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SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST

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SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST

Mankind was created by God and is accountable to Him. God created men and women for fellowship and blessing. They were His highest creation. He created a perfect earth on which they were to rule and serve Him. There was no pain, sickness, or death and a perfect environment. But mankind rebelled against his Creator and fell from his high position and became a sinner and alienated Himself from his God and pain, sickness and death came into the world.

This is why Scripture says “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). And

“For there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom.3: 22-23).

The problem is not only the outward sins that we commit, but the inward source of these sins: mankind’s heart is sinful and by nature are alienated from God.

God is holy and righteous and cannot excuse sin. Mankind takes a light view of sin and refers to it as mere human weakness, but God declares that it is an abomination. We excuse our sins but God condemns them to an eternal hell. All the sorrow, tragedy, heartache and shame of human history are summed up in that one little word—- “SIN!”.

Some tell us that God is too good to judge sinners, but the truth is God is too good NOT to judge sin. It is His very goodness that condemns mankind. While God loves us He cannot deny His own holiness.

There was a judge during the civil war whose son was brought before him for treason. The judge came down from the bench and hugged and kissed his son, he wept and told him he loved him, and then returned to his judges bench and sentenced him to death.

A judge who allows criminals to go free is not a good man. His actions would not be commendable but an outrage. It is not corrupt judges that criminals fear but honest judges. It is justice that they fear, getting what they deserve and all mankind are declared criminals by a holy and just God.

While God’s holiness demands judgment for sin, His love longs for the sinner to return to Him, and without this judgment cannot be averted.

Like that judge during the civil war, God says He loves us, and then goes back to the judges bench and pronounces judgment upon all mankind. He has no choice as a Holy God but to condemn sin.

But unlike that civil war judge, after passing sentence God stepped down from His Judges Bench and He Himself took this punishment upon Himself in the sinner’s place. He did this in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.

In order to do this God had to take upon Himself humanity. This is the message of the Gospel. In John 1:1-3 we read:

“In the beginning was the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made”.

The “Word” here refers to Jesus Christ. Here the veil is pulled back to show His true identity. Then in John 1:14 we are told how He took upon Himself humanity in order to represent mankind:

“The Word was made flesh and lived for a while among us”.

Then Hebrews 2:14-17 goes on to tell us:

“Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were all their lives held in slavery by their fear of death.

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people”.

I Peter 2:24 tells how He made atonement for sin: “He Himself bore our sins in His body”.

Romans 4:25 says: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”.

Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

I John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ laid down His own life for us”.

And I John 4:9-10: “this is how god showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.

And Jesus last words from the cross were: “It is finished” (John 19:30). His mission to redeem mankind was finished. The price for mankind’s sin was paid in full, and now God could receive sinners freely and give them eternal life through Jesus Christ.

 

Salvation can never be earned but is simply accepted freely by the sinner who turns from His sins and trusts in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. The way to heaven is through Christ alone: He said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

We receive Christ through faith by trusting Him for salvation.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph.2:8-9).

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Jesus did everything for us and all we have to do is receive Him. Salvation is a free gift and is ours for the taking by simply trusting in Jesus. It is now up to you. Jesus said: “You refuse come to Me to have life” (John 5:40).

Do you feel your need for Christ but are not sure how to receive Him? WANTING to receive Him is the main thing. Receiving Him is turning from you sins and simply choosing Him. How can you know that He will receive you? Because He says so:

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away”.

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Forgave Sin

FORGAVE SIN

MARK 2:1-12

“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and He preached the Word to them. Some men came bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus, and after digging through it, lowered the mat, the paralyzed man was laying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘son, your sins are forgiven’. Some of the teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that this is what they were thinking in their hearts, and He said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things?’ Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you get up, take your mat and go home. He got up, took his mat, and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘we have never seen anything like this.”

Jesus fame for healing was well known throughout that area. As He was proclaiming the Kingdom He often showed some of the blessing of that coming time. The news of His return produced large crowds who pressed to see Him to the point that the house was filled and a crowd waited outside blocking the door so that no one could enter. A paralytic man lying on a mat was being carried by four of his friends. When they could not get near Him through the door they brought him to the roof of the house, which was flat, and could be reached by stairs outside the house. The roofs were made of twigs mixed with sand and mud. When they made a large enough hole, they lowered the men down with ropes.

The Scribes were probably there to spy on Jesus and report back to the Sanhedrin. When Jesus saw the faith of the five men He said that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven. The teachers of the Law who were sitting there said that only God can forgive sin. Knowing their thoughts Jesus asks which is easier, to say to the man that his sins are forgiven or to tell the man to walk? Jesus was saying that no one could actually see the man’s sins being forgiven, but could see the man take up his bed and walk. Since both would take Divine power, He could show that He could forgive sin by making him walk. An imposter could say his sins were forgiven and no one could prove him wrong, but could not make the man walk.

 

FORGAVE SIN

LUKE 7:36-50

“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisees house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping; she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

“When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘if this man were a prophet he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’

‘Tell me, teacher’ he said.

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender; one owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debt of both. Now which one of them will love him more?”

“Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.

“Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house, you did not give me any water for my feet. But she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.’

“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven!’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins. Jesus said to the woman, ‘your faith has saved you, go in peace.’”

Here one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his house for a meal, and Jesus accepted the invitation. He was probably invited out of curiosity and was not extended the common courtesies of the culture. Houses were often built around a courtyard in that climate. Formal meals were served in the open courtyard with guests reclining on couches around a low table, U-shaped. They lay on their left side, heads propped up with their left hand and they used their right hand to eat.

Their feet were bare, with knees bent with feet outward, so that servants could easily wash their feet, which was furthest from the table. Usually there were uninvited guests standing about observing. With a guest of honor it was open to the public and cushions were provided around the border of the courtyard for visitors. From among these visitors came a woman with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume on a thin rope around her neck as jewelry.

In verse 38, we see that she could easily approach Jesus, intending to anoint Him with the perfume. But as she saw His dusty, unwashed feet, as the common courtesy had not been given to Him, she could not control her emotions and her tears fell on His feet. Unconcerned about public opinion, she wiped them with her hair. It was a shame for a Jewish woman to let her hair down in public. She literally kept continuously wiping His feet with her hair, “her adornment.”

Then, in her deep devotion, she kept kissing His feet and anointing them with perfume. Normally the perfume would have been poured on the head, but she poured it on His feet as a sign of humility and devotion. To attend to the feet was a lowly task only assigned to the lowest slaves and to use such costly perfume in such a way was considered extremely improper.

At some point this woman trusted in Jesus and turned from her sinful ways and she was expressing her love and gratitude. When the host saw what was happening and who the woman was he said to himself, “if this man were a prophet, he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.” In verse 39 her act of devotion was interrupted and criticized by the host’s thoughts which were known to Jesus.

The Pharisee would not even mention Jesus by name, a sign of contempt. Then Jesus spoke up and answered his thoughts. Jesus told the Pharisee that there were two men who owed money to a certain moneychanger. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. A Denarii was about a day’s wages. Neither of them could pay him back so both debts were cancelled. Then Jesus asked who of the two would be the most grateful? Simon answered the one owed the most. Then Jesus applied the teaching. The Pharisee had no concept of his own sin and pride and assumed that Jesus was no prophet because He tolerated this show of emotion from such a woman. Jesus showed that He did know what kind of woman she was but also what kind of person he was. He did not extend the ordinary courtesy of offering water to wash the dust and dirt off a guest’s feet after walking the dusty roads in sandals.

It was customary to kiss a guest on both cheeks. It was also a common courtesy to provide some olive oil to sooth and moisturize the head and face after walking in the hot sun in that dry climate. These were humiliating words for Simon to hear in front of his guests, as these courtesies were strictly held in the Middle Eastern societies. Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “When I entered your home you did not give me water to wash my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet repeatedly. You neglected the courtesy of oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. I tell you, her sins have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. Then He said to the woman, ‘your sins have been forgiven, your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

Lack of faith in Him left the Pharisee in his sins, but the harlot entered the kingdom, as He had said to the Pharisees in Matt. 21: 31: “the Publicans and harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you.”

Jesus Raising the Dead

Jesus and His disciples received word that Lazarus was sick and we are told that Jesus deliberately delayed two days before going and then said to them, “Let us go back to Judea again.” His disciples reminded Him that recently in Judea they sought to stone Him. Jesus knew that Lazarus was really dead and said that He was going there to “awaken” him. They misunderstood and said that since he was sick it would do him good to sleep.

Then Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus was already dead and that He was glad for them that He was not there to prevent his death so that their faith in Him would be confirmed. Then Thomas, very pessimistic about returning to Judea, but loving Jesus, said: “Let us also go that we might die with him” (vs.16). When Jesus arrived there Lazarus had already been dead for four days (vs. 17). Martha met Him and Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered that she knew he would rise again at the resurrection at the last day.

Jesus told her that they did not have to wait until then because standing before her was the very One who would raise the dead on the last day. “I am the resurrection and the life.” In the Greek He literally said, “I and I alone, am the resurrection and the life” (John 11: 25). He went on the say, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die.” Do you believe this”(vss. 25-26).

Here in verse 25, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” refers to the resurrection of the body. In verse 26, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” refers to spiritual life.

“Yes Lord” she told Him, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world”(vs. 27). Then Martha went and called for Mary, and then to verse 32: “When Mary reached the place what Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. When Jesus saw her weeping, He was deeply moved and troubled. ‘Where have you laid Him? He asked. They said to Him, Lord, come and see”(verses 32-34). Then Jesus wept” (vs.35).

In verse 38 we read: “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone’ He said.

Then Martha said: “By this time there is a bad odor, for He has been there four days. “Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? So they took away the stone.”

The Son of Man, the Last Adam, stands in front of the grave of Lazarus and is face to face with the rotting results of the fall. “Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me’.

When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘ Lazarus come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave cloths and let him go” (vss.39-44). This “loud voice” of the Lord is the same as the “loud command” in I Thess. 4: 16: “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” Here Jesus gave a sample of that coming great day!

GOD’S TRIUNE NATURE

The Bible emphasizes that there is One God.

“The Lord our God, the Lord is One “(Deut. 6:4).

“The Lord Himself is God; besides Him there is no other” (Deut. 4:3).

“I am the first, and I am the last, apart from me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6).

“I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5).

“However it is also taught that this One God consists of a plurality of Persons. God is a Plurality of One. This sounds strange but it is what the Bible repeatedly teaches.      This is taught in the very Scriptures that emphasize that there is One God. For instance, Deut. 6:4 uses two Hebrew words to emphasize this: “The Lord (Jehovah—singular), our God, (Elohim—plural), is one Lord (Jehovah—singular).

Deut. 4:35 reads: “The Lord (Jehovah—singular), Himself is God (Elohim—plural); there is none other besides Him”.

Isa. 45:5 reads: “I am the Lord (Jehovah—singular), there is no other God (Elohim—plural) besides me”.

If the Bible wanted to teach a single entity within the Godhead the Word “Eloah” would have been used instead of the plural “Elohim”.

Note in Gen. 1:26: “God said; let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness”. In the next verse we read: “So God created man in HIS OWN image. The US and OUR in verse 26 become HIS in verse 27. This singular God consists of a plurality of Persons. This singular God in a plurality of Persons in the Godhead also runs all through the New Testament. Note in John 1:1 we have: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus Christ), and the Word was WITH God (a plurality), and the Word WAS God (singular).

This plurality is consistently revealed as 3 Persons. Gen 1:1 says: “In the beginning God (Elohim—plural) created the heavens and the earth”. Here the plural is used, a plurality of Persons. This is why we are told that the Father created all things: “The Father from whom all things came” (I Cir. 8:6).

The Son created all things: “All things were made trough Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).

And the Holy Spirit is the Creator: “The Spirit of God has made me” (Job 33:4).

Likewise Jesus resurrection is attributed to the Father: “This Jesus God has raised up” (Acts 2:32).

To the Son: “Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again” (John 10:17).

And to the Holy Spirit: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom.8: 11).

In John 1:18 we read “No one has ever seen God. But God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side has made Him known”. Here we see that no one has ever seen God in His divine essence, but the Second Person of the trinity has made Him known. He is God’s revealer. Jesus Christ in His earthly life unveiled the Father and made Him known to humanity. This is why He could say in John 14:9: “He that has seen Me has seen the Father”.

In I John 5:20 Jesus is called “The true God and eternal life. In Isa. 9:6 Jesus is called “The Mighty God. And in Acts 5:3 Ananias is said to have lied to the Holy Spirit, in the next verse this is explained as “lying to God.

In I Cor. 3:16 believers are called the “temple of God”. Why? because the Holy Spirit dwells in them.

These three Persons are coeternal and coequal. They are distinct individuals. Each One partakes of the full Divine essence. The One God is also three Persons, and they are always together and always cooperating. They are One in the fullness of deity in which each one lives in and through the others in an inner union eternally rooted in infinite love. At the center of reality is a relationship within the nature of God, relating eternally, perfectly and beautifully.

The inner life of the Triune God is characterized by a self-giving love which revolves around the others. Scripture declares that “God is love” (I John 4:8). This means that it is His very nature to Love. The Persons of the Trinity continuously pour out love to each other and receive love in return.

Baptism is the testimony of our faith and worship and total consecration to the One in whose name we are baptized.

The universe was created by a fellowship of persons who have loved each other from eternity. We were created for a mutually self-giving, other-centered love; Self-centeredness came from the fall and destroys our purpose.

The Scriptures do not explain the Trinity Just as it does not explain God. The existence of God is taken for granted as is His Triune nature. It is simply ingrained in Scripture.

Excerpt from a coming book.

 

THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is referred to directly more than a hundred times in the New Testament. Paul refers to it in I Cor.15:1-8 as one of the essential and foundational truths of the gospel: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By which gospel you are saved. If you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born”.

It is very significant that Paul does not merely refer to witnesses who have already died, but to many who were still alive and could be questioned.

When the apostles chose a replacement for Judas his replacement had to be, “A witness with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1: 21-22).

The accounts of the resurrection show clear evidence for eyewitness accounts. There are too many agreements for them not to be referring to the same event; while at the same time apparent contradictions give clear evidence that these accounts could not be agreed upon fabrications.

I say “apparent” contradictions because upon closer investigation these “contradictions vanish. In a court of law the strongest evidence is from witnesses who agree on the main points while having apparent contradictions that upon further probing disappear. The writers would have been aware of these apparent discrepancies but did not change them.

The first point of the gospel message is that Christ died for our sins. One thing we know for certain is that the Roman military knew how to kill by execution. If there was any doubt about crucifixion doing its job of bringing about the death sentence a lance was thrust under the ribs into the victims heart. Crucifixion was a cruel and horrible form of execution. Square spikes were driven into the wrists and heel bones of the feet. Then it became a sadistic game of survival.

If the nails were only through the wrists the body would sag and cut off breathing and quickly cause death by asphyxiation. In order to prolong the agony, the feet were nailed through the second metatarsal, giving a cruel “support” for the body enabling the victim to breath with great struggle, by pulling the body up by the nailed hands and pushing up by the nailed feet; thereby tearing his lacerated back against the rough wood of the cross. As the hours wore on under the hot sun, the body became dehydrated from perspiring and loss of blood then fatigue would set in. Then, sometimes after days of struggling, the victim would be unable to pull and push himself up to breath and suffocate.

If they wanted death to take place quickly they would simply break their legs just below the knees making it impossible to push up with the feet and they would quickly suffocate. Then the executioner had to certify the death of the victim. If the executioner got it wrong it could cost him his life. But they did not get it wrong. The victim was clearly dead before they took him down from the cross. The fact of his death would have been obvious; the victim was simply not pulling himself up to breath! There was no reviving in the tomb.

The fact that the tomb was empty that first Easter morning is indisputable. That left only two options: The tomb was empty because the body was stolen or because Jesus rose from the dead. Who would have taken it? There were only two options: either His enemies or His friends.

His enemies? Why? They had nothing to gain. As a prank or some other perverse reason? If so, then they would have been in the enviable position to refute the claim that He rose from the dead and make a laughingstock of His disciples? Why didn’t they? Because they couldn’t: it’s that simple.

But— what about His friends? For one thing there was a Roman Guard posted outside the tomb (Matt. 27: 65). The guard consisted of four well-trained soldiers who would be relieved every six hours.

Imagine stepping over these guards and rolling away the huge stone without alerting them, even if there WERE asleep, for which they would have forfeited their lives. The watch was for too short of time to worry about trained soldiers falling asleep. Especially ALL of them! And if anyone were caught trying to steal the body it would mean a torturous death.

Rome was an occupying army and they ruled with an iron fist. The disciples did not want to be anywhere near a Roman soldier. They were not interested in taking Jesus’ body they were interested in their own safety. If Rome had executed their leader, how far away could their arrests be?

If the disciples had stolen His body, would they have gone all over the Mediterranean world preaching His resurrection, facing torture and death? Would they have been willing to die for what they would have known was a lie? People may die for what they THINK is true, but not for what they KNOW is a lie!

The disciples were totally transformed from fear and despair and hiding behind closed doors, to fearlessly facing death by boldly facing their enemies with the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. This is perhaps the most significant fact of all. At the time of Jesus crucifixion the disciples were filled with hopeless despair and fear. Peter, the leader of the apostles denied that he knew Jesus with oaths and curses, but a few days later we see this same man and all the others facing the wrath of Rome with unshakeable courage.

Nothing can account for the change in Paul who was transformed from a persecutor of Christians to an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul first comes upon the scene as a blasphemer of Christ who is suddenly converted by the resurrected Savior Himself. He disappears to Arabia to prepare for his ministry where he was taught by the risen Lord and then reappears to proclaim the message of a risen Savior with the same intensity that he once fought against it.

From the very beginning the resurrection of Jesus was vital to apostolic teaching. It was the motivating force of Paul’s life and ministry.

His conversion was not only the turning point in his own life, but also in the history of the church and thus, the history of mankind. Alongside the achievements of this former persecutor of Christians, blasphemer and murderer, all the achievements of those whom the world holds to be great fade into insignificance. The only explanation for the life of this man is that he had met the risen Savior and was forever changed.

Writing from prison at the end of his life Paul wrote: “So do not be ashamed to testify about the Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel. By the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day” (II Tim. 1: 8-12).

Paul traded his high position of wealth and respect as a Pharisee for poverty, prison and persecution. Paul had met the resurrected Savior and served Him for 25 years and was used of God to write a third of the New Testament. This is irrefutable evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The other apostles who were commissioned by the resurrected Christ to preach the gospel faced severe persecution and torture until they were executed and sealed their testimonies with their blood.

Shortly after Jesus had been executed as a criminal and His disciples were on the run, something happened that changed the Christian movement from one facing extinction to a movement exploding like wildfire. It has spread to every country on earth with the message of God’s love and power to save. What had happened? They had seen the risen Lord.

From Israel’s beginning the Jews had kept the Sabbath to honor God’s finished work as creator. No work was allowed as it was set aside as a memorial day, set apart by God when He ceased creating.

Those first Christians were devout Jews. They were so convinced of the resurrection of Jesus that they changed the day of worship from the Sabbath to the first day of the week honoring God’s work of redemption. They could not ignore Jesus resurrection from the dead. They called it the Lord’s day. It became a celebration of the “rest” we have in Christ from sin and death. God gave the early church a new pattern of worship through Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week and His resurrection appearances and the Holy Spirit’s descent on the first day of the week.

Jesus had fulfilled all the types and shadows of the law. His sacrifice as the “Lamb of God” superseded and therefore fulfilled all the Old Testament types and symbols.

Other theories have been advanced to explain the empty tomb. One theory that liberal scholars came up with is “the wrong tomb theory”. Which theorized that because of the chaos caused by Jesus hurried burial because of the dawning of the Sabbath, and the fact that the women came back very early Sunday, in the din morning light. They became confused where Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was located and entered the wrong tomb and found it empty, whereupon hearing the grave-keeper, whom they mistook for an angel, say, “He is not here”, they became hysterical and ran away announcing an empty tomb and the rest is history! Or is it?

Surely it would not have taken long, once the story got out, for the people to see their error, or for Joseph to point out his tomb for them. Certainly the Roman guard would have been happy to tell them their mistake. Even the Sanhedrin would have been happy to straighten them out. And most certainly Peter and John would not have run to the wrong tomb!

Another theory that is advanced is what is called the “Swoon Theory”. According to this theory Jesus never really died. Somebody slipped Him a very powerful drug putting Him in a coma-state; giving the appearance of death. Then after His burial He revived in the cool, damp tomb and changing into grave clothes left there by the gardener and removing the large stone shaped like a wheel weighing as must as two tons.

Then He crawled out of the tomb and happened to run into Mary Magdalene, who ran and told His disciples, who nursed Him back to health as best they could and then they declared Him to be the risen Lord, but forty days later He succumbed to His wounds. Before He died He called His disciples to meet Him on a mountain and then disappeared into a cloud that they believed was His ascension into heaven! The soldiers had seen hundreds of victims of crucifixion. It was routine for them to know when a man was dead. He simply was not rising up and down to breathe!

Then there is the psychological theory, which says that the disciples missed Jesus so much that they subconsciously invented His resurrection in order to feel His presence psychologically. Then they began to imagine seeing Him, including more than 500 at one time!

Some say that the disciples were referring to a spiritual resurrection. But this was unknown to Jews and Christians. Resurrection can only apply to the body because only the body dies. Only in second century gnostic text do historians find the concept of a spiritual resurrection.

Those who claim a spiritual resurrection base on a misunderstanding of Scripture. I Cor. 15:44 referring to the resurrection body says: “It is sown (buried) a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body”. But the contrast here is not between a physical or material body and a spiritual or immaterial body but between a carnal or sinful body subject to death and a body that is sinless and not subject to death—one that is immortal. The same contrast is found in Romans 7:14: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin”. This is a difference between sinful and sinless, not material and immaterial.

Then there is the twin brother theory with the predictable outcome. Jesus’ twin brother pops up after Jesus death and claims to be the risen Lord. Or His twin brother is crucified thinking it was Jesus and then the real Jesus appears. The remaining theories are just as flimsy as these and not worthy of consideration. The resurrection of Jesus is the only explanation for the empty tomb that first Easter morning.

Many today assume that the ancients were quick to believe what we now know to be unscientific claims of people rising from the dead; but this is not true, especially with the Jews. They did believe in a resurrection but this was a general resurrection at the end of history, as Martha said to Jesus after he told her that her dead brother, Lazarus would rise again: “Martha answered, I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24).

There were others in the first century who claimed to be the Messiah and were executed. But with none of them was there a mention of a resurrection. They knew better. It was not even considered. Nor was it with Jesus own followers—at first, until they saw Him in His resurrected body. There never could have been a belief in His resurrection among the Jews without His appearing to them.

They walked with Him and talked with Him and saw and touched His wounds. The Christian movement sprang up immediately after His death because they saw Him in His resurrected body.

A very significant change came about in Israel’s social institutions for those first century Jewish Christians. The sacrificial system, the Sabbath, Circumcision, were all abandoned. A mere 5 weeks after His crucifixion, more than ten thousand Jews were following Him as the Son of God.

These were not minor adjustments but monumental changes in social structures of thousands of years. The apostle Paul tells us that everything in the Christian life depended on the resurrection of Christ: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (I Cor. 15:17).

Peter writes: “Praise be to the God and Father Of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Pet. 1:3).

When the Apostle John was imprisoned on the island of Patmos he again saw the glorified Christ. He writes: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!’” (Rev. 1:18).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer

“O you who hear prayer . . . “ (Psalm 65:2). This is one of the names of God. Hearing prayer is one of the characteristics of a God of love.

“I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; Give ear to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 17:6).

How often in the Scriptures we are invited to call upon the Lord and are assured that He hears and will answer prayer. Throughout the Bible we see that His people have called upon Him in every conceivable circumstance and have rejoiced in the fact that He hears and answers prayer. He is not distant from His people. He is His people’s “Refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

None of God’s people should be troubled or fretful and weighed down with the cares of this world. We are not left on our own, to our own resources. We are not orphans, but have a Father in heaven who loves us and is concerned about us and who has unlimited resources and who loves to give good things to His people.

He assures us that He is a God who delights to hear and answer our prayers. It is His very nature to answer prayer. All the teaching of Scripture is designed to encourage us to pray. He created us to be dependent on Him and He is glorified when we acknowledge this dependence.

He loved us enough to send Jesus to die for our sins and brought us into His family, and is already predisposed to answer us when we come to him with our needs. He encourages us to “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). He is glorified by answering the prayers of His people.

He tells us to come without fear or hesitation: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

In Heb. 4:16 we are told: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

God forbids us to worry because it betrays our lack of trust in Him. Prayer is God’s cure for worry. When we dwell on our problems and our minds become seriously affected. This becomes Satan’s point of attack. When we place everything into the hands of God by prayer and praise He will keep watch over our hearts and minds so that nothing can upset our peace. As we are told in Phil. 4:6-7: The words “Do not be anxious” is literally “Stop perpetually worrying about even one thing”. When we worry we open the door for Satan to torment us.

It refers to anxious distressing worry, not simply concern for our problems and needs, which should always lead us to pray, but the anxiety that turns our stomachs into knots and paralyzes us with fear. God recognizes that there are problems of legitimate concern but we are to bring them to Him in trusting childlike faith.

He has promised to care for us and He does this in answer to believing prayer, not whining and complaining but prayer. God not only forbids us to worry but give us the reason not to worry. Here we are given the reason: God loves us and has provided a way—prayer with thanksgiving.

“Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving”. The emphasis here is on “anything” and “everything”. It is not merely the big problems that God wants but the small ones as well. Most of our lives are made up of many small problems that if we allow them to can overwhelm us. If we are going to be all that God wants us to be we must be men and women of prayer.

God has made many promises to us. God wants us to pray and enter into these promises. He gave us these promises because He wants us to be free from anxieties and fears that are unbecoming of the children of God.

Many miss the point of Matt. 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet YOUR heavenly Father feeds them. ARE YOU NOT MUCH MORE VALUABLE THAN THEY?”

God is not the Father of birds, but OUR Father. The point is that if God cares for birds, that are His creatures but not His children, how much more will He care for us His children? The Lord Jesus plainly tells us that we will encounter trials and troubles and Job 5:7 says: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”. We sin when we fret and brood over them for these are devises of the devil to cause us to doubt God’s love.

Anxieties come when we see our problems as too big to overcome and threaten to overcome us. But God wants us to see Him as greater than all our problems. Our problems are like Goliath. When we look at our problems they seem like giants and when we look at ourselves we become overwhelmed like Saul’s men who ran at the sight of Goliath. But when we see God, as David did, the giants in our lives become very small. True faith is simply a matter of perspective.

The solution to worry is trusting prayer. Faith takes God at His word that He will take these burdens. We are not trying to get God to assume an obligation that is not rightfully His but ours, rather we are letting Him handle an obligation that He claims as His own. Doubt says that God will not assume these and that He does not really care about us or His promises to us.

Unbelief makes us feel as though we are imposing upon God. But God commands us to come to Him with all our problems and needs. What decent earthy father or mother would consider their child crying to them in need as imposing upon them! Prayer is not trying to get God to do what He would rather not do. But allowing Him to do what He absolutely insists upon doing.

Some good men say that we should advance beyond mere physical requests, but they seem to overlook the fact that God commands us to bring ALL our cares to Him. The Lord’s Prayer is a series of requests. Jesus lays great stress on trusting God for material needs as well as spiritual needs.

He is the God of the physical universe as well as the spiritual; of our bodies as well as our spirits. Someone has said that there are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible giving us one for each day of the year. But this is wrong. If there are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible then we have 365 for each day. All God’s promises are ours every day. The result of such prayer is peace.

When God led Israel out of Egypt and the supplies they brought with them were exhausted God provided water from a rock and manna from the sky. For 40 years God faithfully supplied the needs of over two and a half million people. There was no human source of supply. They were shut up to God’s faithfulness. The Bible tells us that these events were recorded for our benefit. Their God is also our God.

We read in Psa. 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”. This verse literally reads: “God is for us a refuge and strength; a help in distress He has proved—exceedingly!” We are here told that God can be counted on because He has proven Himself in the past and had it recorded in the Scriptures for our benefit.

“Casting all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” (I Pet.5: 7). The word here for “cast” signifies a definite act of the will in committing to Him our worries, giving them up to Him. This means that we are through worrying about the matter. We will let God assume the responsibility for our welfare. This is exactly what He wants us to do.

We are to commit to Him all our worries, big and little, or the things that would worry us if we assumed the responsibility. Now we are trusting God to do what we cannot do. This trust brings peace to us while we wait for Him to answer us. “Because He cares for you”, literally reads: “It is a care to Him concerning you”. We are to bring to Him our concerns because we are His concern. When God saved us and brought us into His family He assumed the responsibility for our welfare.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psa. 22:22). We were not designed to carry around heavy burdens we were designed to depend on God. The bible never anticipates that we will not have trials and troubles we are clearly told that we cannot avoid them.

Psa. 55:22 is a picture of a man bearing a great weight on his shoulders. His back is bent, his knees are wobbly, the weight is crushing him. He has reached the end of his strength when the Lord tells him to roll his burden on Him and He will handle it. He longs to have us do this, in fact, He commands us to do this!

God insisted that Abraham ask for a son when he was a hundred years old and his wife Sarah was ninety. When Abraham seemed to waver in his faith, God asked him, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). And Jeremiah prayed to the Lord “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32: 17).

Then we are told, “Then the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:26-27).

There will be joy and power in our lives when we learn to bring all our needs and concerns to God in prayer. We are not promised financial riches but God does promise that we will have enough and joy and peace along with it if we learn to trust. Prayer puts God’s promises to every day use.

We are dependent upon God for everything and blessed is the believer who is conscious of this dependency. Christians who do not pray consistently do not have a healthy spiritual life. They are weak and powerless. They have little joy and little enthusiasm to serve God. There lives are marked by worries and fears and doubts. They have not yet learned the secret of “Casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7).

Peace, joy and power should characterize every child of God. And the way to have this is to carry everything to God in prayer. We should live in constant communion with God, looking to Him in total dependence on His goodness and concern for us. The self-sufficient Christian will always be a defeated Christian.

But many do not find time to pray as they should. Strangely we do everything else first and then we give God whatever time is left over. We get so busy with this and that, so absorbed with the affairs of life, in a rush to get lesser important things done, that we haven’t time to pray.

We should be in a constant state of prayer. Luther wrote: “It is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray”. It is through prayer that we have victory over sin. Jesus told His disciples: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak” (Matt. 26:40).

Many Christians have struggled against certain sins that have been sapping their spiritual strength. They make many resolutions and try to work up enough strength by their own self-determination. But God has provided a way for them to have victory through daily prayer.

It is through prayer that we receive power to serve God: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40: 28-31).

With many of us it is the same old story of failure to win others to Christ because we lack power. Power belongs to God and He gives His power to those who will acknowledge that they have no power of their own, and who will wait upon Him in prayer. The reason many of us do not win the lost is not because we are not smart enough or because we lack talent, but because we lack power. Every Christian should have this power, and can have it, if they will wait on God and let God search their hearts and deal with them. “How much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?”(Luke 11:13)

As believers we are to pray for our pastors, missionaries, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, etc, that they may be effective workers in the gospel. When Jesus looked upon the multitudes as ripened fields of grain perishing for lack of laborers, He said to His disciples: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field”.

We are also to bring our unsaved loved ones and others to the Lord in prayer. This is the harvest field the Lord has entrusted to us. We are to pray for the lost around us and seek to win them. Then we are to pray for our fellow Christians that they may be enabled to win those around them, and we are to pray for and support financially the various soul winning ministries that God has laid upon our hearts. We are responsible for reaching the lost by our prayers, witnessing and giving.

Thus, because of our frailties and proneness to sin, our responsibility to reach the lost and our need of power, and because of our daily needs and our proneness to worry, we are to “pray without ceasing”.

Not only do we need special periods set aside during the day for prayer, but we need to be in an attitude of trusting dependence throughout the day for God’s power and provisions. Without this constant, daily, systematic prayer our lives will not be what God intended them to be. Prayer was not ordained by God to be a mere ritual, but as a means of getting the things we need for our Christian life and work.

Even a casual reading of the gospels reveals how Jesus, in His humanity, was much in prayer. All of the great men and women of the Bible were men and women of prayer. These were men and women just like us who knew their weakness and cried to God whose strength was made perfect in their weakness.. Under every conceivable situation God has met the needs of His praying people. From the splitting of the Red Sea (Exod. 14:15-25), to men being fed by ravens (I Kings 17:2-7), God has showed Himself to be “a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1).

The history of the church outside of the Bible reveals the same thing: That the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who learn to wait on God. For the most part they were very average people, but through prayer they were changed from ordinary men and women into men and women of great achievement.

Those who have had the greatest impact upon this world are ordinary men and women who prayed while carrying out their mundane duties. These are not recorded in history books written by men but they are in the history book of heaven. For instance we all thrill to read of the great revivals under john and Charles Wesley, but God knows that without a humble woman, their mother, Susanna Wesley, who daily prayed over her children and took time from her many duties to “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), we would never have heard of her famous sons.

Prayer brings power into our lives and it is not only pastors, missionaries and evangelists and other full time Christian workers who need this power. All believers need this power to raise their families and win their loved one’s to Christ. We are just as responsible for our sphere of influence as they are in theirs. Because of the power of prayer there is no telling the influence of a humble house wife, or one who is bed-ridden. The simple bible believing, praying, Christian is a mighty instrument in the hand of God just as the jawbone of a donkey was used by Samson to slay a thousand men.

It was not the mighty, seasoned warrior Saul that God used to bring down the giant goliath, but the seemingly insignificant young shepherd boy, David, who learned to meditate on God’s word and pray while tending his flocks. This is how God wants His people to be: Armed and dangerous. Not parleying with the enemy, but in a death struggle, no negotiations and no retreating, until the enemy is defeated!

But so often we are like the Israelites as they entered the land of Canaan. God told them to go in and drive out the enemy and subdue the land. They were to go in His power and drive out all the enemy. But after driving the enemy out in certain areas and settling down in these areas, they became comfortable and lazy. Instead of finishing the enemy they were content to co-exist with the enemy, allowing them to keep their strongholds because the battle would be too difficult. As a result they   were plagued by these enemies throughout their history.

We become content with being saved and settle down and try to keep from making waves that might stir up the enemy and cause us to have to give up our comfort. The picture God gives us in Eph. 6:13 is one of constant warfare. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”.

After driving off the enemy, we are not to sit down and rest, but remain standing, ready for the next attack to come.

 

 

 

 

 

THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS

THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS

This is when believers who have died and are in heaven will receive resurrected and glorified bodies while those believers who are living at the time of the rapture will experience this change without first dying:

“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 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. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”(I Cor. 15: 50-58).

Here we are told that our physical bodies must be changed before we enter God’s kingdom. Paul is about to unveil a “mystery” to us. A mystery here does not mean something hard to figure out, but rather a truth not fully revealed until now. Here   we are told not all believers are going to die before this change takes place and that it can happen at any time, “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye”, instantaneously.

The rapture will bring about the completion of the believer’s salvation. The Bible presents two aspects of salvation. The believer in Christ is saved now: “It is by grace you HAVE been saved” (Eph. 2:5). The believer in Christ is saved NOW. He is no longer under condemnation and has become a child of God.

The Bible also presents a future aspect of salvation. This refers to the completion of salvation when our bodies are glorified. The believer has now been saved from the PENALTY of sin. This is referred to as the “firstfruits” of salvation. This is the present aspect of salvation. But there is a future aspect of salvation when we will be saved from the PRESENCE or EFFECTS of sin. This is presented in Rom. 8:22-23: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODIES”.

While believers are saved spiritually we still live in fallen bodies. While our redeemed spirits are connected to Christ, our present bodies are still connected to Adam and the fall. The word “firstfruits” means that we have received some of the benefits of salvation but more is to follow.

As the new birth is the impartation of eternal life to our spirits, the rapture and resurrection is the transformation of our bodies. We are told in Rom. 8:19: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be REVEALED. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”.

Here we are told that all creation waits in eager anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed, or made known or obvious. All believers are now the sons of God but it is not known or obvious now. All creation waits for the glorification of the sons of God because this is the first step to the lifting of the curse from the whole creation.

While the believer is saved spiritually he groans within his fallen body for the completing of his salvation—his glorified, sinless, ageless, deathless body; a body that is designed for his redeemed spirit and renewed creation, and that can stand in the presence of God. The believer’s glorification is put on hold until we have finished our calling in this present life of bringing others into the kingdom.

The time of the rapture is unknown except for the fact that it is imminent. It can happen at any time. When Christ rose from the dead He began the order of the first resurrection (I Cor. 15:20). The “First resurrection” refers to believers, while the resurrection of the unsaved will occur a thousand years later at the Great White Throne Judgment seen in revelation 20: 11-15.

1 Cor. 15: 20-24 tells us: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father”.

Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the “firstfruits” because those who believe in Him will follow Him in their own resurrected bodies that will be patterned after His resurrection. All believers will take part in this, the First Resurrection. All the unsaved will take part in the Second Resurrection, which will take place after the Millennium, when the unsaved are cast into the Lake of Fire. These two resurrections will encompass all mankind. Everyone will appear in one of these two resurrections.

Those who are IN Christ are destined to be LIKE Christ in His resurrection body. This is referred to in I John 3:2: “Dear friends, now are we the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”. When Christ comes in the rapture, He will bring with Him the souls of those in heaven who have died “in Christ”. He will stop in the air and these souls will continue down and enter into their bodies that are in the graves, the Lord will then give the command to rise and their bodies will rise from the graves, then they, and the believers who have not died, will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. Their first sight of Christ will change their bodies to be like His glorious resurrected body:

“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. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so will we ever be with the Lord. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (I Thess. 4: 16-18).

Here in 4:16 we are told that the Lord will descend from heaven and He will bring with Him the souls those believers who have died with Him. The Lord will stop His descent in the air, while those saved souls with Him will continue to descend and will enter their bodies that are in the graves.

Then the Lord Jesus will give a “shout” of command which corresponds to the “loud voice” of Jesus in John 11:43 when the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead: “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!” This is a foreshadowing of the great day when Jesus will call each believer by name to meet Him in the air. The “voice of the Archangel” is that of Michael, who will give the cry of triumph over the host of fallen angels who have sought to hinder the children of God. The trumpet call of God refers to a military command that awakens soldiers to arise and move on. We       are to move on to eternal realms with Him.

Continuing in verse 16, “The dead in Christ will rise first”. Their bodies shall rise up from the graves and stand on the earth with the living saints. In verse 17, both groups, those who have risen from their graves, and those living will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, where we will be with Him forever.

Everyone who shares in this great event will have heard the voice of the Son of God twice. Jesus said in John 5:25: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live”. Here the Lord is referring to a spiritual resurrection when the spiritually dead will be given eternal life. Then in John 5:28-29, the Lord goes on to refer to the physical resurrection: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out . . .”.

All those who have heard the voice of the Lord calling them from darkness to light will one day hear His command to receive their glorified body. Today they have eternal life in their spirits. But their spirits still dwell in fallen bodies, but in due time God will remedy this.

Paul refers to this in II Cor. 4: 6-7. In verse 6 he writes , “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”. Here Paul refers to eternal life that every believer possesses. He goes on in verse 7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”.

Here we are told that believers have the treasure of eternal life in frail, fallen bodies (jars of clay) so He gets the glory. But the day is appointed when God will change these bodies to be fitting vessels for the treasure of eternal life.

The Holy Spirit’s indwelling is the assurance of the believer’s future glorification: “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11).

In I Cor. 15:42-49 a description of the resurrection body is given in great detail.

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven”.

Here our dead bodies are likened to seed sown in the ground. It is sown or buried perishable, rotting, but it will be raised imperishable, not subject to decay, but eternal. It is sown in dishonor, food for worms, but it will be raised in glory, free from the defects of the curse and the fall and glorious like Christ’s resurrection body. It is sown in weakness, nothing is weaker than a dead body, it will be raised in power, not subject to death, disease, weakness, or weariness. It is sown a natural body, part of this fallen world, it will be raised a spiritual body, sinless and not part of this fallen world, and not subject to physical or natural laws.

Verses 45-50 contrast Adam with Christ, and those who are “in Adam” and those who are “In Christ”. Here Christ is called the “last Adam” because as the first Adam is the head of the old, fallen creation, Christ is the head of God’s new creation. Adam became a living soul, but through sin his life principle, which was passed on to his descendants, became corrupted and earthly and part of the fallen earthly system. But Christ is a life-giving spirit. Those who belong to Him receive His life through the new birth and are a new heavenly creation.

The first Adam is the head of the fallen race of the earth, “earthy” and all his descendants are also earthy, belonging to the present world system under condemnation. But Christ is the head of the new redeemed “heavenly” creation, and all who belong to Him are also heavenly, belonging to the new creation. But while believers are born again spiritually because of their living connection to Christ; they still possess fallen bodies that are still connected to Adam. So verse 49 tells us that as we have born the image of the fallen race in our physical bodies, we shall bear the image of Christ physically when our bodies are transformed at the rapture.

Verse 50 explains that this physical body must be changed in order to have part in the kingdom of God. Believers have been changed spiritually and at death their spirits go immediately to heaven but their bodies must await a change to make them fit for heaven.

Verse 51 tells us that not all believers will sleep or die (believers bodies are said to be asleep rather than dead because they will be awakened at the rapture). The generation of believers living at the time of the rapture will not die, but will be changed along with those who have died.

Verse 52 tells us that this change will take place instantaneously. The “twinkling of an eye” is the time it takes between seeing Jesus and recognizing Him. When a relative or close friend comes to your house and you open the door and see him you recognize him immediately, although it really took time between seeing him and recognizing him, but the time is so small as to be instantaneous. When we first see   Him and recognize Him we will be transformed into His image.

Verse 53 tells us that those believers whose bodies are perishable while in the             grave will be clothed with imperishable bodies; while the living believers who are mortal and subject to decay will receive immortal bodies. Then we are told in verses 54-55 that then death will forever be swallowed up in victory.

Then in verse 56-57 we are told how and why this will happen. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

The cause of death is sin: “Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin”(Rom. 5: 12).

The power of sin is the law: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for anyone who believes” (Rom. 10: 4).

 

Another passage of Scripture dealing with the rapture is I Thess. 5: 1-10.

In I Thess. 4:13-18 Paul deals with the rapture itself and what would happen to those believers who have died. Now Paul would deal with the tribulation and its relation to the coming of the Rapture: “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness, so then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (I Thess. 5: 1-10).

Here in verse 1 Paul tells them that there is no need to write to them when the Day of the Lord, or the tribulation, will take place. For they know perfectly well that no one knows the time for it will come as a thief in the night (verse 2). It will be a time when sudden destruction will come upon “them”, the unsaved (verse 3).

But believers are not in darkness that that day should overtake them. Believers are children of light and of the day, in contrast to “them” in verse 3, who are of the night and of darkness (verses 4-5). Eph. 5:8 reminds believers, “for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, live as children of light”. Believers were at one time in darkness, but by faith in Christ they are now light in the Lord”.

The world, in Adam, is in darkness and in the night. It is the time when people get drunk and sleep. It is fitting that unbelievers do these things because they are of the night and the tribulation will overtake them. It is a day of darkness for the children of the night. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Joel. 2:1-2).

However, believers are children of the day. People do not normally get drunk and sleep in the day, and believers should not imitate the unsaved (verse 7). They are stupefied by either sleep or drunkenness and unaware of their danger.                    6.

God did not appoint believers to suffer wrath. The context here is referring to the wrath of the tribulation. But God has appointed believers to salvation at the rapture (verses 9-10), before the tribulation and darkness overtakes the children of darkness. Christ died for us so that whether we are “awake” (living) or “sleep” (dead), refers to the living and the dead who will be raptured together.

We are told that on the night before Jesus was crucified, Judas went out from them into the night to betray the Lord and Jesus tells the rest of His disciples that they would all abandon Him, and Peter would deny Him three times that very night. But instead of thinking about Himself, the Lord’s concern was for His disciples.

In John 14:1-3 He says to them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am”

Here in verses 2-3 Jesus uses the words of an oriental wedding to describe His relationship with His Bride, the Church.

The steps of an oriental wedding were:

1.Engagement. The Bridegroom was engaged to the bride by paying a Dowry.

I Cor. 6:20 says concerning believers, “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

  1. Preparation for the marriage. The bridegroom would give a ring to his bride as a guarantee of marriage. It was a sign that she belonged to him alone. Eph. 4:30 says concerning believers, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are SEALED for the day of redemption”. The seal is God’s sign of ownership. The bride would continue to live with her parents and the bridegroom would go to his father’s house to add on rooms for his bride’s coming.

In II Cor. 11: 2 Paul says of those he won to Christ, “I am jealous for you with a Godly jealousy. I promised you to one Husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him”.

  1. The marriage. When a place in the father’s house was prepared, the father of the bridegroom would say to his son: “Son, go get your bride!” Then the bridegroom would come for his bride and take her home to the father’s house.

First Jesus loved us. Then He paid the dowry on the cross. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed . . . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18). The sign of this engagement is the Holy Spirit given to the believer as a “deposit” or “guarantee” of marriage. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory” (Eph.1: 13-14).

After His resurrection the Lord returned to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us. Believers do not each have their own mansion in heaven. The truth is far more precious, there is only one mansion—the Father’s house, in which Jesus is preparing rooms for His children.

When these rooms in the Father’s house are prepared, the Lord will return to receive His loved ones in the rapture and take them to the Father’s house. After the rapture of believers the tribulation will take place on earth while believers will be appear before the Judgment of Christ to receive rewards for service. Salvation is through faith in Christ alone, but rewards are for service done for Christ after being saved. Paul sums up the teaching on the rapture in light of our appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ for rewards:

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Cor. 15: 58).

Prophecy in the Bible is not given to satisfy curiosity but to motivate us to live holy lives of service and devotion for God. Note how the following exhortations are connected with the Lord’s coming for believers:

Col. 3:1-4: “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory”.

Titus 2:11-14: “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 savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and purify for Himself those that are His very own, eager to do what is good”.

I Thess. 3:12-13: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone one else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of God the Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all His holy ones”

These passages teach that the truth of the Lord’s coming for His own should motivate us to be heavenly minded and separate ourselves from the things of this world. We are to be unyielding in our faithfulness to God, and encourage other believers to do the same. We are to be zealous of good works and be prepared at all times to witness to others and win them to Christ.

Believers are not of this world but part of the new creation, but we are left here among the old creation to represent the new. Believers are IN this world, but not OF

This world. In John 17:14-18, we are allowed to eavesdrop on the prayer of Jesus to the Father on behalf of those who belong to Him: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

So we see that believers are not OF this world, even as Jesus is not of this world. Jesus is the Head of the new creation and believers are “in Christ” and therefore members of the new creation. But we are left in this world as ambassadors for Christ to represent the kingdom of God. When God calls His ambassadors home at the rapture, He will declare war on this world.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).

God’s Care for his People

God’s care for His people

Job 14:1 tells us: “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble”, and Job 5:7 says: “Yet man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward”. One of the reasons Jesus came was to give rest to burdened humanity: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11: 28-30).

Jesus offers to exchange burdens with us: He will take our cares and burdens and give us rest while giving us His yoke which is easy and His burden which is light because He is carrying it with us.

We are wandering sheep and we need Him as our good and faithful Shepherd. We are sinners and need His righteousness. We are naked and need His holiness as a covering. We are ignorant and need His teaching. We are foolish and need His guidance. We are frightened and need His presence. We are doubtful and need His assurance. We are poor and He is rich. When we are accused by Satan, He is our defense attorney. When we are in trouble He is our help. When we are forsaken He is our supporter. When we are persecuted He is our reward. When we die He is our Life. When we are worn out and cannot go on, He is our strength. When we are discouraged He is our Encouragement.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

As believer’s we are “In Christ”. Before we were saved we were “in Adam” sharing in everything with the fallen creation and under condemnation with the rest of the world. When we believed in Christ, God removed us from our position “in Adam” and placed us into a new position “in Christ” sharing in everything with Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (II Cor. 5: 17).

The believer is identified with Christ: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). His Father is our Father. We share the same life. He dwells in us through the Holy Spirit and we are one with Him in life, related to Him as the branch is to the vine (John 15: 5). From the moment of the new birth we have new life, spiritual life, the life of Christ. God the Father looks upon the believer as one with His Son.

“Near, so very near to God, nearer I cannot be,

For in the person of His Son, I’m just as near as He.

Dear, so very dear to God, dearer I cannot be,

For in the Person of His Son, I’m just as dear as He”.

Our identification with Christ leads to great privileges, but also to great responsibilities. Christ, God’s only begotten Son is heir to all the father’s possessions, and we, being one with Christ, are joint heirs with Him. We shall also inherit His future glory: “Dear friends now are we the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2).

Our identification with Christ also brings great responsibilities. In II Cor. 5:17-21 we read: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’.

Here we are told that all those who are “in Christ” are new creations with a new relationship to God. Things concerning the believer’s old life before he was saved are passed away. All his old relationships to Adam and the world are gone as all things are made new. All his new relationships are now from God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. Part of these new things is a new purpose in life, it is the “ministry of reconciliation”, the message of which is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and that God is not counting men’s sins against them who will trust in Christ.

So all believers are born again and are new creations and have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Those who have been reconciled to God have been given the ministry of reconciling others to God. We are Christ’s Ambassadors and God is using us to make His appeal to the unsaved to be reconciled to God.

As believers in Christ we are to begin immediately some form of ministry to our unsaved family members, friends and neighbors. It may be to invite them to church or Bible study, or perhaps to watch a Christian video. We should have a prayer list of family members and friends we want to reach for Christ. We should pray for our churches and pastors and other ministries as well as missionaries. We should all have those we pray for regularly. Then we must witness to those in our sphere of influence. This is our calling as Christians. Even as shut-ins and bedridden believers we can have an important ministry for Christ. It is not our inabilities that God looks at, but what abilities we do have. We must never think that our sphere of influence is not important to God. There are those in our sphere of influence that no one else can reach but us.

By praying for ministers, missionaries and evangelists, we can have a far- reaching impact for Christ. We are exhorted in Scripture to: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things we be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

As God’s children we also have the privilege of bringing all our needs to God. In Phil.4: 4-7 we are exhorted: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

Here the Greek word for “Gentleness” Means “self-control”—not falling apart from worrying about our circumstances. The reason for this peace is that: “the Lord is near”, and is waiting for us to call on Him in prayer. The Children of God are not to be anxious about anything. This does not mean that we are not to care about anything, for the believer is to care about the things that God cares about. It does not forbid our being concerned, for we are to be concerned about many things in the Christian life. What is forbidden is the fearful anxiety that robs us of our peace in the Lord.

No sleepless, fearful fretting, as though the Lord were not nearby and promised to answer prayer. This is the secret of having the peace of God that is beyond all understanding. God is always at hand in time of need. Before He left to return to the Father, Jesus left us His peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27). Notice that the peace He gives is not like the peace the world gives. It is His own peace that He gives us” “My peace I give you”. Therefore we are not to be troubled or afraid.

This is what Jesus promised His anxious disciples as He was about to leave them and go back to the Father: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). HE promised “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”. The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?” (Heb.13: 5-6).

It is sad how many Christians are constantly burdened with care and anxiety. They worry about tomorrow as though they have no heavenly Father who loves them and promised to care for them. We should not have any trouble trusting God about anything else after He has already given us salvation: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8: 31-32).

Here, God assures us, by giving us the greater thing that He will not neglect the lesser things! He has given His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest gift that even God can, so how can we doubt that He will also give us all things.

Many Christians are like the man who was trudging down the road carrying a heavy load on his back. Someone in a pick up truck stops and offers him a ride. So he climbs in the back still carrying his heavy load on his back. He foolishly carries his load on his back, when the driver was graciously willing to carry, not only the man but his burden as well.

God has freely given us eternal life through the death and resurrection of His Son. Saving us from hell and carrying us on to heaven, riding freely by His grace. He wants not only to carry us but also our burdens! We are urged in I Peter 5:7 to: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”.

Notice two words in PHIL.4:6: “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God”. There are no circumstances where God cannot meet every need. Everything that can cause fear and anxiety can be conquered by God’s promise to answer prayer, the little things as well as the big things that bother us. If they are big enough to worry about they are big enough to pray about.

Christ is the answer to every need of the Christian. He is greater than all the troubles of this world. He said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33).

The one thing in the world the child of God should grieve about is sin. Sin grieves the heart of God and hinders the Holy Spirit in our lives and blocks the believer’s fruit-bearing for God. Sin in the believer’s life is the worst form of trouble. But the child of God need not be weighed down from grieving the Holy Spirit and bitter defeat.

Christ is the remedy for the anxiety and sorrow caused by sin. The Holy Spirit will not allow the believer to forget that he belongs to God and will cause you bitter grief over your sin. But God has not forgotten you and says to you “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Rom. 5:20). And God’s overflowing grace will cover confessed and forsaken sin. He will forgive it and blot it out.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ the Righteous One” (I John 2:1).

Our all-wise, loving heavenly Father longs for us to simply trust Him. He wants us to bring all our burdens and fears and concerns to Him, and commit our lives to His care.

In Isaiah 40:28-31 says: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They shall soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.

There is a way for weak Christians to be strong; the tired, discouraged and defeated Christian to be victorious every day. God has placed infinite resources at the disposal of every child of God. God’s people can, if they will trust in the Lord, and bring all their needs to Him in trusting prayer, renew their strength. They can soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint”.

Without this source of supernatural strength we could only have defeat and failure, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

We were not created to succeed on our own. God wanted a relationship of love and dependence on Him with His creation. We do not have to fret and worry. We have a Father in heaven who loves us and wants to show Himself strong in our behalf. He knows each one of His blood-bought people and their needs. He watches over us so closely that “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30).

We are told in Prov. 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight”.

The believer is to follow God’s leading in His word, and if it contradicts our way of thinking we are to trust in His word rather than our own understanding. In every area of our lives we are to give heed to what He says in His Word.

It can be compared to a pilot following the instruments in his plane, which is vital. Sometimes a pilot will get disoriented and become confused because his instruments seem to contradict all his experience as a pilot. Some pilots have followed their own instincts and disregarded the planes instruments which can lead to disaster. This is also true of believers who think they can disregard the instructions of the Bible and lean on their own understanding.

We can entrust our lives to Him. Storms will come and Satan will oppose us, circumstances may seem impossible, but God will bring us through. God does not promise us an easy life. He said: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).