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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: November 27, 2020
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome to HBS.
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:17).
I pray you awaken each morning with a thankful heart for all that God has done, is presently doing, and for all the things He has promised to do yet future, such as the Rapture of the Body of Christ. I pray also that you are able to be with those you love this holiday season. Remember, love is a verb.
Please open your Bible at 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 and we’ll get right to it.
“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
The Day of the Lord
“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
Our Apostle Paul introduced 1 Thessalonians 5 with the word “But,” (meaning: better understand this) and in so doing separates the subject matter of chapter 4:13-18 from that of 5:1-3, so please take note of the following:
1) The former passage has to do with the Body of Christ, a.k.a. “His own” while the latter is related to the future earthly kingdom of Christ.
2) The closing verses of chapter 4 deal with a “mystery,” i.e., a divine secret, that was revealed through Paul alone (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:51; Galatians 1:11-12), while the opening verses of chapter 5 deal with prophetic truths which had been proclaimed to the nation of Israel for centuries. Indeed, the first two verses contain three familiar prophetic phrases: “the times and the seasons,” “the day of the Lord,” and “a thief in the night.” Since Paul was an Israelite, a pharisee of the pharisees, he was well acquainted with them
3) The former passage deals with the Rapture of the members of the Body of Christ, while the latter is related to the subsequent return of the Lord Jesus Christ to reign as Israel’s King on the earth, not in heaven.
4) The Thessalonian saints needed more light on the truth of the Rapture (3:10, 4:13-18, whereas they understood “perfectly,” or accurately, the truth about “the day of the Lord,” so that Paul could say to them re: this subject, “ye have no need that I write unto you” (5:1-2).
5) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 concerns every true Believer, while chapter 5:1-3 concerns “them,” the unbelievers that will experience the wrath of God. In the former passage we find the word “we” four times, and even the “them who have fallen asleep,” are raised to join those “who are alive and remain,” at which we are all “caught up together… to meet the Lord in the air:” (4:17). But in the latter passage “they” the unsaved are the subject. “When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them… and they shall not escape” (5:3).
6) And finally, while the former passage closed with an exhortation to “comfort one another with these words” the latter is clearly one that should strike fear into the hearts of all those who remain willfully outside of Christ, i.e., the unbelievers. It literally stands as a warning to every lost individual.
Considering all that, the contrast between the two passages, then, is striking; and yet it is sad to say that some well-meaning men of God confuse the joyous day of the Rapture with the calamitous “day of the Lord,” placing the Rapture after the Great Tribulation (the final 3.5 years of God’s righteous wrath), and thus frightening the very people they should be “comforting.” To that I’ll add in all my years of attending one church after another searching for one that taught the truth of God’s Word, not once did I hear one of these well-meaning men of God preach a sermon on Romans 16:25. That didn’t happen until the year 1997. Just so you know, I’m talking about a span of 45 years, give or take. I’ve printed that Bible verse that many ignore as being of no account:
“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,”
This of course begs the question, “Who out there knows what Paul’s gospel is?” I asked this same question in all my Bible classes and in the living rooms of my adult Bible students, and as I recall only two people, in all that time, knew the answer. That’s a sad commentary to say the least. Because “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my (Paul’s) gospel” it befits us to understand his message, don’t you think? (See Romans 2:16). Since Paul is referencing the unbeliever in verses 5:1-3, let’s review the gospel God purposed for the Grace Age; the message that the vast majority of Christendom knows nothing of. The go-to gospel for many churchgoers today is John 3:16. But here’s the thing, that particular gospel known as the kingdom gospel was in accordance with the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry “to the Jew only” (Acts 11:19) and in harmony with God’s Prophetic Program which, again, concerns the nation of Israel. That gospel is saying, “Believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, i.e., Israel’s Messiah (Acts 8:26-40).
The clearest biblical example of this truth is found in Matthew 16:13-17: “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven…”
Let’s make sure we understand this. Not once did the Lord Jesus Christ teach His disciples that He would die for the sins of Israel, be buried, and be resurrected on the third day, according to the Scriptures. That’s Paul’s gospel. It had been a “mystery” (a secret) only God knew about until the risen Lord revealed it and committed it to Paul, and he preached this “good news” to the gentile nations and to the Jews, “for now there is no difference” (Romans 16:25; Galatians 3:28). Which most certainly implies that before Paul’s calling, there was a difference, and that per the will of God.
The word gospel is derived from the Old English godspell meaning “good news.” The “gospel” is the message God has revealed to the human race regarding how they can have a relationship with Him, and it changed from one dispensation to another. That being said, throughout history mankind’s response to His “good news” in each dispensation has always been the same: faith in what God has said. The first example of this truth is found in the book of beginnings a.k.a. Genesis: “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth (angry), and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Genesis 4:1- 7).
The Lord had revealed to Adam how he can have and maintain a relationship with Him and he in turn revealed this truth to Eve. Their offspring were aware of it as well because we find them obediently bringing sacrifices at the appointed time and that’s the issue here. The LORD accepted Abel and his offering because he brought “the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof,” which was the required sacrifice in accordance with the LORD God’s instructions. His older brother Cain, however, opted to do his own thing he brought the LORD “the fruit of the ground;” instead of the required animal sacrifice. His defiant act demonstrated that he was destitute of faith the very trait in man that pleases God.
In Hebrews 11:6 we read, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” In this same chapter we find examples of men and women who believed God. Therefore, faith in what God has revealed has always been the means of one’s acceptance and salvation. Thus the writer of Hebrews wrote, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report” (Hebrews 11:1-2).
While the means of obtaining and maintaining God’s favor is through faith in what He has said remained the same throughout history, the content of the gospel itself has not. God changes not, but His good news has changed from one dispensation to the next and God revealed this good news to mankind. The clearest definition of the gospel for our day (the Dispensation of Grace) is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian saints. He wrote: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Come to think of it, I’ve never heard a sermon on this Bible passage either, and people ought to be asking why that is. But I digress, from Paul’s gospel above we learn the way we have a relationship with God today is by believing Christ “died for our sins,” “was buried,” and “he rose again the third day according to the scriptures;” this is “the preaching of the cross;” (1 Corinthians 1:18) the very message Paul suffered greatly for and it eventually cost him his life. I expect if you’ve tried to follow Paul’s example you too have experienced persecution (albeit on the moderate side) and suffered for doing the right thing.
The resurrection of Christ on the third day proved He was victorious over sin and death as our substitutionary sacrifice (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). It’s as simple as that my friends. When one believes Paul’s gospel he or she is, in the words of the Scriptures, “saved” and that cannot be undone (Romans 8:1), as some well-meaning men of God and some not so well-meaning individuals would have you believe.
Returning to our Bible text, I remind y’all 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 concerns all those Believers who are eternally saved and positioned in Christ. But the latter passage deals with a Christ-rejecting world and the “sudden destruction” that will overtake it, inescapable divine vengeance, coming as “travail upon a woman with child,” when at last the scores of prophetic warnings on the subject, so long ignored and scoffed at by the Christ-hating world, will be fulfilled to the last jot and tittle.
“Why did Paul write to these Believers with regard to “the day of the Lord,” if they understood this truth so “perfectly.” The answer is found in the first word of chapter 5, “But.” When Paul contrasted the Rapture with “the day of the Lord,” he meant to emphasize the significant difference between these two future events.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, with its “day of the Lord,” coming as “a thief in the night,” “bringing sudden destruction,” is remarkably like our Lord’s predictions in Matthew 24 concerning the Great Tribulation and afterwards His Second Coming to “the earth” to reign as Israel’s King for a literal one thousand years. But as I pointed out to y’all some time back this wasn’t the problem that “troubled” the Thessalonian Believers. At this point, they were not worried about the anti-Christ and the Great Tribulation, per se. Their concern was over their loved ones who had died, in Christ Jesus. The question on their minds was would their loved ones that had “fallen asleep” miss the Rapture. Paul’s answer dismisses that trouble thought for he stated, “the dead in Christ shall rise first:” “Then we (Paul includes himself here believing the Lord’s return would occur in his lifetime) which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (those who had died in Christ), to meet the Lord in the air…” (4:16-17). Wherefore he instructed these saints to “comfort one another with these words.”
And a great “comfort” it is. A couple of years ago death took my mother and then six months later to the very day my older sister died. But I know they are true Believers, so when the Lord comes for us, my loved ones will be there just ahead of me and we’ll be “together,” once again forever with the Lord. That, my friends, “comforts” me greatly. That thought brings a Pauline concept to mind and we’ll look at that and accept the truth for what it is, “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of (your) salvation) – 2 Corinthians 6:1-2.
Now is not the time to be indifferent (no fence-sitting allowed) for the Grace Age will not go on endlessly. God the Father has set an end date in mind and only He knows the day and the hour (Matthew 24:36). Thus, “now is the day of salvation.”
(To be continued)
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