The Blessed Hope (Part 1)

   by Rayola Kelley

     Once again, we are facing a New Year. How many of you thought we would actually see 2008? As I said at the beginning of 2007, the one thing that I am sure of and that we are a year closer to Jesus’ coming. According to some of the popular predictions of certain individuals, we should not even be here. The reason for our supposed absence is that Jesus was presumed to have come some time last year. Some individuals had it all figured out, and according to their information on the subject, they could prove it. Some Christians were once again jumping on the bandwagon as to how Jesus was to return last year.

       As Scripture advocates, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The speculation that surrounds Jesus’ coming is no exception. I have been a Christian for over 30 years. I can remember how a man figured that Christ would come back in 1988. He even wrote a book that presented 88 reasons why Jesus was coming back in that particular year. In my recollection, many Christians ran out and bought that book. I can remember how excited some of those Christians were. In their minds they were going home that year. After all, times were getting bad and life was presenting its challenges. In light of such matters, surely Jesus was going to come back to deliver them.

       Well, guess what happened? Jesus did not come back. Some of those Christians were devastated. In fact, some became scoffers at the whole situation. And, what was more amazing was the man who wrote the book, just figured out he might sucker the Christian people again by his next prediction. He wrote another book, calling it 89 reasons why Jesus was coming back in 1989. This time, the Christian public did not buy his vain speculations on the subject.

       The great mystery for 20 centuries has been the question of when Jesus is coming back. Let us face it, the Jews were looking for Him to come the first time, and  many are still waiting for Him to come. As believers, we are to look for Him to come the second time. As in His first coming, the speculations have been incredible surrounding this event. Instead of bringing any kind of hope to people, it has made them operate in what I call wishful thinking.

       Wishful thinking goes like this. “All the facts point to Jesus coming back at this time; therefore, we can conclude it is true because it sounds right.” Such thinking has nothing to do with hope but with wishful thinking. It is as if someone is trying to conjure up a case and present it to God, so that He will see that He must agree with his or her thinking; and Jesus will come back according to the person’s conclusion.

       The Blessed Hope has been a part of the Church’s foundation since Jesus ascended into heaven after His death, burial and resurrection. However. It was never meant to become part of a guessing or speculation game, but one that would be a point of great hope, comfort and encouragement to the Christian. Sadly, instead of it being a point of hope, it has become a point of great speculation and debate that produces scoffers even in the Christian realm. In fact, in some cases, it has ceased to serve as a point of truth or comfort, and has become a doctrine that can be adjusted and fit into certain beliefs. Often, it is treated as the doctrine of the great escape, rather than the truth of the great blessed hope that has been given to every Christian who believes upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

       My main concern at this point in time is the condition of America. What will we see as a nation before Jesus returns for His Church? According to my scriptural understanding, Jesus’ coming will be triggered by events involving the nation of Israel, not the Church in America. In spite of the heretical teaching of Replacement Theology, the Church is not the nation of Israel. We are spiritual children of Abraham due to faith, but there always have been a biological people brought forth from the loins of Abraham who represent the nation of Israel (Matthew 3:9; Galatians 3:6-9). Many of the promises in the Bible have to do with the nation of Israel. Granted, as his spiritual children we will benefit from some of those glorious promises, but we must not be mistaken as to whom these promises are being directed.

       Some of those promises surrounding Abraham’s biological offspring involve people’s attitude towards Israel. Based on attitudes towards Israel, nations will be blessed or brought down (Genesis 12:1-3). Have you heard the latest? In the name of trying to make peace with the political insanity of the Muslim radicals, American leaders are willing to sacrifice the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign nation in its own land. Sadly, some of the thinking that is being advocated through diplomatic channels has been influenced by “so-called” Christian leaders who do not represent the scriptural beliefs of the Christian faith. However, this is nothing new. This same attitude existed during the rise and fall of Nazism. Talk about promoting something that will not only cut our throat as a nation, but it might prove to be our final demise.

       In all honesty, there can be no point of agreement on any front with the Muslim faith and its hatred of and goal to destroy Israel. Regardless of how the Muslims talk about being peace-loving, hatred is the platform of their belief. It begins with the hatred towards Israel, and is also being clearly directed at Christianity, Americans and any other “so-called” infidels who dare to disagree with their religious insanity.

       Their goal is not only to destroy and possess Israel, but also to control the whole world. Our attempt to make peace with this viper will result in it turning on us in vengeance and anger. We know in the end that the Muslims will not succeed in subduing the whole world under their demonic lie, but how many people will be sacrificed in the process in the name of tolerance and ignorance as many turn the other way out of fear and indifference to the real issues?

       Let us consider the moral condition of America. We have kicked God and prayer out of schools, as well as many other institutions. We have done away with displaying the Ten Commandments in public places. One can conclude that the political climate of America does not recognize God or respect His form of justice. Such disrespect has caused a snowball effect that will bring this nation to ruin.

       The schools in California can now teach homosexuality to students from kindergarten and up. To speak of homosexuality as a sin or an abomination to God from the pulpits is considered a hate crime that could end up with the church doors being closed. Pornography has taken center stage under the guise of freedom of speech. Our children and elderly are being abused and violated in ways that are unimaginable. Clearly, the imaginations of many are becoming wicked continually as they explore every evil, sensual practice while sacrificing the innocence and dignity of others (Genesis 6:5-7 refer to Matthew 24:37-39).

       Another environment we must consider is the professing Church in America. It is clear that much of it has become worldly in its philosophies and practices. It may be politically correct, but revival will never occur from such a premise. Only true repentance and humility will cause the Church to be revived from its worldly, dull or ineffective state.

       Granted, many Christians are doctrinally savvy, but they lack true revelation when it comes to Jesus Christ. They may be moved by religious causes, but how many are being led by the Spirit? There are many activities going on in the name of religion, worship and “so-called” righteousness, but has God ordained them? Statistics claim that many are attending church, but how many of these are truly saved, and learning to become devoted disciples of Jesus? In all honesty, is God really involved with the religious pursuits and activities of what we can perceive to be the visible or professing Church around us? We can point to the quantity of what is being done in the name of Jesus, but does any of it really possess the quality that comes from the work of the Spirit, the life of God, and the truth of Jesus?

       The reason I am bringing up the condition of America is because, as a nation, we are daring and demanding God to judge us. God has a limit as to how long He will be long-suffering towards a wicked nation. When you think that if God had found ten righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah, He would have spared these two wicked cities, we get a sense of His willingness to refrain from such judgment. However, eventually as a righteous Judge, He must bring about judgment. We know He could not find ten righteous people in these two wicked cities, and the one man (and his daughters) who was vexed over the wicked condition was spared from the judgment that fell upon them (Genesis 18:32-33; 19:23-28; 2 Peter 2:7-9; 3:9).

       The warnings of impending judgment against America are sounding. Economically, our money is becoming increasingly worthless in every market including Canada. We have drought in one part of the country and floods in another part. Consider the Scripture in Amos 4:6-7: “And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places; yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. And also I have witholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest; and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city; one piece was rained upon, and the piece upon which it rained not, withered.” As you continue to read Amos 4, you realize that it is God who blesses and withholds His blessings.

       We also have threats of destructive tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.  Obviously, we are living in precarious times, and wishful thinking will not change the fact that, as a nation, we will reap what we have sown in regards to our spiritual state before God (Galatians 6:7-9).

       The question we must be concerned about as Christians is are we ready to stand if such judgment should touch our lives because of the wickedness that surrounds us? Granted, as believers we will be spared from God’s wrath, but judgment has to do with testing and separation. People will be forced to make a decision as to whom or what they will cling to in such times. We can ignore, deny or live according to wishful thinking concerning the frightening warnings that are already besieging us as a nation, or we can prepare to find our refuge in the Lord. Like Habakkuk, who wrestled over the impending judgment ready to come upon Judah, will we come to the same conclusion he did as he faced the impending tribulation: “Behold, his soul that is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

       Personally, I have no idea what we might face as a nation. If God’s scriptural warnings hold true, we could possibly see this country, in the near future, taste the bitter dregs of its rebellion and idolatry. As Christians, we must know that our hope is not in this present world or age. However, we must honestly face the times we are living in. We cannot hide behind wishful thinking that being a Christian will provide us an escape. When Jesus talked about tribulation or trouble, He never talked about it in terms of escaping. Rather, He talked about it in terms of finding a place of refuge in Him, so that His people could be delivered through it like Noah. After all, our Lord has overcome this world (John 16:33; 2 Peter 2:4-5).

       This brings me to the subject of Jesus returning for His Church. The Blessed Hope is about living in light of the great expectation of Jesus coming back, not in light of the great escape. Much of the presentation of the great escape is nothing more than wishful thinking. Such thinking hopes that our faith as believers will never be tested in the fires of judgment, persecution or loss. On the other hand, the great expectation means our hope does not rest in what we will not experience or see. Rather, it rests in the person of Jesus coming for us.

       Next month, I am going to examine the Blessed Hope or the Great Expectation in light of the hope and comfort it is to bring to the Church until Jesus returns for His Body. My goal is to bring balance to all the debates and wishful thinking that some Christians operate in because of the confusion and fear that surrounds this very subject.