Are There Two Second Comings of Christ?

1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9” ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12“But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ 13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:1-13 Emphasis mine).

What is the message that Jesus would have us take from this passage of scripture—what stands out to you? There are many things that we can learn, but two things in particular stand out to me:

1) Those who were waiting all began to get tired, but half of them, even though they were tired, had made provision for the night—they had extra oil to see them through the darkness. We are told that the bridegroom was a long time coming, but at the darkest point of the night, midnight, the bridegroom came. The emphasis is on being ready for His coming.

2) Only the five who were ready went to be with the bridegroom and the door was shut immediately afterwards. The five foolish people, did they get to come in later? Of course not! They were shut out. It was too late! We don’t like the implications, but the truth is that the door is never opened again after the Lord comes. There is only one rapture of the saints, not two.

I am going to get stones thrown at me here, but here goes anyway.  There are those who believe that there are two comings of Christ, one before the seven-year period of trouble starts, and one towards the end. They tell us that if we miss the first coming, not to worry, He will come at a later time and those who miss the first coming will still get in. The Left Behind series of books in the USA are all about this fallacy. Of course, they warn us, this is not a good option for there will be lots of trouble and hardship during the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-31). In my belief, this is deception of the highest magnitude. This doctrine fosters the belief that if you miss the coming of Christ, you can still become a Christian later on. There are those who put off salvation today, because they have been told that they can get still give their lives to Christ after the Christians have been raptured. They will then believe in Christ when they see the rapture take place. Do not believe it!  There is only one Second Coming of Christ and He will come at some point after the Great Tribulation has started (no man knows the day nor the hour) but before the wrath of God is poured out. We must be watching and preparing ourselves spiritually for the darkness that is coming on America and the rest of the world. We must grow in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His Word; this will be oil in our lamps that will keep us in the darkness of the hour that is approaching.

Taken from the study of the Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column, entitled The Rapture of the Saints. It is also one of the Parables (number 2 of the Parables of Christ) in the middle column too. Keith Thomas

Is Death a State of Annihilation?

We are continuing our meditation on eternal things and specifically thinking of the topic of Hell. Some say that Hell is a place where a person who rejects God’s free pardon for sin is annihilated. The word annihilation means “to reduce to utter ruin or nonexistence; to destroy utterly.” Three times in the passage we looked at yesterday (Scroll down for Matthew 25:41-46), though, Jesus used the same Greek word to describe the bliss of His followers, i.e. the word aiōnios, which means “Eternal, perpetual. When referring to eternal life, it means the life which is God’s and, hence, not affected by the limitation of time.”[1] That does not sound like annihilation. It is the clear teaching of Jesus that someone who rejects the gospel and continues in his sin, at the end of his life, will suffer eternal punishment.

Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Josef Stalin, leader of Russia from 1922-1953, accompanied her father at death’s door and said that she would never sit alongside an unbeliever who was dying again. She said that he went into Hell kicking and screaming. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Voltaire was said to have died crying out in torment, as was King Charles the ninth of France, David Hume, and Thomas Pain. Speaking for those who do know God, C.M. Ward said, “No Christian has ever been known to recant on his death bed.”

Why would a loving God send anyone to Hell? How bad does a person have to be to be sent to Hell? Is there a line that a person crosses?

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).

The creator God has established the way for salvation. The situation is that the entire human race is in the same boat. We have all fallen short of God’s ideal for living. None of us can say we have never sinned. If you have only sinned once, then it is enough to make you a sinner. We all suffer with the same disease. Sin is what eternally separates us from God. James puts it this way, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). If there could have been another way for God to get you to heaven, apart from sending His Son to die a cruel and torturous death, don’t you think He would have taken it? He has given man the gift of free will, but His justice demands that rebellion has to be penalized. A holy God cannot allow sin to be in His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13). So, He honors the choices that a rebel who refuses to repent has made.

In His love for the human race, He initiated a rescue plan. The Son of God would take on human form and be a substitute to take the place of guilty man, taking the punishment upon Himself.  In that way, His justice would be satisfied, and He can reach out in love to save all who will turn their lives over to Him and walk in obedience to Him. When we repent and receive Christ, the Spirit of God gives us power to live for Christ. We also hold the answer for others, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power and boldness to speak to people about God’s rescue plan for the human race. We damage Satan’s kingdom when we speak the truth of God’s Word, and release precious people from his control. The church today is on the attack, breaking down every defense that Satan has raised against the kingdom of God. We are told that the gates of Hades (Hell) will not overcome the Church (Matthew 16:18). God has told us what happens in the end, and guess what, those that belong to Christ win!

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

[1] Key Word Study Bible, New Lexical Study Aids, AMG Publishers, page 1580.

The Testing of our Faith is for a Purpose

10For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. 11You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. 12You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:10-12).

See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10).

Sometimes our lives are full of burdens and it seems as if God is nowhere. In fact, it seems as if He is letting men ride over our heads and lay burdens on our backs. Why would God allow these things to go on in the lives of His children? God views our testing as a refining of our character. Just as a metal sword made for combat was put through the fire, refined and hammered on the anvil, in the same way God allows for trials and difficulties to come to our lives so that we may grow spiritually through them. We do not know God’s plans and purposes for our lives. Our life experiences would make more sense if we could only look into the future and know what we are being made into. Often we don’t see God’s plan until twenty years later when we are enjoying the fruits that come from the trial. What is the fruit of trials? I would say that it is a greater anointing of the Spirit and a maturing of our character—these are the things that please God. Of course, this can result in other blessings in our lives and in the lives of others too. God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us. How do I know that? The mother of the two disciples, James and John, asked that they would be able to sit in the best positions in the Kingdom of God, on the right hand and on the left hand side of Jesus. Jesus replied saying that those places are for those who will endure the cup of suffering in the same way as Jesus would and did. He said to James and John:

“You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23).

What can we infer from this passage and several others? God knows what He is doing. John and James wanted the seats of honor on either side of Jesus, but were they ready to take the same cup of suffering that Jesus was to take? To be great in the sight of God is to be a servant of all, and to put self on the altar in order to serve even through times of suffering. The way up is the way down. Christ must become greater, and we must become less important. God has seen ahead of time those who, in their heart of hearts want to go all the way with Him. In the preparation and refining of His people, God prepares ahead of time opportunities for His servants to be exercised in servant hood. He has seen the end from the beginning. He has a picture of the finished product of your life that He is making you to become. You are a product of the choices and responses to different trials that God has prepared in advance for you. When the cup of suffering is handed to you, will you choose to take the way of suffering or will you opt for the easy way out of the trial and compromise your faith?

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

What does this scripture say? First, it says that God Himself is working on you—you are His workmanship. Secondly, it says that you were created to do certain works that God Himself, outside of time, before the creation of the world, prepared in advance for you to do. May you be all and do all that He has planned!

Keith Thomas

The Persecution of Pastor Tson

igreja-perseguidaIt was late in the summer of 1977 and Romania was under communist rule when the Baptist minister put all his worldly concerns in order after the manner of a dying man. Buoyed by the courage of his wife, Elizabeth, Pastor Tson prepared himself for certain martyrdom. He was to meet an officer from the secret police in the restaurant of a nondescript Romanian hotel. The communist officer had pledged to do what previous secret police officials had failed to do: silence Tson’s ministry by offering him a secular job in exchange for a promise that he never again preach the Gospel. Turning down the job spelled at least hard time in a prison camp. It might very well mean execution. Tson met with the man, and without flinching turned down the job.

“I told the man, ‘Now I am ready to die,’” Tson said. “‘You said you were going to finish me as a preacher. I asked my God and he wants me to continue to be a preacher. Now I have to make one of you two angry and I decided [it is] better [to] make you angry than God. But I know you, sir; you cannot stand this kind of opposition and you will kill me in one way or another. But I accepted that and you should know that I have even put everything in order and made ready to die. But as long as I am free, I will preach the Gospel.’”

The communist officer was equally unflinching in his response: He told Tson to go and preach the Gospel. “He [the officer] made up his mind that if I was ready to die for it, then I should have it,” Tson said. “And for another four years until they exiled me, I continued to preach with nobody disturbing me because that man, a key man in the secret police, decided I should be free to preach because I was ready to die for it.” He was arrested and imprisoned several times in Romania during the 1970s and charged with being a Christian minister. Each time he underwent several weeks of intense interrogation, beatings and mind games before finally being exiled from the country in 1981.

“When the secret police officer threatened to kill me, to shoot me, I smiled and I said, ‘Sir, don’t you understand that when you kill me, you send me to glory? You cannot threaten me with glory.’ The more suffering, the more troubles, the greater the glory. So, why say, ‘Stop this trouble’? Because the more [suffering], the greater the glory up there.” During one particularly harrowing session of interrogation, Tson told his inquisitors that spilling his blood would only serve to water the growth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of the theology of suffering, he learned, was that tribulation is never an accident but is part of God’s sovereign plan for building His church.

“I told the interrogator, ‘You should know your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying,’” Tson said. “‘Now here is how it works, sir: You know that my sermons are on tape all over the country. When you shoot me or crush me, whichever way you choose, [you] only sprinkle my sermons with my blood. Everybody who has a tape of one of my sermons will pick it up and say, ‘I had better listen again. This man died for what he preached.’ Sir, my sermons will speak 10 times louder after you kill me and because you kill me. In fact, I will conquer this country for God because you killed me. Go on and do it.’ “Dying for the Lord is not an accident. It’s not a tragedy. It’s part of the job. It’s part of the ministry. And it’s the greatest way of preaching.”

Tson said he has learned that Christians suffer for two primary reasons: as witnesses to the Gospel and to perfect the church of Christ. He recalled being encouraged by a valuable truth that a British theologian taught him: The cross of Christ was for the propitiation of sins, but the cross each Christian is called to bear is for the propagation of the Gospel.

The Strategic Parable of the Soil

sower11“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (Luke 8:4-15).

What I love about God’s Word is that there is often more than one way to interpret it. Often, Jesus speaks on two levels, for example, on the cellular level and the organism level. While we should receive it at the cellular level, we can also look at it from a strategic sowing and harvesting level of area, state or country. We have been commanded by our Lord to preach the Gospel to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and the end will not come until the job has been done (Matthew 24:14). People resources and financial resources should not be spent on trying to raise a harvest on pathway soil, ground that will bring little return on the investment. Strategic thinking is required to find good soil.

Any good farmer will test the pH level of the soil to find out if it will grow what he wishes to plant. Let me illustrate what I mean. When I worked as a commercial fisherman with my father, we wouldn’t go hunting in the summer for the small fish called sprats. There were only certain times of the year that the sprats would school together in huge numbers. It was not strategic or pragmatic to put sprat nets on our towing gear and try to catch them. A fishermen needed the right kind of nets to catch the fish that showed up in whatever season it was. The times and the seasons determined the kind of investment to catch the fish. C. Peter Wagner uses the illustration of an apple farm:

“Suppose I have an apple farm with three fields. In the first field the apples are so ripe that one worker can reap five bushels in one hour. In the second field, only a few have ripened and it would take five hours just to reap one bushel. In the third are no ripe apples at all. I have 30 workers to send out to pick apples. Where to send them is not a difficult decision. I would not send all 30 into the first field where the apples are ripe, but I would send 29. I would ask the other worker to go into the second field and pick as many apples as possible, but frequently to travel over to the third field as well. When this worker returns, I do not expect to see a great number of apples. In this case, I am more interested in information than apples. Through this person I will know when the other apples ripen, and on that basis redeploy my work force. The harvest determines the quantity of workers employed.”[1]

Timing and location are important in bringing in the harvest. Countries and regions go through seasons of fruitfulness. Don’t misunderstand me. There are people in all countries ready to receive the Word of God and come to Christ, but revivals through which a country turns are often due to something that God is doing in a region or country. The Church of Christ needs to look strategically as to where God is working, where the field is ripe. Let me give you an example. Argentina was hard pathway soil that was trusting in its leadership council in the early 1980s. All that changed when the military leadership sent an invasion force to capture the Malvinas Islands or Falkland Islands from the British. Maggie Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, sent the British forces down to the South Atlantic, and after several battles, recaptured the Falklands with the loss of many lives. The Argentine national pride was humbled, and with it, a loss of trust in their leaders. God said,

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land…” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The humbling of the Argentine people was used of the Lord to turn hard pathway soil to good, rich growing soil. A huge turning to Evangelical Christianity and a massive revival took place! Political situations are used by the Lord to create conditions of a ripening of the soil. God is working by His Spirit everywhere, and history shows us vast moves of the Spirit at different times and places, changing the spiritual climate of those countries.

I find it interesting that the parable refers to different conditions that can affect our readiness to receive and respond to the word of God. Hardship can cause some to forsake their faith. Is your faith firmly planted in Christ Himself? It is possible to put our trust and faith in people, and when those people let you down, you may feel that everything you believed and put your hope in was a lie. Your faith must be in the person of Christ. The relationship He offers you is real, and it is eternal. He will never leave you, and He will never forsake you. There are others, whose faith is tested not by trials, but by prosperity. They are lulled to sleep by pursuit of pleasure and do not see their need of Christ, so they do not give Him place in their heart. The Word of God is forgotten, replaced by worldly perspectives. These conditions can be in countries as well as people.

For the most part here in the United States, our soil condition (August 2016) is one of weeds. Fruitfulness is in the soil, but the weeds choke out growth. Our adversary, the devil, pushes hard to transform the culture into one of deception and evil, but I sense that God, out of His mercy, will not allow our complacency to continue! I believe that there will be conditions, situations, and events that will turn the spiritual tide for these United States in order to create the right conditions for a massive harvest among people today, especially our youth.

The USA saw a huge growth in the church during the Jesus movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It is time for another move of God, and we need to be ready to receive new believers by being disciples ourselves in order to disciple others and be those who are fruitful. Let us look at the ground of our own hearts and make sure that there are no weeds of bitterness or unforgiveness and deal with any hardness or unbelief.

Keith Thomas. Taken from the Luke studies in the middle column, Number 16, The Parable of the Soil.

[1] Strategies for Church Growth, C. Peter Wagner, Published by Regal Books. Page 65.