basis. No such belief is taught or even hinted at.

If the Bible is our final authority on all matters of belief and practice then the fact that the doctrine of purgatory is absent reveals that no such place exists.

Furthermore, the idea of purgatory negates the promises of God that the believer can look forward to being in His joyous presence immediately upon death. Rather they have to look forward to a judgment by fire of undetermined length and character. This contradicts direct statements of Scripture that the believers are immediately with Him.

Also, purgatory robs the believer of any assurance of salvation. Since salvation is looked at as a process, rather than a past completed act, believers can never be assured that they have been completely saved from their sins. Neither can they know how much time they have to be purged before entering heaven.

It would seem to give a very uneasy feeling for those who believe purgatory lies ahead. There is really no assurance about anything.

Conclusion

The doctrine of purgatory, the teaching that people must be purged of their sins after they die before they can enter heaven, is indeed popular in many circles but is unbiblical.

Yes, there is a need for the purging of our sins before we can enter heaven, for without holiness none of us can see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). However, the Bible plainly states that this has already happened in the past. We have been purged. Jesus Christ has taken upon Himself the penalty for all of our sins. It is a past completed act. We cannot add to it. All that we can do is accept it by faith. This is what allows us to enter into heaven.

Scripture stresses that we can do absolutely nothing to gain entrance to heaven. Our suffering is meaningless as far as taking away sins is concerned. We have zero ability to get to heaven. Jesus Christ has done it all. He is the only One who can do anything about it. We cannot earn eternal life by anything that we do or say. We are granted eternal life by belief in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9).

There is a hell where people pay for their own sins and this is the only place in the next world where sins can be paid for. Unless our sins are taken care of in this life by Christ, we will have to pay for them in the next life. However, the payment will not be in a temporary place called purgatory but rather in a permanent place called the lake of fire, hell (Revelation 20:14-15, 21:8).


References:

1) What Happens One Second After We Die? by Don Stewart

2) Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

Recommended Resource: Four Views on Hell: Second Edition (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)

Four Views on Hell: Second Edition (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Recent years have seen much controversy regarding hell: Do we go to heaven or hell when we die? Or do we cease to exist? Are believers and unbelievers ultimately saved in the end?

This second edition of Four Views on Hell, featuring all new contributors, highlights why the church still needs to wrestle with the doctrine of hell.

In the familiar counterpoints format, four leading scholars introduce us to the current views on eternal judgment, with particular attention being given to the new voices that have entered the debate.

Contributors and views include:

  • Denny Burk: Eternal Conscious Torment
  • John Stackhouse: Annihilationism (Conditional Immortality)
  • Robin Parry: Universalism (Ultimate Reconciliation)
  • Jerry Walls: Purgatory

General Editor Preston Sprinkle concludes the discussion by evaluating each view, noting significant points of exchange between the essayists. The interactive nature of the volume allows the reader to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each view and come to an informed conclusion.

In the World but Not of this World

In the World but Not of this World

While teaching believers about the essential doctrines of the faith, the apostle Paul never failed to admonish them how to live their lives as followers of Christ. Clearly, Paul had a constant concern for Christians living in the world while remaining free from the world.

Bible Verse: Ephesians 4:17-18

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”

In Ephesians 4:17-23, Paul used action words, such as walk, put off, and put on to describe the intentional way in which believers in Jesus Christ should live. Paul never described a passive faith but a faith that proved itself in action.

Putting Off the Old Man

When I was first ushered into my church family, I often hear our senior minister say, “We are still in the world but we should not be of this world.” And he always emphasizes how we as believers should no longer be conformed to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:2), simply because we are not citizens of planet earth but heaven (Philippians 3:20).

I never realized it in the beginning but as I listened to God’s Word through my church leaders and began reading the Bible, all these biblical truths started to sink in. Christians should start living out their faith.

Paul wrote, “You should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk” (Ephesians 4:17). Looks like he just re-worded what he told the Roman church (Romans 12:2). Paul is saying that Christians are not to imitate the life of the unsaved people around them or pattern their lifestyles on them.

These people are dead because of their disobedience and their many sins (Ephesians 2:1), while the believers have been raised from the dead and been given eternal life in Christ.

Paul went on to describe this “walk” as a way of thinking – the futility of their mind” – and behaving – given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17, 19). Their thinking and ways were futile and depraved because they were so darkened in their understanding and had hard hearts.

In general, unrepentant sinners are unable to recognize their sinful ways, their rebellion against God, and the ultimate consequences of their sins: eternal condemnation.

In the World Out of this World

Loving the World and Everything in It

We cannot deny the influence of the world especially with social media and the entertainment industry. As it has always been, the world dictates what is acceptable and what is not. The world almost always controls the way people think, how they should dress up and carry themselves in public.

But the Bible gives a strong warning for Christians not to love the world or anything that is in it because everything that this world has to offer is not from God (1 John 2:15-17). Loving the world and living as the world does may gain us some rewards such as honor, prestige, and comfort. But even the best earthly rewards last only as long as we live.

Another downside to loving the world and everything in it is that love for the world is incompatible with love for the Father. So, if one claims to love both God and the world, there must be something wrong with his love for the Father.

The New Life in Christ

The Christian life must go beyond head knowledge. Of course, learning Christ must include head knowledge. But it must also include the ability to set our mind on the right things that will eventually lead us to live for and with Christ.

Christians should no longer lead a destructive, sinful lifestyle. They have been redeemed from the power of sin and even death, the penalty of sin. Through Jesus’ work on the cross, they have been reconciled to God and the Father and can obtain power from Him to resist temptation.

Subsequently, those who have truly accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord should put off their sinful habits (Ephesians 4:22), renew their minds (Ephesians 4:23; Romans 12:2), and put on the new nature created by God for true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).

Conclusion

Paul’s description of the life of a believer in Ephesians reveals a marvelous process, in which God works within a believer to change him or her. Relying on Jesus Christ’s saving works for us does not mean that we are inactive.

From a life filled with sin and futile efforts to gain merit before God, our lives can be transformed by our relationship with God (which has been made possible through Jesus). As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, it is only “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

With Christ’s help, we can learn how to put on the “new man” who He freely provides to all who trust in Him, and will enable us to live in this world without forgetting that we are not of this world anymore.

Safety and Security in the Arms of God

Safety and Security in the Arms of God

Do you ever have trouble falling asleep? Do the pressures of your job, family, or finances push a restful night’s sleep out of reach? Considering everything that is going on today not only in your community but also in many countries all around the world, I can’t really fault you for having sleepless nights.

But know that you are not the only one asking questions such as, “When will this pandemic be over? Will I ever get my job back? When will my kids be going back to school? Will things ever get back to normal?”

I get it. It’s human nature to want a comfortable life. Who does not want safety and security in every area of their life? Of course, we all want that. But if you are looking to your riches and possessions, friends or family, and your government leaders for answers and solutions, you’ll end up disappointed.

Safety and security can be found only in the arms of God.

Learning from King David

While on the run for his life from his own son Absalom and his men, David faced great pressure and yet found a peaceful night of sleep in God’s arms. Absalom and his forces were in hot pursuit of David, hoping to kill him. In fact, they had camped all around the cave. We read this in 2 Samuel 17:1-29.

From within the cave, David calls on the Lord to hear his pleas and have mercy – just as the Lord had done before (Psalm 4:1). “Hear me” is a passionate and concerned call to God. David had been praying for God’s help and was desperate to receive and answer.

Safety and Security in the Loving Arms of God

With assurance in God, David asks his enemies how long they are going to mock him and imagine that they can overthrow him, and reminds Absalom that God has anointed him and that he is set apart from ungodliness and is separated from God (Psalm 4:2-3).

In a cold, damp cave surrounded by soldiers and listening to David compose another song, David’s close friends question if they have followed the wrong man (Psalm 4:6). They want to see results now with a swift victory, not wait on God. While they whine, David writes songs of praise to the Lord.

David Puts His Joy in the Lord

David’s thoughts drift to the annual harvest festival – a time when barns were full of grain and vats were bulging with wine. He lost a palace and the fortunes that came with it. Now he has nothing. Yet David’s joy is boundless.

With tears running down his cheeks, he sings, “You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased.”

David puts his joy in God – not in goods. In all his adventures and with all his thoughts of the “good” days, David had seen nothing he wanted more than his relationship with God. This gave him peace; he felt safe and secure. He said, “I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

Though Absalom’s armed forces circled around, David had the only One necessary to keep him safe. No arrow could touch him, no sword could harm him, and no army could conquer him. He had God. He had peace – perfect peace – the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

If you lost your palace, i.e., your job, properties, or wealth, what would your reaction be? Would you scream and cry, or would you write songs of praise to the Lord? Would you sing praises to God and thank Him despite your circumstance?

It won’t be easy, I know. Some may ask, “How am I supposed to rejoice and be glad knowing that I have a family to feed and I don’t know where the money and food will come from?”

When I first found out that I would be the one to do the tithes and love offering (TLO) exhortation for our virtual church worship service this weekend, I must admit that I got a little worried. Why? That’s because most of us were affected by the recently imposed lockdowns due to the COVID 19 pandemic and as a result, we were not paid in full by our employers.

What could I possibly say to make my fellow believers in Jesus feel comfortable financially helping the church despite experiencing scarcity in their finances? Everybody has their needs and in this kind of situation we are in right now, the phrase “job security is a lie” that most financial educators often use in their lectures is becoming more and more real to us.

Stewards of God’s Riches

Where else could we find assurance if not the word of God? So I took out my Bible and was led to 1 Timothy 6:17-19, which is part of Paul’s final exhortation to young Timothy, his disciple. So, Paul tells Timothy to remind the church, especially those who are well-off, not to put their trust in riches.

Instead, they must put their trust and confidence in the living God who richly gives all we need for our enjoyment. The rich are to do good by being ready to give and willing to share.

We are not to trust in wealth. We may think we own what we have but the truth is, we don’t. We are not owners; we are stewards. If we have wealth, it is by the grace and goodness of God, and not because of any special merits on our part. The possessing of material wealth ought to humble us and causes us to glorify God.

As Christ’s followers, we are to employ what God gives us. We should use our wealth to do good to others; we should share, and put our money to work. When we do, we enrich ourselves spiritually and we make investments for the future. If you are still wondering how exactly you are going to do that, giving to the church in support of the Lord’s work is one of them.

The earth is the Lord's and everything in it

Secure in God’s Promise

Facing many of life’s problems, how can you sleep in the Master’s arms? First of all, you must be saved, and secondly, you must be like David and lead a sanctified, separated life. When you get saved, you change (2 Corinthians 5:17). What you love changes. What you love to do changes. Your priorities will change.

Sanctification makes you love the things you once hated and hate the things you once loved. Why? It’s because you are set apart for God (Deuteronomy 14:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16). You are in the family of God (Romans 12:5). You are saved – sanctified.

How should Christians deal with the economic, social, and health crisis that the whole world is experiencing right now? First of all, we must put our trust and confidence in God knowing that nothing is beyond His control. Even when the world seems to be falling apart, we must never forget that we are safe and secure in the loving arms of God.

We are secure in God’s promise because He is faithful and will never let us down.

Closing Thoughts

Meditate within your heart the promise of peace, safety, and security that are found in God alone, and be still.

For a clear conscience and a right relationship with the Savior, makes for sweet slumber. Remember that no pillow is as soft as God’s promises, no blanket is so warm as His presence.


Should Christians be Afraid of Dying?

Should Christians be Afraid of Dying?

Scripture tells us that this life is not all that there is. Indeed, we are beings made for eternity. Death is the doorway to eternity for each of us and this eternity will be one of conscious existence.

Needless to say, each person must be prepared. So the obvious question is, “Should we be afraid to die?” More importantly, “Should Christians be afraid of dying?”

A Natural Fear of Death

Death is an unknown for all of us. We have never been dead before and so it makes sense that all of us have a natural fear of death. Besides, eternity is a long time. Put all these factors together and you will have a natural fear or uneasiness of death.

The Bible gives us some examples of godly characters that feared death. In 2 Kings 20:1-3, we read the account of King Hezekiah.

In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’” Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

What? Hezekiah, a godly king, was afraid of dying? He sure was! Therefore, it’s not strange that we have the same type of fear.

How Christians Should View Death

While Christians do have a natural fear of death there should be no ultimate fear. Although we may have to suffer physical death because of the original sin of Adam, death eventually loses its horror as it transports the believer into a better life.

Once we understand what happens to us at the moment of death, we realize that death is not something to be feared. Although it is the separation of the spirit and the body, it is a separation into something better.

The Bible says that Jesus came to release us from the fear of death and dying in Hebrews 2:14-15.

“In as much then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Notice how it says that Jesus delivers us from the fear of dying.

How then, should Christians view death? Below are several factors that need to be considered.

Death is Not the End

When we die, we do not cease to exist. Death is a transition, it is not an end. Consequently, the ultimate terror of death is removed for those who trust in the promises of the God of the Bible (Psalm 23:4).

Why Not Fear Death

From the Scripture passage above, believers are told that the Lord is with them when they have to face death. In one sense, they only enter the valley of the shadow of death, not the reality.

Although believers do die physically, it’s not the same separation as the unbeliever experiences in death. This is because when we die physically, we are immediately brought into the presence of the Lord. Therefore, not even death can separate the believer from the Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Death is Not a Punishment for Christians

In Romans 8:1, Paul tells us clearly that “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” It is true that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23), but that penalty no longer applies to believers – not in terms of physical death, and not in terms of spiritual death.

All the penalty for our sins has been paid for by the suffering and death of our Lord. Therefore, even though we know that Christians die, we should not view their death as a punishment from God or in any way a result of a penalty due to us for our sins.

Death is the Final Outcome of Living in a Fallen World

Although death does not come to us as a penalty for our individual sins as mentioned above, it does come to us as a result of living in a fallen world, where the effects of sin have not all been removed.

We still live in a fallen world and the last aspect of the fallen world to be removed will be death (1 Corinthians 15:26). When Christ returns, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)?

But until that time, death, as well as pain and suffering, remain a reality even in the lives of Christians. And related to the experience of death are other results of the fall that harm our physical bodies and signal the presence of death in the world.

Although God often answers prayers to deliver Christians (and also non-Christians) from these effects of the fall for a time, nevertheless, Christians eventually experience all of those things to some measure, and, until Christ returns, all of us will grow old and die.

The Citizenship of Believers is Heaven

Christians have their ultimate citizenship in heaven. Paul emphasized this truth when he wrote to the church in Philippi.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Although we live here on earth, our true home is with God in heaven. The Bible says we are merely temporary residents or pilgrims here. In fact, Peter addressed his first letter to these pilgrims when he wrote the following:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1).

Our real home is in heaven. We are only temporarily residing here.

Should Christian be Afraid of Death

A Genuine Hope for Something so Much Better

Consequently, we have a realistic hope for an existence that is so much better in the next life. The Bible tells us not to sorrow or grieve for the dead believers as unbelievers do for their dead. Paul made this clear when he wrote to the Thessalonians.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NLT).

Notice the contrast. Believers have a genuine hope that death is not the end. Therefore, any sorrow we may experience for believers who have died is always mixed with a feeling of happiness for them. They have gone on to glory.

This is in contrast to those who have died outside of Christ who have no hope of eternal life in the presence of the Lord.

Death Completes our Union with Christ

Paul says that we are fellow heirs with Christ when we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17) and Peter encourages us to rejoice as we share in Christ’s suffering so that we may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).

But union with Christ in suffering includes union with Him in death as well.

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10).

“And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17).

Do you ever wonder why God allows us to experience death, rather than taking us immediately to heaven when we become Christians? Although not every one of us will suffer and die the same way Jesus did, through death we imitate Christ in what He did and thereby experience closer union with Him.

Final Words

As human beings, we all have a normal fear of death. Although a certain anxiety about the afterlife is natural, believers in Jesus Christ should not be obsessed with the idea of death and dying. Neither should we let the fear of death keep us from being effective while we are still on earth.

The apostle Paul said there is no comparison between this life and the blessings of the next (Romans 8:18). Indeed, everything will be greater in heaven. Anything we have in this life is nothing compared to what awaits us in the next.

We should keep all these things in mind when contemplating our own death. When we do, then death will hold no ultimate fear for us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.


Recommended Resource: Heaven and the Afterlife: The Truth about Tomorrow and What it Means for Today by Erwin W. Lutzer

Heaven and the Afterlife: : The Truth about Tomorrow and What it Means for Today Combining three books that together have sold nearly 1 million copies, Heaven and the Afterlife gives you Erwin Lutzer’s best reflections on eternity and what it means for you today.

The trilogy includes:

One Minute After You Die. A simple and moving explanation of what the Bible teaches about death, this book makes you consider a sobering truth: one minute after you die, your life will not be over. Rather, it will be just beginning—in a place of unimaginable bliss or indescribable gloom. Are you ready for that moment?

How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God summarizes the Bible’s teaching on salvation, answering questions like, “What role do I play in my own salvation? Can I lose my salvation if I commit a serious sin? What if I doubt that I’m saved?”

Your Eternal Rewards. This book explores the often-overlooked Scriptures about reward and judgment for Christians, answering questions like, “How will believers be judged? Do rewards for faithfulness vary? If heaven is perfect, why do rewards even matter?”

Together these books will help you live faithfully today, readying you for that final hour when you meet your Maker.

The 7 Judgments of God

The 7 Judgments of God

The Bible tells us that there will come a time when every person shall stand before God to face final judgment (Hebrews 9:27). However, many people do not understand that instead of one final judgment, we read from Scriptures that there are a series of 7 future judgments.

These judgments differ with respect to time, purpose, subjects, and circumstances.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

This judgment, also called the Judgment of the Bema, is for the body of Christ only, the church, and it will take place in heaven immediately after the rapture of the church and the resurrection of the believers who have died in the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

The 7 Judgments of God

The context of this verse clearly indicates that the judgment seat is not optional, i.e., no believer is exempt. The word we refers to believers in Christ and just so we don’t miss it, Paul includes the word all. Every single member of the body of Christ will appear before the Lord to be “judged.” (See also Romans 14:10-12.)

However, we must understand that the issue at the judgment seat is not salvation but rewards. This judgment is not to determine whether people will enter heaven or hell, or to punish sin. This ultimate issue is decided when one decides to accept or reject God’s gift of eternal life.

At the judgment seat, each believer’s work will be evaluated to demonstrate whether they are good or bad, and rewards will be conferred. You can read more about the judgment seat of Christ in this article.

The Judgment of Old Testament Believers

The resurrection and rewarding of Old Testament saints will take place after the 7-year Tribulation according to Daniel 12:1-2.

“At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

After the Tribulation period is over, Jesus Christ will return (with the church saints) to resurrect and reward the Old Testament saints. Consequently, every believer who has died from the time of Adam until the Second Coming of Christ will have been resurrected by this time.

But why aren’t the Church saints and the Old Testament saints resurrected and rewarded at the same time? We read in Hebrews 11:39-40 that they will not receive what has been promised to them apart from us. This means they must wait for the church to be resurrected (and rewarded) first.

The Judgment of Tribulation Believers

Those who trust Christ during the Tribulation period and are martyred will be raised and rewarded at the Second coming of Christ. We read the following in Revelation 20:4-6.

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”

Note: Some believe that the Old Testament saints and Tribulation saints will be resurrected and rewarded together at the Second Coming of Christ, or the end of the 7-year Tribulation.


The Judgment of Living Israel

All Jews who survive the Tribulation will be judged right after the Second coming.

The saved will enter the millennial kingdom, and the lost will be purged (Ezekiel 20:38). The Scripture teaches that before the Messiah can begin to reign, a judgment must take place to determine who will enter the millennial kingdom, “for they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6b).

Ezekiel 20:34 and Ezekiel 39:28 says that God will bring Israel out from the nations where she has been scattered throughout the times of the Gentiles into her own land. The fulfillment of this prophecy started happening in 1948 when Israel became an independent state once again. From that time on, Jews are seen returning to their land in large numbers.

Read more about God’s promise to bring Israel back to her own land in this article.

So, when Christ returns personally to earth, He will first gather Israel outside the land of Israel, called the “wilderness of the peoples,” to execute judgment on them face to face (Ezekiel 20:35-36). Matthew 24:31 also says, “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

What will be the basis of God’s judgment? As in the church age, salvation in the Tribulation for both the Jews and Gentiles is through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. (See Romans 9-11.)

Every single one of them will have to pass under the “rod of God” and their individual works will be brought into judgment, but not because they are saved by their works, but because their works demonstrate that they failed to acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah.

The Judgment of Living Gentiles

Just as the Lord judges the Jews who survive the Tribulation when He personally returns to earth, so He will also judge those Gentiles who remain. This is often referred to as the judgment of the “sheep and goats” (Matthew 25:31-46). The righteous will enter the millennial kingdom and the unrighteous will be cast into hell.

Matthew 25:31-33

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.”

What are the 7 Judgments of God

Though salvation is by grace through faith, the saved who survive the Tribulation will be identified by their works in befriending their Jewish brothers. During the Tribulation where universal anti-Semitism is prevalent, befriending Jews is an outward manifestation of one’s salvation.

Matthew 25:40, 45

“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

The Final Judgment of Satan and His Demons

Christ will also judge Satan, the created spirit-being who became the devil and his followers when He returns to the earth and sets up His kingdom, and their judgment is certain. They will be sent to the bottomless pit and eventually to the lake of fire where they will be condemned and punished for all eternity.

Revelation 20:10

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Matthew 25:41

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”

See also 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6.

The Great White Throne Judgment

All the unrighteous or unsaved dead from all time will be judged and sent to their final destination, the lake of fire, at the end of the millennium by the One whom they rejected. They will be judged according to their works.

We read this in Revelation 20:11-15.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

“The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Closing Words

While many Bible-believers think there will be only one future “Judgment Day” where every person who has ever lived will be judged, the Scriptures affirm that there are various judgments and will happen in stages.

The question now is this: Which judgment would you like to participate in? Would you like to take part in the judgment seat of Christ where you will be evaluated and rewarded in heaven without having to go through the Tribulation?

Then all you need to do is acknowledge that you’re a sinner in need of a Savior in the person of Jesus Christ, receive God’s forgiveness, and His offer of eternal life by surrendering your life to Him. After which, you are to start living out your faith, grow in His grace and allow Him to use you for His purpose and glory while you wait for His coming (Titus 2:13; Philippians 3:20).

I’m not saying you won’t have a chance to be saved during the Tribulation and be rewarded when Christ comes to set up His earthly kingdom. But why would you choose to experience the outpouring of God’s wrath if you can be assured of eternal life now?

The 7 Future Judgments of God

And you wouldn’t want to appear at the Great White Throne Judgment, right? The vision of this final judgment should cause everyone to stop and think about the eternal implications of this future event.

For those who never trusted in the Lord Jesus as their Savior, it should cause them to want to search out the truth regarding Christ, to accept His free gift of eternal life, and be rescued from eternal doom.

For the believer in Jesus, the future reality of the Great White Throne Judgment should cause deep concern because of the many (including some family, relatives, and friends) who will be participants of this event because they never placed their faith on the Lord Jesus.

Act now before it’s too late.


Recommended Resource: Revelation (The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries) by John Walvoord
Edited by Philip E. Rawley and Mark Hitchcock

The book of Revelation has long fascinated and even confused readers and students of the Bible. Yet the Bible is written to be understood, and Revelation is no exception. Who better to help you understand the seals, trumpets, vials, woes, and plagues than John F. Walvoord, one of evangelicalism’s most prominent leaders, and Mark Hitchcock, today’s leading Bible prophecy expert? 

In this first in a renewed series of commentaries from Dr. Walvoord, he points out that much of the book’s symbolism can be interpreted literally. At key points, different views and approaches to interpretation are explored. Walvoord devotes special attention to textual and doctrinal issues while avoiding technical language. 

Is Heaven A Real Place? Where Is It?

Is Heaven A Real Place? Where Is It?

It has been said that everyone thinks about heaven. However, some people say heaven isn’t a real place. Rather, it is a state of mind, a fancy, an abstraction, wishful thinking, a figure of speech, or a sentimental dream. Are these people right? Or is there something that awaits us in the hereafter?

When it comes to the truth about the reality of heaven and where it is, there is no greater authority than Jesus Christ. He came from heaven to earth and then returned to heaven, where He awaits the day when His bride, the church, shall join Him in the mansions He is preparing for her.

Bible Verse: John 14:2

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

Heaven is a Real Place

Jesus taught that heaven is a real place. In John 14:2, Jesus told His disciples, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.” Jesus calls heaven “a house, a dwelling home.” It isn’t just an illusion. It’s as real as the home in which we live right now.

While the apostles were looking up into the sky following Jesus’ ascension, two angels appeared, saying, “Why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Jesus obviously went somewhere when He ascended upward. The Scripture says that He went to heaven (1 Peter 3:22). Jesus went to a real place, an eternal home, not into a state of mind or an abstraction.

Philippians 3:20

Jesus prayed, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). He did not say “Our Father in a state of mind” or “… in an eternal illusion.” Our Father is in heaven, a real place. Luke 20:20 says we are to rejoice not because the spirits are subject to us but because our names are written in heaven.

The apostle Paul writes, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). One can only have citizenship in a real place. Therefore, heaven must truly exist.

All of these facts from Scripture make it clear that heaven is indeed a genuine place.

Heaven: A Home of Beauty

What a wonder heaven must be! In only six days the Lord created the universe, and yet He has been preparing the homes in heaven where we are going to live throughout eternity for two thousand years.

John describes our eternal home, as a city that is foursquare, 1,500 miles up, down, and across (Revelation 21:15-17). It is as large as from the most northern point of Maine to the most southern tip of Florida and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. Each level arises above the other, mile after mile. The twelve gates are built upon twelve jeweled foundations proclaiming accessibility for all believers from every kindred, tribe, and nation (Revelation 21:14)

Paul wrote: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard. Nor have entered into the heart of man. The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Closing Words

While many people think heaven is only a state of mind, or a mythological place, Scripture makes it clear that heaven is an actual place that exists. And it is the final destination for believers. Indeed, if you have placed your faith in Christ, you are heaven bound.