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Looking Forward to the Resurrection

Cloud2I’m posting about Paul’s teaching on the Second Coming of Christ found in First Thessalonians. He was answering some questions that the church had. The first was about believers who die before the resurrection.

We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
I Thessalonians 4:14

Because of the foundation of the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself, we know that Paul is talking about the day when Jesus returns. He’s speaking here about the Last Day, the Day of the Lord.

We remember how Jesus taught that on that day, when He returns, every eye shall see Him. This passage reminds us that on that day, He’s going to bring with Him those who have died in the Lord. All the saints that Jesus referred to as being gathered from one end of heaven to the other will be there.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
I Thessalonians 4:15-18

In other words, those who have already died in Christ have a better place in the resurrection than we do because they’re the first to be called. At one point our church had a Christian Academy. Every morning we had opening exercises for the children.

At the end, my wife, Cheryl, (who was the Principal) always said, “O.K. ladies, you’re dismissed, young men, please wait.” The young men were not to precede the ladies in leaving the sanctuary. Sometimes it was very hard for them. Sometimes you could see that their legs just didn’t want to stay still. I think that’s what it’s going to be like for us.

The Lord returns, but we’ve got to wait for those who’ve passed on before us. The Scripture says here that we’re not going to precede those who’ve died in the Lord. There’s a divine order to the resurrection.

Obviously, it’s going to take place in an instant. It’s not like we’re going to have to wait around for an hour. But in that instant, when we’re resurrected, the dead in Christ are going to be resurrected first.

Paul is calming their fears that those brothers and sisters who have passed on before us will not be missing out on anything.   They have a good place in the resurrection.

This should be an encouragement to each of us. What we see of the material world is not all that there is. We have a hope that goes beyond the natural. We should be looking through an eternal perspective.

Question: How should our future hope affect our present way of living?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

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The Resurrection – Our Great Hope

GravesI believe in the soon return of Jesus Christ. As I see what’s happening all around us, it looks like we should be working to bring in the end-time harvest of souls. I want to take a couple of posts to talk about what Paul wrote concerning the Second Coming in his first epistle to the Thessalonians.

First Thessalonians was written because Paul went there, evangelized that area, and then had to leave quickly. We learn in the Book of Acts that persecution broke out, and the people of that region threatened to kill Paul. The church sent him out of the city very quickly.

Because of this, he didn’t have time to really establish their church the way he usually did. When things started to calm down, he began to worry about them. He was afraid that they were not grounded well enough and that they were in danger of quickly falling away.

Paul sent his spiritual son, Timothy to check in with them and see how they were doing. When Timothy came back, his report was better than Paul could have hoped for.

The church was doing great. They were established in the Lord. They weathered the persecution and they were growing in grace and in the power of the Spirit. Paul then wrote this letter to thank God and encourage their church to continue on in the faith.

When Timothy got back to Paul, he also brought some questions that the church had asked during his visit. Paul sent the answer to these in his letter as well.

One of the questions they asked was this: When Christians die, does that mean they’re going to miss out on the Second Coming of Christ? That’s a good question. Another thing they asked was; when are all of these things going to happen? When is the END OF THE AGE going to take place?

The first question he answers is about those who die in the Lord, and whether or not they miss out on the coming of Christ.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
I Thessalonians 4:13

Please realize that the term ignorant was not being used in a bad sense. Paul means that he did not want them to be without knowledge. He did not want them to be lacking in their teaching on the Lord.

He also uses the term fall asleep. The early church used this to signify that someone was dead. They realized that when a believer dies, they don’t cease to exist but rather enter the presence of the Lord. Their body, however, looks like it’s sleeping.

They would say, “Brother John fell asleep” as a nice way of saying that he died. So in effect, Paul is giving them more godly information on those who die in Christ.

His first instruction to them is that they’re not to grieve as the world does. We are not to act as people who don’t have any hope. We have an eternal hope.

We know about the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. Because of this knowledge, funerals don’t hold the same fear over us that the rest of the world has. We shouldn’t act like we’re never going to see the departed Christian again.

Yes, I realize that there’s a parting process. You’re not going to see that person for a long time – so there’s going to be that kind of grief. But don’t grieve as if you’ve lost them forever. Don’t mourn like somebody who has no hope.

Question: How should our future hope affect the believer’s view of death?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Good Friday Meditation

Cross SunsetToday is Good Friday. Around the world, Christians of all cultures are thinking about the death of Christ. That’s a good thing in that it gets people thinking about what Jesus did.

What I don’t understand, is why in some regions they go about in mourning. As if Jesus is still dead. He’s not. He’s alive and well and living on the inside of us.

When I watch a movie for the first time, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m in suspense when something bad happens to the hero. Sometimes they’ll do something I don’t understand.

When that happens, we usually wonder how the hero could possibly survive. But then as the movie progresses, we find out that everything he did was part of a plan to bring down the villain.

If I liked the movie, I may watch it again. But this time I know what’s going to happen. I’m not in suspense. I’m actually happy when I see the hero going into danger because I know how it’s going to turn out.

That’s my take on Good Friday. I’ve seen the movie before. What Jesus did on this day was a carefully planned, strategic attack on the enemy. He wasn’t taken by surprise.

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
John 10:17-18

This was the plan of the Lord all along. It’s actually Satan and his kingdom who should be mourning today. They were the ones who were hurt the most by what happened.

None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2:8

Every time the enemy looks back and remembers this day a chill should run up his spine. It was his greatest mistake. He never saw it coming.

In that one move, Jesus Christ took down the entire kingdom of sin that was holding us captive. We are now free to serve God without fear or condemnation. All because of what happened this day.

So when I look back at the events of 2000 or so years ago, I’m not mourning. As a matter of fact, I have a sly smile. Because I know that even though it looked bad, three days later it all turned around. And that’s something to rejoice about!

So as you go through your day today – think about what Christ did for you on the cross. But just remember, it ends with the resurrection. And that’s better than any movie I’ve ever seen – or ever will.

Have a blessed Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday!

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Mercy and Hope

ThroneI’m posting about the hope that we have in Christ. In my last article we saw that the living hope we receive is birthed in God’s mercy.

The problem I find is that many believers have no concept of what God’s mercy is. In our society we think of it as a “free pass” for something wrong that we’ve done. God can’t operate like that.

Every sin has to be paid for. That’s why Jesus had to go to the cross. Every sin, no matter how small it seemed, had to be laid upon Him.

Mercy is a whole different matter. If you do a word study of how mercy is used in Scripture, you’ll find a rich truth. In actuality, mercy is the favor God shows to His obedient children. That was brought out in the book of Hebrews.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

If I’ve been disobeying the Lord, then I definitely don’t have confidence in approaching His throne. But as I obey Him, He births in me a living hope. It will never die and never go stale. According to the Old Testament, His mercies are new every morning. This is something that helped the apostle Paul face his many trials.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17

In Christ we have a hope that’s birthed, brand new, each day. Why does God have to give us fresh hope each day? It’s important because…

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

This verse literally says that old hope wears out your heart. So God keeps His hope alive and fresh each day if you’re walking obediently before Him.

In my last post we looked at a verse from Peter.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
1 Peter 1:3

It’s clear to see that this Living Hope is given through the resurrection. Our hope could never be alive if not for the resurrection. If God could raise Christ, then I can be raised as well.

That’s good news. Not only did Jesus take my sin with Him to the cross, but He rose from the dead as well. That proves that He has the power to accomplish His will in my life. This should inspire a fresh hope in us each day, as we spend time in His presence – before His throne.

Question: How does the Lord’s mercy and hope affect you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Sonship

 

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Bride of Christ – New Jerusalem

BrideA lot of believers talk about being a friend of God. That’s great, but there’s an even deeper walk. The Scripture talks about the Bride of Christ in many places.

I have to warn you. What you’re about to read in the next few posts has been all but lost in some Christian circles. We’ve watered down the teaching of the Bride so that in our generation, it means anyone who’s recited the sinner’s prayer.

We have to be very careful to put our hope in the revealed Word of God, and not some man’s interpretation of it. I believe that what I’m writing is straight from the pages of Scripture. If I’m wrong, then I pray for God to show me my error. But if I’m correct, then there are some areas that the church needs to grow up into.

As I’ve read and meditated on the Bible, there were some scriptures that caused me to question what I believed about the Bride. For instance, when Jesus was asked why His disciples didn’t fast like the disciples of John the Baptist or the Pharisees, He told them this…

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
Matthew 9:15

I found that interesting. The Lord didn’t call the disciples part of the bride at this point. They were merely guests of the Bridegroom.

Another thing to note is how John the Baptist answered when he was asked if he was the Christ. He stated emphatically that he was not the Messiah. Then he continued…

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”
John 3:29

John is clear that he’s neither the Groom nor the Bride. Then who exactly is the Bride?

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
Revelation 21:9-10

The Apostle John is given a view of the end-times. In it he is shown a picture of the Bride of Christ. When he looks up to see her, he watches as the New Jerusalem descends from Heaven. That’s the Bride – or at least the dwelling place of the Bride.

The Bride of Christ are all those who live in the New Jerusalem. Here’s where we’ve departed from the truth of Scripture. It’s this Holy City that’s described as having streets of gold and pearly gates. Many believers have the idea that this is where everyone who’s saved will live after the resurrection.

In the next few posts I’ll show, from the pages of Scripture, who will live in the New Jerusalem. This will also clarify the truth about the bride of Christ. Please read them with an open heart and mind. Also, know that my heart and motives are pure before God. I only want to see God’s people rise up to their full potential and true destiny in Christ Jesus.

Question: Who do you believe will live in the New Jerusalem?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Return of Christ, Revival, The Church

 

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True Repentance and Forgiveness

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe sometimes give the impression that the story of Jesus is all about the resurrection. As important as that is, it’s only a part of the whole picture of Christ. The work of the Lord definitely culminated when He rose from the dead. But we need to understand the entire revelation of God’s plan.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Luke 24:46-47

The whole work of Christ on the cross was needed to bring us repentance and the forgiveness of sin. Do we really understand what this means? Or have we watered this down in our desire to get on with what we want to accomplish with our lives? I need to know how the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord affects me.

The first word that catches my attention here is repentance. In the vocabulary of our present society it simply means to say, “I’m sorry.” Many times we throw out this phrase and never even mean it. We only want to placate the one we’re apologizing to.

Biblical repentance is a whole other matter. It’s about desiring a change of direction in your life. I don’t like where I’m at. I have all this baggage that I’m carrying with me – the guilt and regrets of the past. It’s like I’m stuck with a heavy backpack full of junk that I’d just like to shake off.

The problem is that this backpack is locked onto me. I can’t shake it. I’ve tried so many times to remove it in the past but nothing works. I want a new life. This is the spirit of repentance. It’s all about the desire to change.

The next word we have a bit of trouble with is forgiveness. We read into it the definitions given to us by our society. When we talk about repentance and forgiveness the truth gets lost in our preconceived ideas.

We do something wrong and say, “I’m sorry.”

The person we wronged replies, “Don’t worry about it. I’m okay with you now.”

Our misunderstanding comes from the fallacy that sin is only evil. The fact is that sin means that we have missed the mark of God’s perfect will. Of course, evil falls into that category. But there are other things that are sin as well. Not doing the good work that the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do is a form of sin. Sin is only evil when it’s done on purpose.

When we talk about forgiveness, we’re not talking about God saying to us, “I’m okay with you now. Try harder next time.”

The word, forgive, in the Bible literally means to pick up and throw away. God’s work of forgiveness is the total removal of the sin from our lives. That’s why a true understanding of repentance is so important. If all you want is to “make God happy with you,” then you’re not really repenting. True repentance is the desire for true forgiveness – the removal of sin and restoration to purity in Christ.

It’s like what the trash man does at our curbside every week. He shows up and removes our trash completely. When he’s done his work, you never see that trash again. Think about what life would be like if he took it back to your house the next week just to remind you what you threw away.

The blessing of serving our God is that the removal is permanent.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalms 103:11-12

This is what the cross and the resurrection are all about.

Question: How does a repentant heart today change how you live tomorrow?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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What’s a Transgression?

Question MarkI’m taking a few posts to talk about what happened on the cross. We usually emphasize the resurrection, but in the cross there was an incredible release of power. In my last post I talked about the curse of the cross.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

To say that we were sinners is a huge understatement. The word sin, itself, covers a lot of ground. It simply means to miss the mark. There are many types of sin that we fall into. But it says in this verse that the piercing that Christ received was specifically for our transgressions.

What are transgressions? A transgression is the sin of breaking covenant with God. Through the Bible the only ones who could be guilty of this was Israel. Again and again they transgressed the covenant. If we are going to understand the cross, then we must look at the covenant involved.

Abraham was the first person in history to cut a personal covenant with God, Himself. As a matter of fact, the word covenant is thrown around a lot in Christian circles and we’ve missed its importance.

Up until the time of Abraham, all of the covenants of God dealt with the entire human race. These included the covenants with Adam and Noah. But when God approached Abraham, the covenant became personal.

God’s words to Abraham were, in effect, “If you accept my covenant, then your family will become mine.” This placed the Hebrew people under the direct influence of God. He was now responsible to direct, protect, bless, and provide for them. It was an incredible event that took place when Abraham trusted God for all of this.

But what happened after that? Many teach that when Moses came along, another covenant was instituted. They say that the covenant of the law was now in effect. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listen to how Paul, an expert in the law, describes it.

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
Galatians 3:19a

According to Paul, the law was added. This is an important truth for us to grasp. The Law of Moses was not a new covenant with the children of Israel. It was an addendum to the existing covenant that was made with their father, Abraham.

Why did they need this addition? Again, Paul is clear in his explanation. It was because of transgressions. Over and over again, Abraham’s descendants kept breaking the terms of the covenant.

Abraham’s relationship with God was based on love. He loved and obeyed God. He did everything God asked of him, not out of a sense of obligation, but of trust and friendship.

In the Law, God put in writing the things that Abraham did out of his love for God. So the Law was simply a way for God to remind the Israelites of the cost of being in covenant with God. It also showed them how impossible it was for them to live up to it.

Question: Why did Christ need to bear our transgressions?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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