Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies
The blessed hope - Why I'm looking forward to the Rapture!
by I Gordon
Prudence inquired, 'And what is it that makes you desirous to go to Mount Zion?'
Christian replied, 'Why, it is there that I hope to see alive my Savior who hung dead on the cross. It is there that I hope to be rid of all those things that to this day are an annoyance to me. They say that in that place there is no death, and I will dwell there with the company that I like best. For, to tell you the truth, I love Him because He eased me of my burden. I am weary of my inward sickness. I desire to be where I will die no more, with a company that will continually cry, 'Holy, holy, holy!''
(John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress)
The blessed hope
Titus 2:11-15 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. (12) It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, (13) while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (14) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (15) These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
The coming of the Lord is the blessed hope. It is the hope above all hopes. The word 'blessed' in the Greek is 'makarios' meaning 'supremely blest; by extension fortunate, well off, blessed, happy.' It is the happy hope! The fortunate and supremely blessed hope! Are there other scriptures that expressed this great desire to see the Lord's return? There certainly is!
1 Corinthians 1:7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
2 Timothy 4:8 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 Peter 3:12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ...
Romans 8:19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
So we eagerly await our Saviour. We long for, and look forward to His return. It is the blessed hope! And not only us but all of creation waits in eager expectation too!
Now without doubt there are some seriously amazing things to look forward to when the Lord returns. Everyone probably has something that they are especially looking forward to. Can I ask you, what are YOU looking forward to the most at the return of Jesus? What makes the blessed hope the eagerly awaited happy hope for you? I started thinking about this and here are 8 (Jesus' number - the number of resurrection and new life) reasons to look forward to the blessed hope!
1. We get to meet and see Jesus face to face!
Genesis 3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Exodus 33:11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.
1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face...
Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (4) And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
Right from the creation of the world it was always God's intention that He would dwell and live with His creation. We see in Genesis that He, Jesus Christ, walked in the garden of Eden and was with Adam and Eve. He has never wanted separation from His creation. In the days of the Exodus we read that Moses spoke to God face to face, as a man speaks with His friend. How amazing is that? Imagine speaking face to face with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe! Well, scripture says that when Jesus returns, this face to face fellowship becomes a reality once again. Revelation speaks of the day when God will once again dwell with man as it was from the beginning.
Finally, after all the years, when Jesus return we will stand (or more likely fall) before the Lord of Glory. Our Saviour. Our redeemer. Our Lord. Our friend. After expressing the wonderful news of the rapture of the Church, the Apostle Paul ends with this punch line: 'And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.' (1 Thes 4:17-18) So shall we be with the Lord forever. No separation any more!
2. We will get a new body!
The scriptures accurately tell us that this body that believers on Earth currently dwell in is 'wonderfully and fearfully made'. (Psalm 139:14) It really is a marvel! But it is still part of the first, and fallen, creation so God has planned something far better still to come. When Jesus stood on the Mount 'He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:2). Well we too, as believers, will be transformed.
Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (21) who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Speaking of the resurrection body, Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 15:41-44 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. (42) So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; (43) it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; (44) it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
And he went on to speak of the transformation that will occur on that day!
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- (52) 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. (53) For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
What is it that let's you down in your current body? Maybe you are getting older and no longer have the mobility or energy that you once had? Maybe you have a long term health issue that continually brings you down? Maybe through an accident something in your body is 'broken' and isn't repairable? I had a surfing accident where my left eye was split down the middle losing all sight permanently in that eye. It is still a strange feeling waking up in the morning, opening that eye, and not seeing any light like you had for all those years before the accident. But this is pretty minor to what some have to go through. The majesty and beauty of what is coming will blow us away! It is a body that will not tire, break or wear out. And that's just looking at it from a health perspective. But it will also be a body that is totally suited to our new eternal home just as this body is created and suited for our temporal earthly existence. Wow! All that that contains remains something of a mystery but we know that Jesus, after the resurrection, wasn't confined by time and space.
3. We will get a new nature!
Those that have been a Christian for some time will look forward to this one. I know I do. Believers are a new creation 'in Christ Jesus' but we still await our new body like unto His body before we will be totally free from 'the flesh' and our old nature. But one day, when Jesus returns, we will actually be like him. No more old nature bringing us down. We will be changed into his likeness. Paul expressed the ongoing battle with the sinful nature like this:
Romans 7:15-19 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (16) And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. (17) As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.
This battle with 'the disease of self' is expressed in the following song 'In the light':
I keep trying to find a life, On my own, apart from You. I am the king of excuses, I've got one for every selfish thing I do.
What's going on inside of me? I despise my own behavior. This only serves to confirm my suspicions, that I'm still a man in need of a Savior
I want to be in the Light, As You are in the Light, I want to shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation, Cause all I want is to be in the Light.
The disease of self runs through my blood, It's a cancer fatal to my soul. Every attempt on my behalf has failed To bring this sickness under control.
Tell me, what's going on inside of me? I despise my own behavior. This only serves to confirm my suspicions, that I'm still a man in need of a Savior.
When Jesus returns, we will no longer be tempted by sin. We will no longer be ruled by a 'self-focused' nature. In the well know verse, John tells us:
1 John 3:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Paul wrote: 'When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.' (Colossians 3:4)
When it says that we will appear with Christ 'in glory' it is speaking of the nature and character of God. This is the 'glory' that all have sinned and fallen short of (Rom 3:23). This is the 'glory' that Christ in us now gives us the hope of (Col 1:27). Now it's not saying that we will be God, but we have participated in the 'divine nature' (2 Pet 1:4) through the gift of the Holy Spirit and one day, when we receive a body like His body, we shall be like Him and display that very nature of God completely without the hindrances and earthly downward drag of our current fallen nature.
4. We will be united with those that have gone before us
Think for a moment of those that you know that have already gone to be with the Lord. Maybe it is a parent, or even a child. Maybe a good friend that you long to see again. Can you imagine the joyous reunion that will take place when we see them again? For me, I look forward to seeing my Grandmother who only became a Christian in her last few weeks of life. And I want to see my Dad again. He had a difficult life due to epilepsy and a lifetime on drugs (to try control his epilepsy) that had a large effect on his life (and not for the better). It all changed who he could have been. I can't wait to see him finally free from all his burdens and at his best!
The scripture assures us that the coming of the Lord will bring a great reunion with those that have previously gone to be with the Lord. And we will be caught up together!
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 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. (17) 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.
5. We will get a new home, a real home.
There is no place like home they say. Unfortunately for many in this life even their home is not something to be desired for the effects of the fall have infiltrated all areas. But our true home is not like that. Our true home is not here on this earth. It is the heavenly New Jerusalem. It has been longed for as far back as Abraham who looked for the city whose foundations are from God. (Heb 11:16). It is this home that Jesus Himself has gone away to prepare for us:
John 14:1-3 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (2) In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. (3) 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.
2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Revelation gives us a glimpse of this new home, but of course it is hard to explain the heavenly in earthly descriptions. So marvelous is this new dwelling place that John can only describe it in terms of jewels:
Revelation 21:9-11 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." (10) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. (11) It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
6. We will know even as we are known
1 Corinthians 13:11-12 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (12) Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Now I need to say that I don't understand this exactly. Well, I certainly understand the fact that I know in part now. It is the 'then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known' part that I don't understand. But even if I don't understand it, it certainly sounds intriguing! This doesn't mean that we will be God. We will ever be learning and finding out more about this limitless being. But 'the mystery of God' will be finished. We will see Him and know Him face to face. And we will truly know each other in a new wonderful way. I like what J. Vernon McGee writes on this:
A great many people ask, "Will I know my loved ones in heaven?" You surely will. What is the scriptural proof? "Now we see through a glass, darkly." You have never seen me. It is possible you may think you have seen me, but what you saw was a suit of clothes with a head and two hands sticking out of it. You didn't really see me. And I have never really seen you because we just see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know only in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known. Someone asked G. Campbell Morgan, "Do you think we will know our loved ones in heaven?" Dr. Morgan in his truly British manner answered, "I do not expect to be a bigger fool in heaven than I am here, and I know my loved ones here.".
7. We will experience unrelenting joy... and peace... and love... and...!
This is another hard one to comprehend for it sounds too good to be true! The scripture tells us that in God's presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forever more. Yes, forever more. I like that. I like the two of them together even more - 'fullness of joy' and 'forevermore'.
Psalms 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalms 17:15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
The word 'satisfied' in the Hebrew means 'to be filled, to be full.' We've seen above that we shall be found 'like Him' in the glory of God. The true nature and character of God contains all love, all grace, all mercy, all goodness, all peace, all joy... and we could go on for a long time! We shall be 'filled to the full' on that day. Imagine being truly saturated with the love and acceptance of God? Imagine being immersed in the joy of the Lord! Imagine the peace, contentment that will be ours because of Him! Imagine every thought automatically being to the glory of God!
8. We will set sail on the most incredible future!
It is also the start of an amazing future with the most creative and incredible being in the universe - The Lord Jesus. The one who made all things and upholds all things, is going to make all things new! If you thought that this creation was wonderful then wait and see what He does in the new creation!
Like many of the others, it is difficult to get our minds around this thought. But let me stress this one thing - God is the most exciting being in the universe. We will never get to the end of His creativity and beauty, and nor will we ever be bored or at a loss for things to do! And yes, scrub that stupid man-made thought of sitting on clouds strumming harps far from your mind! God's very nature is creativity!
Words can't express what is to come with any sense of adequacy. You may have others things that you look forward to. But the words of that great song 'I can only imagine' come to mind as I think of this time and seeing Jesus face to face:
I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk, by your side.
I can only imagine what my eyes will see, When you face is before me,
I can only imagine. I can only imagine.
I can only imagine when that day comes, When I find myself standing in the Son.
I can only imagine when all I would do, is forever, forever worship You,
I can only imagine, I can only imagine.
Surrounded by Your glory What will my heart feel? Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah, Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine... I can only imagine...