The God of David.

Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established. – 1 Kings 2:10-12 ESV

And David died. His long, circuitous life came to an end. The book of 1 Chronicles adds the detail: “Then he died at a good age, full of days, riches, and honor” (1 Chronicles 29:28 ESV). David had been king for 40 years and had experienced all the ups and downs that come with life. He had enjoyed his fare share of great victories, but had also known what it was like to suffer defeat. He had enjoyed the accolades of the people and then stood by and watched as they turned their backs on him. He had been blessed by some and cursed by others. He had lauded as a great king and accused of being a usurper to the throne. David had been a man of great faith, but he had also shown signs of doubt and displayed a tendency to take matters into his own hands. He could be decisive and, at the same time, doubtful. At times, he was impulsive and driven by his desires. At other times, he was unwilling to act until he had heard from God. David was a man of God and a murderer, a man of great faith and an adulterer. He loved God, but he also had an inordinate love for women, marrying far too many of them and disobeying God in the process. David had a heart that beat fast for God, but that, at the same time, struggled with ungodly desires. In other words, David was human. He was just a man.

Too often, we deify someone like David. We turn him into a saint and place him on a pedestal, treating him as an icon rather than seeing him as a living illustration of what it means to walk with God. David was not perfect. He is not presented to us in Scripture as a super-saint or intended to be some kind of unapproachable model of holiness. In the life of David, as portrayed in the pages of the Scriptures, we are given a vivid glimpse into all his faults, failures, weaknesses, and sins. Nothing is held back. We are not given a neatly sanitized version of his life, an autobiographical treatment complete with all the less-than-flattering parts removed. No, we are treated to a warts-and-all, no-holds-barred chronicle of his life. The good, the bad and the ugly. Most of us would be mortified if we knew that our entire life’s story was going to be put in a book for all to read, for generations to come. All our dirty little secrets would be put in print and outlive us for thousands of years. But that’s exactly what happened to David.

David was not an icon of virtue. He was not a perfectly pious saint. He was a man, chosen by God, and commanded to serve as the shepherd of God over the people of God. This was not a position for which David aspired. He had not asked to be chosen. He had been content shepherding his father’s sheep. But one day he was protecting his sheep from predators, and the next he was standing face-to-face with a Philistine giant. David’s life was one of extremes. He would go from the peace of the pasture to the political intrigue of the palace. He would become a warrior of great renown. But he would also become a fugitive with a bounty on his head. David would know what it means to succeed and fail, to experience the heady thrill of glory and the heart-breaking darkness of defeat and disappointment. He would know the pleasure of life in the palace and the uncomfortable reality of life in a cave.

The real hero in the story of the life of David is not David, it’s God. He is the one who chose David. He is the one who stood beside David, through all the ups and downs of his life. God is the one who lovingly disciplined David and graciously equipped and empowered David for each and every victory he enjoyed. God remained faithful to David throughout his life. God never abandoned David or turned His back on him. Yes, there were moments when it appeared as if God had walked out on David, but He was there. God was watching over him, protecting him, teaching him, molding and making him into the kind of man he was meant to be. David, like all men, had rough edges that needed to be smoothed out. He had sinful dispositions that needed to be exposed and eliminated. And David recognized that God was intimately involved in his life, lovingly disciplining him in order that he might be the kind of man God had called him to be. That is why he could write the words:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. – Psalm 139:23-24 NLT

David loved God and trusted Him to do what was right and just. He didn’t always obey God. He didn’t always rely on God. But when all was said and done, David always came back to God help, hope, strength, and direction. He knew his life was nothing without God. He knew his future was directly tied to the power and promises of God. His life would end, but the covenant God had made with him would last long after he was gone.

David was a man of faith. He trusted God. In fact, his name in mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, the Great Hall of Faith, where the names of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Old Testament are given as examples of unwavering faith in the promises of God.

How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. – Hebrews 11:32-34 NLT

Like Abraham, David believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. He trusted in the promises of God. He knew that God was going to preserve his kingdom and place a descendant on his throne, ensuring that his kingdom would have no end. Like all the other Old Testament saints, David would die long before he saw this promise fulfilled in its entirety. But thousands of years later, God would send His Son, Jesus, born as the son of Mary and as a descendant of David. He would be the legitimate and legal heir to the throne of David. Yet, Jesus would die a criminal’s death on the cross. He would be buried in a borrowed tomb. But He would be raised back to life and return to His rightful place at His Father’s side. And one day, He will return. And when He does, He will return as the conquering King and the rightful heir to the throne of David. He will rule from Jerusalem over His people, Israel, and all the nations of the earth will bow before Him as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—
    to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and blessing.”

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
    belong to the one sitting on the throne
    and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb. – Revelation 5:11-14 NLT

The story of David is the story of God. He is the faithful, covenant-keeping God who chooses to use men like David to accomplish His will and bring about His divine plan for humanity. God doesn’t need us, but He graciously uses us. Yet, we need Him. We must trust and rely upon Him, knowing that He will do what He has promised and complete what He has started. Our lives may end, but His work will not. We are temporary, but He is not. And our future is in His hands.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Wait For It.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. – 2 Peter 3:8-13 ESV

There were those in Peter’s day who were saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4 ESV). Peter and the apostles had been teaching about the coming Day of the Lord, but it had not yet happened. Like the prophets of the Old Testament they had warned of coming judgment, but so far, nothing had happened. So people had begun to assume that the Second Coming wasn’t going to happen. There were even false teachers propagating the idea that there wasn’t going to be any judgment at all. This led them to mock and scorn the teachings of the apostles. With no fear of coming judgment, they followed their own sinful desires (2 Peter 3:3). They promised freedom, but were slaved of corruption themselves (2 Peter 2:19). They seduced others to abandon godly living. Without the fear of God’s judgment, they promoted a lifestyle based on sinful passions of the flesh (2 Peter 2:18). They operated on the philosophy of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”

But Peter had some bad news for these people. They were allowing God’s gracious delay  in bringing judgment to lead to denial of its very existence. But Peter reminds his readers to “not overlook this one fact … that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV). Time isn’t an issue with God. He is not bound by time. And while we may think that God seems to be taking His sweet time when it comes to the return of His Son and the final redemption of His creation, God is in no rush. And Peter tells us why. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT). It is not God’s desire to destroy people. He does not love condemning the disobedient and rebellious to hell. But as a holy, just and righteous Judge, He is obligated to do so. It is His moral responsibility to deal with the sinfulness of men. To not do so would violate His very character as God. He would love to see all men repent, but He knows that will not happen. As a matter of fact, without the sovereign intervention of God Himself, no one would repent. Jesus Himself said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). In that same chapter, Jesus is recorded as saying, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:65 NIV). And He also claimed, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37 ESV).

Because all men are dead in their trespasses and sins, all men are condemned to die and to spend an eternity separated from God. That is the righteous punishment reserved for them by God. But God has made it possible for some to be saved. His desire would be that all be saved, but that will not happen because not all will accept His offer of salvation through faith in Christ. But God is graciously delaying His judgment on all mankind until all those who are going to be saved have been. God knows that number. In fact, Paul told the believers he wrote to in Rome, “I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ” (Romans 11:25 NLT). There is a divinely appointed number of those who will be saved. And when all those who have been called by God have been restored to a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, then His Son will return. Jesus Himself said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 ESV). So we should view God’s delay as a sign of His grace, not as a reason to deny to His coming judgment.

God’s judgment will come, Peter assured his readers. And it will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. Jesus told His disciples, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV). So Jesus told them, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42 ESV). Peter gives his readers similar advice:

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along.– 2 Peter 3:11-12 ESV

Jesus is coming back. Judgment is coming. God will finish what He has started. So as we wait for the promised fulfillment of His plan, we are to live holy and godly lives. Our hope is based on God completing His redemptive plan for mankind and for the universe. That’s why Peter writes, “we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13 NLT). Our hope is not based on this world, but the one to come. God’s final judgment will have to take place before His plan for the glorification of His creation can happen. Jesus had to suffer and die before His glorification could take place. As followers of Christ, we are experiencing suffering in this life, but we will one day be glorified. We are to live with the end in mind. Which is why Paul encourages us with these words:

While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 5:4-5 NLT


Naively Ignorant.

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. – 2 Peter 3:1-7 ESV

They say, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” But not only is that not the case, it can be deadly wrong. Especially when it comes to the judgment of God. The false teachers who were stirring up trouble among the believers to whom Peter wrote, were evidently mocking the apostles’ teaching regarding the return of Christ. In their estimation, things were going along like they always had. There seemed to be no indication or sign that Jesus was going to return anytime soon. So this gave them the confidence to follow their own sinful desires. They even mocked at the very idea of Jesus coming back, which was a direct contradiction of what the apostles taught. Peter started out this letter saying, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16 ESV). They had seen Jesus in His resurrected state and they had watched as He had returned to heaven, right in front of them. But before He left, He had told them that He would one day return. He also told them that there would be a time of coming judgment.

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:36-39 ESV

Peter brings up the flood as well. He says, “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:5-6 ESV). These scoffers and doubters were not doing their homework. In their desperate desire to discount the apostles’ teaching about coming judgment, they had overlooked the fact that God had destroyed the earth once before. And while they were confidently boasting, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4 ESV), they were wrong to turn the lack of signs into cause for discrediting the reality of God’s pending judgment. Even those in Noah’s day were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. In other words, they were doing business as usual. Life went on, and they didn’t see it hit them until it was too late. “So will be the coming of the Son of Man,” Jesus said.

God’s judgment is going to come. And it will catch many by complete surprise. They will be going on with life as they always have, ignoring the Word of God and the offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ. They will scoff at the idea of punishment for sin and the need for a Savior. They will mock those who attempt to live righteously in this world, living like Moses, choosing to “be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 12:25 ESV).

That is why Peter wrote this letter. He was attempting to remind his readers to keep on keeping on. He wanted them to remain steadfast and committed, and to “remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles” (2 Peter 3:2 ESV). Peter and the other apostles were teaching the reality of Christ’s return for His church, the inevitability of the tribulation, and the promise of the second coming of Christ when He will judge the world and establish His Kingdom on earth. For Peter, it was essential that his readers stay committed to and dependent upon the Word of God. Let the scoffers scoff and the mockers mock. Let the doubters have their day and the naysayers have their moment in the sun. But as people of faith, we put our trust in the reliability and truthfulness of God. He says of Himself, “I publicly proclaim bold promises. I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner. I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the LORD, speak only what is true and declare only what is right” (Isaiah 45:19 NLT).

Isaiah goes on to record the words of God proclaiming, “Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to me” (Isaiah 45:22-23 NLT).

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John records the words of Jesus:

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. – Revelation 22:12-17 ESV

The naively ignorant can live as if the promise of His return is a pipe dream. They can boldly deny the reality of the coming judgment of God. But denying something is true does not make it so. As followers of Christ we are to live with these words ringing in our ears:

“Surely I am coming soon.” And our response to that promise should be “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ESV).

Daniel 11-12, Revelation 22

He Is Coming!

Daniel 11-12, Revelation 22

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!– Revelation 22:20 ESV

As the books of Daniel and Revelation both come to a close, they provide encouraging reminders that the events recorded in them will take place. Daniel is told to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4 ESV). He is to seal up what is contained in the prophesies provided by God and preserve them. God was not telling Daniel to hide them, but to make sure that he preserved them so that the words contained within them would be proven true when all took place just as God had said. In the book of Revelation, John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Revelation 22:10 ESV). This was an indication that the end was close. The culmination of all God’s plans for the redemption of mankind were nearer than they had ever been. There is a surety and a certainty contained in both of these books. What God has said will take place. What He has prophesied will come to pass. There will be much that will happen between now and the end of time. Daniel was told of events involving the nations of the world that would result in all kinds of political and military upheaval in the centuries to come. The Persians, Egyptians, Seleucids, and Greeks would jockey for power, conquering one another and making the Middle East a volatile and unstable environment for years to come. All the way up until the rise of the Roman empire, Palestine would find itself in the middle of a power struggle between powerful nations, leaving the people of Israel as helpless pawns and easy preys for their enemies. The 400 years between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament were some of the most tumultuous times on earth – just as God had said they would be. But they would end with the coming of the Son of God as an innocent human baby.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But Christ’s first advent was designed to pay for sin and offer salvation and justification to all who would believe in Him. His first coming was to satisfy the just demands of a holy and righteous God who had to punish mankind for their rebellion against His sovereign rule. Jesus became the sin substitute, accomplishing for man what he could not have done for himself. Jesus lived a sinless life and lived in perfect obedience to the just requirements of God’s holy law. He became the perfect, spotless Lamb who was sacrificed as a payment for the sins of mankind. His death made eternal life possible. He exchanged His righteousness for man’s sins. He bore our burden and died the death we deserved. All in fulfillment of God’s divine plan. But while His redemptive work is finished, His job is not yet done. He is coming again. He has unfinished business. The point of all prophesy is the future. In Daniel’s case, he was given insight into events that would take place over the coming centuries. And all of what was recorded in chapter 11, verses 1-35 has taken place. The various kings and nations mentioned can be easily traced and the accuracy of the prophecies contained in these verses can be easily proven. So if what God said would happen has actually taken place, why would we not believe that everything else He promised would be fulfilled as well. God told Daniel that “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1 ESV). He was speaking of the Great Tribulation, the missing seventieth week spoken of in Daniel 9. It will be a time of great trouble. Jesus Himself described it in these sobering terms: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV). But God had good news for Daniel. “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1b ESV). God would redeem a remnant of His people. He even told Daniel, “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13 ESV). This does not mean that Daniel would live to see the end, but that he would be part of the faithful remnant who would undergo resurrection from the dead and stand before “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:3 ESV).     

What does this passage reveal about man?

Jesus told us, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:7-8 ESV). The centuries have recorded a wide range of events, from wars to natural disasters. We continue to watch as the influence of sin on the world manifests itself in a variety of unsettling forms. There are days when it would appear as if the end was near. We even question whether it can get any worse. But Jesus said these things are simply the birth pains. They are the precursor to something even greater yet to come. Man’s rebellion against God will continue to increase up until the bitter end. The period of the Great Tribulation will see the rise of the Antichrist and the greatest outpouring of persecution on the Jews that the world has ever seen. Sin will have reached its apex. Man’s rebellion against God and Satan’s war against God’s people will come to a climax. And then God will step in.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

John records the stirring words of Jesus Himself, predicting His second advent. “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12-13 ESV). He is coming again. God predicted it and He will bring it to pass. Again, Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon”  and the response of those of us who call Him our Lord and Savior should be, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ESV). We should long for His coming. We should pray for His return. And while we wait, we should issue the words found in Revelation 22:17: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17 ESV). Jesus is coming again. And while there may appear to be plenty of time before that event takes place, we must live with a sense of urgency. We are to live soberly and righteously, as if His return could take place at any minute. We are to issue an invitation to everyone we meet, inviting them to “Come!” We are to point all those who are thirsty to the source of living water – Jesus Christ. And while we wait for His return, we are to do exactly what the angel told John, “Worship God” (Revelation 22:9 ESV). He is to be our focus. He is to be our source of hope. He is to be our help in times of trouble and our strength when we feel weak. We must constantly remind ourselves that God is not done yet. His will WILL be done. His plan WILL be fulfilled. His Son WILL return. His Kingdom WILL come. And sin WILL be no more.

Father, You are worthy of worship. You are deserving of my praise and my trust. You have proven Yourself trustworthy and true time and time again – in history and in my life. Your Words always come true. Your prophecies always get fulfilled. Your will always comes to pass. Help me to live in light of those realities. And, come Lord Jesus, come! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 61-62, Revelation 14

A Glorious Future.

Isaiah 61-62, Revelation 14

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exalt in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…. Isaiah 61:10 ESV

At the time Isaiah was writing the words contained in his book, the nation of Israel was still facing the prospect of their fall at the hands of the Babylonians. God had already told them that they would be defeated, their city and temple destroyed, and the majority of their citizens taken into captivity. But God also told them about their glorious future. He spoke of a coming day of salvation, redemption and restoration. And while they would experience a partial fulfillment of this promise when they returned to the land under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerrubabel, there was a greater, yet future, fulfillment coming. The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write of “the year of the Lord’s favor.” There was a time coming when the poor would receive good news, the brokenhearted would be comforted, the captives would be freed, and imprisoned would be released. These words of comfort spoke of something far greater than a physical salvation from poverty and imprisonment. When the people of Israel would eventually return to the land from captivity in Babylon, they would find themselves free from slavery to a foreign power, but they would still be captive to their own sin natures. They would still be spiritually impoverished, brokenhearted and imprisoned. God’s ultimate salvation was coming at a much-future date. Hundreds of years later, when Jesus Christ appeared at the synagogue in Nazareth, He was handed the scroll containing the writings of Isaiah. “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV). When Jesus came the first time, He offered salvation from the power of sin. He came to provide men release from captivity to the demands of their own sin natures. Yet, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). This came as no surprise to Jesus or to God the Father. The people of Israel’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah was foreseen by God and was actually necessary in order to His Son to accomplish His divine mission. Jesus Himself told His disciples, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Matthew 21:42 ESV). He would go on to tell the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people of Israel, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God has a plan. He is not reacting to events as they occur and coming up with on-the-spot decisions based on circumstances that have caught Him off guard and by surprise. As men, our plans are always subject to unforeseen and unexpected events that can complete derail our well-thought-out objectives. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21 ESV). God’s plans are unalterable. His will is immutable. Jesus came to die. That was God’s plan from the beginning. The rejection of His Son by His own people was not a monkey wrench thrown into the plans of God, but an integral and expected part of His overall strategy. But their rejection of the Messiah would not permanently remove them from God’s favor. Their refusal to accept God’s Anointed One would not cause God to forsake them. Instead, He promised them, “but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:6 ESV). He would eventually cloth them in “garments of salvation” and “the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Paul wrote to the Gentile believers in Rome, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27 ESV). God has great plans in store for His people. God promises them, “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isaiah 62:3 ESV). Not only that, they will go from being referred to as “forsaken” and “desolate” to being called “My delight is in her” (Isaiah 62:4). God is not done with Israel. He told Isaiah to remind them, “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’ They will be called ‘The Holy People’ and ‘The People Redeemed by the Lord.’ And Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Desirable Place’ and ‘The City No Longer Forsaken’” (Isaiah 62:11-12 NLT).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Israel did not deserve God’s favor. They had earned His wrath and deserved to suffer the consequences for their sins. And for many years, they would find themselves struggling under the discipline of the Lord. But they would also experience the unmerited favor of God. He faithfully restored them to their land. He preserved and protected them for generations. Yes, they would suffer under the rule of various nations. They would go for centuries without a king and experience the humiliation of the poverty and powerlessness that comes with  subjugation and servitude to more powerful nations. Even today, Israel finds itself surrounded by countless enemies who would love to see them wiped off the face of the earth. Even during the Great Tribulation to come, Satan will go out of His way to eliminate the people of Israel. He will wage an unrelenting war against the people of God, in the hopes of destroying them, and along with them, derailing the plans of God for them. And while the Jews continue to forsake Jesus Christ as their Messiah, God refuses to forsake them. Even during the period of the tribulation, God says He will raise up 144,000 Jews, redeeming them as His own and making them followers of Jesus Christ. “These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless” (Revelation 14:5 ESV). These 144,000 redeemed Jews will come from every tribe of Israel. They will be witnesses of God’s salvation and of Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel. Through their testimony, a great many people, both Jews and Gentiles, will come to faith in Christ even during the dark days of the tribulation. Our faithful God has tremendous plans for His people. He has much in store for them. But as in Isaiah’s day, the danger for the people of God is that we would with a myopic perspective that prevents us from living with our eyes on the glorious future God has in store for us. How easy it is for us to take a look at our current circumstances and conclude we are “forsaken” and “desolate.” How important it is for us to always remember that God delights in us as His own. Our current conditions are not a reflection of God’s love, mercy, power or ultimate plans for us.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The world in which we live is temporary. It was not meant to be our final destination. It’s current condition, marred by sin and filled with antagonism toward God, is a less-than-ideal place for us as God’s people. But we have been placed here by God for a reason. We have work to do. We are to live as His ambassadors and representatives, living as lights in the midst of darkness. We are people on a mission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and model the redemptive work of God in the midst of a people living in spiritual poverty, captive to sin, and enslaved to the powers of this world. But even while we live out our lives on this planet, we are to keep our eyes firmly focused on our glorious future. This is not all there is. The pleasures of this world are but a shadow of what is to come. Any joys we experience in this life pale in comparison to what we will experience in the future God has in store for us. Our sufferings during this life, while real and sometimes devastating, won’t last forever. Paul reminds us, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT). He goes on to tell us, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 4:18-5:1 NLT). What a glorious future God has in store for us. And He will bring it about – in His perfect time and according to His perfect plan.

Father, help me live with my eyes on the future. Help me to judge what I experience and see in this life through the lens of Your faithful, unfailing plan. You are not done yet. There is much in store for us as Your people. You have much yet to accomplish for the people of Israel. Thank You for reminding me of Your faithfulness and love. No matter what I see or experience in this life, I can rest in the fact that I have a glorious future in store for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 49-50, Revelation 8

Then All Will Know.

Isaiah 49-50, Revelation 8

Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior; and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Isaiah 49:26 ESV

One of the reasons God chose Israel was to reveal Himself through them. They were to have been a living example of what it looks like when men walk in a right relationship with God. They had received His law, which was intended to provide them with a code of conduct, unlike any other on earth. He had given them the sacrificial system in order to atone for their inevitable sins and to receive forgiveness so that they might continue to enjoy His presence among them. God had chosen Israel in order to reveal His presence and power among men. He had placed His name on them so that they might reveal to the world around them what it looks like when men serve God faithfully. Their lives should have been lights shining in the darkness around them. But they had failed. And God had known all along that they would do so. He was not surprised, shocked, or caught off guard. The sending of His Son was not plan B. The incarnation was not a knee-jerk reaction to Israel’s failure to live up to God’s expectations. The Messiah had been the plan all along. God had known that mankind was incapable of living up to His holy, righteous standards. They could not keep His law. They could not obey His commands. And the sacrificial system had always been a temporary and incomplete solution to their ongoing sin problem. It was never intended to absolve them of their guilt permanently or completely. Which is why they had to keep offering sacrifices year after year. It was a foreshadowing of a greater sacrifice to come.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The goal of God has always been for men to worship Him and Him alone. All of creation was intended to bring glory to God. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1 ESV). “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (Romans 1:20 NLT). Throughout history, God has made Himself known to man. He revealed Himself to Abraham. He appeared to Moses in a burning bush. He manifested His glory to the people of israel through thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai. He appeared before them as a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke. He spoke through His prophets. His presence appeared in the Holy of Holies above the Mercy Seat. God was always making Himself known. But men either failed to acknowledge Him or refused to obey Him. Israel, as a nation, never fully lived in obedience and faithfulness to Him. And yet God would use the nation of Israel as the means by which He would make Himself known to the world. He would see to it that His Son, the Messiah, would be born a Jew. “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children” (Galatians 4:4-5 NLT). God’s greatest revelation of Himself to mankind would be through His own Son. “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 NLT). The apostle Paul refers to Jesus as “the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). He became God in the flesh – God incarnate.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But even Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7 ESV), was eventually rejected by men. He became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV). God predicted the rejection of His own Son through His prophet Isaiah. “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6 ESV). In chapters 49-50 of Isaiah, God makes it clear that the day was coming when He would send His servant to redeem Israel, not from captivity in Babylon, but from captivity to sin. He would bring salvation of a kind they had never known. And as a result, they would know God. “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 49:23 ESV). The Jews collectively rejected the Messiah when He came the first time. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). But at His second coming, Christ will come in power and glory and might. He will come as a conquering warrior and as the King of kings and Lord of lords. “Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior; and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26 ESV). At His second coming there will be no discussion or debate as to who He is. There will be no one living who will be able to reject the reality of His nature as God or the essence of His role as King.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The return of Jesus will be accompanied with great judgment. He will not come as an innocent, helpless baby, but as a conquering King and righteous Judge over all the earth. The book of Revelation makes it painfully clear that judgment is a non-negotiable part of His return. Chapter eight records four of the seven trumpets that will bring judgment upon the earth during the days of the Great Tribulation. There will be cataclysmic, worldwide destruction that will impact every living person on earth at that time. God will reveal Himself in devastating, non-debatable reality. And it will all culminate with the return of His Son. Men have only two options: They can choose to recognize the glory of God revealed through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, making possible salvation and a restored relationship with Him. Or they can wait and face God’s glory as revealed in His coming judgment. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 ESV). When Christ returns, no one will be able to debate His deity or reject His sovereignty. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is the Lord. They will worship Him whether they want to or not. How much more should we who have been redeemed by His blood worship Him now? We who have been made right with God through the finished work of Christ on the cross have been witness to God’s glory. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). We have seen Him. Now we must reveal Him to all those around us. We have been transformed by the Light of the world, so that we might shine like lights in the world. God is making Himself known through us. But one day He will make Himself known to all men through the return of His Son to earth. Then all flesh shall know.

Father, You want to be known by men. But You also want to be worshiped by men. You designed us for worship. You created us to have a relationship with You. But sin interfered and marred that relationship. It created a barrier over which we could not climb. It placed before a chasm we could not cross. But You sent Your Son to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. And one day You are sending Him again to do for the world what it cannot do for itself. You will redeem Your creation, restore the people of Israel, and bring an end to sin and death once and for all – so that all will know that You alone are God. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Ezra 3-4, Hebrews 2

For A Little While.

Ezra 3-4, Hebrews 2

“What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Hebrews 2:6-8 ESV

Most of us don’t like delays. We are an impatient people who can’t stand to wait for anyone or anything, including God. When we find ourselves in times of difficulty or facing less-than-acceptable circumstances, we can quickly grow impatient and demand immediate action on the part of God. We want our situation resolved right away. But there are times when God delays; and when He does, there is always a very good reason. When the Jews who had returned to the land began the process of rebuilding the Temple, they immediately found themselves facing strong opposition. The land to which they had returned was filled with people who had been sent there by the Babylonians and Persians. These transplanted foreigners didn’t like the prospect of the Jews returning to their land and rebuilding their cities. They saw the Jews as competition, so they began to cause trouble, harassing them and doing everything in their power to demoralize and dissuade the Jews from accomplishing their God-given mission. At the close of chapter 3 of Ezra, the people are rejoicing because they had successfully laid the foundation of the Temple. But then chapter 4 opens up with the arrival of their adversaries. The work of God was immediately met with opposition by the enemies of God. “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build, and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose” (Ezra 4:4-5 ESV). This would go on for years, spanning the reigns of Cyrus and Darius. But one of the things the people of God needed to remember was that God was in control. According to God’s divine timetable, this delay would be only for a little while. And while the efforts of their enemies would eventually result in the halt of all construction on the Temple, it would prove to be only a delay, not an end.

What does this passage reveal about God?

There are so many times in Scripture where it appears as if God’s people have lost. We are given countless examples of the seeming defeat of God and His people. But time and time again, we are shown that these apparent defeats are little more than delays in God’s divine plan. It is important to remember that the book of Ezra, like the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles, was written to an audience who was living long after these events took place. These books were designed to be reminders of God’s sovereign power and His ultimate victory over their enemies. The Temple would eventually be rebuilt. The walls of Jerusalem would be restored. The city would be repopulated. And the enemies of God would be proven unsuccessful in their attempt to thwart His will. The writer of Hebrews was also addressing a predominantly Jewish audience, but made up of those who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah. They too were surrounded by enemies. They face opposition and oppression. They were children of God, but they were living under difficult circumstances. So the writer of Hebrews reminds them that they must remember that God was not done yet. The same Jesus in whom they had placed their faith for their salvation was sitting at the right hand of God. This Jesus had taken on human flesh “for a little while.” God had made him lower than the angels “for a little while.” He died and was buried, but only “for a little while.” But then He was crowned with glory and honor, and God put everything in subjection under His feet. It was essential that Jesus become a man “for a little while” so that He might die in man’s place. His death, while a blow to the hopes and dreams of the disciples, would prove to be temporary. Satan’s apparent victory would be short-lived, because Jesus rose again.   

What does this passage reveal about man?

We have limited vision. We can only see so far into the future and we are prone to judge our circumstances based on our limited perspective. But we must always remember that God is in control and that His plan is eternal, not temporary. God knew that the Temple would be rebuilt. It was part of His plan. He knew that the walls of Jerusalem would be restored. It was part of His plan. He knew that Jesus’ death was not permanent. It was part of His plan. But on the day that Jesus died, the disciples could only see that their Messiah and friend had died. Their hopes were dashed. Their future dreams were shattered. Even though Jesus had told them that He would rise again on the third day, they were unable to see past the painful reality of their circumstances. If only they could have understood that all of this was going to be but “for a little while.” God was not done yet. As men, our perspectives are often limited, but our God is not. He is always in control and His plan is always unfolding perfectly and precisely as He has arranged it. The seeming defeats and disappointments of this life are nothing more than a pre-planned delay. The opposition we find ourselves facing are little more than opportunities to watch God work. The enemies of the people of God thought they had won the day when they forced the halt of the rebuilding of the Temple. But little did they know that their victory would be short-lived. God would win the day and have His way. He always does.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

For a little while. I must remember that God is at work and that delays are not the same thing as defeat. In the end, God will be victorious. He wins. At this point in time, His Son is seated at His right hand in heaven. But only “for a little while.” There is a day coming when He will return. And while it may appear that the enemies of God are winning the day, we must never forget that God is not done yet. He will one day send His Son to the earth a second time, and when He comes, He will accomplish God’s divine plan once and for all. He will conquer sin and death completely. He will defeat the enemies of God and establish His Kingdom on earth. The rebuilding of the Temple was delayed, but only for a little while. Jesus died and was placed in a grave, but only for a little while. He sits on a throne in heaven, but only for a little while. “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16 ESV).

Father, may I learn to patiently wait for Your will to be done. Help me to remember that in Your grand plan, all apparent delays are only for a little while. You cannot be stopped. Your plan cannot be defeated. Your will – will be done. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Romans 11:25-36

Our Unfathomable, Yet Reliable God.

Romans 11:25-36

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! – Romans 11:33 NLT

Who are we to question the ways of God? I find it fascinating how often we, as mere men, want to take on God, putting Him on trial – trying to determine whether we agree with or approve of His ways. We debate whether God could or would do something. We argue over whether God has the right to act in a certain way, because it offends our sensibilities or our understanding of right and wrong. But when we doubt God or try to judge Him based on our limited human understanding, we reveal just how little we really know Him. It shows how we have tried to put God in a box in an effort to make Him more comprehensible and believable. But Paul would argue that His God is greater than our capacity to understand. “How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” (Romans 11:33b NLT). Paul knew enough about God to know better than to try and explain away His actions or question His logic. God does not have to answer to us or even explain Himself to us.

As Paul wraps up his discussion regarding God’s plans for the people of Israel, he wants his readers to understand that God is not obligated to do things in a way that we can understand. He does not have to appeal to our sense of fairness. God is holy, righteous, and completely sovereign. He can and will do what He wants to do, and whatever He does is always right. His treatment of the people of Israel, while it may appear harsh in our eyes, is completely just and wholly necessary. God had a plan in place that included their rejection of His own Son as their Messiah. He was not caught off guard or surprised by their actions. He knew they would refuse to accept Him as the Anointed One. God was prepared for their actions and had planned for them in advance. It was all part of His divine will. Their rejection opened up the door for the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles. But God is not done with the people of Israel. There is a day coming when “the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ” (Romans 11:25b NLT). In other words, there is an apparent limit on the number of people who will accept Christ as their personal Savior. Not ALL will be saved. And only God knows that number. That may sound unfair and capricious to us, but again, who are we to question the justice of God? When that full number is reached, then God will turn His attention back to the people of Israel. He will once again show His favor on them, sending His Son a second time, to restore a large number of the nation of Israel back to a right relationship with Him. “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-27 NLT). At the second coming of Jesus, God will do what the Israelites could have never have done for themselves – He will change their hardened hearts and give them the capacity to believe in His Son as their Messiah and Savior. Why? Because God is a covenant keeping God. “Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (Romans 11:28-29 NLT).

We may not understand it or even agree with it, but God’s plan is just, righteous, and completely perfect. God does not need or want our advice. He does not require our approval. He does not owe us an explanation. We can’t even fully understand why He chose to save us. But we are grateful that He did. Paul would encourage us to rest in the knowledge of God’s unchanging, holy and righteous character. He can be trusted. He always does what is right. “For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever!” (Romans 11:36 NLT).

Father, I don’t understand Your ways, but I am learning to trust them more and more with each passing day. I can’t fully explain how and why You do things the way You do, but I am trying to rest more and more in Your faithfulness. There are things that happen in my life every day that cause me to doubt and question Your ways, but I am learning to rest in Your sovereign, loving, all-knowing plan for me. You know what is best, whether it looks like it or feels like it at the time. I can trust You. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

The Man of Lawlessness.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed – the one who brings destruction. – 2 Thessalonians 2:3 NLT

Sometimes we can be fooled into thinking that simpler is better. Especially when it comes to teaching new believers the doctrines of the faith. As a result, we can end up dumbing down our theology to the point that it is virtually useless. Yes, the Gospel message is beautiful in its simplicity, but it is essential that we take new believers from the threshold of their faith and help them “grow up in their salvation,” to use a phrase of Paul’s. In fact, Paul had a passion for teaching new believers deeper truths in order to deepen and strengthen their faith. But he wasn’t the only one. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews, who many believe was Paul himself, wrote, “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God” (Hebrews 6:1 NLT).

Here in his letter to the Thessalonians believers, who were still relative babies in Christ, Paul is not afraid to deal with the difficult and deeper truths. His audience has had questions regarding the coming of Christ. They have received some erroneous teaching that has left them confused. So Paul takes the time to give them the kind of teaching they will need to not only survive in this world, but to better understand the overall plan of their God. Otherwise, they would continue to misinterpret the events taking place around them. The absence of good theology can lead to all kinds of confusion and faulty views of God. The people to whom Paul was writing were thoroughly confused about the second coming of Christ. They had been led to believe that it was going to happen any day. They had begun their faith with the belief that Jesus had died, but had rose again and was some day going to come again. And in the simplicity of their faith, they just assumed that was going to happen immediately. Essentially, their view of the end times or future events concerning Christ’s return were totally skewed. So Paul taught them the truth. And his letter was not the first time he had talked about these things. He wrote, “Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you?” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 NLT). When Paul had been with them, he had taken the time to teach these people what some of us would consider to be pretty deep doctrine. But to Paul, it was simply the truth of God. It was all part of God’s redemptive plan, just as much as the birth and death of Christ was. For us to understand God, we must understand His plan for mankind. Knowing that God had sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins must be understood alongside the fact that God is some day going to send His Son back to earth. The first time He came as a baby in a manger. The second time He will come as a conquering King. But it was important that the people understand that there were some key events that had to take place before Christ returned. One of those was the coming of the “man of lawlessness” – a reference to the Antichrist. Paul refers to “a great rebellion against God” that must take place. This whole passage is a reference to the Great Tribulation – a seven year period of time that will take place after Christ removes all the believers from the earth – an event Paul referred to in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). One of the things that will happen as a result of the removal of the Church is that the Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers, will be removed as well. Paul refers to that fact in verse 7: “For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it backs steps out of the way.” The Holy Spirit, who acts as a restraining force against evil in the world, will be removed, leaving a spiritual vacuum and the perfect environment in which the Antichrist might thrive. The presence of the Holy Spirit and the influence of the Church are all that holds back evil. When they are both removed, chaos will reign. This is what sets up the Great Tribulation.

Paul wants the Thessalonians to know about all of this – even though they will not live to experience it. He wants them to know how things are going to end, because it speaks volumes about their God. He tells them that this man of lawlessness will come, but that he will also ultimately destroyed by Christ Himself. The Antichrist will be under the power and control of Satan, performing miracles and signs and exhibiting Christ-like powers. He will deceive and manipulate, with a plan to destroy those who are living at that time. And they will believe his lies and enjoy evil rather than the truth, leading to their destruction. And Paul wants the Thessalonians to know all this. He wants them informed and educated regarding these future events. Why? Because it is all part of God’s overall redemptive plan for mankind. It is as important as the virgin birth of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ second coming is as important as His first. With His return, the plan of God would be incomplete. Satan must be defeated. Christ must come as the conquering King, fulfilling all the Old Testament Scriptures that predicted it. He must set up His Kingdom on earth, ruling from Jerusalem, fulfilling God’s promise to David that a descendant of his would sit on a throne, ruling from the city of Jerusalem forever. Every story has an ending. And if we don’t understand it, we will always be confused about what we see taking place around us. God’s redemptive story has an ending and it is essential that every believer understand not only what God has done, but what He is going to do.

Father, You have a plan and You are working it to perfection, but for so many of us don’t have a clue what You are doing Some of us don’t even seem to care. We don’t think it’s important. And it leaves us with an incomplete understanding of what it is You are doing and an unclear view of who You really are. May we never be afraid to teach the deeper, more difficult truths of Your Word. Help us to understand that the end is just as important as the beginning. Help us to teach the entirety of Scripture, revealing Your complete plan so that we might know and understand You better. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Words of Encouragement.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. – 1 Thessalonians 4:17 NLT

The Thessalonian believers to whom Paul was writing this letter were wrestling with something. It’s important to keep in mind that, not only were these people new to faith in Christ, but the Christian faith was still in its infancy. The Gospel was being spread around the known world, but it was still a relatively new teaching. And apart from the apostles, there were not a lot of seasoned teachers, pastors, elders or other spiritual leaders. There was no New Testament yet. There was no established or written doctrine to speak of. These new believers had only what Paul and Silas had been able to share with them on their first visit there. And most of what they knew revolved around the basic message of the Gospel – that Jesus had died on the cross as their sin substitute, and had risen from the dead in order to provide them with forgiveness of sin and the assurance of eternal life. Through belief in the saving work of Jesus, these people had been made right with God and given the hope of a restored relationship with God the Father.

But that’s where the confusion came in. Having accepted Jesus as their Savior, they had assumed that they were now part of God’s Kingdom and would enjoy eternal life. And yet, along with suffering and persecution, they had watched as some of their fellow believers had unexpectedly died. Of course, these events triggered questions in their minds. Why had they died? Where had they gone? What would happen to them when Jesus returned? This was all new territory for these new believers and Paul had received word about their confusion and distress. So he wrote them to let them know what to expect. He gave them assurances regarding their deceased brothers and sisters, and comfort about the return of Christ. These people had been grieving. They were sad and confused. They were wondering what their own fate would be, because each of them had fully expected to be around when Jesus came back. Paul had even alluded to it earlier in his letter. “May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people” (1 Thessalonians 3:13 NLT). So it was no wonder they had questions about the state of those who had died since accepting Christ as their Savior.

So Paul tells them, “we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NLT). Paul assures them that Jesus is going to come back, and when He does, He will bring with Him all those believers who have died prior to that point in time. Paul clearly states, “when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died” (1 Thessalonians 4:14 NLT). This event is what we call the Rapture. It is not the Second Coming of Christ, but the return of Christ for the Church, His bride. In this event, Jesus does not return to the earth, but He comes in the clouds, accompanied by angels and those believers who have died. “Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 NLT). The words, “caught up” literally mean to be snatched up and are where we get the word Rapture. All believers who are alive at this point in time will be suddenly removed from the earth to meet Jesus in the air. Another important part of this event is that the bodies of those believers who have died will be raised, renewed and reunited with their souls, which have been with Christ in heaven. Then we will all return to heaven, where we will spend eternity with Him.

Paul says, “So encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18 NLT). Why? Because this is our hope. This is our future. Death is not the end. One of the reasons this passage is frequently used in funerals is because it provides us with hope regarding those who have died. If they were in Christ, their souls have gone on to be with Christ. They are no longer with us physically, but they are far from gone and forgotten. And one day, they will return with the Lord to come get us who remain on the earth. That day is coming, We don’t know when. We don’t know exactly how it will all work, but it is going to happen. We can count on it. We can rest in it. We can encourage one another about it. One of two things is going to happen to every single believer. Either we will die and go to be with the Lord, or we will live to see the Lord’s return. So there is no reason for us to grieve like those who have no hope. We know how the story ends, and it ends well.

Father, thank You for the assurance of Your Son’s return for the Church. Thank You for the assurance of our place with You at death. We have nothing to fear and everything to hope for. Don’t let us lose sight of that reality. Our future is secure and settled. Death has been conquered and the eternal security of our souls has been guaranteed by Christ. May we constantly encourage one another with these words. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men