Category: Christology

The Rapture Mystery Revealed

The Rapture Mystery Revealed

The Rapture of the church was a mystery in the Old Testament but was revealed to the apostle Paul. It is the next event in God’s prophetic program. Israel is reborn and Jerusalem is no longer controlled by the Gentiles. The federated states of Europe are coming together and will soon present the Antichrist to the world.

If you listen closely, you can hear the thundering hoofbeats of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse racing toward the Battle of Armageddon.

The Dead Will Rise

The resurrection of the dead is an Old Testament concept. Job writes, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).

Isaiah also writes, “Your dead shall live, together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19).

Furthermore, we read this in Daniel 12:2, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

Resurrection of the Dead

The Two Resurrections

Daniel is saying in the above-mentioned verse that there are two resurrections: the resurrection of the just, and that of the unjust.

Jesus taught the same truth saying, “Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

The resurrection of the just is in three waves. The first was at Calvary when the dead rose from their graves when Jesus was crucified (Matthew 27:50-53). The second wave will be the Rapture of the church before the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The third wave will be at the end of the Tribulation and will consist of Old Testament saints and Tribulation saints.

Note: Tribulation saints are those who were saved during the Tribulation and were beheaded by the Antichrist.

The resurrection of the unjust occurs at the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the Millennial Reign of Christ.

The Mystery Revealed

Jesus promised “I go to prepare a place for you and come again to receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). Jesus gives His followers His guarantee that they will be together again after His death.

Some scholars believe that the mystery of the rapture was revealed to Paul while he was in Arabia (Galatians 1:15-17). He writes in 1 Corinthians 15:51, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall n0t all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

When the word mystery is used in the Bible, it does not refer to something mysterious or difficult to understand. Rather, it refers to something that God has never revealed to man before. The “mystery” revealed is that of the Rapture.

Paul says that when this happens, “the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Victors in Christ

“At the last trumpet” is a phrase that has reference to that moment in time when God will close the dispensation of grace. It will be that moment in time when the last soul has been saved and has been baptized in water. It will be when the gospel has been preached to the ends of the earth (Matthew 24:14).

The apostle Paul then continues by saying, “We shall be changed.” This means that our physical body shall be changed into an incorruptible, supernatural body of absolute perfection. In God’s tomorrow, no tone physical body will have the slightest, physical defect.

Hallelujah, even so, come, Lord Jesus!

In the Thessalonian church, some believers became concerned that their loved ones who had died would miss the rapture. Others were worried that they would miss some benefits of the Rapture or would have an inferior place in glory.

Thus, Paul writes, “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” (See 1 Thessalonians 4:14.) These words of comfort assure us that not a single believer will be left in the grave when Jesus comes. Since He is Victor over death, hell, and grave, believers are victors with Him.

Christ Descends, Christians Ascend

Paul concludes the teaching on the Rapture by saying, “For the Lord, Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up with then in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

The “shout” here is the word used by a military commander giving a direct order. It is the command of the Lord Jesus Christ for the grave to surrender the bodies of the redeemed. The phrase “the voice of an archangel” is used because angels are God’s messengers and those who execute His will.

The phrase “the trumpet of God” is to announce the appearance of royalty. Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Paul confirms that both the dead in Christ and the living will be instantaneously raptured together in the clouds to meet the Lord. It is not a temporary relationship – it is forever.

Our relationship is eternal in mansions of splendor created by the Architect of the ages for those who love Him.

Concluding Words

The Word of God is clear that every man is appointed to die once and faces judgment afterward (Hebrews 9:27). However, Paul taught, by the revelation of the Rapture mystery, that not all believers will die (fall asleep).

At the coming of the Lord for the church, there will be Christians who are alive at that time. When the last trumpet sounds, they will be “caught up” alive along with the “dead in Christ.”

The bodies of believers who had died (physically) will be rejoined with their spirit. But those who are alive will not die; their bodies will be changed into incorruptible bodies.

On a gravestone in London for a man named Solomon Peas reads:

Revealing the Mystery of the Rapture

This epitaph captures the truth of physical for a believer. The “peas” shell out and go to God, while the “pod” stays behind and is buried.

Do you long for the Lord’s appearing (2 Timothy 4:8)? Are you living soberly, righteously, and godly while waiting for the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior (Titus 2:12-13)?

Are you rapture-ready?


References:

  1. NKJV Prophecy Study Bible (General Editor: John Hagee)
  2. The End, A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Mark Hitchcock

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The Power of Great Faith

The Power of Great Faith

The great faith of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 is one of the well-known stories in the Bible on the power of faith to heal. This centurion was a man of power and influence. Everything about this officer should have prevented him from coming to Jesus.

The centurion was a professional soldier, and Jesus was a man of peace. He was a Gentile, and Jesus was a Jew. Yet, when this one centurion’s servant became ill, he sought help from the Great Physician. Why?

It’s because this soldier had one thing working for him. He was a man of great faith. He understood that Jesus, like himself, had authority and was under authority. All Christ had to do was speak the word, and the disease would obey Him the way a soldier obeyed his officer.

Faith to Heal

When the centurion came to Jesus asking for help, Jesus said that He would come to his house to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5-7). But the centurion said Jesus did not have to come to his house. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).

Jesus marveled and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10)! And his servant was healed that same hour.

So, you see, faith is not only a saving faith but a healing faith. The Word of God promises divine healing and miracles (Psalm 107:20).

The Power of Great Faith

Jesus Promises Healing

In the first promise of healing, the Lord said this in Exodus 15:26:

“If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

David said that God’s medicare program was so successful for the Israelites that …

“He also brought them out with silver and gold, and there was none feeble among His tribes” (Psalm 105:37).

The Agent of Healing

Healing is not a result of wishful thinking. The centurion didn’t wish healing upon his servant. Instead, he sought out the One who had the power to heal, Jesus the Son of God.

We read this in Isaiah 53:4-5.

“Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed.”

The words borne and carry denote more than sympathy. They represent actual substitution and the removal of the thing being borne. When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), death and all its power were conquered, including the power of sickness. Disease is subservient to Jesus.

The healings of Jesus were continuous. Jesus never turned away anyone seeking healing.

“When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:16-17).

Healings in the Church Today

Does Jesus’ ministry of healing continue until today? This is the question that many Christians are asking. Let us look at what Scriptures say about this.

To the church, Jesus said this:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13).

This promise has never been rescinded. At the beginning of the New Testament church, this power was committed not only to the apostles, who would soon pass away. It was also passed on to the elders (James 5:14).

People could be healed in every church where elders would pray the prayer of faith and anoint with oil in the name of Jesus. The power of Jesus to heal has never been diminished. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 12:8).

The centurion said, “Speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). We, too, can call on Jesus to heal us. We call on Jesus and exercise great faith because the power of great faith to heal is still at work today.

Does God Always Heal?

If God still works miracles today and His healing ministry continues, why is it that some people don’t get healed? Perhaps you know somebody who was terminally ill and had been prayed over many times but did not receive their healing.

I used to have this question too. I wondered why God heals some and lets the others succumb to death. What could be God’s basis for deciding who gets healed and who doesn’t?

I wrote an article as to why doesn’t God heal everyone who asks in faith for healing. In it, I shared the story of a former Muslim who came to faith in Christ. After studying and comparing the Quran and the Bible, he concluded that the evidence for Christianity is more compelling.

You can read all about it here.

At the end of the day, we need to acknowledge that God is sovereign. We may not have the answers to all our questions but we need to trust God for He knows what He is doing.

Closing Thoughts

Twice the Gospels record that Jesus was amazed (or marveled) at the faith of the centurion: 1) Matthew 8:10-12 and in Luke 7:9 and 2) at the unbelief of the Jews (Mark 6:6).

This is an early indication that the Jews would not believe, but the Gentiles would. Also, in both of these miracles, our Lord healed from a distance. This was a reminder of the spiritual position of the Gentiles “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12).

Praise God for healing; praise God for miracles!

How is your faith? Can you say with confidence that you have great faith? The kind of faith that heals?


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Recommended Resource: Faith Believing in the God Who Works on Your Behalf by Yonggi Cho and Wayde Goodall

Faith by Yonggi Cho and Wayde Goodall What can we learn from the Scriptures about how to trust God no matter what, and believe in something that is not yet seen?

As a young man with only weeks to live, Yonggi Cho was healed of terminal illness, saw the resurrected Jesus, and quickly began sharing God’s hope with others. Those listeners became the world’s largest church.

In Faith, Pastor Cho and Dr. Wayde Goodall share how to:

  • Understand and grow in your faith.
  • Walk with the Holy Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Overcome mistakes and continue to depend on Christ in times of discouragement.
  • Believe for and trust God’s supernatural power.
  • Use every situation to accomplish tremendous things for God’s kingdom.

For our lives to work, we need faith—the kind of faith that gives birth to hope and chooses to believe in every circumstance. God will answer prayer, heal, and perform signs and wonders as we walk daily by faith. You can trust God as your source, security, and assurance.

The Glorification of the Believers

The Glorification of the Believers

Resurrection Sunday is a day that Christians all around the world celebrate. Why? That’s because Jesus’ resurrection guarantees believers that they too will be resurrected. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 20, 52; Acts 24:16).

This doctrine is known as the glorification of the believers (Romans 8:30). When Christ redeemed us, He did not just redeem our spirits (or souls)—he redeemed us as whole persons, and this includes the redemption of our bodies.

Therefore, the application of Christ’s work of redemption to us will not be complete until our bodies are entirely set free from the effects of the fall and brought to that state of perfection for which God created them.

However, the redemption of our bodies will only occur when Christ returns and raises our bodies from the dead. Paul says we eagerly wait for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).

The Glorification of the Believers

Redemption of the Believer

The primary New Testament passage on glorification or the resurrection of the body is 1 Corinthians 15:22–23.

Paul discusses the nature of the resurrection body in some detail in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50. He then concludes by saying that not all Christians will die. Rather, some will remain alive when Christ returns and will have their bodies instantaneously changed into new, resurrection bodies. These bodies can never grow old or weak and can never die (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Paul further explains in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 that the souls of those who have died and gone to be with Christ will come back and be joined with their bodies on that day, for Christ will bring them with him.

Several other New Testament passages that affirm the reality of the doctrine of glorification include John 5:28-29; John 6:39-40, 44, 54; Romans 8:11, and 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.

Resurrection in the Old Testament

Is there any evidence of hope in a future resurrection of the body in the Old Testament? Yes!

First, even before Jesus was raised from the dead, the New Testament indicates that many Jewish people living at the time of Christ had some hope of a future bodily resurrection (John 11:23-24; Acts 24:15).

Hebrews 11:10 tells us that “Abraham waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” We also read that many Old Testament saints “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them …” (Hebrews 11:13–16).

The author even says that Abraham “concluded that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19).

When we look at the actual teachings of the Old Testament itself, there are indications that Old Testament authors had a strong expectation of the resurrection to come in the future. See Job 19:25-26; Psalm 49:15; 73:24-25; Proverbs 23:13-14; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2.

The Believer’s Resurrection Body

If Christ will raise our bodies from the dead when He returns, and if our bodies will be like His resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, 49; Philippians 3:21), then what will our resurrection bodies be like?

Imperishable

The fact that our new bodies will be “imperishable” means that they will not wear out or grow old or ever be subject to any kind of sickness or disease. They will be completely healthy and strong forever.

Moreover, since the gradual process of aging is part of the process by which our bodies now are subject to “corruption,” it is appropriate to think that our resurrection bodies will have no sign of aging, but will have the characteristics of youthful but mature manhood or womanhood forever.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.


There will be no evidence of disease or injury, for all will be made perfect. Our resurrection bodies will show the fulfillment of God’s perfect wisdom in creating us as human beings who are the pinnacle of His creation and the appropriate bearers of His likeness and image.

In these resurrection bodies, we will see humanity as God intended it to be.

Raised in Glory

Paul also says our bodies will be raised “in glory.”

When this term is contrasted with “dishonor,” as it is here, there is a suggestion of the beauty or the attractiveness of appearance that our bodies will have. They will no longer be “dishonorable” or unattractive but will look “glorious” in their beauty.

Moreover, because the word “glory” is so frequently used in Scripture of the bright shining radiance that surrounds the presence of God Himself, this term suggests that there will also be a kind of brightness or radiance surrounding our bodies.

That will be appropriate outward evidence of the position of exaltation and rule over all creation that God has given to us (Matthew 13:43; Daniel 12:3).

Some suggest that these statements might be understood metaphorically. But the hints of the age to come that were seen in the shining of the glory of God from the face of Moses (Exodus 34:35), and, in a much greater way, the bright light that shone from Jesus at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:2), together with the fact that we will bear the image of Christ and be like Him (1 Corinthians 15:49), combine to suggest that there will be a visible brightness or radiance that surrounds us when we are in our resurrection bodies.

Raised in Power

Our bodies will also be raised “in power” (1 Corinthians 15:43), which is in contrast to the “weakness” which we see in our bodies now.

Our resurrection bodies will not only be free from disease and aging, but they will also be given fullness of strength and power. Here on earth, we find that the spirit sometimes is willing but the body is weak. Some devout believers cannot as much attend worship services because of bodily affliction. But in heaven, we will all have strong bodies.

We will have complete human power and strength – the strength that God intended human beings to have in their bodies when He created them. It will therefore be a strength that is sufficient to do all that we desire to do in conformity with the will of God.

Spiritual Body

Finally, Paul says that the body is raised a “spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44).

We must make clear that the phrase “a spiritual body” does not so much as infer that the resurrection body will be composed of intangible substance.

Rather, it means that while on earth, we are occupied to a greater degree with the natural body. Our bodies are engaged chiefly with the activities and the environment of earth.

In our resurrection bodies, we will be occupied with all that pertains to God and godliness. In other words, the spiritual life of man prevails.

Redemption of the Believer's Body

Paul said, “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21, NIV). There was no question that he was truly God’s child by the transforming power of the Spirit. But the natural man was still very much alive in him.

Christians are hindered by the attitude of the natural toward the spiritual. In our resurrected bodies, the higher principles in us will predominate and the full tide of spiritual life will be in control.

The point is that we follow Jesus in His resurrection by sharing the same kind of body that he has, namely, a spiritual and heavenly one.

Conclusion

When Christ returns, He will give us new resurrection bodies to be like His resurrection body (1 John 3:2). 

Although the emphasis of Scripture is on the fact that believers will experience a bodily resurrection, some passages state that unbelievers will also be raised from the dead, but that they will face the final judgment at the time they are raised.

Jesus clearly teaches that “those who have done evil” will come forth “to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29). Paul also said that he believed “that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15; Matt. 25:31–46; Daniel 12:2).


Reference: Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

Getting Ready for the Return of Christ

Getting Ready for the Return of Christ

Scriptures teach that one day Christ will return to earth. Yes, our Lord will come for the believers. But while we wait, what should we be doing?

We can never be sure when God’s purpose for His church will be completed. Nevertheless, we must remain obedient to our Lord’s commands regarding the church.

Jesus made this clear to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. When they asked Him if He was going to restore the kingdom of Israel at that time, Jesus answered said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7).

In Jesus’ statement, two facts are clear: (1) the date has been set; and (2) we aren’t supposed to know it because we have a responsibility to fulfill in the meantime.

The Certainty of Christ’s Return

After Jesus affirmed His disciples of the future restoration of the nation of Israel, He gave them the Great Commission. He told His disciples they would be “empowered by the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Then, to their amazement, He ascended into heaven, leaving them gazing intently into the sky. Two men in white linen (probably angels) appeared and asked, “Why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

John 14:3 (NKJV)

All too often, Christians today are like the early disciples. We spend more time gazing into the sky and speculating about the Lord’s return than we do serving Him. The angels reminded the disciples that the Lord is sure to return. Thus, we should not waste time and energy worrying about when or whether Christ will return.

Instead, we must be confident that He is coming again on schedule, and get down to doing the Father’s business while we wait.

What Should We Be Doing?

Jesus has left instructions about what we are to do while we await His coming.

1. Witness for Christ Everywhere We Go

In the same way that our Lord told His disciples to be His witnesses everywhere they go, even to the farthest ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), we are also commanded to witness to everyone we come into contact with.

Every opportunity that God gives us, let us share the good news about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross with our family, relatives, friends, colleagues, and to everyone that we encounter along the way.

A video of a cab driver witnessing to his passengers went viral. As the two students sat comfortably behind him, he started sharing with them the love of God. He told them that only Jesus has the solution to all the problems and chaos that are going on around us.

Praise God for the life of this cab driver. May we be encouraged by his boldness and also start sharing the love of God with others.

Witnessing for Christ

2. Go into All the World and Preach the Gospel

This command in Mark 16:15 emphasizes the missionary nature of the church’s ministry during the present era. We are to take the gospel to the whole world.

This does not necessarily mean that we all have to become missionaries, go to the farthest or remotest places on earth, and pioneer a church. We can start right where we are.

It may not always be easy to share our faith with others because some people tend to be non-receptive and sometimes hostile towards the gospel. I heard some Christians say the best tool for evangelism is developing a relationship with the person we want to evangelize.

When people see that we truly care about them and we’re not just trying to convert them, eventually they will

3. Make Disciples of All Nations and Baptize Them

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said all believers are to “go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Making converts and discipling them in their walk with God is a major emphasis of the church’s mission. We don’t stop at getting people to repent of their sins and receive Jesus’ free gift of salvation.

New converts must be taught the whole counsel of God, how to live by God’s will, and to grow in their spiritual walk.

Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

4. Build the Church

Jesus told His disciples that He would build His church with such power that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

We usually act as though hell was attacking the church and we were trying to survive. But remember, you don’t attack with gates. Rather, you defend with them. Jesus portrayed the church as being on the offensive and hell on the defensive.

We build the church by using our God-given gifts and skills to serve God and our fellow believers in Jesus. The apostle Paul said this to the church in Ephesus:

“And He (Jesus) Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

5. Occupy till Jesus Comes

In the parable of the talents (Luke 19:13), Jesus said the servants were to put their master’s money to work until the master returned. Likewise, we are to stay busy with the Master’s business until He returns.

This means Christians need to keep working for the expansion of the Kingdom of God on earth. Yes, we are to take care of our families, take our jobs and businesses seriously. But we must not let worldly cares and worries take our focus off what matters most – the Father’s business.

Christian Jewelry and Wall Decors - Lord's Guidance

6. Remain Faithful Until He Returns

Our Lord concluded His prophetic message in the Olivet Discourse by urging the disciples to continue in faithful and wise service even though He might be gone for a long time (Matthew 24:45-51; 25:14-21).

As I said earlier, we do not know the exact time of Christ’s return; we do not even know how long it will take before He comes. But we are to continue walking in obedience to God and be faithful stewards over what He has entrusted to us.

Let us not be like the servant who starts beating his fellow servants, ate and drank with the drunkards because he thought his master delayed his coming (Matthew 24:48-49).

Getting Ready for Christ’s Return

Our strongest encouragement to live right until Jesus comes is the hope of His second coming. The apostle John said, “Abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28).

He then goes on to say, “We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

The fact that we will face our Lord when He comes again is the ultimate incentive for us to live right.

How do we prepare to meet the Lord when He comes for His bride?

1. Know Jesus Personally

The whole purpose of our Lord’s coming was to die as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He came to pay the price for our sins so that we might be forgiven and released from the penalty of eternal death.

Jesus is called the Redeemer because He has freed us from God’s judgment against our sin. Peter said we have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” – John 1:12

2. Receive Jesus as Your Savior

We cannot earn salvation by our good works, nor is it something we deserve. It must be received as a gift from God. The Bible says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

The gospel – the good news – is the message that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The invitation of the gospel calls us to personal faith in those facts.

The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

Final Words

Many things demand our attention in life. Many voices are calling to us and many images flash across the screens of our minds. But no matter what our focus in life, one thing is certain. All of us will face death at some point. We cannot avoid it.

There is no better time to settle the question of your eternal destiny than right now. The clock of human history is ticking away. It just keeps on ticking continually and relentlessly, moving us closer to the end of the age.

John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Would you let Him take away your sin? Bow your heart, soul, and mind before Him, and ask Him to save you right now.

Don’t gamble with your eternal destiny. Your time may well be running out. Make sure you are ready when Jesus comes, “for yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37).


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

Can We Still Believe in the RaptureChristian Fiction … or Biblical Fact?

Today, the hope that all believers on earth will be “caught up” to heaven is being challenged in new waves of criticism. Is the rapture really taught in the Bible? Can we really expect Jesus to gather up His followers before the Antichrist is revealed?

In this well-reasoned and thorough defense, prophecy authors Mark Hitchcock and Ed Hindson examine the concept, context, and consequences of the important and long-expected event known as the rapture. Discover the answers to such questions as…

  • What is the rapture—and is there any historical precedent for it?
  • Why do some believers object to the idea of a rapture?
  • Does the timing of the rapture really make a difference?

As you explore what Scripture says about the end times, you’ll get a grander glimpse of your glorious future and the deepest hope of every follower of Jesus.

The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ

The Exclusivity and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ

One of the biggest objections against Christianity is its claim of exclusivity. Christianity asserts that it alone has the truth about God and salvation. In other words, it is the only true worldview. Christianity claims that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation and His sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to redeem man from eternal destruction.

But how could there be only one true religion? What about the billions of people in the world who are sincerely worshiping God the best way they know how? How could a good God send them to hell for not believing in someone they have never heard of?

Aren’t all religions the same? Some people believe that all religions may be superficially different but fundamentally the same. However, one of the greatest Christian apologists in the twenty-first century said it’s the opposite. He said all religions are fundamentally different and at best superficially the same.

In today’s post, I would like us to take a closer look at one of the most common Bible verses Christians use to defend their claim that salvation can be attained through Jesus and Jesus alone.

Bible Verse: John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

What is Jesus saying here? Whom is He saying these words to? First, we need to read the entire passage beginning from verses 1 to 6 of John chapter 14. It reads:

John 14:1-6

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

Going back to chapter 13, we read the scene where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. That was before the feast of the Passover when He already knew that His hour had come to go back to the Father (John 13:1).

Jesus then revealed this to His disciples (John 13:33) which made them very sad. So, when we go to chapter 14, we read Jesus comforting them. He tells them to not lose heart because He’s not abandoning them. He is going back to the Father but promises to come back for them once everything in heaven is ready.

Jesus had been preparing His disciples to deal with this event (His leaving them and going back to the Father). Yet, they failed to grasp the reality that it was going to happen sooner than they expected.

Thomas then asks where Jesus was going and how they can know the way (John 14:5). To which Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Christianity’s Exclusivistic Claim

While people who hold to a different worldview criticize Christians for their claim, the truth of the matter is every religion makes an exclusivistic claim. Exclusivism is not only true of Christianity; it’s also true of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and every other religion. This is why there are no Buddhist Christians or Islamic Hindus.

What makes Christianity different from the rest of these religions? While all the other worldviews hold to a work-based salvation, in Christianity you are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). You are saved by placing your faith in something God has done, not something you can do.

No one can earn their way into heaven no matter how they try to live a good life. No one is good enough. Perhaps, using man’s standards, some would qualify. But based on the standards of God, no one will be able to meet the requirements. The bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

Jesus is the Way to the Father

Notice that Jesus said He is the way. He did not say, “a way,” which could mean “one in many.” Jesus specifically said He is the way, as in “the one and only.”

Here’s a video of Oprah Winfrey in one episode of her show wherein she denied that Jesus is the only way. Thankfully, someone in her audience boldly argued that what the Bible teaches is clear; that there is one way and only one way and that is through Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to come to the Father?

1. To Obtain His Favor

To come to the Father is to obtain His favor. 

God’s favor generally refers to His acceptance and approval. Well, who does not want God’s approval? Who does not want to make the Father proud? If children do all they can to have their earthly father’s “thumbs up,” how much more do God’s children want to please Him? In short, it’s about what we can do.

But almost everywhere in the New Testament., the word favor is translated as grace. God’s favor is not necessarily material or financial. It’s simply the undeserved kindness of God. We do not have to do anything for God to bestow upon us His blessings

Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

2. To have Access to His Throne by Prayer

To come to the Father is to have access to His throne by prayer.

Jesus’ teaching for us to pray in His name is explicit in Scriptures such as John 14:13-14 and John 15:16. By teaching us to pray in His name, Jesus is claiming to be the mediator and reconciler between man and God. It is only through praying in Jesus’ name that believers can approach God.

Paul acknowledged this in 1 Timothy 2:5 when he said, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

Romans Catholics believe they can pray to Mary, making her a co-mediator and equal with Christ. But there is no biblical support for this. It is only through Jesus that we can approach God’s throne of grace.

3. To Enter His Kingdom

To come to the Father is to finally enter His Kingdom.

Where is the Father and where is His Kingdom? The Father is in heaven. We see this stated in Isaiah 66:1 and repeated in Acts 7:49. However, this does not mean that God’s access is limited.

God is transcendent; He is omnipresent and omnipotent.

Jesus’ understanding of Himself as to how we can approach God is exclusive. He said this in John 10:9 (NIV), “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.”

No other options are open. If you want to gain access to the Father in heaven you must go through Jesus, not Mary, or anyone else.

Jesus’ audience clearly understood this. Peter clearly understood this that’s why he said in Acts 4:12 (NIV), “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

No man can obtain any of these things except by the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. It meant coming in His name and depending on His merits.

All Roads Lead to Rome

There is an old saying that “All roads lead to Rome.”

This is often used as a way to understand different religions; that they each lead to God in their own way. Oprah Winfrey argued that people may not necessarily call it heaven. But at the end of the day, no matter which path we choose to take we will all end up in the same beautiful place.

That cannot be further from the truth. I would like to use a maze, as an illustration, to prove that there can only be one way to heaven. If you choose the wrong path, you will surely end up in a different place.

Do All Roads Lead to Heaven?

There are only two destinations for man after his life on earth: heaven or hell. There’s no such place as purgatory. When a person dies, his fate has been sealed and cannot be reversed. His final destination has been decided (Hebrew 9:27).

In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, heaven is a real place and so is hell. But do you know that most people who believe in literal heaven refuse to believe in a literal hell?

They say that hell is just a “concept;” that hell is the darkness inside of you. Again, that is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus talked a great deal about heaven but he talked three times more about hell than He did heaven.

Does God Send People to Hell?

If Jesus is the only way, what about those who have never heard of Jesus? Will God condemn them to hell for not believing in someone they have never heard of?

In one of Dr. Frank Turek’s apologetics lectures, somebody in the audience asked the same question. Dr. Turek said there’s something wrong with the question. People are not condemned to hell only on the occasion of not believing in Jesus; they are already condemned because of sin. (See John 3:17-18.)

We have to understand that we’re not going to hell because we do not believe in Jesus. It’s like asking, “Am I going to die because I did not go to the doctor?” No! You will die because you have a disease! So no, you will not go to hell for not believing in Jesus, you’re going to hell because you sinned (Romans 3:23).

Let’s get this crystal clear. God doesn’t send people to hell. Hell is not God’s choice for men, heaven is. Hell is the choice of men who want to reject God. When God created man, He created him with “free will.” We were not created to be robots!

So ultimately the choice we make for eternity is made by the submission of our will to our heavenly Father. God will not violate our will because it is a sacred gift that He gave to us.

Going to Hell is a Choice Quote

Jesus is the Truth

When Jesus said He is the truth, you must understand that He is not just referring to an idea. The TRUTH here is a person – the Lord Jesus Christ! (See John 8:32, 36.)

Jesus said He is the truth. So if Jesus is the truth, it doesn’t matter what other people think and believe because truth is truth whether we believe it or not.

Earlier, we asked the questions: How can Christianity be the only true religion? What about the billions of religious people around the world who are sincerely worshiping God in the best way they know how?

What makes faith valuable is its object, not its sincerity. If the object is false then sincerity is irrelevant. Should believers be sincere in their beliefs? Absolutely! But sincerely believing something doesn’t make it true.

If I believe that two plus two equals five, I’m dead wrong, no matter how sincerely I believe it.

People who hold a different worldview, such as the Muslims, acknowledge Jesus to be a morally good person; they believe in His virgin birth and that He performed miracles but they do not believe He is the Son of God and that He is God.

What one believes about Jesus is crucial. In Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asked His disciples the most important question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Why Christianity is True

Jesus is the Life

Christ is the author and giver of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal. Eternal life in heaven is made possible only through Christ.

Let’s take a look at these Bible verses:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).

Conclusion

If Jesus is not the exclusive way to salvation, but just one way, then why did He have to suffer and die? In fact, why did He live at all?

For what possible reason would God become incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, live a life of perfect obedience, service, and self-denial, suffer torture, and then executed in one of the most horrible ways imaginable if there were other avenues to God?

The truth of the matter is, no one, regardless of reputation, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness can come to God the Father except through Jesus. We cannot save ourselves from eternal damnation in hell through our own efforts. We cannot attain eternal life no matter how much we try to live a moral life.

Salvation in Christianity

Is salvation exclusive to those who will put their faith in Jesus Christ? Absolutely! Is Jesus’ sacrificial death sufficient to redeem us? Absolutely! Jesus said, “It is finished!” He has conquered death and emerged victoriously and we too can have the victory in Christ. But have we surrendered our lives completely to Jesus?

Jesus doesn’t merely point the way, He is the Way. Jesus does not teach us truth, He is the Truth. Jesus does not represent one avenue to life, He is the Life. “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24, NASB).


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel

The Case for Christ by Lee StrobelIs there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God? Former atheist and Chicago Tribune journalist Lee Strobel takes an investigative look at the evidence from the fields of science, philosophy, and history.

In this revised and updated bestseller, The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel cross-examines a dozen experts with doctorates from schools such as Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis, asking hard-hitting questions – and building a captivating case for Christ’s divinity.

Strobel asks challenging questions like:

  • How reliable is the New Testament?
  • Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible?
  • Is Jesus who he said he was?
  • Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event?
What is the Biblical Definition of Love?

What is the Biblical Definition of Love?

One of the exciting parts of high school life is filling out slum books and answering questions such as “What is love?” It was quite interesting to read different answers.

But if you are looking for the best definition and illustration of love, you may want to open your Bible to John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Love of God

We see in this text a perfect example of a “cause and effect” relationship, wherein one event causes another to happen. It is a combination of action and reaction.

A cause is something that produces an event; an effect is what results from the event. In this case, the cause is God’s love and the effect is Him sending His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world.

God created man out of love and it is also out of love that God chose to save man from eternal condemnation. You see, there was no need for God to create man; God did not need man.

The Biblical Definition of Love

This is exactly why Hillsong’s “What a Beautiful Name” isn’t theologically sound. There is a phrase that says, “You did not want heaven without us, so Jesus, You brought heaven down.” This is a complete fallacy and has no biblical standing at all.

The Triune God is complete within Himself. In the community of the Trinity, there is a perfect love relationship, unity, and fellowship. So, why did God create man? It’s because God is love.

God created man to be the object of His love, the apple of His eyes, and the joy of His heart.

Love: God’s Motivation

In the story of creation, we read that before God created man, He prepared everything first. God made sure that the environment was comfortable and convenient for man and the only thing left for man to do was to take care of the rest of God’s creation (Genesis 2:8-15).

God planted Adam in the beautiful Garden of Eden and gave him full dominion over everything else. And when God saw that Adam needed a “suitable partner,” He immediately put him into a deep sleep, took out one of his ribs, and created a woman out of it (Genesis 2:21-23).

Again, God did this out of love. Adam didn’t have to ask. God determined that man needed a “suitable partner” and immediately took action (Genesis 2:18).

But after everything that God did for man, what did man do? He willfully and deliberately disobeyed God. Yet, because God is love, merciful, and gracious, He still chose to forgive man.

We know the rest of the story. Man got caught up in this cycle of rebellion and repentance. And throughout history, we see God’s love for His people manifested over and over and over again.

God was in no way morally obligated to save man (human beings, male and female). But He did it out of love. We must understand that God is not full of love; He is love.

Love is God’s character; it’s one of the things that make Him God. God’s love motivated Him to give His Son for the world.

Lord's Guidance Christian Jewelry and Apparel

Mutual Love Between the Father and the Son

For us to understand the depths of God’s love for us and the world, we must first realize how much the Father loves the Son.

John repeatedly emphasizes the mutual love between the Father and the Son in several passages (John 3:35; John 10:17; John 14:312; John 17:24), revealing an intimate relationship; an affection expressed in self-giving sacrifice. To save the world He so loved; God was willing to endure the pain of losing His Son.

Parents, can you bear to see your only child getting punished for somebody else’s fault? Let alone see your child suffer and die knowing that he/ she hasn’t done anything wrong?

Can you punish your only child for his schoolmates’ sin? I don’t think so! It is the instinct of parents to protect their children at all costs.

Years ago, a story broke about a mother who was willing to go to prison for her son’s crime. Accordingly, a young man accidentally killed their neighbor after a heated argument. He went home and told his mother what had happened. When the police got to the crime scene, they found the mother with the murder weapon.

If our earthly parents will do everything for their children, how much more our heavenly Father. Imagine the pain that the Father experienced at the sight of the suffering and death of His Son that He, the Father Himself, inflicted.

At the cross on Calvary, God poured out His wrath upon His Son (the cup). God watched as Jesus suffered and died to satisfy God’s justice. We must never forget that God is love but He is also just.

For Whom Did Jesus Die?

Going back to our text, we see that the object of God’s love is the “world.” But who or what embodies the “world?” There are different interpretations from Bible teachers, scholars, and denominations. Some argue that God’s special love is only for Israel. Others say it’s for the church and still, others believe it is for the elect.

But several passages tell us that Jesus sacrificed Himself for everyone. He shed His blood not just for some special groups of people but for all as we read in passages such as 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:9 and Galatians 3:28.

However, let us be careful not to get sucked into the assumption that because God gave His Son for the world then everyone is automatically saved. This just means that salvation became available to anyone.

If we read John 3:17, God’s purpose in sending His Son was not to condemn; the world was already in a state of condemnation as a result of man’s sin.

The great news is, God provided the gift of salvation for all and it’s free. All we have to do is choose to either receive or reject it. One must believe and continues to believe in the Son of God to avail of the gift of eternal life.

The Wholeness of God

The Father Gave His Begotten Son

I cannot overemphasize the biblical truth that God’s love caused Him to sacrifice His only begotten Son. But let us look more closely at what the term “begotten Son” means and what is its significance.

If you are reading from a modern Bible translation such as the NIV, NASB, ESV, etc., the phrase used is “one and only Son,” which was especially appropriate for a particularly beloved child, normally, an only child.

Interestingly, this same phrase was used to highlight Abraham’s obedience to God when asked to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering unto the Lord on the altar he was asked to build at Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:15-16). But before Abraham could slay his son, the Angel of the Lord stopped him and provided a ram instead.

The story of Abraham and Isaac was a foreshadowing of what was to take place at Calvary many years later. God provided a ram for Moses to sacrifice in the place of Isaac but He provided His only Son as an atoning sacrifice for all (1 John 2:2).

People say “I love you,” all the time but oftentimes they don’t mean it. Actions speak louder than words, right? Well, God did not stop at the words, “I love you.” He demonstrated His love by sending His only Son to suffer and die for us. And He did it while we were still in our sins (Romans 5:8).

This is the biblical definition of love – sacrifice.

The Justice of God

I would like to pick up where I left off on the justice of God because this is where many Christians struggle and sometimes stumble.

We understand pretty well the phrase, “God is love.” We all agree that God loves us so much; He loves us unconditionally and He sacrificed His only begotten Son to save us from destruction out of His great love.

But when we read that Jesus had to suffer and die to satisfy God’s justice, we can’t seem to comprehend why. Most people think that the suffering and death of Jesus Christ were inflicted upon Him by Satan.

Of course not! Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? To appease God’s wrath and satisfy God’s justice. What do you mean?

God is Just

Let me say it again, God is love but He is also just. There was no way God would just sit back and let the sinner go unpunished. Man sinned and he needed to pay. Sins have consequences.

It’s like when you commit a crime, you have to pay the penalty. You go on trial and when convicted you’ll be sentenced according to the heinousness of your crime.

The punishment for man’s sin (rebellion against God) is eternal condemnation, i.e., death or separation from God (Romans 6:23). But because God is love, He wasn’t going to let man be condemned forever. So, He came up with a solution – He sent His Son to pay the penalty instead.

The Father Crushed His Son

Isaiah 53:10 says, “It pleased the Lord to crush Him…” Crushed who? His Son! How did the Father crush the Son? By pouring out the fullness of His wrath upon Jesus.

What was Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? For the Father to take the “cup” away from Him (Mark 14:36). But what’s in the cup? The wrath of God. When the cup was poured out on Jesus, He took upon Himself the sins of the world and the punishment from God. And when Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) the penalty was paid in full.

The Bible tells us that during those three hours that Jesus hung on the cross, there was darkness all over the land (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44-46), which tells us how horrible Jesus’ death was that God had to conceal it from the people.

Conclusion

Are you still in search of true love? Look no further. Come to Christ in repentance and receive His gift of eternal life. God sacrificed His one and only Son so that you and I could enjoy eternal life with Him.

“This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

But just like any other lover, God desires for us to love Him back. And if you truly love the Lord, you are to love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You are also to love others as yourself (Mark 12:28-31).

These two are better known as God’s Greatest Commandments.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson

Description:

At first thought, understanding the doctrine of the love of God seems simple compared to trying to fathom other doctrines like that of the Trinity or predestination. Especially since the overwhelming majority of those who believe in God view Him as a loving being.

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God seeks to restore what we have lost.

In this treatment of many of the Bible’s passages regarding divine love, noted evangelical scholar D. A. Carson not only critiques sentimental ideas such as “God hates the sin but loves the sinner,” but provides a compelling perspective on the nature of God and why He loves as He does.

Carson blends his discourse with a discussion of how God’s sovereignty and holiness complete the biblical picture of who He is and how He loves.

What Does the Bible Say About the Church?

What Does the Bible Say About the Church?

There are a lot of misconceptions about the church that continue up until today. Thus, a biblical study of the church is absolutely necessary to clear them up. What does the Bible have to say about the church?

Meaning of the Word “Church”

Our English word for church is derived from the Greek adjective kuriakos, meaning, “that which belongs to the Lord.” We find this word used in the first chapter of the book of Revelation. It reads:

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10).

In the context of the passage, the Lord’s Day means, “the day belonging to the Lord.” This fits well with the meaning of the term church. The church then can be defined as the company of people who profess allegiance to Jesus Christ as their Savior – they belong to the Lord.

The Church is the Ekklesia

The usual Greek word translated as “church” in the New Testament is “ekklesia.” The word comes from the Greek preposition ek meaning, “out of” and from the verb kaleo meaning, “to call.”

So, the church is a “called out group of people” or a group of “assembled people” and “ecclesiology” means a “study of the church.”

Church: Group of Believers in Jesus

Ekklesia in the New Testament

The word ekklesia is only used three times in the gospels and over one hundred times in the remainder of the New Testament. The gospel references are all found in Matthew. The first is Jesus’ response to Peter where He said the following:

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The word ekklesia is used here in its technical sense. It refers to those people who believe in Jesus as their Savior. In this context, it speaks of something that is yet to occur – the building of the church.

The word ekklesia is also used twice in Matthew 18:17. It says, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

But in this instance, the word is used in a non-technical sense of Jewish assembly.

The word “church” is used only once in the gospels in the technical sense of Christian believers. In that passage, it is predicting the building of the church. Therefore, the church of Jesus Christ is still something that will be organized in the future.

The Church Doctrine Revealed by Paul

It was the Apostle Paul who revealed the doctrine of the church. He testified that God gave him that responsibility. He wrote the following to the Colossians:

“The mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them, God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).

The church is a mystery or a “sacred secret” that the Apostle Paul was given the privilege of explaining to the world.

Ways the Word Church is Used in Scripture

In the New Testament, the word church is applied in several ways concerning believers.

A Group of Christians in a City

Acts 11:22 speaks of the church in the city of Jerusalem. We read:

“Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.”

Acts 13:1 also talks about the church in Antioch: “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”

There was a church in Jerusalem as well as one in Antioch.

Christians in Jerusalem

A Particular Congregation of Believers

Paul spoke of a single congregation that met in a house. He wrote the following to the Romans.

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise, greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ” (Romans 16:3-5).

Paul expressed the same idea when he wrote to the church in Corinth. He said, “And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:35).

Therefore, the church can be a single group of Christians who meet.

The Entire Group of Believers on Earth

At times, the word church refers to all the believers on the earth. Paul used the term in this sense when he wrote this to the Ephesians: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).

Different Usages in the NT

The word ekklesia is not always used in the New Testament of a group of believers in Jesus. The martyr Stephen spoke of the church or assembly in the wilderness.

“This is he who was in the congregation (ekklesia) in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us” (Acts 7:38).

In this particular context, ekklesia is used in reference to the nation of Israel.

An Assembly of People

The word is also used of an angry mob. We read of this usage in Acts 19:32.

“Some, therefore, cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”

It can also refer to a mere gathering of people as we read in Acts 19:39.

“But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly.”

Thus, depending upon the context, ekklesia can refer to the assembling of Israel, an unruly mob, or some secular group assembling together.

Singular and Plural Usage

We should also note that the term translated church is used in both the singular and the plural. When the church of a city or town is mentioned the word is used in the singular. When a country or nation is spoken of the word is used in the plural.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.


The Modern Uses of the Word Church

Today, when the word church is used several things come to mind. Indeed, the term is used in at least five different ways. They include the following.

Building where Believers Gather

First, church commonly refers to the building where Christians assemble; for example, the church on Main Street. To many people, this is the first thing that is thought of when the term church is used.

Group of Local People

Second, the word refers to the local group of people that meets together. Rather than merely referring to the building or physical structure it refers to the people who meet in the building.

Christian Denomination

Third, the church is a reference to a particular Christian denomination such as the Baptist Church or the Presbyterian Church.

All Believers in Jesus

Fourth, the term is also used of all believers who profess faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, it refers to the universal church.

State Church

Finally, the term is used of a state church such as the Church of England. Therefore, according to popular usage, the word church is used in several ways.

Conclusion

Notice that the biblical usage of the term church is not exactly the same as the modern usage. Therefore, we must understand the nature of the church from a biblical perspective.


Note: This article is an excerpt taken from Don Stewart’s book on the Church.

Finding Hope Amidst Difficult Times

Finding Hope Amidst Difficult Times

The year 2020 could well go down in history as one of the most challenging years we all had to face as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. But we cannot and should not lose hope. Amidst trials and in difficult times, there is hope. Christians can enjoy living in victory even when all hope seems to be lost.

In this post are some principles God has laid out in His Word that every believer in Jesus should apply if they expect to live victoriously this new year 2021 and onward.

The Babylonian Captivity

The Babylonian Captivity, also known as the Babylonian Exile, is a period in biblical history that highlights the restoration of the nation of Israel. But while in exile, it is apparent that the Jews were on the verge of losing hope. Will they ever get out from this ordeal and safely go back to their land?

Considering that when King Nebuchadnezzar II took the Jews captive, Babylon was an up and coming world superpower. How could the Jews be confident that God was up to the job of delivering them from the hands of the Babylonians?

Babylonian Exile
Photo Credits: Ancient Pages

In chapter 3 of Isaiah, we read God reminding the Jewish exiles about who He is and what He is capable of doing for them. We read the following in Isaiah 43:16-19 (NIV):

This is what the Lord says – He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Biblical Principles for a Victorious Life

In the passage quoted above, God, through the prophet Isaiah, gave four instructions to the nation of Israel.

1. Remember God’s Great Works in the Past.

Verses 16-17 looks back to what God did for Israel when He brought them out of the land of Egypt through the wilderness to Canaan (Exodus 14). God parted the Red Sea so they could cross and escape the Egyptian armies.

Isaiah powerfully brings up these images when he writes of the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements of these enemies of God’s people, and how they shall lay there and never to rise again, extinguished and snuffed out or quenched.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:21-22).

Just as God overwhelmed the Egyptian armies, He would also judge the Babylonians.

2. Forget the Past.

Notice that there is an instructive switch between verses 16-17 and verse 18. In Isaiah 43:16-17, Israel is told to look to the past by remembering the great things God did for them at the Red Sea. But in Isaiah 43:18 they are told, “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old.” Why?

It is important to note that God had performed many miracles for Israel – probably one of the most memorable was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt by their miraculous passage through the Red Sea on dry ground!

But now, God was saying, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Is God contradicting Himself? No, not at all! Rather, God is telling the Jews, “That’s nothing compared to what I am about to do.”

No matter how great the miracle God performed to get their forefathers out of Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land, God wants this generation of Jews to focus on the new work He will do for them.

God promises that He is going to do greater things for them; much more than what He had done in the past. He tells them to forget the past because if they are stuck in the wonders and miracles of God in the past, they will never be able to move forward to the new things God has in store for them.

3. Keep in Step with God.

After reminding the Jews of His mighty works in the past and instructing them not to get stuck in those wonders, God then assures them the deliverance they have been hoping for.

God says this in Isaiah 43:19a, “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?”

God is moving on – He is doing a new thing – bigger and better than ever before. Past blessings are for a time gone by. God promises a new blessing for a new day!

Staying stuck in the past can keep the nation of Israel (and us) from the new things God wants to do. God will do a new thing that is in no way inferior to what He has done in the past. God will do a new thing that is in no way inferior to the things of old.

God can do new wonders; He is creative and He is always doing something new.

4. Trust that God Can and Will Do the Impossible.

Between Babylon and Israel lay hundreds of miles of wilderness. But God assures His people that they had nothing to fear because God would make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19b)

They can be confident that the same power that made dry land in the waters can produce waters even in the driest land.

Application for Believers Today

How do Christians apply these four principles? We must take God’s word at face value.

God is also telling us today to forget the former things and not dwell on the past. Yes, we must remember the past in terms of God’s great work. It is to our benefit to often remember what God did to the nation of Israel. Remembering God’s faithfulness gives us hope and assurance that we can trust God to work on our behalf

We can always count on God and we can be confident that He will make good His promises because He is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). If God kept His covenant with Israel, He will surely keep His covenant with us. God is immutable; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Yes, we are to thank God for past revivals, answered prayers, and blessings. The downside is those past blessings can hold us back because we expect the same thing over and over again.

We must forsake and forget the past, with all its discouragement, failures, sin, and defeat, and move on to what God has for us in the future. Past sins and failures can hold us back too!

The Example of Simon Peter

Do you ever feel like you have let God down in some way? You may have stumbled and failed Him a couple of times and now you feel like you’re no longer worthy of another chance. You fear that God cannot use you again.

If there’s somebody who has gone this path and was restored, it’s Simon Peter. Among all those who followed our Lord closely, I find Peter’s story quite fascinating.

Consider the following about Peter:

  • He alone got to experience walking on water with Jesus (Matthew 14:28-29).
  • He was one of the three disciples to witness the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13).
  • It was Peter who confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-20).
  • It was Peter who cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest and he did it in an attempt to prevent the arrest of Jesus (John 18:10).
  • But more than all these, Peter promised Jesus that he will never forsake Him even though it will cost him his life (Matthew 26:35).

But on the night that Jesus was arrested, Peter swallowed his words because he denied Jesus, not just once but three times at the time that Jesus needed him the most. He must have felt terrible when he realized what he has done.

But after the resurrection Jesus reinstated him at the lake of Tiberius in Galilee (John 21:15-19) and a few days later on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached probably the most powerful gospel sermon resulting in the 3000 souls that were saved and added to the Church (Acts 2:14-36).

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When All Hope Seems Lost

You may have experienced a lot of heartaches and pain, trials, and difficulties in the past year. But God promises to do something great in your life.

You may have lost a loved one and up to now you still don’t understand why you had to go through all that. Maybe you got heartbroken last year or in the previous years and you are still unable to move on.

This year, give your heart to Jesus and rest assured that He will never break it; He will never disappoint you and He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Today, God is telling us to forget the past – blessings, and failures – because the past will fade into insignificance compared with what God is doing, and going to do.

Trust God At All Times

As we look forward to the future, God wants us to trust Him completely, regardless of the circumstances we are facing. Let us not make the common mistake of worrying about the details or obstacles for the fulfillment of God’s promise. We do not have to worry about it at all.

God has all the resources needed. We may not have a perfect picture of what God is about to do but we can be certain that He will bring them to fruition. He is the Lord, the God of all flesh; nothing is too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:27). Things may be impossible from a human perspective but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

By the way, trying to lend God a helping hand never works so don’t even try. In Genesis 12:1-3 God promises to make Abraham’s children into a great nation. There’s just one problem – his wife could not have children, and they were both advanced in years!

What did Abraham do? He tried to help God out only to realize later on that it was a big mistake (Genesis 16:1-16). Then as now, meddling in God’s business only ends in disaster.

Conclusion

Indeed, we can always find hope in the Lord even in difficult times.

But we need to get our focus off the past: the good, the bad, and the ugly. These are nothing compared to what God is about to do! God is doing something new. His laws and principles never change – but His blessings are new every morning.

Are we ready for it? Are we in step with the Holy Spirit? We can be amid a blessing and not see it.

By the way, let us be reminded that whatever new and great things we will receive, it’s all God’s work – it’s not of us! We may have labored in the fields sowing and reaping but it is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).

So we must always humble ourselves before God – realizing that it is not because of anything we have done – but it is only by the grace of God. We must ensure that God gets the glory for it all.


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Was Jesus the Predicted Messiah?

Was Jesus the Predicted Messiah?

Was Jesus the predicted Messiah? Although the Bible gives so many predictions about the coming Messiah that were fulfilled by our Lord Jesus, the Jews did not accept Him. As a matter of fact, they are still awaiting the coming of the Messiah.

Are there More than One Messiah?

When Diocletian was abdicated as emperor of Rome, a war of succession between Maxentius and Constantine became inevitable. Maxentius held possession of Rome, but Constantine invaded from Gaul in 312 AD.

In preparation for battle on the Tiber River, Maxentius consulted the Sibylline books for prophetic insight. The relevant oracle declared, “On that day the enemy of Rome will perish.”

Maxentius went into battle confident that Constantine’s doom was at hand. However, he perished in battle, thus identifying who “the enemy of Rome” was. The prophecy was going to be fulfilled one way or the other; its intentional vagueness guaranteed that.

Jesus Fulfilled Messianic Prophecies

Aren’t the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah equally general so that any number of Jewish males could claim to fulfill them after rising to prominence as a spiritual leader?

While that is true about many of the messianic prophecies taken in isolation, there are more than three hundred separate predictions about the messiah in the pages of the Old Testament. Taken together, they form an imposing barrier to accidental fulfillment or fulfillment-after-the-fact.

300 Prophecies, Only One Messiah

Think of each of the three hundred messianic prophecies as a filter that strains out everyone who does not meet its requirements and you will realize how unlikely it is that anyone but the actual Messiah would pass through all three hundred filters.

If you try to calculate the odds of someone accidentally satisfying three hundred separate personal descriptions, you end up with something like one out of a number with 125 zeros after it – an incomprehensibly unlikely eventuality.


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The Messiah would descend from Eve (Genesis 3:16), Judah (Isaiah 46:10), and David (2 Samuel 7:14). He would be virgin-born (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He would enter Jerusalem riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9).

He would die with sinners but be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9, 12). None of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20) during a violent death in which His hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16) so that He cried out to God (Psalm 22:1).

While He died, onlookers would divide His clothes (Psalm 22:18). He came to save Gentiles as well as Jews (Isaiah 49:6). He rose from the dead (Psalm 16:10).

Jesus, the Promised Messiah

Was Jesus the predicted Messiah? Yes! But the prophecies say more about Him than that. He shared the divine nature as God’s Son (Psalm 2:7) and human nature as the Son of Man (Genesis 3:16).

As God’s Suffering Servant, He fulfilled Israel’s destiny by keeping the righteous standards of the Law of Moses (Isaiah 49:1-3). He established God’s new covenant with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 26:28).

He is the destiny and focal point of history (Colossians 1:16). We wait for His return to establish justice and righteousness in the millennial kingdom (Malachi 4:1-3; Revelation 19:11–20:4).


Note: Excerpt taken from the NKJV Prophecy Study Bible under the section Evidences.

 

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Baptism?

We learn from Scripture that water baptism is an important act of obedience on the part of every believer in Jesus in response to the Lord’s command. However, let me emphasize that baptism does not save as some Christians teach. One does not need to be baptized to be saved. We are saved by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In other words, water baptism is not a requirement for salvation and anyone who teaches otherwise is gravely mistaken. We submit for water baptism for several reasons that include us publicly declaring our faith in the Lord Jesus and identifying with His death, burial, and resurrection.

But why did the Lord Jesus have to undergo water baptism before beginning His earthly ministry? What is the significance of this act on His part?

The Baptism of Jesus

The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist was one of the highlights of the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Although gospel authors Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ baptism, Matthew gives us a more detailed description by first introducing John the Baptist as the one prophesied by Isaiah as the forerunner of the Messiah.

Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The Baptism of Jesus Matthew 3:16-17 (NKJV)

Here is the story of Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him, and after getting a little resistance from the “baptizer,” Jesus is baptized. Immediately after getting up out of the water, we then have the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven on Jesus and a voice from heaven confirming the person and work of Jesus.

The Necessity of Jesus’ Baptism

John’s response to Jesus’ coming to him for baptism seems to indicate that John did not only know something about Jesus, but he also knew that baptism did not apply to Him (Matthew 3:14).

John had been preaching baptism unto repentance (Matthew 3:11). As the people listened and were convicted of their sins, they repented and were baptized as a witness to and sign of their inner purification.

But when Jesus came to John, he tried to stop him from being baptized because, at that moment, John was looking into the face of the Messiah – the “Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and “the man whose sandals he is unworthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11).

In response, Jesus said, “it was fitting for them in order to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Notice that the Lord used the word “us” – “it is fitting for us.” It was something that both the Sinless one (Jesus) and the sinner (John) had to do to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was not acting alone; He was acting with John to fulfill God’s plan.

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Jesus’ Baptism Confirmed John’s Ministry

John grew up to be a very special man. But who would have thought that God would use a “wilderness man” to Christ’s forerunner? He was very different from the other people who lived in his time. John was a Nazarite from birth who was filled by the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).

He chose to live in the desert, wore camel’s hair, and ate locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:3-4). He was very different. After all, who else was preaching in the wilderness? Most people preached in the temple where all the people were. But John was preaching out in the desert.

Perhaps, one could say that John’s mission was to introduce Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. John the Baptist was specially chosen by God. In describing John’s appearance, Matthew links him with Elijah (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3). Why Elijah? Why not Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or the other prophets? It’s because Malachi prophesied that like John, Elijah was a kind of “wilderness man,” a man who lived on the run (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

John the Baptist

When John the Baptist was first introduced in Matthew’s gospel, his message was an announcement that the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:2). He was warning the Jewish leaders including the most zealous religious group, the Pharisees, that the King was soon to appear and will bring judgment.

Although John was careful to distinguish his ministry from that of the coming Messiah (Matthew 3:3, 11-12), his preaching was not only the warning of impending judgment; more importantly, it was a call to action. His message was intended to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, and for the message of salvation, that would be proclaimed after the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

Through John’s ministry, Jesus was introduced by God as the promised and long-awaited Messiah. By asking John to baptize Him, Jesus showed approval of his baptism, confirmed his ministry, and bore witness to it that it was indeed from heaven approved by God.

John played a vital role in the commencement of Jesus’ earthly ministry as he called upon men to prepare for His coming.

Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant

John initially refused to baptize Jesus but Jesus knew that it was His Father’s will for Him to undergo water baptism. Jesus was baptized not because he was a repentant sinner; His baptism identified Himself with tax collectors and sinners, the very people He came to save.

The word “righteousness” as used in the gospel of Matthew draws its meaning from the Old Testament. A full study of righteousness will lead to a meaning for the word as that which “conforms to the standard” which would mean doing the will of God.

To say that Jesus had to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness does not mean Jesus had been unrighteous. It simply means that He is committing Himself to do God’s will for Him, which is to conform to the standard which is the will of God.

The Suffering Servant Isaiah 53

God’s will for Christ was laid out centuries before He came in the book of Isaiah 53. The prophet Isaiah announced that the Suffering Servant was to be “numbered with the transgressors, would bear the sin of many, and make intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

Through His baptism, Jesus began to be identified with sinners. Isaiah further described the Messiah as “God’s righteous Servant who shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). The Father’s statement in Matthew 3:17 saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” also relates Jesus Christ to the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:10).

Well, it’s not that the Father took delight in His Son’s pain but the suffering and death of the Messiah were in fulfillment of God’s plan to make salvation available to everyone who believes (John 3:16). Jesus began to fulfill His work as the Suffering Servant at His baptism where He would identify with sinners, take their sins upon Himself, and justify them through His suffering and death.

Jesus’ water baptism was a picture of His future baptism on the cross. He was rejected and made to suffer and die but He is also seen to come forth in victory.

Conclusion

The baptism of Jesus Christ is not to be identified as one of repentance or as one similar to Christian baptism. Jesus’ baptism was unique, an initiatory right, setting Him apart to His role as a Prophet, Priest, and King, and anticipating His suffering and death on the cross.

No other, before or after, can share this baptism.


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