Eagerly Awaiting (Part 2of 2) – By Benji Carey-Smith – www.raptureready.com
Jude writes in his letter:
‘Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.’ (Jude 21 – NIV)
When will He bring us to eternal life? When He appears to rapture His church and resurrect all their bodies to become eternal bodies.
Here is another clear teaching of this reality in a believer’s life:
‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.’ (Romans 8:22-24 – NIV)
A beautiful verse, this describes basically the deepest desire within us. Our inmost being, our spirit, is groaning to be redeemed from these bodies, and the sin that still is part of our nature. As slaves to righteousness, we long to follow God’s law, yet struggle so much because our sinful nature is restricting us from doing so; it is restricting us from our deepest desire to honor and glorify and serve God, and to obey and delight in God’s law (Romans 7:22). So that is why our deepest hope and desire is to be redeemed into a glorified body and to be adopted as sons of God, so we can do these things without any hindrance or restriction of the enemy’s schemes or our sinful flesh and fallen nature. Again it emphasizes that we are waiting eagerly for this redemption and adoption. When will these things happen? The answer is when our Lord returns. That is another reason why everyone who ‘have the first fruits of the Spirit’ eagerly await Christ’s return. Because in us, the Spirit testifies, it means redemption!
Another interesting point in this last Scripture is that creation also is groaning – and it is groaning like the pains of childbirth as it awaits for its redemption by Christ at His coming, for He will redeem creation; it will be restored for His millennial reign on earth following His second coming. Now I have to admit that I’ve never personally experienced the pains of childbirth (or intend to, you’ll be relieved to know). But I do have a basic understanding of what happens with giving birth to a child. As the birth nears (or redemption in this particular case), what happens? What happens is that the pains (contractions) increase in frequency and size. Paul says ‘we know creation has been groaning’, because we can look around and see natural disasters and extremes of weather, carnivorous and poisonous animals etc. It is under the curse, as we all know. But as the birth is about to happen, so the birth pains increase. As Christ’s second coming (creation’s redemption) is about to happen, we should expect to see natural disasters increase in magnitude and frequency. They have always been there, right up till this present age (since the fall when creation was put under the curse), as Paul has stated: but they will dramatically increase right before Christ’s return. This is interesting, is it not! It is undeniably what we’ve seen the last 50 years or so, and particularly the last 10 years – natural disasters on an unprecedented and unparalleled scale.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, bushfires, droughts, landslides, floods, hurricanes, monsoons, storms, volcanoes, winds – all bigger than ever before and in the news more and more often, in fact almost daily now, over every corner of the world. This is just fact, it is scientific fact. Just the other day I was reading the results of a report: that natural disasters have increased by 400% in the last 20 years. Here is a little of it:
‘The number of natural disasters around the world has increased by more than four times in the last 20 years, according to a report released by the British charity Oxfam. Oxfam analyzed data from the Red Cross, United Nations and researchers at Louvain University in Belgium. It found that the earth is currently experiencing approximately 500 natural disasters per year, compared with 120 per year in the early 1980s. The number of weather-related disasters in 2006 was 240, compared with 60 in 1980…….. “This is no freak year,” said Oxfam director Barbara Stocking. “It follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events that are affecting more people.”’ (From article on NaturalNews.com, 6/5/08, by David Gutierrez – http://www.naturalnews.com/023362.html)
And this report was up till 2006 – the last three years have had even more – just look at the news every day! Having studied geology and seismology, I have seen the recorded rise in earthquakes’ frequency and magnitude particularly over the last decade. It is frightening. Yes there have always been disasters, but major natural disasters fairly few and far between. Today, they are frequent and almost beyond keeping up with. Creation is having birth pains: the birth is about to happen. Of course Jesus actually echoes this very truth. In Matthew’s gospel, He says in response to the disciples question about what the sign of His coming and of the end of this present age would be:
“There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matthew 24:7-8 – NIV)
In other words, the sign of the end of the age, among wars and many other things Jesus mentions, is that natural disasters such as famines and earthquakes (pestilences also mentioned in Luke 21; very interesting) will increase in numbers and size, like contractions before the baby is born; the beginning of the birth pains. Actually creation won’t be fully redeemed till Christ’s actual second coming at the end of the time of judgment upon the earth. That is when Satan will be bound and the curse lifted, leading into the millennial reign of Christ where creation is restored to as it was before the fall, with the earth as God created it originally to be; flourishing, with no natural disasters, with animals living side by side (Isaiah 11:1-11, 35:1-10, 65:17-25). We will be redeemed from our fallen bodies at the rapture, creation at the second coming (two separate events), so this birth in reference to creation’s redemption is at that second event, the actual second coming of Jesus. This is further shown by a few verses:
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” (Acts 3:19-21 – NIV)
‘The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.’ (Romans 8:19 – NIV)
The sons of God (the church) will be revealed when they return with Christ to earth at the final battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:7-14). That is creation’s redemption; her re-birth. Of course this makes sense, because during the judgment period on earth, creation will be going berserk (huge contractions) with earthquakes, signs in the stars and heavens like meteor showers and solar activity, famines, plagues etc. (Revelation 3-20). That is why what we are seeing now is nothing compared to what will happen in terms of nature’s extremes. Nothing. It is only the beginning of the birth pains.
Something interesting is that later on in this summery Jesus gives of the signs of the end of the age and His second coming, He says:
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Matthew 24:32-34 – NIV)
Let me remind you, these are the words of Jesus Himself. He tells us to learn something – to gain
wisdom – from the example of what happens to a fig tree. We can tell the season by what we see happening to the tree; by looking at its twigs and leaves. Using this example, Jesus informs us that when we see these things, his return is near – right at the door. It is about   to happen.
There is actually a double meaning here too, because the previous day He had put a curse on a barren fig tree. This was a symbolic prophecy that God would soon pour out His wrath upon the Jewish people because of their spiritual barrenness in rejecting Jesus, His Son (in the bible a fig tree is often a metaphor for Israel). In this same speech, as recorded in Luke’s gospel, Jesus also echoed this prophecy:
"They [the Jews] will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24 – NIV)
These things happened in history of course as the Jews were dispersed among the nations by the Romans under Titus, who conquered Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They really were scattered to all nations; they were cursed by God for their disobedience; they were punished for their rebellion. But in accordance with the prophets (like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Jesus Himself), God made Israel a nation again in 1948. Jerusalem had remained under Gentile occupation for 1,897 years, but on June 7, 1967, Israel won the city back during the Six Day War. Since it became a nation again, God has been regathering them to this land from all the nations of the earth they were dispersed to for nineteen centuries. It is a modern day miracle, thought impossible even up till the early 1900’s. But it happened because God is in control and ordained it to happen; He has set the times and dates and seasons.
Anyway, the prophetic meaning here with this illustration Jesus gives of the fig tree in Matthew 24 is that when its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know it is the season of Jesus’ return: when we look at Israel and see the leaves comes out, which we saw in 1948 when it became a nation again, and the Jews return to the land again (in contrast to Jesus cursing the fig tree; dispersing the Jews). So in context to both these meanings of looking at the fig tree – with the regathering of God’s people to Israel and re-establishment of the nation, and with these things Jesus had previously described in Chapter 24 beginning to happen – what Jesus says next is just astounding. It is unambiguous. Read the passage above again. He says, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened”. What generation? The generation that were born at the time Israel became a nation again in 1948; that saw the fig tree blossom. This generation has begun to see “all these things”. They have seen the beginning of the birth pains, with natural disasters increasing in size and number over their lifetime. Jesus’ own words are that this generation won’t pass away till all these things happen. In regard to this promise, He says “I tell you the truth”. In other words, we can absolutely trust this to happen. Jesus assures us that His words are true. Maybe He said that because He knew there would be people who would doubt what He said in the future. We can’t just ignore what our Lord has said.
“All these things” includes the time of judgment on earth (the Day of the Lord), which lasts seven years, much of what is described by Jesus in this chapter. For example, the very end of this tribulation period:
“They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30 – NIV)
“They” is referring to all the nations of the earth, so this is talking of the second coming of Christ, visible to every person, where He again sets foot on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1-4, Acts 1:11), at the end of the seven years of judgment upon the earth. Jesus says all these things will happen in the lifetime of this generation, because they will see all these things happen! All of them: the second coming of Christ, and the beginning of the birth pains we can all see around us (this is among many other things Jesus speaks of, which I won’t go into detail here). Point is, this generation Jesus speaks of is clearly the one born in 1948, at Israel’s rebirth. They will see in their lifetime the return of Jesus – He has clearly promised this. This generation, as of now, is 61 years old. If the judgment before the second coming of our Lord is seven years, as Scripture tells us, and the rapture of His church is before that (maybe months or years); then that doesn’t leave a lot of time, particularly as the average lifespan is given in Scripture as ‘seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength’ (Psalm 90:10). Obviously, in fact without any doubt at all, the Bible declares we are in the season and generation of the Lord’s return – it is very, very imminent. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees Sadducees for not being able to interpret the signs of the times (Matthew 6:1-4) and He tells us to know and understand the signs he has clearly given us. The world who will face God’s judgment will have no excuse: they can’t say they haven’t been warned. They have. God is always patient and merciful. What we learned earlier is that many in the “church” will be blind to see the season we are in. But not those who belong to the light. We will see. We can see. The Holy Spirit has opened our eyes and illuminated our vision.
We know Christ’s return to rapture us is in the matter of years, or else our God is a liar. And that He ain’t! No we don’t know the day or hour, only the Father knows the precise time. But we know we are in the season.
So in light of the fact we can see the Day drawing near, what should we do?
‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.’ (Hebrews 10:25 – NIV)
This says we can see the Day approaching. Some people say, “We can’t know the season of Jesus’ return or if we’re in that season”. Well not according to the bible. Here it says we can and will be able to see the Day approaching. And we are told, in light of this, to encourage each other even more. That is priority number one – because the world will get blacker and blacker, more evil, more chaotic – so we as believers need more courage. Hence why we who are living in this season today (people the writer of Hebrews specifically addresses) should be encouraging each other like mad!
Another decent response is outlined by Paul in his letter to the Roman church (Romans 13:8-14). Basically he tells, understanding the hour we live in, and because the Day is near, to love. Love our neighbors as ourselves. And clothe ourselves with Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
The writer of Hebrews also says:
‘Just as one man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.’ (Hebrews 9:27-28 – NIV)
Jesus will appear a second time, to bring salvation. Who to? To those who are not waiting for Him? No. To those who think they’re Christian, but are not waiting for or expecting Him? No. Only those who are waiting
for Him. Only they will receive this salvation when He appears a second time. It is as clear as day. And if salvation will be granted to every true Christian, which it will (all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved and are redeemed by Christ’s blood), but only those who are waiting for his appearing will receive salvation; then the only logical and biblical conclusion is that every true Christian will be waiting for Him. If you are not waiting for Jesus to return, you won’t receive salvation when He does come (which is very soon as we’ve seen). You see, waiting for Christ eagerly is not merely an option for Christians, it simply is a reality.
In writing his second letter to young Timothy, a pastor, Paul says (right before his death):
‘For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.’ (2 Timothy 4:6-8 – NIV)
Paul goes on from saying that because he’s fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith, he will receive the crown of righteousness as a reward. These things are true for every single Christian. Can someone not fight the good fight and be a Christian? Can someone not finish the race and be a Christian? Can someone not keep the faith and be a Christian? Every person who enters heaven will be able to say they also fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (endured). So, like Paul, every believer will receive this crown of righteousness in heaven. It suggests perhaps a right standing with God (righteousness), which is through Christ’s blood. Is that not true for every Christian? Paul isn’t some super-spiritual Christian who’ll receive this special reward along with a few others who ‘longed for his appearing’. Rather, Paul says this prize will go to all Christians by saying, ‘and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing’ (obviously including himself in that group). So every Christian will long for His appearing. All who have longed for His appearing = every Christian in history. By context, this verse could not mean anything else.
Jesus said:
“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.” (Matthew 24:37-42 – NIV)
What Jesus is emphasizing here is what the world will look like at His return. Although the days of Noah were evil, and evil certainly will increase towards the end of this age, Jesus is actually emphasizing the fact most people won’t be ready or expecting it. They’ll just be living normal life, eating and drinking and marrying and divorcing, as though nothing is about to happen (clearly this has to be talking about the rapture, because if it was the second coming, people sure won’t be living normal life at that stage, in the midst of the great hour of tribulation). They’ll ignore any warnings of God’s coming judgment, like Noah’s day did; and so they will know nothing of what’s about to happen on earth (a terrible time, in fact Jesus said it will be a time of “great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again” – Matthew 24:21) until suddenly the church are raptured away from this earth and absolute chaos breaks loose across the earth; mayhem, confusion and fear. The restraining power of the Holy Spirit over sin and lawlessness in this world (present in the body of Christ) will be taken away and people will be let loose in their depravity. There will be no second chance to escape it. They will face the Day of the Lord if that time comes suddenly to them/like a thief. Many will turn to Christ during this time (Revelation 7:13-14), but they will face this time all the same, many being martyred for their faith but of course immediately taken to heaven if they are believers. It will come like a thief to most of the world alive right now, and many in the “church” who right at this precise moment are not expecting it in the least. Many in the church are completely oblivious to the fact God is about to judge mankind on earth, or if they have been told they scoff at the idea. It is exactly as Jesus predicted. People are just living normal lives with no awareness – they can’t SEE, because they are not in the light! What is about to happen? This passage above tells us. People will just disappear; they will literally vanish off the face of the planet (that is, Christians). Two people will be working side by side, one will be taken, one left. One raptured, one not touched. It will happen in the twinkling of an eye, at the trumpet call of God (1 Corinthians 15:52). Did you know, that scientifically, this twinkling of an eye takes one six billionth of a second (i.e. 1/6,000,000,000 sec)? That’s how quick and suddenly it will happen; Christ’s bride will vanish. No wonder it will be a surprise! Especially if you happened to, right at that moment, be looking right at a believer. It will particularly be a surprise for those who thought they were really Christians. I just hope lots of them straight away realize the truth of what’s happened and repent and turn to Christ. We are all called, because of this all, to “keep watch”.
Again, Jesus repeats His exhortation:
“So you must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:44- NIV)
Are you expecting Him? Am I? Most are not….
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or hour.” (Matthew 25:13 – NIV)
Keep watch means open our eyes and look! See Him returning. Or else it will surprise you like a thief, and you will be left behind to face the great judgment of God, the demonstration of our God’s perfect justice and righteousness.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
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!’” (Mark 13:32-37 – NIV)
God has appointed the time; the day and hour. He will blow the trumpet for His Son to return, for our redemption. We’re told to be alert and on guard for
our Master’s return. We don’t know the exact day or hour, so we have to be watchful and ready at all times, and never let down our guard. We are all that servant at the door: and we are all told to “Watch!” Jesus is
sure making it emphatic and clear! We know He’s returning soon: we don’t know exactly what time of day, whether it will be in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn, or in the middle of the day. But we must be ready:
“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress them himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” (Luke 12:37 – NIV)