James O. Davis is the founder and president of Second Billion (TM). You are invited to learn more about Second Billion by visiting www.billion.tv.
I want to share on how to be ready for the Rapture, or the training for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Christians, I believe, need to be awakened to the urgency and emergency of the soon coming of Jesus Christ. One verse out of four in the Word of God points to the Second Coming. As a matter of fact, the Word of God had a lot to say concerning the Second Coming. Every chapter in the book of 1 Thessalonians ends with thoughts on the Second Coming.
This is a theme that is interwoven throughout the entire book of 1 Thessalonians. This message is designed to teach us how to be ready. I believe Jesus is getting ready to come back for His Church. He is coming back for His bride, for those who really love Him and are looking forward to seeing Him. The Second Coming is not a theory to be propagated, but a truth to be practiced.
First Thessalonians is an example of how the New Testament believers were preparing for the imminent return of Jesus. Indeed, it has been nearly 2,000 years since this epistle was written. If they believed in His soon coming then, surely that great event is about to happen now. In 1 Thessalonians, there are some principles we need to apply and follow if we are going to be ready when Jesus Christ comes again.
FIRST, WE NEED TO BE SERVING
A) The practice of faith -- Notice how the Thessalonians were serving and their practice of faith. The Word of God says, “the work of faith”. We are not saved by works and faith—that’s heresy. But we are saved by faith that works. Paul said show me your faith without your works. James said I will show you my faith by my works. We are saved by faith that works. You and I need to be serving if we’re going to be ready when Jesus returns again.
B) The price of faith -- The Bible says, “labor of love”. You see a slave works because he has to. An employee works because he needs to, but a Christian works because he loves to.
Someone asked me recently, “Do you get tired preaching every night and sharing the Word of God?” I answered that I get tired of traveling sometimes, but I don’t think I have ever gotten tired of preaching the Word of God. I love what I do. I love preaching the Word. I love serving Jesus Christ. A lot of people gripe and complain about serving the Lord. We ought to count it a privilege. We ought to count it a joy that we have the opportunity to serve the Lord. We need to love serving the Lord Jesus.
C) The patience of faith -- The Bible speaks of the “patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”. We all need to realize the importance and need for patience in the Lord.
You have heard about the young man who prayed, “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me quick.” Serving the Lord in patience is to realize that He has a plan for our life and that everything is in control. He is going to bring it all about. Those who are ready for the soon return of Jesus Christ are those who are serving the Lord.
SECOND, WE NEED TO BE STEDFAST
There is a mentality among some Christians that you should never have to face affliction because you are serving the Lord. In Thessalonica, the believers knew affliction. When we live in the Spirit, we will have joy in the midst of afflictions. We must keep our eyes on God in the midst of difficulties and problems that confront our faith.
Occasionally, I have asked people, “How are you?” Often I hear them say, “Well, I’m doing pretty well under the circumstances.” What are we doing beneath the circumstances? Circumstances are like mattresses; you are bound to suffocate under them. We need to get on top of our circumstances and get our eyes back on Jesus. He is able to take care of us and bring us through all afflictions and problems that come our way.
Bob Leland is a man who really encouraged me several years ago. You may have seen him on television. He has a healthy dose of enthusiasm for life. You may remember, he ran the New York marathon in 98 hours, 47 minutes, and 17 seconds. That’s not bad for someone who has no legs. Bob went to Vietnam as a strapping 6 foot, 200 pounder. He returned weighing only 87 pounds and was two and a half feet shorter. He had every reason to give up. Instead, his testimony is, “I felt blessed, and I am just happy being alive.”
Bob rejected the artificial legs the doctors wanted to give him by saying, “They are too slow; they slow me down. I have a lot of things to catch up on and a lot of places to go.” This man, on his hands, went from California to the Vietnam Memorial, a distance of 7,784 miles. He was steadfast. He didn’t let his problems keep him back. He had determined he was going to enjoy life in spite of the afflictions in his physical body.
Do you know how to hang in there when gloom is all around and the storm is raging? We need to be steadfast. The church in Thessalonica knew how to serve God and they knew how to be steadfast.
THIRD, WE NEED TO BE SHARING
A) Their example of soul-winning -- If we believe Jesus is coming again, we will be involved in soul-winning. The proof that we believe Jesus Christ is coming again is not that we have our heads in the clouds of prophecy, but that we’ve got our feet on the pavement of soul-winning. The early church was an example of soul-winning. They spread the Gospel throughout all of Macedonian and Achaia.
Some believe we cannot be effective soul-winners until we have attended many hours of training or seminars. I agree that we should receive all the help and training that is available to us, but the New Testament Church was less than one year old when Paul wrote this epistle to them. They simply went out and spread the good news. I think sometimes we make it complicated when all we need to do is tell others about the love of Jesus and what He has done in our lives. We need to be sharing and telling others about Jesus all the time.
B) Their evidence of soul-winning -- The Bible says that these Christians were so efficient in what they did that when Paul came back to Macedonia and Achaia he didn’t even need to preach. Everyone had already heard the gospel message. They had already heard because this New Testament Church in Thessalonica went everywhere sharing that Jesus saves and that He is coming again. If we honestly believe that Jesus is coming soon, we too will be sharing. We will be telling others about Jesus.
More than 100 years ago, a soul-winning training conference was being held in the City of Indianapolis. While the preacher and parishioners inside the auditorium were learning how to the reach the masses, an evangelist outside on a street corner was preaching the good news. He preached under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the crowd continued to grow into a rather large number. As the time approached for the audience inside to be dismissed, the evangelist asked the crowd outside to move to a different street corner where he continued to preach and hundreds of people accepted Christ as Savior. While those on the inside talked about soul winning, D.L. Moody on the outside was doing it.
You know we’ve talked about it and we’ve discussed it—now it’s time for you and me to get out and do it. If we believe Jesus is coming soon we’ll be sharing, steadfast and serving.
FOURTH, WE NEED TO BE SEPARATE
Idolatry is alive and well in the world today. In fact, many Christians are often divided in their allegiances to God. Although many make idols out of various possessions, anything or any activity that hinders the performance of God’s will in our lives can become an idol. To be ready for the Second Coming of Jesus, we must be free from idolatry and the things of this world.
The secret of getting victory over idolatry is to turn to God from idols, not turn from idols to God. Many try turning from idols so they can be closer to the Lord. However, if we will turn to God then we will leave the idols behind. Holiness is not the way to Christ. Christ is the way to holiness. When you go through Christ you will live a holy life. A lot of people are trying to work it out by becoming more and more holy through their own efforts, work and diligence. When we learn how to turn to God, then we will leave our idols behind. We won’t leave our idols behind until we turn to God.
If we are going to be ready when Jesus returns, we’ve got to be separate, different. The people of the church in Thessalonica were definitely different. They were not serving idols; they were serving the true and living God. We, too, need to be serving God this way. Not according to the dictates of a materialistic age, but in total submission to the Word and Spirit of God. If we believe Jesus is going to return soon, we will not love this world, but we will love the world to come. We won’t be loving this system; we will be loving the Savior.
Some time ago, an evangelist in America received a large jade carving of Buddha from a businessman as a gift. He immediately recognized that it was an idol. He soon discovered that the gift was worth well over one million dollars. Asking the businessman to come to his home, the preacher said, “I can’t take this. I cannot bring an idol into my home. I cannot receive this gift.” The businessman said he did not realize the gift was an idol. At that, both men took large sledge hammers and began to demolish the idol in the driveway.
If you and are I are going to be ready when Jesus comes again, we need to demolish any idols that are in our hearts or homes, turn to God, and leave idolatry behind.
FIFTH, WE NEED TO BE SURE
A) They were sure of the will of God -- The Thessalonians knew they were in a right relationship with God. We don’t need to be doubting Christians, but shouting Christians. We need to know that all sins are under the blood and that we are knowledgeable and obedient to the will of God for our lives.
B) They were sure of the work of God -- They knew God’s work because the Bible says, “For our Gospel came not in word only, but also in power.” You and I need to make sure that we are receiving the Gospel. The way you’ll know you’re receiving the Gospel is that the Word of God will come forth in the power of the Holy Spirit. The true Word of God will change hearts and lives.
C) They were sure of the witness of God -- Once President Lincoln was in a very heavy business meeting with all of his cabinet members in the same room. His son Todd was in another room playing with a toy. Something happened and the toy was broken. The fact that his father was President, and was in a highly sensitive staff meeting, did not change matters for the boy. He walked past the guards, into the room with his father, and asked the President to fix his toy. I chuckle when I think of this story. Although he knew his father was President, the son was also sure of his relationship, and that his father could take care of any problem in his life.
You and I need to be sure of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to settle it. We need to settle God’s will, work, and know the witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Word of God is clear that those Christians in Thessalonica were sure people. They knew they were ready for the Lord’s return.
SIXTH, WE NEED TO BE SAVED
A) Three aspects of salvation -- Paul gives attention to three aspects of our salvation.
First, he shares about the source of our salvation. Have you noticed in the epistles that grace is always mentioned first? It is grace that makes the difference. We have tried to define grace—which is unmerited favor. I like to define it in the form of an acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Really, that’s what grace is. Without grace we would not have eternal life. Grace is not found in the merits of men, but in the mercy of God. It is not found in the riches of mankind, but in the redemption of God. Grace is what makes the difference.
Second, Paul shares about the satisfaction of salvation. He says, “grace and peace”. You can’t have peace without grace, but peace always follows on the heels of grace. In all of Paul’s epistles, he first says grace and then he says peace. You see peace is not the subtraction of problems from life. It is the addition of the power of God to meet those problems that confront us. We need the peace of God and it comes as a result of the grace of God. This Church knew the grace and peace of God.
Third, Paul shares about the strength of salvation. We are now in Jesus. We have a new position, possessions and privileges. We now can go boldly unto the throne of God’s grace, love and unmerited favor. You and I have the opportunity to serve Jesus Christ with all our hearts. It is grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ that makes us who we are.
If you have not yet accepted Jesus as your Savior, and you want to be ready when He returns, then you must be saved. You must repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
B) The plan of salvation -- God had a plan and I’m so glad He included you and me in that plan. Even though it took many centuries for God’s plan to unfold, He still had a plan. He wants to redeem all mankind. He wants to give everyone grace and forgiveness. It all started back in the book of Genesis thousands of years ago.
First, it was one lamb for one man. When a man would sin, each man had to offer up his own lamb for the covering of his own sin.
Second, it was one lamb for one family. As God brought the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, each family had to offer up its own lamb. They would take the blood of that lamb and put it on the door posts of their houses so the death angel would not harm the people that were inside the homes.
Third, it was one lamb for one nation. When God brought His people out of Egyptian bondage into the Promised Land, a sacrificial system was established and every year a lamb was offered up for the entire nation. The sins of the whole nation were thus forgiven and covered by the blood of the lamb that was slain. For 1,400 years Israel followed the procedure of entering into the Holy of Holies and finding God’s forgiveness for the sins of the whole nation.
Fourth, it is now one Lamb for the whole world. I am so glad that one day God’s plan for the whole world was fulfilled and that John the Baptist came preaching, “Here is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the entire world.” This included people from all families and nations. This plan included you and me. We’ll never fully understand the grace of God. But, God in His mercy and His love has forgiven our trespasses and sins so we can all have eternal life.
When Jesus comes back, He is going to be looking for a Church that is ready for His coming. You and I need to be ready when He returns again.
A fierce battle was raging during the Civil War in the 1860s. General Sherman was leading the northern troops on a path from Chattanooga to Atlanta and on to the ocean. He was burning everything in his path. In time, he was involved in a strategic battle at Fort Altoona. The confederates, under the leadership of Captain Hood, knew the North would receive new supplies at Fort Altoona in order to continue their march past Atlanta and on to the ocean.
So the confederates attacked Fort Altoona. As the battle raged, General Sherman was on a nearby mountain with field glasses watching the scene. A message from inside the fort was received that more men and supplies were desperately needed. These were supplied and the battle for Fort Altoona continued. As the battle raged, the captain inside the fort received a message from a reflective mirror on top of the mountain. General Sherman was saying, “Hold the fort, for I am coming.”
Christianity is warfare. We are in serious battle for the souls of men. And, a message from the Captain of our Salvation says, “I am coming soon.” If we’re going to be ready when He comes again we’ve got to be saved, sure, serving, steadfast, soul winning and separated!