The Rapture of the Redeemed – Is this the end?
For by [Jesus] all things were created. Colossians 1:16 nasb
As we drove through northern Michigan, Marlene exclaimed, “It’s unbelievable how big the world is!” She made her comment as we passed a sign marking the 45th parallel—the point halfway between the equator and the North Pole. We talked about how small we are and how vast our world is. Yet, compared to the size of the universe, our tiny planet is only a speck of dust.
If our world is great, and the universe is vastly greater, how big is the One who powerfully created it? The Bible tells us, “For by [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16 nasb).
This is good news because this same Jesus who created the universe is the One who has come to rescue us from our sin for every day and forever. The night before He died, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 nasb).
When facing the large and small challenges of life, we call on the One who made the universe, died and rose again, and won victory over this world’s brokenness. In our times of struggle, He powerfully offers us His peace.
Lord, I’m grateful that You are greater than my mind could ever comprehend. Help me to trust You today.
God’s grace is immeasurable, His mercy inexhaustible, His peace inexpressible.
In Colossians Paul combats false teaching that seems to have included both Jewish asceticism (severe self-discipline) and the idea that the material world is bad and we are saved by avoiding it (see 2:16–23)—ideas similar to what would later be known as Gnosticism. Paul argued that the teachers of such “idle notions” (2:18), despite appearing wise (v. 23), were missing the point entirely. By focusing on their own ideas and rules (vv. 18, 22), they were missing Christ—the One through whom everything holds together (v. 19).
Colossians 1:15–17, often believed to be a Christian hymn, beautifully reinforces the truth that the gospel includes hope for the material world, God’s good creation. Because Jesus is the One who holds creation together (vv. 17–18), He restores not only harmony between people and God but between the creation and God (v. 20). Believers, as those living in His kingdom (vv. 12–14), can experience a taste of this renewed creation, even as we long for the final restoration.
How might Colossians 1:12–17 give us hope that God cares about and is involved with the particular areas of brokenness in our lives and world?
Temptation can be defined as an inducement to do evil. Three powerful forces work together to ruin a believer’s character and witness: Satan, the world system, and our own lustful flesh tendencies. Being tempted isn’t a sin, but yielding is. We commonly hear the expression “falling into temptation,” but in reality, we walk into it, one step at a time. Throughout the journey, we have a choice to stop our downward progression into this dangerous territory or to move ahead and suffer the consequences.
The process starts in the mind. While it is impossible to prevent every enticing thought, we can choose how long to hold on to each one. By entertaining an idea, we take another step downward—into the imagination. One of the devil’s greatest deceptions is to convince us that experiencing the pleasures of sin in our fantasies isn’t really that bad. After all, we haven’t actually carried it out.
Satan knows the power of our thoughts. By gaining this foothold, he has seized the greatest motivator of the human will—desire. Those “harmless imaginations” now turn into blazing passions that crave satisfaction. That’s just a step away from uniting the desire with action, at which point all opposition has vanished and we give in to sin.
Resisting temptation becomes harder with each progressive step. Begin the fight early by rejecting tempting thoughts and refusing to dwell on the promised pleasure. Instead, consider sin’s consequences. The cost is always higher than our fleeting enjoyment.
“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)
When we place our trust in Jesus Christ as omnipotent Creator and gracious Redeemer, He then faithfully undertakes to provide everything we need to live an effective, fruitful, victorious Christian life.
For example, when we are tempted to sin or are tested in any other way, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). In this connection, He undertakes to ground us firmly in His truth and to keep us from moral and spiritual harm. “The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
When we do sin, however, He assures us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). With all our failings, He has undertaken to eventually perfect us in Christ, and He faithfully will continue this until it is done. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; . . . Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
All that He has promised, He will do. Even when we are unfaithful to Him, He remains faithful to us. “If we believe not [that is, ‘are unfaithful’], yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
Today’s verse above, assuring us of God’s faithfulness, follows the promise that He will “confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8). Therefore, we seek also to be faithful. “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised)” (Hebrews 10:23). HMM
His reputation as a prophet was everything in his eyes, and how would it be maintained now that the city would be spared? Besides, he abhorred the idolatrous people, and thought it absurd to spare them: they we’re in his eyes only fit to be destroyed.
We cannot love Jonah when we see him so peevish; but we must remember that he is the writer of this description of himself, and therefore we must admire the fidelity with which he paints his own portrait in the blackest colours, and offers no excuse or extenuation for his moroseness. He was a man of stern integrity, and extremely sensitive as to his personal character for truthfulness, and therefore fearing that his repute would be marred, he fell into a grievously bad temper, and sulked as a good man should not have done.
A question which we may reprovingly ask of ourselves if we are soon angry, often angry, long angry, or bitterly angry. How could it be right of Jonah to be angry because a million lives were spared?
Possibly he still expected to see his prophecy fulfilled; at least he lingered with a forlorn and horrible hope that, to save his reputation, a great city would be destroyed.
Being sensitive and nervous, the great heat distressed him, and the cool shade which the leafy shelter yielded him was a great comfort to him.
The God who prepared a whale prepared a gourd, and then prepared a worm to destroy it, and all with the view of preparing Jonah to submit to the divine will.
How like to Elijah is Jonah in his weak points. One inclines to believe the tradition which makes him to have been the son of the widow of Sarepta and the scholar of Elijah.
Poor Jonah, how bitterly he spoke even to his God! Surely he had forgotten the whale’s belly.
Jonah 4:10, 11
This was a convincing argument, and doubtless led the prophet to shake himself clear of petulance. If he would spare a gourd, how much more should the Lord spare a vast city, with so great a host of children in it? Perhaps some one of us may be inclined to selfishness, or may be unduly sensitive and peevish, let us resort to the Lord Jesus for instruction, and take his yoke upon us, for he is meek and lowly of heart. Never can we find rest till the demon of selfwill is utterly cast out.
Alas! how often I complain,
Imagine ills, and fret at pain,
E’en ask for death with peevish heart,
Because selfwill is made to smart.
Now, Lord, rebuked my spirit stands,
My times are ever in thy hands,
Here all my will I now submit,
And cast my pride beneath thy feet
One of the most exciting things our ministry does is meet the needs of pastors who are leading congregations in the former Soviet Union. We feel a deep commitment to help these pastors because they haven’t had the same opportunity for education that exists in Western countries. As a result of the revival that has swept across the former USSR since the collapse of communism, scores of pastors have found themselves leading congregations before they could receive any training to equip them for the job. These pastors are doing all they know to do in their leadership positions, but they are often ill-prepared for the task due to lack of teaching, training, and education.
Because of the work of our Church Association, pastors and leaders who formerly felt isolated and alone have now become spiritually “linked” to other pastors. Close friendships have formed as these pastors look to each other for support, fellowship, and spiritual encouragement. But in addition to providing this spiritual fellowship, our ministry has also become a channel through which designated offerings are routed to support many of these pastors whose income is not sufficient to support them full-time in the ministry.
You see, so many of these pastors live in villages that were economically devastated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Because of this dire financial crisis, churches do not yet have the finances to support their pastor full-time, even though they desperately need a full-time pastor. Today many of these pastors are able to serve full-time because of the financial gifts that we channel to them each month. Because of the gifts of our ministry partners, we have been able to distribute funds to meet the needs of these saints.
It is very easy for us as believers to get so caught up in our own projects and plans that we forget about the needy people in the world who need our help. This is precisely why Paul encouraged us to be constantly “distributing to the necessity of saints…” (Romans 12:13). Especially at this time of the year when people are in a spirit of giving, I think it is important to look for ways to bless people who are less fortunate than ourselves. Every day we should pray and ask the Lord how He wants to use us to make a difference in someone else’s life.
The word “distributing” is the Greek word koinoneo, which means to share or to give some kind of contribution. In the context of Romans 12:13, it means to give a financial contribution. However, the Greek tense suggests that this is not an occasional act but rather a regular, consistent, habitual contributing of finances for the “necessity of saints.” That word “necessity” is the Greek word chreia, and it simply means a need. In other words, Paul is talking here about giving to meet the basic needs of the saints.
It is true that there are many humanitarian organizations to which we can give our money, but the apostle Paul loudly tells us that we are to first give to meet the needs of the “saints.” Certainly it is right to meet the needs of fellow believers first; after all, they are our brothers and sisters. First John 3:17 asks us, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother hath need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” When we know there is a need, it is time for us to act. This is why the apostle John goes on to say, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
Even if you have been struggling financially to make ends meet, I guarantee you that there are believers in other parts of the world—or perhaps even close to where you live—who are having a more difficult time than you are right now. Rather than be self-focused and feel sorry for yourself, why don’t you take advantage of this special time of the year to go out of your way to do something special for someone else? Send an extra offering to a ministry that you support. Give a gift to help the poor and needy. Assess the needs of the saints as you become aware of them; then let the Holy Spirit lead you in distributing your financial gifts. Discover the joy of helping to meet the needs of fellow brothers and sisters who truly need any help you can give them!
Lord, especially at this time of the year, I want to look beyond my own challenges and problems to see what I can do to meet the needs of brothers and sisters whose situations are more serious than mine. I don’t want to be so self-focused on my own needs that I forget that there are others who are struggling more seriously than I am. In fact, even though I have been facing difficult times, I know that my life is much more blessed than some of my brothers and sisters who live in other parts of the world. Lord, please help me to always be grateful for what I have. Guide me as I seek to distribute a portion of my finances and make a difference in someone else’s life. And please, Lord, multiply this seed that I am sowing by faith so that it comes back to meet the needs I am facing in my own life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I boldly declare that I am a giver! I refuse to allow the devil to make me focus so intensely on my own problems that I forget about the needs others are facing. Instead of taking care of only my own needs, I declare that I am going to give a portion of my finances to meet the needs of other believers who are in a more serious condition than I am right now. To the best of my ability, I will give from my resources to make a difference in someone else’s life, especially during this holiday season. I also claim the promise of God that what I sow will be multiplied back to me again!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
A few month’s ago I was in Dan’s office. Athletic trophies were scattered about. Dark, strong wood paneling graced the room. Several photos of projects completed hung on the wall. By any measurement, Dan is a “success.” There was a picture of one of his kids playing soccer; the toothless grin of his 7 year old with dad and their trophy trout. At 43, Dan is in the prime of life. Shortly after my visit, I received an email that Dan had contracted cancer, and was headed for Mexico for treatment.
Then a recent letter from another friend, “[Recently] I experienced massive internal bleeding which resulted in a sudden medical crisis… Three weeks ago I lay on the emergency room table not knowing if I would survive the evening… ”
And another, “I recently had… a minor heart attack… Initially I wasn‘t even sure I wanted to go to sleep, wondering where I would wake up. I reflected on my life and whether I could joyfully face the possibility of death… ”
I am reminded of the Scriptures’ perspective on the brevity of life, and our (often) futile efforts:
“Man will fade away even while he goes about his business… You turn men back to dust… You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning— though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered… We finish our years with a moan… Each man‘s life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it… You consume their wealth like a moth-each man is but a breath.” (James 1:11b; Psalm 90:3a, 5, 6, 9b; 39:5b; Psalm 39:11b)
Two of these men have written about their “brush with death” and their new found perspective:
“I was on the right road and was even traveling at a good speed with a sizable cargo of activity. However, as others, I need an adjustment in my focus, my priorities, my values, my desires, and my willingness to listen to His voice and be obedient to His Words… ”
“I‘m not totally giving up on [work] – it‘s just become less important to me now than the people in my life. I recall what Senator Paul Tsongas said, ‘No one on his death bed ever said he didn‘t spend enough time in the office.‘ I used to quote that. Now I understand it. There is more to living than work. ‘For me to live is Christ… ,‘ (not work) Paul said, ‘and to die is gain.‘ Of that I have become absolutely convinced… I pray that my ‘remaining‘ might provide an opportunity to develop deeper, lasting relationships, find greater balance in my life, and bring more glory to God.”