“For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven, in the commandment, and in the voice of an archangel [in the commanding, and in the voice of the archangel], and in the trump of God; and the dead men that be in Christ, shall rise again first. Afterward we that live, that be left, shall be snatched (up) together with them in clouds, meeting Christ in the air; and so evermore we shall be with the Lord.”
Maybe Paul started the ‘zombie’ – the walking dead – craze. I don’t like writing about ‘end times’ because the Word clearly teaches no one knows the day, the hour except the Father. Why some insist on predicting the end of the world is beyond me! Why anyone argues over the details is also bizarre to me.
That “evermore we shall be with the Lord” is what attracts my attention! The rest is fluff, so to speak. The rapture? The Holy Spirit says ‘be prepared,” “keep watch” because we know not when He “shall come down from Heaven.”
On the cross, Jesus tells the repentant thief, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Jesus’ promise is not for some far off day, but for today!
‘What people do to me, I shall not dread or fear for I hope and trust in God,’ sings the psalmist.
“In God I shall praise my words; I hoped in God, I shall not dread what thing flesh, or man, shall do to me. (Yea, I shall praise God with my words; for I trust in God, and I shall not fear what any person shall do to me.)”
With complete trust in God, it makes sense that I would not fear anything someone might decide to do to me. Fear and dread and worry indicate a lack of trust in God, especially a diminishing of belief in His perfect will. Jesus, for a moment, asks God the Father if perhaps His perfect will might be fulfilled in some other perfect way than through crucifixion and death. But, within the same breath, Jesus says: ‘But not My will Lord, but Yours.’
Since Jesus is without sin, it follows His dread of the cross is part of His sacrifice for us. His fear relieves our fear just as His punishment deflects the punishment meant for us.
So, day in and day out, our worries and fears and dreads — though natural reactions to the stresses of living — should never define us. What should define you and me is our trust and hope in God, who is perfect and “who works all things together for good to those who are call according to His purposes.”
Seems such a paradox that we should expect and obtain mercy from a God we dread.
“But the mercy of the Lord is from without beginning, and till into without end; on men dreading him.”
Our fear of the Lord might consume us if we did not know He desires mercy rather than judgment. We might still be hiding ourselves from His sight if not for His own sacrifice, so that we might approach His throne of grace where He always lives to intercede for us.
“And his rightfulness is into the sons of sons; (But the Lord’s love is without beginning, and without end; for those who fear him/for those who revere him. And his righteousness shall never fail the children of their children,) to them that keep his testament. And be mindful of his commandments; to do those. (yea, they who keep his covenant; and who remember his commandments, and who do them.)” (Psalm 103: 17-18)
That dread of the Lord makes my heart leap into my throat and my stomach drop into my bowel. My fear of being separated from Him for all eternity keeps me shaking and quaking when I read His Word: “be mindful of [My] commandments; to do those.” No way I can honestly say to Him, “Oh yes Lord, I keep all Your commandments.”
I look to the cross. I kneel at the throne of grace. I rely on Him, always. Otherwise, I’m stuck in that dread of the Lord.
“14 Bless ye men that pursue you; bless ye, and do not ye curse;
15 for to joy with men that joy, for to weep with men that weep.
16 Feel ye the same thing together; not understanding high things, but consenting to meek things[Feeling the same thing together; not savouring, or knowing, high things, but consenting to meek things, following meek fathers]. Do not ye be prudent with yourselves;”
Of course, so does Jesus.
“3 Blessed be poor men in spirit, for the kingdom of heavens is theirs. [Blessed be the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.]
4 Blessed be mild men [Blessed mild], for they shall wield the earth.
5 Blessed be they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
6 Blessed be they that hunger and thirst rightwiseness, for they shall be fulfilled [for they shall be filled].
7 Blessed be merciful men [Blessed the merciful], for they shall get mercy.
8 Blessed be they that be of clean heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed be peaceable men, for they shall be called God’s children. [Blessed the peaceable, for they shall be called the sons of God.]
10 Blessed be they that suffer persecution for rightwiseness, for the kingdom of heavens is theirs [for the kingdom of heaven is theirs].”
We are not called to arrogance, war, haughtiness of spirit, ambivalence, impurity, or ease. Rather, we are called to mildness, poverty of spirit, peace, purity, mourning, and persecution.
In one sense, the words of Paul are reminiscent of the saying: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, walk a mile in them, and then think about your attitude. Then, you may bless them that pursue you; you may weep with those who weep, and be joyful with those who are joyful.
Paul is warned by the Holy Spirit to expect hardships and prison. He writes:
“But I dread nothing of these, neither I make my life preciouser than myself, so that I end my course [the while I end, or fulfill, my course], and the ministry of the word, which I received of the Lord Jesus, to witness the gospel of the grace of God.” (WYC)
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (KJV)
“But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course[with joy] and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” (HCSB)
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (NIV-1984)
I love the Wycliffe Bible translation! Note that Paul is not testifying about the gospel of the grace of God, but he is witnessing the good news firsthand. He is not counting his life so precious that he dreads imprisonment or hardships. Rather he determines not to “end his course” before he finishes “the ministry of the Word, which [he] received of the Lord Jesus.”
Perhaps the other translations miss this subtlety only slightly — that Paul does not testify about the gospel; but rather witnesses it himself. What Paul works to complete is “the ministry of the Word” which is certainly more than telling others the good news. Paul determines to consider his life worthless in comparison to his calling — for to Paul, to live is Christ and to die is Christ.
Not for judgment — God the Father does not send Jesus His Son into the world for judgment purposes. In fact, that’s completely unnecessary for the world stands condemned already; judgment has been conferred; we are all doomed.
I am convinced if we start with this undeniable truth — that Jesus is a Savior and not a Judge, we might understand the level of His commitment to His Father’s purposes.
“For God sent not his Son into the world, that he judge the world, but that the world be saved by him.”
Jesus comes to earth to save, not to condemn. He comes to seek and save what is lost.
Here James offers one of those tidbits of wisdom that might define my life if I would but follow it diligently —
“Know ye, my brethren most loved, be each man swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to wrath;”
Listening is key —
Open my ears and shut my mouth, and attend to what you are saying without formulating my response while you are still speaking. (Do this sometimes in a group, and you can wind up completely ignored; but I imagine you are also the group member most likely to know what was said — and meant — by the other members.)
If I listen without a mind active in figuring out my own response, then it follows I have a better chance of fully understanding you and your viewpoint. Perhaps then I will be “slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Paul and Jesus speak often of brothers, but also of neighbours. Brothers, I presume, are fellow believers. Neighbours may or may not be Christians. Yet, Paul writes to the church at Rome:
“Each of us please to his neighbour in good [into good], to edification.”
So we are to please our neighbours — whether or not they are believers — and we are to please them “into good, to edification.” We are called “to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge;” to “uplift, enlighten, and inform.” Edification implies speaking to our neighbours, but I speak little to most of my neighbours. How about you?
I know the family to my left very well. The house behind me — I see them once in a blue moon in their yard. The people on my right, I wave to and speak with on occasion. The couple across from me — now and then. One house on my street stands completely empty – a sign of the economic times. I just met the man at the very end of my street, and I’ve lived here more than fifteen years! My neighbours are essentially strangers with the exception of the three men next door: an elderly man and his two grown sons. I eat with them often!