The topic of the Rapture is not merely a philosophical discussion which holds no significance or merit in the life of a Christian--impacting the way Christians live. The topic of the Rapture is one of ethics, morality, and character. And it does holds bearing on the way that we, Christians, live and think. Hope is the hottest commodity around. Dope disguises itself as hope to a person at the end of their rope looking for an escape from life--although dope is really death in a white cloak. Alcoholism is desolation disguised as deliverance...from self-awareness and anxiety. Truthfully, alcoholism secretly robs one of their ability to face their problems with confidence. Money is seen as a source or form of hope...although it is also a false hope. The illusion that a bigger house, a bigger car, and a bigger wallet can bring happiness is a most-accepted lie. Everyone is looking for hope. God has a very elaborate set-up: According to Romans chapter 8, God causes all of mankind to look for hope (apparently, our material possessions can't produce true hope), and then He places this hope in the hands of His emissaries, His ambassadors, His church. This way, God is able to make the church stand out and be relevant...regardless of what time period we're in. Desperation and despondency knows no era; therefore, hope also transcends time periods. Christ is our hope. His salvation, which He procured on the cross over 2,000 years ago, provides us with the way of escape from the bondage of sin and the pits of hell, and allows us to be reconnected to our Creator who endows us with meaning and purpose (the things that bring true peace and happiness). God lifts off of us the burden of bitterness and gives us the power to rise above hatred through His love (love doesn't mean acceptance of sin; but rather, it is the ability to lift the sinner out of their sin through godly means). Furthermore, the apostle Paul talked about this hope in the context of the second coming of Christ when he wrote, "And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed" (Titus 2:12-13, New Living Translation). Hope--Godly hope--causes us to turn away from "sinful pleasures" and endure the adversities of life...with an expectation to be rewarded one day--or as Christ put it in the book of Revelation, receive a crown of life and our white garment in heaven. So, when there is a reward being offered, the person receives more of an incentive to follow the rules and endure the tests. Without hope--or should I say, without an incentive to do right--people fall to the level of depravity real quick. Without hope, people lose the motivation to do better. The hope of Christ's second coming--and our bodily transformations, going from mortality to having new resurrected bodies and ruling authority with Christ on earth during His earthly reign (Revelation chapters 19-22)--is what God promises us throughout His Word in order to inspire us as Christians to push aside sin, overcome temptations, say no to the flesh, and strive to do that which is pleasing in His sight. Grace has never robbed us of our ability to sin; therefore, grace has never replaced our obligation to strive to obey God. Actually, according to Hebrews chapters 10 and 12, we must be careful not to "trample under foot the grace of God," "fail of the grace of God," and abuse the "Spirit of grace" (Holy Spirit). We must do our part, and it starts with first recognizing that we have a role to play and a responsibility to fulfill, and that there is a reward set aside for those of us who "endure tribulations" (James 1:12). The hope of the church in Scripture is the anticipation of the rapture and the 2nd coming of Christ. That is why there are more prophecies concerning Christ's second coming--especially from the Old Testament, before even the Flood of Noah--than there are prophecies about Jesus' first coming. The rapture (or Harpozo in the Greek, used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 for "caught-up") is what Jesus talked about in Matthew chapter 24 when He told His disciples to always be ready, for no man knows the day nor the hour of His coming--and that He's coming like a thief in the night to gather His church. We know that a rapture event is going to occur (even Hollywood has pick-up on the issue); the debate is over the timing of it: whether the church will be raptured before the Great Tribulation or after it (hence, the reason for this article). Talk about incentives, Jesus said to His church in Luke 21:36 that we should strive to be counted "worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass" on the earth in the last days (speaking of the Great Tribulation Period). Jesus? Are you implying that there is a way of escape from this particular time period? Are you trying to convey a message throughout the Old Testament through recorded accounts of men escaping the judgment of God: Noah escaping the Great Flood; Lot escaping the destruction of Sodom; the Jews that heeded your warning in Matthew chapters 23 and 24 about the destruction of Jerusalem getting out of town before the Roman rampage on Jerusalem leading to death and slavery in 70AD? Is the Bible implying that God will tell some people about what's about to happen ahead of time so that they might...avoid experiencing what's about to happen? I think it's obvious: yes God will. And that's not speculation or conjecture; that's a revelation based on documented cases in the Bible. The question thus becomes: If God warned men of impending doom in the past in order that they might escape it, does--or will--He still do it today? Hmmmm. God is not cruel; He won't deprive us of hope or expect sacrifices from us without offering a reward that's worthy of them. He doesn't demand for the purpose of exercising His ego; He demands for the purpose of setting up our tomorrows for a blessing. As James puts it in the 4th chapter of the book of James, mourn today that you may laugh tomorrow; cry today that you may rejoice tomorrow; cleanse your hands and purify your hearts today so that you may draw nigh unto God and win the ultimate prize: an intimate relationship with God. God doesn't suffer with egotism . . . unlike some people. Abusers Why do men beat their wives (or visa-versa)? I think it's obvious by now. Without combing through the thousands--and thousands--of psychology journal articles, self-help books, professional diagnoses, and personal testimonies from abuse victims (which also includes the abusers, by the way), I'll give it to you in one word: insecurity. People who are controlling aren't concerned about others; they're concerned about themselves. They tell themselves they're concerned about others, but they show a lack of regard for others in that they rob (or attempt to rob) from them the ability to act independently, to make their own decisions, to explore their own uniqueness; in short, abusers operate under the delusion (and supreme arrogance) that they're gods. They think it is both their privilege and their obligation to control others...although they can't even control their own tempers. And by the way, you can abuse another in many different ways: mentally through words, emotionally through neglect, and physically through violence. But at the end of the day, the purpose of abuse is to control another. And the sad thing about abuse is it is addictive; it can't be satisfied. The more you give in to an abuser, the more they abuse you. Stand-up! Is God insecure? Satan would have you think so. He told Eve that in the Garden of Eden: that God was insecure and fearful of her being like Him. What Eve didn't know was, in essence, she was already like God, and that the mere fact that God actually left the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Adam and Eve's possession speaks of His ultimate endorsement of free-will. An insecure God will strip you of free-will; He will strip you of opportunities and choices; but God Jehovah hasn't...and won't. He simply lays out consequences (life or death; heaven or hell) and allows you to choose. He doesn't even force you to get saved. In fact, God is so against the dictatorial mind-set that He obligates Himself to His own rules; for He declared in the Psalms that He has exalted His Word above His own name. That means God has set up a system of government similar to our Constitutional Republic (America is not a Democracy; it's a Republic) in that His Constitution (Word) is the final authority, causing even Him to repent when both Moses and Abraham reminded Him of the promises contained therein. God has made Himself subordinate to His own Word. That takes guts. That's how secure God is. That's how...egoless...God is--and He's the only one in existence who has a right to be egotistical: He created EVERYTHING...except for sin and evil. So, God won't beat you; He'll just let you leave and walk yourself into a pit (both figuratively and literally speaking). In Malachi chapter 2:16, God told His priest that He hates divorce and He hates the one who covers his wife with a garment of violence (abuse). He openly stated His contempt for spousal abuse. God also cautioned both wives and husbands in 1 Peter chapter 3 not to dishonor one another, and neglect one another, lest, for the wives, they dishonor God (vs. 4), and for the husbands, He neglects their prayers (vs. 7). God even stressed that depriving your spouse of sex is a form of neglect, which opens the door to Satan in that marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2-5)--and, according to the rules of spiritual warfare, where ever God is evicted from, that's where Satan is given jurisdiction; therefore, the implication is: by depriving your spouse of sex, you are kicking God out of your marriage and inviting Satan into your home. (That's deep.) In 1 Timothy chapter 5, God said that a man who neglects his family is worst than a sinner, and that he has "denied the faith." Jesus said in Luke 11:13 that mankind, which is inherently evil, at least knows how to act lovingly towards innocent children; therefore, how much more God who lacks the sin-nature, but whose very nature is love? The point is: God hates abuse of all forms, whether it be physical violence, mental manipulation, verbal abuse, or neglect. Abuse stinks! But knowing all of this, many still accuse God of being...a wife-beater. You may be wondering what I mean by that statement. Well, I'll tell you in part 2 of this post. There, we'll examine whether or not God beats His wife. Stay tuned.
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