A Sudden Disappearance

Pastor Paul ChappellSunday, April 25, 2021 - 8:30 AMThings to Come

Titus 2:13-14 Read...

Titus 2:13, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." And you will notice that the great God and our Savior are synonymous terms in that verse because our Savior is the great God. That's very important to remember that, all right. And so, we're looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people. Some of you say, "He did a really good job in this church." But the word "peculiar" means a distinctive people, a people that belong to him, a peculiar people zealous of good works. Well, let's pray together, shall we?

Father, thank you for the promises that we see in the Bible concerning how this world will have its final days. And we ask that you would help us to find great hope in this and to find encouragement this morning from the truth of your coming again; and I pray and ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. You may be seated.

The largest library in the world is the Library of Congress in Washington DC; and if you've never had the opportunity to visit the Library of Congress I think it is the most beautiful building in all of Washington DC. I don't think Nancy Pelosi has a fence around it presently, so if you go there this summer you might be able to go in and see it. It is stunningly beautiful. And as you tour around this building you'll be able to see many things, things that I think are so important to our faith, such as a Gutenberg Bible, the first printed Bible. Amazing to see the Gutenberg Bible. You'll be able to see many other ancient Bibles and religious books of all sorts.

But inscribed on the wall of the Reading Room in the Thomas Jefferson Building you will find some words written by the poet Tennyson from Great Britain that speak to the issue of our day. And on this particular wall in the Jefferson Room is a quote by the famous poet which says, "One God, one law, one element, and one far-off divine event to which the whole creation moves." One far-off divine event to which the whole of creation moves.

Now millions of Christians throughout the centuries have believed that there would come a time when world history would enter a period known as the last days, and that those days would culminate with this one far-off event often referred to as the coming of Christ or the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we have seen in the past weeks that there have been various technological advances. There has been the formation of the state of Israel. There is the alignment of nations through federation such as the European Union. There is much that is happening to desensitize the human race to somehow prepare us for this one world governance, for this day that will precede the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And we're studying about these things to come. We are all, if we are not careful, being conditioned for these things to come by the world, by the Antichrist philosophy. But we're here today to be conditioned by God's word concerning the end times. And there are two very different schools of thought with respect to how this world will one day culminate.

Now you think of the advances technologically. Some of you may have seen the Reuters story this past week, that Amazon which owns the whole food store – some of you shop there – will begin this week in their Seattle stores allowing biometric technology so that a customer who simply registers their credit card from now on can purchase their food simply by placing their palm on a scanner. The technology is upon us, and certainly we're going to see the advancement of this type of technology in the days to come, this contactless alternative to cash that the world will become very excited about.

We're seeing, as we said last week, a focus on Israel that is increasing every step of the way. Just this past Thursday, Syrian missiles landed near the Dimona nuclear reactor in Israel, and just last evening there was a bombardment of Hamas missiles going into Israel; and, of course, they were immediately shot down. But we're seeing that the tensions are certainly rising in the Middle East; and there is always an attention there. As Israel goes, so goes prophecy.

Now no man can know the exact date or time of the catching away of the believers. We're going to preach about this this morning. No one can predict it. No one knows exactly when each of these eschatological events will come to pass. But we do know that God tells us they will come to pass. And let me say, it's always unwise for anyone to try to dial it in too closely and to act as though they know exactly the day or the hour.

There was a church back in 1997 known as the God's Salvation Church. that was the name of the church, and the leader was a man named Chen Tao, and it was somewhat of a cultic group. They actually were known as the flying saucer cult, because one of their leaders Hon-Ming Chen decided that they should all go to Garland, Texas to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Now they mistakenly thought Garland was Godland, and just due to some semantics and some misunderstandings of punctuation they literally thought this was Godland, and so that would be where he would land, and so they took their church down to Texas. And, of course, they were there to meet the Lord on March 31, 1997. They all came to the to the pastor's house, Mr. Chen's house. They gathered there at 10:00 on March the 31st, 160 members, most of them Chinese, wearing cowboy hats, sitting on the roof of the pastor's house waiting for Jesus to come in a flying saucer, no less; and when he did not come, of course, the entire religion immediately disbanded.

Now we would say that's an extremely ridiculous way to talk about the coming of the Lord, and we understand that. But while there are those who misinterpret Scripture and those who have created entire denominations on the misinterpretation of Scripture, the fact is that when you just come to the Bible and approach it literally you cannot deny the fact that God through his Holy Spirit given to the prophets and the apostles has promised that his Son Jesus would return.

Now notice in your notes this morning Colossians 1:4 says, "Since we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel." So we have this hope of heaven. And by the way, we ought to be thankful for that. And we have a hope and a promise that we will spend eternity there. Now our hope is based on what the Bible calls a more sure word of prophecy. How many of you are glad that we have a more sure word than Mr. Chen of Dallas had, amen? We're not trusting in the leadership of a cult leader, we're trusting in the promises of God's word.

Now what does the Bible tell us about this sure word of prophecy? Notice in your notes 2 Peter 1:19 says, "We have a more sure word of prophecy." And that's what we're studying here, we're studying things to come, we're studying prophetic events. "We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn," this is a reference to the coming of the Lord, "and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

The Bible is not man's idea, the Bible is given to us as holy men of God were moved by the Holy Ghost. And so we have a holy Bible in our hands this morning. This is not man's ideas about the things to come, these are God's principles that we are studying, and they are a more sure word of prophecy. So let's keep that in mind as we preach and as we study over these weeks to come.

I want you to notice specifically with me this morning the prophecy of the rapture, the prophecy of the rapture of the church. Now this prophecy is a frequent promise of the Bible. It is given to us over and over again. Dr. George Sweeting of the Moody Bible Institute once said that there were over 1,800 references to the coming of the Lord in the Old Testament, and that of the 260 chapters in the New Testament there are more than 300 references to the coming of the Lord. Some of those would reference the rapture – which we'll study this morning – some would reference the second coming of Jesus Christ.

But the Scriptures are replete with promises of the coming of the Lord, the gathering of his people, the day of the Lord. And this promise that is so frequent in Scripture is a sure promise, in fact, so sure, that our text this morning from Titus, Titus said, "We're looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing." It's something that the church anticipated, they were looking for this coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it's something that was a certainty for them. Philippians 3:20 says, "For our conversation is in heaven"; meaning our lifestyle is in heaven, "from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."

So you begin to get the idea that the first century church was constantly expecting him to come. And by the way, we'll see in the weeks to come in this study that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years. And so for those that would say, "Well, yeah, they've been saying he's coming for a long time on," God's timetable it has literally just been two days. It's just been a few days since he said, "I will come again." And so they were looking for the Savior. Hebrews 9:28 says it this way: "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."

Now what I want you to get the sense of this morning is the preponderance of biblical evidences and scriptural references to the fact that Jesus is coming again, and to the fact that biblical Christians are looking for the coming of the Lord. It's not like we're taking one extant verse and wrestling what we want to say out of the Scriptures, the promise of his coming is over and over and over and over again in the Bible. First Peter 5:4, "And when the chief Shepherd," this is a reference to Jesus Christ, "when the chief Shepherd shall," say it with me, "appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."

The question is, church, "What is the modern church going to do with the Bible?" We are either going to believe that he shall appear and then live accordingly, or we're just going to stop reading the Bible and do what we want to do; and many churches have done that. I heard about a man who had a habit of smoking cigarettes, and through reading numerous articles he became alarmed over the strong relationship between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. He finally confided in a friend, he said, "I have been reading so many articles about smoking and lung cancer that I have decided to stop reading." You ever meet somebody like that?

Many Christians have decided to stop reading. But if you will keep reading you're going to find you don't want to make every plan of your life based upon the temporal tendencies of this world. We want to make the plans and thoughts of our lives to be based upon the fact he's coming again, and how can I be ready, and how can I be serving him until the day that he comes, because this is a sure promise, and it is a securing promise. You remember what Jesus said in John chapter 14 when he said, "Let not your hearts be troubled." And then he said, "If I go to prepare a place for you, I will," say it again with me, "I will come again." Jesus said, "I will come again."

We have the Lord's Table at our church at least six Sunday nights a year, and every time we have the Lord's Table I read to you from 1 Corinthians 11:26. And one of the dangers of being saved a long time is that we can say, "Been there, done that, got the t-shirt," in our mind, and we don't let certain phrases sink down. For example, 1 Corinthians 11:26 , "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death," say the last three words with me, "till he come," you see. Jesus said, "I want you to partake of this wafer and this bread, and I want you to remember me, over and over and over again through the centuries, until I come."

I wonder how many people with their religiosity and just taking a wafer and juice because it's kind of the thing you do before you genuflect, it's kind of a religious thing. I wonder how many people are thinking about the fact Jesus could come at any moment when they go through those traditions; and yet how much more should we as believers in Jesus Christ when we take the Lord's Table be reminded that he will come again. It is a frequent promise in the Bible.

Secondly, it is a factual promise, it is a factual promise, this promise that Jesus will come again. Now some get confused between the rapture and the second coming. Remember the rapture is Jesus coming for his own, and his church meeting him in the air. The second coming – which we'll learn about more in the upcoming weeks – deals with Christ coming down to the earth destroying the Antichrist and establishing his kingdom.

So one is the church meeting the Lord in the air, the other is the Lord coming down to the earth. And today we're speaking about the rapture, where we will meet him in the air. And the best passage for the rapture to me has always been 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. So please turn in your Bible to 1 Thessalonians. Just go back just a few pages there and you'll find 1 Thessalonians, and I want you to turn to chapter 4 and verse 13, 1 Thessalonians 4:13 just to see the factual promise of the rapture. And we're going to learn six quick facts about this promise that I believe are in your notes as well.

First Thessalonians 4:13, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep." Now apparently the church at Thessalonica had asked some questions about, "What about those who have died before Jesus came back?" And that was a fair question.

And Paul said, "I would not have you to be ignorant concerning those that are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe," and we're going to come back to that in a moment, "if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Here you have the classic passage on the subject of the rapture, and we see it mentioned in verse 17, "We will be caught up together," rapturo, "we will be caught up together in the air to meet the Lord Jesus Christ."

What are the facts that we learn from this passage? Number One: We learn that the Lord will come. The Bible says in verse 16, "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout." You remember what the angels said to the disciples a few weeks ago as we preached from Acts chapter 1 on Easter Sunday morning? You remain remember the angels said, "This same Jesus will so come again in like manner." Just as he ascended up into the clouds, he will descend physically, literally, bodily to claim his church unto himself. The Lord will come.

Secondly, the fact is that we will hear his voice. The Bible says in verse 16, "with the voice of the archangel." We will hear the voice calling us up to him, the voice of the archangel. Michael is one of the archangels, and often was the one that would make such announcements. In Jude and verse number 9, the Bible says, "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil." It may be that Michael makes this announcement, the voice will be heard.

Thirdly, the trump of God will sound, the trump of God will sound. And I want you to notice there as we look at this progression of the hearing of the shout, 1 Corinthians 15:52 says, "At the last trump: the trumpet will sound." Now trumpets were used often in Bible times to primarily assemble people was the purpose. And some of you that were in the military perhaps would have the sounding of the trumpet to announce a gathering of importance. And this trumpet will announce that we are going to gather to meet the Lord in the air.

And so we see the dead. The Bible says, "The Lord will come." And we see that we will hear his shout. And then, thirdly, the dead in Christ will rise, the dead in Christ will rise. Chapter 4, verse 16 says, "The dead in Christ will rise first." Verse 14 mentions them as "those which sleep in Jesus." Now these saints mentioned here are those that have been saved during this church age but then have died before the time of the rapture. The relationship as we have as believers now, we are in Christ; those that have died are buried in Christ, and they will receive their new body at the moment of the rapture or the calling of Christ. First Corinthians 15:52 describes it this way: "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."

Always remember, the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. And so we see from passage to passage: the trump will sound, the voice of the archangel will be heard, and the dead in Christ who are buried in corruption will be raised in incorruption.  You say, "But I thought to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord," and it is; and there is a soul consciousness, and there is a presence with the Lord. But the incorruptible body will be received on the day of the rapture, and the dead in Christ will rise to in corruption. Buried in corruption, raised up incorruptibly. And so the dead in Christ shall rise.

Some of you heard the story about the farmer that went to the big city with his family, and he takes his family for the very first time. He drops his wife off in a department store there, and she's kind of shopping around, and they're looking at this amazing construction everywhere. And the son and the farmer went to the bank, they were going to get some money, and as they went to the bank they noticed that there was a set of doors that was opening and closing automatically. There was one lady that walked into the set of doors. She was a large elderly woman, she kind of hobbled into the into the elevator there. And the farmer and the son were watching that, and after about 20 seconds the door opened and a beautiful slender woman walked out of the door. And the farmer said, "Son, go get your mother, we're going to run her through that thing."

Now I don't know if that's the best illustration, but let me simply say that at the time of the rapture all of our bodies will be changed in a moment, in a in the twinkling of an eye. Those that are deceased, those that were laid to rest in their corruption will be raised incorruptibly. Those of us that are alive and meet the Lord in the air, we will receive our glorified body at that same moment. And so the dead in Christ will rise. Their soul and their spirit will be unified with a glorified body.

Number Four: The Christians that are remaining on this earth will be caught up. Now you saw that in verse 17: "Then we which are alive and remain." Now be honest about it. How many of you hope to be a part of that group right there, amen? "We which are alive and remain," the Bible says, "shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." And there's the word "caught up," the Latin is rapturo, and here it speaks of the rapture happening in a moment of time. First Corinthians 15:52 tells us it is a moment. The Greek word atomos speaks of just a brief, brief portion of a second. It is indivisible, it cannot be divided it happens so fast.

Now remember that the second coming of the Lord, at that time the people on the earth will see Christ as he descends down. Revelation 1:7, "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." However, no one on the earth is going to see how this rapture takes place, for it will happen in such a quick second; and that is significant.

And some of us wonder how will the world leadership explain that away, right? And how many of you have noticed there's more and more talk about UFOs and unsighted this and unsighted that? Who knows what they'll say. Maybe they're going to say, "There were one billion people stolen by UFOs today," because we have to explain where all the Christians went, right? I have no idea. I would love to see Dan Rather or some of these, you know, CNN-type people trying to explain the rapture away; although I'll see it from heaven, amen. I'm not staying down to watch it. But I'm just saying they're going to have a lot of explaining to do, because the fact is the church will disappear to be with the Lord Jesus Christ in glory.

Number Five: We will meet the Lord in the air, and we thank the Lord for that. He's not coming to the earth, he's meeting us in the clouds. And Number Six, the Bible says: We will ever be with the Lord. Now there you have an overview of the prophecy of the rapture. How many of you would agree with me in these first 10 to 12 minutes we have already seen this morning about 20 different correlating scriptures telling us the same thing? It's pretty clear to a Bible reader, and it's written in about a fifth-grade level. It's pretty clear that God wants us to know Jesus Christ is coming again: "Take this wafer, take this juice until I come." How many you agree with me so far this morning? The prophecy of the rapture is very clear.

So, let's notice, secondly, the promise of the rapture. The promise of the rapture is that it is the blessed hope of the believer. God says, "I want this to be your hope. I want you to be looking for this as your hope." Now I'm going to explain this scripturally in just a moment, but let's take a moment to remember where we are in prophecy. We are currently in the era called the New Testament or the church age. And the church age will come to this point of the rapture when we are caught away to be with the Lord Jesus Christ. That will usher in the period known as the tribulation, seven years of tribulation. Daniel's 70th week is a term we'll study in a few weeks.

So, the tribulation period will have a season of peace. The Antichrist will say, "Peace, peace," then sudden destruction will come. The period of great tribulation will precede the second coming of Jesus Christ establishing his kingdom. And so we're speaking this morning about this rapture, this blessed hope.

Let me say, first of all, it is an imminent hope, because the church is not appointed to wrath. The wrath that I spoke about a moment ago, the tribulation wrath, eternal wrath, I believe Christians have escaped this wrath, it is an imminent hope for us. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." First Thessalonians 1:10, "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." So the second coming will follow the time of wrath, tribulation, but the rapture precedes that time.

Now let me just go out on a quick limb here to say this. While there will be great tribulation during this seven-year period, that does not mean that Christians will not experience difficulty, discomfort, and even trials and persecutions before the time of the rapture. Sometimes we view Christianity through our American lens of seeing things and we're we think that we're protected because of our democratic society; we're protected because, after all, this is one nation under God, it says it right on our money. Let's not forget that even right now this morning in China and in Iran and in different places around the world, our fellow believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ are being imprisoned and they are being persecuted because they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Muslim tribes are going through Africa many times just taking the life of someone that says they are a Christian.

And I believe that we are going to see persecution, trials, and challenges upon the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, not to the extent of the time of tribulation; but I believe even before the rapture that there will be challenges that we will face, and already are facing today, and you'll hear it in the form of hate crime legislation. Pastors will be told, "Don't preach about that subject. In fact, we want you to promote that subject." And we're going to see that there will be challenging times come upon the church.

But the great day of wrath I believe is limited to this time known as the great tribulation period. John Walvoord once wrote, "While Scripture presents many signs of Christ's second coming and the establishment of his kingdom, there are no predicted events preceding the rapture. It could happen at any time, that's why the church was looking for it, and looking for it. They believed it could happen at any moment."

Now then, secondly, it is because the church is absent in Revelation chapters 6 through 18. So we believe this to be an imminent hope, because the Bible says the church will not see the time of wrath, and because the church is absent when you read the book of the Revelation specifically pertaining to the judgments that are mentioned there; you do not find the church in those chapters.

Thirdly, it is promised to the church this coming of the Lord. Think of what God said to the church at Philadelphia, Revelation 3:10, "Because thou has kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."

Now here we find in the first chapters of the Revelation the writings to the churches of Asia Minor, the writing here to the Philadelphian church, and they are promised in this verse that God the Lord Jesus will keep them from the hour of temptation. This time of temptation, or Daniel's 70th, week pertains to the dealing of God with Israel, and God says here that he will keep them from this. The verse is not saying that the Lord will help them through it, but that he will take them from it. They will not participate as a church in this time of temptation or this time of tribulation.

And then, fourthly, I believe that we have an imminent hope in the coming of our Lord's rapture of the church because of the order of the Scriptures. Now a moment ago we read 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 which dealt with rapturo, the rapture of the church. When you come to chapter 5, notice what it says in verse 1 of 1 Thessalonians 5: "But of the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord cometh so as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, 'Peace and safety'; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."

Here we begin to see the passages of Scripture unfolding the period of time when there will be sudden destruction, when there will be tribulation upon the earth. And so I believe scripturally we have the rapture in chapter 4, and we have then the tribulation time in chapter 5. That's why we refer to the rapture as our imminent hope, the blessed hope of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It's imminent. And then, secondly, it is an inspirational hope. This is something that gives inspiration to every believer. Why? Let me give you a couple reasons. First, because not every believer will face death. How many of you would say, "That's a great thought"? Not every believer will face death. First Corinthians 15:51, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Now that's the theme verse of our nursery ministry here at Lancaster Baptist Church: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Come on, you can give a half a laugh for that, right?

But what God is saying just very simply is not everyone is going to die before Jesus comes again; but when he comes again, we will all be changed; that is, those who preceded us in death and those of us who are alive at the time of the rapture, all of us will be changed; we will receive an incorruptible body at that day. Not every believer will see death, and that we will all see Christ.

Remember this from a few Sunday nights ago, 1 John 3:2, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." And so here we see that all of us as believers will see Christ face-to-face. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face-to-face. How many of you are saying right in your heart right now, "I can't wait for that day to see Jesus face-to-face"? And at that time we will receive a glorified body. You know, a lot of times people don't think about this until the funeral. They don't think about these things until we lose someone that we love, and we become curious. But let's take a quick moment.

Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and let's just see two verses quickly. You can read the whole chapter later, we're just really getting a 30,000-foot view of some of these subjects. But I want you to notice in 1 Corinthians 15, what do we mean by a glorified body? This is a new term, someone might say. Well, quickly, notice it says, 1 Corinthians 15:52, "The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'"

Listen, I'm going to tell you, there's coming a day you'll not wake up and have to take pills. There's coming a day you'll get out of your bed and stand and you won't hear snap-crackle-pop. There's coming a day when there'll be no more doctor's appointments, there'll be no more vaccinations, there'll be none of this stuff. The CDC will be put out of business. I thought I'd get a louder amen on that one. Dr. Fauci will be unemployed. Come on, think about it with me. I know it's the 8:30 service, but wake up just a little bit, come on.

I'm telling you heaven is going to be a great place! Jesus alone is our great physician. All of us will have been healed, there will be an incorruptible body for each and every person, it's going to be a wonderful promise. And this is why we say it's an imminent hope, but it's an inspirational hope just to stop and ponder what heaven will be like. What a great day that will be.

I think about the couple that was celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, and they had for a special time returned to their honeymoon hotel. And after retiring the wife said to her husband, "Darling, do you remember how you stroked my hair that first night?" And so he stroked her hair. And she said, "Do you remember how you cuddled me?" and with the sigh she said it. And so she said to him, "Why don't you nibble my ear like you did that first night?" And when she said that, the husband got out of bed, and she said, "Where are you going?" He said, "To get my teeth, that's where I'm going." How many of you would say, "Things change, don't they"? Listen, in heaven you won't have to put your teeth, or part of your teeth. No more dental appointments. Why? Because we're going to have an incorruptible body. What a great, great thing to think about.

The prophecy of the rapture is through the Scripture. The promise of the rapture, it's imminent, it's inspirational, it's something we need to think more about. We need to read the Bible more than we listen to the news. We need to think about God's promises, so that we stay out of that funky mood, and getting ticked off and frustrated and all of these things. Hey, we know what's coming, and we are on the winning side. Let's begin to live like that!

Oh, listen, folks. We've gotten so talked into it by the media how bad everything is, and how dangerous everything is, and how we just better be very, very careful, and we better stop living for the Lord. And, oh, oh, it's just so tiring to go to too much church, and, oh, and to witness. Oh, oh, my goodness. Wait a minute, wait a minute. I'm telling you, if Jesus is coming again we better get all of that in while we can: witnessing and serving and living and worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, I'm so thankful that I have the imminent hope of Jesus coming.

Notice, thirdly, the preparation for the rapture, the preparation for the rapture. Now, friend, this is no laughing matter. Every person here saved or unsaved needs to be thinking daily about being ready for the coming of the Lord. It's something that we need to think about.

Years ago there was a series of books written by Dr. Tim LaHaye: the Left Behind series. How many of you read any of those books? Let me see, all right. If you haven't read them, they're great reads. They're fun, they're based on Scripture. Dr. LaHaye was a great man. I remember years ago he sent, before he passed away, a generous love offering to our college, and just a handwritten note of encouragement to me. He was a man that lived his life out just thinking about the imminent return of Jesus Christ. And as he wrote those books he spoke about the revealing of the Antichrist, and how that those who had rejected Jesus Christ on this earth would so readily receive the Antichrist.

By the way, how many of you can see that today? So many people are so ready for a one-world leader. And so we as Christians must prepare not for the Antichrist, but for the coming of the Christ. The Bible says concerning the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, "Even him ,whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of right unrighteousness in them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send to them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie."

There are going to be many non-believing, pot-smoking people in dereliction who are going to be so ready to receive the Antichrist and his one-world government when he comes. And they are not ready to see the Christ, they are readying to see the Antichrist. Well, as they're readying to see the Antichrist, we need to be ready for the Christ. How do you do that? First of all, through making sure that you're saved through salvation. You'd better make sure that you have been declared righteous by the Lord Jesus.

Notice what it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Now I want you to read that with me because this is the crux of the matter. This is why we witness. This is why we gather and serve the Lord Jesus. So let's read it together, 1 Thessalonians 4:14. Ready, begin: "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."

You see, the question concerning whether someone will be raptured is conditioned upon that phrase, "If we believe. If we believe." And the longer that I live and the more that I study and preach, the more I believe that when God speaks about belief he is speaking just as he did in 1 Thessalonians chapter 1 about a turning to Christ and a total reliance upon Christ. It's not enough to say, "I believe in Jesus," like someone might believe in Buddha, or like someone might believe in science. When it says, "If you believe," it speaks about an entire trust, a turning to and a turning from everything else that you previously trusted in for your soul. You are trusting in Jesus Christ alone, "If ye believe."

Notice in John 11:25, "Jesus answered and said unto her, 'I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." This is what we're speaking about. A Christian has the hope of the return of Christ, and to be absent from the body, to be present with the Lord, to be in the air with the Lord. But someone that does not believe this, they are going to die, not once, but twice. They are going to die physically, but they are going to be damned eternally: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

You've seen that little bumper sticker, I think it goes something like this: "Born once, die twice. Born twice, die once." That's why Jesus said, "You must be born again," because the fact is that if you do precede the rapture in death, you will know that you will be raised incorruptible with the Lord Jesus Christ; but whosoever liveth and believeth will never die. It's so important that we put our faith in the promise of God. It's so important that while we're here on this earth that we trust his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

Over 40 years ago, Terrie and I were dating, and we had a date scheduled where we were going to walk through the Japanese Gardens of San Jose, California – beautiful gardens. And we were looking at some pictures this week. I had so much hair back then, it was absolutely amazing. I just love telling the college boys, "You need to get a haircut." Why? Because I wish I had that hair still, and I don't; so they might as well get a haircut. And we were looking at some of these pictures of that Japanese garden; and it was in that Japanese garden that I reached into my pocket, took that engagement ring out, got on one knee and asked her if she would marry me; and gladly for me, happily for me, said yes that she would. And then it was a few months later that we stood on a platform and I claimed her as my very own bride.

Getting saved is like putting on that ring. Getting saved is receiving God's invitation. Getting saved is when we say yes to the Lord Jesus Christ, the rapture is when he claims us as his bride. It's when he comes again, and it's when we see the fruition of all that he promised that he would do. And so the way to be ready for this is to make sure that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, not your church, not your religious experience, but Jesus Christ alone.

And then let me say, secondly: for believers, we are to be preparing through sanctification, through sanctification. Now turn, if you would, to 1 John 3, or find it there in your notes, because this is a neglected doctrine for the church today. We studied it a few weeks ago. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." How many of you would agree with me, it is a privilege to be called a Christian?

"What manner of love God has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." Notice verse 3: "And every man that hath this hope in him purifyeth himself, even as he is pure." In other words, if you have the hope of seeing Jesus someday, then the Bible says, "You will purify yourself, even as Jesus is pure."

Now some of you work in the various industries around this, down here at the strip malls and in the hospitals, and you're working with unbelievers, and you're hearing cursing and wickedness, and you don't realize it, as the devil tries to tempt us not to watch livestream or not to be in church, and you know, we need less and less and less. Quite the contrary. The Bible says, "We need so much the more, as we see the day approaching." Why? There is no way that we can walk in purity if all we're doing is being out in the world. Hey, we need the cleansing of the word of God. We need the washing of the word of God. Why? Jesus is coming again!

Ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to be filled with a life of sin when my Savior comes again. And I know someone might say, "Well, I'm already sanctified, I've been cleansed in the blood." Yes, you have. But why does verse 3 here tell us, "If he's coming again, we need to purify ourselves," right?

You heard about the mother that went to the little boy, and she was going to get him out of bed. And she looked at him, and he was filthy head to toe with dirt. He had grease and grime all over himself. And his mother looked at him in bed, the day had not even started, "What in the world did you do?" And he said, "Oh, Mommy, it's easy, I went to bed this way." And so many Christians go to bed that way. They never take time to just stop like the psalmist, and he said, "Lord, search my heart and show me if there's anything in me, any wicked way. Is there anything you want to change in my life?" Because, "If we confess our sin, he's" – what? – "faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Folks, we have company coming, and not really company, we have our personal Savior coming; we need to be ready as Christians. And so that's why the Bible says there in Titus chapter 2, where we read a moment ago about looking for the blessed hope of our Lord Jesus, it says in verse 11, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."

In other words, the fact that I'm going to see Jesus someday should motivate me to live a life that is like the life of Jesus. And that's another reason we come to church, so that if something's revealed to us, that in our hearts and lives we are not living for the Lord, and we're not walking in the Spirit, that we would repent of that, and that we would lay it down and say, "Lord, I don't want anything to come between you and me, whether it's the bottle, whether it's pornography, whether it's covetousness, whether it's some kind of gossip; I don't want to go to bed dirty, I want to be ready when Jesus Christ comes again."

And therein for the Christian, you say, "Well, I've already got salvation." Thank the Lord for that. But also let's remember 1 John 3:3, "If you have that hope in yourself, then purify yourself, even as he is pure. And then let us be steadfast."

One final verse. Notice in Hebrews 10:24 it says, "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works": verse 25, let's read it together now, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching." Again, the reference: Why do we want to be faithful in church? Because he's coming again, and it's going to be more and more important.

Now this has been a difficult year for pastors in many ways; and I won't write my card of all the woes of being a pastor. But let me explain what I mean by that. Because the pastoral heart in me to the very core of my being has been disciplined by the Spirit so as to never put guilt on anyone about coming to church who should not have come because of underlying conditions; many of whom are watching online this morning. And I want them to know, it's with my understanding and blessing.

By the same token, it has been a challenge, because I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday. People who are working 40 hours a week and going to Walmart and doing all kinds of other things haven't been in church. I don't want to lead through guilt. My ministry has been a ministry of trying to say, "Here's what the Bible says," and then praying the Holy Spirit will bring you to that point. But I don't want to force the issue.

But I want to go on record this morning that the Christian life is not going to be successful if it's lived completely alone; that we must have times together. And I think everyone that's been out with sickness and having these different challenges in their heart, they know that, they want to be back; that's why every week people are coming back. And that's the way it should be. Why? Because we not only need the Lord, we need one another. We need to encourage one another and fellowship with one another.

And look at that verse one more time, verse 25. Let's read it together, okay. Notice what it says, and notice this is in the context of the second coming. Pastor's not just pulling out a verse to give a guilt trip, this ties right in with the message today. Can I get an amen on that? All right, let's read it together now, here we go: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see that day approaching."

See, "as you see that day approach," as we're being conditioned for the Antichrist, as we're seeing race-baiters trying to cause division in our society, as we're hearing all of the hate in our society. And people get more discouraged. Guess what we need more of? The very thing the devil doesn't want us to have. And notice it says, "the assembling," say that word, please: "assembling." Okay. It's hard to do that online. Online's helpful, I'm thankful for it. "But assembling," say that word again, please: "assembling of yourselves," – and what's the next word? – "together."

Now we can have some together online. But it's hard to have the Lord's Table, it's hard to baptize. It's hard to just bear one another's burdens. And so I just want to say, whether it's the doctor gives permission, or someone gets, you know, they feel led to get a shot, or whatever brings you at peace; but whatever you have to do.

By the way, I've said this before, too. I'm not pro or against shots, I'm not advocating that. What I'm advocating here is this: whatever you need to do to safely get around God's people, make every effort to do it, and don't live with the excuse. Listen, we're either going to make concessions or we're going to make disciples at Lancaster Baptist Church; and we want to make disciples at Lancaster Baptist Church.

There's a prophecy that there is an imminent return, "looking for the blessed hope," and there's a promise, and that promise is that we have hope in his coming. And there is a way to prepare, and the way to prepare is to make sure that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and to make sure that you are living for Jesus Christ as your Lord, that you are expecting his coming and looking for ways to prepare your heart and life, so that if he came today, it would be a glad and a happy moment that we would be anticipating the coming of Jesus.

[End of Audio]

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