August 9, 2020 THE RAPTURE SERIES (7) Revelation 19:7 Last week I asked you to read Matthew 24 & 25 and I want to continue on with the parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 and then compare it to what happens in the Galilean Wedding. Let me recap what I said last week. In this parable we see the ten virgins who are readying themselves for the bridegrooms return. In v. 5 Jesus says, “’The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.’” The ten virgins and those involved in the Galilean wedding had to be ready at a moment’s notice…even the bridegroom and the bride had to be ready when the bridegroom’s father told the bridegroom to “go get your bride!” We see that the bridegroom didn’t come right away and so the ten bridesmaids fell asleep. Thinking the bridegroom would come at a certain time, the foolish virgins did not bring enough oil to light their lamps. The wise virgins brought enough for the night because they weren’t sure when he would come. Now the father of the bridegroom tells his son to go get his bride. The bridegroom then sounds the trumpet or a shofar to wake up the village and the bride and her bridesmaids. In v. 6 it says, “’At midnight the cry rang out: Here’s the bridegroom! Come out and meet him!’” When the shofar was sounded it was to wake up the guests and only those who were prepared for the wedding and the wedding feast would be able to join the procession. Let’s look at this in the light of the rapture of the church! One day at a moment’s notice the trumpet will sound and you and I, the bride of Christ, must be ready for Jesus, the bridegroom, to come. Remember Paul told us in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” So, the sound of the shofar wakes up those who are ready. Again, they had to be dressed and ready even as they slept. Only those who are ready will attend the wedding and the wedding feast. There will be a time when that trumpet will sound, but only you and I, who are ready, will hear it and in a twinkling of an eye we, who are ready, will be caught up into the air from this old world. Jesus told us in Matthew 24:42, 44, “’Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. So, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’” The foolish bridesmaids thought they would have more time as we see in Matthew 25:10a, “’But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived…’” Paul cried out these words in 2 Corinthians 6:2b, “…I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” We can run around playing church and going through the motions but when Jesus comes and raptures the church you will not have enough time to make things right with Him!! Look at Matthew 24:40-41, “’Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.’” We stand on the precipice of little time and what time we have left we must use advantageously as we share the Word of God with those around us! I know that many people have heard this same old song and dance that Jesus is coming back but folks, He is and it is coming quickly. If you and I as the Church of Jesus Christ are not ready, we will miss the rapture and will go have to go through the Tribulation period. We see the father of the bridegroom has told him to go get his bride. He blows the shofar and those who are prepared meet the bridegroom and walk with him as he makes his way to the home of the bride. As he walks up to the house blowing the shofar, he sees his bride and the bridesmaids standing outside the door of the house. A smile comes across his and her face as they face each other as husband and wife for the first time in over a year! As the bridegroom stands there a litter is placed before the bride. The bridegroom helps the bride inside the litter and the bride is then lifted up into the air and taken to the Father’s House. The terminology of the custom is called, “Flying the Bride to the Father’s House.” This custom speaks of God’s grace as it is not our efforts but only through His grace that we are able to be redeemed and taken to the Father’s House. From the beginning of time to the end of time it is only God’s grace. Remember that grace in Biblical terms means, God’s unmerited favor. We do not deserve God’s grace but because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God extends His grace to us. Through this custom we can see this is the moment of the rapture when Christians are caught up in the air with Christ. 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “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 we will be with the Lord forever.” Do you see how the custom of flying the bride to the Father’s house parallels what happens during the rapture as we are lifted into the sky or flying to the Father’s House, Heaven? When the bride is taken to the home of the bridegroom’s father the wedding feast begins. In the Bible the Marriage Supper of the Lamb begins as I read to you earlier from Revelation 7:19, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” The father’s house in the Galilean wedding is a perfect representation of Heaven. In the rapture of the church Christ is taking his Bride, the Church, to save her from the wrath of God in the Last Days. If you are not ready when the bridegroom comes just like in Matthew 24 when the foolish bridesmaids left to get some oil…you will miss it! The wedding feast lasted for seven days and once the door was shut it was shut. No one left and no one entered in…those who were out were out. It reminds me of Matthew 24:37, “’As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.’” Genesis 7:16b it says, “…Then the LORD shut him in.” God, Himself, shut the door of the ark and in the rapture of the church God, Himself, will shut the door! The time of the church age will be past and all that awaits those who are left, are the horrors of the Tribulation! Isaiah 26:20-21 says this, “Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer.” Isaiah prophecies that God’s wrath is going to be poured out on those people of the earth for their sins…the Tribulation. When we began this series on the Rapture, I began by reading about Jesus’ first miracle in John 2, Jesus changing the water into wine. The first 2 verses John writes about is on the third day of the wedding feast, a feast that Jesus and the disciples had been invited to…they had to be prepared because they, the disciples and Jesus, did not know when the bridegroom was coming! Let me close with the reading of Matthew 22:1-14.
August 2, 2020 THE RAPTURE SERIES (6) 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 Last week I shared with you that after the bridegroom and the bride have everything ready for the marriage, they must both wait for the father of the bridegroom to say, “Go get your bride!” Scripture reveals to us that the Father and only the Father knows the day and hour in which it will happen and the Father, God, is the only One who can send the Bridegroom, Jesus, to gather up His bride, the Church! Back in the day we used to sing an old hymn called, “What a Day That Will Be” and here are some of the lyrics to this hymn: There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come – no more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye. All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore. What a day, glorious day that will be! There’ll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear, no more sickness, no pain, no more parting over there. And forever I will be with the One who died for me. What a day, glorious day that will be! What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see, and I look upon His face – the One who saved me by His grace. When He takes me by the hand and leads me thro’ the promised land, what a day, glorious day that will be! We, as the church today should be prepared and waiting for that day…watching for His appearance! I am not sure if you heard about this, but some individual predicted the world would end one day last week. There is a point of contention and it happens because people want to set dates. The date-setter time frame doesn’t usually happen and as this continues to happen Biblical prophecy is being systematically erased from Christianity! Here are some of those predictions: A pastor in Indiana has predicted that on December 21, 2020 the end will come! Remember December 21, 2012 (12/12/12) that was supposed to mark the end of the first “Great Cycle” of the Mayan Long Count calendar? Didn’t happen!! Harold Camping publicly predicted the end of the world as many as 12 times. He predicted the end of the world sometime around 1994 and then his most high-profile prediction was for May 21, 2011, a date which he calculated to be exactly 7,000 years after the Biblical flood. When that date passed, he pushed back the end of the world to October 21, 2011. Didn’t happen! There are predictions after predictions that you can google on the internet that just did not happen! Predictions that go into the second century and beyond! Honestly folks we are not to be worried about the timing we are to be preparing. Because of all the failed predictions Biblical prophecy is being criticized and marginalized. We as the church and pastors use biblical prophecy as fringe topics and what happens is, we, as pastors, become motivational speakers instead of preaching the truth about the end times! Lifeway Research tells us that prophecy related verses in the Bible make up 27% of the Bible, but only 2% of sermons are preached about prophecy. Why is that? It is because we as pastors want to be liked and not looked at like we are crazy! Yet you cannot remove prophecy from the Bible without removing the return of Christ. Bible prophecy is part of the Bible and if you remove prophecy from the Bible you remove the evidence that the Bible is a divine source. Did you know that 85% of Americans do not believe the Bible is the complete Word of God and disagree with the core beliefs of the Bible; and only 15% agree with the core beliefs? Around us today a global trend of humanism is exploding because men and women like myself, as pastors and spiritual leaders, are diluting the truth of God’s Word! We wonder why people (and Christians) do not believe the rapture of the church will take place in their lifetime. 18% agree the world could end in their lifetime but 82% do not agree. (Lifeway Research) In Luke 18:8b, Jesus says, “’…However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’” What is Jesus saying here? He is saying that in the last days there will be no sense of urgency! We have heard that Jesus is coming back for years and years and still no Jesus! Matthew 24:42, Jesus says, “’Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.’” We are being made fun of because of what we believe and that again should make us more aware of His coming because in 2 Peter 3:3-4a it says, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?’” Please understand this…you can only be surprised if you are not ready. If you are ready you won’t be surprised or caught unaware. I want you to take your Bibles and turn to Matthew 25:1-13 as we look at the parable of the Ten Virgins. I will just touch on this parable to give you a taste of how this and the Galilean wedding are connected. In this parable we read of ten virgins who are readying themselves for the bridegroom’s return. In vs. 2-4, we see there were five foolish and five wise virgins. The wise virgins brought extra oil with them, but the foolish virgins brought none! Let’s read v. 5, “’The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.’” If we look at the Galilean wedding notice that the bride and the bridesmaids (the virgins) had to be vigilant and ready every hour of the day. That meant the bridegroom, the bride and the bridesmaids literally slept in their wedding garments. Now the bridegroom didn’t come right away, and the 10 virgins became drowsy and fell asleep. In v. 6 it says, “’At midnight the cry rang out: Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” Let me stop here for a moment and look back at these verses in more detail. We see the ten virgins as they gather their lamps and are waiting for the bridegroom to return. Now the foolish virgins were thinking the bridegroom would come soon so they didn’t need any extra oil, but the wise virgins thought better and brought extra oil with them. We see the bridesmaids started but they didn’t all finish…why? The foolish bridesmaids were religious, but they were expecting the bridegroom to come at a certain time and when he didn’t come, they got sleepy and laid down! The wise bridesmaids were ready for his return, but they knew it could happen anytime even in the middle of the night! When we read and hear about the rapture of the church much of the wording that is used in the Bible refers to the night. I wondered why that would be and it seems to me that is when we are not as aware of things around us while we are sleeping. I wonder if the church hasn’t fallen asleep while waiting for Jesus to catch His Bride away! As a matter of fact, only 10% of Christians are looking for the rapture of the church! I think it could happen when the church has spiritually fallen asleep and we look and act like the world! What are the signs that Jesus gave the disciples and are we seeing them today? In Matthew 24:4-35, Jesus tells us the signs and let me read a few of them to you as we look in our Bibles. Whether it happens in the literal middle of the night or when the church has fallen asleep as it has today…Jesus is coming, and we need to be prepared. We need to keep our lamps trimmed and burning!! This week read Matthew 24 & 25 as we look more in depth at the rapture of the church through the parable of the Ten Virgins and the Galilean wedding.
July 26, 2020 THE RAPTURE SERIES (5) Revelation 19:7 Last week I shared with you how the bridegroom leaves the betrothal and goes home to his father’s house and prepares a place for his bride. As we think about all the bridegroom must do to prepare a place for his bride, think about this…Jesus is diligently preparing a place for us as His Bride…you and I, the church. Now that the bridegroom is doing his preparation what is the bride doing through this year of waiting? You see the bride was not just to wait doing nothing, but she needed to occupy the time. The bride had preparations to do as well and she must prepare for the hour the bridegroom returns for her. The bride had to get her wedding garments made and there were times she had to wait for the right caravan carrying the items she needed for her wedding gown. This would take time as she would wait many months for the right items to arrive for her wedding gown. Remember again, the Galilean wedding covered a year of preparations. During all the preparations the bride had to remain vigilant and pure as she waited for the bridegroom’s return. In an orthodox Jewish wedding, the timing was predictable. A year of waiting and then the day that had been set during the betrothal was when the wedding would take place! It is similar to our weddings today the couple would talk and decide when they want to get married. They would set the time and when that day came around, they would get married. But for a Galilean wedding it was always a surprise because neither the bride nor the bridegroom knew when the wedding would take place…they did not know the day or the hour! The only one who knew when the wedding would take place was the bridegroom’s father. Let me read to you from Mark 13:32-37 Jesus’ words, “’No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!’” This is why the Galilean wedding gives us a foreshadowing of the Rapture of the church. The church, you and I, need to be prepared for the Bridegroom’s coming because we do not know when it will happen. The bridegroom would finish up all that was needed, and he would then let his father know he was ready for his bride. The bride would have everything ready and prepared for her bridegroom to return for her and then she would wait! In 2020 we need to realize that we need to make preparations for the Rapture of the church. Jesus’ return could happen any moment…in a twinkling of an eye and we will be gone from this old world of sin. In Luke 21 Jesus is preparing the disciples for things that are to come, the signs of the end of the age or His second coming. As Jesus presents the different aspects of His coming He speaks these words in v. 28, “’When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’” When we look around us today and see the destruction, rioting, protesting, race wars, economies failing, earthquakes, weather aberrations, etc. we need to literally open our eyes because Jesus is coming to rapture His church! Jesus told us in Mark 13 to “Watch!” and we need to keep an eye open and we need to be spiritually prepared for this momentous event to happen. If we are playing fast and loose with God and hanging on the fringes, we will miss it and will be left to go through the tribulation with millions of others! It is easy to tell you to be spiritually prepared for the rapture of the church but the question that needs to be answered is how can we be prepared? First and foremost is have you confessed your sins to God? If you want to be part of the rapture of the church this is the one question that every person must do…repent of your sins! I realize you cannot possibly remember every sin you have committed but you can ask God to forgive you of all your sins and He will forgive you! 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That is His promise to us…if we confess, He will forgive! Next, we need to stay in His Word…read it…meditate on it…and apply it! The safest place to be is in His Word. That doesn’t mean you have to read the whole Bible in a week, it just means that when you read, you read with attention and with the desire to understand what you are reading! When we don’t understand then we ask the Holy Spirit for understanding. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Then we need to approach God with a humble heart. We must allow God to rid ourselves of earthly pride. When we have such pride, we think we can do whatever needs to be done when in reality it is only through the mercies and grace of God, we can do anything! We need to stay humble and completely depend on God at all times. Jesus never despised the humble and the weak…but He will resist the prideful and self-righteous people. 1 Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up on due time.” The last thing I want to share with you is…don’t give up! We seem to have “giveupitis” when it gets rough and difficult, but we need to keep pushing forward. Keep our eyes focused on Jesus, no matter what happens! Remember when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus as he was walking on the Sea of Galilee he began to sink and that is exactly what will happen to us! When we take our eyes off of Jesus the enemy sees a chink in our armor, and he will attack at will. 1 Peter 5:9, “…your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Stay focused on Jesus don’t ever take your eyes off of Him and He will be your Guide and He will keep you safe! We need to be prepared for the bridegroom’s return and as the bride we need to be prepared each and every day. This morning if you have not made a confession of faith and you are not ready if the Rapture was to take place in the next five minutes please pray this prayer with me: Lord Jesus, for too long I’ve kept you out of my life. I know that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. No longer will I close the door when I hear you knocking. By faith I gratefully receive your gift of salvation. I am ready to trust you as my Lord and Savior. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming to this earth. I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Thank you for bearing my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life. I believe your words are true. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and be my Savior. Amen. Let me share this with you again…the only person that can send the bridegroom back for his bride was the bridegroom’s father. The only One who can send Jesus back for His Bride, the Church, is His Father, God! The bride and bridegroom are both excited and eagerly waiting for the father to tell his son – go get your bride. We, too, should be both excited and eagerly waiting for our Heavenly Father, God, to tell His Son, Jesus – “Go get your Bride!” July 19, 2020 THE RAPTURE SERIES (4) Hosea 2:19-20 As we look at the Galilean wedding remember last week, I shared this with you: In the betrothal of a bride and bridegroom they would gather especially with their fathers and families under a huppan, which is a wedding canopy, at the main gate. The main gate was important as it was where the elders ratified legal documents. It was always full of people and what the bride and bridegroom wanted was not guests but witnesses. The reason for this was a Galilean wedding was not just a ceremony, but it was a covenant and they needed witnesses for a covenant. A written proposal or covenantal agreement was read publicly during the betrothal. The covenant needed witnesses which is why it was read aloud. The agreement had the terms of the betrothal which the father of the bride and bridegroom agreed on. Once it was agreed on it was unbreakable. Once the covenant was read then gifts were exchanged with the most expensive gift given to the bride. A dowry was not a purchase price but was instead an insurance policy. It was in case the bridegroom would die then the bride would be taken care of! Now we get to an important part of the betrothal. The bridegroom would take a flask of wine and pour it into a cup. The name for this is called the “cup of joy” and with both hands he would reverently and respectfully extend the cup to his bride. In a Galilean wedding the bride possesses the power to stop the wedding. She and she alone had the final authority of whether to accept or reject the proposal of marriage. As the cup is extended to her, she can refuse to accept the cup by pushing it back or the bride can accept the cup…it is her choice. In an orthodox Jewish wedding, the bride does not have the choice of accepting or rejecting the betrothal. It has all been arranged by the fathers of the bride and bridegroom. Here is a beautiful spiritual parallel. You and I are free moral agents and we have the final authority on whether we accept the gift, salvation, of the bridegroom, Jesus. God will never force Himself on us, but He comes to us and offers us the gift of salvation freely and we have the opportunity to accept or reject salvation! John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains in him.” The betrothal cannot proceed past this point until the bride accepts and drinks from the cup of wine. The groom then accepts the cup from the bride and drinks from the cup solidifying the new covenant. The groom then proclaims to all the witnesses, “you are now consecrated or betrothed to me.” He then proclaims that he will not drink from the cup until he drinks it in his father’s house. This is a truly profound statement because Jesus spoke those same words in Luke 22:18 during the Last Supper. Jesus offers wine to the disciples to signify a new covenant with them. Then Jesus says, “’For I tell you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’” The disciples understood what Jesus was saying when He spoke those words because it reminded the disciples of what they said at their own wedding betrothal. The groom lets the witnesses know that he will not drink any wine until he is in his father’s house. Jesus tells us during the Last Supper that He will not drink of the vine until the kingdom of God comes. Can you understand the dynamics of what was said and how this Galilean marriage is a foreshadowing of the rapture of the church? What Jesus was saying to the disciples was that what was in them is in Him and it makes a common union or communion! When Jesus spoke the words that the bread is His Body broken or given for us, He is speaking like a bridegroom to his bride. The bridegroom lets the witnesses know that his body is only for the bride…given. Then Jesus says this is the new covenant and drinks the wine…He is sealing the covenant like a betrothal. The bridegroom drinks the wine thereby sealing the betrothal with his bride. The parallels here are amazing because when Jesus said those words the disciples only heard the word “wedding” and they knew exactly what Jesus was saying. The disciples may have been mostly common ordinary men, but they knew what a Galilean wedding meant and they were able to see that Jesus was telling them…He would return. In Mark 13 Jesus is speaking about the signs of the end of the age and the disciples asked in v. 4, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” Last week I told you we need to be asking the question of why the Rapture is going to happen and not when will it happen. We see the disciples asking the when question because they already knew the why and how! Jesus’ 1st miracle in Cana of Galilee in John 2 had the same dynamics when Jesus was speaking to the disciples at the Last Supper. The betrothal was only the first step to a year long preparation. Once the betrothal was sealed each family would leave together and go back to their homes. Today when we get married, we leave as husband and wife to begin our lives together but not so in a Galilean wedding. Technically they are married but during that year it is a time of preparation for the wedding ceremony and the day of their wedding feast. The groom is responsible for all the preparations until the day he is united with his bride. He buys the plates, silverware, pots and pans, room decorations, curtains, etc. What the groom does during this time is another foreshadowing of the return of Christ. We read in John 14:2-3 as Jesus speaks, ”’In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you, I am going 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.’” Now I understand that the word “rooms” here is translated as “mansions” in some versions of the Bible! As we look at the Galilean wedding you will see why the word “rooms” is a better reflection of what Christ was saying. What the bridegroom does is he goes back to his father’s house and he builds a new room onto his father’s house. This means that all the father has is now part of the bridegroom’s house as well! What our Heavenly Father has is ours as we have a room attached to the Heavenly Father’s house! Isn’t this amazing…it means that Christ left but while He is gone, He is preparing a place for His bride – you and I…the church Jesus is speaking as a Bridegroom to His bride and He is leaving a verbal promise of His return and the disciples understand what He was saying. Jesus says this in the last part of vs. 3, “’…I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’” Jesus is not saying where you are, I will also be, but where I am you will also be! Just like in a Galilean wedding and the bridegroom says he will prepare a place for his bride…Jesus is saying the same thing! Unlike the earthly promise of the groom to the bride, Jesus spoke of a heavenly promise to those who accept Him as Savior. Here in those few words in v. 3 Jesus introduces the Rapture to us – I [Jesus] am going to pick you up and take you where I have been. The Galilean wedding gives us that foreshadowing of the Rapture and we learn this through the culture of the Galilean Jews. Let us this morning be in preparation for Jesus’ return to gather up His Church and take us home to be with Him forever.
July 12, 2020 THE RAPTURE SERIES (3) Revelation 19:6-9 This morning I want to take you down a path that possibly you have never gone before. This path, I believe, will open your eyes to the validity of the rapture of the church. Over the coming weeks we are going to examine in detail what a Jewish wedding looked like, but not just a Jewish wedding a Galilean wedding. We will compare the Galilean wedding with the words of Jesus as He shared with the disciples about His return. We will look at Jesus’ words during the Last Supper as well! My hope is that you will prayerfully consider the words that I share and dig into God’s Word as we wait for the rapture of the church! Let me share some thoughts with you as I have learned them! When we, as the church, and even those outside the church start asking about His return the question asked the most is this: When will the rapture or the second coming of Christ take place? This question is one that no one can answer! There are many people down through the ages that have tried to pinpoint the time, but no one can, and no one will ever do so! Jesus was very resolute in saying this in Matthew 24:36, “’No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’” Now I know what you are thinking…Jesus says no one will know the day or the hour but He didn’t say anything about the year! Can we know the year? I will look at this in a few weeks as we move through the Galilean wedding. Let me give you some data about the rapture of the church. These results come from Lifeway Research in 2020, which asked this question to church people: When will the rapture take place? 36% are Pre-Trib which means these people believe that Jesus will rapture the church before the 7-year Tribulation begins. 4% are Mid-Trib which means these people believe that Jesus will rapture the church in the middle of the Tribulation – 3.5 years. 18% are Post-Trib which means these people believe that Jesus will not rapture the church until the end of the 7-year Tribulation, which will be the second coming of Christ. The rapture of the church and the second coming are two different events and we will look at this later on in this series of sermons. 13% had other views. 4% were not sure. 25% no longer believe in a literal rapture of the church To be quite honest with you the secular world around could care less about the rapture or the second coming of Christ. What the world does see is church denominations fighting about when the return of Christ will happen. They see you and I as Christians when asked about the return of Christ not even being able to explain when, why or how it will happen! Why would we not want to know? I believe it is because we are spiritually and biblically illiterate. Even pastors like myself shy away from biblical prophecy because we don’t really know and do not want to be perceived as a radical. We, as the church, want to appeal to the secular world because that is where we live and we do not want to seem like religious fanatics. We have been so focused on when will the rapture happen that perhaps we need to ask a different question like…why will it happen? The timing of the rapture is not that important as to the why! Why does the rapture have to happen? What is the point to it all? Are there answers to the questions that we, as the church, are asking? The answer is yes, there are answers and I am going to take some time to show you what those answers are! Understand that I might not be able to answer every question but through prayer and God’s Word I hope to steer you to the answer that God has for all of us! Let us take our Bibles and turn to Revelation 19:6-9 as we read John’s words. I am not sure you are aware of this, but Jesus wasn’t just a Jew…He was a Galilean Jew as were His disciples, who came from all different walks of life. You might ask what is the difference between a Jew and a Galilean Jew? Let me try to explain in a way you might understand. Here in the US we are all Americans be it from the North, South, East & West. But in each area the culture is somewhat different. Brenda and I have lived in ten different states and in every place we have lived the way a wedding, a funeral and even church services are done are different. The terminology that is used is different for instance. When we pastored in Connecticut and wanted a sub-sandwich we would not order a sub or go to a sub shop but we would order a gyro. It is the same with the Jewish nation…they were and are all Jews, but each area has its own culture. Jesus was a Galilean Jew and He used people’s cultures to deeply share the Word of God. When Jesus first called the disciples like Peter, Andrew, James and John, He told them He would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-22). This was something they understood because they were fisherman. Everything Jesus taught was based on the life and culture in which He lived. He did not speak over their heads because He knew most of the Galileans had no learning, so He spoke from His heart to their hearts! For us today if we want to more fully understand Christ’s return, we need to understand the culture to which He was speaking. The guide to understanding the prophecy of Christ’s rapture of the church is found in a wedding ceremony that was passed from generation to generation. This is not just a Jewish wedding as I mentioned earlier, it was a Galilean wedding. The Galilean wedding traditions tie into the coming of Christ. When Jesus spoke to the disciples in His ministry during special times, they knew exactly what He was saying! Why? Because they were familiar with the Galilean weddings and cultures and we are going to discover the parallels to the rapture, and they are amazing! Let me give you a taste of what is to come as we look at the Galilean wedding. In John 2 we see Jesus’ first miracle in the wedding at Cana in Galilee, where He turned the water into wine. I will get back to this later! In the betrothal of a bride and bridegroom they would gather with their fathers and families under a huppan, which is a wedding canopy, at the main gate. The main gate was important as it was where the elders ratified legal documents. It was always full of people and those involved in the wedding weren’t concerned about guests because they wanted witnesses. The reason for this…a Galilean wedding was a covenant, not a ceremony like we do today, and they needed witnesses for a covenant In every town in Galilee, the wedding was the most important event in the town and next week we will look more closely at the Galilean wedding in detail.
July 4, 2020 - INDEPENDENCE DAY WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE FREEDOM?” John 8:31-36 Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech said some beautiful words that he quoted from an old Negro spiritual, “free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we’re free at last…” Patrick Henry famously said in a speech to the Virginia legislature, “Give me liberty or give me death.” The founding fathers of this nation ensured that we would have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Freedom has always been a major emphasis of America as a nation. Freedom is one of the most treasured things that we have. We thank God often for our freedom. We as Americans treasure our freedom. Many people have willingly risked and lost their lives in order to gain or preserve freedom. Israel as a people spent many years in bondage and they did not like it very much. They spent time in slavery while in Egypt and they spent time in captivity in Babylon, and nothing compared to their freedom as a people. The Jews even had a holiday dedicated to the concept of liberty. They called it the year of Jubilee. On that particular year which occurred every fifty years debts were cancelled, slaves were free, and land returned to the original landowners. Can you imagine how everyone looked forward to that day, especially the slaves? For them it meant their freedom. We too have a year of Jubilee, but that comes not through waiting for a certain year to arrive, but through Christ we receive our debts cancelled and we receive our freedom. Often times when we talk about the blessings we have in Christ we forget about the freedom that we have in Christ. We are free in Christ, but what exactly does that mean? We as individuals have a free will; we have the freedom to choose to do what we want to do. We though who are Christians do not have the right to simply do as we choose, but because of the freedom we have in Christ we have the opportunity to do what is right. There is such depth behind the meaning of being free. As I have already stated, many have fought and died in order to guarantee a freedom from tyranny, oppression and persecution in this life. People have devoted their lives to the cause of freedom. We love to sing patriotic songs proclaiming our freedom as Americans, but how much greater and with how much more fervor should we seek freedom from the oppression of sin and the Devil? How much more should we long for and be willing to sacrifice for freedom in Christ? This freedom that we have in Christ is one of the greatest blessing to our lives and when we understand what that freedom really means we are truly freed to do more for the Kingdom. The problem is that our culture is in love with the concept of freedom. People talk about our freedom of speech and our freedom of religion. We have many that if we told them that we as Christians are subject to Christ and to certain commands they would wonder where the freedom was in that. We often spend more time dwelling on what God forbids rather than on the many things that He allows. We prefer to think of what he tells us we cannot do rather than thinking about how good He has been to us. There are absolutes! God does have standards of right and wrong that transcend time, culture, race, nationality, ethnicity, and economic status. There are some things which will always be sin. What does freedom in Christ mean? Before we can really begin to understand and appreciate what it means to be free in Christ, we have to understand the problem. The problem is that outside of Christ we are not really free. Now, sin gives people an illusion of freedom, and many people that are held captive do not even realize their captivity. We must understand that outside of Christ we are not free, but rather are in captivity. Knowing that, we can appreciate the fact that Christ has set us free. We are all slaves to something, but the important thing for us to determine is what we are slaves to. 2 Peter 2:19 says, “They promise them freedom; while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” You know what you are a slave to by what has mastered you! What is it that has mastered you? Is it some habitual sin in your life, the hope of gaining more material things or is it Jesus Christ? It is absolutely clear that Jesus came into the world to set us free. In fact, that was one of the things he emphasized throughout His ministry…freedom for those in spiritual bondage. Let me share a few things we are free from: We are freed from sin’s penalty. In Romans 6:23 Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” and in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is a penalty for sin. We see from early on that there are consequences for sin, and sin leads to death, not just a physical, but also a spiritual. However, because of the freedom we have in Christ we are freed from the penalty, which we deserve. The reality is we need to be thankful on a daily basis that we do not get what we deserve, because the wages of our sin is death. There could not be anything more binding than the consequences that we deserve because of sin. Christ through His death on the cross has freed us from the penalty of sin. He took upon Himself our sin and encountered and intercepted the wrath of God that was due us so that we could be truly free. There is nothing greater than having a debt cancelled. That is why the Jews longed for the year of Jubilee. The reality is we owed a debt that we could not pay, and Christ paid a debt that He did not owe. We have real freedom because we are no longer bound to the penalty of sin any longer, but we are freed to have life to the full. We are freed from sin’s bondage. God is very misrepresented in our culture today. Let me assure you that God is not sitting up in Heaven devising ways to make our lives more miserable. He is not an eternal killjoy who wants to rob us of a happy and full life. He is not on his throne thinking of ways to shackle us and prevent us from experiencing life. God is not a warden! He is a deliverer! He is so willingly and eager for us to have that freedom that He was willing to send Jesus to be crucified so we can be free from sin’s bondage. Sin is very deceiving. Remember I told you earlier that sin gives us this illusion that we are really free. I can do what I want without any consequences is a lie! We are not free until we experience freedom in Christ. No longer though are we trapped in sin, but we are freed from the bondage of sin and given the power and ability to overcome and withstand our temptations. Romans 6:6 says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…” People outside of Christ have no realization of the bondage of sin, they have no idea how trapped they are. They think their lives are great, but they are really empty because they are slaves to sin. In order to experience spiritual freedom, we must crucify our old self and put on Christ. Hebrews 12:1b says, “…let us throw off everything that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Let’s no longer be slaves to sin but let us live as free people! It is great to know that we can be free, but how do we gain this freedom? The freedom we have in Christ came by one man, Jesus giving up His. It will not come by revolution or a declaration, but it will come through a change of heart. In our text this morning in John 8 we learn that we shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. In that passage Jesus was not talking about truth in reference to honesty. He was speaking of the Truth in reference to Himself. He was not saying if you are honest then you will know freedom. He was saying in knowing Him, the Truth will set you spiritually free. We learn pretty plainly how to gain that freedom and it can only be found in Christ. It comes by knowing the Truth. There are two ways we can know the Truth: Knowing Jesus. To know Christ, we must first confess our sins as 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from unrighteousness.” We begin a relationship with Jesus, one that will grow with each passing day. We will then begin to learn the truth as Jesus said in John 14:6, “…I am the way, the Truth, and the life…” Our freedom is gained by submission to Christ and His Word. Remember If you know the truth then the truth will set you free! Knowing the Word. True Freedom cannot exist apart from the truth. We learn about the truth thru His Word by reading and studying the Bible. Paul writes in Colossians 3:16a, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” This is my challenge to you today: Let us thank God for the freedoms we have in America today, even with all her problems it is still one of the greatest nations on earth! Let us, also, thank God for the freedom we have in His Son, Jesus! Why? Because we are free from sin and its bondage today and it is the greatest life we can live knowing that today!