There Is Hope!
In case you haven’t noticed, there seems to be a great many things to be depressed about these days. The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sent the nation into a state of national depression from which it is not likely to recover in the foreseeable future. Weeks before this tragic incident, President Mubarak of Egypt narrowly escaped an attempt on his life. In Bosnia, aerial photos have revealed the mass graves of innocent men, women, and children who were slaughtered and dumped in these holes to be bulldozed over with earth. Here in the United States, we have been forced to view grim scenes of limp, bloodied bodies being carried from the federal building in Oklahoma City. From a variety of podiums around the United States, strident voices, spewing venom-filled diatribes against people of other races or religions, bawl their threats. Yes, for all the talk of peace and conciliation filling the air, ours is a time when there is much to weep over. The problem is, no one seems to be able to promise any measure of relief for suffering people or those who agonize over their plight.
More than a few blame God, making Him the author of this misery. A host of others are quick to point out that too much religious zeal is responsible for many of the most heinous human crimes. Indeed, when the young Israeli gunned down his prime minister in a savage act of murder, some in the Western media were quick to point out that he was a member of the “Religious Right.” The implication is that there is somehow a malignant cause and effect inherent in “Right Wing Religion” that spawns murder and mayhem, regardless of where it is found or what religious symbol happens to be worn by the perpetrators.
The fact of the matter is that the violence that has become so much a part of our lives is a blatant contradiction of everything set forth in the Word of God or practiced by true believers. That it is seen in ever-widening, blood-spattered circles is only evidence that what the Scriptures told would one day come is now upon us.
Romans chapter 1 warns that when men no longer wish “to retain God in their knowledge” (v. 28), there are inevitable consequences. Among them: “unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness… envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity” (v. 29). The spiral of degradation embarked on by those who forsake God inevitably leads to a dysfunctional society that cannot sustain decency and civil order. Chaos and anarchy then become the twin architects of catastrophe.
There Is Hope!
Each time Israelis rise to sing “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem, they sing of hope—a hope that, as a nation, they will one day live the dream: “To live in peace upon the hills of Zion and Jerusalem.” The lyric is not naive fancy. It is the stuff of biblical reality, and perhaps it’s time for all of us to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect upon the fact that for Christians and, in time, Israel, the very best is yet to come.
Unfortunately, this decade seems to have bred an inordinate number of doomsday prophets espousing “new” and novel views related to the Lord’s coming. We are especially aware of those who are bringing new twists to the dubious idea that the church will be forced to taste a fair portion of the Tribulation period before being taken into the presence of Christ. Attempting to convince Christians to prepare to fight the Antichrist is another prophecy fad that is pushing some otherwise sensible people toward potentially serious problems. Any serious Christian should think twice before becoming involved with those leaning toward militia-type responses to the impending “threat” from the “forces of Antichrist.” The sad story of David Koresh and his ill-fated Branch Davidians should provide all the information needed to cause us to walk quickly past self-proclaimed champions of Antichrist resisters.
Most obvious among the problems associated with the obsession of looking for the Antichrist is that people are being encouraged to look for the wrong man. Nowhere in Scripture is the identity of the end-time Antichrist made known. Therefore, those who play the identify-the-Antichrist game are consistently tempted to prove their prophetic prowess by putting a finger on him. This is not a new parlor game for curious Christians. It has all been done before. Judas Iscariot, Mussolini, Henry Kissinger, and even Ronald Reagan have been held suspect. We can be sure that more suspects will be brought to the stage before the millennium turns. But, as is true of those who persist in setting dates for the Lord’s return, we can be sure they will be wrong—which proves the wisdom of God in revealing the object of the event He chooses to call the “blessed hope” (Ti. 2:13). He leaves no doubt for whom we are to be looking. It is for none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the most striking areas of our need, the Lord has chosen to deal with us in simplicity. He has done so in salvation.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” He says, “and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name” (Jn. 1:12).
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).
Simple enough? Indeed, it is. Why? Because it is something about which no one can afford to be wrong or confused. In short, God’s simple plan of salvation is the supreme revelation of the mind of God. Our children can come to it, grasp it, respond to His invitation, and become true “children of God.” And come they have, by the millions. It is a fact that most Christian believers have been born again by the time they were teenagers; that is, before spiritually befuddled adult minds step in to complicate what a loving God has simplified.
Our next great area of heart need is found in the realm of dying, death, and how we are going to exit this “veil of tears.” Jesus’disciples were so confronted when He announced to them that He was not, as they expected, going to banish their foes and mount the Davidic throne. No, He was opting rather for a cross—Jesus was going to die. Needless to say, they were crushed. Confused minds and bleeding hearts were the order of the evening. If ever there was a time when they needed a word from God that would go straight to their hearts, it was then. And He gave it to them.
What did He say?
“Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:1–3).
Complex theology, this? No. It was a word for troubled children—children like you and me. He was going. They would be coming to Him. He would make the way—indeed, He was the way. They were safe. He would come to gather them to Himself.
For what, then, were they to look? Not for what, but for whom. For Him, of course!
Deathbeds Are Waiting
We who are alive will join them, and Him, in the air.
Their bodies resurrected and reunited with their souls.
Our bodies transformed at His coming.
Together—triumphantly—we shall be together, forever.
The parlance of this old spiritual catches it so well. The Rapture of the church and the resurrection of the bodies of those who “sleep in Jesus” will be “that great gettin’up mornin’, when the dead in Christ shall rise.” What a day it will be.
The genius of the revelation is in its simplicity—so simple, yet so resoundingly glorious. He’s coming down, we’re going up—together forever!
Looking for the God–Man
I have referred to those who are urging us to look for the Antichrist—a depressing enterprise that defies any comparison with the blessed hope promised by our Lord. Then there are those, as in Israel recently, who looked for a Messiah who has already come the first time. These people—whose messiah, Menachem Schneerson, died and, indeed, left his followers comfortless—mourn for him still.
But we are not as those who mourn. We have a hope. It is a hope that we have been commanded to anticipate every moment of every day. Yes, we look and “wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Th. 1:10).
Our hope, the blessed hope, is called for in song with every passing Lord’s day.
Jesus may come today,
Glad day! Glad day!
And I would see my Friend;
Dangers and troubles would end
If Jesus should come today.
It may be at morn, when the day is awaking,
When sunlight through darkness and shadow is breaking,
That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory,
To receive from the world “His own.”
I know of no songs sung in anticipation of the coming of Antichrist. That, I suppose, is to be expected. There is nothing to sing about.
Our song is much more than words on the page of a hymnal. The imminent return of Christ for His own is strummed on the heartstrings of millions of Christians by the Holy Spirit every day.
It was the famous evangelist Dwight Moody who said, “I never preach a sermon without thinking that possibly the Lord may come before I preach another.”
British clergyman and scholar G. Campbell Morgan said, “I never begin my work in the morning without thinking that perhaps He may interrupt my work and begin His own. I am not looking for death, I am looking for Him.”
Well said. These thoughts certainly take the edge off the darkness surrounding us, don’t they?