Vanished Without A Trace (Part 2)
By Phil Winfield
Bible Text: Matthew 24; Titus 2:11-15
Preached on: Sunday, April 18, 2004
Grace Church of Des Moines, IA
4200 E. 25th Street
Des Moines, IA 50317
Online Sermons: http://gracehome.sermonaudio.com
We started on the road ahead.
I like to play with my computer. Do you ever do that? The road ahead. And I found myself a road and put it on there. That is what we are studying, the road ahead. And I borrowed that from Bill Gates. I wish I could borrow a few more things from Bill Gates, but I got my doubts that he is going to let me get involved with him in that way. But we are talking about the road ahead, what to expect, what is coming, what is down the road for each of us as Christians. What is down the road for this world? What is down the road ahead of us?
Take your Bibles, if you would, please, and I just want to very quickly pass over a couple of thoughts I gave you last week as we were finishing Matthew chapter 24. Take your Bible. Open it up to Matthew 24 and we are going to finish up what we were talking about, vanishing without a trace, the rapture. And we talked about that just a little bit and we mentioned some things and what the rapture is supposed to mean to us as a Christian and we get that from many passages of Scripture though you don’t see the word rapture—R-A-P-T-U-R-E—in our New Testament or in the Bible that we use, it is very much there in the fact that it was translated not raphio which is the original word that was used, but the word “caught away.” We find that in 1 Thessalonians chapter four.
We are not going to look at that just now, but I want you to look at Matthew chapter 24 and verse 42. Jesus has just talked extensively about what things are going to be like as we came toward the end of the age, those were the questions he was being asked. He said, “When is the destruction of Jerusalem? When is the end of the age? When it is that you are coming?”
And in verse 42 he says, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Verse 44 says, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
We started off last week saying that someone might ask, “Well, pastor, what in the world does the rapture have to do with me? I am living here doing my duty, doing the best I can. I can’t stop the rapture. I can’t change the rapture so why should I worry about it? I will just wait.”
Well, that is partially a good answer because that is exactly what we are supposed to do. We talked about it, 1 Thessalonians chapter one and verse eight gave us a real glimpse of Christianity, a real understanding of what salvation is in 1 Thessalonians chapter eight.
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…
Paul speaking to the Thessalonians, the people of Thessalonica. And he said, “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son Jesus from heaven.” And that is the real project of a Christian, that what we are supposed to do is at first we turn from something and to something. I said this last week. Let me reemphasize. When a person comes to Jesus Christ then they are turning from whatever their confidence was in before to putting their faith, trust, hope all of their confidence, all of the weight of their eternity they put in Jesus Christ. So they turn from—maybe they were confident in their church attendance, maybe they put confidence in their heritage, maybe they were confident in the fact that they were an American, maybe they were confident that they had memorized Romans eight once upon a time, maybe they were confident… No matter what you were confident in, you come to a place where you understand that none of what you do or make an effort at and you turn from that and you turn to God. That is true repentance. You turn to him from anything else. In this case it as idolatry.
And so you turn to God from idols and then you turn to do something. You turn to serve the true, the one and only, the living God. That is Christianity. You just don’t say, “Thanks, God, for my salvation. Thank you that you gave me eternal life and now then I will go about my life and just do anything I want to until you come.”
No. We are supposed to turn to God from idols to do something, to serve the living God. And I said this last week. I will repeat it. If your coming to Christ has not given you any spiritual ambition, holy ambition in your heart whatsoever, to know him, to know his Word, to know his Son, to know what his Holy Spirit is doing in your life and to want to do something in the kingdom of God, if it hasn’t made you want to do that, then I wonder: Did he ever come into your life in the first place?
And so you turn to God from idols to serve. Then here is this key word, “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
You say, “Pastor, I don’t like those verses in the Bible that talks about judgment, wrath, about things that are going to come on this world that are going to be so difficult. Could we just skip those parts?”
Well, you would have to take a pen knife and cut out about a third of the Bible because lots of the Bible talks about the fact that God is a God of love, yes, but he is also a just God and he will never overlook sin. He will punish it. And so we have to understand what coming to God is about.
Now this passage of Scripture here tells us that we are to wait on his coming. We are to be employed, occupy, serve the Lord, but we are waiting until he comes back. And knowing that the Lord is coming at any time—and we have established that, won’t go into it again tonight—but it should create, first of all in us, it should create a spirit of anticipation, a spirit of anticipation. We should be anticipating that the Lord could come back at any time.
I remember as a young boy sometimes my mother and father would leave us three boys at home and they would go away and they would say, “Behave yourself. When we get back we are going to check into it and make sure you don’t throw the footballs or the baseballs or the basketballs or any other kind of ball in the house and if you do it, we are going to know it. So don’t do it.”
Well, boy, they would get out the door and they wouldn’t be gone very long… I remember one special occasion that they left and we were not anticipating that they had forgotten something in the house, but on their little trek that they were taking that they were going to be back home shortly. And so we were just having a riotous time within the first 30 seconds of when they went out the door and we were… We had found the football, got it out. And I mean we had moved… We had already pushed the couch back, pushed the chairs back and we were going at it right in the middle of the living room and I mean it was just full force tackle. And just about the time that I hit my older brother Donny, just I mean a full flying tackle. Guys, it was fun. I hit him.
Just about that time the door opened and he said, “You didn’t expect me to come back this soon, did you?”
Well, we learned to anticipate that he could come back at any moment.
And we need to anticipate that the Lord could come back at any moment. And I want you to know that God is telling us that with the facts being that he could come back at any moment, we should be living a certain kind of life. We didn’t get into this last week. Now here is where we are going to pick up what we were talking about and I want to carry it forward.
Take your Bibles and turn to Titus chapter two. This is a church that has a wonderful name. What is the name of this church? It is called what? Grace Church. Say that with me. Grace Church. We love grace. How many of you love the idea of a God of grace? Raise your hand right up.
I do. Boy, God is a God of grace. He is a God of the second chance. He is a God that is merciful and kind. The old King James says he is longsuffering. It is a fancy way of saying he is so very, very patient. He even suffers with our inconsistencies and our disobediences. He is patient and he is kind and he is gracious and graceful and full of grace. And I want you to notice that there are two things that grace does. And make sure that you get this.
This is all about the anticipation of his coming. Titus 2:11.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 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.
Now in this passage of Scripture that also talks about waiting for the Lord, anticipating his return, recognizing that he could come at any time. He says, “I have shed my grace abroad in your hearts. I have given you my grace.”
And the first thing we find out about that it is God’s grace that brings salvation and has appeared to all men.
Now to my friends that believe that not anyone can be saved who wants to be saved I just want to read this first part of this verse. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” No one is going to be able to point to God and say, “God, it is your fault that I did not get saved because your grace did not come to me.” This verse says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to whom? To what kind of men, to which men? To what? All men.”
I could go on all night long.
But here is what I want to say to you. Here is what I want to say. The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Now what is it about God’s character and nature that saw to it that you and I were able to get saved, that we were able to have our sins forgiven? It is the grace of God. It is his unmerited favor on your behalf. It is God saying to you, “Though you do not deserve it, I am going to give you eternal life.”
It is not just mercy. It is not justice. You certainly don’t want to say, “God, give me justice.” That is the last thing you want to say because if we get justice then we all get what we deserve and that is an eternity in hell. And not just mercy. Mercy is not giving us what we do deserve and then it is grace, that is giving us, in spite of us, what we do not deserve. And it is the grace of God that has brought salvation.
I want you to point at your neighbor and I want you to tell him, “Grace saved you.” Point at him. Tell him. “Grace saved you.”
If you are not saved grace will save you. I want you to know that tonight. You are saved by grace, not by your works, not by your church membership, not by your baptized. You can get baptized up here in this baptistery seven times forward and 22 times backwards. It won’t make any difference you will just be wetter and soggy when you get done. It is not going to save you.
Grace, God’s unmerited gift to you, he sent his Son as a gracious gift to save you.
Now what does grace do for us? It saves us and then it teaches us something and this is what we don’t want to talk about. We have got it in our mind that grace is license. Grace is God’s unmerited gift to us and that just means, “Ok, you have been given grace so just go to [?]. God knows that you are just made of clay. Go live any way you want to, do anything you want to. Go anywhere you want to. It doesn’t matter because there is enough of God’s grace.”
Well, there is. But grace doesn’t just save us. It teaches us something. Look at God’s Word. It says it teaches us to say what? No.
Do you know that that little two letter word—I may be speaking to some young people. I may be speaking to some college age people. I may be speaking to somebody who is contemplating an affair. But I want to tell you right now that the grace of God teaches you a two letter word that will secure and save your life and save your testimony and save your marriage and save everything about you if you will just learn that God’s grace also teaches us something. It teaches us to simply say, “No” to ungodliness, to worldliness, to sinfulness and to selfish desires that we have in our heart.
Now, you see, that is not a message about grace that you hear very much. But look at God’s Word. Look at what it says. It says it teaches us to say, “No,” to ungodliness and to worldly passions and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
I say the word “godly” and somebody thinks of somebody sitting in the corner with a big frown who can’t move, they can’t breathe, they can’t smile they can’t laugh. They can never eat a rare steak. They just can’t do any anything in life that is any fun. That is not Godliness, that is boredom.
Godliness is not sadness. Godliness is becoming more and more like what God wants you to be. It is becoming like God in character and in characteristic it is becoming like Christ. It is becoming like Jesus.
His grace teaches us because of God’s wonderful gift to us, it teaches us to simply say, “No,” to things that are not like God.”
You say what does that have to do with anticipation? Well, it says, it teaches us to live godly lives while we wait.
You say, “Pastor, why should I bother with trying to live a life that is exemplary? Why should I bother with trying to do the right thing, trying to serve the Lord with gladness? Why should I worry about my testimony in the world? You know it gets old. It gets…It gets tiring. I wish I could just let loose and just…”
Do you know why? Because his appearing, his coming, the rapture, the trumpet sound, the voice of the archangel could come at any moment and anticipation of that event teaches me, “Be ready becomes he could come at any time.”
The coming of the Lord for his own is imminent. That doesn’t mean immediate. That doesn’t mean today. It means it could happen at any time. The New Testament believes thought it was going to happen in their life time. And Jesus is going to come at an hour when we do not expect him. They are admonished to look forward to the time of his coming and we are to be busy working for him when he does come.
We notice that the verse says there in Titus grace gives us something, salvation, and it teaches us something. It teaches us to say no.
Listen to this verse in 2 Timothy chapter four and verse eight. “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 [look what it says] but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
There is a special blessing, a special crown, a special reward for those people that are longing for, we are wishing that he would come, praying that he would come, hoping that he would come, expecting him to come. And it says that there is a special blessing for those people.
Sadly, many of us are looking forward to our disappearing more than we are his appearing. We want to disappear from a lot of problems, heartaches and some of the things that we have created ourselves. I told you about wanting to pray for the Lord to come back, for the rapture to occur before a midterm exam one time that I had not studied for in college. I wanted to disappear more than I wanted the Lord to appear.
Well, that is not what we are talking about here. We long for his appearing.
1 John chapter two verse 28. “And now, dear children…” I say that too quickly. The first one was 2 Timothy 4:8. Write that down. 1 John chapter two and verse 28. “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”
Did you get that? Did you hear that? It said, “And now, dear children, continue in him.” It sounds like John chapter 15, doesn’t it? Abide in me. Let my Word abide in you. Remember those verses over there? Abiding in Christ, staying close Christ.
Jude says, “Keep yourself in the love of God, abiding in him, staying close to him, holy ambitions, righteous ambitions, caring about God.”
You see, he tells us that saying, why? So that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed.
Did anybody ever catch you in the middle of what you wish you had not been doing and you were not very confident nor were you very proud of yourself and what you were doing at that moment?
Let me just ask you a searching question. Here we go. What you did this week, how you acted this week, the attitude that you exemplified this week and the activities that you were involved in this week, would you have wanted the Lord to come at that moment and find you doing that thing, that thought?
You see, we don’t want to be ashamed at his coming. We want to be confident. All of this has to do with anticipation.
Let me hasten. The second thought, what this whole idea of his coming should say to us is that not only we should be thinking about his coming with anticipation, but we should also realize that it is going to be an evacuation, an evacuation. We will simply be absent. There are going to be millions missing from the road ahead. Do you understand that? There are going to be millions of people that are just missing from the road ahead.
Take your Bibles. Look over toe 1 Thessalonians chapter four. Just flip over there. 1 Thessalonians chapter four.
You say, “What are we talking about?”
We are talking about that moment in time when a trumpet sounds. There is a voice the voice of an archangel. There is the voice and the should of the Lord himself and those that are believers in Jesus Christ who are yet alive in this world, first will be… First will rise will be those that have already died. But there will be a bodily literal movement of believers from this world in which we live into the presence of our Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, “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.”
Several thoughts I want to give you. First of all in this passage we understand that there is going to be a reentry, a reentry.
You say, “What are you saying?”
Well, I am saying there is going to be reentry. All of these years the scientists and the star gazers have been looking for life in outer space. They are looking for something right now on Mars, the red planet. I mean they are doing everything they can to try to find life. They think they have found something, some evidence of water. And, you know, that in order to have life you have got to have some water and so they are trying to find evidence of that. They think they have found it. That is interesting because Jesus offers water, that if you will drink of it you will never thirst again. That’s interesting, isn’t it? He is the breath of life and the water of life and anyway the astrologers and the astronomers, the Greek mythologists and science fiction crowd have it right. There is life out there and guess what? You are not going to be able to reel him in with telescopes or horoscopes, but when he gets ready to come back neither will you be able to stop him because Jesus is coming back again. There is going to be reentry.
You say, “What does that mean?”
He has already entered one time. The first time he came he came born of a virgin. He was placed in a little cradle there in Bethlehem. He was not so well received and loved. In fact, after 33 years of a perfect life he was crucified, but he did enter the first time. There is going to be a reentry and he is going to come back.
And so we have to understand that. And the Lord… I want you to see there in that verse, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 it says, “The Lord himself.” Underline that word “himself.” He is not going to do it by proxy. The Lord himself will descend.
Two hundred and twenty four promises are yet to fulfill. We talked about that and we just have to understand that just faithfully as he fulfilled the first prophecies he is going to fulfill that one.
Acts chapter one in your Bible, take a look over there. Acts chapter one and verse nine. Acts chapter one and verse nine. This is very important. “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” This is on the mount of ascension. There are many people there that are watching. His disciples are there. There are many others. And they are watching. And as they were talking among each other what happened? Jesus just simply begins to ascend.
Now, I have got to talk to you about that ascension scene that we had up here last week. You do not know the whole story of that ascension scene. Now my son in law, Aaron is an engineer and the long and the short of it is that I had to try this thing out. I had to get up there. I mean we had basketball one Thursday night. Basketball was over and I saw [?] and he was lifting up my nephew Matthew Haigton. He had him up and down, zip, zip, zip, zip, just like you were doing a yo yo, man, it was nothing.
I go, “Oh, that’s cool. I have got to try that. Let Phil ascend.”
And so I went up there and got into that thing up there and my daughter, my wife, Philip and Marie and others were down here watching and I got up there and I got to clowning around. Up it went to the top and it broke.
Boom. I came down, landed on my feet and they said if you could have seen the look on my face. I had been clowning, acting up and I landed on my feet and just looked up like that and Jerry was rolling down here on [?]. She wasn’t worried about the fact that I could have hurt myself, her only father.
But the ascension. I want you to know that this passage of Scripture says that Jesus was taken up.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Ladies and gentlemen, he went away visibly. He is coming back visibly. He went away bodily. He is coming back bodily. And when we see him we are going to see the nail scars in his hands, the nail scars in his feet, his riven side. We are going to know who he is. I am going to recognize him because it is going to be the same Jesus that went up.
You say, “Why are you emphasizing this so much?”
Because there’s a lot of people that don’t even think he rose from the dead literally and bodily. They think it was a spiritual resurrection. They think the ascension was to watch a ghost going to heaven and they think if he ever does come back it is only going to be an apparition. It is only going to be some kind of a ghost coming back.
But I want you to know that the Bible says he rose from the dead. The Bible says he came out of the tomb. The Bible says that on the mount of ascension he went up. And just to make sure everybody understood how this thing was going to work he said, “This same Jesus who you just saw go into heaven is coming back.” And I want to tell you he, that Jesus is…I don’t want to see any other Jesus. I don’t want a ghost or an apparition. I want to see the one who died for me, don’t you? And Jesus died and he rose again and he went into heaven and that same Jesus is coming back. And so there is going to be reentry.
Then there is something else. There is going to be resurrection. There is going to be resurrection, There is going to be a resurrection. The dead in Christ shall rise first. That is not talking about any certain denominations either. It is just talking about dead people.
You didn’t get that. You will get it in a few minutes.
But the Bible says it will happen with a shout. Think about this for a moment. The Bible says that the dead in Christ are going to rise first and it is going to happen with a shout. It happens when Jesus shouts. One day Jesus said with a loud voice, “Lazarus come forth.” And he did it. Loud voice, notice that. One day he cried with a loud voice, “It is finished.”
Matthew 27:51, listen to it. At that moment when he cried it is finished it says that “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” And that is no small feat. It took 15 to 20 men to move that curtain around and put it in position and it was way too tall for a man to rip. The earth shook. The rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
Watch this. He shouted and Lazarus came forth. He shouted, “It is finished,” and many came forth out of their graves in Jerusalem. They came out of the tombs. And after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. It wasn’t a secret. I wonder how they kept that a secret, all these people that are dead and all these tombs that are open, the rocks come open and the ground opens up and here are these people. You know, I mean, here are these people who were dead.
“I buried you.”
And there he is, “I know you did, but Jesus died and now then he has come up out of the grave and here I am. I am right here in front of you.”
Do you imagine what was going on? Jesus shouted and Lazarus came forth. And Jesus shouted and many tombs were opened. Well, one of the great shouts that is going to be heard all around the ends of the earth is that Jesus is going to shout and the dead in Christ are going to rise first. Now only those that are in Christ.
I said that this morning. You are either in Christ or you are outside of Christ. Philippians and all of the New Testament epistles are written to churches at certain cities. But they are written to Christians that are in Christ. Listen to me. The Bible is written to Christians in Christ at cities. It is written to Christians that are in Christ at churches. But I want to tell you the truth. You could be at this church without being in Christ. You could be at Des Moines without being in Christ and that is what this is talking about. Only the dead in Christ, those whose spirits have gone on to heaven yet will come back and rejoin their bodies. They will likewise rise from the dead.
The Bible teaches resurrection and so we have to understand that. When we at first see these dead in Christ are going to be raised and it is going to be followed up with something else. When we receive Jesus Christ he receives us and if he is in us, we are in him.
In Philippians 3:9 Paul says he counted everything else worthless in this life when it was compared to his being counted worthy of being in Christ and worthy of resurrection.
Some of you, today, have lost loved ones recently and you are hurting on the inside because of the loss of companionship and love that you have in this world and you went out to a cemetery, you put your friend, your father, your mother or some other loved one in a hole in the ground and it is a hard thing to do, very difficult. But, my friend, there is coming a shout from heaven and all the graves of the world are going to give up to the voice of their creator. Are you listening? There is going to come a shout and the graves are going to open. So there is reentry and then there is resurrection and then there is this third word that we have been talking about. There is rapture. I like this.
What is this rapture? Well, first of all, it is transportation. It is a new mode of transportation. 1 Thessalonians 4:17. “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be [raptured].” The word caught up, snatched, taken away, “together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever.” It is transportation. It is something else. It is transformation, a metamorphosis. Something is going to happen to our vile, corrupt human bodies at that moment. I want you to know that corruption cannot inherit incorruption. Paul told us that in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. Vileness cannot inherit that pure body. And so there is a metamorphosis. There is a transformation that is going to take place at that rapture.
Listen to God’s Word, Philippians three verse 20.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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.
And I know that there may be some of you that are getting old or some of you that are having more difficulty just at the regular carry on of life. I know I see Jack back here. Jack, when do you go in to have that rod put in back there? Thursday, got to have a rod put in his leg because he kicked too many railroad ties in his life and he has got a foot that is just all messed up. Just to kept hat foot straight he is going to have a rod put in that thing.
Well, I want you to know, Jack, when the trumpet sounds you are not going to need the rod. The rod is staying here and your body will be transformed and it will be like his glorious body. And if you are here today and you have got a sickness, a disease, if you have… We talk about healing all the time. Well, I want to tell you. The mass healing service is coming. There is a mass healing service that is coming. It is going to fix everything that is wrong with everybody all at once. Not going to need the glasses, not going to need the hearing aid, not going to need a cane, not going to need a wheel chair. We are not going to need medicine. We are not going to need cumudin, not going to need insulin, not going to need… Not going to need anything. Why? Because our bodies are going to be transformed, metamorphosis. They are going to be made like unto his what kind of body? Glorious body, heavenly body, spiritual body, a body that we are going to inhabit for all of eternity.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:51. “Listen.” I love how Paul does things. He said, “Look a here. Listen to this. Heads up.” I love this. “I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—“ That ought to be a sign back in the nursery, shouldn’t it? We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. That would work, wouldn’t it? Just put that back there.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—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.
It is not going to be… I have probably, Tom Cove, probably we will have hair when we get to heaven. I am hoping. I know you won’t recognize. Maybe I shouldn’t have hair. You may not recognize me when I get to heaven if I have hair. But we are going to be changed. We are going to be given a wonderful body like his body.
So then we have reentry. We have resurrection. We have rapture. Let me give you one more. We have reunion. Anybody gone on ahead of you that you miss? I am thinking of Linda today, Linda [?]. I am thinking about [?] today. Somebody has gone on ahead that we miss. I love this.
1 Thessalonians 4:17, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them…” With who? With those who were dead in Christ. Remember, who is it that raises first? Who is it that comes back first? The dead in Christ. Who comes back first? The dead in Christ.
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them”
I am asked this question all the time. “Pastor, am I going to recognize my loved ones in heaven?”
Well, did you recognize them when you were on earth? Do you think we are going to be more stupid in heaven than we are on earth? Yeah, we are going to recognize our loved ones. When Abraham died the Bible says he was gathered to his people, right? And when Isaac died he was gathered to his people. And when Jacob and all the others died they were gathered to their people.
Yeah, we are going to know who those people are when we get there. There is going to be a reunion. But I want you to know that having a reunion with those that have gone on before that we love will pale in comparison with that first meeting, that literal bodily meeting with the one with the nail scars in his hand and the nail scars in his feet. We are going to have a meeting in the air.
Do you see the little pronoun “we?” You are going to be with the ones that went before you. You are going to be with the ones going up with you. You are going to get…you are going to get up there and we are going to be together and we are going to be together forever. You are going to be reunited with those that have gone on before.
Heads bowed, eyes closed. Let me ask you a question. We are not done yet, but I like to do this. I am talking to people right now who have loved ones already in that place. And just the mention of what I am talking about touches your heart, tweaks that part of you that hurts. I want you to know that you that know Jesus will be reunited with those that have gone on before because we are going to meet them in the air and we will ever forever be with the Lord.
Let me say something to you. Your God who is love personified, loves you and though it was painful, hurtful and left you with a heartache that may not have ever gone away, somehow in his sovereignty, in his knowledge and ability that is beyond our comprehension, he did the most wonderful, good, loving and merciful thing he could do in taking your loved one ahead of you. And you will see that loved one again.
Father, bless us with the confidence that you know who you are, what you are doing, what the future holds and that you love us with an unending, never dying love. Thank you that you love us. Lord, we look forward to being reunited with those that have gone on before.
I have got a brother up there named Jodie. I have never seen him, but I want to see him. Lord, thank you for these promises in Jesus’ name. Amen.
So there is anticipation. There is evacuation. Now then we have another one. What does the coming of the Lord say to me? What does it encourage me to do? Well, anticipate, realize that I am going to be evacuated, then it encourages me to run an examination and an evaluation of my life. Examination.
And I am going to be examined then. The Bible says our life will be examined. It will be evaluated. Our words will be tried.
Somebody might say, “Well, can’t we just skip that part about that examination, evaluation? Can’t we just go on to something?”
Well, you know, I wouldn’t be doing you any favor to not tell you that not only may he come at any time and you had better be doing what God wants you to do and living the way he wants you to now, I don’t only want to tell you that he is going to come with such suddenness that he is just going to snatch you away from this world in the middle of whatever is going on, but he is also going to try and weigh and put through the fire of testing all of the works of our lives. We are going to be examined. The only alternative is to be adjudged at the great white throne.
Somebody says, “Well, I just don’t want to be… I don’t want to be examined there at the judgment seat of Christ, the bema seat. I don’t want to be examined there.”
Well, the only alternative to not being examined at the great… at the judgment seat of Christ is to be examined and tested at the great white throne judgment. The only problem is those that are tested and examined at the great white throne judgment have already been judged and the only future for them… It is not that their works be weighed, but it is that there lives will be thrown, they, bodily forever into hell.
2 Corinthians 5:10. You might need to turn there. This is a sobering verse. Turn that. Turn in your Bibles, 2 Corinthians chapter five verse 10. You need to circle a little pronoun. Pronouns are very important words in the English language. Here is one. 2 Corinthians chapter five verse 10, Paul speaking, “For we…” Who is doing the writing? The apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and he says—circle the word: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” The bema, if you want to write that word in there—B-E-M-A. It is like coming before a reviewing stand. He is going to sit there and take a look at our lives. “…that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
You say, “Wait a minute, I thought that was why Jesus died on the cross to take away the penalty of my sin.”
Oh, he did. The penalty of your sin was death and hell. But the judgment here is for opportunity lost, life wasted. What God invested in you we prostituted for something else. Oh, what a difficult day.
Somebody says, “Well, there is not going to be any tears in heaven.”
Well, the Bible doesn’t say that until Revelation chapter 21.
What? What are you saying?
I am saying to you that I believe there are going to be great tears at the judgment seat of Christ for opportunities missed, for deeds not done, for love not shared, for witnesses not given.
You see, the Bible says he is going to wipe away all tears from our eyes, but that doesn’t happen until way after the tribulation, the millennium. It happens right at the end of all things.
Now you listen to me. At the judgment seat of Christ every one of us will give an account of himself for the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad and God is going to inspect our lives. Maybe we need to pray again, huh?
God is going to inspect our lives.
You say, “Well, wait a minute. I thought that once he forgave our sins…”
Oh, he did. He forgave all of the sins of our life and he put us in a new position. We are positionally safe forever in the… We are in Jesus on our road to heaven. But it doesn’t mean that from the time we trusted Jesus to be our Lord and Savior that we can kick up our heels and live the life of Reilly in this world and do whatever we want and never answer for it. Oh, yes. The Bible is clear.
Let me read you another verse. Romans 14:10 “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Again, who is writing? Paul.
Romans 14:12. “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine God almighty, his presence on the throne, dwelling in inapproachable light with our mediator at his right hand saying, “I forgave them. I died for their sins”?
Yet the Father says, “All right, that’s fine. Now then let’s have him give an account of his days, give an account of his deeds, give an account of his duties. Just tell us about your life.”
Well, are you going to try to… Are we going to be able to cover anything up? Oh, I don’t think we can cover any of it. I think he whose eyes are as a flame of fire is going to be able to look right through us and there is no point in trying to point to others and talk about circumstances and talk about reasons and say, “Well, you know, I had this childhood and so…” We are not going to be able to do any of those things because the Lord is going to judge our works. We will give an account for the time we have, the talent we have and the treasure we have. We will give an account for whether we loved him with all of our heart or not. He knows.
There was a lawyer one day thought he loved the Lord. He at least had everyone convinced he did. He came to the Lord and he said, “Lord, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” He was a lawyer. He was not a lawyer like today. He was a student of the law of God. He knew God’s law. “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?”
And the Lord said, “Well, you know what is in the law. What does it say?”
He said, “Well, it says I am supposed to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength and love my neighbor as myself.”
And he said, “Well, you have got it right. Do that and you will live.”
And then he willing to justify himself said, “Who is my neighbor?” He didn’t say, “How do I love God? How do I do it with all my…?” He didn’t say any of those things. He thought he had the world convinced. But do you know what? Do you knew who knew whether he really loved him or not? The one who was talking to him, Jesus knew whether he really loved him or not.
You say, “How do I know if I love God with all my heart?”
Well, who do you put first? Who is first?
One day Jesus was talking to some people. They came to him. He had done some miracles and oh it was awesome. They came and said, “Oh, Lord, I will go with you wherever you go, but let me first go and do this, that, or the other.”
Anybody that is saying, “Lord, and me first” in the same sentence, whether we say it verbally or in our minds, is really at odds with the lordship of what God wants us to do in our lives.
We will give an account, but let me not stop there. There are going to be these three. Then the fourth thing. There is also going to be a celebration, a celebration. You know, God is going to judge us, but God is also merciful and kind. He is going to deal with all of those things. We are going to see what was valuable and what wasn’t valuable. All of our works are going to be tried like wood, hay and stubble, gold, silver and precious stone. And some things are going to burn up that we thought were important, things that we gave a little bit of effort to, but didn’t think were so important are actually going to be the greatest works of our life.
“If you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.”
It only took you a moment. It only took you a few minutes to be kind, to say a kind word, to help somebody, to give somebody a hand up when they were suffering, to give the Word of gospel to someone. It only took you a few minutes. You did that. You thought it was insignificant. You taught a Sunday school class and you helped somebody in the church. You served as a deacon or you cleaned the toilets. You did all kinds of things.
You said, “Well, it’s just insignificant, it is not that important.”
And you are going to find out it was gold, silver and precious stone. And what you gave so much of your life to that you thought was so very important, that hobby, that job, that… What you thought was the most important thing in the world is going to burn up like wood, hay, stubble.
But once that is dealt with in a way that only God can deal with those things, then we are going to enter into a celebration. Revelation chapter 19 and verse one. Turn in your Bibles if you would, please, and I want you to just see something there in Revelation chapter 19 and verse one.
We are going to take a look at the whole book of Revelation coming up, not just yet. This is just to whet your appetite. Revelation chapter 19 verse one. If you have the same version of the Bible I do it says, “Hallelujah,” over the top. How many of you it says, Hallelujah of the top of that passage? Yeah.
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
And fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.
What a glorious time. It is the three fold Hallelujah. There is going to be a Hallelujah chorus, all right, in heaven one day and that Hallelujah is going to ring out because once and for all we are going to see things as God sees them. We are going to understand as he understands. We are going to know as we are known.
When we get to that position and we are in that place and the Bible talks about judgment having past and he has judged all the evil deeds and all that is done away is, now the judgment seat of Christ is gone. We are at the marriage supper of the lamb. It says that the bride has made herself ready. She is dressed in white. She has got the white robes of righteousness that she steps out and they start singing, “Here comes the groom.”
You say, “What?”
No, not here comes the bride, not in heaven. No, it is going to be here come the groom and the bride standing there in white is only going to be there white because of the blood of Jesus that he shed on the cross to take our sins away.
We are only going to be there standing in his presence because of his grace. And this is not going to be where the bride gets all of the focus.
Now, today, we like it that way. I would hate for us to be sitting here and yesterday and be talking about Don Rasco walking down this aisle. Oh, look at Don. Wasn’t that…how wonderful that out is he has on.
Nobody talks like that. We talk about the bride.
But when we get to heaven we are going to talk about, at this point, we are going to talk about the groom and we are going to say he is altogether lovely, that he is wonderful, he is counsel, he is the mighty God, he is the prince of peace, he is the king of kings and lord of lords. There is no one comparable to him and who can be comparable to our Lord and our God. And what do we compare him to? There is nothing to be compared. Compared to him he is above all the heavens. In fact, he made them. He made the heavens and the earth and everything in it. He holds all things together by the will of his power and by him all things consist and by his Word he holds you. He holds our life together.
And we are going to look and we are going to talk about the groom. That is where we are going. That is what is on the road ahead. We are headed down a road and on this road there are going to be millions missing. Well, it is going to culminate with a celebration like you can never imagine.
A couple of years ago after we finished 40 days of purpose we had a celebration Sunday here. And we have done this on various occasions, but we brought the crosses in and do you remember nailing? How many of you were here? And we nailed those nails in those crosses and talked about the fact that we would never be the same again. And we celebrated decisions made and we celebrated lives made right and we celebrated people who had come to know him as Lord and Savior and we celebrated God’s presence among us and we celebrated understanding that we are in this world for a purpose.
But one day when we get to heaven and we stand before him and we have full understanding of all that God was doing and how he used us and how everything in our life was orchestrated by him for our good and for his glory, there is only going to be one thing to say and that is, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Praise be to the lamb that was slain.”
Would you bow your heads?
I am not going to get as far as I wanted to tonight, but I just want to stop and ask you a question. Are you ready to meet the king? Are you ready to meet the king? The king is coming.
When I was a boy there was a song called The King is Coming that stirred my heart just beyond belief, probably one of those songs that motivated me to want to be a preacher more than any other single song. The King is Coming. It talks about the marketplaces being empty, no more traffic in the streets. Do you know why? Because all things that man had planned and done had come to an end. And the King of Kings and Lord of Lords came.
I want you to know that Jesus is coming. He is coming. He is coming. He is coming. As sure as my name is Phil, as we are seated in this auditorium tonight, as sure as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West and as sure as the eternal, unchanging Word of God, I want you to know that Jesus Christ, God almighty come in the flesh is going to make a reentry into this world. And he is not coming in the cradle. He is coming on a horse with a crown. And he is going to come back in power. And those of us who know him are going to come with him to rule and reign with him in this world.
But if were to come tonight would you be living in the anticipation of that moment? If he were to come tonight would you be ready? Would you be doing those things that are pleasing in his sight? Would he be able to examine your life and say, “I find no fault in this person? They sinned, but they confessed. They have sinned, but they admitted it. They gave me their time the best they could. They gave me their talent the best they could and they gave me their treasure the best they could. They served their own generation by my will to the best of their abilities.” Did they do that?
Is he going to find us doing what we are supposed to be doing?
This is not about scaring us. This is about teaching God’s Word. And God’s Word teaches that in a moment—we do not know when—at a moment we cannot prevent, at a moment when we are not really expecting him, there is going to be a shout, a trumpet and the voice of an archangel. And we are going to be gathered together with the Lord.
Let me finish with this.
You say, “Wow, that’s scary.”
No, you know now that verse ends? It says, “So comfort one another with these words.”
You see, Paul wrote all of this as a comfort. The Holy Spirit instructed Paul, “Paul, write all these. They are scared. They are upset. They don’t know what happened to their loved ones. They don’t know where they are. They don’t know what is going to happen to them. They are the… The Romans are everywhere. War is all around them. They don’t know what is going… So just write this to them. Let them know that I am coming back. I am going to raise the dead. I am going to change the believers. I am going to gather them all together. They are going to be with me forever and, oh, by the way, Use this as a comfort for their hearts.”
You say, “Pastor Phil, I need some comfort tonight.”
Let me give you the comfort of all comforts. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, Jesus is coming. He is going to gather you to him to be with him forever and that is the greatest promise that you could ever receive from me or anyone else, but it is a promise that comes from God himself. Jesus is coming. Are you ready?
Heads are bowed and eyes are close and somebody said, “Pastor, I have got to admit, I have to confess. Certain aspects of my life, certain aspects of my life would be an embarrassment to me if Jesus came back, my marriage, my relationship to my children, my relationship to other believers, my relationship to my other family members, my relationship to God himself, if he came back tonight I have to be honest I am afraid that I would have to be ashamed and a little bit worried at his coming. Pastor Phil, I want to pray with you tonight that God would help me straighten out those issues.”
Would you raise your hand? Just pray. All right. All over the house. God bless all of you. God bless each one of you. I am going to pray for you in a minute.
Perhaps you are here tonight and you say, “Pastor Phil, you know, this is Bible teaching that I haven’t heard very much and I just don’t know a whole lot about this. But you said Jesus may come at any moment and if we are not ready we are going to be left behind.”
Oh, yes, I did say that. That is what the Bible teaches. That first verse I read you in 1 Thessalonians chapter one says inverse 10 that he was here. He is coming to save us from the wrath to come. There is going to be a period of wrath and judgment on this world that the world has never seen. It is going to come on those left behind.
“Pastor Phil, that scares me.”
Somebody might say, “Pastor, you ought not scare people into trusting Jesus.”
You know what, if I thought scare tactics would work I would do it, but I am not using scare tactics. I am just teaching God’s Word. The Bible says Jesus is coming. If he is not in your heart and you have never trusted him as your Lord and Savior your will be left behind and the ruler of this world, Satan, the antichrist, the false prophet will be those rulers with whom you will deal.
Are you here tonight and you say, “I am not sure if I died tonight or if Jesus came, I am not sure that I would go to heaven?”
I don’t care what your, what your history has been, how many church services you have been to, if you would say, “I am not sure that Jesus is my Savior, but I want him to come into my heart tonight, pastor, pray for me.” Would you just raise your hand? I won’t embarrass you. I won’t come back to you. I just want you to raise your hand.
God bless, ma’am. I see that. I see your hand, ma’am. God bless you. Lord bless you and help you. Anyone else? Is there anyone else? Just raise it up and put it right back down. I’ll pray for you.
“Pastor, I really need to be saved.”
All right. Just raise your hand up. I’ll pray for you.
Now, Father, you have seen these hands that have been raised, first a group of people saying, “I don’t… I just don’t know if I want him to come and find me as I am.” Lord, help us to practice repentance. Help us to come into your presence and say, “Lord, I agree with you. What I have done and am doing is wrong. Forgive me. Make me ready for your appearing.”
Then, Lord, these that raised their hand that don’t know you as Lord and Savior, they are not sure if they were to die tonight what would happen or if you were to come what would happen. Lord, help them call out to you to be their Lord and Savior.
With your heads bowed and eyes closed I want to ask you that raised your hand to pray a prayer in your heart, not a little prayer, a little nursery rhyme, but sincerely from your heart speak to Jesus, speak to the Father and say this. “Dear Jesus, I am a sinner. And if you were to come back tonight or if the rapture were to happen I don’t know that I would go to heaven. But I want to. Forgive me for my sins. Come into my heart and wash my sins away. I believe you died for me. I believe you were buried and that you rose again, conquering death. And, Lord, I give you my life total care and control. I receive you to myself to be my Savior. Please receive me, dear Lord, into your family. Thank you for dying for me. I pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen.”
1 Thessalonians 1:8-9
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
2 Timothy 4:8
1 John 2:28
1 Thessalonians 4:16
1 Thessalonians 4:17
1 Corinthians 15:51
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
1 Thessalonians 4:17
2 Corinthians 5:10
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