Hope in Christ’s Return

Hope in Christ’s Return

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul seeks to encourage the Thessalonian believers toward godliness.  He has reflected upon their conversion, he is aware of the trials they face, and he has exhorted them toward sanctification.  He knows, however, the tendency to lose heart.  And as these Christians are losing loved ones and even facing persecution, Paul urges them to the hope of Christ’s second coming.  It is really this message of hope and of encouragement that shapes the passage.  Paul, with this hope as the backdrop, encourages them with the coming resurrection, and he exhorts them to be ready for the Day of Christ’s coming.

He writes about the resurrection, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)  Paul is speaking to concern about loved ones who have departed, as some were possibly tempted to doubt the hope that they would share in the eternal hope promised in the resurrection of the believer.  Perhaps you yourself have lost a loved one in Christ, and it is difficult in the midst of the grief to have the confidence that they will rise.  Consider two questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  Question 37 asks, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?”  The answer provided is, “The souls of believers are, at their death, made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves until the resurrection.” The believer who dies, according to the catechism, is already present with Christ in glory.  But what is sometimes overlooked is this statement: “their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves until the resurrection.”  The body of the believer remains in that vital connection to Jesus Christ even in the grave—this union with Jesus Christ is the guarantee of the believer’s resurrection.  Christ has been raised; therefore, each of His people will be as well.  Question 38 of the Shorter Catechism goes on to ask, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?”  The answer is “At the resurrection, believers, being raised up to glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.” 

This is your hope—Christ has borne the judgment; therefore, you will be acquitted if you are found in Him.  And, you will be “made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.”  This is also the hope you have for loved ones in Christ who have departed. 

There is great hope in the resurrection.  We ought to look longingly toward the return of Christ.  But Paul also gives the exhortation toward being prepared for that Day.  The believer ought to look to their great hope of salvation in Jesus Christ and pursue likeness to Him as they await that Day. If you are not a believer, won’t you see this great salvation offered unto you by this Returning King, and look to Him? Then you will have a place to stand on that Day, and you will possess an eternal hope. We will discuss this further this Lord’s Day at 5 PM during worship at The Commons at St. Andrews.  For directions, click here, or contact us for more information.  You can also join us on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

Lord’s Day Worship Location for September 19 and Hereafter

Lord’s Day Worship Location for September 19 and Hereafter

This week and hereafter we are meeting for worship at 5 PM at The Commons at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube. We are grateful to the Arkansas Dream Center for having hosted us so many weeks and are grateful to St. Andrews Church for their hospitality to us as well.

Enigmas

Enigmas

Long before the dawn of the computer age and concern over the alleged influence of Russian hacking, the fate of nations and the tides of war lay in the power of cryptography.   During World War II, the best and the brightest were pressed into service as cryptographers seeking to create and to break unbreakable codes.   The stories of these unsung men and women have been recounted in recent movies such as Windtalkers and The Imitation Game.

One of the most significant of these crypto-analysts was British mathematician, Alan Turing.  Turing led a team of researchers at Britain’s infamous Bletchley Park lab to build a machine capable of decoding messages encrypted by Hitler’s famed Enigma machines.  Turing’s machine, or Automated Computing Engine, was the earliest electro-mechanical computer, a machine which revolutionized the modern age.

Despite Turing’s brilliance and achievement in cracking the world’s foremost cryptographical enigma, however, he could not decode the ultimate enigma, the meaning of life.  His untimely death by cyanide poisoning in 1954 was ruled a suicide.  Turing was not the first notable man in history to grapple with the enigma of meaning and meaninglessness.   Solomon, in the Bible, had done it all.  He had unparalleled wisdom, wealth and experience, but he still wrestled with the same ultimate questions of meaning and meaningless that create existential angst for each of us today.

But cracking Hitler’s Enigma machine seems child’s play compared to deciphering the symbolism of Revelation 20.   The theologies growing out of the events described in Revelation 20 are the most divisive and enigmatic in Christian eschatology, or the study of ‘last things.’   And Christians often use another’s position on the Millennium as litmus tests for orthodoxy or heterodoxy.   Though fashionable to ask, “are you pre-mil, a-mil, or post-mil?”  Asking another Christian his position on the millennium is akin to asking how he voted in the last election.

But the enigmata of Revelation 20 is its ultimate irony.   The Revelation is not given to obscure, but reveal.  Not to distress, but comfort.  Not to divide, but to unify.   In An Eschatology of Victory, Marcellus Kik notes that accessing the comfort of Revelation 20 depends upon rightly understanding three simple, yet profound images: the binding of the devil, the reigning of the saints, and the two deaths and resurrections.  

Warfare between various theological camps erupts at just these salient points.   Yet, to miss the meaning of these powerful images is to miss some of the richest gospel comfort offered in Scripture.  Join us as we examine Revelation 20:1-10 and find simple, yet profound comfort from one of the Scripture’s most enigmatic passages.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe

“Shock and Awe, simply Shock and Awe!”  For most, this phrase entered our vernacular from CNN Reporter, Peter Arnett, describing the stunning exhibition of US airpower from his hotel in Baghdad on March 21, 2003.   The second Gulf War had begun.   Operation Iraqi Freedom was underway.  We watched live as coalition airpower obliterated Saddam Hussein’s Presidential compound on the Tigris and other government and military sites in and around Baghdad.   ‘Shock and Awe’ was meant to make a statement, to break the will of Saddam’s army — to end a war before it began.

Military strategists as far back as Sun Tzu have understood the value of destroying the enemy’s will to fight.   But the concept of ‘Shock and Awe’ was meant to take it to the next level.  It is Sherman’s ‘total war’ on steroids.   The phrase ‘shock and awe’ was originally introduced by Harlan Ullman in a 1996 Pentagon study.  For Ullman, ‘shock and awe’ defined a concept of engagement so massive and sudden that the enemy would be stunned, confused, overwhelmed, and paralyzed.

But the coalition bombardment that began on March 21, 2003 was nothing compared to the ‘Shock and Awe’ described in Revelation 19 as the world’s final battle that pictures the return of Christ in judgement.   Kings and captains, mighty men, men both free and slave, small and great gather for battle.  Summoned by the King of Rebels, the ancient Dragon and his Beast and False Prophet, they have come to resist the will of their rightful King, the Lord Jesus Christ.  They trust in everything false and swear allegiance to the King of Lies and Murder.    They think this will be their moment – and indeed it is.  Just not the moment they expected.

As the Lord Jesus appears in power and glory, the armies of heaven following after Him, He brings ‘Shock and Awe’ His enemies never anticipated.    “Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him…. Kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and rich and powerful and everyone slave and free, [will hide] themselves in caves and among the rocks of the mountains calling to the mountains, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.’”

Their swagger and boasting, rebellion and hatred of the Lord will come to nothing in an instant.   The mighty power of the Beast and the pervasive influence of the False Prophet dissipate at the appearing of the one who is Faithful and True, who slays His enemies with the sword of the Word of God.    The return of Christ comes as ‘shock and awe’ to His enemies, and ours.   But to those who have loved not their lives unto death, who have held to the testimony of Jesus, who have been sealed with the seal of the Living God, the “shock and awe” of His coming causes them to cry ‘Glory!’

We are reminded in Philippians that

God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Some will confess Jesus’ Lordship out of love for their King.  Others will confess it under compulsion of judgment.   When Jesus comes, He comes with ‘shock and awe.’   For those who submit to Him in grace, there is joy.   But for those who refuse His light and easy yoke, submission comes only in judgement.   As one theologian noted regarding that moment.

“Either judgment is done on [Christ] at the cross [on our behalf], or else, failing that, judgement is done by him as people’s unforgiven sin sends them to hell.”

Have you submitted to his grace?  Or are you resisting your rightful King, gathering together with the King of Rebels and the enemies of the Living God?   ‘Shock and awe’ is coming.   Are you ready?   Join us this Sunday as we examine Revelation 19:11-21 and the great promise and the great warning of Christ’s return.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

An Impossible Partnership

An Impossible Partnership

Rivalries are often in good fun.  Perhaps you have a favorite football team, and you enjoy the “rivalry game” each year.  Growing up in Alabama, it was often quite clear whether one’s allegiances were to the Alabama Crimson Tide or to the Auburn Tigers.  But even in activities such as sports, rivalries can get out of hand.  Imagine a rivalry over something as important as the ministry of the church, the worship of God and the conversion of the lost.  Paul was an Apostle set apart by God for the proclamation of the Gospel, and yet there were many who opposed Paul.  Some set themselves up as rivals to his teaching and were proud of their own giftings.  This ought to be a warning to us not to be swept up by those who point to their own abilities ultimately; rather, we ought to seek teachers that point us to Jesus Christ.

Paul’s response to these teachers who set themselves up as Paul’s rivals serves as a backdrop for the book of 2 Corinthians.  And when we come to 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, we see Paul quite concerned that false teaching is seeking to disrupt the church.  The Corinthian church is being tempted to allow worldly principles to shape its practice.  Paul, in this passage, gives a warning both to the church and to the individual Christian not to have a partnership with that which is in conflict with the Gospel of Christ.  As a Christian is in union with Christ, this precludes a union with idols.

Paul is not saying that a Christian is not to live in the world and not to interact with the world; in fact, Paul well knows that Christians live in the midst of an unbelieving world.  Along with this, Paul is entirely devoted to evangelism of the lost.  But Paul is concerned that the church not allow its doctrine, worship or practice be shaped by the unbelieving world.  And Paul is also concerned that believers live according to the Word of God—it is in this that believers will be able to share light in the world. 

Paul gives the command in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”  His command is in essence not to be in any partnership that diminishes our claim to union with Christ.  Paul goes on to demonstrate this with a series of questions.  One of those questions is “Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (verse 14)  Christ Himself is said to be the light of the world, and John tells us in the opening of his Gospel account that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Christians have hope in the true Light, Jesus Christ, and in union with Him we may share that Light in the darkness of this world.  Have you found this Light?  Have you been brought out of darkness into Light in Christ?  Join us this week to consider Christ, the great salvation offered in Him, and how He impacts our life and worship. 

Join us this Lord’s Day at 5 PM at the Arkansas Dream Center located at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Photo by David Gabrić on Unsplash.