The Hope of the Church

THE HOPE OF THE CHURCH

JOHN 14:1 - 3

John 14:1-3 summarizes a major truth which is prominent throughout the Bible. One in every 30 verses in the New Testament refers to the Second Coming of Jesus. There are many prophecies of his first coming, but 8 refer to his second coming for every one verse prophesying his first coming. Not only Jesus but also angels bore witness to his return:

Acts 1:10-11 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (KJV)

The apostles also proclaimed his return:

1Thes 4:15-16 15 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. 16 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: (KJV)

2Pet 3:3-10 3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (KJV)

The church is looking forward to Christ's return as it's greatest hope:

Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (KJV)

2Pet 3:12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (KJV)

The second coming of Christ has two phases, that of his coming for his saints and his coming with his saints. The aspect of Christ coming for his saints is commonly known as the RAPTURE. While the word rapture is not found in the K.J.V., the concept is clearly found in the orginal Greek text.

1Thes 4:17 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. (KJV)

This verse uses the verb ""harpazo"". The translators supplied the phrase ""caught up"" which means ""to snatch up, to seize, to carry off by force, to rapture."" One Greek scholar says that it also means "" the emotion of a sudden swoop, and usually that of a force which cannot be resisted."" We have adapted the word rapture from the descriptions of the event which are used by N.T. writers.

Matt 24:40-42 40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (KJV)

Luke 21:34-36 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (KJV)

These scriptures describe a sudden taking of certain people and they inspire the use of the term rapture. The rapture will be similar to the catching away of Enoch, whom the Bible describes as having been ""translated"".

Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (KJV)

Rapture is used therefore to describe the sudden removal of the church from the earth to be with the Lord. The rapture is an actual, physical event. Immediately following the ascention of Jesus into heaven, two angels told the disciples that Jesus would return in like manner as you have seen him go. This message places deliberate emphasis upon the identical person [same Jesus], the identical method of return [shall so come in like manner], and the identical means of perception [as ye have seen him go]. The rapture will be a great event for the church. The message of Revelation beginning with chapter 19 and extending to 20:6 is the great triumph of Christ and those who have been faithful to him until the conflict with Satan ends. God's people will no longer struggle with the forces of sin and worldliness. At the rapture, the saints of God will be separated from human life on earth and will be translated into a happy condition of bliss. They will see JESUS the one for whom they have longed. The rapture will signal a marvellous change in the material makeup of the bodies of the saints. Our bodies will undergo a transformation from mortal flesh to a new, glorified substance designed to inhabit heaven throughout eternity.

1Cor 15:51-54 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 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. (KJV)

The properties of this new body will apparently be like that of the resurrected body of Christ. The glorified body is called ""a building of God, a house not made with hands"".[2 Cor 5:1] and ""our house which is from heaven"" [2 Cor 5:2]. This is in contrast to our mortal bodies which came from the dust of the earth. Our new bodies will not be subjected to decay or death.

1Cor 15:49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (KJV)

1Jo 3:1-3 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 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. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (KJV)

Phil 3:20-21 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (KJV)

Today we live in a ""body of humiliation""[which is the meaning of the word translated ""vile""in this verse] but when we see Jesus, we will recieve a body of glory. It will happen in a moment in the twinkling of an eye.

With her enemies behind her and inthe company of Christ, the bride, the church, will be united with Christ. The world tried to allure her away from this moment but the church rejected it's advances and remained faithful to her true Bridegroom. At the marriage of the Lamb there will be a complete union of Christ with his church. Because marriage is the blending of two lives, the symbolism of marriage is used in the scriptures to show the realationship that God desires to have with his people. This symbolism was first evident in the O.T. [Isa 54:5-6, Jer 2:32, Hosea 2:19-20] The symbolism of marriage was depicted by Jesus in a number of parables, includind the wedding feast [Matt 22:11-14] and the ten virgins and the Bridegroom [Matt 25:1-13]. Paul identified the church as the bride of Christ:

2Cor 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (KJV)

This realationship of the church to Christ is also depicted by Paul's reference to the husband-wife realationship in marriage. [Eph 5:21-23]

Not only Jewish, but ancient Roman and Greek customs held the marriage feast to be the high point of a marriage ceremony. The ewish procedure began with a time of betrothal at which time the marriage agreement was reached between the two individuals, followed by a time of preparation for the coming event. The bride prepared her wedding garment while the groom prepared the place to live. He then claimed his bride after which there was a time of feasting, the festivites often lasted as long as seven days. The feast was the thing that actually attested to the marriage of the couple.

Since Christ's ascension, the bride [church] has been preparing herself in holy and righteous deeds during this time of waiting, and the bridegroom [Christ] has been preparing her a home, the new Jerusalem. At the designated time, Christ will come and call his church to go with him to the marriage supper, were the wedding will be celebrated.

Eph 5:25-27 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (KJV)

It is interesting to note that the scriptures specifically accent the manner of preparation --- the Lamb's wife ""hath made herself ready""[Rev 19:7]. She has finished her wedding garment, which is clean and white. This fine linen garment represents her purity and holiness for it is ""the righteousness of the saints"".[Rev 19:8] The garments of righteouness represent our responsibility to live holy in all that we do. Our good deeds will help us to be properly attired for the marriage supper. The marriage supper of the Lamb will be an event in which the church will be involved following the rapture.

Not only will we be raptured, caught away, and partake in the marriage supper of the Lamb, but we will also appear before the judgement seat of Christ.

2Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (KJV)

The term ""judgement seat"" comes from the Greek word ""bema"" which was the platform in Greek towns were commanders spoke to troops, reviewed them, and were rulers presided over sporting events.[Matt 27:19, Acts 12:21, 18:21]. This ""judgement seat"" must not be confused with the Great White Throne from which Christ will judge the wicked. Salvation is not the issue here, because of the work of Christ on the cross, we will not face our sins:

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (KJV)

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (KJV)

At the judgement seat we will have to give an account of our works and service for the Lord. The true nature of the judgement seat of Christ is prehaps better seen when the word ""appear"" is replaced by another possible translation, ""made manifest"". The works of the believer will be made known; his true loyalty and faithfulness to the work of God while on earth will be displayed. 1 Cor 3:12-15 indicates that the works which some will present to Christ will be destroyed while those of others will remain.

The judgement seat will be a place of ""revelation"", the word appear means also ""be revealed"". As we live and work here on this earth, it is relatively easy for us to hide things and pretend; but the true character of our works will be exposed before the all searching eye of our Savior. He will reveal weather our works have been good or bad [worthless]. The character of our service will be revealed [1Cor 3:13] as well as the motives that impelled us [1Cor 4:5]

It will also be a place of ""reckoning"" as we give an account of our ministries [Rom 14:10-12]. If we have been faithful it will be a place of reward and recognition [1Cor 3:10-15, 4:1-6] For those who have been faithful, it will be a time of great rejoicing as we glorify the Lord by giving back our rewards to him in worship and praise.

The nature of the reward given at this time will be similiar to the honor bestowed on the winner of an ancient sporting event ---- a wreath or crown placed on the head. 1 Cor 9:24 - 26 refers to the crown which the overcomers will recieve. Paul expected to recieve a crown, referring to the same concept [2 Tim 2:5, 4:7-8].

A number of crowns as rewards are mentioned in the N.T.:

  • An incorruptible crown

1 Cor 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. (KJV)

1 Cor 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (NIV)

  • A crown of rejoicing.

1Thes 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? (KJV)

  • A crown of life.

Ja 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (KJV)

  • A crown of righteousness.

2Tim 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (KJV)

  • A crown of glory.

1Pet 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (KJV)

The Christians reward will be according to the things that he has done while in his earthly body.

2Jo 1:8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. (KJV)

Our salvation does not depend upon anything we do, but Christians will recieve a greater or lesser reward, depending on the quality of the work that they have done for Christ.

Heb 6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. (KJV)

1 Cor 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (KJV)

Matt 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (KJV)

Rev 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (KJV)


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