Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hastening the Coming

The trends we see in the world today make it pretty clear to anyone who considers their implications that we are headed toward some sort of culmination of history. The Bible tells us these trends indicate that Jesus Christ is returning to fulfill the promises He made to us. The Bible also tells us how we should conduct ourselves in the interim: “what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12, NKJ).

God expects His followers to not only look for Jesus to return but to actively work to bring His return sooner. Now those who think all religions are the same will lump this idea in with radical Islam that engages in Jihad seeking to cause sufficient turmoil between nations to summon their messiah, al Mahdi. Muslims believe that al Mahdi will return in the midst of a great conflagration between nations to lead the world in worshiping Allah.

The belief of radical Muslims that they can cause al Mahdi to come by waging war is what makes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad so dangerous. Those who think Bible-believing Christians want to do the same do not understand the distinctions between Islam and Christianity…

Islam is like all the other man-made religions of the world where people earn favor with God and their salvation through their own efforts. Christianity is unique since the Bible tells us that we can do nothing to earn salvation… “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Biblical Christianity is so different from the world’s religions that it should not even be called a religion; biblical Christianity is better described as a relationship with God.

Another distinction is that Islam is a religion of death whereas true biblical Christianity is a religion of life. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves; you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16). The fruit of Islam is death. Where ever Islam goes there is war and death. They way Islam obtains converts is by threat of death, the Koran teaches that it is good to kill infidels, and the only way a Muslim can be sure they are going to heaven is to die in the process of killing infidels. True biblical Christianity values human life since all people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

Those who think biblical Christianity is just a different brand of religion like radical Islam fear giving Christians political power because they think we will seek to fulfill Bible prophecy by forcing Armageddon on the world. I discussed this fear in another blog. While that fear should be real with Islam, it is not the case with Christianity.

Don’t think the Church's enthusiasm for the Rapture means that we are working to bring on the Tribulation. The Tribulation will be a terrible time when at least half of the population on the earth will die. It also marks a time of great deception when it will be easier to believe lies than the truth (see 2 Thessalonians 2:11). We don’t want to go through that time ourselves nor do we want any of our associates to either.

God is in control of when things happen; there is nothing we can do to make the Tribulation come any sooner. God will not allow the Antichrist to emerge until the timing is within His permissive will… “for the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

How then does the Christian speed up the return of Jesus if we can do nothing ourselves to cause Bible prophecy to be fulfilled? I believe that 2 Peter 3:11-12 tells us the work of the Church can bring the Rapture sooner rather than later. The next major event in the history of the Church is the Rapture. There is no prophetic event that has to happen prior to it and there is no reason why it couldn't happen even several years ahead of the Tribulation. However, I would expect the Rapture to be so disruptive it is hard to imagine there being much time between it and the Tribulation.

Besides 2 Peter 3:11-12, Romans 11:25 also indicates that God has in mind a set number of people for the Church: "blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." So given that, believers working to grow the Body of Christ can hasten the return of Jesus for the Church. When the set number of people God wants in His Church is reached, our work here is done; we’re out of here. So the quicker we can complete the Church, the sooner it will be that Jesus returns for us.

Of course it is really God that builds the Church. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). So in that sense, we can’t even work to bring on the Rapture sooner than God’s timing. But we can pray and God blesses His followers by working through us. We get to participate in what He is doing in the spiritual growth of those He brings into our lives. The more diligent we are to act in obedience with God, the more rewards we will experience.

So, all who look forward to seeing Jesus at the Rapture should pray for the Lord to deliver us and, “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

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