THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS

THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS

This is when believers who have died and are in heaven will receive resurrected and glorified bodies while those believers who are living at the time of the rapture will experience this change without first dying:

“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”(I Cor. 15: 50-58).

Here we are told that our physical bodies must be changed before we enter God’s kingdom. Paul is about to unveil a “mystery” to us. A mystery here does not mean something hard to figure out, but rather a truth not fully revealed until now. Here   we are told not all believers are going to die before this change takes place and that it can happen at any time, “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye”, instantaneously.

The rapture will bring about the completion of the believer’s salvation. The Bible presents two aspects of salvation. The believer in Christ is saved now: “It is by grace you HAVE been saved” (Eph. 2:5). The believer in Christ is saved NOW. He is no longer under condemnation and has become a child of God.

The Bible also presents a future aspect of salvation. This refers to the completion of salvation when our bodies are glorified. The believer has now been saved from the PENALTY of sin. This is referred to as the “firstfruits” of salvation. This is the present aspect of salvation. But there is a future aspect of salvation when we will be saved from the PRESENCE or EFFECTS of sin. This is presented in Rom. 8:22-23: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODIES”.

While believers are saved spiritually we still live in fallen bodies. While our redeemed spirits are connected to Christ, our present bodies are still connected to Adam and the fall. The word “firstfruits” means that we have received some of the benefits of salvation but more is to follow.

As the new birth is the impartation of eternal life to our spirits, the rapture and resurrection is the transformation of our bodies. We are told in Rom. 8:19: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be REVEALED. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”.

Here we are told that all creation waits in eager anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed, or made known or obvious. All believers are now the sons of God but it is not known or obvious now. All creation waits for the glorification of the sons of God because this is the first step to the lifting of the curse from the whole creation.

While the believer is saved spiritually he groans within his fallen body for the completing of his salvation—his glorified, sinless, ageless, deathless body; a body that is designed for his redeemed spirit and renewed creation, and that can stand in the presence of God. The believer’s glorification is put on hold until we have finished our calling in this present life of bringing others into the kingdom.

The time of the rapture is unknown except for the fact that it is imminent. It can happen at any time. When Christ rose from the dead He began the order of the first resurrection (I Cor. 15:20). The “First resurrection” refers to believers, while the resurrection of the unsaved will occur a thousand years later at the Great White Throne Judgment seen in revelation 20: 11-15.

1 Cor. 15: 20-24 tells us: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father”.

Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the “firstfruits” because those who believe in Him will follow Him in their own resurrected bodies that will be patterned after His resurrection. All believers will take part in this, the First Resurrection. All the unsaved will take part in the Second Resurrection, which will take place after the Millennium, when the unsaved are cast into the Lake of Fire. These two resurrections will encompass all mankind. Everyone will appear in one of these two resurrections.

Those who are IN Christ are destined to be LIKE Christ in His resurrection body. This is referred to in I John 3:2: “Dear friends, now are we the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”. When Christ comes in the rapture, He will bring with Him the souls of those in heaven who have died “in Christ”. He will stop in the air and these souls will continue down and enter into their bodies that are in the graves, the Lord will then give the command to rise and their bodies will rise from the graves, then they, and the believers who have not died, will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. Their first sight of Christ will change their bodies to be like His glorious resurrected body:

“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. After 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 will we ever be with the Lord. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (I Thess. 4: 16-18).

Here in 4:16 we are told that the Lord will descend from heaven and He will bring with Him the souls those believers who have died with Him. The Lord will stop His descent in the air, while those saved souls with Him will continue to descend and will enter their bodies that are in the graves.

Then the Lord Jesus will give a “shout” of command which corresponds to the “loud voice” of Jesus in John 11:43 when the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead: “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!” This is a foreshadowing of the great day when Jesus will call each believer by name to meet Him in the air. The “voice of the Archangel” is that of Michael, who will give the cry of triumph over the host of fallen angels who have sought to hinder the children of God. The trumpet call of God refers to a military command that awakens soldiers to arise and move on. We       are to move on to eternal realms with Him.

Continuing in verse 16, “The dead in Christ will rise first”. Their bodies shall rise up from the graves and stand on the earth with the living saints. In verse 17, both groups, those who have risen from their graves, and those living will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, where we will be with Him forever.

Everyone who shares in this great event will have heard the voice of the Son of God twice. Jesus said in John 5:25: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live”. Here the Lord is referring to a spiritual resurrection when the spiritually dead will be given eternal life. Then in John 5:28-29, the Lord goes on to refer to the physical resurrection: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out . . .”.

All those who have heard the voice of the Lord calling them from darkness to light will one day hear His command to receive their glorified body. Today they have eternal life in their spirits. But their spirits still dwell in fallen bodies, but in due time God will remedy this.

Paul refers to this in II Cor. 4: 6-7. In verse 6 he writes , “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”. Here Paul refers to eternal life that every believer possesses. He goes on in verse 7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”.

Here we are told that believers have the treasure of eternal life in frail, fallen bodies (jars of clay) so He gets the glory. But the day is appointed when God will change these bodies to be fitting vessels for the treasure of eternal life.

The Holy Spirit’s indwelling is the assurance of the believer’s future glorification: “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11).

In I Cor. 15:42-49 a description of the resurrection body is given in great detail.

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven”.

Here our dead bodies are likened to seed sown in the ground. It is sown or buried perishable, rotting, but it will be raised imperishable, not subject to decay, but eternal. It is sown in dishonor, food for worms, but it will be raised in glory, free from the defects of the curse and the fall and glorious like Christ’s resurrection body. It is sown in weakness, nothing is weaker than a dead body, it will be raised in power, not subject to death, disease, weakness, or weariness. It is sown a natural body, part of this fallen world, it will be raised a spiritual body, sinless and not part of this fallen world, and not subject to physical or natural laws.

Verses 45-50 contrast Adam with Christ, and those who are “in Adam” and those who are “In Christ”. Here Christ is called the “last Adam” because as the first Adam is the head of the old, fallen creation, Christ is the head of God’s new creation. Adam became a living soul, but through sin his life principle, which was passed on to his descendants, became corrupted and earthly and part of the fallen earthly system. But Christ is a life-giving spirit. Those who belong to Him receive His life through the new birth and are a new heavenly creation.

The first Adam is the head of the fallen race of the earth, “earthy” and all his descendants are also earthy, belonging to the present world system under condemnation. But Christ is the head of the new redeemed “heavenly” creation, and all who belong to Him are also heavenly, belonging to the new creation. But while believers are born again spiritually because of their living connection to Christ; they still possess fallen bodies that are still connected to Adam. So verse 49 tells us that as we have born the image of the fallen race in our physical bodies, we shall bear the image of Christ physically when our bodies are transformed at the rapture.

Verse 50 explains that this physical body must be changed in order to have part in the kingdom of God. Believers have been changed spiritually and at death their spirits go immediately to heaven but their bodies must await a change to make them fit for heaven.

Verse 51 tells us that not all believers will sleep or die (believers bodies are said to be asleep rather than dead because they will be awakened at the rapture). The generation of believers living at the time of the rapture will not die, but will be changed along with those who have died.

Verse 52 tells us that this change will take place instantaneously. The “twinkling of an eye” is the time it takes between seeing Jesus and recognizing Him. When a relative or close friend comes to your house and you open the door and see him you recognize him immediately, although it really took time between seeing him and recognizing him, but the time is so small as to be instantaneous. When we first see   Him and recognize Him we will be transformed into His image.

Verse 53 tells us that those believers whose bodies are perishable while in the             grave will be clothed with imperishable bodies; while the living believers who are mortal and subject to decay will receive immortal bodies. Then we are told in verses 54-55 that then death will forever be swallowed up in victory.

Then in verse 56-57 we are told how and why this will happen. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

The cause of death is sin: “Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin”(Rom. 5: 12).

The power of sin is the law: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for anyone who believes” (Rom. 10: 4).

 

Another passage of Scripture dealing with the rapture is I Thess. 5: 1-10.

In I Thess. 4:13-18 Paul deals with the rapture itself and what would happen to those believers who have died. Now Paul would deal with the tribulation and its relation to the coming of the Rapture: “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness, so then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (I Thess. 5: 1-10).

Here in verse 1 Paul tells them that there is no need to write to them when the Day of the Lord, or the tribulation, will take place. For they know perfectly well that no one knows the time for it will come as a thief in the night (verse 2). It will be a time when sudden destruction will come upon “them”, the unsaved (verse 3).

But believers are not in darkness that that day should overtake them. Believers are children of light and of the day, in contrast to “them” in verse 3, who are of the night and of darkness (verses 4-5). Eph. 5:8 reminds believers, “for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, live as children of light”. Believers were at one time in darkness, but by faith in Christ they are now light in the Lord”.

The world, in Adam, is in darkness and in the night. It is the time when people get drunk and sleep. It is fitting that unbelievers do these things because they are of the night and the tribulation will overtake them. It is a day of darkness for the children of the night. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Joel. 2:1-2).

However, believers are children of the day. People do not normally get drunk and sleep in the day, and believers should not imitate the unsaved (verse 7). They are stupefied by either sleep or drunkenness and unaware of their danger.                    6.

God did not appoint believers to suffer wrath. The context here is referring to the wrath of the tribulation. But God has appointed believers to salvation at the rapture (verses 9-10), before the tribulation and darkness overtakes the children of darkness. Christ died for us so that whether we are “awake” (living) or “sleep” (dead), refers to the living and the dead who will be raptured together.

We are told that on the night before Jesus was crucified, Judas went out from them into the night to betray the Lord and Jesus tells the rest of His disciples that they would all abandon Him, and Peter would deny Him three times that very night. But instead of thinking about Himself, the Lord’s concern was for His disciples.

In John 14:1-3 He says to them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am”

Here in verses 2-3 Jesus uses the words of an oriental wedding to describe His relationship with His Bride, the Church.

The steps of an oriental wedding were:

1.Engagement. The Bridegroom was engaged to the bride by paying a Dowry.

I Cor. 6:20 says concerning believers, “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

  1. Preparation for the marriage. The bridegroom would give a ring to his bride as a guarantee of marriage. It was a sign that she belonged to him alone. Eph. 4:30 says concerning believers, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are SEALED for the day of redemption”. The seal is God’s sign of ownership. The bride would continue to live with her parents and the bridegroom would go to his father’s house to add on rooms for his bride’s coming.

In II Cor. 11: 2 Paul says of those he won to Christ, “I am jealous for you with a Godly jealousy. I promised you to one Husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him”.

  1. The marriage. When a place in the father’s house was prepared, the father of the bridegroom would say to his son: “Son, go get your bride!” Then the bridegroom would come for his bride and take her home to the father’s house.

First Jesus loved us. Then He paid the dowry on the cross. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed . . . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18). The sign of this engagement is the Holy Spirit given to the believer as a “deposit” or “guarantee” of marriage. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory” (Eph.1: 13-14).

After His resurrection the Lord returned to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us. Believers do not each have their own mansion in heaven. The truth is far more precious, there is only one mansion—the Father’s house, in which Jesus is preparing rooms for His children.

When these rooms in the Father’s house are prepared, the Lord will return to receive His loved ones in the rapture and take them to the Father’s house. After the rapture of believers the tribulation will take place on earth while believers will be appear before the Judgment of Christ to receive rewards for service. Salvation is through faith in Christ alone, but rewards are for service done for Christ after being saved. Paul sums up the teaching on the rapture in light of our appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ for rewards:

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Cor. 15: 58).

Prophecy in the Bible is not given to satisfy curiosity but to motivate us to live holy lives of service and devotion for God. Note how the following exhortations are connected with the Lord’s coming for believers:

Col. 3:1-4: “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory”.

Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and purify for Himself those that are His very own, eager to do what is good”.

I Thess. 3:12-13: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone one else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of God the Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all His holy ones”

These passages teach that the truth of the Lord’s coming for His own should motivate us to be heavenly minded and separate ourselves from the things of this world. We are to be unyielding in our faithfulness to God, and encourage other believers to do the same. We are to be zealous of good works and be prepared at all times to witness to others and win them to Christ.

Believers are not of this world but part of the new creation, but we are left here among the old creation to represent the new. Believers are IN this world, but not OF

This world. In John 17:14-18, we are allowed to eavesdrop on the prayer of Jesus to the Father on behalf of those who belong to Him: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

So we see that believers are not OF this world, even as Jesus is not of this world. Jesus is the Head of the new creation and believers are “in Christ” and therefore members of the new creation. But we are left in this world as ambassadors for Christ to represent the kingdom of God. When God calls His ambassadors home at the rapture, He will declare war on this world.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).

God’s Care for his People

God’s care for His people

Job 14:1 tells us: “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble”, and Job 5:7 says: “Yet man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward”. One of the reasons Jesus came was to give rest to burdened humanity: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11: 28-30).

Jesus offers to exchange burdens with us: He will take our cares and burdens and give us rest while giving us His yoke which is easy and His burden which is light because He is carrying it with us.

We are wandering sheep and we need Him as our good and faithful Shepherd. We are sinners and need His righteousness. We are naked and need His holiness as a covering. We are ignorant and need His teaching. We are foolish and need His guidance. We are frightened and need His presence. We are doubtful and need His assurance. We are poor and He is rich. When we are accused by Satan, He is our defense attorney. When we are in trouble He is our help. When we are forsaken He is our supporter. When we are persecuted He is our reward. When we die He is our Life. When we are worn out and cannot go on, He is our strength. When we are discouraged He is our Encouragement.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

As believer’s we are “In Christ”. Before we were saved we were “in Adam” sharing in everything with the fallen creation and under condemnation with the rest of the world. When we believed in Christ, God removed us from our position “in Adam” and placed us into a new position “in Christ” sharing in everything with Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (II Cor. 5: 17).

The believer is identified with Christ: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). His Father is our Father. We share the same life. He dwells in us through the Holy Spirit and we are one with Him in life, related to Him as the branch is to the vine (John 15: 5). From the moment of the new birth we have new life, spiritual life, the life of Christ. God the Father looks upon the believer as one with His Son.

“Near, so very near to God, nearer I cannot be,

For in the person of His Son, I’m just as near as He.

Dear, so very dear to God, dearer I cannot be,

For in the Person of His Son, I’m just as dear as He”.

Our identification with Christ leads to great privileges, but also to great responsibilities. Christ, God’s only begotten Son is heir to all the father’s possessions, and we, being one with Christ, are joint heirs with Him. We shall also inherit His future glory: “Dear friends now are we the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2).

Our identification with Christ also brings great responsibilities. In II Cor. 5:17-21 we read: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’.

Here we are told that all those who are “in Christ” are new creations with a new relationship to God. Things concerning the believer’s old life before he was saved are passed away. All his old relationships to Adam and the world are gone as all things are made new. All his new relationships are now from God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. Part of these new things is a new purpose in life, it is the “ministry of reconciliation”, the message of which is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and that God is not counting men’s sins against them who will trust in Christ.

So all believers are born again and are new creations and have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Those who have been reconciled to God have been given the ministry of reconciling others to God. We are Christ’s Ambassadors and God is using us to make His appeal to the unsaved to be reconciled to God.

As believers in Christ we are to begin immediately some form of ministry to our unsaved family members, friends and neighbors. It may be to invite them to church or Bible study, or perhaps to watch a Christian video. We should have a prayer list of family members and friends we want to reach for Christ. We should pray for our churches and pastors and other ministries as well as missionaries. We should all have those we pray for regularly. Then we must witness to those in our sphere of influence. This is our calling as Christians. Even as shut-ins and bedridden believers we can have an important ministry for Christ. It is not our inabilities that God looks at, but what abilities we do have. We must never think that our sphere of influence is not important to God. There are those in our sphere of influence that no one else can reach but us.

By praying for ministers, missionaries and evangelists, we can have a far- reaching impact for Christ. We are exhorted in Scripture to: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things we be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

As God’s children we also have the privilege of bringing all our needs to God. In Phil.4: 4-7 we are exhorted: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

Here the Greek word for “Gentleness” Means “self-control”—not falling apart from worrying about our circumstances. The reason for this peace is that: “the Lord is near”, and is waiting for us to call on Him in prayer. The Children of God are not to be anxious about anything. This does not mean that we are not to care about anything, for the believer is to care about the things that God cares about. It does not forbid our being concerned, for we are to be concerned about many things in the Christian life. What is forbidden is the fearful anxiety that robs us of our peace in the Lord.

No sleepless, fearful fretting, as though the Lord were not nearby and promised to answer prayer. This is the secret of having the peace of God that is beyond all understanding. God is always at hand in time of need. Before He left to return to the Father, Jesus left us His peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27). Notice that the peace He gives is not like the peace the world gives. It is His own peace that He gives us” “My peace I give you”. Therefore we are not to be troubled or afraid.

This is what Jesus promised His anxious disciples as He was about to leave them and go back to the Father: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). HE promised “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”. The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?” (Heb.13: 5-6).

It is sad how many Christians are constantly burdened with care and anxiety. They worry about tomorrow as though they have no heavenly Father who loves them and promised to care for them. We should not have any trouble trusting God about anything else after He has already given us salvation: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8: 31-32).

Here, God assures us, by giving us the greater thing that He will not neglect the lesser things! He has given His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest gift that even God can, so how can we doubt that He will also give us all things.

Many Christians are like the man who was trudging down the road carrying a heavy load on his back. Someone in a pick up truck stops and offers him a ride. So he climbs in the back still carrying his heavy load on his back. He foolishly carries his load on his back, when the driver was graciously willing to carry, not only the man but his burden as well.

God has freely given us eternal life through the death and resurrection of His Son. Saving us from hell and carrying us on to heaven, riding freely by His grace. He wants not only to carry us but also our burdens! We are urged in I Peter 5:7 to: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”.

Notice two words in PHIL.4:6: “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God”. There are no circumstances where God cannot meet every need. Everything that can cause fear and anxiety can be conquered by God’s promise to answer prayer, the little things as well as the big things that bother us. If they are big enough to worry about they are big enough to pray about.

Christ is the answer to every need of the Christian. He is greater than all the troubles of this world. He said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33).

The one thing in the world the child of God should grieve about is sin. Sin grieves the heart of God and hinders the Holy Spirit in our lives and blocks the believer’s fruit-bearing for God. Sin in the believer’s life is the worst form of trouble. But the child of God need not be weighed down from grieving the Holy Spirit and bitter defeat.

Christ is the remedy for the anxiety and sorrow caused by sin. The Holy Spirit will not allow the believer to forget that he belongs to God and will cause you bitter grief over your sin. But God has not forgotten you and says to you “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Rom. 5:20). And God’s overflowing grace will cover confessed and forsaken sin. He will forgive it and blot it out.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ the Righteous One” (I John 2:1).

Our all-wise, loving heavenly Father longs for us to simply trust Him. He wants us to bring all our burdens and fears and concerns to Him, and commit our lives to His care.

In Isaiah 40:28-31 says: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They shall soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.

There is a way for weak Christians to be strong; the tired, discouraged and defeated Christian to be victorious every day. God has placed infinite resources at the disposal of every child of God. God’s people can, if they will trust in the Lord, and bring all their needs to Him in trusting prayer, renew their strength. They can soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint”.

Without this source of supernatural strength we could only have defeat and failure, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

We were not created to succeed on our own. God wanted a relationship of love and dependence on Him with His creation. We do not have to fret and worry. We have a Father in heaven who loves us and wants to show Himself strong in our behalf. He knows each one of His blood-bought people and their needs. He watches over us so closely that “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30).

We are told in Prov. 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight”.

The believer is to follow God’s leading in His word, and if it contradicts our way of thinking we are to trust in His word rather than our own understanding. In every area of our lives we are to give heed to what He says in His Word.

It can be compared to a pilot following the instruments in his plane, which is vital. Sometimes a pilot will get disoriented and become confused because his instruments seem to contradict all his experience as a pilot. Some pilots have followed their own instincts and disregarded the planes instruments which can lead to disaster. This is also true of believers who think they can disregard the instructions of the Bible and lean on their own understanding.

We can entrust our lives to Him. Storms will come and Satan will oppose us, circumstances may seem impossible, but God will bring us through. God does not promise us an easy life. He said: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Witnessing for Christ

WITNESSING FOR CHRIST

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. This was His mission.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . . .” (I Tim. 1:15).

It was for lost sinners that the Lord Jesus left heaven and come to earth to suffer the agonies of the cross on a mission to provide salvation for sinners.

“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

Lost sinners were always on His heart. He told the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son (Luke chapter 15), to show how the Father longs for sinners to come to Him. He told of the sower sowing seed, and of catching fish to show the Father’s concern that the gospel be given to sinners and His desire to catch the lost for Himself.

This is still God’s greatest concern as John 3:16 emphatically declares: “For 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”.

As Lord and Master He command all believers to witness. “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

Here Jesus tells His disciples that as risen Lord with all power in heaven and earth, He is commanding them to be witnesses for Him. This command was not only for the disciples but for every Christian. This is seen in the fact that when a great persecution broke out in Jerusalem, we are told “all EXCEPT the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8: 1). Then we are told, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8: 4).

“In Jesus High priestly prayer He says to the Father “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17: 18). Then in verse 20 He says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message”.

Here we are told that Jesus sent not only His disciples but all believers on the same mission. We read in II Cor. 5:17-18 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”.

ALL those who have been reconciled to God are automatically given the ministry of reconciliation. So along with salvation comes the duty to witness to others. All those who are in Christ are new creatures with a new relationship to God. Things concerning the believer’s old life before he was saved are passed away. All his old relationships to Adam and the world are gone as all things are made new. All his new relationships are now of God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. Part of these new things is a new purpose in life. It is the ministry of reconciliation.

In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks “Why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say”. So in the final analysis the motivation to win the lost is not simply love for the lost, but love for the Lord Jesus. Our attitude toward the thing that is closest to His heart is a gage for the warmth of love we have for Him. It is the Lord’s express desire that every believer be an effective witness for Him.

In John 8:12 Jesus said: “I am the light of the world”. In John 9:5 he said: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world”. But the day would come when He would leave the world then believers will be the light of the world. In Matt. 5:14 He said: “You are the light of the world”.

Christ is the light of the world, but we are the bearers of that light to the world. Christ is the Door, but we are the doorkeepers. Winning the lost was the all–absorbing concern of Christ and the early church and should be ours as well. Eph.6: 15 says that part of the armor of God is “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”. This is quoted from Isa.52:7.

So believers are to always be prepared to bring the gospel to the lost: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, your God reigns” (Isa.52: 7). This Isaiah 52:7 passage is quoted again in Rom. 10: 5.

As believers we are to bear fruit for God: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

So believers are to be fruit bearers or fruit trees for God. Prov. 11:30 clarifies what the fruit of the believer is: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise”. So we see that the fruit Jesus referred to is winning the unsaved to Him. Believers are to be fruit trees and they are to produce other fruit trees. They are to be trees of life holding forth the gospel of eternal life and they are to win the lost and make them trees of life.

 

THE FIELDS OF SOULS IS ALWAYS READY FOR HARVESTING BUT THE PROBLEM IS LACK OF REAPERS.

“Do you not say, four months more and than the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35).

The context of this verse is John 4:1-42. As the Lord was about to leave Judea and go to back to Galilee, We are told: “He had to go through Samaria” (verse 3-4). Now the Jews and Samaritans were not on good terms because the Samaritans were Jews of mixed blood with Gentiles, and they avoided each other. But the Lord is no respecter of persons. And He knew that there would be a ready-hearted Samaritan woman who came to the well at a certain time of the day, and He was going to meet her there.

When they arrived there, His disciples went into the city to buy food after their long journey. Jesus was weary and sat down at Jacob’s well, When the woman came to draw water He entered into conversation with her and led her to trust Him as the promised Messiah. In the meantime His disciples returned and the woman left her water jar and went into the city to tell the people that she found the Messiah.

The disciples knowing that Jesus must be hungry after their long journey pleaded with Him to eat something. But He was not hungry for physical food. He had something better. He said to them “I have food to eat that you know nothing about . . . . . .My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (Verses 32, 34).

Then the Samaritan woman, who had stirred up the men of the city, returned bringing many with her to see the One of whom she spoke. As Jesus and His disciples saw the multitudes coming to meet Him, He said to His disciples: “Do you not say, Four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest”.

Jesus says winning the lost cannot be put off. We are not to wait and say that it is not harvest time. Jesus says it is always harvest time when it comes to winning souls. It is a matter of great urgency and we are not to delay, or be slothful, or make excuses. In Matt, 9:37-38 Jesus told His disciples “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field”.

Jesus says the problem is not sinners being ready to be saved but with the lack of laborers. The problem is that God’s people are so unconcerned about those around them going to Hell.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT BANQUET

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited; ‘Come for everything is now ready’.

But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me’.

Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me’.

Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come’.

The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’.

‘Sir’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room’.

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. ‘I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (Luke 14:16-24).

Note how the servant in this parable is constantly told to “Go”. Every time he came back and reported to his master, he was again commanded to go. Most of us would have stopped after the first time and said, “Well, I went out and no one came. I did my duty”. But the master says, “No you did not do your duty, you go back out and go into the streets and alleys and bring in all you find. If you are turned down in one place, then go to another!”

So the servant goes out a second time, and this time has some success, and reports to his master, ‘I did what you said, but there is still room”. Most of us would have said, “Surely now I have done my duty!” “No” says the master, “Go out into the roads and lanes and make them come in that my house may be full”.

It is very clear to see that the master in this parable had his servant constantly going. We do not read of the master telling his servant he needs to rest between goings. No, this is a matter of great urgency with the master. “Go! Go! GO! That my house will be full! The Lord is anxious that there will be no empty seats. That no lost sinner will be without an invitation.

Note how the servant is constantly going and his comfort and physical needs are always secondary to the urgency of winning the lost. In II Cor. 4:3 Paul warns: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost”. God keeps before us the urgency of the task. In Mark 16:15, “He said to them, “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation”. Here the stakes are so high and the message so important that God has commanded all His people to bring the gospel to everyone.

This is not merely a challenge given by the resurrected Savior but a command. If we fail to witness it is because we do not take the Lordship of Christ seriously. Those who have been saved from eternal doom should have the utmost concern that others hear the saving message of the gospel. The vision of lost souls in eternal torment should always be before us.

We have too little of the mind of Christ, Too little of His love and compassion for lost souls. His seeking the lost is too little imitated by us. His days of tireless effort and nights of prayer, so that He might glorify the Father and finish the work given to Him to do, are not realized as models for us to copy as principles by which we are to live. Yet we are commanded to follow in His steps; the servant is to walk where His Master has led the way.

The shadow of the great Day of Judgment for the lost must fall over our spirits and cause us sleepless nights of prayer and days of seeking the lost. If we could hear the cries of those in Hell we would hear them pleading, as the rich man in Hell pleaded with Abraham concerning Lazarus: “I beg you father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28).

Winning the lost was the all-absorbing concern of New Testament Christianity. Paul declared, “I have become all things to all men that I might by all possible means save some” (I Cor. 9:22).

 

WE ARE TO SOW MUCH SEED

“The seed we are to sow is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11). We are to sow at all times, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season” (II Tim. 4:2). Unlike earthly seed that is to be planted in its season, we are to sow the Word of God all year round, in season and out of season. This means when it is popular and convenient and when it is unpopular and inconvenient.

We must sow seed everywhere: “How blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkey’s range free” (Isa. 32:20). Cattle and donkeys were used for plowing and sowing seed.

We are to sow regardless of circumstances: “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap” (Eccl. 11:4). Those who are looking for the perfect time to witness, will likely never find it.

We are to sow with tears of concern: Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. “He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Psa. 126: 6). Here we are told that the key to winning the lost is to go before God with a broken heart and plead for them in prayer, and then sow the word of God to them.

Our greatest hindrance to witnessing for Christ is given in Rev, 2:4: “You have forsaken your first love”. In Matt. 6:24 Jesus warns us, “No one can serve two masters”. Here is the reason for Christians losing their first love for Christ. Jesus warns us that serving Him will demand dedication. He must come first in our lives.

And in Luke 9:62 He warns us: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”. Anyone who sets out to serve God must be single-minded, looking straight ahead, giving his full attention to the work of God. We are not to look back and be distracted by other interests. If we have more than one master, there is going to be conflict.

This is why Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it”.

Bearing a cross means far more than putting up with some irritations in life. The cross speaks of death. His disciples knew what it meant to take up a cross from seeing Roman executions where the victim would carry his cross to his own execution. To follow Christ will cost self-denial and death to self. This is why Paul declared: “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) and “I die daily” (I Cor. 15:31).

Many use the excuse that they do not have the “Gift of witnessing”. But witnessing for Christ is not a gift but a command. It is like saying that we do not have the gift of not stealing or the gift of not committing adultery. We are all commanded to witness for Christ. Our failures do not come from a lack of ability or talent, but a lack of obedience. We have too little influence over the world, because the world has too much influence over us.

Jesus says that if we want to save our lives we must lose them by giving up our wants and pursuits by taking up His wants and pursuits. Then we will save our lives by finding true meaning and purpose. It is the exchange of Christ’s life for our life.

One of the greatest hindrances for witnessing for Christ is just plain timidity or the fear of making a mistake. The only way to learn to witness is by doing it. It is better to make mistakes in our first efforts and correct those mistakes afterward, than not to make any effort. The greatest mistake we can make is not to witness. Nothing would ever be done if we waited to do it so well that no one could find fault with it. We will always find obstacles, and Satan will be quick to point them out, but we must not let them hinder us from making an honest attempt.

We must refuse discouragement, timidity, or any other obstacle that would hinder us. We must not let the lost go unwarned. We must not make excuses. We must give up this business of self-occupation. As long as we are occupied with self, we are not occupied with Christ. If we are to be wise in the Biblical sense we must overcome these obstacles and step out in faith.

We are not called to do this work alone. In Rev.22: 17, we are told: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life”. Here the bride refers to believers. Thus the Holy Spirit and believers work together in bringing the gospel to the lost. This fact should give us all great confidence.

THE REWARDS FOR WITNESSING

Prov.11: 30 says: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life: and he that wins souls is wise”.

Dan.12: 2-3: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like stars forever and ever”.

Here we see that soul winners receive special rewards. The wise Christian will take the long look. He will not live for the things that will pass away with this life.

In Matt. 6:19-20 we are exhorted “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

The wise Christian will not be concerned with the passing pleasures of this world. He will not lay up treasures on this earth that he will someday have to leave behind. But he will lay up treasures in eternity where he will enjoy them forever. We must make up our minds that if we serve Christ the world will call us fools, but God says we are wise. If we live for ourselves, and worldly things, the world will call us wise, but God says we are fools. We must decide whose commendation we want because we cannot have them both.

The soul winner is wise because he invests in the most important thing in the world. Nothing can compare to it. He invests in eternal souls that will never perish.

Our Lord set the example for us when He said: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9: 4).

Many of us work harder at business than we do for the Lord. While the unsaved are wearing themselves out in sin and pleasure, we should be wearing ourselves out for the Lord. Winning the lost is our main duty. It is our major not our minor. Keeping house and filling a job is our minor, winning the lost for Christ is our major.

Someday we must leave this world so we must work while it is yet day for “night is coming, when no one can work”. This world, like a wrecked ship, is going down. We cannot save the ship, but we can rescue some of the passengers. Let us all work so that we may hear the Lord’s, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . . . enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25: 21). This joy of our Lord is the joy that was set before Him, that caused Him to endure the cross (Heb. 12:2), the joy “In bringing many sons to glory”.

It is the same joy referred to when He said: “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). It is such an important Job that all of heaven watches and rejoices. We must determine that nothing is going to turn us aside from our goal to win souls.

We are to begin with our families and friends. The first Christians were to preach the gospel to the Jews first. They were to begin at Jerusalem because that is where they were. The disciples were Jews themselves and had a point of contact among the Jews. Our first responsibility is to our own sphere of influence, our relatives and friends. We all have our own sphere of influence where we live every day.

God expects us to use our family ties to influence our families for Christ. This closeness of family ties does not change, even after death. The rich man in hell pleaded for someone to warn his five brothers. As individual believers we are not responsible for the whole world, but we are responsible to God for our own little world. Each of us lives in a world of our own. God wants that world. We all have our sphere of influence, our place of contact, the place that God has put us, where we live every day. Each of us is the center of an ever-widening circle of people. There are those in that circle who no one else can reach but us.

 

PRACTICAL HELP FOR WITNESSING.

Be in a constant attitude of prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit’

Be courteous and do not argue. Be firm but polite. Remember that your concern is not to win an argument but a soul.

Stay on the main track. Do not get off the subject of their personal need of Christ.

Present the gospel to them. All of the Bible is important. But there is one part that is essential to salvation and that is the gospel. It is the message of Christ’s death as our substitute, to pay the penalty for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead, and that now as the risen and living Savior, He is waiting to be received as Savior and Lord according to Rev. 3: 20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”. This refers to intimate fellowship with Him. They are saved by believing, but you must present to them what it is they must believe. They must know in very clear and simple terms 4 things to be saved.

  1. You must show them that they are sinners. Use Romans 3:10-12.
  2. You must show them the penalty for their sin. Use Romans 6:23.
  3. Show them that Jesus paid this penalty for them. Use Rom. 5:8.
  4. They must be willing to turn from their sins and trust in Jesus as personal Savior.

If they say they believe these things then lead them in prayer asking them to repeat only the things that they truly believe. Lead them to confess that they are sinners and that they are trusting in Jesus for cleansing from their sins and new life from Him. Give them assurance of salvation from the Word of God. Use John 3:16, John 3: 36; and John 5:24. Show them that if they believe in Jesus with their heart and confess to God that they trust Jesus to save them they are saved: Use Romans 10:10.

Then tell them to read a good simple translation of the Bible and spend time in prayer daily, and witness to their new faith. Help them find a good Bible believing church.