Enraptured

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Thessalonians 4:17a

Do you know the actual word “rapture” is not found in most English translations of the Bible? It’s not in the King James Version, the New King James Version, or the New International Version. But that doesn’t diminish its reality or our excitement about it. According to the apostle Paul, one day soon Christ will descend from heaven with a shout and believers who are alive at the time will be “caught up” or “caught away” to be with Him.

When the Bible was translated into Latin in the fourth century, the translators rendered the original Greek phrase with the Latin word raptura, a term used meaning “snatched away.” That’s the source of our English term “rapture.” Later when the Bible was translated into English, the scholars bypassed the Latin term and used the more literal words, “caught up.” The meaning, however, is the same.

In our modern society, the word “rapture” also means being caught up in excitement and joy. When Jesus descends from heaven with a shout, we, His children, will be caught up with Him in the clouds, and we’ll feel rapturous joy in our hearts.

Many people do not seem to think Jesus will come back in their lifetime; if they did it would affect the way they lived. Tom Blackaby, in Experiencing God at Home Day by Day

Genuine Repentance

2 Corinthians 7:8-10

Because we desire to be more like Jesus, we make resolutions, ask Him to help us, and try to behave differently. Yet despite our best efforts to do things God’s way, we slide back into old habits. Frustrated, we may ask Him, “Why can’t I change?”

Overcoming sinful attitudes and behaviors starts with genuine repentance.

Conviction. The Holy Spirit will reveal the areas in which we’ve sinned and convict us of wrongdoing. Through Scripture, He’ll show us God’s standard and what needs to change. Repentance begins with understanding where we have gone astray.

Contrition. The next step—grieving over our iniquity—is followed by confession to the Lord. It’s simply human nature to sense regret when we are caught in misbehavior, deal with the consequences of poor choices, or feel ashamed that people know about our sin. In contrast, genuine sorrow arises from the knowledge that we’ve sinned against God. True contrition will lead us to humble confession.

Commitment. Real repentance is complete when we wholeheartedly pledge to turn from our old ways and move toward righteousness. God knows we won’t live perfectly, but He looks for a surrendered heart that diligently seeks to obey Him.

Paul used strong language when telling us to turn from iniquity: “Put to death … whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3:5 NIV). What sin are you struggling to overcome? Have you genuinely repented, committing to turn from it permanently? Let the Holy Spirit empower you to change.

When Christ Ascended

“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?)” (Ephesians 4:8-9)

This verse has been controversial but is nonetheless very important. The context is taken from Psalm 68:17-20: “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: . . . Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: . . . our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.”

The psalmist is apparently describing the Lord among His heavenly hosts, riding home as a mighty king returning with the spoils of battle. Evidently this battle prize consisted of His own people who had been held captive in an alien land but who now had been captured from the enemy by the returning King. To do this, the King (none other than the Lord Jesus Himself) “ascended up on high,” leading them to His own throne in the heavens.

But first He had to descend to the earth, and then even to “the lower parts of the earth.” This unusual phrase must refer to the great pit in the center of the earth confining the souls of the dead—the place called Hades.

One of Christ’s purposes on Earth was “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1). That is exactly what He did when He died on the cross for the sins of these very captives, then, in the Spirit, descended into Hades to set them free.

He returned with the very “keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18), alive forevermore. The souls of those who had died in faith came with Him, finally ascending with Him into “paradise,” in “the third heaven” (note Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4) to wait with Him for His future return to reclaim the whole earth. HMM

Idolatry

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. —Exodus 20:4

Idolatry is of all sins the most hateful to God because it is in essence a defamation of the divine character. It holds a low opinion of God, and when it advertises that opinion, it is guilty of circulating an evil rumor about the Majesty in the heavens. Thus it slanders the Deity. No wonder God hates it.

We should beware of the comfortable habit of assuming that idolatry is found only in heathen lands and that civilized people are free from it. This is an error and results from pride and superficial thinking. The truth is that idolatry is found wherever mankind is found. Whoever entertains an unworthy conception of God is throwing his or her heart wide open to the sin of idolatry. Let that person go on to personalize his or her low mental image of the Deity and pray to it, and he or she has become an idolater—and this is regardless of his or her nominal profession of Christianity.

It is vitally important that we think soundly about God. Since He is the foundation of all our religious beliefs, it follows that if we err in our ideas of God, we will go astray on everything else.

Lord, forgive me for insidious idolatry that portrays You as anything less than You are. Even to try to picture You in my mind tends to distort Your image. I fall on my knees to worship the incomprehensible God. Amen.

No More Cheap Religion

Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. (2 Samuel 24:24)

What passes for Christianity in our day is cheap religion!

To listen to the current concepts of Christianity, we would conclude it is little more than bits of beautiful poetry, a man-made bouquet of fragrant flowers, a kindly smile for our neighbor and a couple of good deeds on behalf of a brother or sister.

When I consider some of the elements now offered in Christianity as acceptable religion, I have to restrain myself lest I speak too disapprovingly. I fear my words would be so strong that I would have to repent of them! And I read in the Scriptures that there are some things God does not want us to say even about the devil.

What do we find surfacing in much of our Christian fellowship? The complaint that God takes a long time to work out His will. We do not want to take the time to plow and cultivate. We want the fruit and the harvest right away. We do not want to be engaged in any spiritual battle that takes us into the long night. We want the morning light right now!

We do not want the cross—we are more interested in the crown!

He went about doing good

Of the Saviour, and only of the Saviour, is it true in the fullest, broadest, and most unqualified sense. “He went about doing good. From this description it is evident that He did good personally. The evangelists constantly tell us that He touched the leper with His own finger, that He anointed the eyes of the blind, and that in cases where He was asked to speak the word only at a distance, He did not usually comply, but went Himself to the sick bed, and there personally wrought the cure. A lesson to us, if he would do good, to do it ourselves. “He hath left us an example that we should follow in His steps.”