HOW ISRAEL BECAME A NATION “IN A DAY”

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THE LAND COVENANT

The Promise Made To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

The Lord promised Abraham that their agreement, or covenant, would be UNCONDITIONALLY and EVERLASTING. He said.

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7-8 NIV).

The agreement which the Lord made with Abraham is clearly irrevocable—it can never be broken. The believers of Amillennialism and Preterism are thus making God out to be a liar. They insist that God is done with Israel and that the promises made to Abraham have been carried over to the church, in a spiritual manner.

The Promise Made To Isaac

As the Lord had promised, Abraham and his wife Sarah conceived a son, Isaac. The Lord made it clear that the promises to Abraham would be fulfilled in this particular son of his.

Later, God repeated the promise to Isaac (Genesis 26:3-4).

The Promise Made To Jacob

Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. God later promised Isaac’s son Jacob that he would be the heir to the promises. (Genesis 35:11-12).

GOD WARNED HE WOULD SCATTER THE JEWISH PEOPLE

The continuous disobedience of the Jewish people is clear from throughout the Bible. The Lord has warned the people of the consequences of disobedience. He said the following.

“However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you . . . This is what will happen: Just as the Lord delighted to do good for you and make you numerous, he will take delight in destroying and decimating you. You will be uprooted from the land you are about to possess. The Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of wood and stone. Among those nations you will have no rest nor will there be a place of peaceful rest for the soles of your feet, for there the Lord will give you an anxious heart, failing eyesight, and a spirit of despair” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 63-65 NIV).

While the ownership of the land was theirs forever, their occupancy was linked with their obedience.

In 721 B.C., the Assyrians took the Northern kingdom of Israel, which comprised the ten northern tribes, into captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar, in three different deportations, took the remaining two tribes, the southern kingdom of Judah, captive to Babylon. Finally, in 588-586 B.C., after a long siege, he burned the city and the temple.

The children of Israel also were scattered in A.D. 70 when Titus, the Roman general, surrounded the city of Jerusalem and burnt the rebuilt city and the temple.

For almost 1900 years, the Jews wandered the earth as strangers—being persecuted from every side. The culmination of their persecution occurred in the Holocaust of World War II, when six million Jews were put to death in concentration camps. The predictions were literally fulfilled.

GOD PROMISED TO BRING BACK THE SCATTERED JEWISH PEOPLE.

Irrespective of the above, through Jeremiah the prophet, we read the promise of the Lord of their continuing existence.

“The Lord has made a promise to Israel. He promises it as the one who fixed the sun to give light by day and the moon and stars to give light by night. He promises it as the one who stirs up the sea so that its waves roll. He promises it as the one who is known as the Lord who rules overall. The Lord affirms, “The descendants of Israel will not cease forever to be a nation in my sight. That could only happen if the fixed ordering of the heavenly lights were to cease to operate before me.” The Lord says, “I will not reject all the descendants of Israel because of all that they have done. That could only happen if the heavens above could be measured or the foundations of the earth below could all be explored,” says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:35-37 NET).

The Jews have been the most persecuted people of all nations, throughout human history. In fact, the Holocaust of the Second World War, eventually took six million Jewish lives, and yet the nation survived.

God also promised to bring back the scattered Jewish people. We read the following prophecy through Jeremiah.

“The Lord spoke to Jeremiah. “The Lord God of Israel says, ‘Write everything that I am about to tell you in a scroll. For I, the Lord, affirm that the time will come when I will reverse the plight of my people, ISRAEL AND JUDAH,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring them back to the land I gave their ancestors and they will take possession of it once again’” (Jeremiah 30:1-3 NET).

It is of utmost importance to note that the gathering concerns the scattered from both Israel and Judah.

The northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians in 721 B.C, and never returned during biblical times.

The southern kingdom of Judah experienced a seventy-year captivity in Babylon. In 537-536 B.C., or after the seventy years, those who had been taken captive to Babylon were allowed to return to their land from their first exile (Ezra chapter 1). They were however removed from their homeland a second time in A.D. 70.

In another remarkable prediction, we read the following words that the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah.

“In that day the Lord will reach out his hand A SECOND TIME to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:11,12 NIV).

Against all odds, the modern state of Israel was reborn on May 14, 1948, and the Jews began to return to their homeland from all points of the compass. This is the second time in their history they have come back into their land after being forcibly removed.

According to the Lord, this return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland will be for His sake, not theirs. It is almost astonishing how Amillennialism and Preterism dishonour God by applying Replacement theology. Ezekiel records Him saying:

“Therefore this is what the sovereign Lord says: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and I will have mercy on the entire house of Israel. I will be zealous for my holy name. They will bear their shame for all their unfaithful acts against me, when they live securely on their land with no one to make them afraid. When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will magnify myself among them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will not leave any of them in exile any longer. I will no longer hide my face from them, when I pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 39:25-29 NET).

HOW ISRAEL BECAME A NATION “IN A DAY”

“Who has ever heard of such things?  Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.” (Isaiah 66:8)

Theodore Herzl And Modern Zionism

It was over eighteen centuries after the destruction of Jerusalem, its Temple, and the scattering of the Jewish people, that the modern push for a state began in earnest.

In January of 1895, a Jewish Austrian journalist named Theodor Herzl, covered the trial in Paris of a French Jew named Dreyfus. Dreyfus was unfairly convicted of a crime that he did not commit. Seeing first-hand the hatred directed against Jews, Herzl was determined to begin a process to found a Jewish state.

Later in 1895, Herzl published a book entitled Der Judenstaat—The Jewish State. He argued that the only way in which the “Jewish problem” can be resolved was by establishing a Jewish state in the Holy Land. Herzl’s writings started the Jews on the road back to their Promised homeland.

At the conclusion of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland on September 3, 1897, Theodore Herzl made the following entry into his diary.

“In Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this aloud, it would be greeted with worldwide derision. In five years, perhaps, and certainly in fifty, everyone will see it.”

Herzl’s entry in his diary would turn out to be prophetic. The modern state of Israel would be founded about fifty years after he made this statement!

Turkish Rule Ends In The Holy Land

In the early 20th century, the Ottoman Turks four-hundred-year reign over the Holy Land, was about to end. During World War I, the Arabs helped the British fight the Turks. D.E. Lawrence, “Lawrence of Arabia,” was instrumental in achieving the victory over the Ottoman Empire.

In October 1917, a British General, Edmund Allenby, launched an invasion in the Holy Land. On Sunday, December 9th, the Turks were driven out of Jerusalem. Two days later, the General made his entry into conquered Jerusalem, on foot. He said no one could enter the Holy City except in humility, on foot. He said upon entering:

“Since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three great religions of mankind, and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and the pilgrimages of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore I do make known to you . . . that all sacred buildings will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those whose faiths are sacred” (Source Records of the Great War, Vol. 5, ed. Charles Francis Horne, National Alumni, 1923).

At the conclusion of the First World War, Britain, France, and Russia forged the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This pact carved up the Ottoman Empire which had seen its defeat in the War.

Britain gained control of the Holy Land. For the first time in eight hundred years, the Holy sites of Christianity were delivered from the domination of Islam.

The Request Of Chaim Weitzman

Another step toward the realization of a Jewish homeland came after the First World War. Chaim Weitzman, a Jewish chemist, helped the War effort by developing a technique where synthetic acetone could be manufactured.

Acetone was a prime ingredient in the production of explosives. His discovery was given credit by the British government as a main factor in Britain winning the War. The government attempted to personally reward him for his efforts on behalf of the nation. Weitzman asked nothing for himself, but he did make a request for his people—a Jewish homeland in the Promised Land.

The Balfour Declaration

In 1917, a monumental event took place. Lord Balfour, the head of the foreign ministry of the British government, wrote a letter to Baron Rothchild—a representative of the Jewish people. In it, he declared the willingness to see a Jewish state established. The letter read as follows.

Foreign Office

November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours Sincerely,

Arthur James Balfour

One writer explained what happened like this.

“The proclamation was of international importance, as it was solemnly sanctioned by the League of Nations. By this act that body, which is more and more inclined to look upon itself as being invested with the right to control the destiny of the peoples of the world, was obeying the will of Him who really holds the fate of mankind in His hands.

How would it be possible to doubt this miracle? God was exercising His sovereign right as King of all nations.

For a long time the diplomats of the various countries, moved to pity by the cruel treatment inflicted upon the Jews during the regularly recurring pogroms and collective murders in Central Europe, had been looking all of the world for some country that would offer this unhappy race a promise of security. One after another Argentina, Brazil, Canada, certain uninhabited regions of Asia, and Uganda have been proposed. But these projects could but come to nought, for they ran counter to a divine promise given to Abraham: “I will give this land to thee and thy seed forever.”

On the other hand Palestine had long been coveted by several of the great powers, and these had done their very best to get control of it.

Their efforts also came to nought. They were broken against a decree which no human power could shake. What God’s lips had proclaimed His hand was accomplishing: “I give thee this land forever” (Paul Perret, Prophecies I Have Seen Fulfilled, London, Marshall, Morgan & Scott LTD., 1939, pp. 27, 28).

We should also observe, that he made this statement in 1939—before the modern state of Israel was reborn.

The United Nations Resolution

The next major event in the establishment of the modern state of Israel was United Nations Resolution 181. This was passed by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947. It called for the partition of Palestine into two states—one Arab and one Jewish. The city of Jerusalem was to be a separate entity governed by a special international regime.

On the one hand, this resolution was considered by the Jewish community in the Holy Land to be a legal basis for the establishment of the modern State of Israel. As can be imagined, this resolution was rejected by the Arab community.

The End Of The British Mandate

In July 1922, the League of Nations had entrusted Britain with the “Mandate For Palestine.” The Mandate recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” In accordance with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel.

Interestingly, in September of 1922, the League of Nations and Great Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply to the area east of the Jordan River. This particular area constituted three-fourths of the territory which was included in the original Mandate. The territory eventually became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

After the United Resolution 181 was passed in 1947, Britain planned to withdraw from the Holy Land so that a Jewish state could be established. The complete withdrawal would take place on May 14,1948.

The Declaration Of The State Of Israel

On May 14,1948, Israel, as a modern state, came into existence. We have highlighted some of the important points of the text of this declaration that was made by David Ben-Gurion, as well as other Israeli leaders, on that special day:

“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom. Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. . .

This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.

ACCORDINGLY, WE, MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLE’S COUNCIL, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF ERETZ-ISRAEL AND OF THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT, ARE HERE ASSEMBLED ON THE DAY OF THE TERMINATION OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OVER ERETZ-ISRAEL AND, BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.

WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”…

PLACING OUR TRUST IN THE ALMIGHTY, WE AFFIX OUR SIGNATURES TO THIS PROCLAMATION AT THIS SESSION OF THE PROVISIONAL COUNCIL OF STATE, ON THE SOIL OF THE HOMELAND, IN THE CITY OF TEL-AVIV, ON THIS SABBATH EVE, THE 5TH DAY OF IYAR, 5708 (14TH MAY, 1948).”

This declaration was signed by Ben-Gurion and other Jewish leaders. With it, the modern state of Israel miraculously came into existence!

U.S Recognition Under President Harry Truman

On May 14, 1948, President Harry Truman recognized the newly formed state of Israel with the following telegram:

“This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional Government thereof.

The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.”

We read the following account as to why Truman did this from Clark Clifford—Truman’s Secretary of State:

“From our many talks over the past year, I knew that five factors dominated Truman’s thinking. From his youth, he had detested intolerance and discrimination. He had been deeply moved by the plight of the millions of homeless of World War II, and felt that alone among the homeless, the Jews had no homeland of their own to which they could return. He was, of course, horrified by the Holocaust and he denounced it vehemently, as, in the aftermath of the war, its full dimensions became clear. Also, he believed that the Balfour Declaration, issued by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour in 1917, committed Great Britain and, by implication, the United States, which now shared a certain global responsibility with the British, to the creation of the Jewish state in Palestine. And finally, he was a student and believer in the Bible since his youth. From his reading of the Old Testament he felt the Jews derived a legitimate historical right to Palestine, and he sometimes cited such biblical lines as Deuteronomy 1:8: “Behold, I have given up the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord hath sworn unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Clark Clifford, Counsel to the President: A Memoir, 1991).

Truman, against the wishes of almost all of his advisors, recognized the new state of Israel. Interestingly, among other reasons, we discover that Truman, as a believer in the Bible, accepted the fact that God gave the land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The War Of Independence

The declaration of the new State of Israel in Tel Aviv, as well as the recognition by the United States, did not sit well with the Arabs. Fighting immediately broke out. An armistice was declared in 1949.

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UN Recognition

Israel became a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949. The preamble to this resolution admitting Israel to United Nations membership made specific reference to Israel’s undertakings to implement General Assembly resolutions 181 and 194 (the right of return).

With this United Nations resolution, the modern state of Israel was officially accepted as one of the nations of the world. However, many problems remained unsolved. This included the borders of the country. In fact, the problem of Israel’s borders remains to this day.

(Main Source: 25 Signs We Are Near The End – Don Stewart)

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PROPHETIC EXPECTATIONS IN JUDAISM

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Jesus’ message in Matthew 24-25 is commonly known as the Olivet discourse, so named because it was delivered to the disciples on the Mount of Olives. The theme of the discourse is Christ’s second coming at the end of the present age to establish His millennial kingdom on earth.

The message was prompted by the disciples’ question in 24:3, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” The answer Jesus gave is the longest answer given to any question asked in the New Testament, and its truths are absolutely essential for understanding His return and the amazing events associated with it. It is the revelation of our Lord, directly from His own lips, about His return to earth in glory and power.

In order to better understand the disciples’ question on this occasion it is necessary to know something of the basic hopes and aspirations of the Judaism of that day. A historical setting is an important key to the context.

Throughout history people have had a strong desire to know the future, and few societies have been without their seers, mediums, fortune-tellers, and other prognosticators. By various means, all of them deceitful and many of them demonic, such futurists have offered gullible inquirers purported revelations of what lies ahead. Although the Mosaic law strictly forbade consulting mediums and soothsayers (Deut. 18:9-14), Israelites had frequently fallen prey to them, the most prominent instance being that of King Saul’s consulting the medium of Endor (1 Sam. 28:3-25; see also 2 Kings 21:6).

There is no evidence that many Jews of Jesus’ day were guilty of Saul’s offense, but they did have an intense interest in the future. They were tired of being under the domination of pagan oppressors and were eager for the divinely promised deliverance of their Messiah. The Jews were a noble, highly intelligent, and highly gifted people who, humanly speaking, were entirely capable of competent self-rule. Yet for many centuries they had been subdued by one foreign tyrant after another. The northern ten tribes had been conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C., and the southern two tribes fell to Babylon in 586 B.C.

Following that were conquests by the Medo-Persians, the Greeks, and finally the Romans.

In their own minds, however, the Jews had always been their own people and had never truly been subjugated to any foreign ruler. It was that abiding and sometimes arrogant spirit of independence even in the midst of oppression that induced some of the Jews to declare before Jesus in the Temple, “We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone” (John 8:33).

They knew all too well, of course, that outwardly they were indeed enslaved, and freedom from that enslavement was the overriding passion of most Jews.

Although the majority of them were not associated with the militant Zealots, they all yearned for Rome to be overthrown and for Israel to become a free nation once again.

The Jews knew intimately the many Old Testament promises of future blessing, deliverance, and prosperity. They knew God had promised to vanquish all the enemies of His chosen people and to establish His eternal kingdom of righteousness and justice on earth. They knew that the Lord’s Anointed One—His Messiah, or Christ—would come and establish the rule and reign from David’s throne again on earth, a reign of peace, prosperity, and safety that would never end.

Their great longing was to see that day when God restored the kingdom as He had promised. The Jews therefore had great hope for the future. They exulted as they read, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isa. 9:6-7). They thrilled at the promise that “a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:1-2).

Israel took immense encouragement from the words of Jeremiah: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, “The Lord our righteousness” ’ ” (Jer. 23:5-6; cf. 30:9-10). They longed for the day when the spoil taken from them would be divided among them (Zech. 14:1), when “living waters [would] flow out of Jerusalem” (v. 8), and “there [would] be no more curse, for Jerusalem [would] dwell in security” (v. 11). They rejoiced that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people . . . but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44).

By the time of Jesus, the Jews had formed in their minds a very clear scenario of how they believed those predicted events would unfold. To understand what the Jewish expectations were, it is helpful to read their literature from that time. In his A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ ([Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1893], pp. 154-87), Emil Schuer gives excerpts from numerous extrabiblical Jewish writings of that era which reveal those expectations.

First, consistent with the teaching of Zechariah 14 and other Old Testament prophecies, they believed that the coming of the Messiah would be preceded by a time of terrible tribulation. Just as a woman experiences intense pain shortly before the delivery of a child, so Israel would experience great torment shortly before the Messiah arrived.

2 Baruch 27 reported,

And honour shall be turned into shame,

And strength humiliated into contempt,

And probity destroyed,

And beauty shall become ugliness . . .

And envy shall rise in those who had not thought aught of themselves,

And passion shall seize him that is peaceful,

And many shall be stirred up in anger to injure many,

And they shall rouse up armies in order to shed blood,

And in the end they shall perish together with them.

According to another source, there would be “quakings of places, tumult

of peoples, schemings of nations, confusion of leaders, disquietude of princes”

(2 Esdras [4 Ezra] 9:3).

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles declared,

“From heaven shall fall fiery swords down to the earth. Lights shall come, bright and great, flashing into the midst of men; and earth, the universal mother, shall shake in these days at the hand of the Eternal.

And the fishes of the sea and the beasts of the earth and the countless tribes of flying things and all the souls of men and every sea shall shudder at the presence of the Eternal and there shall be panic. And the towering mountain peaks and the hills of the giants he shall rend, and the murky abyss shall be visible to all. And the high ravines in the lofty mountains shall be full of dead bodies and rocks shall flow with blood and each torrent shall flood the plain. . . . And God shall judge all with war and sword, and there shall be brimstone from heaven, yea stones and rain and hail incessant and grievous. And death shall be upon the four-footed beasts. . . . Yea the land itself shall drink of the blood of the perishing and beasts shall eat their fill of flesh.”(3:363ff.)

The Mishna anticipated that just before the coming of Messiah,

arrogance increases, ambition shoots up, . . . the vine yields fruit yet wine is dear. The government turns to heresy. There is no instruction. The synagogue is devoted to lewdness. Galilee is destroyed, Gablan laid waste. The inhabitants of a district go from city to city without finding compassion. The wisdom of the learned is hated, the godly despised, truth is absent. Boys insult old men, old men stand in the presence of children. The son depreciates the father, the daughter rebels against the mother, the daughter-in-law against the mother-inlaw. A mans enemies are his house-fellows.”

Second, the popular eschatology of Jesus’ day held that in the midst of that turmoil would appear an Elijah-like forerunner heralding the Messiah’s coming. It was for that reason that so many Jews were drawn to John the Baptist.

Jewish oral tradition maintained that the ownership of any disputed money or property would have to wait “till Elijah comes” before being finally settled.

The third event of that eschatology was the Messiah’s appearance, at which time He would establish His kingdom age of glory and would vindicate His people.

The fourth event would be the alliance of the nations to fight against the Messiah. The Sibylline Oracles declared,

“The kings of the nations shall throw themselves against this land bringing retribution on themselves. They shall seek to ravage the shrine of the mighty God and of the noblest men whensoever they come to the land. In a ring round the city the accursed kings shall place each one his throne with the infidel people by him. And then with a mighty voice God shall speak unto all the undisciplined, empty minded people and judgment shall come upon them from the mighty God, and all shall perish at the hand of the Eternal.” (3:363-72)

In 2 Esdras [4 Ezra] is the prediction, “It shall be that when all the nations hear his (the Messiah’s) voice, every man shall leave his own land and the warfare they have one against the other, and the innumerable multitude shall be gathered together desiring to fight against him” (13:33-35). In other words, unbelieving mankind will interrupt all its other warfare in order to unite against the Messiah.

The fifth eschatological event would be the destruction of those opposing nations. Philo wrote that the Messiah would “take the field and make war and destroy great and populous nations.” The writer of 2 Esdras declared that the Messiah “shall reprove them for their ungodliness, rebuke them for their unrighteousness, reproach them to their faces with their treacheries—and when he has rebuked them he shall destroy them” (12:32-33). The book of Enoch reported that “it shall come to pass in those days that none shall be saved, either by gold or by silver, and none shall be able to escape. And there shall be no iron for war, nor shall one clothe oneself with a breastplate. Bronze shall be of no service, and tin shall not be esteemed, and lead shall not be desired. And all things shall be destroyed from the surface of the earth” (52:7-9). All the vast armaments and defences of the nations will be useless against the Messiah.

Sixth would be the restoration of Jerusalem, either by renovation of the existing city or by the coming down of a completely new Jerusalem from heaven. In either case, the city of the great King would henceforth be pure, holy, and incorruptible. In the book of Enoch, Jerusalem was envisioned as having “all the pillars . . . new and the ornaments larger than those of the first” (Enoch 90:28-29).

Seventh, the Jews scattered throughout the world would be gathered back to Israel. Many Jews today still utter the ancient prayer “Lift up a banner to gather our dispersed and assemble us from the four ends of the earth.” The eleventh chapter of the Psalms of Solomon gives a graphic picture of that regathering:

“Blow ye in Zion on the trumpet to summon the saints, Cause ye to be heard in Jerusalem the voice of him that bringeth good tidings;

For God hath had pity on Israel in visiting them.

Stand on the height, O Jerusalem, and behold thy children, From the East and the West, gathered together by the Lord;

From the North they come in the gladness of their God, From the isles afar off God hath gathered them.

High mountains hath he abased into a plain for them; The hills fled at their entrance. The woods gave them shelter as they passed by;

Every sweet-smelling tree God caused to spring up for them, That Israel might pass by in the visitation of the glory of their God.

Put on, O Jerusalem, thy glorious garments; Make ready thy holy robe;

For God hath spoken good for Israel forever and ever,

Let the Lord do what he hath spoken concerning Israel and Jerusalem;

Let the Lord raise up Israel by his glorious name.

The mercy of the Lord be upon Israel forever and ever.”

In the eighth event of the Messiah’s coming Kingdom would become the center of the world, and all nations would be subjugated to the Lord. “And all the isles and the cities shall say, How doth the Eternal love those men! For all things work in sympathy with them and help them. . . . Come let us all fall upon the earth and supplicate the eternal King, the mighty, everlasting God. Let us make procession to His Temple, for He is the sole Potentate” (Sibylline Oracles 3:690ff.).

Ninth and finally, the Jews of Jesus’ day believed that with the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom would come a new and eternal age of peace, righteousness, and divine glory.

Those ancient views of the coming of Christ were extrapolated largely from Old Testament teachings, and they closely correspond to New Testament premillennial doctrine about His second coming. The major difference is that those Jews had no knowledge of His coming twice, the first time to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the world’s sin and the second to establish His millennial kingdom on earth. The Jewish people were not looking for inward deliverance from sin but for outward deliverance from political oppression.

In the minds of the Jews of Jesus’ day, the time was ripe for the Messiah’s coming. They had suffered persecution and subjugation for many centuries and were at that time under the relentless power of Rome. When John the Baptist appeared on the scene, reminiscent of the preaching and lifestyle of Elijah, the people’s interest was intensely piqued. And when Jesus began His ministry of preaching, with unheard of authority and of healing every sort of disease, many Jews were convinced that He was indeed the Messiah. When He rode into Jerusalem on the colt, the crowds were beside themselves with anticipation, and they openly hailed Him as the Messiah, the long-awaited Son of David (Matt. 21:9).

At that point, however, Jesus’ ministry rapidly and radically departed from their expectations. According to their thinking, the next steps would be the gathering of the nations against the Messiah and His dramatic and effortless victory over them.

That idea apparently was also still in the minds of the Twelve. Jesus’ many predictions that He must suffer, die, and be resurrected had simply not registered with them at that stage. In some way or another they either had discounted those teachings or had rationalized and spiritualized them into being something other than literal, physical, and historical realities.

(Main source: John MacArthur – New Testament Commentary – Matthew)

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THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE CORINTHIANS – THE RESURRECTION

resurrection

(NOTE: THIS IS QUITE A LENGTHY STUDY OF APPROXIMATELY 12 PAGES. A DOWNLOADABLE PDF COPY CAN BE FOUND AT THE END OF THE STUDY FOR OF THOSE WHO WANT TO USE IT FOR FUTURE REFERENCE)

BACKGROUND

In New Testament times Corinth was a thriving, prosperous, and strategically located city. Except for pagan worshipping, it also held a famous temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The temple normally housed some one thousand priestesses, ritual prostitutes, who each night would come down into Corinth and ply their trade among the many foreign travelers and the local men.

The name of the city became synonymous with moral depravity. In this letter to the church there, Paul lists some of the city’s characteristic sins—fornication (porneia, from which comes our term pornography), idolatry, adultery, effeminacy, homosexuality, stealing, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling (abusive speech), and swindling (6:9-10).

Some of the Corinthian believers had been guilty of practicing those sins before their conversion and had been cleansed (6:11). Others in the church, however, were still living immorally, some involved in sins worse than those—sins that Paul reminds them even pagan Gentiles did not commit, such as incest (5:1).

The Corinthian church had many problems, but their most serious problem was in not detaching themselves from the worldly ways of the society around them. Like many Christians today, the Corinthian believers had great difficulty in not mimicking the unbelieving and corrupt society around them. They wanted to have what they thought was the best of both worlds, but Paul plainly warned them that that was impossible (6:9-10).

Yet they lacked no spiritual resources (1:5-7) and had great potential for spiritual power and blessing. Paul longed to see that potential realized.

THE BLESSED HOPE

“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:50-53)

The kingdom of God is here referring to the eternal state, to heaven. “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (v. 49).

The rest of our study will focus on the resurrection. But what about believers who are living when Christ returns? Anticipating that question, Paul continues, Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep.

In the New Testament, mystery always refers to that which had before been hidden and unknown, but which is now revealed. The apostle now reveals that Christians who are alive when the Lord returns will not have to die (sleep) in order for their bodies to be changed. Those “who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

As believers are resurrected or caught up they shall all be changed. Whether believers die or are raptured, their bodies will be changed from the perishable to the imperishable, from the natural to the spiritual. Since the perishable cannot inherit the imperishable, all believers will be equally equipped for heaven (cf. Phil. 3:20-21).

Both for the resurrected and for the raptured the change will be in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It will not be a process, a supernatural metamorphosis. It will be an instantaneous recreation from one form to the other, from the earthy to the heavenly. Moment is from atomos, from which we get the word atom, and denotes that which cannot be cut, or divided, the smallest conceivable quantity. In the smallest possible amount of time our perishable bodies will be made imperishable. To further emphasize and illustrate the speed of the change, Paul says that it will occur in the twinkling of an eye. Rhipē (twinkling) literally means to hurl, and was used to refer to any rapid movement. The eye can move much faster than any other visible part of our bodies, and Paul’s point was that the change will be extremely fast, instantaneous.

This change will occur at the last trumpet. This trumpet will not necessarily be the last heavenly trumpet ever to be sounded. It will, however, be the last as far as living Christians are concerned, for it will sound the end of the church age, when all believers will be removed from the earth.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). By that trumpet God will summon all of His people to Himself (cf. Ex. 19:16; Isa. 27:13).

Speaking of the coming resurrection day, Jesus said, “I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). As He ascended to heaven the angels told the onlooking disciples, “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). With Paul, every believer should be “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).

IMPORTANCE OF THE RESSURECTION

Some religions have taught soul sleep, in which the body dies and disintegrates, while the soul or spirit rests. Materialists believe in utter extinction, total annihilation. Nothing human, physical or otherwise, survives after death. Death ends it all. Some religions teach reincarnation, wherein the soul or spirit is continually recycled from one form to another—even from human to animal or animal to human. In all those views, human personhood and individuality are forever lost at death.

1 Corinthians, chapter 15 is devoted entirely to the doctrine of resurrection. In fact, in these verses Paul gives the most extensive treatment of the resurrection in all of Scripture.

The truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of gospel truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter. Without the resurrection, Christianity would be so much wishful thinking, taking its place alongside all other human philosophy and religious speculation. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25). He also said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44)

Because it is the cornerstone of the gospel, the resurrection has been the target of Satan’s greatest attacks against the church. If the resurrection is eliminated, the life-giving power of the gospel is eliminated, the deity of Christ is eliminated, salvation from sin is eliminated, and eternal life is eliminated. “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). If Christ did not live past the grave, those who trust in Him surely cannot hope to do so.

Without the resurrection salvation could not have been provided, and without belief in the resurrection salvation cannot be received. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9). It is not possible, therefore, to be a Christian and not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The doctrinal problem on which this chapter focuses was not the Corinthians’ disbelief in Christ’s resurrection but confusion about their own. Paul was not trying to convince them that Christ rose from the dead but that one day they, too, would be raised with Him to eternal life. Nevertheless, to lay the foundation, in the first eleven verses he reviewed the evidences for Jesus’ resurrection, a truth he acknowledges they already believed.

RESURRECTION OF THE BELIEVER

“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12)

The resurrections of Christ and men stand or fall together; there could not be one without the other. If there is no resurrection, the gospel is meaningless and worthless. Paul had written the Thessalonians several years before he wrote 1 Corinthians, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). He doubtlessly had taught the Corinthians the same truth, and in his next letter to them he says, “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you” (2 Cor. 4:14).

It is possible that even some of the Jewish members of the Corinthian church doubted the resurrection. Despite the fact that resurrection is taught in the Old Testament, some Jews, such the Sadducees, did not believe in it.

In verses 13-19 the apostle demonstrates that the resurrection is not only possible but essential to the Christian faith.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF NO RESURRECTION

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.” (1 Cor. 15:13-15)

CHRIST WOULD NOT BE RISEN

The first and most obvious consequence of there being no resurrection would be that not even Christ has been raised. Paul basically argues that if the dead cannot rise, Christ did not rise.

At Pentecost Peter proclaimed that “Jesus the Nazarene [was] a man attested to you by God” and that “this Man delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross” (Acts 2:22-23). Later in the same message he proclaimed that Jesus was still alive, not merely in spirit but in body. He told of David’s speaking “of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again” (Acts 2:31-32). In his opening words to the Romans, Paul makes it clear that “the gospel of God” for which he was set apart was “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:1-4). Jesus’ resurrection evidenced both His humanity and His deity. Therefore, if there is no such thing as physical resurrection, not even Christ has been raised.

PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL WOULD BE MEANINGLESS

The second consequence of there being no resurrection would be that preaching of the gospel would be vain, completely meaningless. Apart from the resurrection Jesus could not have conquered sin or death or hell, and those three great evils would forever be man’s conquerors.

Without the resurrection there would be nothing worth preaching as the gospel would be an empty, hopeless message.

FAITH IN CHRIST WOULD BE WORTHLESS

Just as no resurrection would make preaching Christ meaningless, it would also make faith in Him worthless. Faith in such a gospel would be vain (kenos, empty, fruitless, void of effect, to no purpose). We then could only say with the psalmist, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure” (Ps. 73:13), or with the Servant in Isaiah, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity” (Isa. 49:4).

ALL WITNESSES TO AND PREACHERS OF THE RESURRECTION WOULD BE LIARS

Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. To deny the resurrection is to call the apostles and every other leader of the New Testament church liars.

Although Paul does not mention it specifically, it clearly follows that if the resurrection were not true, Christ Himself lied, or at best was tragically mistaken. Or, if the New Testament writers completely misrepresented what both Christ and the apostles taught, then the New Testament would be a worthless document that no reasonable person would trust.

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:16-19)

Next Paul gives what may be described as three personal consequences that would result if there were no such thing as resurrection from the dead.

ALL MEN WOULD STILL BE IN THEIR SINS

In verse 16 Paul restates his major argument: If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. A dead Christ would be the chief disastrous consequence from which all the other consequences would result.

The next consequence Paul mentions is both personal and serious: if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. After repeating the consequence that believers’ faith would be worthless, or vain (v.14), the apostle points to the obvious additional result that believers would be no better off spiritually than unbelievers. Christians would still be in their sins just as much as the most wicked and unbelieving pagan.

If Jesus remained dead, then, when we die, we too will remain dead and damned. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and if we remain dead, then death and eternal punishment are the only prospects of believer and unbeliever alike. If Christ was not raised, His death was in vain, our faith in Him is in vain, and our sins are still counted against us. We are still dead in trespasses and sins

and will forever remain spiritually dead and sinful. If Christ was not raised, then also, He did not bring assure our eternity.

ALL FORMER BELIEVERS WOULD HAVE ETERNALLY PERISHED

If there is no resurrection, then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. Every saint, Old Testament or Christian, who had died would have forever perished. Obviously the same consequence would apply to every saint who has died since Paul wrote. Every believer of every

age would spend eternity in torment, as without God and without hope.

CHRISTIANS WOULD BE THE MOST PITIABLE PEOPLE ON EARTH

In light of the other consequences, the last is rather obvious. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only we are of all men most to be pitied. Without the resurrection, and the salvation and blessings

it brings, Christianity would be pointless and pitiable. To have hoped in Christ in this life only would be to teach, preach, suffer, sacrifice, and work entirely for nothing. The Christian life would be a mockery, a charade, a tragic joke.

Therefore, Paul asks, “Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? Why are we also in danger every hour?” (1 Cor. 15:29-30)

But we are not to be pitied, for Paul immediately continues, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (15:20).

CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER OF RESURRECTION

Moving into verses 20-23 Paul discusses two aspects of the resurrection of the righteous: (1) The Redeemer; and (2) the redeemed.

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:20-22)

Christ being raised made Him the first fruits of all who would be raised. Before Israelites harvested their crops they were to bring a representative sample, called the first fruits, to the priests as an offering to the Lord (Lev 23:10). The full harvest could not be made until the first fruits were offered. That is the point of Paul’s figure here. Christ’s own resurrection was the first fruits of the resurrection “harvest” of the believing dead. In His death and resurrection Christ made an offering of Himself to the Father on our behalf.

Thus, His resurrection requires our resurrection, because His resurrection was part of the larger resurrection of God’s redeemed. The spirits of those who are asleep have gone to be with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; cf. Phil. 1:23) but their remains are in the grave, awaiting re-composition and resurrection.

Just as Adam was the progenitor of everyone who dies, so Christ is the progenitor of everyone who will be raised to life. In Adam all have inherited a sin nature and therefore will die. In Christ all who believe in Him have inherited eternal life, and shall be made alive, in body as well as in spirit. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). Though the inheritance in both cases is bodily as well as spiritual, Paul’s major emphasis here is on the bodily.

“But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (1 Cor. 15:23)

The coming of Christ will lead to the full harvest and this will take place in three stages, according to different groups of believers.

Initially will be the resurrection during the rapture of the church, of those believers who will have come to saving faith from Pentecost to the rapture. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). They will be joined by living saints to meet the Lord in the air and ascend to heaven.

Next will be the resurrection of the Tribulation saints. Many will come to trust in Christ during the Tribulation but will be put to death for their faith. At the end of that period, however, they will be raised up to reign with Him during the Millennium (Rev 20:4).

Following that will be the resurrection of Old Testament saints, promised by the prophet Daniel: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2; cf. Isa. 26:19-20). Their resurrection, will most probably occur simultaneously with that of the Tribulation saints.

Then during the millennial Kingdom there will, of necessity, be the resurrection of those who die during that time. It is interesting to think that they may well be raised as soon as they die, no burial being necessary. It would make death for a believer during the Kingdom nothing more than an instant transformation into his eternal body and spirit.

The only resurrection remaining will be that of the unrighteous, who will be raised to damnation and eternal punishment at the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign (John 5:29). The saved will have been raised to eternal life, but the unsaved will be raised to eternal death, the second death (Rev 21:8; cf. 2:11).

In 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 Paul then describes that Christ’s final act will be to conquer permanently every enemy of God, every contending rule and authority and power. They will forever be abolished, never to exist again, never again to oppose God or to deceive, mislead, or threaten His people or corrupt any of His creation. He will then delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father. This final act will be worked out over the period of a thousand years, during the millennial rule of Christ on earth.

HOW OUR RESURRECTION BODIES COME ABOUT

“But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” (1 Cor. 15:35)

Those in Corinth who denied the resurrection did so primarily because of the influence of gnostic philosophy, which considered the body to be inherently evil and only the spirit to be good. They therefore believed that resurrection of the body is undesirable. Paul now challenges the idea that resurrection also is impossible.

In verses 36-49 Paul answers the questions of verse 35 in four ways: (1) he gives an illustration from nature, (2) he tells what kind of body resurrection bodies will be, (3) he contrasts earthly and resurrection bodies, and (4) he reminds them of the prototype resurrection, in which many of them already believed.

“You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.” (1 Cor. 15:36-38)

Paul gives a common illustration from nature. In three significant ways resurrection is similar to the planting and growth of crops: the original form is dissolved, the original and final forms are different in kind, and yet the two forms have a continuity.

DISSOLUTION

That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When a seed is planted in the ground it dies, actually decomposing as a seed: it must cease to exist in its original form as a seed before it can come to life in its final form as a plant. There had to be an end to the old before there could be a beginning of the new.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Before Christ could bear the fruit of salvation for us, He had to die. Likewise, before we can participate in the fruit of His resurrection, or bear fruit in His service, we too must die.

DIFFERENCE

Second, both in the growing of crops and in the resurrection of bodies there is a difference between the original and final forms. The seed loses its identity as a seed and becomes more and more like the mature plant. But the seed itself, that which you sow—whether it is wheat or … something else—looks nothing like the mature plant, the body which is to be. Only after ceasing to be a seed does it become the mature plant the farmer harvests.

When Jesus was raised from the dead His glorified body was radically different from the one which died. He appeared and disappeared at will, and entered rooms without opening the door (Luke 24:15, 31, 36; John 20:19; etc.). At His return all resurrection bodies will be changed marvelously and radically.

CONTINUITY

In spite of the differences, there is nevertheless a continuity between the old and the new. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. The seed changes radically, but it continues as the same life form. A wheat seed does not become barley, and a flax seed does not become corn. God has given each type of seed a body of its own, whose identity continues into the grown plant.

After Jesus was raised, no one recognized Him unless He revealed Himself to them. But once revealed, He was recognizable. The disciples knew His face, and they recognized His wounded side and His pierced hands. In a similar way, our resurrected bodies as believers will have a continuity with the bodies we have now. Our bodies will die and they will change form, but they will still be our bodies. Surely it is not too hard to believe that the God who has worked this process daily through the centuries in His creation of plants, can do it with men.

THE FORM OF RESURRECTION BODIES

“All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:39-42a)

All flesh is not the same flesh indicates the amazing variety of earthly bodies God has made. We need only look around us to see the virtually infinite assortment of created beings and things. In the biological world the flesh of men is absolutely distinct from the flesh of beasts, the flesh of birds, and the flesh of fish. All flesh is not of the same kind.

There are also heavenly bodies, which obviously differ greatly from earthly bodies in glory, that is, in nature, manifestation, and form. Not only are the heavenly bodies vastly different from the earthly; they are greatly different from each other. The sun is greatly different from the moon, and both are different from the stars. Even star differs from star in glory.

So also is the resurrection of the dead. Resurrection bodies will differ from earthly bodies just as radically as heavenly bodies differ from earthly. And resurrection bodies will be as individual and unique as are all the other forms of God’s creation. Our resurrection bodies will be as uniquely ours as our spirits and our names.

When Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration they were as distinctly individual as they had been while living on earth. They did not then have resurrected bodies, but they were distinct beings of heaven, who one day will have distinct heavenly bodies.

“It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42b-44)

Focusing more directly on the resurrection body, Paul here mentions specific ways, given as four sets of contrasts, in which our glorified bodies will be different from our earthly bodies.

PERISHABLE/IMPERISHABLE

The first contrast pertains to durability. One of the most obvious characteristics of all natural life, including human life, is that it is perishable, subject to deterioration and eventual death. Even in the healthy infant the process of aging and deterioration has begun. “All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust” (Eccles. 3:20). “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more; and its place acknowledges it no longer” (Ps. 103:14-16).

Even the healthiest of people, as they get older, become weaker and more subject to disease and various physical problems. Death, of course, rapidly accelerates decay. Martha objected to Lazarus’s tomb being opened, because “by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39).

One of the tragic consequences of the Fall was that men’s bodies from that time on were irreversibly mortal, subject to death. Without exception, every human being is sown, that is, born with, a perishable body.

But the resurrection body of the believer will be raised an imperishable body. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). Our new bodies will know no sickness, decay, deterioration, or death. “When this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor. 15:54).

DISHONOR/GLORY

The second contrast has to do with value and potential. At the Fall man’s potential for pleasing and serving God was radically reduced. Not only his mind and spirit but also his body became of immeasurably less value in doing what God had designed it to do. The creature that was made perfect, and in the very image of his Creator, was made to manifest his Creator in all that he did. But through sin, that which was created to honor God became characterized instead by dishonor.

We dishonor God by our inability to take advantage fully of what He has given us in His creation. We dishonor God by misusing and abusing the bodies through which He desires us to honor and serve Him. Even the most faithful believer dies with his body in a state of dishonor, a state of imperfection and incompleteness.

But that imperfect and dishonored body one day will be raised in glory. Throughout eternity our new immortal bodies will also be honorable bodies, perfected for pleasing, praising, and enjoying the Creator who made them and the Redeemer who restored them.

WEAKNESS/POWER

The third contrast has to do with ability. Our present bodies are characterized by weakness. We are weak, not only in physical strength and endurance but also in resistance to disease and harm. Despite the marvelous natural protective mechanisms of the human body, no one is immune from breaking a bone, cutting a leg, catching various infections, and eventually from dying. We can and should minimize unnecessary dangers and risks to our bodies, which for believers are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). But we cannot completely protect them from harm, much less from death. Our earthly “temples” are inescapably temporary and fragile.

But not so our new bodies, which will be raised in power. We are not told what that power will entail, but it will be immeasurable compared to what we now possess. We will no longer have to say that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Anything our heavenly spirits determine to do our heavenly bodies will be able to accomplish.

NATURAL/SPIRITUAL

The fourth area of contrasts has to do with the sphere, or realm, of existence. Our earthly body is strictly natural. That is the only realm in which it can live and function. The physical body is suited for and limited to the physical world.

Even with the imperfections and limitations caused by the Fall, our present bodies are wonderfully suited for earthly living. But that is the only realm and the only living for which they are suited.

The new body of the believer, however, will be raised a spiritual body. Our spirits now reside in earthly bodies, but one day they will reside in spiritual bodies. In every way we then will be spiritual beings. In both spirit and body we will be perfectly suited for heavenly living.

The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage,” Jesus said, “but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34-36).

In the resurrection everything about us will be perfected for all eternity. We will not be the same as angels, but will be “like” them in that we too will be perfectly equipped and suited for heavenly, spiritual, supernatural, living.

THE PROTOTYPE OF RESURRECTION

 

“So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Cor. 15:45-49)

Paul quote from Genesis 2:7, with the addition of the two words first and Adam. “So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” Adam was created with a natural body. It was not glorified, but it was perfect and “good” in every way (Gen. 1:31).

The last Adam, however, became a life-giving spirit. The last Adam is Jesus Christ. Through Adam we have inherited our natural bodies; through Christ we will inherit spiritual bodies in the resurrection.

Adam’s was the prototype of our natural bodies, whereas Christ’s was the prototype of our spiritual bodies. Christ’s resurrection, therefore, was the prototype of all subsequent resurrection.

In verse 46 Paul points out the obvious: However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. Every human being, starting with Adam and including Christ, has begun human life in a natural, physical body. The body that was raised from the dead on Easter morning had been a natural body, the incarnate body in which Christ was born and in which He lived and died. In the resurrection it was a spiritual, eternal body.

Adam, the first man, from whom came the natural race, originated on the earth, in fact was created directly from the earth (Gen. 2:7). Jesus, as the second man, existed eternally before He became a man. He lived on earth in a natural body, but He came from heaven. Adam was tied to earth; Christ was tied to heaven.

And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Just as we will exchange Adam’s natural body for Christ’s spiritual body, we will also exchange Adam’s image for Christ’s.

We cannot imagine exactly what that will be like. Even our present spiritual eyes cannot envision our future spiritual bodies. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). We will not see our own resurrected bodies, or even have our own resurrected bodies, until we first see Christ’s.

The coming resurrection is the hope and motivation of the church and of all believers. Whatever happens to our present bodies—whether they are healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, short-lived or long-lived, or whether they are indulged or tortured—they are not our permanent bodies, and we should not hold them too dearly. Our blessed hope and assurance is that these created natural bodies one day will be recreated as spiritual bodies. Although we have only a glimpse of what those new bodies will be like, it should be enough to know that “we shall be like Him.”

VICTORY OVER DEATH

In concluding, Paul proclaims the marvellous victory that resurrection will bring for those who are Christ’s. Praising God in anticipation of resurrection, the apostle proclaims the great transformation, the great triumph, and the great thanksgiving that the raising of God’s saints will bring, and then gives a great exhortation for holy living until that day comes.

“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Cor. 15:54-56)

Christ’s resurrection broke the power of death for those who believe in Him, and death is no longer master over them because “death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:9). But death is still the enemy of man. Even for Christians it violates our dominion of God’s creation, it breaks love relationships, it disrupts families, and causes great grief in the loss of those dear to us. We no longer need fear death, but it still invades and torments us while we are mortal.

But one day, when Christ returns, the perishable that “must put on the imperishable” (v. 53) will have put on the imperishable, and the mortal that “must put on immortality” will have put on immortality. Then will come the great triumph that Isaiah predicted, when death is swallowed up in victory. The Isaiah text reads, “He [the Lord of Hosts] will swallow up death for all time” (Isa. 25:8; cf. v. 6). When the great transformation comes, the great victory will come.

Quoting another prophet (Hos. 13:14), Paul taunts death: O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? To continue with that metaphor, Paul implies that death left its sting in Christ, as a bee leaves its stinger in its victim. Christ bore the whole of death’s sting in order that we would have to bear none of it.

To make his point, the apostle reminds his readers that the sting of death is sin. The harm in death is caused by sin; in fact, death itself is caused by sin.

Only where there is sin can death deal a fatal blow Where sin has been removed death can only interrupt the earthly life and usher in the heavenly. That is what Christ has done for those who trust in Him. Our “sins are forgiven for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). Death is not gone, but its sting, sin, is gone. “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

It is not, of course, that Christians no longer sin, but that the sins we commit are already covered by Christ’s atoning death, so that sin’s effect is not permanently fatal. “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). But for those who do not believe, death’s sting tragically remains forever.

Paul continues to explain the sequence leading to death by mentioning that the power of sin is the law. God’s law reveals God’s standards, and when they are broken they reveal man’s sin. If there were no law, obviously there could be no transgression. “Where there is no law neither is there violation” (Rom. 4:15).

But men die because they break that law What about those who do not know God’s law, who have never even heard of, much less read, His Word? Paul tells us in Romans that when “Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (2:14-15). Anyone, therefore, who goes against his conscience goes against God’s law just as surely as anyone who knowingly breaks one of the Ten Commandments. That is the reason men are doomed to die (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).

(Main Source: John MacArthur – New Testament Commentary – 1 Thessalonians)

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THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE THESSALONIANS

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(NOTE: THIS IS QUITE A LENGTHY STUDY OF APPROXIMATELY 16 PAGES. A DOWNLOADABLE PDF COPY CAN BE FOUND AT THE END OF THE STUDY FOR OF THOSE WHO WANT TO USE IT FOR FUTURE REFERENCE)

BACKGROUND

Thessalonica, modern Thessaloniki, was the largest and most important city in the Roman province of Macedonia, the second most important city in the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople and a thriving seaport.

The Jewish presence in Thessalonica was significant and influential (cf. Acts 17:1, 5–9). As they jealously watched Paul’s success at winning Gentiles to Christ, the Jews’ smoldering resentment burst into flame. The threat to Thessalonica’s status as a free city was significant; if they failed to maintain order, the Romans would intervene.

Paul was deeply concerned about them. To Paul’s immense relief and joy, Timothy brought an encouraging report about the situation in Thessalonica when he met Paul at Corinth. (Acts 18:5) But though Timothy’s report was on the whole encouraging, there were some issues at Thessalonica that concerned Paul. Because the persecution that drove the missionaries out of Thessalonica had not abated, the church needed encouragement to stand firm (1:2–10; 2:13–16). He was also concerned that the new converts not slip back into the pagan immorality so prevalent in their culture (4:1–8).

The apostle Paul also was concerned about the Thessalonians’ reputation with those outside the church; therefore, he encouraged them to continue to love each other fervently and to work diligently (4:9–12). The first letter also corrects a wrong understanding about the end times (4:13–5:11), and instructs the Thessalonian congregation in the basics of Christian living (5:12–22).

Paul had instructed the Thessalonians about the end times while he was with them (2 Thess. 2:5) as well as in his first letter to them. Yet they were still confused, fearing they had missed the Rapture and were in the Day of the Lord. Though the severity of the persecution they were undergoing contributed to that mistaken belief, the main reason for their confusion came from some false teachers who taught that the Day of the Lord had arrived.

In his second inspired letter, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to stand firm and remain faithful to the Lord despite their suffering and reassure them that the Day of the Lord had not arrived.

THE THESSALONIANS ANTICIPATED THE RETURN OF CHRIST

just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thes. 2:11-12)

Paul stated the singular end of their and our call—entrance into His own kingdom and glory. Though they, as all believers, had not yet seen either the millennial kingdom or the eternal kingdom, they were already citizens of the redeemed kingdom over which God now rules (Luke 17:21; Col. 1:13; cf. Rom. 14:17). Thus, they had a present share in the glory of God as well as a promise of the future glory in the kingdom yet to come. All true believers look forward to sharing in the full glory of the heavenly kingdom when God raises them to be like Christ and with Him for eternity (Ps. 73:24; Prov. 3:35; Rom. 9:23; 1 Cor. 15:43; Phil. 3:20–21; Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Peter 5:10; cf. Matt. 5:12; John 14:2; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; Heb. 4:9; 11:16; 1 Peter 1:3–4; Rev. 7:16–17).

“They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thes. 1:9b-10)

The church in Thessalonica waited for His Son from heaven … that is Jesus. Those who love Christ long for and anticipate His return. The apostles displayed such a desire when they saw Jesus’ ascension:

“He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9–11)

Paul unquestionably affirmed that the One who once ascended to heaven is also the One who believers wait for, the One whom He [God] raised from the dead, that is Jesus. The reference to the Resurrection establishes the ground for the return of Jesus Christ. God raised Him from the dead because He was pleased with His sacrifice for sin and because He wanted to exalt Him to the heavenly throne from which He will return to exercise His sovereign right to rule as King of Kings (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10–12; 5:30–32; 13:33–35; 17:31; cf. Rom. 1:3–4; 2 Cor. 13:4; Eph. 1:19–23). The word for wait is used only here in the New Testament and refers to expectant waiting—sustained, patient, trusting waiting.

Waiting is a recurring theme in the Thessalonian letters (1 Thess. 2:17, 19; 3:13; 4:15–17; 5:8, 23; 2 Thess. 3:6–12).

The true believer eagerly looks forward to Christ’s return because he knows it brings to fulfillment and satisfaction God’s eternal purpose, which is, as Paul stated it, to rescue us from the wrath to come. Rescues denotes the deliverance the Lord provides. He is the Rescuer, Deliverer, and Savior of those otherwise headed for divine judgment and eternal punishment. In the ancient world, the idea of divine wrath was accepted, but there was no genuine hope of rescue from it. By contrast, in the postmodern world the idea of divine wrath is rejected, so the Rescuer is not needed or heeded.

Orgē (wrath) describes God’s settled opposition to and displeasure with sin. In this context the wrath is God’s eternal judgment against sin. Some believe the wrath to come only refers to the Great Tribulation, and see this rescue as the promise of the pretribulation Rapture, expounded upon later in this epistle. But the immediate context of Paul’s discussion in 1 Thessalonians goes further and mainly refers to election and salvation rather than eschatology.

“and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” (1 Thes. 3:13)

The final objective of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was that they might look to their glorification, which produces a purifying hope. The only way the Thessalonians would actually live in such hope was for God to establish their hearts without blame in holiness before (literally, “in the presence of”) Him. Paul wanted them to be pure at heart, so as to desire the coming (parousia, “presence”) of the Lord Jesus.

The apostle knew that the promise of Christ’s return to Rapture and reward the church is the essence of believers’ purifying hope. He explains the event in 4:13–18 as the hope that produces comfort and serves as motivation to holy living.

THE BLESSED HOPE – THE RAPTURE

Of all the end-time events, the Rapture of the church seems to generate the most interest and discussion. The young church at Thessalonica also had questions about that event, so Paul addressed their concerns in this passage. But unlike most modern-day treatises on the subject, Paul’s concern was not just doctrinal, but pastoral. His intent was not to give a detailed description of the Rapture, but to comfort the Thessalonians. The intent of the other two passages in the New Testament that discuss the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–58) is also to provide comfort and encouragement for believers, not to fuel their prophetic speculations.

When Paul penned this epistle, the Thessalonians had been in Christ only for a few months. The apostle had taught them about end-time events, such as Christ’s return to gather believers to Himself (e.g., 1:9–10; 2:19; 3:13). They also knew about the Day of the Lord (5:1–3), a time of coming judgment on the ungodly.

But some issues about the details of their gathering to Christ troubled them. First, they seem to have been afraid that they had missed the Rapture, since the persecution they were suffering (3:3–4) caused some to fear they were in the Day of the Lord, which they obviously had not expected to experience (2 Thess. 2:1–2). Furthering that misconception were some false teachers, about whom Paul warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, “[Do] not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” But the persecution they were experiencing was not that associated with the Tribulation or the Day of the Lord.

The Thessalonians’ fears that they were in the Day of the Lord and thus had missed the Rapture imply that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation. If the Thessalonians knew that the Rapture came at the end of the Tribulation, persecution would not have caused them to fear they had missed it.

But of gravest concern to the Thessalonians were those of their number who had died. Would they receive their resurrection bodies at the Rapture, or would they have to wait until after the Tribulation? Would they miss the Rapture altogether? Would they therefore be second-class citizens in heaven? Were their deaths chastisement for their sins (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30)?

Paul wrote this section of his epistle to alleviate the Thessalonians’ grief and confusion. He was concerned that they not … be uninformed … about those who are asleep and thus grieve as do the rest who have no hope. Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.

The Thessalonians’ ignorance about the Rapture caused them to grieve. It was to give them hope and to comfort them that Paul discussed that momentous event, giving a fourfold description of it: its pillars, participants, plan, and profit.

THE PILLARS OF THE RAPTURE

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,” (1 Thes. 4:14–15a)

The marvellous truth that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to gather believers to Himself is based on three unshakeable pillars: the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the revelation of Christ.

THE DEATH OF CHRIST

For if we believe that Jesus died (4:14a)

Paul’s simple statement summarizes all the richness of Christ’s atoning work, which provides the necessary foundation for the gathering of the church. His death satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness, holiness, and justice by paying in full the penalty for believers’ sins. Christians have been made acceptable to God and thus fit to be gathered into His presence.

When believers die, their spirit goes immediately into conscious fellowship with the Lord, while their bodies temporarily sleep in the grave, awaiting the Rapture.

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (4:14b)

The resurrection of Christ indicates that the Father accepted His sacrifice, enabling Him to “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Christ’s resurrection proves that He conquered sin and death, and became the source of resurrection life for every Christian. God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them.

The phrase even so links believers’ resurrections inextricably to the resurrection of Christ. In John 14:19 Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” In the most detailed passage on the resurrection in Scripture, Paul wrote that “Christ [is] the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). Earlier in that same epistle, he stated plainly, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Cor. 6:14).

To further assuage their fears, Paul reassured believers that God will bring with Him [Jesus] those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Their fellow believers who died will not miss out on the Rapture but will return with Christ in glory. God will bring the spirits of dead believers will come from heaven with Christ to meet their resurrected bodies.

By demonstrating God’s acceptance of His atoning sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ buttresses the first pillar on which the Rapture is based, the death of Christ.

THE REVELATION OF CHRIST

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, (4:15a)

Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was not his own speculation but direct revelation from God. The phrase this we say to you by the word of the Lord has the authoritative tone of an inspired writer revealing what God has disclosed to him. Some argue that the word of the Lord was something Jesus said while He was here on earth. But there are no close parallels to the present passage in any of the Gospels. Nor is there any specific teaching in the Gospels to which Paul could be alluding.

Although the Lord talked in the Gospels about a trumpet and the gathering of the elect, the differences between those passages and the present one outweigh the similarities, as Robert L. Thomas notes: Similarities between this passage in 1 Thessalonians and the gospel accounts include a trumpet (Matt. 24:31), a resurrection (John 11:25, 26), and a gathering of the elect (Matt. 24:31)…. Yet dissimilarities between it and the canonical sayings of Christ far outweigh the resemblances…. Some of the differences between Matthew 24:30, 31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 are as follows: (1) In Matthew the Son of Man is coming on the clouds, … in 1 Thessalonians ascending believers are in them. (2) In the former the angels gather, in the latter the Son does so personally. (3) In the former nothing is said about resurrection, while in the latter this is the main theme. (4) Matthew records nothing about the order of ascent, which is the principal lesson in Thessalonians. (“1, 2 Thessalonians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 276–77)

Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul referred to the Rapture as a mystery; that is, a truth formerly hidden but now revealed. That indicates that Jesus did not disclose the details of the Rapture during His earthly ministry. (He referred to the Rapture in John 14:1–3 in a general, nonspecific sense.) Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was new revelation, possibly given by God through a prophet (such as Agabus; Acts 21:11) but more likely directly to Paul himself.

The Rapture, then, does not rest on the shaky foundation of whimsical theological speculation, but on the sure foundation of the death, resurrection, and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE PATRICIPANTS

we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (4:15b)

Two groups of people will participate in the Rapture: those who are alive at the coming of the Lord and those who have fallen asleep. That Paul used the plural pronoun we indicates that he believed the Rapture could happen in his lifetime. He had a proper anticipation of and expectation for the Lord’s return, though unlike many throughout church history, the apostle did not predict a specific time for it. He accepted Christ’s words in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

Several other passages express Paul’s fervent hope and expectation that he himself might be among those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. In Romans 13:11 he wrote, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” The salvation of which he wrote was the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) that takes place when Christ returns. “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51–52). As he concluded that letter Paul wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). Maranatha comes from two Aramaic words that mean “Oh Lord, come!” and expresses Paul’s strong hope that the Lord would return soon.

THE STEPS OF THE RAPTURE

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 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. (4:16–17)

Having reassured the Thessalonians that their departed loved ones will not miss out on the Rapture, Paul gave a step-by-step description of that event.

First, the Lord Himself will return for His church. He will not send angels for it, in contrast to the gathering of the elect (tribulation saints) that takes place at the Second Coming (Mark 13:26–27).

Second, Jesus will descend from heaven, where He has been since His ascension (Acts 1:9–11), “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

Third, when Jesus comes down from heaven, He will do so with a shout. Keleusma (command) has a military ring to it, as if the Commander is calling His troops to fall in. The dead saints in their resurrected bodies will join the raptured living believers in the ranks. The Lord’s shout of command will be similar to His raising of Lazarus, when “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” (John 11:43). This is the hour “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). The righteous dead of the church age will be the first to rise—a truth that must have greatly comforted the anxious Thessalonians.

Fourth, the voice of the archangel will sound. There is no definite article in the Greek text, which literally reads, “an archangel.” In Jude 9, the only other passage in Scripture that mentions an archangel, the archangel is Michael. He adds his voice to the Lord’s shout of command.

Fifth, to the Lord’s command and the archangel’s voice will be added the sounding of the trumpet of God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). Trumpets were used in Scripture for many reasons. The trumpet at the Rapture has no connection to the trumpets of judgment in Revelation 8–11. It seems to have a twofold purpose: to assemble God’s people (cf. Ex. 19:16–19) and to signal His deliverance of them (cf. Zech. 1:16; 9:14–16).

Sixth, the dead in Christ will rise first. As noted above, the dead saints will in no way be inferior to those alive at the Rapture. In fact, they will rise first, their glorified bodies joining with their glorified spirits to make them into the image of Christ.

Finally, those believers who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Harpazō (caught up) refers to a strong, irresistible, even violent act. In Matthew 11:12 it describes the taking of the kingdom of heaven by force. In Acts 8:39 it speaks of Philip’s being snatched away from the Ethiopian eunuch; and in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 it describes Paul’s being caught up into the third heaven.

It is when living believers are caught up that they are transformed and receive their glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” believers “will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52), rescued from the grasp of Satan, the fallen flesh, the evil world system, and the coming wrath of God.

A CASE FOR A PRETRIBULATION RAPTURE – TIMING OF THE RAPTURE

The time of the Rapture cannot be discerned from this passage alone. But when it is read with other Rapture texts (John 14:3; Rev. 3:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51–52; Phil. 3:2–21), and compared to judgment texts (Matt. 13:34–50; 24:29–44; Rev. 19:11–21), it is clear that there is no mention of judgment at all in the Rapture passages, whereas the others are major on judgment. It is therefore necessary to conclude that the Rapture occurs at a time other than the judgment.

It is best, then, to separate the two events. That initiates the case for the Rapture to occur imminently, before the elements of judgment described in Scripture as leading up to the Second Coming in judgment.

Again, no solitary text of Scripture makes the entire case for the pretribulation Rapture. However, when one considers all the New Testament evidence, a very compelling case for the pretribulational position emerges, which answers more questions and solves more problems than any other Rapture position. The following arguments present a strong case in favor of the pretribulation Rapture.

First, the earthly kingdom of Christ promised in Revelation 6–18 does not mention the church as being on earth. Because Revelation 1–3 uses the Greek word for church nineteen times, one would reasonably assume that if the church were on earth rather than in heaven in chapters 6–18, they would use “church” with similar frequency, but such is not the case. Therefore, one can assume that the church is not present on the earth during the period of tribulation described in Revelation 6–18 and that therefore the Lord has removed it from the earth and relocated it to heaven by means of the Rapture.

Second, Revelation 19 does not mention a Rapture even though that is where a posttribulational Rapture (if true) would logically occur. Thus, one can conclude that the Rapture will have already occurred.

Third, a posttribulational Rapture renders the Rapture concept itself inconsequential. If God preserves the church during the Tribulation, as posttribulationists assert, then why have a Rapture at all? It makes no sense to Rapture believers from earth to heaven for no apparent purpose other than to return them immediately with Christ to earth. Further, a posttribulational Rapture makes the unique separation of the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers) at the return of Christ in judgment redundant because a posttribulational Rapture would have already accomplished that.

Fourth, if God raptures and glorifies all believers just prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom (as a posttribulational Rapture demands), no one would be left to populate and propagate the earthly kingdom of Christ promised to Israel. It is not within the Lord’s plan and purpose to use glorified individuals to propagate the earth during the Millennium. Therefore, the Rapture needs to occur earlier so that after God has raptured all believers, He can save more souls —including Israel’s remnant—during the seven-year Tribulation. Those people can then enter the millennial kingdom in earthly form. The most reasonable possibility for this scenario is the pretribulational Rapture.

Fifth, the New Testament does not warn of an impending tribulation, such as is experienced during Daniel’s seventieth week, for church-age believers. It does warn of error and false prophets (Acts 20:29–30; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1–3), against ungodly living (Eph. 4:25–5:7; 1 Thess. 4:3–8; Heb. 12:1), and of present tribulation (1 Thess. 2:14–16; 2 Thess. 1:4; all of 2 Peter). Thus it is incongruous that the New Testament would be silent concerning such a traumatic change as Daniel’s seventieth week if posttribulationism were true.

Sixth, Paul’s instructions here to the Thessalonians demand a pretribulational Rapture because, if Paul were teaching them posttribulationism, one would expect them to rejoice that loved ones were home with the Lord and spared the horrors of the Tribulation. But, in actuality, the Thessalonians grieved. In addition, with a posttribulational teaching one would expect them to sorrow over their own impending trial and inquire about their future doom; however, they expressed no such dread or questioning. Further, one might expect Paul to instruct and exhort them concerning such a supreme test as the Tribulation, but Paul wrote only about the hope of the Rapture.

Seventh, the sequence of events at Christ’s coming following the Tribulation demands a pretribulational Rapture. A comparing and contrasting of Rapture passages with Second Coming passages yields strong indicators that the Rapture could not be posttribulational. For example: (a) at the Rapture, Christ gathers His own (vv. 16–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, angels gather the elect (Matt. 24:31); (b) at the Rapture, resurrection is prominent (vv. 15–16 of the present passage), but regarding the Second Coming, Scripture does not mention the resurrection; (c) at the Rapture, Christ comes to reward believers (v. 17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, Christ comes to judge the earth (Matt. 25:31–46); (d) at the Rapture, the Lord snatches away true believers from the earth (vv. 15–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, He takes away unbelievers (Matt. 24:37–41); (e) at the Rapture, unbelievers remain on the earth, whereas at the Second Coming, believers remain on the earth; (f) concerning the Rapture, Scripture does not mention the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, but at His second coming, Christ sets up His kingdom; and (g) at the Rapture, believers will receive glorified bodies, whereas at the Second Coming, no one will receive glorified bodies.

Eighth, certain of Jesus’ teachings demand a pretribulational Rapture. For instance, the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24–30) portrays the reapers (angels) removing the tares (unbelievers) from among the wheat (believers) in order to judge the tares, which demonstrates that at the Second Coming, the Lord has unbelievers removed from among believers. However, at the Rapture, He takes believers from among unbelievers. This is also true in the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47–50) and in the discussion of the days of Noah and the description of the nations’ judgment, both in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25).

Ninth, Revelation 3:10 teaches that the Lord will remove the church prior to the Tribulation. In the Greek, the phrase “I also will keep you from” can mean nothing other than “I will prevent you from entering into.” Jesus Christ will honor the church by preventing it from entering the hour of testing, namely Daniel’s seventieth week, which is about to come upon the entire world. Only a pretribulational Rapture can explain how this will happen.

Thus, the Rapture (being caught up) must be pretribulational, before the wrath of God described in the Tribulation (Rev. 6–19). At the Rapture, living believers will be caught up together with the believers raised from the dead as the church triumphant joins the church militant to become the church glorified.

The final step in the plan of the Rapture is the blessed, comforting truth that after Christ returns to gather us (believers) to Himself, we shall always be with the Lord.

THE PROFIT OF THE RAPTURE

Therefore comfort one another with these words. (4:18)

The benefit of understanding the Rapture is not to fill the gaps in one’s eschatological scheme. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, Paul’s goal in teaching the Thessalonians about the Rapture was to comfort them. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) grants to all believers the encouraging comfort of knowing that Christ will one day return for them. At that monumental event, the dead in Christ will be raised, join with the living saints in experiencing a complete transformation of body and soul, and be with God forever. Therefore, there was no need for the Thessalonians to grieve or sorrow over their fellow believers who had died. No wonder Paul calls the return of Christ “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

THE ANTICHRIST REVEALED AFTER THE RAPTURE

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” (2 Thes. 2:1–2)

This final Antichrist, as Scripture depicts him, has yet to appear on the world’s stage. And since he must appear before the Day of the Lord begins, the Thessalonians’ fears that they were already in that terrible time of judgment were groundless. Based on that truth, Paul made an urgent request of them to properly comprehend the events surrounding the Second Coming.

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thes. 2:3–5)

Out of all the precursors of the Day of the Lord (e.g., Joel 2:31; 3:14; Mal. 4:5), Paul singled out the apostasy. He was not, of course, setting a posttribulational date for the Rapture. His point was merely that the apostasy will precede the Day of the Lord and since it has not yet taken place at the time he wrote to them, the Day of the Lord could not have arrived.

The basic meaning of apostasia (apostasy) is “revolt,” or “rebellion.” The word marks a deliberate defection from a formerly held religious position. Paul was not referring here to apostasy (defection from the gospel truth) in the general sense. There have always been apostate churches, like that at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14–22), as well as apostate individuals (Heb. 10:25–31; 2 Peter 2:20–22). Such generalized apostasy, because it is always present, cannot signify a particular time period.

Apostasy will reach its peak in the end times: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these…. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:1–5, 13; cf. 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Peter 3:3–4; Jude 17–18)

Nor does Paul have in mind the apostasy during the Tribulation, of which Jesus warned in Matt.  24:11–12, 24. The apostasy will be a blasphemous act of unprecedented magnitude. The apostle identified the apostasy by naming the key character connected with it: the man of lawlessness. Understanding who that key person is, is a prerequisite to identifying the apostasy event. Anomia (lawlessness) literally means “without law” (cf. 1 John 3:4). Even in the end times, when “lawlessness is increased” (Matt. 24:12), this Satan-energized leader will stand out as the one whose depraved, wicked, lawless leadership sweeps over the whole world—with influence never before seen.

The aorist tense of the verb translated revealed points to a definite time when this man will appear. It implies that he was previously present and known, but his act of apostasy will unveil his true evil identity.

The title man of lawlessness has been identified with many different individuals, including Antiochus Epiphanes, Caligula, Nero, and in the last century, Hitler, Stalin, and others. But the close association of the man of lawlessness with the Day of the Lord rules out historical persons; otherwise, the Day of the Lord might have come centuries ago. The man of lawlessness cannot be Satan, for he is distinguished from the devil in verse 9. Nor can this be a reference to a principle of evil, for the text specifically identifies him as a man. He can be none other than the final Antichrist.

The Antichrist will exalt himself by taking his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. The temple, the symbol of God’s presence, is the most fitting place for Satan to orchestrate the ultimate act of blasphemy—a wicked man displaying himself as being God. This apostasy, to which Paul refers here and which Jesus called the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15), referring to Daniel’s prophecy, will take place at the midpoint of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27). Then, there is coming a satanic false religion that will dominate the world like no other in history (cf. Rev. 17).

“And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, (2 Thes. 2:6–10a)

As the phrase and you know indicates, the Thessalonians understood what force currently restrains the Antichrist because Paul had told them when he was with them. Therefore, he did not repeat it here—a fact that has led to endless speculation as to what it is. The Greek verb translated restrains (katechō; “to hold back,” “to hold down,” “to suppress”) appears in this text as a neuter participle, prompting commentators to suggest numerous options as to the identity of that restraining force. But basically none of those opinions is satisfactory. The most significant problem with all of them is that they are human forces.

The most logical of those choices, the church, has never been able to restrain even human evil. It may do so to some extent in the lives of its members, but the outside world continues to grow worse and worse—a situation that will especially characterize the end times (2 Tim. 3:13). If no human or angelic power restrains, that leaves only the power of God to hold back the purpose of Satan for his Antichrist.

Though the Antichrist may be restrained, evil will not be; in fact, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Mustērion (mystery) describes something “which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Rom. 16:25) and is incapable of being known unless revealed by God. The true character of lawlessness is already at work (cf. 1 John 3:4); and “even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18; cf. 4:3). Evil, lies, hypocrisy, immorality, and false religion permeate the world and grow increasingly worse, so that every generation is more wicked than those before (2 Tim. 3:13), but sin’s ultimate manifestation is yet to come. When the restraint is removed and the Antichrist appears, the true character of evil will be manifested. It should be noted that not only will the man of lawlessness be revealed, but God will also release demons from being bound in hell to inundate the earth (Rev. 9:1–19).

The change in gender from the neuter participle translated “what restrains” in verse 6 to the masculine participle rendered he who … restrains is significant. The sovereign, divine force that currently restrains the Antichrist is exerted by a person—the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13 where Jesus used a masculine pronoun with the neuter noun translated “Spirit”). Only He has the supernatural power to hold Satan in check.

He will continue His restraining work until the midpoint of the Tribulation. The removal of the Holy Spirit’s restraint therefore cannot be identified with the Rapture of the church, since that event takes place three and a half years earlier, before the Tribulation. Remember that the Holy Spirit needs to be present during the first half when the Gospel is preached by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the two witnesses and the flying angel.

The phrase taken out of the way must therefore not be interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the world. That is impossible, since He is omnipresent. Nor could anyone be saved during the Tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:14) apart from His regenerating work (John 3:3–8; Titus 3:5). The phrase refers not to the removal of the Holy Spirit from the world, but rather to the cessation of His restraining work.

The Antichrist’s power and signs and false wonders will not only be deceptive tricks, like falsifying his own death and resurrection (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14; 17:8, 11), but also actual manifestations of Satan’s supernatural power. They will cause people to believe the lie that he is a divine being and worship him. John saw that the Antichrist’s deluded followers “worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’” (Rev. 13:4; cf. vv. 12–15). Antichrist will mislead the world with all the deception … wickedness has at its disposal.

The Antichrist’s malevolent, deceptive, deadly influence will extend to all those who perish. Only God’s elect will not be taken in (Matt. 24:24). The unregenerate, being children of the arch-liar Satan (John 8:44), will inevitably fall for the lies of his emissary (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–4). Through him, Satan will deceive the whole world (Rev. 12:9); all those who “[receive] the mark of the beast and those who [worship] his image” (Rev. 19:20; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4).

“because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2 Thes. 2:10b–12)

The phrase the love of the truth appears only here in the New Testament, and adds a compelling thought to Paul’s argument. The unregenerate are eternally lost, not because they did not hear or understand the truth, but because they did not love it. The truth includes both “the word of truth, the gospel” (Col. 1:5), and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; Eph. 4:21).

The terrifying reality is that God will seal the fate of those who hate the gospel by sending upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. He will sentence unbelievers to accept evil as if it were good and lies as if they were the truth. Those who continually choose falsehood will be inextricably caught by it.

God will use Satan as an instrument of His judgment, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. Satan will, through Antichrist and the false prophet, delude the world into believing the lie that Antichrist is God. Unbelievers will be confirmed in that belief because they will choose not to love the truth, but rather to take pleasure in wickedness.

THE COMING OF THE DAY OF THE LORD

“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” (1 Thes. 5:1–3)

After the world experienced the terror of two world wars, the horror of the Holocaust, the brutality of the Korean conflict, the hopeless futility of the war in Vietnam, as well as innumerable revolutions, riots, assassinations, and acts of terrorism, a crucial question is, Where (if anywhere) is history going?

The Bible reveals history to be the outworking of the purposeful plan of the sovereign, creator God. Job confessed, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (Isa. 46:10), and “I act and who can reverse it?” (Isa. 43:13). Jesus Christ is the central figure in history; the Old Testament points to His coming, and the New Testament describes and expounds His life, death, resurrection, and second coming.

As history continues to unfold the eternally planned purposes of God, one event looms large on the horizon: the Day of the Lord. That event will mark the end of man’s day, as God acts in judgment to take back direct control of the earth from the usurpers (both human and demonic) who presently rule it. It will be an unprecedented time of cataclysmic judgment on all unrepentant sinners.

Most preachers strive to be positive, affirming, and comforting, and hence rarely preach on God’s wrath, vengeance, and judgment. But to ignore such truth is to “shrink from declaring … the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). It is to forsake the preacher’s responsibility to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Scripture repeatedly warns of God’s judgment and the eternal punishment of unbelievers. Judgment was a major emphasis of both the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. But the one who spoke most often about judgment was the Lord Jesus Christ. All true preachers must follow His example, as did Paul (cf. 1:10; 2:16; 4:6; 5:9; 2 Thess. 1:5–9).

Paul had preached the sobering truth about the Day of the Lord to the Thessalonians during his relatively brief stay in their city (2 Thess. 2:5). After he left, questions arose in their minds about both the Rapture and the Day of the Lord. Timothy likely conveyed those concerns to Paul when he returned from his trip to Thessalonica (3:2, 6). Having answered their questions about the Rapture in the previous passage (4:13–18), Paul now dealt with the Thessalonians’ concerns about the Day of the Lord. From the blessed event of the catching away of the church, Paul turned to the horrible event that follows it —the destruction of the wicked rejecters of the Lord Jesus Christ. As it was in dealing with the Rapture, Paul’s purpose in writing this section on the Day of the Lord was not primarily theological and eschatological but pastoral and practical.

The phrase the times (chronos) and the epochs (kairos) refers in a general sense to the end times (cf. Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7). Though the two words may be used here in an overlapping sense, there is a subtle difference in meaning between them. Chronos refers to chronological time, to clock time or calendar time. Kairos, on the other hand, views time in terms of events, eras, or seasons, such as the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). Taken together, the two terms suggest that the Thessalonians were curious about the timing of the end-time events. That both nouns are plural indicates that many different time periods (cf. Dan. 7:25; 9:24–27; 12:7, 11, 12; Rev. 11:2–3; 13:5) and events (e.g., the Rapture, the rise of Antichrist, the salvation of Israel, the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments, the Second Coming, the battle of Armageddon, the sheep and goat judgment, the binding of Satan, the millennial kingdom, the loosing of Satan and subsequent worldwide rebellion at the end of the Millennium, the Great White Throne judgment, and the new heavens and the new earth) make up the end times.

As Paul replied to the Thessalonians’ questions about the Day of the Lord, Paul discussed three aspects of that momentous event: its coming, character, and completeness.

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” (5:2–3a)

What the Thessalonians already knew full well was that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night—suddenly, unexpectedly, unwelcomed, and harmfully. It will be a terrifying shock to those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Akribōs (full well) describes careful, accurate, painstaking research (cf. Matt. 2:8; Luke 1:3; Acts 18:25). The Thessalonians knew for certain that the Day of the Lord will arrive unexpectedly. Obviously, then, the time of its arrival will not be revealed; no sane thief announces in advance what time of the night he plans to rob someone.

In the Olivet Discourse—Jesus’ own sermon on His second coming—He also used the imagery of a thief in the night to refer to the unexpectedness of His return:

“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matt. 24:43; cf. Rev. 16:15). Like the Day of the Lord, the exact time of the Second Coming will not be revealed, though there will be signs that Christ’s return is imminent (Matt. 24:4–33). Jesus put every generation on notice that they must live in expectation of His return and the events of the Day of the Lord that lead up to it.

The metaphor of a thief coming is never used to refer to the Rapture of the church. It describes the coming of the Lord in judgment at the end of the seven year Tribulation period, and the judgment at the end of the thousand-year kingdom of Christ on earth (2 Peter 3:10). A thief coming is not a hopeful, joyful event of deliverance, but an unexpected calamity.

The important biblical term the day of the Lord describes God’s cataclysmic future judgment on the wicked. It is mentioned explicitly nineteen times in the Old Testament (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18 [2 times], 20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:7, 14 [2 times]; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5) and four times in the New Testament (cf. Acts 2:20; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10), and is alluded to in other passages (cf. Rev. 6:17; 16:14). It will be the time when God pours out His fury on the wicked; in fact, Scripture three times calls the Day of the Lord the “day of vengeance” (Isa. 34:8; 61:2; 63:4).

The Day of the Lord must be distinguished from the “day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10; 2:16), the “day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6), the “day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5), and the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8); all of those terms refer to the time when believers will receive their rewards from the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:11–14; 4:1–5; 2 Cor. 5:9–10). The Day of the Lord must also be distinguished from the “day of God” (2 Peter 3:12), which refers to the eternal state.

The Old Testament passages dealing with the Day of the Lord often convey a sense of imminence, nearness, and expectation: “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!” (Isa. 13:6); “For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near” (Ezek. 30:3); “For the day of the Lord is near” (Joel 1:15); “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near” (Joel 2:1);

“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14); “For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations” (Obad. 15); “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near” (Zeph. 1:7); “Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly” (Zeph. 1:14).

The Old Testament prophets envisioned historical days of the Lord that would preview the final, eschatological Day of the Lord. God often used providentially controlled circumstances, such as using one nation to destroy another, or natural disasters, as instruments of His judgment. But those historical days of the Lord were merely a prelude to the final eschatological Day of the Lord, which will be far greater in extent and more terrible in its destruction. The Old Testament Day of the Lord passages often have both a near and a far fulfillment, as does much Old Testament prophecy.

The Day of the Lord will not come until “the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:3–4). The rise of Antichrist and his desecration of the temple (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matt. 24:15) will precede the coming of the Day of the Lord.

Unbelievably, incomprehensibly, despite these obvious, unmistakable signs, most people will still be caught by surprise when the Day of the Lord comes.

The terrible outpouring of God’s wrath in judgment will happen while they are saying, “Peace and safety!” The only explanation for such a ludicrous, absurd response is that people will be deceived by false prophets. God declared of the false prophets who plagued Israel: “It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, …. And you will know that I am the Lord. Thus I will spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone, along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’” declares the Lord God. (Ezek. 13:10–16)

Unbelievers’ susceptibility to the false prophets’ deception is a sign of God’s judgment on them. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10–12 Paul wrote that those deceived by the Antichrist will “perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” As a result, the sudden, unexpected coming of the Day of the Lord will sweep them away in judgment.

THE CHARACTER OF THE DAY OF THE LORD

then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, (5:3b)

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Paul reminded the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord (v. 2) “will not come unless the apostasy comes first.” That apostasy will include a worldwide system of false religion.

Olethros (destruction) does not refer to annihilation, but separation from God (cf. 2 Thess. 1:9). It does not mean the destruction of being, but of well-being (cf. 1 Tim. 6:9); not the end of existence, but the destruction of the purpose for existence. God will accomplish the destruction of unbelievers by casting them into the eternal torment of hell (2 Thess. 1:9).

Acts 2:19–20 describes the Day of the Lord as a time of “wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.”

By using the term them (a reference to unbelievers), Paul reassured the Thessalonians that they will not face destruction. As he states plainly in verse 4, the Thessalonians will not experience the Day of the Lord; they will be raptured before it begins. As noted earlier, the Day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly on unbelievers. They will fail to heed the many precursors that should have warned them of its imminent arrival, just as labor pains coming upon a woman with child warn her that the birth of her child is imminent.

and they will not escape. (5:3c)

The tragic result of unbelievers’ unpreparedness for the Day of the Lord is that they will not escape divine judgment. The use of the double negative ou mē stresses the comprehensiveness of the Day of the Lord, which will bring destruction on every unbeliever alive when it comes. In the sobering, pensive words of the writer of Hebrews, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

Believers should be comforted by the reality that they will be raptured before the coming of the Day of the Lord and not experience its horrors.

THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF BELIEVERS’ NATURE

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; (5:4–5)

The phrase but you introduces a contrast with verse 3, where Paul used the pronouns “they” and “them” to refer to unbelievers who will not escape the Day of the Lord. The familial term brethren further emphasizes Paul’s point. As God’s children, the Thessalonians would not experience the Day of the Lord, because unlike unbelievers, believers are not in darkness; they possess an entirely different nature. They do not belong to the night; they are not part of Satan’s evil kingdom.

Because their nature is distinct from unbelievers, believers need not fear that the day would  overtake them like a thief. The Day of the Lord is a “day of darkness” (Joel 2:2; Zeph. 1:15); “the day of the Lord … will be darkness and not light…. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light?” (Amos 5:18, 20). It is for the night people; thus day people need not fear the Day of the Lord; they will not be part of it.

Far from being in the darkness, believers are all sons of light and sons of day (cf. Luke 16:8; John 12:36; Eph. 5:8).

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (5:9–11)

The most sobering truth in Scripture is that God will judge the wicked and sentence them to eternal hell (Matt. 3:12; 13:40–42, 50; 18:8; 25:41, 46; John 3:36; 5:29; Acts 24:25; Rom. 2:5, 8; 9:22; 2 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 6:2; 10:26–27; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; Rev. 14:9–11; 20:11–15; 21:8). On the other hand, the blessed truth for believers is that God has not destined us for wrath (cf. 1:10; John 3:18, 36; 5:24; Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1, 33–34).

Believers will not experience the wrath God will pour out on unbelievers on the Day of the Lord, and for eternity in hell. The word destined expresses the inexorable outworking of God’s sovereign plan for believers’ salvation. In Matthew 25:34 Jesus promised that believers will “inherit the kingdom prepared for [them] from the foundation of the world.”

Orgē (wrath) does not refer to a momentary outburst of rage, but to “an abiding and settled habit of mind” (Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 131). It is a general reference to the final judgment, when God’s wrath will be poured out on the wicked (Matt. 3:7; John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; Rev. 14:9–11). But God’s wrath here must also include the Day of the Lord, since that was the Thessalonians’ primary concern. Paul assured them that they would face neither temporal wrath on the Day of the Lord (cf. Rev. 6:17), nor eternal wrath in hell.

The marvelous reality is that all believers will live together with Him, as Jesus Himself promised:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1–3; cf. 1 Thess. 4:17) They will live forever in God’s glorious presence, where “there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).

Paul concluded his discussion of the Day of the Lord by exhorting the Thessalonians to encourage one another and build up one another. Based on the truth he had given them, they were to reassure the anxious and fearful that they would not experience the Day of the Lord. His concluding phrase, just as you also are doing, affirms that they were already committed to encouragement.

“we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” (2 Thes. 1:4–5)

Paul expressed that pride because he was greatly encouraged by the Thessalonians’ spiritual growth and the absence of significant problems in the congregation, irrespective of all the persecutions and afflictions which they endured. Instead of being consumed with personal happiness, fulfillment, comfort, success, or prosperity, they were living out Jesus’ command to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).

Their suffering was not, of course, the basis of the Thessalonians’ salvation but the evidence of it. Through His purging, chastening, purifying work in their lives, God prepared them to be worthy of the kingdom, for “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; cf. 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Peter 5:10).

“it is only just for God … to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well … when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thes 1:6a, 7a–b, 10)

Not only will Christ return to bring retribution to unbelievers but also to give relief to believers. Just as God’s justice demands that He bring retribution on unbelievers, so also it is only just for Him to give relief to the redeemed. The due penalty for sin has been paid by the Lamb of God; divine justice has been satisfied by His death for sinners; believers’ eternal rest is secure.

When He comes, two things will happen that will bring relief to believers. First, Christ will be glorified in His saints on that day. There is coming a day in which God will be glorified through believers in a manner never before seen.

This is the glorious manifestation of believers that Paul wrote about in Romans 8:18–19: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” This glorification will be the final and full redemption of all believers alive when Jesus Christ comes in glory. That requires some explanation. Some believers will already be in the glorified condition, having been raptured before the Tribulation. They will have been in heaven since then in the place prepared for them (John 14:1–3) in resurrection glory enjoying their rewards and fellowship with their Lord. They will return with Christ (Rev. 19:14) to the earth for the Millennium, to join the saints still alive on earth who will receive the earthly kingdom and reign of the Savior. Apparently at the time of Christ’s return, Tribulation saints and Old Testament saints, whose spirits have been with the Lord, will be raised and fully glorified to join those descending from heaven.

This is the resurrection spoken of by Daniel: “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Dan. 12:1–3)

All the living believers who enter the kingdom will see the glorified saints.

Second, believers will be marveled at among all who have believed. Since only believers enter the kingdom, as the judgment of the sheep and goats makes clear (cf. Matt. 25:31–46; Rev. 20:6), the redeemed will wonder at the glory of Christ that is fully revealed in the resurrected saints.

Lest the Thessalonians fear that they might miss out on the relief Christ will bring when He returns, Paul reminded them that they would be among the glorified saints because our testimony to you was believed.

(Main Source: New Testament Commentary 1& 2 Thessalonians – John MacArthur)

DOWNLOADABLE FILE : THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE THESSALONIANS

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LET US REASON WITH ONE ANOTHER!

divided

Some differences will always remain in the church. Indeed, it will not go away. It is something that every Christian will have to live with. Consequently, we should deal with it in a matter that is consistently Christian.

WE SHOULD NOT USE UNCHARITABLE LABELS TO THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH US

No matter what our particular position may be with respect to an issue, we should not resort to placing uncharitable labels upon people who disagree with us. It does no good to try and categorize those who hold different views than us as immature or to be less worthy Christians. This does not do anybody any good.

Unfortunately, there are in fact some unloving assessments from people who are being emotionally unstable, or unwittingly spreading a satanic counterfeit. These are those that are not filled with the Spirit and are consciously attempting to stop God’s work in this age. This type of behavior is unchristian, unbiblical, and counterproductive.

There are immature, arrogant, and divisive people on all sides of an issue. In addition, there are also godly, spiritually mature, and biblical literate people, on all sides of the same issue. We should seek for Christian unity in our diversity of views, while simultaneously standing on truth. Paul wrote about the correct attitude all believers should hold: Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace (Ephesians 4:3 NLT).

WE NEED TO MAKE USE OF ALL SCRIPTURE

We must be careful how we develop our own understanding with respect to an issue. It is possible to find one verse, and then use it as a basis for an entire system of belief. We often make this mistake.

One must seek to find out what the totality of Scripture has to say on a subject, not merely one verse that will be the basis to support our interpretation.

BAD ARGUMENTS FROM THE OTHER SIDE DOES NOT PROVE YOUR CASE

In addition, the fact that some may have used bad arguments to prove their case does not necessarily mean what they believe is wrong and we are right. All it means is that someone offered an unconvincing argument! This is important to understand. We often find in the writings of both parties the idea that they have proved their case, because they have pointed out illogical arguments from those who have a different position. Pointing out bad arguments from those who disagree with us, only means that the other person has bad arguments. It does not settle the matter.

Any examination of two different perspectives should be based on the very best arguments each side has to offer, not on the poorest arguments that were offered (in our opinion).

LETS REALIZE THAT THE EXPERIENCE OF EACH BELIEVER IS UNIQUE

The experience of each believer is unique. Therefore, no one should attempt to make everyone conform to their own particular experience ór relationship with the Lord.

Many times, even with good motives, we attempt to encourage all believers to be like us and to have the same experiences as we do. In doing so, we can make other believers feel uneasy because they have not had the same experience.

Some Christians have convictions based upon their understanding of Scripture. It is wrong for one group to feel superior to the other. The Apostle Paul warned believers about comparing ourselves with one another (2 Corinthians 10:12).

The only thing that believers really ought to make foundational to the Christian faith is the Person of Jesus Christ.

WE SHOULD NOT THINK THAT WE HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS

It is possible that our belief system is too comfortable—we think that we have all the answers. We think we know God well enough to the point that we fully know how He operates. This is a very dangerous position to hold. We need to give God the ability to work any way in which He wishes, we cannot limit Him to the way that we think He will work.

Jesus, in comparing the work of the Holy Spirit with the wind, said the wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

The Holy Spirit works in the ways in which He desires. He certainly does not always operate according to our understanding.

WE CAN LEARN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE A DIFFERENT VIEWPOINT

All of us can learn from those believers who hold differing viewpoints than us. Consequently, we should not shut ourselves up to only those who agree with us all the time. If anyone disassociates themselves from other Bible-believing Christians on the basis of their view on one or two subjects, it does not show their orthodoxy, it only shows their immaturity. Often, these issues are not ones that should divide believers, or keep them from associating with one another.

Indeed, they may be right, and we may be the ones who are wrong! There are always things that we can learn and during debates we can learn from each other.

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THE RAPTURE SERIES 13: THE BELIEVERS’ LAST BATTLE (PART 2 OF 4)

0 RAPTURE

3) THE BATTLE BETWEEN BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT

We all know of the end-time events which are taking place today such as wars and rumors of wars, pestilence, earthquakes, famine, even signs in the sun, moon and stars, causing great commotion and perplexity on the earth. All we need to do is read the newspaper, listen to the radio or watch the news on TV.

We are continuously overwhelmed by the many catastrophes that are taking place today, whether they are natural, such as tornadoes, floods, and droughts, the covid-19 Coronavirus or caused by the negligence of men such as traffic fatalities, airplane crashes, or fires.

We may consider them as commonplace throughout the ages. Such are not directly related to the personal battles we are involved in daily. Let me make it clear, we are not speaking about everybody else, just you and me.

Flesh Must Be Defeated

The apostle Paul confessed in Romans 7:15, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” This clearly reveals the battle between body, soul and spirit. In verse 18 he said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” This statement exposes the truth about Paul, who did not think much about himself, but nevertheless was confronted with his own sinful nature.

He was fully conscious of the fact that the regenerated person within him was what really mattered. Paul continued, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me”(verses 19-20). He realized that the flesh can never fully submit to the Spirit, and as a result, he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (verse 24).

This verse makes it perfectly clear that we cannot serve God with our flesh. In other words, no matter how hard we try to please God, we will ultimately fail. Naturally the question should arise, “How can we serve God if it is impossible for us to please Him in our physical being?” We please God by serving Him in Spirit and in truth!

Worship In Spirit and Truth

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, He told her, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). This was in response to the woman’s attempt to lead Jesus into an ecumenical discussion. But the Lord responded to her with the truth of the prophetic Word, and as a result, she had to confess, “… I perceive that thou art a prophet” (verse 19).

In an attempt to justify her comments, she said, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (verse 20). Jesus made it very clear that worship of God the Father outside of the truth was impossible.

He made it obvious that the Gentiles were in total darkness when He said, “Ye worship ye know not what…” (verse 22) and then emphasized that true worship can only come forth from the truth, … we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (verse 22).

The Two-Edged Sword

Furthermore, Hebrews 4:12 reveals the way to liberty in Christ through the Word, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Do you want to serve God? Then the Word of God, the most powerful and sharpest of all two-edged swords, must divide your soul and spirit.

We cannot worship God in the soul; the Word of God forbids it. Not only does the two-edged sword clearly divide the soul from the spirit but it is also the “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Only the Word of God will disclose to us what our thinking process is and will even expose the true intention of our hearts.

For that reason, it is urgent that we unconditionally agree with the Word of God. The moment we deviate from the written Word, we fall among the “robbers.” The end result is that no fruit will be created for the glory of the Lord Jesus.

Soulish Believers

The statement in Hebrews 4:12 also reveals the tragedy of the end-times that millions of believers serve the Lord in their souls, not in their spirits.

A person who bases his faith on the soul always depends on tangible circumstances. He is unsure and unstable in all of his ways and continuously needs supernatural guidance, which of course, is supplied by the powers of darkness. In addition, it nullifies the fundamental principle of the gospel of grace; we are to walk by faith, not by sight!

An even greater tragedy is the fact that many consider themselves Christians because they have had emotional experiences in their souls. In reality, their spirits are still dead in sins and trespasses. What a disaster it will be for those when Jesus comes and all who are not born again of the Spirit of God are left behind, despite the fact that they thought they had become new creatures in Christ.

Seven Signs

Certain visible signs take place in the believer’s life which confirm and make obvious whether a person has in fact been born again of the Spirit of God. In his book, Seven Signs of a Born Again Person, Dr. Wim Malgo points out the following:

• A born again person knows that he is born again.
• The new life becomes visible.
• He has a spirit of prayer.
• He has a hunger for the Word of God.
• He will suffer much adversity.
• He has victory over temptations and sin.
• The truly born again person waits with joy and expectancy for the return of Christ.

If any of these signs are not a reality in your own life, then you must ask yourself a very serious question, “Am I really born again?”

The Lust Of The Flesh

The believer’s last battle consists of the continuous conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. To the Galatians, the apostle Paul wrote, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). In other words, we must have continuous victory over the works of the flesh through the Spirit. We are guaranteed of this in verse 16, “… Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”

Fruit Of The Spirit

Contrasting the works of the flesh, we read about the fruit of the Spirit in the next verses, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law ” (verses 22-23).

Isn’t it significant that in the list of the fruits of the Spirit, there is no indication of the presence of pride, self-love, self-esteem, and other fallacious ideas that are being promoted in today’s false gospel movements?

Remember that only by the fruit of the Spirit will the Lord recognize us. It doesn’t matter how good we are, or what we have accomplished in our lives, or how much we have given to our churches, missions, or other benevolent organizations. Those things are good, but they will not count all that much when we stand before the Lord. He said, “… by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).

To successfully win the victory over our last battle, we must continue to keep the victory over our flesh at all times. When we walk in the Spirit, we are standing on the Word of God doing His will. As a result, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Let us conform ourselves to 1st Thessalonians 5:23, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

4) THE BATTLE AGAINST DECEPTION

We know from the Bible that sin entered into the world due to pride. Satan, the originator of sin, successfully deceived one-third of the angelic host, the animal world, and man, God’s crown created in His image.

The devil is the god of this world and rules supreme. He has a legitimate right to all the unsaved people on the earth.

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Isaiah 64:6 confirms this indisputable fact with the words, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

To further prove this point and show that there are no exceptions to the rule, we read Romans 3:10, “… There is none righteous, no, not one.” Verse 12 confirms, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

One Escape

Praise God that He has made a way of escape. Only one Man has ever lived who was without sin; Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man who voluntarily sacrificed Himself on Calvary’s cross. He poured out His blood for the sin of all men so that anyone who comes to Him will receive forgiveness.

The only way of escape is through Him who said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). There is no middle ground, for there is no other name given under Heaven by which man can be saved, and that name is Jesus.

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

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A DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF THE GOSPELS IN SMALL CHUNKS (21)

0 Dispensationalism

CHAPTER V (CONTINUE)

The Middle Galilean Period (Continue)

18. The Fourth Sign – Feeding of the Five Thousand
References: Matt. 14:13-23; Mk. 6:30-46; Lk. 9:10-17; John 6:1-15

19. The Fifth Sign – Jesus Walking on the Water
References: Matt. 14:24-36; Mk. 6:47-56; John 6:16-21

These two sections will be considered together.

We will first briefly review the historical aspects of the story and then deal with the significance of the miracles as signs. When the Apostles returned from their preaching tour they came and told Jesus all that they had done and taught. There had been so much activity they hardly had time to eat, so Jesus took them to a secret place to rest. But the crowds saw them leave in a boat and ran on foot around the shore and got to the destination before Jesus and the disciples arrived. When Jesus saw the multitudes He had compassion on them, and instead of taking the needed rest, He taught them all day, and toward evening the disciples asked Him to dismiss the meeting and send the people to find food and lodging.

John tells us that Jesus asked Philip, “How can we buy bread for all of these people to eat?” He did this to test Philip to see what he would answer. Would he say, “We don’t need to buy bread, Lord; you are able to feed them miraculously?” Instead, Philip quickly figured that two hundred pennyworths of bread would hardly be enough to give each person just a bite. Then Peter volunteered the information that there was a lad in the crowd who had brought his lunch, five little barley rolls and a couple of fish, but what was that among such a multitude.

Christian workers have to learn that little is much when placed in the Lord’s hand. Jesus knew from the beginning what He was going to do, so he had the disciples make the people sit in companies on the grass, and blessing the lad’s lunch. He took it and broke the rolls and fish and gave to the disciples to distribute until they were all filled. Actually, we do not know how many people were there, for Matthew tells us there were five thousand men, besides women and children. There was such an abundance of food that twelve baskets of scraps were picked up after the meal. John tells us that the people were about to take Jesus by force and make Him king, and Jesus knowing this withdrew into the mountain by Himself. The reason they wanted to make Him king was the prospect of having a ruler who would give them free meals (John 6:26).

Immediately after the meal Jesus made the disciples get in the boat and go to the other side of the lake before Him, while He dismissed the multitude. He then went up in the mountain to pray. In the meantime, night had closed in on the disciples and a storm had developed making it very difficult to man the boat. They had rowed about twenty-five or thirty furlongs towards Capernaum (about four or five miles), when in the fourth watch (between three and six A.M.) Jesus came walking on the water, and Mark says that He would have passed them by, but they, when they saw Him, supposed it was a ghost and they all cried out in fright, for they all saw Him. Whereupon Jesus spoke to them, “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid.”

Matthew gives us the additional details concerning Peter who said, “Lord if it is thou, bid me come to thee upon the waters.” And He said, “Come.” Peter stepped out of the boat walking toward Jesus, but when he took his eyes off Jesus and saw the storm he began to sink and cried out for help. Jesus took his hand, rebuking him for his lack of faith, and together they boarded the boat. Immediately the wind ceased and the boat was almost immediately at the place they were headed for. Mark tells us that the disciples were dumbfounded, for they did not understand the incident of the loaves; their hearts were hardened. In spite of the miracle of the loaves, they still did not see who He was. When they disembarked, the people recognized Him and began bringing their sick to be healed.

Let us notice now the similarity between these two signs, and then what they might signify. In both the glory of Christ as Creator is displayed. Only the Creator could transform five small loaves and two fish into enough food to feed over five thousand people with twelve baskets of leftovers. And only the Creator could have such powers over the forces of nature as to defy the law of gravity by walking on the water, to still the raging storm, and instantly cause the boat with its occupants to be at its destination. He is not only the Creator of Israel (Isa. 43:15), He is the faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4:19), and as such He can and will supply both the physical and spiritual needs of His people. Both of these signs are prefaced by the statement: “Jesus went up into a mountain” (vs. 3 and 15). Mark informs us that He went up into a mountain to pray and that He saw the disciples toiling in rowing because of the storm on the lake.

This may be a considered as foreshadowing of that future time of Jacob’s Trouble, but Jesus as the ascended great High Priest sees them in their trouble and speedily comes to deliver them and bring them quickly to their land of millennial rest.

20. Discourse on the Bread of Life Reference: John 6:22-71

The multitude that had been fed which wanted to make Jesus King had seen the disciples leave in the only boat on the shore and they had seen Jesus retire into the mountain for the night, and the next day they began looking for Him. They knew He could not have left by boat, but not finding Him they decided to go back to Capernaum, His headquarters, to look for Him there. Upon finding Him they asked when and how He had come to Capernaum. Jesus did not answer their inquisitiveness but got down to the more important question of why they were looking for Him. He told them they wanted to make Him King simply because they got a free meal and were filled, and that they should not work for perishable food, but for that which endures unto life everlasting. This answer brought forth another question, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

The word believe appears about one hundred times in John and is especially important in this context, since Jesus made some other statements which caused many of the Jews to stumble, and still causes people to stumble today. He stated: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” The Jews murmured first because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven,” and secondly because He said they must eat His flesh to have eternal life. What did He mean by this latter statement? We can be sure that Jesus was not stating several different ways to have eternal life.

He had made it plain that there was only one way and that He was that way to God. He stated in vs. 29 that the work of God was to believe on Him, and in three of the following verses He stated without any qualification: “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” He then spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood to have everlasting life. Unless this is a second and different way from believing on Him, eating His flesh must be equivalent to believing on Him. We have seen that receiving Christ is equivalent to believing on Him (1:12), and eating is another figure of receiving and assimilating Christ into one’s own being, just as food is in a physical sense. It is plain that Jesus was not advocating cannibalism, for He said, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” It seems clear from vs. 51 that He was referring to His coming death when He spoke of giving His flesh for the life of the world. And then He says, “If this saying about my death offends you, what about my resurrection: What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?”

The statement, “the work of God is to believe,” sounds almost contradictory, for in other Scriptures work is just the opposite of believing (cf. Rom. 3:27; 4:5; 11:6; Eph. 2:8,9). The Jews were works oriented; they believed man must work his way to eternal life through religious observances and law keeping. It would seem that Jesus used their word “work” to show that it was not work but simply believing. Believing is not an activity of working, but a passive acceptance of what God has done for man. It should be pointed out that the word “work” is not always bad when used in a spiritual sense. While no man can work or do works of righteousness to accomplish his salvation, his salvation has recreated him for the very purpose of producing good works (Eph. 2:10). Faith is an active principle, and Paul speaks of the work of faith (1 Thes. 1:3; 2 Thes. 1:11), which is just the opposite of the works of the flesh and the works of the law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16; 5:19).

It is self-evident that after Jesus had given the Jews the Sign of Creating Bread for them that He should interpret this sign by giving the discourse on Himself as the Bread of Life. It turned out to be a hard saying for the Jews, many of whom turned away and no longer followed Him. Why did some reject and others, such as the Apostles receive Him? Jesus explained it: “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life,” (vs. 65, 40). Peter makes his great confession of Christ, (vs. 68, 69), but Christ confesses that one of the Twelve He has chosen is a devil.

21. Eating With Unwashed Hands References: Matt. 15:1-20; Mk. 7:1-23

This section deals with the complaint of the Pharisees that Jesus’ disciples did not observe the traditions of the elders, of Jesus’ rebuttal showing that the traditions of the elders made void the commandments of God, and of a parable concerning that which defiles a man.

Mark goes into a little more detail of explaining some of the traditional teachings of the elders. The fact that the disciples did not wash before eating does not mean that they were unhygienic. The washing referred to was a ceremony of baptism. The last clause of vs. 4 should actually read: “And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the baptizing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and couches upon which they reclined at meals.” The Law of Moses did contain a number of baptism rites, such as the sprinkling of blood and of the water of cleansing, but these traditional baptisms were inventions of the elders of Israel.

Next, Jesus showed how these traditions made the law of God meaningless. God had commanded that a man should honor his father and mother, but tradition of the elders taught that by making a gift to the temple a son could free himself of any responsibility toward his parents.

Then Jesus explained that it was not physical things which entered man’s body that defiled him, but the things that came forth out of his heart: evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. This is a Biblical definition of human depravity. Man has a corrupt, sinful nature. Cleansing the outside of man with various baptisms and washings cannot change the inward condition.

Christendom has developed many traditional teachings over the centuries, the same as Judaism, many of which make void the Gospel just as did the traditions of the elders. The traditions of the Roman Catholic Church which are held on a par with the written Word of God, make void that Word by teaching baptismal regeneration, the intercession of Mary, the re-sacrifice of Christ, and a host of other anti-scriptural doctrines. We must always ask: “What saith the Scriptures?”

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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A GREAT RESOURCE

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If you are a watchman and interested in Bible prophecy, you probably know Don Stewart, or have at least heard of him. Don Stewart is an internationally recognized Christian apologist and speaker. He graduated cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary and the International Seminar in Theology and Law in Strasbourg, France, as well as from Biola University. Don is also a best-selling and award-winning author/co-author of over seventy books. His various writings have been translated into over thirty different languages and have sold over a million copies. Don has traveled around the world proclaiming and staunchly defending the Christian faith.

Don is now a full-time missionary with GoinChrist Ministries.  His website educatingourworld.com provides free resources for those wanting to know what Christians believe, as well as why we believe what we believe. The material covers not only prophecy, but a large variety of other important topics as well.

Currently there are 59 books on the site in PDF form, totaling about 13,000 pages of material while answering over 1,900 questions.

http://www.educatingourworld.com/index.php

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ON PROPHECY – REVELATION 22:18-19

The title page of the last book of the Bible - The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18–19)

It is of great significance that the Bible closes with an affirmation of its truthfulness. Because the words of Scripture are “faithful and true” (22:6), they must not be sealed up, but proclaimed (22:10). Sinners are to be called to respond to the warnings in the Word of the living God or suffer the consequences. All the prophecies of Revelation regarding the doom of sinners will come true. That terrifying certainty should drive people to Jesus Christ to escape the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).

The speaker who testifies to the authority and finality of the words of the prophecy of this book is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. v. 20).

His solemn warning against tampering with Scripture applies first of all to the prophecy of the book of Revelation (cf. 1:3). Its stern rebukes of Jezebel and her followers (2:20–23), those who had embraced the “deep things of Satan” (2:24), and those of the “synagogue of Satan” (3:9) would have prompted them to assault it. Down through the centuries there have been others who have both attacked Revelation and seriously misinterpreted it. But in light of the repeated warnings against altering God’s Word, Christ’s warning must be broadened to include all of Scripture.

In Deuteronomy 4:2 Moses cautioned, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” In Deuteronomy 12:32 he added, “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” Proverbs 30:5–6 warns, “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”

Thus, the prohibition against altering the Apocalypse by implication extends to all of Scripture. Because Revelation describes the entire sweep of history from the close of the apostolic age to the eternal state, any alteration of it would be an alteration of Scripture, as Robert L. Thomas notes:

“The predictive portions project from John’s lifetime all the way into the eternal state. Any type of prophetic utterance would intrude into the domain of this coverage and constitute either an addition to or subtraction from Revelation’s content. So, the final book of the Bible is also the concluding product of NT prophecy. It also marks the close of the NT canon since the prophetic gift was the divinely chosen means for communicating the inspired books of the canon.”

The canon of Scripture was closed at the end of the first century when Revelation was finished. Thus, any false prophet, fraud, or charlatan who adds alleged new revelations to it (as the Montanists did in the early church and Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, and other false prophets have done in recent times) will face divine vengeance. God will add to such people the plagues which are written in the book of Revelation. God’s judgment will be equally severe on anyone who takes away from the words of Scripture (as the heretic Marcion did in the early church and liberal higher critics have done in modern times)—God will take away their part from the tree of life and from the holy city. Both warnings contain a play on words. Those who add to Scripture will have plagues added to them; those who take away from Scripture will have the blessings of heaven taken away from them.

No true believer would ever deliberately tamper with Scripture. Those who know and love God will treat His Word with the utmost respect. They will say with the psalmist, “O how I love Your law!” (Ps. 119:97; cf. Pss. 119:113, 163, 167; John 14:23); and, “I delight in Your law” (Ps. 119:70; cf. Pss. 1:2; 119:77, 92, 174). That does not, of course, mean that believers will never make errors in judgment or mistakenly interpret Scripture incorrectly or inadequately.

The Lord’s warning here is addressed to those who engage in deliberate falsification or misinterpretation of Scripture, those whom Paul denounces aspeddlers of the Word of God (2 Cor. 2:17).

At the conclusion of his commentary on Revelation, J. A. Seiss expressed the humble reverence for Scripture that marks true believers:

“O, my friends, it is a fearful thing to suppress or stultify the word of God, and above all “the words of the prophecy of this Book.” To put forth for truth what is not the truth,—denounce as error, condemn, repudiate, or emasculate what God himself hath set his seal to as his mind and purpose, is one of those high crimes, not only against God, but against the souls of men, which cannot go unpunished.”

With an honest and ever-prayerful heart, and with these solemn and awful warnings ever before our eyes, we should endeavour to ascertain what our gracious Lord and Master has been so particular to make known and defend it.

Revelation and the rest of Scripture are true, and the redeemed will believe the Bible, guard the Bible, love the Bible, and obey the Bible. That Scripture speaks truly when it describes the joys of heaven and the terrors of hell should motivate sinners to heed God’s gracious call to salvation.

(Source: John MacArthur, Revelation 1-22, MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

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ON PROPHECY – 2 PETER 1:19-21

on prophecy

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:19–21)

As accurate as they were in declaring the truth, God did not merely depend on the oral, eyewitness accounts of the apostles. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit He superintended the recording of those experiences and thoughts in the inspired revelation of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). Peter’s reply to those who would question the validity of his experiences is that believers have even a better source—the prophetic word made more sure—the Word of God. Some commentators contend the phrase indicates that the apostles’ experiences validated the Scripture, that glimpsing Jesus’ kingdom glory on the Mount of Transfiguration somehow confirmed the prophets’ predictions concerning His second coming. That is a possible interpretation, but the phrase’s literal rendering, “we have more sure the prophetic word,” recommends another interpretation.

That is, as reliable and helpful as Peter’s experience was, the prophetic word of Scripture is more sure. Throughout redemptive history, God Himself has repeatedly emphasized that His inspired Word is inerrant, infallible, and the all-sufficient source of truth, which does not require human confirmation (Pss. 19:7; 119:160; John 17:17; 1 Cor. 2:10–14; 1 Thess. 2:13; cf. Prov. 6:23; Dan. 10:21, NKJV).

We in verse 19 generically refers to all believers. As a group they possess the Word, the source of God’s truth that is far more reliable than their collective experience, even as apostles. Second Corinthians 12:1 is a helpful example of the limitations of human experience as a source of truth:

Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.” The apostle Paul desired to defend his apostleship, but he appears to admit that personal visions and experiences—even of heaven—are not helpful, not substantial as means of defending God’s truth. That is because they are unverifiable, unrepeatable, and incomprehensible (vv. 2–4). Paul actually preferred to defend his apostleship with his suffering rather than with his supernatural visions (vv. 5–10). When the New Testament writers wrote about Christ and His promised return, they confirmed the truth of Old Testament Scripture (cf. Matt. 4: 12–16; 12:19–20; 21:1–5; Luke 4:16–21; Rom. 15:3; Heb. 5:5–6; 1 Peter 2:6–7, 22; Rev. 19:10).

Thus, it was not the apostles’ experience but the inspired and inscripturated record of Christ’s life and words, penned by the Spirit directed authors and contained in the New Testament, which validated the Old. That validation fit the Jews’ beliefs regarding the supremacy of written revelation, as Michael Green explains:

The Jews always preferred prophecy to the voice from heaven. Indeed they regarded the latter, the bath qōl, “daughter of the voice”, as an inferior substitute for revelation, since the days of prophecy had ceased. And as for the apostles, it is hard to overemphasize their regard for the Old Testament. One of their most powerful arguments for the truth of Christianity was the argument from prophecy (see the speeches in Acts, Rom. XV, I Peter II, or the whole of Heb. or Rev). In the word of God written, they sought absolute assurance, like their Master, for whom “it is written” sufficed to clinch an argument…. [Peter] is saying “If you don’t believe me, go to the Scriptures”.

“The question”, says Calvin, “is not whether the prophets are more trustworthy than the gospel.” It is simply that “since the Jews were in no doubt that everything that the prophets taught came from God, it is no wonder that Peter says that their word is ‘more sure’’”.

The expression the prophetic word in Peter’s day embraced the entire Old Testament. The expression extends beyond the passages of predictive prophecy to include all the inspired Word, which in general anticipated the coming of Messiah, as Paul made clear when he wrote:

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 16:25–27)

Jesus Himself affirmed that reality, saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39; cf. Luke 24:27, 44–45). While the Lord was primarily speaking of Old Testament Scripture, the words are not limited to that. Scripture is Scripture, and what is true of the Old Testament is also true of New Testament Scripture (cf. 2 Peter 3:15–16, in which Peter calls the writings of Paul Scripture).

Peter asserts that his readers would do well to pay attention to the prophetic word. If they were going to be exposed to the subtle errors of the false teachers, it was imperative that they know and carefully heed Scripture so that they could reject false teachings (Ps. 17:4; Acts 18:28; Eph. 6:11, 17; cf. Matt. 4:4; 22:29; 1 Cor. 10:11; Rev. 22:19).

To make his point even more direct, Peter offered a simple metaphor, comparing God’s Word to a lamp shining in a dark place. That figure of speech recalls the psalmist’s familiar words, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105; cf. v. 130; 43:3; Prov 6:23). Dark (auchmēros) is the meaning that came from the original idea of this word, “dry,” or “parched,” then “dirty,” or “murky.” The phrase dark place encompasses the murky blackness of the fallen world that prevents people from seeing the truth until the lamp of divine revelation shines forth. Thus Peter likens Scripture to a lantern that provides light to a dark and sinful world. The calendar of redemptive history moves toward a day God has designated for the glorious event when Jesus Christ returns in full, blazing splendor and majesty (Matt. 24:30; 25:31; Titus 2:13; Rev. 1:7; cf. Col. 3:4). When that day dawns, Christ will terminate the temporary earthly night of sin and spiritual darkness, returning in glory to establish His kingdom. The apostle John describes this in Revelation 19:11–16:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

The bittersweet event marks the climax of God’s salvation purpose and His judgment on the wicked (cf. Isa. 2:12; 13:6; Zeph. 1:14; 1 Cor. 1:8; 3:13; 4:5; Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:7; 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Peter 2:12).

Morning star (phōsphoros), which literally means “light bringer,” was the name for the planet Venus, which precedes the morning sun in the sky, and is used here for Christ, whose coming inaugurates the promised millennial kingdom and the establishment of His kingdom.

Scripture in several places refers to Christ as a star (Num. 24:17; Rev. 2:28; 22:16; cf. Matt. 2:2). Peter adds the fact that the star arises in believers’ hearts. Christ will return in a blaze of physically visible, all-encompassing light that will affect everyone for blessing or cursing and change the millennial earth (3:10–13), eventually destroying the universe and replacing it with the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 20:11; 21:1). The reference to the hearts indicates His return will also transform believers into perfect reflections of the truth and righteousness of Christ and make them into the image of His glory (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:20–21; 1 John 3:1–2). At His second coming, Christ will replace the perfect temporal revelation of Scripture with the perfect eternal revelation of His person. He will fulfill the written Word and write it forever on the hearts of the glorified saints.

From considering the end of Scripture, when it completely rules the perfected heart, Peter went back to the start of Scripture—its divine inspiration. As Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16); therefore, no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. The phrase is a matter of translates ginetai, which more precisely means “comes into being,” “originates,” or “arises.” No portion of the holy writings, Old Testament or New, came into existence in the manner all false prophecies did (cf. Jer. 14:14; 23:32; Ezek. 13:2). For example, the prophet Jeremiah explained how God viewed the false prophets of his time:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a  vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You will have peace”’; and as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’ But who has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? Behold, the storm of the Lord has gone forth in wrath, even a whirling tempest; it will swirl down on the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; in the last days you will clearly understand it. I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds. “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord. “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’” (Jer. 23:16–25; cf. Ezek. 13:3)

False prophets and teachers spoke of their own things, from their own ideas, but no true message from God ever arose from a human interpretation.

Interpretation (epiluseōs) is an unfortunate translation because in English it indicates how one understands Scripture, whereas the Greek noun is a genitive, indicating source. Thus, Peter is not referring to the explanation of the Scripture, but to its origin. The next statement in verse 21, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but (alla, “just the opposite,” “quite the contrary”) men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God, further supports the point of source. What human beings might think or want has absolutely nothing to do with divine prophecy.

Moved (pheromenoi) is a present passive participle that means “continually carried,” or “borne along.” Luke twice used this verb (Acts 27:15, 17) to describe how the wind blows a sailing ship across the waters. For Peter, it was as if the writers of Scripture raised their spiritual sails and allowed the Spirit to fill them with His powerful breath of revelation as they penned its divine words (cf. Luke 1:70).

When Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me saying” (Jer. 1:4), he spoke for all the Old Testament writers and, by extension, all the New Testament writers who followed them. The only one who knows the mind of God is the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:10–13; cf. John 15:26; Rom. 8:27; 11:34; cf. John 3:8), so only He could have inspired the Scripture.

If believers are going to stand against the errors of false teachers, they must seek to know, accept, and obey the totality of Scripture, even as the apostle Paul did in testifying before the Roman governor Felix, “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they [the Jews] call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14, emphasis added).

(Source: John MacArthur, 2 Peter, MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

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