Chris Hodges - It's a Love Story
All right, well, today we are starting a brand-new, month-long series called, "The Second Coming of Christ," and I'll tell you more about that in just a second. But as always, I like to look into the camera and just say hello to all of our locations, our campuses, we call them. We're one church that meets all across the great state of Alabama and in Columbus, Georgia. Have the incredible privilege of bringing not just our services, but all that we are as a church into more than 20 of Alabama's Department of Corrections facilities, and there are people watching online somewhere around the world. I know you want to. Go ahead, come on, give them a good hand, everybody. That's great. Come on, give them a good hand, everybody.
And so we are delighted that you're along for the ride today. Before I jump into the message, I know your campus pastors gave you a lot of things that are coming up, and all those are very important. I asked them to omit one of them, so I can tell you about it, and that is this Friday night, we only do this once a year, but on once a year I call all the men of the church together, and I'm calling all of the men together. You got plans? Change them. I want you to be here. And we're gonna feed you. Can I get a better amen, everybody? We've got some boiled shrimp, and sausage, and we're gonna eat. We'll have a good time. But I have a message that I've been working on for quite a while now on what the Bible says about being a man. And I'm excited to share. We know the world's confused about gender right now, but the Bible is not unclear, everybody. And I'm excited to share, yeah. It's not, and so I'm excited to share this message with you men.
I think you're gonna be glad you came, and it might be even a good time to bring someone that you know with you. It's gonna be so awesome. We would love for you to register just so, we don't want to order too much food, and we don't want to not have enough. So that's the only reason. It's just 'cause we don't want to be wasteful, and we also want to make sure everybody gets more than fed at this service on Friday night. Dinner's at 6, and we'll start the service whenever y'all finish eating, all right? That's what's gonna happen. But today we are gonna begin this brand-new series, and this was actually the fifth highest requested topic when I did my survey, Easter survey with you all. A lot of you guys know that at Easter, since you all decided to come to the same service on that day, we take the opportunity to get some information from you from time to time. And one of the questions that we asked you is, you know, if I were to bring you a message, what are some of the topics?
And by the way, the next series that we begin is gonna be called, "You Asked for It," and I'm gonna give the top most requested topics in a series beginning in September. So, you're gonna love that. But I want to go ahead and give you one of them now. The fifth most requested topic was on the topic of end times prophecy. What's going on? What in the world's going on? And everybody, of course, is ultra-sensitive to it. If you know anything about biblical prophecy, which by the way, one-third of your Bible is prophecy, and most of it is end time prophecy. In fact, a lot of the things that are setting themselves up, what many of us believe is the set-up for the return of Christ is already beginning to stage itself right now.
You read Ezekiel 38, 3,000 years ago, you hold in your hands a book that 3,000 years ago predicted some of the movement that's taking place in the earth right now. I mean, the things that are happening in Russia, the alliance with China, all that's predicted in Scripture, how they would move and converge on the Middle East, and they are, they're both in Syria and staging themselves in what the Bible calls the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the valley of judgment, where the battle of Armageddon will take place. I mean, there are Russian ships off the coast of Israel right now, and that alliance is taking place, and the Bible describes it. In fact, even names the country, calls it Rosh, which is the old name for Russia, and the king of the east, which is China, and even mentions how Iran is playing into all that. All that's in your Bible, and you have a book that has predicted the future, which should give you great confidence in your God today, everybody, that you have the living God, who can actually, not only knows the future, but can control the future, and it's written in your Bible.
And, of course, you should rightfully be concerned. It's some crazy stuff going on out there in the world, and I'm gonna do the best I can this month to unpack this for you. And today's gonna surprise you entirely 'cause it's not what you think. But we're talking about a doctrine that is really one of the pillars of our statement of faith of Christianity, and that is the fact that Jesus is coming again. So, he's coming back. We all know he lived here once, and he, of course, was resurrected and then ascended into heaven, but he's coming back again. Can I hear a better amen, everybody, all right? And my topic today is "It's Not a Horror Story: It's a Love Story". 'Cause I think when you think about the end times, I already had one of my buddies who already has been at one of our services texted me. He goes, "Man, I came to church today expecting wrath, and I heard nothing about the love of God".
I want you to know that the second coming of Christ is not about 666, and marks of beasts, and tribulations, and famines, and blood, and terror. I mean, those things do take place, the wrath of God, but I'm gonna tell you it is preeminently and mostly about the love of God. And I'd really never seen it in Scripture until I started studying it for you in this series. And I want to kick right off with what Jesus said about his return, while he was still here on earth, and this is John chapter 14, when he said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled". And if I have a message for the day, it's that, that if you're a Christian, look at me, you're on the winning side, and you're gonna be just fine. All right, everybody? In fact, I couldn't have better news for you. If you're a believer, now, if you're not a believer, I could not have worse news for you, all right?
So, I just want to let you know that. But if you're a Christian, you don't need to let your hearts be troubled. "You believe in God; believe also in me," Jesus said. "My Father's house has many rooms. And if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you"? So, he already told them, "Look, guys, I have to leave. I know you think I'm leaving way too soon, but I'm leaving because it wasn't all about earth. It was all about eternity, and I've got some work to do to go prepare that place for you in eternity. And if I go and prepare a place for you..." Say the next four words out loud, every campus. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will... I'm gonna come back". And this is the phrase that I could not get away from in my study that I want you to just grab hold of it with your heart. "...to take you, I'm not just coming back just to rescue and be the man for the day. No, no, no. I'm coming back 'cause I want to be with you. I'm coming back to take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. Like, I miss you. I love you. I want to be with you".
Now, this is the second coming of Christ. If you know the story of Jesus, he came, lived 33 years, only spent the last 3 of them in public ministry. Of course, went to that old rugged cross, paid for the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future. On the third day, was resurrected from the dead, and then he spent about 40 days appearing in his glorified body to give final instructions, of which the very last words of Jesus on earth is actually not on my screen, but it's Acts chapter 1, verse 8, where he said, "Hey, I'm leaving now for good, for good this time. I'm getting ready to be ascended into heaven, and I want you to be my witnesses. Get out there and get after it. Let's go tell people the good news that they don't have to pay for their own sins. And I want you to do it everywhere. I want you to do it in Jerusalem," which is your city, "Judea, Samaria," which is your greater area, "and then the uttermost parts of the earth".
Get the Word out, get the Word out, get the Word out. That's the last words of Jesus, but we'll talk about that in week 3, by the way. But then the Bible says in verse 9, "After he said this, He was taken up..." That's what we call in theology the great ascension, "before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight". So, he was just slowly lifted until he got to the cloud layer. "Then his body disappeared, and his feet disappeared from their sight, and they were looking intently into the sky, as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white..." Those were angels. "...stood beside them and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven...'" Here it is again. "'...will come back.'" Jesus is coming again, "in the same way you've seen him taken up into heaven," which was, by the way, at the top of the Mount of Olives, which is just to the east of the old city of Jerusalem, and he's gonna come back in that very same place, at really at any time.
And I actually believe, my personal belief is it could be at any time. The signs of the times are being fulfilled, and the whole world is staging itself just like biblical prophecy said it would happen. You say, "Chris, but everybody's believed that. Every generation has thought so". You're right, they have, and they've all had somebody they could point to as an antichrist. I get it. I believe that. But in my heart of hearts, there's something different about our generation. We actually have seen more advancement of the gospel in the last 50 years than the previous 1,972. More people, listen to that, more people have gotten saved in 50 years than the previous 1,972 since Christ. It's unmistakable that we're in a generation of revival. And you look around and you think, "I don't see that anywhere". Yeah, because of the 193 sovereign nations of the world, the gospel is growing faster than population in all but 17, and America is one of the 17.
There are five actually in decline. They're actually losing, and then there's 12 that are in stasis or they're just stagnant. They're not gaining or losing. And America is one of those that's in stasis right now. But there's a massive revival taking place right now, right now, mostly in Muslim nations, where the gospel is being spread, and people are giving their lives to Jesus. I think we ought to stop right here and give God some praise for that, everybody, come on. And I'm gonna show you. In week number 3, I'm gonna show you all the stats, and your jaw is gonna be on the ground, and I'll show you how we're involved and how you're a part of all of that. But Jesus is coming back, everybody. In fact, over 300 references in the New Testament alone of the return of Christ or the end of times.
So, it's a massive part of your Bible, which is why we're talking about it. Two hundred and sixteen of the 260 chapters of the New Testament either talk about Christ's return or the end times. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books have something to say about either Christ's return or the end of the time, and that's why it's so important for us to study it. You say, "Chris, why is there so much real estate in the Bible about this"? Let me tell you why: because it also is the most dangerous time in human history, both just to living life, and I think we're all sensing it. It's just things are different: violence, inflation, just the craziness, the moral decay. And the Bible says that a lot of these people, even Christians, going through the culture of the end times, it's gonna be rough on them. Jesus actually said in Matthew 24 that the love of most will grow cold, and we don't want that to happen.
We actually, we need to be prepared, the Bible says, like a bride, that Jesus is coming back for a relationship, not an organization, not just the church. No, he's coming back for a bride. And we're supposed to get ourselves ready just like for a wedding day. I mean, you ever seen a bride get ready for a wedding day? It's no joke, man. She's losing weight. She's looking for dresses. She's spending loads of money. Can I get a better amen? That's how it's happening, right? But we're supposed to prepare ourselves. And then, of course, we're supposed to be a church on mission. And again, we'll talk about that in week 3, because we've gotta take these end times serious, especially if we're in the generation that is gonna usher in the return of Christ, and we're seeing more of the work of God take place in our lifetime than any other generation before, and that's the absolute truth.
But here's the last reason, the real reason why I want to teach this topic, and it's what I want to hang on today, and I think you're gonna leave here with a big old smile on your face if you love the Lord, and that is it is for your encouragement and your comfort. 'Cause the truth is most people are afraid. You start talking about the end times, and they're like, "Oh, my goodness. Am I gonna have to get a, you know, a mark on my head and a mark, the mark of the beast, you know. And, I mean, I have to go to Walmart and boop, you know, just to check out. I don't know". And people get all kind of freaked out and the heads getting chopped off, and tribulation, and again, I want you to hear this. If you're a believer, I couldn't have better news for you. Jesus loves you, and this is more than a horror story. It's a love story, and I want to show it to you in Scripture. 1 Thessalonians, "According to the Lord's own word..." And we just read it in John 14. "We tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord..."
So, in other words, there are going to be some people alive when Jesus returns, and there are scores of believers whose bodies have died, but by the way, nobody you know that knows the Lord is dead. I mean, their bodies might have died, but they're still fully alive. Can I get a better amen? I've got some invested on that other side. "...will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself is going to come down from heaven". So, remember, he went up? "Well, now he's gonna come down with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ are gonna rise first". That's not the Methodists. It's talking about all the people who have died before us. Sorry, sorry. Yeah, all right. My kin were Methodists. I can say that, okay. But "After that, we who are still alive and are left are going to be caught up..."
Two words in the English, one word in the Greek, the original language of your New Testament. Anybody who says, "Oh, the Bible's been diluted after they keep translating it". No, no, no. We have original manuscripts. There are, that's a lie from the pit of hell. We have original manuscripts, and they're in the Greek language, and the two words in English is one word in the Greek, harpazo. And harpazo means to suddenly snatch. It's kind of like if you ever played that spoons game. Do y'all play spoons with your family? You know, and you've got a lot spoons, and you've got just enough for everybody but one person. So, there's eight people, there's seven spoons. And everybody's doing the cards and trying to get a match. And when you get your match, one person grabs it, and then everybody else dives in and grabs it. And then one person's left out, and they're kicked out of the game, you know, and that's how that works. Well, that's the word. Jesus, he's gonna snatch you up.
Now, the Latin word for caught up is the word "rapturo," where we get the word "rapture". So, you may have heard the term, the rapture of the church. Well, that's not in the Bible, but these two words is, and the Latin word is. So, this is biblical truth, even though the word is not there, that there's going to be this snatching away, that we're gonna be caught up together with those that have already, their bodies have died, then we're gonna meet the Lord in the air. And watch this. "And so we will..." And again, I never noticed this. It's just so encouraging to me. It isn't because he's gonna defeat the devil, and he's gonna overcome the antichrist. I mean, we will talk about all that, but his main motivation isn't some wrath and fury and tribulation. His whole motivation for coming back is he wants to be with us. We will be with the Lord forever, and you should be encouraged with these words.
And I believe it's gonna happen. I believe there's a revival getting ready to be poured out, and I tell you, I want Church of the Highlands to be a part of it. I think the first drops of revival are falling. They're already falling around the world. Lord Jesus, let them fall in Birmingham, Alabama. Let them fall all across Alabama, and Columbus. And come on, everybody, we're gonna see God. But again, what I want you to notice is the language, that the motivation of the return of Christ isn't just wrath and fury and horror, which most people think of it that way. It's that God misses you. He wants to be with you.
Now, why is that? And that is because we're a family. You're not an organization. You are the family of God. You are his kids, and the only thing that God gets out of the death of his Son, and the work of the church, and the end times, and the tribulation, and all the stuff that takes place, all the pain, is us. His main motivation is us. He loves you. Like, you have God's Spirit on the inside of you. You are a divinely created being in God's very own image. And the world will throw out this crazy demonic principle of evolution theories of this, like you're just, oh, you're just pond scum, and somehow you wiggled out of the pond and grew a tail. Then you shook it off, and then hair covered your body, and then all of it fell off, except on top of your head.
You know, from goo to you through the zoo. Like, that's what the world wants you to, that ain't it. You're just an animal. You're just a happenstance. And we wonder sometimes why the kids act like animals, because that's what they've been taught, but that's not who you are. You're a child, listen to me, you're a child of Almighty God. You came from God, and we're all going right back to God to be in fellowship with him. And the real true story of the second coming is he wants to be with you. He just wants to be with you. In fact, watch this. So, the first two chapters of your whole Bible start out so beautifully: creation, man and God in perfect harmony. And then sin enters, and you get chaos through the whole middle of the Bible. And then the last two chapters, it shows man and God in perfect harmony again, and this is where it begins, Revelation 21. Watch this. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth," which means the current heaven won't be the heaven in eternity.
So, there's a heaven now where people that we, that know the Lord, are in, but that's not the heaven we're gonna live in. And earth is not just gonna be burnt up and thrown away. No, no, there's gonna be a new earth, and everybody who thinks, "Aw, man, I'm not gonna enjoy heaven 'cause I like earth so much". Guess what? You're coming back to earth. You're coming back to a perfected earth with no tornados, with no disease, with no traffic on 280. Come on, somebody, right? Like, it's gonna be a new earth. You're gonna get to ski, play golf. You'll just bury every hole. I don't know, but it's gonna be great, right? "For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem..."
By the way, that's us, the church, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride. Because notice the language is, this is all relational. This is not some horror story. This is a relationship, love story. "...beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look!'" Not, "I defeated the devil. The antichrist got what he asked for". No, no, no, God's dwelling place is now among his people. This is his goal. "I just wanted to be with my people". "And he will dwell with them. And they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. And he will wipe every tear from their eye". There's gonna be no more cancer, diabetes, heart disease, insurance.
Come on, everybody. "...no death, no mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away". That the full motivation, I wanted to start here, the full motivation of the second coming of Christ has nothing to do with the horror story you've been told. It's in there. We'll talk about it. But the real motivation is "I just miss you. I need my family". And God longs to be with you. If he had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. He's thinking about you right now, fondly. "Oh, but PC, my life's a mess". And a bunch of you have talked yourself out of the love of God in your life, because you look at your own life, and you think, "I know he's forgiven me, but he can't like me. I'm a mess".
It's hard for some of you to even process the love of God. So, let me try to illustrate it this way. I have eight grandkids, all six years old and under. Most of them are toddlers, and most of them don't speak a word, and they're precious and cute. But the truth be known, they're disgusting little creatures. I mean, they poop in their clothes. They put their hands in places they ain't supposed to put their hands, and they're always sticky. I don't know how. We just washed them, but they're sticky again. They're just somehow, they slobber everywhere. They don't communicate, and they could cry at any time and cause disruption. But I adore them. I'm crazy about them, because they're mine. I've got one that makes the biggest mess you have ever seen when he eats.
In fact, there's more food on the floor than we gave him in the first place. It's like the loaves and fishes multiplied all over the place. "My God, what happened, son"? And it's cute. Why? Because he's mine. Listen to me. God sees your mess, but you're his. He adores you more than any human on earth has ever adored you. Your mama and daddy combined don't love you like God. He's crazy about you, and he's ready. He longs to be with you. The second coming is a God wanting to be with his people story. It's not a horror story. It's a love story. Now, I know what you're asking. You're thinking, "Okay, that's great, but I've gotta know still are we living in the last days, PC, are we"? And the, really, the truth be known, it's a silly question, 'cause you're living in the only days you have. And if you knew they were the last ones, would it change how you lived? And if it did, do it, 'cause we might be. We might be.
And I'm gonna close this message with the same message I've given you. This is a love story, but you will, I know you want some, okay, but what do I do to get ready for this bride relationship, this relationship with God? Let's go to 1 Thessalonians. "Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates..." I know you want to know that. "...we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord's gonna come like a thief". So, I don't really know, so lock your doors. I don't know. Buy insurance. I don't know. Check the windows. That's what it's saying. It's gonna come, but don't wait until he came to go lock the door. Get the doors locked. Let's go. "And while people are saying peace and safety, destruction is going to suddenly come on them, as labor pains on a pregnant woman".
Now, by the way, let me time out right here and say, you won't know the day, but you will know the season. It's just like a pregnant woman. You don't know the day, but brother you know when she's nine months. Like, Lord Jesus, deliver her. Right? I mean, it's no mistaking when they're in the ninth month. Okay, same thing. And we have signs, and I'm going to show you in detail that show you I think we're in the ninth month. Now, I don't know about the day or the time, but when it happens you won't be able to escape. In other words, it'll be too late. "But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness". Why? Because you have a pastor who's teaching it to you. I'm showing you the Scriptures. I'm gonna help you. I'm gonna let you see this. "...so that this day should surprise you".
I'm gonna make sure this day does not surprise you. It's up to you what decision you make after you hear this, but you won't be able to say, "Well, PC never told me". Oh, yes I am. And you come every week, and I'll help you get ready for this day that is absolutely, 100% happening. "Well, I don't believe in God". That will not keep him from coming back. He is coming back, all right? "You are all children of the light and children of the day. We don't belong to the night or to the darkness". So, this will only be night, the night people, and the dark people, and the people that are in all that cultural chaos and decay right now, who are asleep. Let's be awake and sober. "For those who sleep, sleep at night; and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet". Because I can make you this promise. God did not appoint you to suffer wrath, and that's a direct promise, to the fact that you will not go through the tribulation.
I know there's some Christians think we will. They can help themselves. I'm going up in the first elevator, all right? That's all I've got to tell you. But God never wanted his kids to suffer wrath. In fact, the antichrist cannot even be revealed until the church is gone, because it says the one that holds the antichrist back has to be gone, and that's the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit lives in us. So, then, when we're gone, the Holy Spirit's gone, and then the antichrist can come. That's a fact. I can show you that in Scripture, and I will. But God doesn't want you to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. "He died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live". There it is again. He just wants to "live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just in the fact as you are doing".
And before we got into all the details, and 666, and end times, and revelation, I just wanted you to know that you don't need to be nervous. You need to be encouraged. And then you get not only Paul's teaching, but you get Peter, who spent time with Jesus. They must have had hours of conversations about Jesus going to heaven and returning. And Peter says, "The end of all things is near, so do these three things". And I'll close with them. And that is the first, get right with God. Just get right with God. This is not as hard as some people try to make it. If you're not right with God, you don't need me to tell you. You have a Holy Spirit who's gonna mess with you and just say, "Come on, come on, come on, come on". And you've gotta respond to that. But you can get right with God.
You say, "Chris, how do I get right with God"? If we confess our sins. You don't even have to stop sinning. He wants you to. I believe that's his goal. But he didn't say, "If you confess your sins and never do it again". There's not a place in Scripture that says that. If you confess your sins, he is faithful and just to forgive you and to cleanse you. He says, "The end of all things is near, so be clear-minded". In other words, get all that junk out of your head. Be self-controlled and pray. I'm so glad we're in 21 days of prayer. I'm gonna call the whole church to seeking God, praying for revival. But, Lord, let it begin with PC and the church. We're gonna get our lives right before God. I'm gonna get right before God, and get closer to him, and pursue him, and repent of the sin in my life, and my attitudes. Come on, everybody. We've gotta get ourselves ready like a bride getting ready for a wedding day, because that's what it is.
Let us rejoice and be glad. Give him glory, for the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride made herself ready, ready. Peter says later in his next epistle, "But the day of the Lord is going to come like a thief, and the heavens will disappear with a roar, elements will be destroyed by fire". That's all of the horror. "And the earth and everything will be laid bare. And since it's going to be destroyed this way, what kind of people ought we to be? We ought to get our lives right with God, be holy, pure". And I invite you to come with me tomorrow for 21 days of prayer. We're gonna seek God and fast. If you want to fast and pray, we'll be here at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. I'll be leading the first day. Come join me. Be here live, if you can. If you can't, stream it live. It's 6 a.m. central, 9 o'clock on a Saturday. We'll pray in church on Sundays, and we're gonna seek the Lord, and come join me. It's just gonna be a power, we're gonna renew our passion for God. Come on, everybody. Be in love with Jesus. Can I hear a better amen out there, everybody? Twenty-one days is coming, everybody. It's going to be a powerful, it's gonna be the best one ever. The end of all things is near.
Secondly, Peter said this, "So we should rely on having solid relationships, godly relationships around us". Look at it. "The end of all things is near. So, love each other deeply". Because interesting phrase, "Love covers over a multitude of sin". Now, if you've got a multitude of sin going in your life, I would wager to say you don't have accountable relationships in your life. Because anything that you want to see changed happens when you confess it to God, but also confess it to God's people. Did you know that? That God's plan for you is seeing a transformation taking place in your life, is relationships. That's why Hebrews says, "Let us consider how we spur one other on". In other words, "Come on, Chris". I'll meet you at prayer. "Come on, Chris, it's gonna be okay". And then they turn around, and I help them, right? "...not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see..."
Notice it's capitalized, 'cause it's talking about the last Day, the Day Jesus returns. And so what do we do? It's time to commit to church, man. We're gonna be together, we're family. I need you. You need more than a sermon. You need some encouragement in the hallway, and we need the family. Thank God for online, but we need you in the room to encourage you and you encourage us. And that's why I'm inviting everybody who doesn't have a home church to join one. It doesn't have to be this one, but it needs to be one. And today, step one of the growth track is our membership class. It's our way to invite you into this church. And then get in a small group. We start groups first Sunday of September, have a 13-week semester coming up, and it's going to be powerful. It's going to be a powerful time together. Why? Because we need each other, check on each other. Listen to me. I mean this seriously. You're not gonna make it. You will have a hard time making it.
Let me just loosen that up just a smidge. You're gonna have a hard time making it if you don't have solid relationships: praying with you, standing with you, encouraging you, and you doing the same for them. And that's just the truth. The end of all things is near. So, let's get our lives right. Let's get solid relationships. But we should also do everything we can to make a difference. It goes on to say it this way. "The end of all things is near, so each one should use whatever gift he's received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. And if anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the words of God. And if anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ our Lord. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen".
In other words, God wants to put all of us on some type of assignment. Because you would say, "Chris, when's the end gonna happen"? I'll tell you when the end's gonna happen. Jesus said it himself. "This gospel will be preached in the whole world as a testimony for all nations, and then the end will come". One place even says that we get the chance to speed his coming by the work we do. And if you know anything about us, we're a missional church. And I want to end with kind of a fun story. 'Cause remember it's a love story.
Okay, so the last thing Jesus said on earth, I already read it to you, Acts chapter 1, verse 8. Then he went up to heaven, right? But then John gets a revelation of Jesus on the isle of Patmos. We're gonna study that next week. It's powerful, it's amazing. And Jesus speaks. It's like Jesus shows up in his glorified body in front of John. Like, the same disciple who spent three years with him faints when he sees Jesus in his glorified body. And the very last words, if you have a red-letter edition of the Bible, the last place in your Bible where there's red ink is in Revelation chapter 3, and it says this: "Behold, I'm at the door of your heart, and I knock. And if anyone would come in, allow me in, we'll have dinner together".
And notice again the intimacy, because it's not a horror story. It's a love story. He's coming back, and are you ready for this? The first thing we do in heaven, we're not gonna sing, "Hallelujah". There's not gonna be tears and anthems. I'm sure that'll be somewhere. Do you know what the first thing we do in heaven? We eat. Come on, Cajuns love that. If you're a Cajun, you'd have said, "Amen" right there. There's a feast, a big feast. Why? Because he wants, you're his family. It's not a horror story. It's a love story. So, with that in mind, let me show you one detail I bet you've never seen in the resurrection.
So, remember the morning that Jesus rose again? We call it Easter morning. And Peter runs into the tomb. And when he gets there, he sees the cloth that Jesus's body was wrapped in all scattered, where his body would've been, but obviously the body's not in there. But John's gospel adds this detail. "And the napkin that was wrapped around Jesus's head..." So, there was a separate cloth just for his face, and they called it the napkin, it was not lying with the rest of the cloths that were scattered everywhere. It was wrapped together, one translation says neatly folded. So the linen cloths were all over the place, but the napkin was folded. And John knew that was important that Jesus left, before he left, said, "I've got an idea". And he goes and folds the napkin before he's resurrected.
You say, "Chris, what does that mean"? It means the same thing it means today. In Hebrew culture, if you got up from the table, but you weren't done with your meal, you folded the napkin. If you were done, you wadded it up and threw it on the plate, and that'll let the servant know they can clear your plate. But Jesus folded the napkin. Why? Because he's coming back again. Come on, give God some praise today. And I want you to be ready. It's my job as a pastor to get us all ready and to get us all on mission.
So, Father, I pray for this incredible congregation. God, we're not freaked out. We're not scared. I mean, there are serious things happening in the earth, and we know they're serious. But, God, we have the hope that you're coming back, and you're going to take us, and we're not appointed to suffer wrath, but God you're gonna rescue us from this evil world, Lord. And God, until then we're not gonna be freaked out. We're gonna be focused, crying out for revival, winning as many people as we can, so that everyone can come to the knowledge of the truth.
With heads bowed, eyes closed, I'm gonna invite campus pastors to come join me onstage. Pastor Blake, you can join me here on the stage. And I'm gonna let every one of them close their services, and they're gonna pray for you. Stay to the very end. We always close on time. But if you're here today, and you say, "Hey, PC, I don't know if I'm ready, I don't know if I'm ready," well, be sure then. Maybe you're a Christian, and you walked away. You're backslidden. You're ready to come home. You need to be home. And we call it "Welcome home," because you're a family. You're not a project. You're a family, and God loves you, and he wants to be with you. And the barrier that keeps us from God is called sin, and Jesus came and paid for that barrier so that you could be in fellowship with God again.
What does it take? The surrender of your life to Jesus for it to be gone. That's all. You don't have to be perfect. You just have to be surrendered. I'm gonna give you my life. The Bible says in Romans 10, if you'll confess him as your Lord, in other words, you're going to allow him to lead your life. And if you're ready to do that, in a minute I'm gonna ask you to lift your hand; because in this world, you can't be shy about that. You need to be bold about it. In fact, Jesus said, "If you can't acknowledge me in front of people, how can I acknowledge you before God"? So, I'm gonna give you a chance to acknowledge. You're not gonna stand up. You're not coming down to the front. But I want you to have the guts to acknowledge, "I'm gonna be a Christ follower," or "I'm coming back to God today". Are you ready? Think about it. Is that you?
If you'd like to be included in this closing prayer, say, "I'm ready. I need to get some things right with God. I'm coming back to God right now". Slip up your hand, all over the room, just lift it high, lift it high, lift it high. There, good, lift it up and leave it up. Be bold today. God bless you today, God bless you, God bless you, God bless you today. Pastor Blake, come pray for these people.