Comfort instead of Chaos

During this time of chaos and uncertainty, God has drawn me back to one of the greatest sources of comfort and hope that we have as Christians. It has to do with the next event on God’s Prophetic Calendar known as the Rapture or sudden removal of Christians from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air to be with Him forever (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11).
       

When the apostle John, a member of the Church, was caught up to heaven, he saw “twenty-four elders” sitting on thrones around the throne of God. “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4).  These twenty-four elders represent faithful believers from the Church Age since “elders” in the New Testament are leaders of the local Church (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28;  I Tim. 4:14; 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; I Peter 5:1).
       

The fact that these elders are already sitting on “thrones,” wearing “white garments” and “crowns” indicates they have already appeared before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive their rewards (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:4-5, 21; 22:12), which means the vision John describes in heaven takes place after the Rapture of the Church. This is supported further by the absence of the word “church” and any references to Christians on earth in Chapters 6-18 of Revelation, which describe the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth. The reason the Church is not mentioned in Revelation 6-18 is because it has already been removed by the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver her from “the wrath to come” as  taught by the apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 1:10.
       

The apostle Paul then explains how Jesus will deliver us from the coming wrath of the Tribulation period in I Thessalonians 4. “For if [or since] we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (I Thess. 4:14). The Rapture or Removal of the Church is just as certain as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At one point in time the death and resurrection of Christ were prophecy. But now they are history. We can believe the Rapture with equal certainty.
       

The apostle Paul expected the removal of the Church from the earth to take place while he was alive on earth and so should we. Paul wrote, “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” (I Thess. 4:17). The words “caught up” are from the Greek word haparzo which means “to snatch up or away suddenly.”Paul describes it like this I Corinthians 15:52“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet… the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” In the time it takes you to blink your eye, the Lord will snatch all believers in Jesus off the earth to meet Him in the air – not one will remain behind.
     

This sudden removal of all Christians from the earth is intended to comfort believers in Jesus. That’s why Paul writes, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:18). If the Rapture of the Church is at the middle or end of the seven year Tribulation period of intense and unusual suffering on earth (Rev. 6-18), there would be little comfort and encouragement in this. But the prospect of Christ coming at any moment is a much greater comfort. Jesus could come back today for His Church. Are you ready? If not, here is how you can prepare for Christ’s coming for His Church.
       

You must receive Jesus’ free gift of everlasting life to leave this earth with the Church to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). You may ask “Why do I need everlasting life?” Because all people have sinned against God (Rom. 3:23) anddeserve death (Rom. 6:23) or separation from God forever in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). But Jesus Christ loved us so much He came to earth to die on a cross for all of our sins and rose from the dead, proving He is God (Rom. 1:3-4; I Cor. 15:3-6). Jesus now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone when He says,  “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). It does not matter how good or bad you have been. Jesus offers you everlasting life as a free gift if you would simply believe in Him alone for it.
       

When you believe in Jesus, He gives you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 3:16; 10:28-29) and He guarantees you a home in heaven when you die or when He returns, whichever occurs first (John 14:1-3). His Holy Spirit places you in the body of Christ, His Church (I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Ephes. 1:22-23). Christ wants to use you now to share this message of comfort and hope with those who are perishing without Him (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). 
       

Rather than focus on the chaos and social unrest of our unbelieving world which is trying to advance a cashless system and other ways to track people, let’s focus on the comfort of our Lord’s glorious coming for His Church. By doing so, we will be more motivated to share the gospel with the lost people of this world and prepared to face Jesus as our Judge at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9-11; I John 4:17-19).

When the Lord is my Shepherd I shall have no want for comfort

“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4b

About six hundred times, the Scriptures refer to sheep, lambs, ewes, sheepfolds, and shepherds. God seems to be saying to us, “If you want to learn something about the Christian life, watch the sheep. And if you want to know something about Me, watch a faithful shepherd.”

In the first half of verse 4, we saw that one of the paths our Good Shepherd leads us down goes through “the valley of the shadow of death.” David writes that he was comforted by his Shepherd as he led him through this dark time in his life. He says, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

The “rod” refers to a great oak club about two feet long with a round head in which the shepherd pounded sharp bits of metal. He used the rod to defend his flock against wild beasts. A skillful shepherd not only swung the club to smash the head of a predator, but he would also throw the club like a missile over the heads of his sheep to strike a wolf or mountain lion lurking in the distance.

The “staff” was a long walking stick that was bent or hooked at one end. The shepherd used his staff to restrain sheep from wandering or hooked their legs to pull them out of holes into which they had fallen. He also used it to pull branches aside when a sheep got tangled in a thicket or to beat back the high grass to drive out snakes coiled on the path.

The sheep take comfort from the shepherd’s power.The word “comfort” means to give strength. To comfort is to give strength by supplying power. God offers us more than a handkerchief to dry our tears – He offers us His power and His might. But if we are honest with ourselves, we may be somewhat afraid of God’s power perhaps because we think He is like us – unpredictable. One day we are up and another day we are down. One day we are all smiles and another day we are all frowns. We suspect God is that way. One day He uses His power on our behalf and another day He wants to flex His muscles some and hurl a thunderbolt into our lives.

We need to remember that our Good Shepherd is as gracious as He is powerful. God cannot use His power outside of His love. His grace limits His power just as His holiness limits His love. God will not move in might except to carry out the desires of His heart.

For example, let’s say you have a daughter who becomes very ill with the coronavirus. When the doctor examines her, he then rushes her to the hospital. He tells you that he is not sure she will live through the night. You are standing there, watching helplessly as your little girl struggles for her life. In those moments, some great truths in Scripture come to your mind. First of all, you know that God loves you and He loves your little girl (John 3:16). After all, He loved you enough to die for you both (Romans 5:8). You know that nothing and no one can separate you both from His love (Romans 8:35-39).

Yet you loved your little girl, too, and you are helpless to do what your love desires. Then you realize that the God who loves you both is also the God of power (cf. Jeremiah 32:17). And you know that He has the strength to do what His love desires. If God chose that your daughter stay with you, He had the power to keep her alive. And if God chose to take your daughter home, this, too, would be His loving choice. He has the power to do anything that His heart knows best.

The comfort of God can calm our fears because we can rest our lives in His strength. Would it really comfort us if all our “whys” were answered? Why the child had to meet that deadly virus? Why all of this social distancing? Why did the train have to be there the moment those teenagers crossed the railroad tracks? Why all the flooding and property damage from the typhoon?

If God simply gave scientific or philosophical explanations to our bruising questions, could they really comfort us? A child is not comforted by being told why she has contracted the coronavirus. Nor is a child comforted by being told why her finger hurts when it is bruised in a car door, or why her tummy aches. She is comforted by knowing that her mother loves her, and that she can do something about her hurt.

We can obtain much comfort from the defending rod and staff of our Good Shepherd, not only for ourselves but for others. We may not be able to visit people face to face right now, but we can pray to the One who can be there with them to comfort them with His powerful love and presence.

Prayer: Good Shepherd, there is so much in life that I do not understand. Many people are going through dark times right now. There is much chaos and confusion in our world today. But this chaos and confusion begin to fade away when I turn the eyes of my heart towards You. I really do not need answers to my questions right now. I need You O Lord. Knowing that You love me without condition and that You have the power to take care of me always, is the greatest source of comfort and security for me at this moment. Thank You so much for Your rod which You hurl at the enemy when he whispers lies that provoke fear in my heart. Thank You for Your staff which You use to guide me or rescue me when I get into trouble. I need You Jesus. Nothing more and nothing less. Thank You for being a faithful, loving, and all powerful Shepherd. My trust is in You. In Your name. Amen.