Be Careful Who You Imitate

Be Careful Who You Imitate

2 Kings 17:15They imitated the nations around them although the Lord ordered them, “Do not do as they do.” (NIV 1978)

My Musing – We must live in the world, but we do not have to behave like the worldly.

My Advice – Be different. Distinguish yourself from friends, co-workers and peers who might be worldly, by following God’s standards rather than those of this world. Do this in a way that is not arrogant or holier-than-thou, so that others will admire you and want to be imitators of you, rather than being resentful or turned-off.

His Second Coming

The Rapture: Sudden and Secretive – “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. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:40-44).

While Jesus’ Olivet Discourse mentions many signs to indicate the end is approaching, many believe that few or none of the events prophesied in the book of Revelation need to occur before Jesus returns “like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2) for His saints. In this view, it will take place “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52) and that it could occur at any time. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 Paul used the pronoun we, (“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”) suggesting that even he may have expected to be alive when the Lord returned. (1) Thus, Jesus may be speaking about a different “coming” (Rapture) that precedes His physical return to the earth (Parousia).

Rapture is an English word meaning a state or experience of being carried away. It is derived from the Latin term rapio or rapturo, which means to snatch away or carry off. It is generally understood to mean God taking believers out of the world instantaneously (snatching). The main biblical passage used to describe the rapture of the church is 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 (“meet the Lord in the air”). Other texts often used to support the doctrine of the rapture are John 14:1–3 (“I will come back and take you to be with me”) and 1 Corinthians 15:51–52 (“we will not all sleep, but we will be changed”).

The Parousia: Dramatic and Visible – “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:30-31)

Others believe that Christ’s return will be more dramatic, and considerably different than the “like a thief” viewpoint described above. On the contrary, as “lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27), such that “every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). This dramatic and visible return of Christ is referred to as the Parousia.

Parousia is a transliteration (the spelling of a word in one language with the alphabet of another language) of a Greek word that means presence, arrival, appearance, or coming. The word is employed most frequently with reference to Christ (Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8. As such, the Parousia has come to denote the visible second coming of Christ at the end of the age.(2)

Exactly what the sign of the Son of Man will be is unknown. The sign that God had abandoned the nation of Israel was the departure of His Shekinah glory from the temple (Ezekiel 10:3, 18; 11:23). Perhaps the sign of the Lord’s return will involve a visible (and if so likely unmistakable) return of His Shekinah glory. Some believe the sign may involve the heavenly city, New Jerusalem, which may descend at this time (Revelation 21:2–3). Or the sign may literally be lightning, a cross, or perhaps merely the Lord Himself.

Whatever the sign, it will be visible for all to see, “for the Lord will return on the clouds … with power and great glory” (Daniel 7:13). He will then send His angels forth to gather His elect from the four winds of the earth (Mark 13:27). This involves the gathering of those who will have become believers during the Great Tribulation and who will have been scattered into various parts of the world because of persecution (Matthew 24:16). (3) This does seem to imply that the “one will be taken and the other left” (the Rapture) is separated from His “gather[ing] his elect from the four winds” (the Parousia) by a sufficient period of time to allow for a significant number of global converts after the rapture.

Yes to Both – Of course these two views are not necessarily mutually exclusive (not either or). In fact, it appears from the descriptions above that the Rapture (no signs appear to precede it and it is likely not visible) and the Parousia (signs clearly precede it and it is openly visible) must be two separate events. They would have to be for them both to be true (yes to both). However, nowhere in the Bible is it clearly spelled out that there will be a pre-tribulation (or mid-tribulation) rapture. This could simply be Jesus separating the sheep from the goats.

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  1. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 179). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  2. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1616). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  3. Barbieri, L. A., Jr. (1985). Matthew. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 78). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

 

No Accounting For Some People

No Accounting For Some People

2 Kings 12:13They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted in complete honesty. (NIV 1978)

My Musing – This sounds remarkable, yet in the life of a believer, this should be standard conduct rather than something to marvel about.

My Advice – Leave it up to your dad to find something about accounting in the Bible. At any rate, be a man of integrity, someone who others will trust without question.

No Gospel At All

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Galatians 1:6-9I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (NIV 1984)

Other People’s Musings – All the salvation with half the guilt! It’s what some people call “Christianity lite.”  Continue reading “No Gospel At All”

Study 6: Our Response

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Study 6: Our Response

God offers the only remedy that works. But to end the separation, to get to the other side where God eagerly awaits us with open arms, we have to take the bridge.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

We are not mystically transported to the other side without our knowledge simply because Jesus died on the cross. While it is true that He died for all, not everyone accepts Him. Nor are we herded across to the other side against our will. We can reject Him. There is no toll charge, no price that we can pay to gain the crossing. The price has already been paid. We simply have to accept Him and the sacrifice that He made. In so doing, we willingly cross over the bridge that He built back to Him. We cross over from death to life. We are born again. Continue reading “Study 6: Our Response”

Disturbances in the Heavens

Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29)

We are not specially told how the sun will be darkened. However, it does not seem to mean that the stars will literally fall. Rather there will be certain signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, of such a violent commotion that the stars themselves will seem to fall. Luke also adds that there will be a dreadful commotion of the sea, with the sea and the waves roaring to such an extent that men will faint through fear and alarm.(1) Some of the more popularized potential explanations of such an occurrence are as follows.

Meteorites – Descriptions by scientists of the potential impact caused by a meteorite hitting the earth could account for the phenomenon described by Jesus. If a major body made landfall it could make a crater about ten times its own diameter in size and eject about twice as much debris into the atmosphere as the meteorite contained. A dust cloud from the impact could cause the sky to be darkened. A meteorite that is six miles in diameter could cause total darkness for up to a year. With total darkness of just a few months, temperatures on the surface of the earth would fall to below freezing and snowfalls of ten to twenty feet could result. If smaller bodies impacted instead of a single large one, they could start immense fires and smoke would darken the skies.

If a major body hit in an ocean, it could throw much more material into the atmosphere (salt, steam, pulverized and melted rock). It also could create tsunamis that were thousands of feet high and capable of flooding entire coastal areas. For example, the explosion of Krakatoa (a volcano) created a tidal wave that was 125 feet high. A major meteorite impact would likely be much more severe. A major meteorite could also cause chemical changes in the earth’s atmosphere. The one that exploded over Siberia in 1908 produced nitrous oxides that destroyed as much as 40% of the ozone layer. Even a small asteroid could form nitric acid, which could rain down on the oceans, poisoning the water and killing marine life that lived near the surface. The extent of the damage would depend on such factors as the meteorite’s speed and the distance that it traveled in the atmosphere.

Of course, scientific estimates can be way off because man cannot account for all the variables, and have little experience with direct observation. So, an actual event could be less severe than described, similar to what is described or even worse than described.(2)

According to a group led by former NASA astronauts, large asteroids are already hitting the Earth far more often than anyone previously realized (beginning of birth pains?). They claim that the only thing preventing a meteor from destroying a major city is sheer luck (better known as Providence). From 2000 to 2013, the B612 Foundation says 26 meteorites packing the punch of an atomic bomb have struck the Earth, although they all landed far from human populations. The group’s findings imply that meteor impacts could be three to ten times more common than previously thought. Michio Kaku, a physics professor at the City University of New York and author of The Future of the Mind, said that a “city buster” that could take out a city the size of New York City could hit every 30 years, instead of every 150 years like previously thought. The meteor that sailed over Russia on February 15, 2003, which was only 60 feet across, had the force of 20 Hiroshima bombs.(3)

Nuclear Exchange – Since 1945, man has been haunted by the possibility that the end of the world might come as the result of mankind’s own self-destructive tendencies. Once a nomadic people in the wild, we have since climbed the ladder of technological, if not civil, advancement. But are we advancing towards utopia or like the Light Brigade are we charging toward our own destruction. After all, if we learned nothing else from 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is that if you give a monkey a bone, it inevitably will beat another monkey to death with it.(4)

It is now seventy plus years since the discovery and propagation of nuclear weapons. Thus far, their use has been limited and we have managed to avoid a full-scale global thermonuclear exchange – although on more than one occasion we came perilously close. Despite attempts by “responsible” world powers at nuclear disarmament, it may only be a matter of time before a rogue nation (North Korea or Iran?) or lesser power (ISIS or Al Qaeda?) gets in the “game.” Men and machines are fallible, and motives are not always noble, as world events constantly remind us. Fools and madmen do exist, and sometimes rise to power. Concentrating always on the foreseeable future, we have not adequately focused on the unforeseen consequences of our scientific “advancements.” In so doing we may have unwittingly played right into Biblical prophecy and placed our civilization and our species in jeopardy.(5)

Apart from the direct devastation that a global (or even regional) thermonuclear exchange would entail (as the missiles rain down from the sky like falling stars), the “nuclear winter” that followed could be much like Christ described. Models suggest that the ignition of dozens or more firestorms, comparable to that of Hiroshima city in 1945, would result in the injection of significant quantities of soot into the Earth’s stratosphere, which could then go on to have a profound and severe effect on the global climate. This would produce cold weather and reduced sunlight for a period of months or years.(6)

Direct Judgment – Of course a direct judgment from God, similar to what occurred with Sodom and Gomorrah might be the simplest explanation. In the final analysis, how it happens is not the point. The fact that it will happen because Jesus prophesied it will happen is what really matters..

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  1. Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 3, p. 146). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  2. http://www.foxven.com/r1e-cosmic-disturbance
  3. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/asteroids-hitting-earth-more-often-than-previously-thought-ex-astronauts-group-says/
  4. http://science.howstuffworks.com/nuclear-winter.htm
  5. “The Nuclear Winter” (1983), Carl Sagan
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter

Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t Be Afraid

2 Kings 6:16 – “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (NIV 1978)

My Musing – We cannot even begin to fathom or imagine the heavenly resources that are backing us up when we encounter challenges in life. But we can know for sure that they are more than sufficient and are greater than the challenge.

My Advice – Do not let difficulties and oppression discourage you or get you down. The only thing we have to fear is our own lack of faith in God’s ability or willingness to help us through the rough patches.