Christian Living with a View to the Lord’s Return
by Walter Olsen June 2019
I Thessalonians 5:8-13
The Bible is clear that the Lord is going to return. This return is in two different phases. First, He will return in the clouds for His own, all those who have trusted Him by faith and are truly born again. Paul wrote, “ 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 they 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” (I Thess. 4:16-17).
The second phase of His return is when He returns to the earth to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords as promised to the nation Israel. His reign on earth at that time will be for a thousand years.
This article is about Christian living in light of the Lord’s return at the time of the rapture. His return at that time is imminent, that is, it could happen at any moment. The Apostle Paul looked for the Lord’s return in his day.
It should be noted that the Christian life is not an accidental or a haphazard life. [Of course, some believers seem to live as if it were]. In reality, the Christian life is a deliberate and planned life because it is from God Himself. It is a reproduction of another life, that of Jesus Christ. Thus, the Christian life is not primarily an imitation of life but an implantation of life. Of course, no one lives a perfect life as Jesus did, but he has the potential to live a righteous life because of the indwelling presence of God in his life.
Such a life is known only by those who are truly regenerated, those who are born again by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. It is as Jesus said, “...verily,, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). As such, this article is directed especially to those who have new life in Christ. Let us look, then, at what the Bible says should characterize the believer’s life in the last day.
“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” v. 8. Those who are believers can be said to be of the day. It is as said earlier in this chapter, “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (v. 5). The first admonition is to be sober, to be serious minded about our walk in this life. This is not about not having a sense of humor which is much needed for balance in our lives. Rather, it is about taking the Word of God and our Christian lives seriously. Many drift through life with little real concern about their walk with God. They seldom, if ever, think about their walk with God. Unfortunately, many just seem to drift aimlessly.
Then, too, humor can become a way of avoiding or camouflaging things needing attention. Honesty with God and ourselves is so much needed.
Secondly, we are to put on the breastplate of faith. Faith is many things. It is the basis of our acceptance before God, “For by grace are ye saved through faith...” (Eph. 2:8). Without faith, that is, believing God, there is no salvation. No one ever got saved without believing the revelation God has given in the Bible.
Faith is the basis of our understanding of the origin of all things, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3).
Faith is the basis of our obedience to God. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts...” (Heb. 11:4).
Faith is also our protection. It is like a breastplate to ward off the arrows and onslaughts of the enemy. There are many attacks on our Christian beliefs, but faith is our protection against the doubts, fears, and attacks of the enemy. “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16). For this to be true, we must personally build our faith by being in the Word of God and spending time in prayer. Faithful attendance to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word is very helpful, but it is more than just attending a church. It is a personal involvement with God Himself.
It is essential also to have on our breastplate, the reality of love. The love mentioned here is something beyond human love. It is the love that is of God Himself. Elsewhere, Paul admonishes “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). This is love that is self-sacrificing because it is of God. A Christian life without the evidence of the love of God is a false statement of what the Christian life really is.
Thirdly, we are to put on “..an helmet, the hope of salvation.” Without the genuine hope of salvation there is no meaning to our profession of Christianity. Salvation is the basis and foundation of all that is truly Christian. If our salvation is genuine by faith in Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for our sins, then our Christian life has true Biblical meaning and significance. It has meaning both for the individual believer and those about him.
Consider with me for a moment the significance of truly having on the helmet of salvation. I fear many have a false idea of salvation and thus there is no reality to their profession. The point is, if one looks to a church, a rite of the church, or any person for salvation, there is no reality. No man or religion can give what only God Himself can give and that is spiritual life. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath eternal life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I Jn. 5:11-12). There is neither duplicate nor substitute for the life only God can give.
It is only God who can give new, eternal life and thus a changed life. Many who look to something or someone other than God Himself never experience the joy of the old life exchanged for the new life of Christ. Remember, “...if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17).
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”,v. 9. This is a most precious promise from God for all believers. God has not appointed those who believe to the wrathful judgment of God and we can wonderfully rest in the promise!
There are two pertinent thoughts here. First, those who truly believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins will never know the wrath of God in punishment for their sins. When Jesus died for our sins, He died for all of our sins, past, present and future. To be forgiven of our sins is to be totally and forever forgiven! Granted, when we sin after we are saved it affects our fellowship with God and others. The call then is for us to confess our sins and to establish again our fellowship with God and others as needed. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).
Consider, when Jesus died on the cross, the Father poured out all of His wrath upon His Son! There is no more wrath to be poured out on those who believe! The message of Isaiah about the suffering Savior is pertinent here, “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:4-6). Further on we read, “He [the Father] shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied...” (Isa. 53:11). Gloriously, God the Father is satisfied with the payment His Son, Jesus, made for our sins! Absolutely nothing can be added to make Him more satisfied.
In the second place, believers are not appointed to the wrath of God that will be poured out during the tribulation following the rapture of the church. I know some understand this differently, but I believe this supports the teaching of the rest of the Bible. During the tribulation, God is dealing primarily with the nation of Israel and not the church. The tribulation is a preparation of Israel to finally receive their appointed Messiah. There will be a national repentance, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, ‘there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins’” (Rom. 11:26-27).
In light of the deteriorating conditions of the world, it is comforting to know that believers will not be on the earth when the seals, trumpets, woes, and bowls are poured out upon the earth!! It will be a time of unprecedented trouble and suffering. Such books as Daniel and Revelation need to be preached so all may heed the warnings.
It should be noted that the salvation believers receive is glorious in every way. Not only are they saved from wrath, but they receive the eternal blessings given by God Himself. In Christ, believers are saved from the worst possible suffering and are given the best possible inheritance!!
“Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” v. 10. To be awake means to be still alive when Christ returns in the rapture. Many believers will still be living when Christ returns. As Paul said, “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 [precede] them which are asleep” (I Thess. 4:15). The return of the Lord is the great hope of the believer. It is at that time that they will receive their glorified bodies. The scripture is clear regarding the glorified body, “...it is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:42-44).
Note John’s comforting words, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And everyman that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I JN. 3:2-3).
Paul, in speaking of the believer’s life, said believers should be “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
Now, as to those who die before the Lord returns, they will not be left behind! Instead, they will be the first to be resurrected! Whatever else may be involved, those who have died before the rapture will not be forgotten. Death in no way affects one’s relationship with God as far as the resurrection is concerned. While we don’t have specific details, we have enough knowledge to give us great confidence in light of the Lord’s return in the rapture. As the verse says, “...we should live together with Him.” Can there be any greater confidence than to be told by God Himself that we shall live together with Him?!
“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do, v. 11. In light of the Lord’s promise, believers are to encourage and edify one another. We are to build one another up in light of the truth of God regarding His return.
Unfortunately, or so it seems to me, there is not so much encouraging one another in the truth of God’s Word today. Should not our fellowship times at least include some allusion to the truth of the Word of God? Should not the Word of God, in a sense, be burning in our hearts so that we long to share it? If this is not true, perhaps we more encumbered with the cares and attractions of the world about us than with the truth we profess to hold dear.
Christians certainly need encouragement in light of the world we live in today. There is so much negative propaganda, but we as believers should be able to see through and beyond such negativism to the glorious truth of the Gospel. We have a hope that the world cannot possibly comprehend!
“And we beseech you brethren, to know them which labor 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” vs. 12-13. The Lord is careful to remind believers of their responsibility to their spiritual leaders. Being a pastor is a blessed privilege, but it can also be a very challenging work. Pastors need encouragement as do all believers. This verse encourages people to know their spiritual leaders. Several thoughts come to mind regarding this admonition.
First, it is important to know that one’s spiritual leaders, in regards to pastors especially, are truly men of God. They should be called of God in salvation, called to preach the word of God, and I think also, be called by God to serve a specific ministry. These things should be mostly obvious to the people they serve. If any one of these things is lacking, there should be reason for concern. Consider, when one chooses a church to attend and support, they are choosing a spiritual path for their family. One should know that the teachings being implanted in one’s heart and mind are truly what the Bible teaches. The implications of wrong choices are awesome. False teaching, once planted in a heart, is often very difficult to change. It truly takes the ministry of the Holy Spirit to uproot false teaching and replace it with the truth of the Bible.
Secondly, believers should have a general knowledge of their leaders’ specific needs. This may include financial needs or just general encouragement in the matter of living a public life. Also, they should recognize the pastor’s place to admonish and generally to oversee the body of believers. To fail here is to fail in a major responsibility of each believer who attends a local church.
Thirdly, true spiritual leaders should be held in high esteem with genuine love because of the work they do. This does not place a pastor above anyone else, but simply to recognize and love them for the work they do.
Then, the followers should be at peace among themselves. This is really not possible except where the Lord Himself reigns in the hearts of the people. Apart from that, everyone seeks his or her own agenda!
We have already come to the end of our space, but I trust the Lord has reminded us of some very important things regarding how to live our Christian lives in light of the Lord’s soon return. We have so much to look forward to, but we also have some awesome responsibilities as we await His return.
Spring in our part of the country has been slow in coming this year! Much of the time, while the calendar has said May, the weather has said March! Today, though March 20th , the sun is shining and spring appears to be in full bloom in the countryside.
We attended some of the annual Syttende Mai celebrations in Woodville, but the day of the parade was cold and quite wet. There was a break for the parade, however.
BJ is still struggling with recovery from her knee replacement surgery last December. She manages to get around, but with some difficulty. She enjoyed Mother’s Day with Tim and Dan.
May has been so chilly that that our flowers are still in the garage! Hopefully, there will be warm sunshine soon to get them out into the ground.
Do remember to pray for our great country and those who have faithfully served it, many giving their lives for our freedom.
“The Holy Spirit is the One who makes real in you all that Jesus did for you.” Oswald Chambers
"Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45).
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