As instability increases in the Middle East and the region rushes towards the horrible, prophesied war of Psalm 83, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should be looking upward with ever greater expectancy for "the Blessed Hope" promised in Scripture.
Quoting from Titus 2:13 in the New Testament we read that we are to be, "Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."
A companion verse found in I Pet. 1:13 reveals that the "blessed hope" spoken of in Titus is in fact a holy promise of a particular act of grace that is to be brought to the Church on the day of Christ's appearing.
Quoting we read, "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your "hope" fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
The word "grace" in this passage refers to an act of favor or a gift. It is something which is given without having been earned by the recipient. This is in contrast to the earned rewards promised in the Scriptures to believers who have faithfully labored in the work of the Lord.
The pertinent question which needs to be answered in this study is "What exactly is the blessed hope of grace which is to be bestowed when Jesus Christ appears to His Church?"
To those who have already come to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and have been born again by the Holy Spirit, the answer to this question should be of profound interest. According to such Scriptures as the ones found in Rom. 3:21-25, the initial act of God's saving grace takes place at the precise moment a person trusts in His Son, Jesus. Immediately a new believer becomes justified and righteous before God.
Quoting from Romans we read, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed."
What has been disclosed thus far in the Scriptures is that there is to be a first and second instance when God will demonstrate His saving grace (unmerited favor) towards His Church. The genesis of eternal life commences the moment a believer is born again by an act of grace, while the completion, though indivisibly connected to the initial moment of salvation, will be experienced by a second act of grace when Christ appears to them. It is this latter portion of God's saving grace for the Church that the Lord has designated with the stirring term, "the blessed hope."
As we reflect upon the divine words of Scripture that reveal the glorious truths about the Rapture, we must keep in mind the question of foremost importance which is, "What act of grace takes place at the appearing of Christ to His Church - what is the blessed hope?"
As the Scriptures have revealed, the initial portion of God's saving grace through Jesus Christ is demonstrated by the forgiveness of sins and the rebirth of the spirit of a believer (see John 3:1-8). A believer in Christ literally becomes a new creation at that moment.
Quoting from II Cor. 5:17 we read, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." At this point a Christian is a diamond in the rough.
As we will show from Scripture, "the blessed hope" of every believer will be realized during the concluding portion of God's saving grace when at Christ's appearing He will miraculously transform their corruptible, mortal bodies into immortal, celestial beings like unto Himself. This blessed hope will be the fruition of His initial act of grace.
This fact wholly refutes erroneous teachings that Christians must purify themselves in order to be counted worthy of the Rapture.
There are those who maintain that the Church must go through a part of, or even all of the 7 year Tribulation Period which immediately precedes the physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth "when every eye shall see Him" (Dan. 9:27 & Rev. 1:7).
The reason most often presented to defend this heretical teaching is that Jesus' forgiveness for His born again believers is limited and that the Church will need to be purified of its sins. This they insist must be accomplished by the horrors of the tribulation under the Anti-Christ. Only then, they believe, will the Church truly be worthy to be taken to Heaven by Christ.
The Rapture is part and parcel of the Lord's grace. It is an act of unmerited favor. No conditions are presented for any believer to merit physical redemption.
The Scriptures are the only authority on this matter of worthiness.
In Rom. 7:15-25 the Apostle Paul expounded on his dilemma of having a duel nature since his new birth in Christ. In verses 24-25 he sums up his (and our) situation and gives praise to the Lord for the deliverance from his wrestling mind (which is intertwined with the spirit according to Eph. 4:23) and his unredeemed flesh, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
Paul looked only to Christ for the deliverance of his body from death. Paul was looking forward to the day of Christ's appearing to His Church when whether alive or dead the Apostle's body would be redeemed from the corruption of sin.
Speaking of this blessed hope, Paul wrote in I Cor. 15:49-53, "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."
Paul would have been appalled by those who now tech that corruptible flesh must somehow earn merit in order to qualify for the Rapture of Grace.
In Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians he addressed a number of points concerning the greatly anticipated moment of God's concluding act of grace for the Church. Central to the revelations he shared about the Rapture is the placement in time for the resurrection of dead believers. Paul assured them that the dead in Christ would not be resurrected later than when living believers received their glorified bodies. No limitations are given concerning the resurrection and glorification of the saints as far as God requiring some further purification or atonement for sins. If this were so then every believer's body waiting in death is at risk of remaining in the grave forever. Thank God for His grace.
Quoting verses 13-17 of I Thess. 4 we read, "but I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." Paul then concluded in verse 18 by saying of this blessed hope, "Therefore comfort one another with these words."
We pray that you truly have found comfort this day in the promise of Christ's soon appearing for His Church to glorify every believer whether struggling or victorious, living or dead and to take them home to Heaven with Him where they belong.
Quoting verses 18-30 of Romans 8 the Apostle Paul sums up that which we have attempted to share in this message. "but if we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. And not only they, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Sprit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?"
If you have received the Living Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and have believed that your sins have been forgiven by His blood that He shed on the cross almost 2,000 years ago, then you are eternally saved and your body will be redeemed by His grace in the very near future. Eagerly wait with perseverance for this adoption. This is the "Blessed Hope."