Opinions on faith and life

Arise

2011-04-20

This year, the day celebrated as Easter but which many prefer to call Resurrection Day, falls on April 24. In the modern Jewish calendar, Passover began on April 19th (Nissan 15), so our Easter will be on the sixth day of Passover. And here is the link to a chart I made.

This celebration among Christians of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a very curious thing. So many believers today just aren’t all that sure what they believe, or why it’s important. I’ve written many times in recent months about how many attacks on the faith have come from every direction, from the allegorization of the Bible to the abandonment of truth/doctrine for experiences and mystical thrills. The churches often celebrate a Jesus of their own making, one who cares nothing for justice or holiness and might even be a mere ideal rather than an actual person. Or maybe Jesus is just one manifestation out of many of ”the god within“.

But even among those who still remember and believe what the Bible says about Jesus, that He is God in the flesh who died for our sins and rose again as predicted, there is a growing denial of— and worse yet, hostility toward— the belief that this very Jesus will return ”as you saw him depart“ (Acts 1:11). They say that such belief is at best a waste of time, and at worst a sinful and harmful thing that only those who don’t care about the lost could accept. Yet Jesus Himself commanded us to ”watch“ (Mark 13:37), and to ”look up“ when we see ”all these things“ beginning to happen (Luke 21:28).

We are called ”the body of Christ“ (Rom. 12:5, 1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:12), but also ”the bride of Christ“ (John 3:29, Eph. 5:32, Rev. 19:7, 22:17). What kind of bride does not wait with great anticipation for her groom? What kind of bride is indifferent, or even hostile, to the thought of his arrival? What kind of bride throws rocks at anyone who speaks excitedly of his sudden, unpredictable return for her? Yet that is the kind of bride the ”church“ has become. I personally have felt the ire and rage of fellow believers whenever I speak positively of the Rapture, specifically the ”pre-trib“ Rapture.

For any who are unfamiliar with those terms, the Rapture is the sudden return of Jesus ”in the air“ (1 Thes. 4:17) to gather up (”rapture“, the Latin word for ”snatch up“) believers to Himself and take us to His ”father’s house“ (John 14:2). But not many are aware of the significance of this terminology, patterned after the wedding customs of the time (link, another link). After a man and woman were betrothed or ”engaged“, the man would go to his father’s house to prepare a room for the two of them to begin their lives together. Neither the groom-to-be nor the bride-to-be would know when this would be finished. Only the groom’s father would know, because his approval of the finished room would be required before it could be occupied. And as soon as it was, regardless of the day or time, the groom would set off to get the bride. She was expected to be ready at any hour, watching and waiting.

But another intriguing fact was that there would be a feast lasting seven days. This just happens to correspond to the period of time, in years, that the Tribulation is to last. The Trib. is a general term applied to the prophecy of Daniel concerning ”seventy ’sevens’... to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy“ (Dan. 9:24). I won’t go into all the details here, but 69 of those ’sevens’ ended with the crucifixion of Jesus (vs. 26a). Because Israel rejected her Messiah, the prophecy came to a halt and ”the times of the Gentiles“ began (Acts 15:13-18). When the ”full ship’s complement“ of Gentiles is reached (Rom. 11:25), Jesus will return for them and then God’s attention will shift back to the Jews. The book of Revelation is the detailed account of that 70th prophetic week of Daniel.

We too, like our Savior, will arise and go to the wedding feast for that final ”seven“. We are NOT to be left here to suffer the wrath of God on both an unbelieving world and the sins of the Jews (1 Thes. 5:9, Rev. 3:10), but will return to the earth with Jesus after the feast is over and God’s wrath is complete (Rev. 19:14). There is even a special ”crown“ or reward for those who have ”longed for His appearing“ (2 Tim. 4:8). These are the people who truly acted the way a bride should act toward the One she loves!

All of this serves as well to highlight what I’ve said before about the need for our gospel presentations to emphasize the relationship we have with Jesus. Salvation is more than a ”get out of hell“ pass; it is a reconciliation with God and a ”betrothal“ to Jesus. It is a union, a restoration of that which was broken so long ago in the garden of Eden. The person who accepts Jesus as Savior is agreeing not only to join Him but also His Father (John 14:7, 1 John 2:23), to be adopted into His family (Rom. 8:23, Gal. 4:5, Eph. 1:5). This is the Good News! By faith and nothing more, with the intent to be reconciled, we are to become the very children of God (John 1:12).

Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is only half a celebration if we don’t also eagerly anticipate His return for us, ”sealed“ as we are with His Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13, 4:30). Do you ache to see Jesus, or would you prefer He didn’t return in your lifetime? Does the thought of His sudden return fill you with unspeakable joy, or with dread or anger? Do you happily share your joy with other believers, or snarl at them for being happy when so many in the world are sad— though it was by their own choice that they rejected Jesus’ ”proposal“? Do you think that it’s wrong for the bride to be happy as long as her friends are still single, though it isn’t because nobody asked to ”marry" them?

Think about your attitude toward the idea of Jesus returning for us before God’s wrath is poured down on the unbelieving world. It will say everything you need to know about your relationship with the risen Jesus. Just as the bride would not love her old home more than the new one she hasn’t yet seen, so also we should not cling to this familiar but broken world more than the glorious one to come. Live as a citizen of that coming Kingdom, and keep looking up!