November 30, 2008
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
As far back as I can remember I have heard messages on the Second Coming and other prophetic themes. I first received Christ as my Lord and Savior back in 1972. Then, after a few years of wandering in the wilderness, as it were; I made a re-commitment of my life to the Lord in late 1978 – ’79. I had been pretty dramatically called to the ministry in 1975, and after my re-dedication I became very serious about the study of God’s Word.
In a most supernatural fashion, a great hunger to research and study and “dig out” the wonderful nuggets of truth contained in the scriptures was birthed in my heart. I especially was drawn to study and research the prophetic Word. I studied the various schools of thought with regard to the timing of the rapture of the Church. I discovered that not all theologians and Bible scholars agree on eschatology, the doctrine of last things, or last days. I even found that there was a school of scholarship that doesn’t believe there will be a “catching away.” Known as the “amillennial” school of thought, they don’t believe that there will be a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ in Jerusalem either. They would be closely associated in some respects to the Preterist School of interpretation.
I said all of that to reiterate a thought that we closed with last time, and that was that many dear Christians have been hearing Bible prophecy preached for many decades now, and still Jesus has not returned in the clouds. Some of these people have become disheartened, disillusioned, and down-right cynical in some cases concerning the coming of the Lord, and our gathering together unto Him. [See 2 Thess. 2:1] Many Christians have stopped studying Bible prophecy altogether and sadly many ministers have ceased exhorting their congregations to “keep looking up.” Interestingly, some of these folks in their cynicism have themselves become a direct fulfillment of prophecy! [See 2 Pet. 3:4]
So the question we are posing is, “Why hasn’t it happened yet?” Why is the Lord delaying His Return? Are there reasons that we can look at that will help us to understand the answer to this important question? I believe the answer to all of the above is a resounding and definite, yes. While there may be others, I believe there are three main reasons.
I. THE FULLNESS OF INIQUITY:
If you will recall, when God confirmed His covenant with Abraham, He revealed that Abraham’s descendants would be taken to a strange land for 400 years. Afterwards, God would bring them out to judge the inhabitants of the Promised Land, including a huge nation called the Amorites. The reason for the 400-year delay was that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. [See Gen. 15:16] It is important to understand that over a period of years, the sins and iniquities of a nation increase. As the cup of iniquity becomes full, God will begin to release His judgments on earth. Daniel 8:23 indicates the future Antichrist will rise on the global scene when the “transgressors are come to full.”
According to the book of Revelation, there is a cup in Heaven that must become full before God unleashes His final judgments. It is called the cup “of the wine of the fierceness of God’s wrath” [Rev. 16:19]. It is interesting that there are seven vials in Heaven that will one day be poured out on the earth in the form of severe cosmic and ecological judgments. There are seven continents on earth and seven vials filled with the wrath of God. Could each vial represent one of the seven continents where God’s judgment will strike the earth? The full thrust of God’s judgment on the earth will not be felt until the iniquity of mankind is full and the cup of God’s winepress is full!
II. THE AGE OF GRACE:
The second reason that Jesus has not returned, and consequently ushered in the Great Tribulation, is because we are presently in the dispensation of the grace of God. [See Eph. 3:2] Some scholars also identify this as the church age. Because God is presently dealing with humanity in the form of mercy and grace, there will be times of selective, but not universal, judgment. In 1 Corinthians 9:17, Paul mentioned the “dispensation of the gospel.” The Greek word translated dispensation means “the administration of a house.” The purpose of the Church is to administer the grace of God to this generation, until the assignment of the Church to preach the gospel around the world is complete.
When the Church completes its assignment, the end will come. [See Matt. 24:14] It will mark the end of one dispensation and the beginning of another. Between the conclusion of the Church Age and the beginning of the Messiah’s thousand-year reign, there will be a clash between two kingdoms (Satan’s and God’s), and a seven-year Tribulation. The Tribulation is being restrained because of the church’s mission to reach the nations with the message of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
III. WE’RE STILL HERE:
We are still on earth. One main theme woven throughout the scripture is that God does not judge the righteous and unrighteous on the same level. He does not allow the righteous to suffer His wrath along with the unrighteous. God always provides a fair warning and way of escape to those who serve Him. The fact that the Body of Christ is still ministering on earth is an indication that we are a part of restraining the wrath from being released.
Another example of this principle can be found in the story of Lot. When Lot was warned to flee Sodom and Gomorrah, the angels instructed him to immediately escape to a local mountain. [See Gen. 19:17] In fear, Lot instead requested to escape to a small city named Zoar. [Vs. 22] Interestingly, Zoar is listed as one of the five main cities in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 14:1 – 3 lists these five cities as Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim and Zoar. When the fire and brimstone rained upon Sodom, it destroyed four of these five cities that were located in the valley of Siddim. [Vs. 3] Zoar was the only city of the five that was not destroyed. The Bible says,
21 And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. 22 Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.”
Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. [Gen. 19:21, 22 NKJV]
There are three important points to consider in connection with this statement of the Angel of the LORD. I want to examine the important Bible principle of protection for the righteous. We will look at this next time.
The Weekly Word is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:9. Here the Bible says,
9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, [1 Thess. 5:9 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson