Put Your Hope in Christ
How do you stay focused on your hope in Christ when life gets really difficult?
I have written about hope before, but I want to look at the topic a bit differently here. The past week has been very difficult for. Without going into the gory details, suffice it say that I got a diagnosis from a doctor that is truly life-changing. So, I found myself pondering the question, “How do I stay focused on my hope in Christ when my mind gets consumed with this diagnosis? We all go through difficulties in life. Every year we are faced with new issues—new concerns—new problems. My wife and I joke—more often it seems these days—that growing old is not for wimps.
So, how should we respond when we go through these life-changing issues? The Bible often deals with the issues of life and death. Specifically, the Thessalonians were very concerned with these issues. In fact, Paul wrote to them so that they could comfort one another when they understand how Christ will interact with the Church in the future.
In the epistles to the Thessalonians, Paul deals with the eschatological events that will occur at the end of the church age. Paul describes the rapture of the church in his first epistle (1 Thes 4:13-18; 5:1-11) and the second coming of Christ in his second epistle (2 Thes 1:5-12; 2:1-17). In his letters, Paul presents two important aspects of the rapture of the church are presented.
The resurrection of believers occurs at the rapture (1 Thes 4:13-18).
The resurrection of believers is dependent upon the resurrection of Christ. Since Christ was resurrected, those who have died before the rapture will come with Christ at the rapture. Those who remain alive until the rapture will not precede those who have died. Thus, with a heavenly shout, the dead in Christ will rise first and then those who remain will meet Christ in the air to be with Him forever. Since Jesus does not actually touch the earth, i.e. return to the Mount of Olives in the same manner in which He left, this is not the second coming of Christ.
The timing of the rapture of the church cannot be predicted (1 Thes 5:1-3).
The day of the Lord (in this case the rapture which sets the stage for the final day of the Lord at His second coming) will come “as a thief in the night”. When mankind is smug and living as if there is no God, in their own peace and safety, the rapture will occur suddenly and the great destruction of the tribulation period will be upon them. There will be no escape.
In his second epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul goes back and clarifies the actual second coming of Christ, i.e. the “day of the Lord.” Here he makes four major points.
Christ’s coming will involve retribution and reward. (2 Thes 1:5-12).
The righteous judgment of God (the tribulation period) will precede the second coming of Christ. Those who stand against the church (trouble the church) will be repaid with tribulation. Those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of Christ will see the vengeance of God in flaming fire. They will be punished with everlasting separation from the presence of the Lord and from His glory. However, His saints will glorify Him because they believed. At this time God will “count you worthy of His calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power.”
Two necessary precursors of the day of the Lord (2 Thes 2:1-7)
Paul says two precursors must be in place before He returns. First, the Day will not come unless the falling away comes first. The man of sin is revealed (i.e. the Antichrist). Man will largely separate Himself from God and turmoil will rule the earth. Second, the son of perdition who opposes God and exalts himself above God will arise. The times will be unbearable because the Holy Spirit, who restrains the evil that could exist, is stops restraining.
The deception of the world (2 Thes 2:8-12)
The lawless one (i.e. the Antichrist) will be collaborating with Satan and he will have rule with power, signs, and lying wonders. The people do not love truth; therefore, they are deceived and deluded so that they believe the lie.
Assurance of the believer’s escape (2 Thes 2:13-14)
Those who believe the truth (Christians) will be saved from this tribulation and the wrath of God. 1 Thes 1:10 assures us that it is “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” We also see in 1 Thes 5: that “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The salvation in this passage is not the eternal-life-type of salvation. We are to be saved from the wrath of God that will befall the earth. The retribution of God will be upon man as described in Revelation 4:1-22:5 describes the tribulation which will lead to the end of man’s rebellion against God and subsequently describes the future earthly reign of Christ and His kingdom. Those who have trusted Christ in this life will not undergo the wrath of God.
The appropriate attitude in light of these future events (1 Thes 5:4-11; 2 Thes 2:15-17)
Christians should be watchful and alert as we don’t know the timing of these events. In addition, we can comfort and edify one-another because we know that God is faithful. He will not subject us to the great and horrible tribulation that is coming. In addition, we should be steadfast as we hold to the word of God.
What is the difference between the rapture of the Church and the revelation of Christ’s second coming?
These are the components that make up the second coming of Christ. First, the Church age ends with the rapture of the faithful. John 14:1-3 says
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And 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.”
Many will tell you that the word “rapture” does not exist in the Bible. This, however, is not entirely accurate. While this ENGLISH word itself does not appear in the Bible, the event is real nonetheless. We get the word “rapture” from the Latin translation of the Greek word ἁρπάζω (harpazo). It means to be “caught up.” The Rapture is that future event when the Lord Jesus will return in the clouds above this earth and will catch—snatch—away all the saved people of the world. It is a time that is known in the Bible as “The blessed hope,” Titus 2:13. It is our hope in Christ. This future event will be our focus today. The rapture is the first phase of Christ’s coming.
The second phase of Christ’s coming is when Christ returns to destroy the Antichrist and all who refuse to trust in Him. This phase occurs at the end of the Tribulation period and at this time Christ will user in His promised kingdom.
The rapture (first phase) and the revelation (second phase) of Christ’s second coming are two different events for at least seven reasons.
- In the rapture, Christ comes to the air (1 Thes 4:16, 17); in the revelation, He comes to the earth (Zech 14:4).
- In the rapture, Christ comes for His saints (1 Thes 4:16, 17); in the revelation, He comes with His saints (Jude 14).
- The rapture is a mystery, i.e. a truth unknown in OT times (1 Cor 15:51); the revelation is not a mystery, being the subject of many OT prophecies (Zech 14).
- The rapture is never said to be preceded by signs in the heavens; the revelation will be heralded by signs in the heavens (Matt 24:29, 30).
- The rapture is presented as a time of blessing (1 Thes 4:18); the main emphasis of the revelation is on judgment (2 Thes 2:8-12).
- The rapture takes place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:52); the revelation will be visible worldwide (Matt 24:27, Rev 1:7).
- The rapture involves the Church (1 Cor 15: 51-58); the revelation involves Israel primarily, then also the Gentile nations (Matt 24:1-25:46).
The rapture will occur suddenly, without warning. There will be no escape. The rapture sets the stage for the final day of the Lord and the second phase of His second coming. It will come “as a thief in the night.” When mankind is smug and living as if there is no God, in their own peace and safety, the rapture will occur suddenly and the great destruction of the tribulation period will be upon them. There will be no escape.
We must be watchful and steadfast as we await the rapture. Christians should be watchful and alert as we don’t know the timing of these events. In addition, we can comfort and edify one-another because we know that God is faithful. He will not subject us to the great and horrible tribulation that is coming. In addition, we should be steadfast as we hold to the word of God.
We must keep our focus on the coming of Christ so that we can maintain the urgency of heart to share the Gospel.
Are you ready for the time when Jesus will return for His bride—the church?