The Thousand Year Peace.

We are continuing from our study yesterday on the topic of the Millennium. The thousand-year reign of Jesus on Earth. In the third study of Insights into eternity (In the middle column), we talked about the resurrection of the saints at the return of Christ. Those who are born again and walking with Christ will receive an imperishable body, a body of power that is immortal. This body will be like Christ’s resurrection body, a body that had been sown in dishonor, but raised in glory (1 Corinthians 15:43). The saints are given authority to reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4; 1 Corinthians 6:2) and Satan will be bound and thrown into the Abyss (Revelation 20:1-3).

1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6 Emphasis mine).

Theologians and scholars call this thousand-year reign of Christ, the Millennium. The word millennium means a thousand. There are three beliefs about the Millennium. The first is called Amillennialism. An Amillennialist believes that the thousand years mentioned five times in the passage above is not a literal number but a symbolic number and represents the time we are in now, the church age. Secondly, there is postmillennialism.  Postmillennialists also believe that the 1000-year period mentioned in the passage above, is not literally 1,000 years. In their view, the church will bring in a golden age of Christian ethics and that Jesus’ Second Coming will come after that period of time. Thirdly, there is premillennialism, to which I personally hold. A premillenialist believes that Jesus’ coming will be after a time of tribulation, that He will raise the saints, those who have been born-again of the Spirit, and that the saints will rule and reign with Him in a literal thousand-year reign on the earth.

The dragon, that ancient serpent that appeared in the Garden of Eden, also called the devil and Satan, will be bound, verse three tells us, in the Abyss (Greek word is Abussos, a word that means bottomless, unfathomed; enormous; unbounded; immeasurable depth). There will be no more war until the 1000 years are up, and after that Satan must be released for a time. Imagine what our world will be like with Satan bound. What changes do you think will come about for those living on earth in total freedom from satanic influence?

For the saints, the Body of Christ, in their new resurrection bodies, there will be no temptation towards evil and sin, and no more deception at work on the earth (Verse 3). Our resurrection bodies will take away all fear of harm. There will be no fear of death. From the point when Jesus returns, the saints are immortal. Our sin nature, also, will be taken away, and there will be no desire to sin at all. Because we will be operating in a totally free capacity, our creativity will be unleashed. We will see our bodies, souls and minds operating at a totally different level, free from constraint. We will experience life as God intended us to know it. Oh, how I look forward to it! I hope you are too.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Millennium. Keith Thomas

Hell: A Subject not to be Avoided

We come today to study the subject that is most avoided by pastors and teachers, and one that we would all rather avoid if possible, that is the topic of Hell. The story has been told of C. S. Lewis’ listening to a young preacher’s sermon on the subject of God’s judgment on sin. At the end of his message, the young man said, “If you do not receive Christ as Savior, you will suffer grave eschatological ramifications!” After the service, Lewis asked him the question, “Do you mean that a person who doesn’t believe in Christ will go to Hell?” “Precisely,” was his response. “Then say so,” Lewis replied.”[1] Even though we may be uncomfortable in studying it, the topic is important for all of us.

Some would say, “Can’t we just bypass the topic of Hell?” Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said, “Think lightly of Hell, and you will think lightly of the cross. Think little of the sufferings of lost souls, and you will soon think little of the Savior who delivers you from them.” It is possible that some people avoid the issue of Hell because they want to view death as the end, when it is just the beginning. When we truly understand what is at stake, i.e. what was our destiny without Christ, we will much more appreciate what Christ has done for us at the cross.

There is a great deal of interest today in the topic of life after death and near-death experiences. It is not hard to find a book on the subject. Dr. Maurice Rawlings, in his book, To Hell and Back, researching near-death experiences, reports that some people experienced Hell, but had the memory of it repressed in a few days’ time. He said that, as a general rule, people remember that which is good and forget that which is bad, and so, if the interview is delayed just a little bit, days, weeks or months later, only the positive experiences will be found.

Dr. Rawlings tells the story of a young man who recounted his experience to him after an operation to insert a pacemaker into his heart. He told Dr. Rawlings what he saw and experienced, which he considered to be hell. He states that he saw a tunnel which led to light, then the tunnel caught fire. He had the sensation of moving fast toward a lake of fire, which looked to him like an oil spill on fire. He saw elongated shadows of people that were moving back and forth, like animals do that are caged in a zoo. The man called out “Jesus is Lord” and then suddenly, he was aware that he was back in his body.

Dr. Rawlings also gives an account of giving CPR to a patient who had also had a pacemaker installed, and who was in the throes of death. The patient kept coming back, slipping in and out of consciousness, and pleaded with Dr. Rawlings to pray for him, as he cried out that he was in hell. Dr. Rawlings did not want to pray for the man because he was not yet a believer himself, but finally because of the man’s distress, he did give the man a prayer to pray. He asked Jesus Christ to keep him out of hell. The man immediately calmed. He was no longer a screaming lunatic. Dr. Rawlings states that this incident impacted him so much that he gave his life to Christ. Dr. Rawlings is not a theologian or a minister; rather, he is an unbiased doctor who has written the findings of the patients he has resuscitated.

There are many people who claim to have had near-death experiences, but there is no way that we can really know for sure which ones are valid. It is reasonable to assume that, if God allowed Paul to be caught up into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), and if Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father before he died (Acts 7:55), then there may be those today who have been permitted to have a glimpse of what lies beyond this life.

Our faith, however, must rest on God’s Word and not an experience. After all, there are those who would have us believe that everyone, regardless of their beliefs or regardless of the life they lived, will be welcomed by brilliant light and ushered into a peaceful eternity. However, this does not agree with what we are told in Scripture. Jesus personified both love and truth. He did not hold anything back from His disciples, and we should not avoid this topic, for none of us wants to go there. Over the next few days we will talk about what the Holy Scriptures say about this topic.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Taken from: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/Hell.html

The Resurrection of the Body

We have been meditating on the Rapture of the Church (scroll down to read that devotional). This same event that we call the rapture is the same event in a different passage of Scripture that we call the resurrection. At the rapture of the church our bodies will be instantly changed just as Jesus’ body was when He was raised from the dead. Paul writes to the church at Corinth about the same event of the dead being raised:

50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).

Notice this same event is preceded by the blast of a trumpet and the dead are raised. There are not two raising of the dead. The rapture and the resurrection are one and the same. Our earthly tent, this sinful body we all have in this world, will be changed instantaneously. We are told that this change occurs in “a moment” (v.52). The Greek word used is atomō, we get the English word “atom” from this word. It describes an atomic particle of a second—instantaneously we will be changed. Twice the word “changed” is used and only in this passage of scripture. The Greek word is allagēsometha. It means to change, alter, transform. Paul the apostle, before he tells us about this transformation, introduces this event by writing about what happens to seeds. Let’s try and understand what he is communicating. We need to go back a bit in the passage as he writes about the process of how we as Christians come to receive a glorified body:

35But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:35-42).

Paul uses the analogy of a seed. He says that a seed differs greatly from the plant that comes from it. He is saying that our physical body is but a seed that, when sown at the death of the body, will be greatly changed when this sinful age is over and the resurrection of the body occurs. Before we move on to talk more about the resurrection body, we have to talk about how this transformation comes about. We’ll do that tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

The Rapture of the True Church

In yesterday’s meditation, we talked about the coming of the Lord for His Church, those who are born-again of the Spirit. We have talked about the rewards that He will give for character, faithfulness and service. Over the next few days we will look at the resurrection body that believers will be given at the coming of Christ. The Lord knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19), and at the coming of Christ, He will send forth His angels and gather those who have received His free gift of salvation:

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:31).

At the coming of Christ, the church is raptured or caught up together with Him in the clouds:

13Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After 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 (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

This passage above is the classic passage about the rapture of the church. As we have said elsewhere in these studies, the word Rapture is not found in the Bible. We get the English word “rapture” from the Latin word rapere which is the translation of the Greek word Harpazo. This word literally means to be snatched up. It is translated into the English in the passage above with the words “caught up” (v.17). This event will be preceded by a loud shout from the Lord Jesus Himself. I wonder what words will issue from His lips in a loud command. Notice that a loud trumpet call will be heard also. Those who have died/slept in Christ, are brought with Christ at that coming (v.14), and are instantly changed and reunited with their body. Although they have been in heaven with Christ, He will bring them with Him—those who have fallen asleep/died in Him (v.14). Those believers who are still alive on Earth at that time will see this happening before they themselves are caught up together with all believers all over the world. As we have been saying over the last few days, it will be a homecoming to the Lord as well as a time of rewards for all those who belong to Christ. What an awesome day that will be. When that Day comes, all who have repented and walked with Christ, yet have passed on from this life will receive a new body. Those also on Earth will be changed in an instant (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). We will think on the new body we will receive over the next few days. I hope to see you in the clouds (v.17).

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas

Going Home

1“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:1-3).

There is something special about coming home. All of us have experienced what it is like after being away, whether for vacation, work, or some other reason, to come home to what is familiar. There are sounds, smells, and visual reminders when we walk back into our familiar surroundings. It is a very comforting feeling, the feeling of being at home. We even say, about some relationships, that we feel “at home” with a person. What we really mean is, that person makes us feel like we can kick back and be ourselves, like we are when we are at home. I am reminded as I write this, that today, there are many people all over the world who have been forced to leave their homes, forced to leave family in some cases, and all that they hold dear. Everyone should have a place of rest, a place to call their home. Jesus promised us, before He left this earth, that He went to prepare such a place for us. A place where we will dwell with Him, a home like no other. The home we have known in this life, no matter how humble, or how grand, will pale in comparison to what He has prepared for those who are His.

There is the story of an old missionary couple, the Morrison’s, who were finally returning to America after serving Christ as missionaries in Africa. On the same ship was Teddy Roosevelt, the American president at the time, who was returning from an African Safari. Bands and parades were going on in New York as everybody turned up at the dock to welcome Teddy as his transatlantic liner came alongside the quay. The crowds and press were waiting just to catch a glimpse of Teddy finally returning home. The Morrison’s were despondent as they left the port that day as they had little money, only enough for a very simple apartment. Henry was quite sad as he saw the welcome that Teddy Roosevelt received. He told his wife that something had to be wrong, as they had given 40 years of their lives for Christian missionary work, and no one cared enough even to come to the dock to welcome them home. His wise wife told him to go to the Lord in prayer about it. A little while later he returned, with a beaming smile on his face, having been reminded by the Lord, “You are not home yet, Henry.”

If you ever grow weary of this life, remind yourself, “You’re not home yet.” Likewise, if you grow complacent because of an easy lifestyle and put all of your resources and effort into enjoying the comforts of this life, think about this: This is not all there is. This is not your eternal home. This life is just for a short while.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1-4).

If you have placed your trust in Christ, the time will come when the Lord will come for us, and we will pull out our tent pegs and collapse the tent, either at departure from the body (death) or when our Master and Lord will return for us according to His promise in the scriptures above.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas