Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Rayola Kelley

For years, I have tried to come to an understanding of the Blessed Hope in the midst of all the debates concerning the rapture, the most popular ones being the pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib beliefs. I am sure you have heard these debates, as well as others, and probably have your own take on which one you believe to be true. In my Christian life, I have been taught these various presentations. I have considered each presentation according to logic, reasoning and Scripture. Instead of coming out with an assurance that one is right, therefore, negating the arguments of the others, I have seen the validity in each argument.

To resolve this controversial matter, I sought the Lord. I had to resolve if these arguments represented truth, the pure doctrine of Christ, or man’s personal conclusions. After all, if one is correct, I must receive it as such. If any of these arguments are in compliance to the pure doctrine of Christ, then I must develop the proper attitude towards the presentation with the intent of allowing it to line my life up to scriptural responsibility. However, if any of these beliefs represent man’s conclusions, then I must regard it as such, and avoid the incessant unprofitable practice of arguing over something that has nothing to do with the real issues concerning salvation, righteousness and godliness. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in Titus 3:9: “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and striving about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” In this case, it is striving about what man believes to be the truth, the law or the practices of God.

The question is how do you resolve a matter that seems to be clouded in confusion, surrounded by passionate debate, and consumed by possible skepticism? To answer this question, we must come back to center. In other words, we must come back to what constitutes truth and pure doctrine according to the Word of God. Let me state, if we are going to come back to center, we must put aside our present conclusions. The reason for this is because we will consider everything from the premise of these conclusions. Any time we do this, we will simply confirm them, not challenge, shake or test them.

This brings us back to what constitutes truth and doctrine when it comes to the matter of the Blessed Hope. When we consider the truth in light of the Blessed Hope, we must not regard it in light of the events that surround it; rather, we must recognize that the Blessed Hope is the actual event we are looking for. For example, when you consider the different rapture theories, the emphasis is based on the events that surround Jesus’ coming, rather than the fact that He is coming back for His Body.

The problem with putting the emphasis in the wrong place is that you will undermine the real intent of the promise. For instance, if you write a sentence, you will use punctuation positioned in the proper places to emphasize the idea or theme. This is to ensure that people come out with a proper understanding of what you are trying to communicate. As someone who writes a lot, I know that it is so easy to change the emphasis of something by simply changing the punctuation. This can change the whole intent or focus of the sentence, thereby changing the point of importance.

My concern is that the way these different debates are being presented is resulting in a wrong emphasis being highlighted. When we put the wrong emphasis on a scriptural matter, we actually undermine truth. When the truth is undermined, then it loses its authority and power to impact our lives in a godly way. As I have considered the debates surrounding the Blessed Hope, I have noticed that there are a couple of unproductive fruits manifesting themselves.

One such fruit is that people are focusing on who is right or wrong about these different rapture theories, resulting in unnecessary division. Sadly, heretics have used this division to bring in their own take of this event. For some, instead of Christ coming back in the clouds as He left, He is now coming back through a Christ-consciousness that will reside within believers. For others, the Christians will have to first usher in Jesus’ kingdom on earth before He comes back. Most of the wrong presentations find their origins in the occult or New Age, but sadly, there are some in the Christian realm who have bought into them and are putting their own perverted twist on these erroneous presentations. Clearly, this is proving to be unprofitable for the whole Body.

The second bad fruit is that I actually see people putting their faith in a belief, rather than putting their confidence in the hope that Jesus is coming back. This is a wrong emphasis.  The Blessed Hope rests in Jesus physically coming back for His Body. Clearly, we are to put our hope in the Person of Jesus, and not in what we consider to be doctrinal beliefs. Jesus is worthy of our confidence, because He is the truth. In fact, He is the truth about why we can possess such hope. There is no deception, darkness or change in His character and ways. He is our Rock upon which we stand to confront adversity, and whom we cling to in the storms of life (John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 10:4; Hebrews 13:8).

This brings us back to the simple certainty of the Blessed Hope. The truth is Jesus is coming back. This is the anchor we must stand upon to possess hope. Our hope rests upon this truth, and not on the popular conclusions or beliefs of others. This hope we must know to be true in order to stand when the world around us appears to be falling apart, regardless of the seasons and times we are living in.

Now that we have established the point of truth, we must come to terms with the doctrine that is to serve as a means of discipline to prepare for Jesus’ coming. One of the major arguments we have heard against these rapture debates is that the word “rapture” is not mentioned in the Bible; therefore, they say we cannot legitimately regard it as a fundamental belief or doctrine of the Church.

Whether we like it or not, this argument has some validity in it. The reason is because all truths establish us in pure doctrine. Pure doctrine points to doctrine that has not been tainted by unholy influences or emphasis. Although the word “rapture” describes the Church being quickly taken out of this present world, it still fails to associate us to the doctrine that will be confirmed and upheld by this incredible event. In a sense, we fail to have the correct emphasis, so that we can connect the dots, in order to possess a right attitude in regard to our Blessed Hope.

It is important to point out that doctrine involves attitudes that result in upright conduct. A person’s conduct may appear acceptable, but if the right spirit and attitude are missing, it will not be considered upright conduct before God. Therefore, the integrity in pure doctrine is maintained by having a right attitude. When you study the doctrine expounded by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, you will see that He is dealing with people’s attitudes towards God, life and sin as much as He is contending with ungodly conduct. Keep in mind that our conduct towards God, life and others is a manifestation of the attitude of our heart.

 This brings us to the doctrine that is to discipline our attitude and conduct in light of the truth of Jesus coming back for His Church. Let us face it, whether we believe in pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, or some other belief, does it really change our attitude or lifestyle? Doctrine is to affect our attitude about a matter, so we will line up our conduct accordingly.

Some of you might be wondering if there is such a doctrine that has been clearly explained and expounded upon in Scripture that would affect both our attitude and conduct. The answer is yes. There is such a doctrine. In Hebrews 6:1-2, we find the principles of the doctrine of Christ. Believe it or not, the doctrine that is upheld by the Blessed Hope of every saint can be found within the principles of the doctrine of Christ. Let us now consider the fundamental doctrines that have been clearly established for the Church: “Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” Out of these six doctrines which one would you choose?

Before I present my understanding of the doctrine that is associated with the Blessed Hope, let us consider the two main texts that made reference to Jesus’ second coming. They are 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The Apostle Paul is the one who penned these Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle is talking about the miracle that confirms our faith in the Gospel. This miracle is the main theme of this chapter.

The theme of 1 Corinthians 15 can also be found in 1 Thessalonians 4. Let me give you a little history about the books of Thessalonians. The people in this church were experiencing tremendous persecution. Some had even died because of their faith in Christ. These new Christians were struggling with the death of their brethren. As a point of comfort, the Apostle Paul explained that Jesus was coming back for the Church. And, when He comes back, those who are dead in Christ will rise first; then those who are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the clouds.

The doctrine that is associated with the Blessed Hope is the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Jesus spoke of the resurrection in John 5:25-29: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

According to Scripture, there are two resurrections. There is much debate about who will be part of the first resurrection. However, if there are only two main resurrections, we must conclude, with our limited understanding, that everyone will be part of one of the resurrections. Based on the information found in Revelation 20:4-5, Jesus coming for His Body would be clearly identified with the first resurrection. Although believers are present with the Lord, they have not experienced the fullness of resurrection. As you study the two texts in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4, it points to believers being called forth from the grave, and raised up with those who remain in new glorified bodies. In their new changed bodies, they will reign with Him for a thousand years.

The second resurrection will entail raising up those who rejected Jesus, so that they can be justly judged by the Son of man. Revelation 20:6 gives us this insight: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”

For some Christians, the Blessed Hope signals deliverance from this present world. However, this is the wrong emphasis. As a result, many will miss the real impact of the blessing and hope in regard to Jesus’ coming. His coming is clearly meant to signal resurrection unto a new and wondrous existence, not deliverance from this present age. It was from this premise that each generation of believers was to live in the assurance and hope of being part of experiencing the power of the resurrection unto eternal life. They were to be prepared for that time by living in expectation, regardless of whether they were in the presence of the Lord or present in their body, of being raised up in their new bodies to reign, serve and live in the fullness and presence of the Lord.

This brings me to the attitude that the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead must establish in us towards Jesus’ return. February is a month to consider those you love. The challenge for this month in regard to Jesus’ coming is no exception. As believers, I want to challenge each of you to regard Jesus’ coming in the right way. This will ensure the proper discipline in your life and conduct. However, we must possess the right attitude towards the Blessed Hope to understand our scriptural responsibility.

The Apostle Paul gives us insight into the right attitude in 2 Timothy 4:8: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (Emphasis added.)

If we love Jesus, we will look forward to that time when we can experience the power of His resurrection, so that we can live with Him in unhindered service, devotion and glory. The question is, do you love the idea of His appearing because you will be raised up with Him in His likeness? Or, do you love the idea of being spared unpleasant times and possible judgment? Consider the emphasis of your love as to whether it is proper, and whether it will impact your life in the ways of truth, righteousness and godliness.

In next month’s issue, I will be dealing with the attitude that will be prevalent if we are ready because of our love for His appearance.