Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Receiving the Word

I Thessalonians 5:20-28

“Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (I Thessalonians 5:20-21)

So often we think of prophecy as just foretelling the future. Unfortunately most think of it in the sense of having some miraculous ability to foresee what others cannot. As a result, we overlook the broader and greater meaning of prophecy. The last part of Revelation 19:10 tells us, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” The Old Testament prophets frequently foretold the future, but in the sense of allowing the people to see what would result from their obedience or disobedience. Most of the prophecies were focused on actions the people needed to take. In teaching and preaching of the need for and consequences of receiving and obeying Christ, we are prophesying.

There is a tendency for us to reach a point where we no longer want to hear what the Bible says, wanting something new. Paul warned Timothy of this, and instructed him not to yield to the pressure to find something new. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (II Timothy 4:2-4)

I Corinthians 14: 22 specifies that prophecy or teaching is especially applicable to those who already believe. They do not require special signs to convince them of god’s power. “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.” Matthew 16:4 states, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign,” implying that they refuse commit to him, not just simply not believing because of a lack of knowledge. I Corinthians 14:4-5 describes the importance of such prophecy, as compared with the signs which those unbelieving seek. “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.”

Peter states “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (II Peter 1:19) We can fully trust God’s Word, but we must keep in mind that we can easily misinterpret passages, and thus must mot interpret except in accordance with other scripture. Since as II Timothy 3: 16-17 tells us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Unfortunately, Peter warns, there are false teachers among us. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2pe 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of,” (II Peter 2:1-2). As a result Paul directs that we are to “prove (test0 all things,” retaining what is good.

The Thessalonians were inclined to either reject unfamiliar doctrine, or to accept it blindly. Paul is instructing them to be more like the Bereans as described in Acts 17:11. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” To become truly a great Christian requires such discernment that Paul directed Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (II Timothy 2:15-16) As II Timothy 3:17 tells us, it will fully equip us to do everything God expects us to do.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Don’t Quench the Spirit

I Thessalonians 5:16-19

Having grown up on the Navajo Reservation, and observed a large number of “revivals” and tent meetings, I am somewhat skeptical as to their value to the church. Too many appear to be based on an emotional rather than a spiritual basis. As a result, I viewed our pastor’s decision to hold a tent meeting with some misgivings. Nevertheless, I attended, with hopes of better things and the crowd was fairly good.

There was some response to the invitation and people seemed involved. Suddenly, a cell phone sounded, and a lady hastily grabbed her purse. Our pastor jumped up and ordered her to shut that thing off, accusing her of disrupting the service. Our pastor blamed the cell phone for quenching the Spirit, but the next night hardly anyone came to the meetings. The lady had been one of group who had chosen that night to visit. None of them has ever come back, and several church members quit as well.

Over the years, I have seen Satan use all kinds of disruptions to try to quench the spirit, from sheep and dogs entering the church, to car wrecks and police chases on the street outside. Cell phones ringing and crying children were common place occurrences and while annoying, had little effect. The pastor’s angry comments, however, definitely destroyed any interest in knowing his God. Since the Holy Spirit is God, there is no physical event that can block his power. Humans can, however, refuse to allow his working in their life, quenching the Spirit. The spirit was not quenched by the cell phone ringing, but by the reaction of the people to the pastor’s outburst.

Paul gives several instructions that will greatly enhance our ability to experience the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives, Failure to follow them hinders and sometimes quenches his efforts. He does not force us to accept his working, wanting us to experience his love, and to learn to love him in return. Our attitude, sometimes referred to as our spirit, will greatly affect the outcome of the Holy Spirit’s work. Notice the instructions,

“Rejoice evermore.” (I Thessalonians 5:16)

The fruit of the Spirit is described in Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Most of the fruit of the spirit is more about our attitude than about the actual actions. The proper attitude will produce much better actions.

We’ve all seen how a whiney, resentful attitude will prevent a person from enjoying even the most enjoyable things, and from learning things that are presented. It has the same effect on our spiritual life. Enjoy, and rejoice both are rooted in the word joy. If we do not do them, the Holy Spirit cannot produce joy in our lives, nor will we experience peace, faith, or real temperance. As Christians, we have reason for rejoicing, regardless of our circumstances, as Peter makes abundantly clear.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Peter 4:12-13)

Our problems are not the end, but just a step in God’s plan Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” If we love God and allow him to have his way, the end result will benefit us. Rejoice.

Pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Prayer is communicating with God. It is as essential in maintaining a proper relationship with God as it is in maintaining a proper relationship in a marriage. In a marriage, the most meaningful communications are rarely planned. They may result from unexpected and dramatic events, or from some of the most mundane occurrences. They will not occur unless both are free to share without fear of being misunderstood or rejected. They seldom, if ever, occur in public or planned settings, usually arising from things happening around us and our reaction to those things.

Jesus warned that public prayers produced self gratification but no spiritual results. The beneficial prayers would be private communication with God, and would not be ritual prayers or repetitious. God wants to hear what we think and feel, not what some one else does, and not what we thought or felt yesterday.

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:5-7)

Our prayer life ought to be much like two people walking together, sharing their thoughts and impressions as they travel, never really ending.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Not only are we to rejoice in everything that happens, but we ought to be thankful for them. Philippians 4:6-7 promises that by praying and thanking God rather than worrying, we can receive God’s peace, a part of the fruit of the Spirit. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

In thanking God for what is occurring, we praise him. In fact that is how Hebrews 13:35 defines praise. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Failure to give thanks hinders or quenches the Spirit’s action in our life.

“Quench not the Spirit.” (I Thessalonians 5:19)

Quench means to extinguish, to put out (fire), to stifle, check or repress, according to Webster’s Encyclopedic dictionary. Anything which hinders the Holy Spirit’s free action in our lives is quenching him. Any form of known sin has this effect, but there are things we can do to free his working. Along with preceding list, heeding Philippians 4:8-9 will greatly enhance his working in our life. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

By taking control of our thoughts and actions, to focus on what pleases God will result in the Holy Spirit producing fruit in our life.

The Church’s Responsibility For It’s Members

I Thessalonians 5:14-15

My neighbor had a cow who refused to stay in his pasture. Every time she was put into a pasture, she would find a place where she could get her head through, and push and pull until she was able to get through. Fixing fences became almost an hourly project. Although he had intended to keep her, he finally sold her to eliminate the frustration. He couldn’t afford to take the chance of her causing a wreck, damaging other people’s property, and teaching the other cows to get out.

Just as my neighbor is responsible for taking care of his cows, the church is responsible to care for it’s members. Some refuse to stay within bound, and must be warned of the dangers and consequences of their actions. Others become discouraged, or persist in doing counterproductive activities and need encouragement and guidance. Conflicts arise that can destroy the church. Paul gives the following advice to prevent such problems.

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” (I Thessalonians 5:14-15)

Those who refuse to stay within the boundaries must be warned of the consequences of their actions, as described in Matthew 18:15-17. “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”

It is easy to become impatient with those who do wrong, those who are discouraged or continue in counterproductive behavior, but must avoid anger because our impatience and anger will result in more anger and sin, as Proverbs 29:22 tells us. “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.” Instead we are to be meek or undemanding in our approach as Galatians 6:1 describes. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

Vengeance and punishment are not the churches prerogative, but God’s. We are to let him take care of them. We need to follow Romans 12:19-21. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Church discipline should only be exercised after attempts at correction and reconciliation have failed, to protect the church , and in hopes of causing the guilty to examine themselves. It is never to be taken as the first step, or with the idea of punishing them. James 4:11 states that when we begin to judge and punish others we have set ourselves above them as immune from judgment ourselves. “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.” We have begun to intrude on God’s authority.

Peter sums up the churches responsibility to its members as follows.

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” (I Peter 3:8-12)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Honoring our Leaders

I Thessalonians 5:12-13

“But it’s not fair to hold him to such a high standard.”

The lady who made the statement was talking about the fact that their church had fired their pastor, as a result of angry and abusive behavior. Apparently, she didn’t understand that God set a standard in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Anyone who is unable or unwilling to meet that standard is not qualified for the position. Doctors, lawyers, electricians, plumbers, locksmiths, accountants, and teachers are all expected to meet certain qualifications, including moral ones before they are permitted to engage in their business. These standards are set by government agencies having jurisdiction, rather than the customers. Their jobs involve temporary earthly situations with temporary results. Pastors and church leaders are involved with eternal consequences. Why shouldn’t they be held to stringent standards?

Because of the standards these trades require, their practitioners tend to command a high level of respect and in some cases are highly paid as a result. Those who fail to live up to the standards lose this respect, and are censored. or lose their right to practice their trade. Paul instructed Timothy about his responsibilities in I Timothy 4:12-16. “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”

Matthew 23:2-12 describes the Pharisees as hypocrites who push themselves forward to get respect and preferential treatment, using their titles and position for leverage. We are forbidden to do so. At the same time, Paul is very clear that those who do the job well deserve a high level of respect as their due for the job they are doing. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 1ti 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward,” (I Timothy 5:17-18).

Note that the respect is for how they are doing the job, rather than for their position. He stresses the same idea here in I Thessalonians, advising the people to become familiar with their leaders and what they are doing. Their efforts and encouragement will then be recognized as very valuable to their people.

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. “ (I Thessalonians 5:12-13)

As the people get to know their leaders, and observe their integrity and moral standards, they will understand that he is not setting standards and giving orders to demonstrate his authority, but because he has carefully studied what God has commanded, and is advising based on the results of his study. His suggestions can confidently be followed as being in accord with God’s instruction, rather than his own preferences or opinions.

Based on such confidence, Hebrews 13:17 instructs us, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” The pastor who is doing the job well is more concerned with the spiritual and physical state of his people than with his prestige and income.

The Corinthian church was instructed to receive Timothy, despite his young age, in a manner that would encourage him in his work. Divisions and conflict would hamper his doing the job effectively. He had proven himself in the work, and his age should not interfere.

“Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren.” (I Corinthians 16:10-11)

A proper attitude toward the pastor, based on his work, will demand fulfilling God’s standards, but will not set other requirements. It recognizes God as the final authority, not us, the pastor, or some board.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Preparing For The Rapture

I Thessalonians 5:4-11

We know that the Lord has promised to return, and to take his people with him, He has told us that it will be unannounced. As a result, we are like the homeowner who lives in a area which has many home break-ins. It is incumbent on the home owner to take appropriate actions to avoid being robbed. It is incumbent that we take appropriate action preparing for the Lord’s return. Paul described this in this passage.

“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.” (I Thessalonians 5:4-7)

We are not uninformed, and should not be caught unawares, as if we were taking a nap or drunk. We need to be alert to what is happening around us, in order to keep from falling into sin. As Paul points out we need to focus on what Christ has promised, and what he has done for us, and in us.

“But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” (I Thessalonians 5:8-11)

So many in our day have become like the Church at Laodicea described in Revelation 3: 14-22, lukewarm in their efforts to serve God. Church is just something you ought to do. Attendance is based on what else they want to do, Doctrine is unimportant, so that what a church practices is far less important that how they feel at the services. They can accept almost anything. They do not see the importance of Paul’s teaching in Hebrews 10:21-27

Because we know that we are saved, and that we must be judged, we need to be in a church where we are encouraged to serve the Lord. Each Christian is responsible for helping others to grow. They are also responsible practice their faith, and the purpose of the church is to encourage and teach Christians to serve God. By attending a sound church, we receive the teaching we need, and encourage others in their Christian life. Those who have not fully committed to Christ may be encouraged to do so, rather than turning away, and being lost. The vast majority of those who turn away were never fully committed, and thus have never yielded to him for salvation. Many are like the lady who said “I’ll get saved if the Lord will let me travel, not committed to salvation, but to what they desire.

Unsound teaching plays on such lusts and desires to manipulate people, rather than teaching them to serve God, and leaves them unsaved and lost. Sound teaching is crucial for real spiritual growth.

Monday, September 7, 2009

When Will the Rapture Occur?

I Thessalonians 5:1-11

“The Lord will return before 1960.”

I was just a little child when I heard the “Evangelist” make that claim, and it really frightened me. A large billboard proclaimed that the lord would return November 6, 1974. I wasn’t nearly as concerned. There have been hundreds of such predictions. My dad said one time that if enough “prophets” predict it often enough and long enough, one of them will probably guess within a year. Many no longer believe that there will be a literal resurrection.

Most of these prognosticators depend on various “signs of the times” to identify when we can expect the Lord’s return and the rapture. Unfortunately they ignore some clear statements in scripture about the events. Mark 13:312 gives an expanded quote of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:36. “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” It seems somewhat arrogant for men to proclaim they know more than Jesus Christ knew.

After his resurrection, the apostles asked Christ about the times of his establishing his kingdom, and he told them that it was not for us to know the time or even the season. “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:6-7) Since we are not to know. Paul did not waste our time trying to give us some timetable, stressing that the lords return would be unannounced, like a thief’s coming.

“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.” (I Thessalonians 5:1-3)

Matthew 24:36-46 stresses the idea that the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly to everyone. Life will go on just as normal, even for those who are Christians. The ones who live prepared will be ready when the time comes, but there will be no early warning for others to get ready.

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” (Matthew 24:36-46)

We are to obey God, regardless of what is happening around us. We are not to wait until we think the Lord is coming, and try to get busy, nor are we to live constantly worrying about what if he returned today. II Thessalonians 2:1-2 warns not to let ourselves to be upset by claims that the rapture is about to happen. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” Our service is to be a consistent way of life as a result of love, not a response to fear of judgment.

False teachers will frequently use predictions of the rapture to manipulate people’s actions. Matthew 24:4-6 warns us not to fall for such deceptions, even though many signs may be exhibited to convince their hearers of their accuracy. “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” The signs simply indicator the approach, not timing of the rapture. Paul advises us to be busy about obeying God’s commands, so that we are not caught unawares.

“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.” (I Thessalonians 5:4-7

Mark 13:32-37 gives very similar advice. “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Comfort for the bereaved

I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Several years ago, I went to a funeral in Kansas. Prior to the funeral was a family dinner. At the end of the serving table was a bowl of white tablets. One of the servers was recommending that each person take several. They were nerve pills, and they didn’t want anyone breaking down during the ceremony. I was shocked, especially as the people purported to be Christians.

A distant relative became very angry when asked what arrangements she wanted for her husbands death, because he was dead, and it was finished. She didn’t want to think about it anymore. Several religions promote the idea that one becomes nothing, or is re-incarnated as something else, to die again at a later date. Paul, speaking by the spirit of God, tells us that he does not want us to be uninformed or confused about death.

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (I Thessalonians 4:13-14)

The Christian belief in life after death is founded in the literal death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The beliefs of others are based upon some teaching that has no physical evidence. We can go to where Mohammed, Buddha, and many other religious leaders are buried. The Egyptian pharaohs prepared for an afterlife. But there is no evidence that any of them attained it. They have no proof of an afterlife. Jews, Moslems, Wicca, Shinto, and every other religion have the same problem, a lack of physical evidence.

There are both secular and religious records of Christ’s crucifixion. Many have tried to deny that he actually died, but the record of his crucifixion make that unlikely. The Roman soldiers believed him already dead, but to ensure that he was they ran a spear into his heart to make sure. This is described in John 19:33-34. “But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” The separation of blood and water indicates that the heart was no longer pumping, leading to the separation of the bodily fluids.

The body was then wrapped in a linen cloth and placed in a grave, where it remained for three nights and at least part of three days, according to the record, between 60 and 72 hours. Lazarus was wrapped in a fashion that bound him hand and foot, with a separate napkin around his head, according to John 11:44, and John 20:6-7 indicates that Jesus was wrapped in a similar fashion, not like the Shroud of Turin portrays. The idea that Jesus survived all of these things, lay unconscious over 60 hours, and was still able to escape such bindings and have the strength to roll away a stone the women needed help to move is ludicrous. That he was then able to drive away armed Roman guards is even more so. The ideas that his disciples stole the body, that the guards were protecting the wrong tomb, or that the women went to the wrong place are equally ridiculous.

That Christ was seen alive after the crucifixion is clear from I Corinthians 15:5-8. He was seen numerous times, and by more than 500 people. There can be little doubt as to the validity of the claims. As Paul states, this is the only evidence for the possibility of life after death. If it is not true, then no religion has any real hope, and Christianity is only a major fraud.

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (I Corinthians 15:12-18)

Every possibility of an after life is dependent on Christ’s resurrection. Because we have proof of it, we can be sure of our own as a result of faith in him as the propitiation for our sins. If we were not assured of this, we would be most miserable, unsure of the end, and ultimately losing all after years of hoping for something better.

“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:16-22)

Because we know that Christ was resurrected, and that we have placed our faith in him, we will join the dead who have also believed in the clouds to meet the Lord. Physical death is only a temporary situation for the believer.

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (I Thessalonians 4:15-18)

The preceding verses, and I Corinthians 15 both mention that some will not die before the resurrection, but will be taken directly into heaven when the last trump sounds. This is commonly called the rapture, and occurs shortly before the world we know comes under God’s judgment. A natural human cannot enter heave, so both those who die, and those who are alive at that time will be modified in a way that enables them to survive in that new life, where they will never die again. Sin and death will no longer affect those who are changed.

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (I Corinthians 15:50-54)