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Posts Tagged ‘death’

What Is The Blessed Hope?

November 29, 2012 6 comments

Titus 2 came up in my recent Bible readings, and in a brief online discussion concerning what the Blessed Hope is.  Titus 2:13 is the key verse in reference to the “Blessed Hope”:   waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Often, though, online websites or audio series, particularly those that emphasize the pre-trib rapture, lose the focus: declaring that the blessed hope is the pre-trib rapture event itself, or things particularly associated with the rapture event.  Examples include this audio series (part A of the second series), and this article, which says: “Titus chapter 2 is an amazing chapter because it tells us that the rapture of the church is our ‘blessed hope’, in which we are to do the following while we wait on His return.” That article goes on to focus on what we are to do while waiting for His return, and that “the Blessed Hope is a means by which God uses it to prepare us and purify us as we wait. It is not simply a ‘get out of jail free card’, it is a refining tool of the Lord to make us ready on a daily basis. After all, death is a reality for over 250,000 people a day every day around the world, with lots of them being bible believing Christians.”

Yet such a view, with emphasis on the pre-trib rapture, misses the overall emphasis and what Titus 2:13, the Blessed Hope, is about: Christ Himself, and His appearing.  Teaching about the rapture and its timing is fine enough in its place, including discussion of the various scripture references to the rapture and indirect scriptural evidences for a pre-tribulational rapture.  Far too often, though, careless ideas creep into our doctrine, as with such statements about “the rapture of the church is our ‘blessed hope'” in which the focus is on us rather than on Christ Himself and His return.  Then too, the posts at rapture forums often focus on the great desire to escape from this life, to be raptured away – again a self-focused view.  Certainly our motives in this life will always be mixed at best, and even when we first come to Christ the primary reasons are indeed selfish.  Yet as Spurgeon often said, too often people have selfish motives for desiring Christ’s return in their lifetime: to escape their present circumstances, and/or to avoid the experience of physical death.  Let us instead keep our eyes on our Lord, truly desiring Him above all else, whatever our circumstances: Philippians 1:21, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Another consideration is that the vast majority of believers meet the Lord at death.  Only a relatively few will actually be living at the time and caught up, to meet up with those who have been resurrected (1 Thess. 4:17).  From that perspective, the blessed hope for those who die before Christ’s return, is to meet Him at death.  The full, final perspective, of course, includes all  the events at the Second Coming, especially the bodily resurrection: those already physically dead as well as those of us still living, all awaiting our glorified bodies.

In closing, some great observations from Spurgeon, in this message:

What is that “blessed hope”? Why, first, that when He comes we shall rise from the dead, if we have fallen asleep, and that if we are alive and remain, we shall be changed at His appearing! Our hope is that we shall be approved of Him and shall hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Also from Spurgeon, sermon #2509:

what is the blessed hope of the children of God—they are looking for the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ from Heaven! As they look back by faith, they see their Lord upon the Cross and then they see Him in the tomb—and then they behold Him risen from the grave. The last glimpse they catch of Him is as a cloud receives Him out of their sight. He has gone into Glory, but Believers have not forgotten those angelic words to the disciples, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into Heaven.” So we expect Him to come. And when He comes, then is to be the time of our highest joy!  Even though we are now called the sons of God, “it does not yet appear what we shall be.” Our glory, our full bliss, is as yet concealed, “but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like He, for we shall see Him as He is.” So, Brothers and Sisters, our hope is that when Christ shall come, we shall be perfected—that then we shall be rid of every sin and shall become holy even as He is holy, pure even as He is pure!

The Physical Death of Christian Loved Ones

February 13, 2012 2 comments

An online friend’s son, a student at the Master’s College, recently and unexpectedly departed to be with the Lord.  Such situations are indeed uncommon, and we grieve the more for the loss when it’s a young adult.  While we rejoice that the loved one is with the Lord now – we do not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13) – it is also good to remember that even Abraham mourned the death of Sarah.  S. Lewis Johnson’s words on this passage are apt here for any who would disregard the idea of grieving for the loss:  The Bible does not, in any way, suggest that we should deny our feelings or that we should restrain our feelings.  It’s not bad to weep and cry as a Christian.  When the occasion calls for it, it’s perfectly normal and natural.  There are people who incline to think that if we believe that there is a resurrection that there is no place for weeping.  That’s not biblical.  That kind of pious stoicism that bids us to meet the most agitating experiences of life with rigid and tearless countenance is not biblical teaching.

Such events remind me also of the more in-depth thoughts and teaching of 19th century preachers such as J.C. Ryle and Spurgeon.  Thanks to modern medicine, we in the 21st century have very little first-hand experience with sickness and death; infant mortality is rare, as is death from common sicknesses such as the flu or other diseases.  Ryle and Spurgeon frequently mentioned sickness and death, a common human experience, and we can learn much from their appreciation of a topic that people today find easier to avoid.  Consider J.C. Ryle’s observations of what we can learn from sickness:  it reminds men of death and helps make men think seriously of God, their souls, and the world to come.

Some closing thoughts from J.C. Ryle, concerning the future great gathering of the saints:

The gathering together of true Christians will be a meeting at which none shall be absent. The weakest lamb shall not be left behind in the wilderness. We shall once more see our beloved friends and relatives who fell asleep in Christ, and left us in sorrow and tears — better, brighter, more beautiful, more pleasant than ever we found them on earth! We shall hold communion with all the saints of God who have fought the good fight before us, from the beginning of the world to the end.   . . .

The gathering of all true Christians shall be a meeting without a parting. There are no such meetings now. We seem to live in an endless hurry, and can hardly sit down and take breath — before we are off again. “Good-bye!” treads on the heels of “Hello!”

The cares of this world,
the necessary duties of life,
the demands of our families,
the work of our various stations and callings

— all these things appear to eat up our days, and to make it impossible to have long quiet times of communion with God’s people. But, blessed be God — it shall not always be so. The hour comes, and shall soon be here, when “good-bye” and “farewell” shall be words that are laid aside and buried forever! When we meet in a world where the former things have passed away, where there is . . .

no more sin,
no more sorrow,
no more poverty,
no more work of body or work of brains,
no more need of anxiety for families,
no more sickness,
no more pain,
no more old age,
no more death,
no more change —

when we meet in that endless state of being, calm, and restful, and unhurried — who can tell what the bliss and blessedness will be? I cannot wonder that Paul bids us look up and look forward.