This study is for believers and non-believers alike. It describes three things in detail. What the Lord has done for us in the past, what He’s doing now, and what He’s preparing to do in the future. And it’s all free for the asking, no matter who we are or where we’ve come from. Feel free to download this and share it with friends and family.
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All right in this session we’re going to do something a little different than we normally do. Rather than take a book of the Bible and go through it verse by verse, I want to take a topic tonight and I want to look at the verses in the Bible that are relevant to that topic.
And so if you were to guess what verse in the Bible is the most popular, I mean, over the years? There’d be several different candidates for that. Do you know that among non believers the most popular verse in the Bible used to be “the Lord helps those who help themselves.” But it’s not in the Bible; that verse is not in the Bible.
Today the most popular verse among unbelievers is “judge not, lest ye be judged.” It’s good advice everybody should follow.
But by far the most well known, let’s say, verse of the Bible is probably John 3:16. And so let’s start there. As we go here I want you to see something a little differently than you have perhaps seen before.
The name that we’ll put on this study is The Incomparable Richness of His Grace. Tonight we’re going to focus on the grace of God and what that means to you.
You know, grace is described in many different ways, one of the simplest ones is that it’s an unmerited favor, it’s when you get something you didn’t do anything to deserve. You see, some say that mercy is when you don’t get what you do deserve, right? That’s mercy. Grace is when you do get something you don’t deserve okay? And that’s how you distinguish between the two of them.
And the greatest demonstration of God’s grace of course can be found in John 3:16 where it says:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Okay, God so loved the world—this was an act of love on His part—He so loved the world. Now the world means everybody, okay? It means everybody. The Greek word there is cosmos, it’s the word from which we get all the universe really; you could say God so loved the universe. Believer, unbeliever—doesn’t matter. God loves us.
And He loves us so much, that before we did anything to demonstrate any kind of worthiness to Him, He extended to us, in a manifestation of grace, the life of His Son. And He said, “I’ll trade it for yours, if you’ll accept it.” And that’s basically what it comes down to, He traded His life for yours, if you’ll accept it.
Now He’s not going to force you to take this, you know this is not one of those things where you’re stuck with it. But if you accept it it’s yours, not because of anything you did to deserve it, but only because you took Him at His word, only because you believed in Him. That’s all you have to do, it says so right here, doesn’t it? That whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life, or eternal life, however you want to put it.
That’s the only condition, if you will, that is established here is belief. You didn’t do anything to earn this—you can’t do anything to earn it, it’s a gift. A gift brought to you, without cost, because of the grace of God.
Now think about gifts. When you give somebody a gift, you’re just giving it to them because you love them, right? A gift is not something that somebody has earned (he’s done a good job so I’ll give him a gift.) No, you don’t give a person a gift when they’ve done a good job, you give them a reward or some kind of compensation. Because they’ve earned it. A gift is not something that a person earns, a gift is something that is given out of love.
And a gift is not returnable, you can’t give it back, and the person giving the gift doesn’t take it back. Once the gift is given, it’s given. And that’s what your salvation is, it’s a gift. It was given to you because God loves you. Anybody who asks for this gift receives it, we’ll look at verses to confirm that later on.
Anybody who asks for the gift receives it, regardless; it doesn’t matter how good they’ve been or how bad they’ve been, doesn’t matter what their past was like, doesn’t matter how they’ve lived their life. If they ask for it, they receive it.
Turn to Matthew 7. We’re going to bounce all over the Bible tonight, because I want you to see these verses. We’ll bounce all over the place, and the first place we’re bouncing to is Matthew 7. Matthew 7 talks about this, and in the Lord’s own words.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives;
How many people who ask receive? Everyone who asks receives, that’s without prejudice. Everyone who asks receives.
he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
And then He goes on in the language, if you will, the context of a gift. And He says in verse 9:
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
In other words, we as parents, we know how to express our love with gifts, and we’re evil. We’re fallen, contaminated by sin, thinking most the time only of ourselves and what’s in it for us. If we know how to give gifts to our children, how much more does our father in Heaven know how to give good gifts to us?
And so because of the death of His Son, the Lord said from that point on, anybody who asks for salvation will receive it. “All he has to do is believe that I gave My Son to pay the price for this gift, so that the person asking won’t have to.”
Now how many of your sins are covered by this gift? Every single one of them—every single one.
The next place I want you to look is Colossians 2 and we’ll show you when this happened, in terms of your life. And so in Colossians 2:13, Paul writing here he said:
When you were dead in your sins
Now what he means by that, is because you’re a sinner you’re scheduled for death, because the wages of sin are death, the penalty for sin is death. If you have sinned in your life, you were scheduled for death. At some point you were going to die, and that was going to be the end of that.
And we’re not just talking about the physical death here, the death of the body, because all that does is take care of the outfit you’re wearing right now. The real you doesn’t die at that point, the real you goes on to someplace else, to do something else. So he is talking about the spiritual death, the real death, what we call sometimes the second death.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.
Now here’s the phrase I want you to see:
He forgave us all our sins,
He doesn’t say most of them, he doesn’t say some of them, he doesn’t say up to a point in your life and then you’re on your own. He said he forgave us all our sins.
having canceled the written code with its regulation, that was against us and stood opposed to us;
What that means is, He took all the violations of God’s law, which we call sin, and He canceled them. Doesn’t mean you didn’t commit them, doesn’t mean you weren’t guilty, it just means He cancelled the penalty for those. And how did He do that? It says He took it away, nailing it to the cross.
When He went to the cross (I think we’ve talked about this the past couple of meetings) He went to the cross, He took all of your sins with Him, and He nailed them to the cross, signifying that by His death He was paying the penalty (that really was due to you) Himself, so that you would not be liable for them anymore.
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
You see these powers and authorities, He’s talking about Satan and his crew. He made a public spectacle of them, because they thought they owned you now, because your sin made you unacceptable to God because God cannot tolerate sin, so He can’t have any sinful people around Him.
That’s why you were scheduled for death, because He couldn’t use you, you were of no value to Him. And so Satan thought, “Well, I own those people because God can’t use them, they’ve disqualified themselves. They’re mine now.”
But then when Jesus went to the cross He nailed your sins up there with Him, and by His death He cancelled that. Now you were acceptable to God again, now He was yours, and you were His. And you see, Satan saw that happen. He didn’t see it coming, but he saw it happen. And when he saw it happen he was disarmed where you are concerned. He had no more leverage over you. As soon as you agreed to let that happen on your behalf, as soon as you agreed to let the Lord’s death take place on your behalf, you were restored to God, and you were released from any obligation to Satan and from any influence or control that he might have over you. You were relieved from that at that point. Now you were once again acceptable to God.
Now what did you do to earn this? Remember? Anything? No, you didn’t do anything. All you have to do is receive it, all you have to do is accept it, and it’s yours, remember? Everyone who asks, receives without prejudice.
God can’t say, “You’re too bad, I can’t use you.” Because you see, no matter how bad you were, Jesus paid for that, so that’s been washed away; that’s gone forever. It’s hard to tell in which order to use all these verses, but I’m going to let you see them all. And so as we talk, and the next verse comes to me I’ll send you to it, even though it’s going to have us skipping all over the Bible, okay? But I want you to see a couple things here now.
Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 5. Here’s what happens when you agree to let the Lord’s death pay the penalty for your sin. When you accept that gift, here’s what happens.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come!
The old has gone, the new has come. In grammar we call this “past perfect,” it means it’s already happened, and it’s done for good and it was sufficient.
And so, if you’re in Christ, you are a new creation; it’s like you’ve been recreated, absent all of your sins. The old has gone. In God’s eyes, the old has gone.
Now, I know you still sin, somebody told me! [laughing] I know you still sin, I know I still sin, but God now sees you as if you don’t, because He doesn’t look at you the way you are today, He looks at you the way He has made you, and that is a new creation. He has chosen, from the moment you accept this gift, He has chosen to see you not as you are, but as you will become. Look down at verse 21.
This can be possible because, in verse 21, it says:
God made him who had no sin
Now, who is it who’s been in the world, made by God, who has no sin? Jesus. God made Him, who has no sin, to be sin for us. Why? So that we might become the righteousness of God. And this is what I meant when I said earlier. He said, “I’ll trade you His life for yours. I’ll take Him who is perfect and without sin, and I will make Him into sin for you, and I will punish Him in your place so that you can be as righteous as I am.”
How righteous is that? How righteous is God? He is perfect! His righteousness is perfect, and He has imputed that righteousness to you by faith. Not because of what you’ve done, not because of who you’ve been or who you’re trying to be, but by faith. Your righteousness is equal to God’s righteousness if you have the faith to believe that He died for you. And that means you are now acceptable to Him.
Let’s look at Hebrews 10:14, because we just talked about being perfect, right? And it’s always impressed me that at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been giving us all these things—don’t commit adultery, don’t even look lustfully at another person, don’t commit murder, don’t even be angry with anybody, don’t steal stuff from other people, don’t even envy their stuff, or envy them for having it.
And He’s gone through all this, and at the end of it He says, “Be perfect, just as your father in Heaven is perfect.”
Now, how is that for encouraging us? Be perfect, just as God is perfect. If you want to be in His Kingdom, that’s what you got to do.
Okay now in Hebrews 10, the writer has been talking about the priests making sacrifices on behalf of the people, and in Hebrews 10:11 it says:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
In other words, this is a futile attempt. Every day, sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice, and they do not take away sin, they only set it aside temporarily. That’s why they have to keep doing it, day after day after day.
Okay now in verse 12:
But when this priest
He is talking about Jesus here.
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Why? He was finished! It only took one when He did it, because it was Himself who He sacrificed.
And now look at verse 13:
and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.
Now here’s verse 14, this is the one I want you to see:
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
He has made perfect forever, by that one act of sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. If you have believed that Jesus died for your sin, you have become a new creation. God traded the life of His Son for yours. He took the one who was perfect and without sin, and made Him sin, so that you who are a sinner can be made as perfect as God is.
And by that one sacrifice He made you perfect forever. Now we’re just beginning to see the little edge of the grace of God, kind of like when the sun comes up in the morning and the first thing you see is just a little edge, above the mountains. That’s how much of God’s grace we’ve seen so far, just that little edge.
Let’s go back to Book of Ephesians 1, remember the theme here:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish.
Okay, so you believe in Jesus, what that means is you believe that He gave His life in exchange for yours. You believe that you are a sinner, you’re hopeless and lost sinner, there’s no way out for you, there’s nothing you can do to redeem yourself, you believe that Jesus came and died in your place and redeemed you from death to life. That’s what He meant when He said whoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life.
Okay so when did this happen for you? Look at Ephesians 1:13.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. And having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
And so two things have happened here, one is you heard and the other is you believed. And at that moment, God did two things. He marked you with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.
Verse 14 says:
who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
And so He marked you with that seal, which is the Holy Spirit who has been sealed within you, and then He guaranteed your inheritance. And when did this happen? When you heard, and believed, okay?
How much had you done to deserve this? Nothing. This happened the moment you heard it, and believed it. Before you had done anything either good or bad, as a believer. You hadn’t had time yet to demonstrate your worthiness for this, but you see your worthiness is not an issue here. It’s your faith that’s the issue, and the minute you believed it, you were marked with the seal, the Holy Spirit, and then your inheritance was guaranteed.
The Holy Spirit, it says, is a deposit that guarantees this. And we’ve talked about this fact before, the word “deposit” there is a legal term. It was a legal term then, it’s a legal term today, because what we say today is it’s an “earnest money deposit.” Now if you’ve ever bought any real estate or anything like that you made an earnest money deposit when you made your offer. This says that you’re serious! And it legally obligates you to follow through on the purchase. And so your realtor warned you, “Don’t make this deposit until you’re ready to buy and you’re sure that you want this house.”
Well that’s exactly what God did. The moment you believed, He made an earnest money deposit in the form of the Holy Spirit, which legally obligated Him to follow through and purchase you. He’s got no way out now, no matter what you do, He is stuck with you. Aren’t you glad He did it right at the beginning? [laughs] Thank you Lord!
Let me show you what else He did, look at 2 Corinthians 1. Now I’m giving you the very clearest verses on this issue, I’m giving you the very clearest things that God ever said about this, because somebody come and say, “Well yes but, what about this?”
Well, can God say one thing in one place and something else in another?
And I’m not giving you a verse you have to guess about, I’m giving you a verse that is eminently clear so that when you hear another verse that somebody says contradicts it, you can say, “No wait a minute, God can’t contradict Himself. We must not understand that other verse correctly, because this one is very clear.”
When I heard the Gospel of my salvation and believed it, God sealed the Holy Spirit within me and guaranteed my inheritance. That’s clear. If any other verse seems to contradict that, we must not understand that other verse, there must be something about it that we’re not getting because this is clear.
Look at 2 Corinthians 1:21.
Verse 21 starts:
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.
Who keeps you faithful? God. He has accepted responsibility for you, and He makes you stand firm in Christ. Here is what He did—He anointed us, He set His seal of ownership on us, and He put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing what’s to come. There’s that deposit again.
You see, if we were cowboys sitting around a campfire you would understand that what I’m saying here is that God branded you, He put His brand on you, you can’t get away now. You’re His no matter where you go or what you do, people can see that brand, more importantly He can see the brand and He can come and claim you. You’re His, that’s it, you have been purchased, you have been branded, you belong to God and He has put His Spirit in you to guarantee that He will follow through with you and take you to be His child in His Kingdom. He guaranteed that, He just didn’t say He was going to someday do something, He didn’t attach any behavioral conditions to this. If you’re good enough you can have this, none, there’s none of that.
And you know, back to the realtor, you know what a smart realtor will do when you’re signing the earnest money deposit? He’ll cause you to put something in the offer that in his own mind —he probably doesn’t tell you this, but in his own mind he calls this a weasel clause that gives you a way out.
So he’ll say to you, “Write the offer this way: ‘I promise to buy this house for such and such dollar by such and such a date, as long as I can get financing, as long as it passes inspection, as long as these conditions are met, as long as you give me the refrigerator.’”
He’ll put these weasel clauses in there for you so that you have an out in case the seller doesn’t perform. There are no weasel clauses in these verses I’ve read! [laughs] God has taken you, unconditionally, just the way you are, no returns. He’s got you, you understand that?
And He did that for you, before you could do anything to prove yourself worthy, He did that for you, because He loves you, because this was a gift of grace. Is that clear? Do you see that now? Okay where do we go next?
Let’s try Romans 8. I’ll tell you what, before we do that let’s try John 10, and then we’ll go to Romans 8. There’s too many of these! John 10, start in verse 27.
This is Jesus talking, John 10:27:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
That’s pretty clear isn’t it? I give them eternal life, they shall never perish.
And then He says:
no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Now that phrase “no one” who do you suppose is included in that phrase “no one?” Everybody! Olson are you included in that? Yes—no one, including you, can do this.
Verse 29 says:
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
Jesus isn’t the only one who’s got His hands on you, the Father’s got you too, and no one can get you away from either one of them.
And then He says in verse 30:
I and the Father are one.”
“So we both got you, we’re both one. And when I promise you something, He is promising you too.”
And so here you are, you’re in His hands, and no one can get you out, not even you. No one.
Now let’s go to Romans 8. Paul is going to give you more detail on this idea. Way back in the Book of Deuteronomy the Bible said a thing should be established by the testimony of two witnesses. Every time I’ve told you something here tonight I’ve given you two verses, two witnesses. It’s not just one thing somebody said, it’s confirmed by someone else. Here in Romans 8 Paul is going to confirm what Jesus said.
Romans 8:38 he says:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
Keep that in mind.
nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now see he’s giving you more detail. Nothing—angels can’t do it, demons can’t do it. Listen to this, not the present, not the future. There is nothing that can happen in the future that can separate you from the love of God. Isn’t that something? Because you see, before you were born God saw your entire life. He knew every sin you would ever commit from the day you were born until the day you die. You cannot do anything that surprises Him, He’s already seen all of it, the worst there is, He’s seen it all. And He took it all to the cross, every bit of it, and He paid for all of it, from the day you were born until the day you die, neither the present or the future can separate you from God. Is that clear?
Otherwise He would have to admit a mistake, wouldn’t He? He would have to say, “Yeah I saved this guy when I thought he was good, but now look at him, I don’t want him anymore.”
I mean, how many of us would that include? Raise your hand! Nothing is able to separate you from the love of God that’s in Christ Jesus our Lord.
All right so the moment you first believed, He saved you. When you asked for eternal life, He gave it to you, and then He put His Holy Spirit in you as a deposit, a promise, an earnest money deposit, obligating Him to follow through and complete the purchase. And then He guaranteed that, that He will follow through. He, who began a good work in you, is faithful to complete it, Philippians 1- something says,—8 or 9 down there in the first chapter.
He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it. He won’t ever give up on that, He won’t ever let you fall, He won’t ever let you get away.
Look at John 6. My job here tonight is to show you that your salvation is by grace through faith, right? Grace, unmerited favor, through faith, your willingness to accept. All right we’re in John 6 right? In verse 28 the people came up to Him and asked Him directly, “What must we do to do the works God requires? I mean surely there’s something we have to do to pay for all of this. What is it? Tell us plainly, what is it?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
That’s it, period! That’s the end of the paragraph, the subject changes. There was nothing else. The work of God is to believe the one He sent. He sent Jesus. When you believe that He died for you, and you ask Him for salvation, you receive it.
That’s the work of God—belief. You can’t contribute to this, this is not something you can help pay for. That would mean it’s not a gift anymore, wouldn’t it? You can’t help pay for this. He has to pay for all of it—He has to pay for all of it or else it’s not a gift, and it’s not grace, it’d be something works that you’ve earned.
Look at verse 37 now, same chapter 6:
All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
You come to Him, He’ll never drive you away.
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
Now in case you didn’t understand that, verse 40 says:
For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Everyone. And He promised never to lose a single one of us. You know we’re called sheep and He is called the shepherd, you know sheep are prone to wander, I mean they wander all over the place. They’ll wander right off the edge of a cliff, they’ll wander right into the mouth of the lion. But He has promised never to let that happen to any of us. So does this sound pretty good so far? Okay! We’re not done yet, we’re not done yet.
Back to Ephesians 3 (I think it’s 3, maybe it’s not) let’s start with 2 and then we’ll get into 3. Let’s read the first few verses of Ephesians 2.
In my Bible it says: As for you Jack, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
Does it say that in yours? Is your name in there? [laughs] Just mine? Okay!
Verse 1, chapter 2:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Remember that? I said you were scheduled for death, you were objects of wrath. Now remember that phrase “objects of wrath.”
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions
Remember we read that in Colossians, when He went to the cross He took our sins with Him. We were scheduled for death, He gave us life instead.
And then it says:
—it is by grace you have been saved.
And then look at verse 6:
And God raised us up with Christ
“Raised” is in the past tense.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms
We’re already up there in spirit!
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Why did He do this? So that in ages yet to come He can show, He can demonstrate, the incomparable riches of His grace by pointing at us. “You want to see grace?” He’ll say, “Look at those guys! You should have seen them when I got a hold of them! Now look at them.”
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
You can’t take any credit for this; this was given to you, because God decided to give it to you, because you believed that when He sent His Son to die for the world, He was dying for you, and you received that. That’s what you did, and then God did all that.
And as we go over to chapter 3 here, I want you to remember these things. We were objects of wrath, scheduled for death, but by His grace we’ve been saved from death, to life. All we had to do is accept that and believe it. Now why? Why did He do this?
Let’s go over to Ephesians 3:10, He says:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Okay, His intent was, now through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rules and authoresses in the Heavenly realms, that means Satan.
You see the speculation here by theologians is that at some point, probably about at the time He Himself was being judged, Satan and God looked down across time and saw us. And what he said to God was, “If You’re holy, and if You’re righteous, how can You not judge them? If you are a holy God and you are righteous, how can You not judge them?” And then he said, “And if You’re loving, how can You not save them?”
You see this became an impossible situation. God’s righteousness on one hand, demanded judgment. But God’s love on the other hand, demanded forgiveness. And Satan had Him in a box, he said, “How? You can’t get out of this. You have to judge them because, if You don’t, You’re not righteous. But, you have to save them, because if You don’t You don’t love them. You’re stuck! I’ve got You.”
And God did this, He sent His Son, the most righteous, the only righteous man ever to walk on Earth, and He said, “You pay for their sins to satisfy My righteousness.”
And then He said to us, “You’re now free to satisfy My love.”
And so through His Son, His demands for righteousness were met in the punishment that Jesus took on our behalf. And by the gift that that made possible, His need for love was met when He said, “If you’ll receive this it’s yours, free.” You got that? And so this is why it happened, because God’s intent, it says, was to show the manifold wisdom of God to the rules and authorities in the Heavenly realms. He was teaching them a lesson about righteousness and love, and how He could reconcile the two.
You see, you are deserving of judgment, and His righteousness demands it, but He loves you too much to let it happen. And so He stepped in and paid the penalty in your place, so that He could release His love to you. That’s why it happened.
And in ages yet to come, the Church will demonstrate that to everyone. We are the sample—or the example I should say—of the incomparable richness of God’s grace. We are the way in which He solved the unsolvable problem, the dilemma that was created in the conflict between His righteousness and His love.
You see, you and I, we’re arbitrary. We can set aside some things that we believe and just act on some others. We can be self contradictory, we can say one thing and then do another, because we’re imperfect, we’re sinners. God can’t do this, you see. He can’t express any of His attributes at the expense of any others; if He is righteous, then He is righteous, and that’s all there is to it. If He’s loving, He’s loving, and that’s all there is to it. And if He can’t be both, He can’t be either, because He can’t contradict Himself. He can’t overlook something. Everything has got to fit or else nothing fits, and so through us He demonstrates that to the world.
Righteous? Yes. “Look at the penalty that was paid for their sins, My own Son.”
Loving? Yes. “Look how I receive them to Myself, because of this.”
That’s what He was trying to accomplish. Now He not only did that, but then He raised us up and seated us in the Heavenly, right beside Him, for everyone to see forever. Are you seeing a little more of His grace now? We’re not done yet!
All right, so if you believed that when Jesus went to the cross He went for you, all this is yours. If you haven’t believed that yet, as soon as you do, all this will be yours without prejudice. It won’t matter what the rest of your life has been like, it won’t even matter what the rest of your life will be like, because at the moment you believed you got a guaranteed spot in the Kingdom. And He Himself has accepted responsibility for making sure that happens.
All right, so let’s look into the future a little bit now and see what else is ours. Let’s see, we could take a bunch of these, let’s go to 1 Thessalonians 1. Next time we meet we’re going to begin (I think we’re going to begin) a study in Thessalonians, and you’ll see what a remarkable couple letters it is. It’s the very first written communication to the Church, it preceded the Gospels, and so this is the first thing that was ever written to the Church. And it’s a remarkable thing, it’s all about the Second Coming.
You might expect that because the Lord had left the Earth about twenty years previously, this was written about 51 or so A.D. The Lord had left the Earth a little less than twenty years previously, promising to come back. And Paul’s first communication, anyone’s first written communication with the Church, had to do with His promise to come back. Every chapter of both books mentions the Second Coming. The Second Coming is mentioned on average I think about once every 13 verses throughout the two letters, so it’s the central topic. It’s a good one for us to be studying.
I’ll just show you a few things here, Paul opens up here by saying that in the beginning of the letter that he has received good reports from around the places where he travels, about the people in Thessalonica.
In verse 9 it says:
for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
There is going to come a day when God will bring His judgment on Earth. He’ll have to make the Earth pay for the sin that’s piled up all the way to His throne, and so there’s a time of wrath coming that will just about destroy Earth. Jesus said in Matthew 24 that if He didn’t come back and put a stop to it, there wouldn’t be a single person alive. He said it’s the worst thing that will ever happen, nothing has happened as bad in the past, and nothing will ever happen as bad in the future, this will be the worst thing that will ever happen on Earth.
And now Paul is saying Jesus is going to rescue us from that. Now that word from is interesting, there are several Greek words that are translated from. This one happens to mean to be taken away from the time and the place of wrath. Now later on we’ll see a word that says to be taken away from anything that has any relationship with the wrath. So you put them together, you see that Jesus is going to take us away from the time of the wrath, from the place of the wrath, and from anything that has anything to do with the wrath. That’s pretty much out of the picture, right? I mean that’s pretty much saying you don’t have to worry about this.
Okay, and why is that? Well first look at how He’s going to do it. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 4 and we’ll see how He’s going to do this.
4:15—no let’s start in verse 13, because you need to get the context of this. Paul, by most accounts let’s say, was only with the Thessalonians for about three weeks before they ran him out of town, his enemies came and ran him out of town. He was only there with them for about three weeks, he taught them everything that he could within that three week period.
After he left, some of them were worried that the people who were dying were going to miss out on all these promises he told them about the coming of the future, how we’d be whisked up to Heaven and we’d be with the Lord and we’d have this great eternal life with Him. And some people didn’t understand how the people who were dying would be part of that, and their question to him was, “Our brothers and sisters and our family members who are dying before this happens, are they going to miss out on all this?”
And so in verse 13 he said:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep,
This was Paul’s, this was the way he said those who died, because he knew that we don’t die. And so when you see a dead body it looks like a body that’s asleep, and so that’s what he called death, those who have fallen asleep.
or to grieve like the rest of man, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
In other words, the believers who die are with Jesus right now, and when He comes back He’s going to bring them with Him.
According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
So he says at a point in time, the Lord is going to come, and when He does the dead in Christ will rise. Now what he meant by that, we know that the spirits of dead believers are with the Lord today, so what did he mean the dead in Christ will rise? What does that mean? It means they’ll get bodies again. Right now they’re spiritual beings in Heaven, they will get bodies at that point and we will see them. It’s like they rose from the dead, we’ll see them again, they’ll be physical. You couldn’t see them now, because they are spiritual beings, but they will be physical beings when this happens. They’ll receive new bodies, what’s called resurrection bodies.
And he says immediately after that, we will be caught up. That means, literally, taken away by force, yanked out of here, if you will. We’ll be walking along one minute, not knowing what’s coming, and the next minute we’ll be yanked out of here and we’ll be in the presence of the Lord. We won’t have died, we’ll just be changed, from here to there. Paul will explain this more clearly in another letter that we’ll look at in just a minute.
And when we do, then we’ll meet the people who have died and now have bodies again and are alive again, we’ll meet them in the air with the Lord. And then we’ll all be together forever. Now in case you don’t know this, this is called the Rapture of the Church.
Rapture is a Latin word that comes from this verse 17, in the English it’s caught up; the Latin word is Rapture. The Greek word, from which both come, is Harpazo. It means to be caught away, or to be taken away, or to be snatched away by force. In other words, we won’t be asked if we want to go, we won’t be given a reservation and say, “Here show up on this day and we’ll have a seat for you.” No, we’ll be walking along, minding our own business and all of sudden bam! We disappear and we’re gone! And we’re gone to be with the Lord, and to be with the believers who have died, from the day of Pentecost to today—or whenever that day is.
Now that’s the how. Why? Look in 1 Thessalonians 5:9:
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And so before this wrath comes on the Earth, that’s going to all but destroy the whole planet, He is going to come and yank us out of there and take us to Heaven, to be with Him during this time so that we will not be at the time of it, nor at the place of it, nor have anything to do with it; we’ll be gone. And yes, from that moment on we will always be with the Lord. This is called the Rapture of the Church, and it takes place before the great wrath that all but destroys the entire world.
Why would He do that? Why would He take us out of here, what did we do to deserve being protected from this time of judgment? We accepted Him, we believed that He came and died for our sins. That’s all we did. This is one of the consequences of believing that! You know every choice has a consequence, we chose to believe that, one of the consequences is we go in the Rapture and we get hidden away in Heaven while this judgment is taking place on Earth. We disappear from sight, we’re no longer on the Earth, we’re no longer involved with the Earth, we’re no longer part of the Earth.
You know, when we became believers we became aliens here. We don’t belong here. Our citizenship is not in the United States, our citizenship is in Heaven. We are now aliens here, if you will, foreigners, we don’t belong here.
Somebody said to me once, “Are you a republican or democrat?”
I said, “Neither, I’m a monarchist.”
And they said, “What?”
I say, “I’m just visiting here, I’m waiting for the return of my king!”
So that’s what we are; we don’t belong here anymore, we’re not supposed to be involved with this place anymore. Our citizenship is there, we’re citizens of Heaven and we’re going to be taken back home soon, praise God.
After we’re taken the Lord will bring judgment upon the Earth, because those who refused to let Him pay for their sins will now be required to pay themselves. That’s the two choices you have, you know, nobody escapes. You either pay for your own sins or you let the Lord pay for them, that’s the two choices you have.
And those of us who said, “Okay Lord, you pay.” We are recipients of all this that I’ve been telling you about, but He doesn’t force this on anyone, you see. Those who say, “No thanks Lord, I’ll pay for my own.” They will pay for their own; those are the two choices. And I don’t know if you know this or not, but everybody has eternal life. Everyone ever born lives forever. The question is not do you have eternal life, the question is where are you going to spend eternity?
Are you going to spend it with the Lord in His Kingdom, because you believed that His death paid for your sins? Or, are you going to spend it somewhere, in a place of judgment because you refused to believe and determined to pay for your own? Those are your choices, there’s no door number 3 here, this is it. These are the choices, and the time is coming, when that choice is going to become very critical, and will have to be made very soon. There’s not much time left.
Okay, but we made the choice. John 1 says that when we did, we received the authority to become one of God’s children. In Galatians, Paul said at that moment we were adopted into God’s family, we’re His children now, legally His children. He has marked us with a seal of ownership, He put His Holy Spirit in us to guarantee these things that I’m telling you about. And before He judges the world, He’s going to come and rescue us out of it, before it ever happens, so that we will not be in any danger, because He’s promised never to lose even one of us, you understand. And so the best way to guarantee that He’s not going to lose any of us is to take us out in advance.
And so there will come a day—and it’s not announced anywhere, you can’t tell when it’s going to be. There’s no schedule that you can look at and see how close you are, this could happen any moment, this could happen anytime. It’s a surprise.
I’ve often said there’s going to be two kinds of people surprised by this, those who go, and those who stay. And that pretty much includes everyone, doesn’t it? But it’ll happen without warning, it’s not on the schedule anywhere. It’s an unscheduled event that will take place, nobody knows when. But some of us who study these things feel like it’s coming soon, that we’re not far away. I am fully persuaded that all of us will be here alive when it happens. It’ll happen within our lifetime.
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15, it’s a big chapter all about the resurrection but we’re only going to look at a couple of verses, 51 and 52 and maybe 53. Okay so Paul says—now Corinthians was written by the way, right after Thessalonians. So it was probably the second communication to the Church. The Gospel According to Mark might have come out about the same time as these other two, a few years one way or the other. But these letters were the first written documents in circulation among the Church, about what God had done for us.
In 51 he says:
Listen, I tell you a mystery:
What that means is, I’m going to reveal a secret, this has never been revealed before. Now here it’s twenty years after the cross, and what Paul is saying is, “I’m going to reveal a secret.” What that means is Jesus never told this, you won’t find this in the Gospel. He never taught this to the disciples, He never said a word about this while He was here. He gave Paul the job of revealing it on Earth, twenty years later.
The reason for that being, when it was too late to do anything about it. You see in 1 Corinthians 2:8 I think it is, Paul said if the rules and authorities, the powers of this age, had known what the Lord’s death would bring, they never would have permitted it. If the rulers and authorities of this age had known what the Lord’s death was going to bring, they never would have permitted it. It caught everybody by surprise. And that’s why Jesus didn’t talk about it while He was here, He waited until it was too late to do anything about it, and then He had Paul reveal it to the world.
So don’t look for the Rapture in the Gospels, in fact any doctrine about the Rapture that’s based on verses from the Gospels can’t be correct, because Jesus never spoke about the Rapture to anyone while He was on Earth.
And Paul said in verse 51 of chapter 15, “I’m going to reveal to you a secret that has never been told.” He said:
We will not all sleep,
Now remember when Paul says sleep, he means die. And so he said, “We’re not all going to die.”
but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Now this is just like what he had said in 1 Thessalonians 4, he said the dead in Christ will rise first, and after that we, who are left and alive will be caught up, and we’ll meet them all in the air, and what he is saying now is that at that moment, all of us who are alive will be changed. The dead are going to receive new bodies at that time, we who are alive, our bodies will be changed from perishable, which means subject to death to imperishable, which means immortal. And it’ll happen at that moment.
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
We’ll be changed at that moment from mortal to immortal. Now that means that we will be fit to dwell in the presence of God, and it’s a good thing because that’s exactly where we’ll be going. We’ll be going to dwell in the presence of God, and we will never again dwell on Earth.
Now I’ll show you exactly where we’re going to dwell here in just a second, but I want you to be clear on this. There will come a moment, unannounced in any way, no one will see it coming, but in a flash, Paul said, in the twinkling of an eye, we’ll be changed from what we are here today, to what we are meant to be eternally. Our mortal self will become immortal, just like that. I don’t know how fast the twinkling of an eye is, but I’ve been told it’s pretty fast.
And in that short span of time, we will change from mortals subject to death, to immortal, not subject to death. And we will be changed, and from that point on we will dwell with the Lord forever. Now if this is new to you, I apologize. It’s right here in the Bible along with everything else we’ve learned, but for some reason it doesn’t get taught as often as some of the other things in the Bible.
It’s part of this gift of grace, because again, we won’t have done anything to earn this, this won’t be a reward for something, it won’t be compensation for work we’ve done. It’s more of the gift of God’s grace. And I’ll say again, I’m convinced it will happen in our lifetimes. We are the generation that will not die, but will be changed. And when we get into our study of Thessalonians I’ll explain to you why I believe that’s true.
I’ve already explained it a couple times in the past, but if you didn’t hear it you need to hear it again. No that’s not right, if you didn’t hear it, you’ll need to hear it! If you did hear it, you’ll need to hear it again! Because it takes a couple times before, because it’s so incredible! And you see, this is why Paul said it’s part of the incomparable riches, riches beyond compare, of God’s grace.
All right, we got to bring this to a close here pretty quick, so let’s go back and look at the last book in the Bible, Revelation 21, let’s find out where we’re going.
One final verse and then we’ll stop. In John 20 (and believe me I’m only stopping because of time) on the day Jesus rose in the morning you know, and He was around during the day, and the disciples were in the upper room that night, and He showed up in their midst. He didn’t knock at the door, He didn’t even open the door, He just showed up in their midst. And this was His first reunion with them, if you will, this was on the day we call resurrection day.
One of the disciples was missing, his name was Thomas. And later on when the others told him about it, he said, “Look, tell me all you want. I won’t believe this until I see it. Unless I can see the holes from the nails, and unless I can put my hand in the scar where the spear went in, I won’t believe it.”
And so a week later they’re in the upper room again, and the Lord appeared to them again. And this time Thomas was there, and the Lord said to Thomas, “Come over here Thomas. Look at my hands. Here, look at this wound in My side.”
And Thomas immediately went down on his knees and he said, “My Lord and my God!”
Okay now look at verse 29, 20:29:
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
You know, that’s you, that’s me. We have not seen, and yet have believed. Are we blessed because of this? Absolutely. All the things I’ve said to you tonight, the gift we’ve been given, all of our sins washed away, all of our debts cancelled, our appointment with death cancelled. In return, we get the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, a seal that guarantees that God has a place for us in Heaven.
And someday soon He’s going to come and claim us. You know, it’s like we’re on layaway now, the Holy Spirit’s a deposit you see, and that takes us off the market, we’re on layaway. And we’re waiting for the Lord to come back and claim us all right? And He promised that He would, and someday soon He’s going to, He’s going to come back and claim us and He’s going to take us out of here.
In the meantime, we’re not for sale anymore, we can’t be bought by anyone! We’re off the market. And then He’s going to come and take us, to protect us from the judgments that are coming on Earth, and He’s going to take us to this beautiful home, this mansion in the sky. And that’s going to be our dwelling place from then on. We’ll always live there with Him, from then on. And all this is because we believe, that’s all we did for it, we believe.
This faith, which started off, by the way, as a gift from Him, this faith has saved us from death, but it’s done so much more than that. It’s given us eternal life, with blessings that no man can measure.
Paul said, speaking of this, he said, “No eye has ever seen this, no ear has ever heard it described, no mind has ever even conceived it.” It’s beyond your ability to imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him. It’s indescribable, and it comes because we believe. We believe we’re sinners in need of a savior, we believe that Jesus came to save us, and we believe that because of His death we have received eternal life, and that’s it. That’s the story of God’s grace.
Father we thank You for this, we thank You for this story, and we thank You for Your Word which reveals it to us. And we don’t know how to express our gratitude for this gift, except to say thank You. And so we do Lord, we give You thanks, and praise, and honor, and glory.
In the name of our Lord Jesus, Amen.