The Lord’s Message
Intro: How important is it for every believer to read the Old Testament? There are many reasons but the most is this is where we get to know God, His character, His power and attributes, His Sovereignty, His promises and many more. In the last book the Lord Jesus is called “Faithful and True” in chapter 19 of Revelation. Now Joshua who succeeded Moses and led the Israelites to enter the promise land just before he died said this to them. “Now I am about to go to the way of the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Jos. 23:14
How many promises have you and I have made but unable to fulfill them? How many politicians make promises to gain votes but after getting elected many have amnesia? As a Filipino there was one who promised when we were conquered by the Japanese and lost even the Americans. But a General escaped and promised “I shall return” and he did. Gen. Douglas MacArthur came back after a few years and regained the Philippines from Japanese rule. He is one of those who kept his promise and yet probably not all. But what about God when He promises can He keep them all? Joshua remembered all God’s promises and believed, thus he can say that all has been fulfilled. Now fast forward in the New Testament. By now there are already so many promises that God has made. But are they true to all people. So many posts on Facebook God promises in the Bible but I also notice that not all those I know are even Christians. Will God fulfill those promises to them? Here’s what God promised how He fulfills those promises and to whom. “But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Cor. 1:18-22
So it is clear that the promises of God are only true to those who are His children because of their union with Christ. But the problem with many Christians is they do not yet know the many promises of God. That’s why I encourage all of us to keep on reading your Bible to know God and all His promises. One of the promises that should keep us from being worried and fearful with the problems happening in the world and even where we are is the uncertainty of the future and the growing presence of evil all around us. Here’s a promise that Jesus Himself gave us.
“Jesus will keep His promise to come back”
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:1-4
We have looked into this passage last Sunday at the camp but what I am led to focus on today is how do we know when Jesus is coming back? There is no doubt that He is coming back because He is faithful to keep His Word. But what happened to His disciples after He spoke these words. Yes, He did come back for them by taking them to be with Him in heaven. All those who have died with Christ are already with Him in their spirit. But what about us today we either die first or He will take us while still alive to be with Him. Many of us will not experience physical death before Jesus comes back as you know this as the “Rapture.” Although this word is not found in the Bible, theologians named this to mean that we will be taken out of earth in an instant and changed to join the Lord Jesus in the air. Picture an eagle high in the sky and with his eagle eye sees a chick for lunch. He dives and without warning the chick is snatched from the mother’s presence. But how is this revealed and explained to us? The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonians. Notice that he calls them brothers. “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall sleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thess. 4:12-18
It is not only for us to know this and not be ignorant but we are to know and use this truth to encourage one another. Why do we need to encourage one another? Because the days are evil and whether we like it or not Christians will experience persecution. When we see this happening today we are forewarned that we are in the last days and with what Jesus has already revealed with the signs of His return. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2 Tim. 3:1-5
Do you see this already happening today? Aren’t these the news we hear on television, read in newspapers and even in the internet? Aren’t these bad and evil things catches the attention of the viewing public otherwise the news will be boring? Then there are the signs Jesus told His disciples before He will return and the end of that is to come. The three gospel writers reported what Jesus said to make sure that we get every detail. Here’s what Matthew wrote. As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matt. 24:3-8
Do we see these happening already today? Before He told them these signs, His disciples called his attention to the buildings at the temple mount. Then Jesus told them that these building will be destroyed and not one stone will be left on another; because everyone will be thrown down. This was already fulfilled when the temple was burned and every block of stone was thrown down the temple mount. This happened when Nero had the temple burned in the year 70 AD and soldiers were getting the melted gold from the blocks of stone then threw them down. I have seen this with my own eyes when I had the privilege to visit Jerusalem. Then after that Jesus pointed them to what will happen in the distant future referring to the end of the age. So here’s what Jesus told them and now to us the signs to watch before the end of the age. As His church we need to differentiate between the end of the age and the rapture. The rapture will happen before the end of the age when Jesus will physically return to earth in His glorified body to rule for a thousand years. I believe that the rapture will happen seven years before the end of the age. The seven years is described in Revelation as the great tribulation and thank God we will no longer be here. There are movies about this focusing on those who will be “Left Behind” after the rapture.
Jesus started with a warning not to be deceived. Jesus said that many will come identifying themselves as Christians who will be preaching in His name but are false prophets and teachers. In the Philippines there is a man who even claims to be the Anointed Son of God, claiming that he is the Christ and has attracted many followers. He has become powerful and rich being the only preacher in the Philippines to have his own private jet and a helicopter. So the question is will genuine Christians be deceived? Yes, but only temporarily as Jesus said. “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See I have told you ahead of time.” Matt. 24:24-25
The chosen and genuine Christians who are in churches under false prophets and pastor are deceived because of the signs and wonders they have seen. I also believe pastors who speak in tongues which have no message to edify the church but only to impress the congregation that they are filled with the Spirit are deceiving many. But the elect will be enlightened by the Holy Spirit and will leave that church.
So what are the other signs of Christ’s return? There are already rumors of war between Russia and Ukraine, and now the threat of China to wage WW III because of US intervention of their invasion of the Spratly Island in the Philippines. Jesus said, “Such things must happen” but the end is still to come. There is now an ongoing war in the Middle East between ISIS and other Arab countries and is spreading to Africa, to Europe and pretty soon to America. This conflict has already happened in the past when God protected His people Israel and made their enemy fight and kill each other. This is the work of the Devil today to conquer and divide and causing them to hate and destroy one another. And this is happening here in America because of the growing racism. What about famine and earthquakes? Famine has been going on in many places in Africa and pretty soon it’s going to happen here starting in California because of the drought. Earthquakes no longer hit the news unless it has killed many people and with high intensity. Mark describes the signs similar to Matthew. But Luke added these. “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Luke 21:11
There was just the epidemic of Ebola and many other diseases. In the Philippines there is now a threat of the MERS brought from the Middle East. Then, there are different fearful events, like the threat of homegrown ISIS. It is reported that they are now all over the US. The UFO has been there for some time but there are other signs from heaven, just last Wednesday Rene showed a video of strange sounds heard by a young man from the Philippines and this was not the first time because this was reported by many countries. There are unnatural phenomenon in heaven.
Then Jesus ended these signs with this “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” What did Jesus mean by referring these to birth pains? Mothers know what this mean, that as the baby is getting closer to its full term she will know when it is about to come out when the birth pains starts to happen. And when the intervals gets shorter it means that the baby is about to come out. In applying this to Christ return, this means that when we see the intervals are getting shorter and closer the end of the age is also about to come. But how does this relate to the Rapture? The rapture will take place seven years before the end of the age during the birth pains. Will we know when this will happen? No, but many have predicted even the exact date when this will happen by false prophets. Here’s what Jesus said. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Matt. 24:36-42
What will happen when you and I are taken at the rapture? Thank God He also explains this to us through the apostle Paul, the how and the sequence. “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Cor. 15:51-58
What about you? Do you know for certain that you will not be left behind? The rapture could happen at any time. While you are working in the casino, in your workplace and suddenly your co-worker disappears, while you are checking out at Wall Mart and suddenly the cashier disappears right in front you. You may be driving on your way home and suddenly the car in front of you goes out of control because the driver is gone. And the sad part is when this happen there will no longer be a second chance, because the door will now be closed for Gentiles. “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.” Rom. 11:25-26
So if you are not sure that you will be one of those who will be raptured, today is your day of salvation. Come to Jesus. I invite you to come forward, confess your sins with repentance and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. “That is you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9-10