Vanished Without a Trace
By Phil Winfield
Bible Text: Matthew 24
Preached on: Sunday, April 11, 2004
Grace Church of Des Moines, IA
4200 E. 25th Street
Des Moines, IA 50317
Online Sermons: http://gracehome.sermonaudio.com
Take your Bibles if you would, please and turn to Matthew chapter 24 and we are going t pick up right where we left off last week. We were talking about sign posts on the road to the end and we are talking about the road that leads to eternity, the road that leads to the end of all things.
Some people don’t believe things are ever going to end. We preached about that in 2 Peter chapter three. There’s a group of people that believe that everything just continues as it always has. There is never going to be a change. There is never going to be anything different, man is just going to keep on and keep on until he just gets better and better and things are going to just become glorious.
Well, it is not going to happen like that according to the Bible and we talked about the sign posts on the road to the end and we mentioned some of them last week. We mentioned that there were physical sign posts and we talked about famines and earthquakes and pestilences, that is, diseases. We talked about international signs. We talked about the fact that nation would rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And the Bible gives us many examples and we looked at that. And then we talked about intellectual sign posts. We ended with that one last week. We ran out of time and so we ended there saying there were intellectual sign posts pointing toward the end, that there would be an increase in knowledge and people would travel here and there all around the world trying to accumulate more and more knowledge. And I illustrated that last week.
We won’t do it again, but Daniel chapter 12 and verse four—you might want to just jot these verses down in the margin of your Bible there—and Matthew 24 is a very prophetic passage and all of these verses relate so Daniel chapter 12 and verse four says, “But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.” And it says, “Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” Increased travel…has there ever been a time when travel was increased to the point that it is right now? And they will do it in order to gain knowledge and, of course, with unlimited travel we are going to the bottoms of the oceans, to the ends of the earth, we are examining everything in the jungles, in the oceans and the sky. We are examining those things too big and too far away to get up close to and we are also examining those things that are microscopic in size and they are talking about nanotechnology which is the smallest existing—at least known—existing divisions of matter. And we are talking about that.
Well, those are intellectual sign posts. Knowledge shall abound. It didn’t say wisdom would increase. Make sure you make a distinction, a differentiation in your own mind between knowledge and wisdom.
Knowledge has to do with the accumulation of facts, figures and data. Wisdom has to do with knowing how to use any of those things to live the life that God wants you to live and live a life that makes sense.
Then there is another one. Let’s look at it, moral sign posts. Take your Bibles in Matthew chapter 24 and verse number 12 and let’s see what it says. Matthew 24:12 says, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”
Now there has always been sin. It is as old as Eden itself. Sin started there. But we are living a veritable explosion of sinful activity right now. What used to be hidden in the back alleys of decadence are now paraded on afternoon television. You understand that. You understand you can watch on TV all of the decadence, all of the heathenism, paganism. And you can watch the most wickedly horrible things as it is paraded across the television. Hollywood would like you and love for you to think that transvestites and bisexuals and aberrant behavior is normal and acceptable.
And do you know what the bottom rung—now just watch this, now—do you know what the bottom rung of moral decadence is and moral degeneracy? I will tell you what it is. It is when we get to where gross sinful behavior becomes an entertainment source for the masses. Stop to think about that. When gross sinful behavior becomes an entertainment source for the masses you know that you are getting to the bottom rung of moral decadence and you can’t get very much lower.
You say, “Now, pastor, that’s interesting. Where did you find that in the Bible?”
I’m glad you asked. Turn over to Romans chapter one and let’s look at the bottom rung of moral decadence. Romans chapter one. I won’t read it all, a very powerful passage. We will be using this passage in the month of June as we talk about some of the critical issues of the 2000s that we are living and we will look at that in the month of June, but right now let’s just read just a few verses there. Let’s begin reading at verse number 28, Romans 1:28.
“Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God…” Underline that in your Bible. “They did not think it worthwhile.” Underline the phrase “…to retain the knowledge of God.”
You say, “Well, what is the significance of that?”
They did not want to retain in their thinking patterns, in their reservoir of knowledge they did not want to think about the fact that there was a God.
Now I want to read the rest of this passage, but let me stop and direct myself to something right here. Do you know that the first thing that you have to cleanse out of someone’s conscience and psyche before you can liberate them to live any kind of life they want to and do anything they want to, is you have got to eliminate any kind of moral standard in someone’s life. You have got to shoot that thing down. Before you can liberate a person to live and do any thing they want, any time they want, any way they want, you have to eliminate the very idea of a right and wrong and that there is a moral standard.”
What did Romans chapter verse 23 say this morning? We have all sinned and fallen short of the what? Of the glory of God. There is a righteousness. There is a glory. There is a right way of living that God is the example of. There is no greater example of righteousness and of doing right than Jesus Christ himself. He is the perfect example of perfect righteousness and he is the example.
Somebody says, “We can never live like Jesus.”
No, but we are supposed to become more and more like Jesus. That is God’s expressed purpose for our life, Romans 8:29, that we take on the image of Christ, that we become like him. That is what God is working on in your life. He is going to spend all of your life time making you more and more like Jesus. That is God’s life long purpose for you and for me, to make us like Jesus Christ.
Now the first thing you have got to do if you are going to give a person moral freedom, that is, there is no morality. It is amorality. It doesn’t exit. It is immorality and it really doesn’t matter. The first thing you have to do is eliminate the knowledge of God.
I want to say something to you that when your child goes to the state university or any other university for that matter that is not expressly for the purpose of Christian furtherance and the furtherance of the gospel. When they go there one of the very first things they are going to do when they get there, especially in psychology classes, world history classes, classes on civilization, one of the first things they are going to do is now the first thing we have to do, they’ll say is, “We have got to eliminate all of the baggage that you brought to this classroom and to this university. Before we can teach you anything you have got to understand that everything your momma and your daddy and your grandma and your grandpa told you is worthless, especially anything that somebody told you at some church. Throw that out and we will actually be able to teach you something.”
Do you know what they are trying to do? What this verse says. They didn’t like to retain the knowledge of God in their entire being. They don’t want that. Get rid of the knowledge of God.
I’m going to pull over and park. Turn over to 2 Peter chapter one, if you would, 2 Peter chapter one. I want you to make sure you understand this. 2 Peter chapter one. We studied this, just got done with 2 Peter, but I want to make the connection. Look at 2 Peter chapter one and verse two.
It says, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” Do you want grace, God’s unmerited favor to you? Do you want peace in your life? Here is how it is going to come. It is going to come through the what? “…the knowledge of God.”
Now there is two fold knowledge of God. There is what God knows that he can impart to you and then there is also what you learn and know about God. It is what you take in about him and his character from the Scriptures and also how he imparts his wisdom. James chapter one. If any man lacks wisdom, let him do what? Ask of God.
God’s knowledge can give you peace. God’s knowledge can give you a life worth living.
Look at verse three. “His divine power has given us everything we need.” Look at that. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our [what?] knowledge of him.”
Well, do you know what the number one enemy of satanic, satanic purpose in this world is? It is what you and I know of God, about God and from God. It completely halts Satan’s program in our life.
So Romans chapter one, people who started intelligent became ignorant. They became decadent. And how did they do it? They started by saying, “We do not need an absolute standard of right and wrong.” I don’t want to ride a horse to death, but during the series on the 10 Commandments we talked about this over and over, that there are absolutes. The absolutes are not obsolete. God’s Word is true. It is true. It is true. It is true. It is true. The Word of God is your life. The Word of God gives you life. His Word is life. It gives you life. It preserves your life and it gives you life that really means something. And to ignore God’s Word is to live in death.
And so this passage of Scripture right here where we are reading here in Romans chapter one is so very powerful because when a person says, “All right. I don’t want to think about God anymore, as long as I am thinking about a righteous God who judge, then I can’t go out and do anything that I want to.” And that is where they started. They said, “All right. That’s it. No more thinking. No more retention of God in our knowledge.”
And so, furthermore, since they did not think worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind. What kind of mind do you get when you eject God? When you eject God what do you get? You get what kind of a mind? A depraved mind, a decadent mind, an indecent mind.
So where is all the indecency and the immorality, the amorality, where does all that come from today? It comes from ejecting God from your though patterns. You eject him, you eject his Word and so that is where…that is the society that we live in. And so he gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done.
Notice, please read your Bible with care. Read your Bible carefully and meditate on it.
Do you know why people do the wrong things? It is because they first start off thinking the wrong things. Notice what happened. First of all they had to eject God out of their thinking processes and their knowledge. And once they got him out of their head then they didn’t have any problems getting him out of their habit. Get him out of your head, then you can get him out of your habits. And that is exactly what we see.
So how far did it go? Well, they do the things that ought not to be done. “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.” Sound like the newspaper to you? “They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful.”
Look at the next phrase.
And they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only…
Now you say, “Pastor, you started going to tell us what the bottom rung of the ladder of moral decadence is.”
Well, here is what it is. Right here is the bottom rung. The not only continue to do these very things, but the “also approve of those who practice them.”
What is it that the world, the news media is trying to get us to do right now? They are trying to get us to approve of what? Same sex marriage. They are trying…they want approval. It is not…they don’t want permission. They are going to do it whether we give them permission or not as a nation. They are going to do it. It is not a matter. But what they want is they want equal standing. They want approval. They want us to stand up and say, “Ok, we know that this is…that you can’t help it and you were just born this way and we might as well just recognize it.”
We might as well just recognize rapists. We might as well just recognize murder because people are doing it. People are doing all kinds of things, but that doesn’t make it right before God almighty in heaven.
Now watch this passage. What is the bottom rung of moral decadence? When society, when we even as Christians begin to get used to the idea and we begin approving, tolerating—oh, there is your word—tolerating. But when they say tolerate they do not mean put up with. They mean give it equal standing. They mean declare that what you believe is ok, but what they believe is very much as ok as what you believe. In other words, let’s just get rid of the retention of God in our mind and then there is no moral standard.
Now, folks, think about what you are reading in this passage of Scripture. Meditate on what God says. The bottom rung of moral decadence is when we approve of, give assent to, when we allow these kinds of things and we say, “Well, it is just a different alternative to living.”
Well, I’ll just carry it a little bit further. Let me read in the New American Standard Version. It says, “And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
Other versions say they applaud those who practice them. One version says they entertain themselves watching those who practice them.
When our entertainment—now you be careful. When our entertainment is to watch—though we don’t participate—what others do of moral decadence, we are giving approval to what they are doing. Ooh. Moral decadence.
Last week I went to the debate in Ames up there with Mike Hartwig. What a deal. W e were actually sitting in a room with people who could read an write, worked jobs, drove themselves to the meeting, drank punch and ate cookies without spilling it all over themselves and yet they did not have a clue to the difference between normal sexual relations and same sex relations. I was amazed.
There were young people in that journalism school that think and act with a pack mentality. Like wolves in a pack what one decides they all go along with. What one voices they all applaud. No thought process, thinking is worthless. Just forget thinking. Put that aside. Just do just whatever the pack decides, then let’s just go with it. They think in pack mentality.
By the way, coming up here in just a couple of weeks, I don’t have the date and time in front of me, but Mike is going to go to debate, once again, at Grinnell College right out here. Do you have it Mark? What is it? Tuesday, this coming Tuesday, Grinnell College, 6:30, right? 6:30. I don’t know whether you can find out from Mark. There is going to be another debate there. It has to do with same sex marriage and all those things again. But, boy, it was wonderful to see over 100 grace people at the last one. It would be great to see that again to support Mike in this.
And you say, “Well, what in the world is he doing debating?”
Well, Mike is not going over there thinking he is going to change anybody’s mind. He is going over there like Jeremiah did with his face set before them and God is going to make him a brass and an iron wall to give the truth as a witness against them so that God, one day, will be able to say, “You heard the truth from that person right here.” They might not a one of them believe what he said. They may reject every word. But that doesn’t have anything to do with it because nobody believed Jeremiah either, but he was a witness against them. And that is exactly what is going on.
But I went up there and these pack mentality people in that journalism school, they want us to believe and they want us to accept that any thing, any one wants to do, think or live out in their life should not only be permissible, it should be promoted by everyone else. That is what they want you to believe. They want you to receive, applaud, encourage and promote all styles of life.
Someone rightly pointed out that if gay and lesbian same sex marriages sanctioned by society it will only be a matter of time until polygamy will be readdressed. Why not? Somebody else said that communal partnering. Why that’s just their expression. It is just the way. They don’t believe in just having one partner. Why that’s the way the expressed it. Who are we to tell a man that he can’t have two wives? Who are we to tell two men that they can’t have wives and share them? Who are we to tell men they can’t have three wives and three men and share them? Who are we to…? We can’t decide that as a society? That’s up to… Who are we to tell people what to do behind bedroom doors?
Do you know what? We are talking about it. You listen to me. We are talking about civilization itself when we start talking about these kinds of subjects. The bottom rung of moral decadence is when you approve of, applaud and tolerate any and every kind of aberrant behavior. And there is a right and a wrong in God’s Word. It is so very, very clear.
I would like to ask them sometimes. I heard them keep talking. I have a simple question for anyone that thinks a same sex couple can be monogamous and raise children. What a joke.
They say, “Well, just want to have a monogamous relationship just like heterosexuals do.”
Well, how are you going to have a monogamous relationship and rear children because with a monogamous relationship between two people of the same sex there is no such thing as rearing children unless there is a third partner in that monogamous relationship because there is no children possible without it. It is insane. There has to be that third person.
We, in order to believe all of those things we have to simply bid good riddance to common sense, not even to mention the righteous plan of God in his Word. There are moral sign posts.
You see, all of the things going on around us are indicators. They are signs of the times. They are telling us that we are on the road. We are headed toward the end and the end is getting closer
Then there is the spiritual sign post, the spiritual sign post, last one. Evil men will get worse and worse. Daniel 12:10, wicked men. “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked.” And they will get worse and worse.
There are wicked men. There are wicked leaders. Jeremiah 5:1-2 through chapter five verse three to five talks about the leaders that were wicked and they were setting the pace for wickedness.
There used to be a day that we could point to public servants and say, “Wow, these people, at least, you know, they are not perfect but they are giving a good example. We can point to them and say, ‘Let’s follow these kinds of leaders.’”
Boy, it’s getting hard, isn’t it? Leaders, religious leaders, pastors, preachers, priests, what have you. Listen to God’s Word, Jeremiah 5:30.
A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.
How sad. Wicked preachers.
Micah chapter two it says we have preachers telling people what they want to hear.
Verse 11. “If a liar…” Get this. This is amazing. This is Micah. This is Micah chapter two. Write this down in your Bible. This is amazing, verse 11. “If a liar and deceiver come…” Now, who is this? “If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ he would be just the prophet for this people!”
You know the Bible says that in the last days that people are going to heap to themselves teachers to tell them just what they want to hear. Forgive us, please, at Grace Church for not being only self help organization. This is not about how to come over and get everything fixed to organize this and organize that and fix this and get along with this person better. It is about coming in and taking a look at God almighty and his Word and humbling ourselves before him and living the life that God has planned for us to live and guess what? All those other issues fall in line when you put God in his proper place. It is so interesting.
2 Timothy or Micah chapter three verse 11. “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the LORD and say, ‘Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.’” Well, that is exactly what they are saying today. Oh, no. Land of the free, home of the brave. Why we are a Christian nation. God is not going to do anything to us. We are not exempt from God’s righteous judgment as a nation.
2 Timothy chapter four verse three. “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.” We are getting there. They will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
It is a sad day when you cannot look to the pulpit and hear the truth and only the truth from God’s Word. It is a sad day, it is a sad day when from our pulpits by means of interpolation and by means of transliteration and by means of twisting the Scriptures pastors and preachers all across our land stand up and give basically blanket, carte blanche permission to live any way you want to, do anything you want. After all, you are just clay and God doesn’t hold you responsible for anything you do. There is enough of God’s grace to cover.
Well, there is. But I am going to show you a verse in a little while that says what God’s grace should teach us, something very powerful. And so wicked teachers and wicked prophets and wicked leaders and wicked people. These are the sign posts on the road to the end. They don’t necessarily mean we are there yet, but it sure means that we are getting very, very close.
I don’t know about how many of you take road trips. I love to take a road trip. My family, I think, Bonnie and I and our kids just, you know, just tell us we are just going to take a road trip. We are going to because, I don’t know, we did it so much when we were on deputation and on pre field ministry and on furlough, I mean it got to be an art form with us. We just love to take road trips. But when we are getting close to where we are getting we enjoyed seeing the signs along the side of the road counting down the miles, getting closer and closer and knowing that you are getting there and so those sign posts were welcome sights.
Now that doesn’t always work because Wall Drug Store is also advertised Moscow. I don’t know if you knew that or not, but it is. And you start seeing those signs way ahead of time.
Well, I want you to know that the sign posts on the road to the end, there are not only many of them, but they are increasing in number and I believe that we are getting close to the end. So there are physical signs, international signs, intellectual signs, moral signs, spiritual signs. But on the road ahead there is something else that I want to talk to you about and just basically introduce tonight. There is not going to be enough time to completely finish it, but I want to talk to you that on the road ahead that there are going to be millions missing one day, millions missing, vanished without a trace.
Just last week we got started on the series and I borrowed this title from Bill Gates, “The Road Ahead.” Lots of people are borrowing things from Bill today and I don’t mean what he means. When he talks about the road ahead he means things that he is planning right now to introduce in the technological and the computer fields, but I am talking about some pretty amazing things that God has said hundreds and even thousands of years in advance. And last week when I showed that computer chip in the hand deal, boy, did I get a lot of reaction to that one right there. I don’t think have ever gotten so many emails in my life over something as I did over that right there and I have gotten questions everything from, “Pastor Phil, is that the mark of the beast?” to, “You are scaring us and our children to death. Please be careful in what you are saying.”
Well, just this week brother Larry [?] I don’t know if he is in here. Are you in here tonight, Larry [?]? He is probably teaching a class somewhere, but Larry [?] bought a dog and when he bought that dog do you know what they did? They said, “Larry, we would like to sell you a little computer chip and we would like to put this computer chip in that dog and we want you to know that every day, 365 days a year there are literally dozens of dogs that are lost and found because of this computer chip. This year we will find 1000 lost dogs for people just like you through the on star system with this little computer chip and we will be able to find that dog for you. And by the way, Larry, one day that computer chip is going to be used on humans.”
I had a bunch of people get really upset with me. That’s not happening. All you got to do, if you just keep looking you are going to find it all over the internet. One day it will be.
Now I want you to listen. So let me talk to you for a minute about the fact that as we move on to this thought we need to be aware that one day on the road ahead there will be millions missing, vanished without a trace.
Now I am not a TV junkie, but that is one television show I kind of like. Have you ever seen the With a Trace Channel Eight? Man, I love that show. That is one of my favorites. They… I always love trying to figure out how things happened, where people went. I am an Agathie Christie mystery buff. I love to read those mysteries and try to figure it out before the end.
Well, there are going to be millions missing without a trace. The Bible says that they will be caught up, caught away. The Latin Vulgate actually uses a word from where we get the word “rapture.” It is the word rapio, if you want to write that down, the Latin word—R-A-P-I-O. It literally means to snatch away.
Now, turn this off. Is this off? Make sure that is off. What is rapture? That’s rapture.
You say, “Pastor, say that again.”
What is rapture? That’s rapture. Snatch away. Catch away. It has nothing to do with thing. It had to do with who grabbed it and jerked it out and the rapture has to do with that moment in time when God literally catches away, snatches away, jerks away in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, takes away those that are his.
1 Thessalonians chapter four verse 17. “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds.” There is the word. “caught up.” “And so we will be with the Lord for ever.”
Now that teaching about the Lord’s coming is not an isolated thought in the Scripture. Now listen to me. It is not an isolated, one time only mentioned thing in God’s Word. There are approximately 224 prophecies concerning Christ left to be fulfilled and God will do as good with the second coming as he did with the first coming. That is he will have 100% accuracy in his predictions. And the rapture of the Church is not a welcome doctrine in this world even among some Christians. It is not welcome.
The whole idea of the Lord coming back and just taking us out in a moment, just taking us out without warning and taking us into God’s presence, a lot of people just don’t…they get real nervous about that very teaching. They don’t like that.
Well, here is a guy here that really hated it. In 1996 on NPR radio Andrew Codrescu said, “The evaporation,” get this, “the evaporation of four million people that believe in this blankety blank, blank, blank, blank,” National Public Radio, “would leave the world a better place.” He was talking about the teaching of God’s Word concerning the rapture. “All of the people that believe this blankety blank would leave the world a better place.”
National Public Radio had to apologize. I doubt that Mr. Codrescu ever apologized, but that will be reserved for the day he does so on his knees confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
Let me start with a verse that doesn’t really teach the rapture, but does teach us about the idea of the suddenness of the event. Now mind you when we talk about the rapture…
You say, “What are we talking about?”
We are talking about a yet future event involving the literal bodily movement of believers from this world to the Lord’s presence. Now what is the rapture? We are talking about a yet future even that involves the literal bodily movement of believers from this world to the next world or to the Lord’s presence.
Now, you are in Matthew chapter 24. You need to stay there. That’s where all of our study is based as we talk about the road ahead. Matthew chapter 24 and verse number 36. “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And so it says there in verse 36 that only the Father knows—at least at the time that this was written—was the only one knew. He says, “No one knows about the day or hour. We don’t know when it is coming.”
And then drop down to verse 42. Its says, “Therefore keep watch.” Underline that. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
When is the Lord coming? Keep watch.
When is the Lord going to be here? Just be watching.
When is the Lord going to be here? Keep living right because the Lord may come at any time.
So when is he coming? Well, you must be ready in verse 44, “because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
He is going to come and he is going to come suddenly. He is going to come when we are not thinking about him. He is going to come, if we are not careful, when we are not aware.
Now I can’t go into detail here, but technically this passage is talking about rapture in reverse. It is not talking about the rapture. When it says, “two left in the field, one taken and one left, two will be grinding, one taken and one left.” It is not talking about the rapture. It is talking about what happens at the end of the tribulation period, but I will talk to you about that in the future. I promise I will clear that up for you in the next two or three lessons. But it does make an application to the people who were standing right there in front of Jesus. And the application was: Therefore you need to be ready. You yourself need to be ready because your Lord is going to come at an hour that you are not thinking about it.
And so he says, “Be ready.”
Well, somebody might ask, “Well, what does the rapture have to do with me? I can’t do anything about it. I am living here doing my duty. I can’t stop the rapture so I will just wait.”
Well, that’s true. Somebody might say, “Well, you know, big deal. The rapture is coming. What can I do about it?”
Well, if the Lord is coming and he is going to judge every one of us we had better be ready for when he gets here. You know, he wants to…we need to be found doing what the Lord wants us to be doing. I remember when my dad would come home, especially if my mother was absent and she had given us instructions. And when my dad would come home if he did not find us doing as we were told to do, it was Katie, bar the door. I am going to tell you when he came home and we were doing the wrong thing we paid dearly for not having done what he told us to do.
Well, just imagine if he who knows everything, if he who sees the thoughts in our head and the intents of our heart, if he catches us in a situation of unrepentance, then what is it going to be like for us?
But I want you to know this statement, “What does that have to do with me? I am living here and doing my duty, I can’t stop the rapture so I will just wait.”
Well, that is a pretty good statement. I will just wait.
Flip over in your Bible to 1 Thessalonians chapter one. Flip over there right quick, 1 Thessalonians chapter one. We will read just a little short passage there, very, very important on this subject. That little thought of I will just wait is exactly what we are supposed to be doing.
1 Thessalonians chapter one verse eight says, “The Lord’s message rang out from you.” This is a church, the church at Thessalonica. They were a good church, very…a church of much commendation. Paul bragged on this church like he did very few churches in the New Testament. He said, “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.”
Isn’t that a great statement? Wouldn’t you like it to be said about Grace Church, “Man, you guys don’t just have it going on over there on Sunday at church, but your faith is ringing out. People are hearing about what is going on at Grace Church here there and everywhere”?
I had a lady come up to me this morning. She said, “Pastor Phil, you don’t know me, but I know you pretty well.”
I said, “Is that so?”
“Yes, I live in the northwest corner of the state. I have a sister who goes to church here and I have listened to every sermon that you have preached for the last seven months on CD and thank you very much for preaching God’s Word.”
Well, I was excited to hear that. That’s pretty exciting. This week I got an email, get this, from Sydney, Australia. And it said, “Hey, just went back and listened to your sermon, downloaded it on the internet and got the…I go the sermon notes and if it is ok, I’m going to preach that sermon next week over here in Sydney. Would that be all right?”
I said, “Man, just like I have been told so many times before, if my bullets fit your gun then shoot them. You know, that’s it. Just take them and shoot them.”
Jerry Vine said that first. Rick Warren said it second. Now you heard me say it. So that’s just the way it is. And so the Lord’s…
The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell…
Now watch. Look at this conversion in the lives of these people.
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
There is a rescue coming. What do you call that rescue boat? The rapture. There is a rescue from the coming wrath. It is the rapture.
Now watch. Back up a little bit. It says here they did three things. I want you to see the teaching about the conversion of a soul in these verses. It says, first of all, that they turned to God from idols. Salvation always involves that kind of repentance. It means turning from something and turning to something.
I was just a little boy. I had not spent all of my time. I had not been involved in the horrible things and this sin and that sin and all of the gross things you might mention, however I had to turn from confidence in my own good behavior in memorizing so many Bible verses and [?]. I had to turn from my confidence in self and I had to turn to my confidence and trust in God in order to turn to God from what I was trusting in.
Do you see that? That is the first step of salvation, turn to God from something. Second. And then what did they do? After they turned to God, then they turned to him to serve the living God. And one of the most sure ways of telling that a person is genuinely converted is to see if they stop primarily serving self and they started primarily serving the Savior.
You say, “What?”
Let me say that to you again. One of the most sure fire ways to find out if a person knows the Lord—I am not saying it is the only way—but an absolute sure fire way is if a person who has been self serving their whole life all of the sudden wakes up to the fact that they can serve an almighty God and that God through them can serve other people.
Do you see that? First of all you turn to God from something and second of all while you are waiting you are serving. You are doing somebody and you are letting God use you and you are serving God.
Then the third thing: And to wait for his Son from heaven. You know what? The waiting is the third thing mentioned. The first thing we do is repent. We come to him, turn to him. The second thing we do is get busy doing something, serving him. Just I mean you serve him in your prayers. You serve him as you learn about him. You serve him as you love him. You serve him as you praise him. You serve him as witness to others. You serve him as you give. You serve him as you talk to others. You serve him as you served your family. You serve him as you love your wife. All of these things are serving God. You are serving his will. You are doing what he wants.
But here is what we are supposed to do. Come to God, serve God and then what? Wait. Don’t get impatient. Don’t worry about the… You know what? Christians should be the one group in the world that are not sitting at the kitchen table tapping their fingers and going… We shouldn’t be doing that.
“The world is getting so bad. You just talked about it. It’s horrible. The sky is falling.”
That should not be us. We should not be that group because what are we waiting on? One of two things: resurrection or rapture, one of those two things. That is what we are waiting on. Now I kind of go… I would kind of like to go the rapture route rather than the resurrection? How many of you would like to go the rapture route instead of the resurrection? You know, to do the resurrection thing you have got to die first. I would rather do the rapture thing.
Maybe that is why at the end of the book of Revelation it says, “Even so, come.” That’s a great prayer, isn’t it? John is writing it. He has written all these things down and I have got to stop. Time is up. But he writes at the end of the book of Revelation and he says, he says after he has written all of these things, he… Man, he has fell on his face before God in chapters one, two, three and four. He was lifted up in the Spirit and saw things that he could not understand. He wrote about things that made no sense to him. He saw the glory of heaven. He saw the goriness of hell. He saw all of these things. But what he is fixated on was that chapter 19 about when Jesus comes and he takes him to himself all the glory and all the honor and all the kingdoms and all the praise. He takes it all to himself and everything lines up under him and, once and for all, the subjugation of all things is put under his feet and he finally puts to death death. He puts death to death. That is the last enemy. Puts it to death.
And then as John is reading all of that. I am sure it is all inspired, but I really like that part where John says… Lord, this is so good. This is unbelievable. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”
You want to pray a prayer that a Bible person prayed? Pray for the Lord to come back. You say, “Lord, why don’t you just come on back?”
Now don’t pray so that you can escape your problems. Pray so that you can go into his presence. Let your motive be right.
I remember in college one time I had a final exam coming up. I started praying for the rapture because I was not ready.
Do you know what? We of all people in the world have reason to rejoice. We have been forgiven for our sins. We have been given eternal life. And do you know what else we have been given? We have been given rescue before the wrath and the wrath is coming.
Would you bow your heads and close your eyes?
Maybe you are here tonight and you say, “I don’t… I really don’t know all of what you are talking about, but that whole thing scares me and if Jesus were to come back tonight I do not know that I would go with him because I am not his child.”
You see, if you are God’s child, you have a seal put on you. You have been marked.
You say, “I don’t see any mark. I bathe every day. I don’t see any marks.”
Oh, no. It is not a mark that you are going to see. It is a mark that only God almighty and the angel reapers are going to be able to see. And do you know what that mark is? Ephesians chapter one says it is the seal of the Holy Spirit of God.
What does that mean? That means that the very presence of God in you, God can certainly recognize himself. And, you know, it is God in you that is the hope of eternal glory.
And so I want to say to you tonight if you are here and you say, “Well, I don’t think God lives in me.”
Well, if Jesus were to come back tonight, shout and blow the trumpet and take his away from this world, if God is not in you, you are not going and to be left in this world to endure what is coming is horrible.
If you are here tonight and you have never called on Jesus to be your Lord and Savior I invite you to do so. I invite you to pray a prayer so simple, “Dear Jesus, I am a sinner. If I were to die I don’t believe I would go into your presence. If you were to come I know you wouldn’t take me because I am a sinner. I have never believed on you. But I believe you tonight. I believe you died, that you were buried and that you rose again. I invite you to come into my heart and be my Savior. I want that seal of the Holy Spirit in my life. I want you to live in me. The best way I know how I receive you, Jesus. Please receive me. I give you total care and control of my life.”
If you are here tonight and you have prayed that prayer, you said, “Dear Jesus, come into my heart,” if you did that then I want to say to you, you were just born into God’s family and the Holy Spirit of God took up residence. He moved in. He is going to live in you. And then the third thing is that if the trumpet were to blow, the rapture, the catching away was to happen, you would go with him and not be left to suffer the wrath that is to come.
If you are here and you prayed that prayer with heads bowed, please don’t look around. Heads bowed, eyes closed. Say, “Pastor, I prayed that prayer tonight. I asked Jesus to come into my heart.” Would you just raise your hand up? Anyone? Just raise it up.
Well, my dear family of friends, Christian brothers, we have so many messages to share, but the basic and truthful message that we all can share is that Jesus saved us and he can save them. Share it with your friends. Share it with your neighbors. Share it with your loved ones. Tell them. Jesus loves you. Jesus died for you. Jesus is coming back and he will take you with him.
Father, bless us tonight and help us to take this message. Help us to understand that you are coming and to believe it with all of our hearts. We love you, Lord. We thank you for dying on the cross. We thank you for saving us from our sins, paying the ultimate price by sacrificing yourself. But, Lord, this is Easter. We thank you that you conquered death and hell and the grave and that you rose again promising us a resurrection and eternal life in Jesus’ name we ask all these things. Amen.
1 Peter 1:2
2 Peter 1:3
Romans 1:32 (NAS)
2 Timothy 4:3
2 Timothy 4:3-4
1 Thessalonians 4:17
1 Thessalonians 1:8
1 Thessalonians 1:8-9
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
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