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Jesus Christ – Our Living Hope

Cloud2For a couple of posts we’ve looked at the first time Jesus mentioned the Last days in His teaching (John chapter 5). It’s the basis for constructing our picture of the future return of the Lord.

As I said before, we’ll build “line upon line, precept upon precept” as we go along. In future posts, we’ll be making the picture more complete.

“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
John 5:26-30

The cross is our starting point. We come along about 2000 years later. The physical resurrection of the dead that Jesus talked about hasn’t happened yet. But, we know for a certainty that someday the dead are going to rise and there’s going to be a time of judgment with the result being either eternal life or eternal condemnation.

We don’t know when it’s coming, but there will be a resurrection day. In Jesus’ teaching, that we looked at in my last post, the disciples hadn’t heard anything that was new to them. Jesus didn’t start with some new doctrine that they’d never heard before.

You can find teaching on the resurrection throughout the Old Testament, too. Job looked forward to it in the book of Job chapter 19. It’s a Scripture that’s probably familiar to most of you. It was Job’s statement of faith that one day he was going to see the Lord.

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
Job 19:25-27

Even in the Old Testament, believers knew that there was going to be a resurrection. They understood that God was not going to leave His people in the grave. It’s in a few other places in the Old Testament as well. Not a lot, but enough to let us know that it was a recognized concept.

The Old Testament saints knew about it. Even the Pharisees, as a group, believed and taught that one day God would bring about the resurrection of the dead.

This is where Jesus starts out. It’s a very simple concept, but He begins where His disciples were familiar – the fact of the resurrection.

The only shocker in His teaching was that it will be the voice of Christ that causes the dead to rise. I’m sure that the Pharisees had some choice thoughts on that subject. We, however, are given a foundation upon which to build the rest of the teaching on the return of Christ.

It’s the Lord Himself who is our resurrection. It’s His voice who will call us from our graves to a place of victory. This is a day we can all look forward to as believers. Knowing this, we now have a proper foundation upon which to build the rest of our end-time teaching.

Question: How does the hope of the resurrection comfort you, especially in uncertain times?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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Do You Know the Two Resurrections

GravesWe’ve been discussing Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection as the key to understanding the Second Coming. In talking about this, the Lord describes two kinds. Here is the first.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
John 5:24-25

It’s obvious that Jesus is talking about a spiritual resurrection here, because He uses the phrase, has now come. It was not future, but was being fulfilled in the days that Jesus walked the earth.

The Pharisees were the dead people (spiritually) that Jesus was talking about. He was telling them, “Wake up! You’re dead and if you want life, you must believe and obey my words.”

It was time for them to hear and live. Jesus loved them and desired that they would pass over from death into life.

They could have experienced the life-giving power of God. Unfortunately, their pride kept them from accepting Christ for who He was. Even today pride is one of the biggest hindrances to the move of God in the church.

Jesus makes an important point here. It’s the basis of our belief in His return. Christ is the Life-Giver. This is the foundation for everything else. He uses it as the platform from which to speak of His future ministry of raising the dead (physically) to life.

“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
John 5:26-30

This is the first recorded incident in Jesus’ ministry where He mentions the end-times. No, He doesn’t say a lot about it, but what He does say is at the very core of our belief in the Second Coming.

Jesus explains that there’s a day coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and will come out – those who have done good will rise to live; those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

Unfortunately, we usually miss this key. Yet it’s the foundation stone for everything else that you’ll learn about when you study the Second Coming of Christ. The entire message that Jesus teaches builds on this.

Question: Have you experienced spiritual resurrection? How did it change your outlook on life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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Jesus Christ the Life Giver

One WayI took a couple of posts to deal with the importance of properly studying the Second Coming of Christ. Now I want to look at the key to it all – resurrection. That was the first track of teaching that Jesus brought to His disciples.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 5, we have the first recorded mention that Jesus makes of the end times. I find it amazing that even though this is where Jesus started, I’ve never heard anyone else begin here. As a matter of fact, in this blog you’re going to look at a lot of Scripture not commonly taught as pertaining to the Second Coming of Christ.

In this section of Scripture, persecution is starting to arise because of the things Jesus is saying and doing. The Pharisees don’t like the way Jesus is ignoring their religious traditions. Among other things, He’s healing on the Sabbath.

In this chapter, the Pharisees were starting to have a problem with the Lord. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus made himself out to be God in the flesh. According to the Old Testament, that’s who the Messiah was meant to be.

Jesus couldn’t lie about who He was. Of course, this didn’t sit well with the Pharisees, who wanted all the praise for themselves. They didn’t want to hear who the Lord was, because it meant that they would have had to submit their will to His.

In spite of their unbelief, the Lord starts to explain some things to them.

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.”
John 5:19-21

Jesus is telling this group of unbelieving Pharisees that He does the same work as the Father. The Father can raise the dead, so He can raise the dead. This is the basis for our trust in Christ. He’s the Life-giver. If I want to live an abundant life, then there’s nowhere else I can turn to.

Elsewhere, Jesus says emphatically that He is the Resurrection and the Life. Our hope must be firmly planted in Him. He’s the source of our life.

The next few verses tell us that Jesus has the same authority as the Father. Disrespect of the Son is disrespect of the Father who sent Him. That’s why any study about the Return of the Lord must start with His teaching. If I contradict His word, then I’m the one who’s wrong. His teaching is the basis for all others.

Question: What place of authority does the teaching of Christ have in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2016 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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Living Today with our Hope in View

SpotlightI’ve been posting about Paul’s view of the Second Coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians. We understand that the Resurrection Day is the great hope of the church. But it’s not just about the future.

You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I Thessalonians 5:5-11

Paul tells us the attitude we need in the last days. He says that we’re to be alert and self-controlled. The literal meaning of these words are awake and sober. We can’t be in a spiritual stupor and be victorious as we approach the end of the age.

He also tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate. As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I believe that this is the oil and the lamp that we’re to keep burning. These are the two non-negotiable parts to serving God.

Without faith it’s impossible to please God, and without love your faith is worthless. You have to use both of these spiritual commodities. You can’t live for God without faith and love.

And so, these fruit need to be evident in all of our good works. Everything we do for the Lord has to spring from faith and love. Paul is in total agreement with the teaching of the Lord as found in the Gospels.

Finally, we must have the hope, or literally, the expectation of salvation as a helmet. We have to expect the salvation of God. We know what’s going to happen. We know that God is going to rescue us, so we might as well live like it.

Paul said that we’re not appointed to wrath. According to the Lord’s own words, wrath was not going to fall until the Last Day. Before it fell, however, Jesus said that He would gather up His elect to Himself. All of this happens on the last day of the age, according to Jesus. The Church will be taken to safety first, and then the wrath of God will fall.

It’s clear from both the teaching of Christ Himself and Paul the Apostle that God did not appoint us to wrath. What Paul is saying here is that we who are alive in the last days – who see the signs approaching as labor pains – must not get worried as people who don’t have any hope.

We must realize that we have the helmet of salvation on. We’re not appointed to wrath, so when The Day gets here, we’re going to be protected.

Don’t worry about the future, even though you see problems coming. Be prepared. Be self-controlled. Be alert. Be working for God, but don’t be afraid.

The last thing we need to remember is to continue to encourage one another, to build one another up and to exhort one another as, in fact, we should be doing.

That’s what being a part of the church is all about. We must help each other in areas of weakness. It’s only as we work together that we’ll gain the victory.

Question: How does your future hope affect your walk with Christ today?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Return of Christ, Revival, The Church

 

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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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