THE BLESSED, BLESSED HOPE
It’s a term I prefer to call “Rapture Phobia” fear of the Rapture. I remember as a pre-teen being very scared that I might miss the rapture. It wasn’t all my fault. In addition to a basic misunderstanding of the doctrine of the blessed hope on my part, There were specials sung in church like “Life was filled with guns and war, and everyone got trampled on the floor, I wish we’d all been ready....” (Youth, I know it’s a DC Talk song, but I’m referring to Larry Norman’s whiny version. Then there was the mournful dirge..... “Signs of the times are everywhere...there’s a brand new feeling in the air....” Then I would go to youth camp and they’d keep us up till around 11:30 after a great service and put us in a room watching the 16mm version of “A Theif in the Night” or “Distant Thunder”......in one of the movies during the latter part of the tribulation, they show a woman who can’t decide if she will take the mark of the beast....the end of the movie, which today would be rated at least PG-13, shows a shot of a guillotine and then a shot of her being placed near it, and then the screen goes black......then the verse: All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.....the movie stops....the 16mm continues to click click click click click click click and the head of the camp comes to the microphone and says: “If you’re not really sure you’re a Christian, you need to come to the altar.....whoosh! 75% of the congregation runs to the altar......then of course, back home...awakening in the middle of the night wondering if I’d missed the rapture....looking over and seeing my brother asleep.....still not knowing.....looking down the hallway to my parents room and, seeing them there, discovering in deed the rapture had not taken place. I had not been Left Behind. Oh yes, I’ve read that book too! I know the left behind book series is a wonderful evangelistic medium, but if you’ll walk through the local bookstore and read the titles: Left Behind. Tribulation Force. The Awakening. Soul Harvest. The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession......not exactly good stuff for morning devotions.......Don’t misunderstand....to miss the rapture because you’re not a Christian has to be the most horrible thought imaginable.......
....HOWEVER FOR THE CHRISTIAN...IT’S THE BLESSED HOPE!
1. The Blessed Hope of the Church is the Blessed Hope of the Christian! I Thess 4:13-14
13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. The two go together
Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus
Sing His Mercy and His Grace
In the Mansions Bright and Blessed
He’ll Prepare for us a place
When we all Get to Heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.
"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
2. The Blessed Hope of the Church is a Comfort for Present Pain 4:15-18
15According 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. 16For 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. PRAISE GOD (I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT WILL SOUND LIKE BUT I’M SURE IT WON’T BE A WHISPER, A HESITATING MURMER OR A WHINING EXHORTATION.....BUT A SHOUT!!!!! ) 17After 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. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Paul told the Corinthians:
9If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men
we have a hope to make it through present pain!
What are you worried about?
-situation in your family back home?
-why it seems you are the only one who has financial trouble?
-the uncertainty of the future?
-a boss that mistreats you
-questions that confront you for which there are no answers?
-a friend that has left you for others
-a sickness that plagues your body?
ON THAT DAY.....IT WON’T MATTER ANY MORE....NO MORE TEARS....NO MORE CRYING.....NO MORE PAIN..... AS IT SAYS IN REVELATION....FOR THE FORMER THINGS HAVE PASSED AWAY...SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD!
AS IT IS WRITTEN....1 Cor 2:9
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"‑
2 Cor 4:17‑18
7For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
3. The Blessed Hope of the Church is a Sacred Warning for the World
1 Thess 5: 1-3
5:1Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Mark 13: 35-37 says:
Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back. Whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you I say to everyone: WATCH!
4. The Blessed Hope of the Church Calls for a Higher Standard of Conduct 5:4-8
4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
DON’T YOU WANT TO THANK HIM FOR THAT?
....FOR HE RESCUED US FROM THE DOMAIN OF DARKNESS AND TRANSFERRED US INTO THE KINGDOM OF HIS DEAR SON!
6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self‑controlled. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be self‑controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
faith: believing in God
love: loving and caring for people....has to happen in the context of relationships
hope of salvation: we long for the day to hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”....1 Cor 15:19
2 Peter 3:13
13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
This World is Not My Home
I’m Just Passing Through
My Treasures are Laid Up
Somewhere Beyond the Blue
The Angels Beckon Me
From Heaven’s Open Door
And I Can’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
5. The Blessed Hope of the Church Reveals God’s Purpose for Our Future 5:9-11
9For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Cor 15:50‑58
50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed‑ 52in 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. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When 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."
55"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58Therefore, my dear brothers, 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.
21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."