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Greg Laurie - What The Lord's Return Means To You

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    Greg Laurie - What The Lord's Return Means To You
TOPICS: Second Coming

You know, it's really important for us as Christians to understand Bible prophecy. Bible prophecy is basically what the Bible says about the end times. And not only is it important for us to know about it, but there's a blessing attached to the person who studies Bible prophecy and specifically in the Book of Revelation, it says "Blessed is the person who reads and hears the words of this prophecy and keeps the things that are written in it, for the time is at hand".

Now I know some would say, well it's really hard to understand Bible prophecy. Well, I don't know that that's true. Because it's not God's desire to conceal; it's his desire to reveal. And to the point the very word "revelation" means the unveiling. And that's why Jesus, when speaking of the abomination and desolation, of desolation in Matthew 24, he says "Let the reader understand," why? Because we need to understand these things and what they mean to us today, and it should impact us in the way that we live. When we study Bible prophecy, it's not there to tantalize or entertain us. It should motivate us to personal godliness and bold evangelism.

1 John 3:2 says, "Beloved, now we're the children of God. It's not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we will see him as he is". But then it goes on to say this: "And everyone that has this hope in him purifies himself even as he is pure". So if I understand Bible prophecy as I ought to, it will have a spiritually purifying affect on me. In other words, it will cause me to want to live a more godly life. You know, some people love to study Bible prophecy. They're almost fanatical about it. They bring out all their charts and here's what's gonna happen next. And that's fine to have an interest in it, but some people think everything's a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

This want ad I just read, this lost cat, I think it's a fulfillment of something. Well, maybe you're kinda going overboard. But then I look at some people, it's almost like their hobby to study Bible prophecy, but I see their life is falling apart, or their marriage is unraveling, or they're living immorally, and as far as I'm concerned, you're missing the point. The point of the study of end times events is to cause us to wanna live a more godly life. Okay, so here we have James now, telling us how we should be impacted by end times events, how we should live as we wait for the return of the Lord.

James 5 verse 7: "Dear brothers and sisters," writes James, "be patient as you wait for the Lord's return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to reap. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. Don't grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look, the Judge is standing at the door! For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him in the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy". Stop there. How should we live as we await the Lord's return?

Point number one: Be patient. Be patient. Verse 7, "Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord's return". By the way, the word used here for patience is not speakin' of a passive resignation, but rather an expectancy as one waits on the Lord. Sort of an excitement, living in a state of readiness. The Bible says, for those that look for him, Christ shall appear the second time. Look for him. And so the idea here is, is looking forward to it, sort of like a kid on Christmas Eve. remember when you were a little boy or girl and you were hoping your parents got you what you told 'em you wanted for Christmas, and you ran down the stairs, and there it was, and you tore the package open. That's how we should be living as we await the Lord's return, with excitement, not some laissez-faire attitude.

In fact, Paul in Romans 13 verse 11 says, "Understanding the present time. The hour has come to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here". And then Paul goes on to say this: "So therefore let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy". Right, so wake up and live a life that is honoring God.

Notice the farmer waits. It's hard for us to do. We don't like to wait for anything. By nature, I am an impatient person. How 'bout you? You know, I'm the person who if I buy a pizza and I bring it home, one-third of it will probably be gone, because I will eat it in the car, and it's not easy to eat pizza when you're driving. That's not a good travel food, is it? But we have to be patient. And sometimes it may seem to us as though God is late. You know, the people of Israel were impatient. It had been four hundred years since they had heard from a single prophet. Four hundred years since they'd seen a miracle. Four hundred years and they had not had a single angelic appearance.

But Galatians 5 says when the time was just right, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, born under the law to redeem those that are under the law. And Jesus, the Messiah, fulfilled prophecy and was born in the manger of Bethlehem. When the time was right. And when the time is right, the Messiah will return again. No one knows the day or the hour, the Bible says, but we need to wait patiently, and sometimes if it seems to you as though the Lord is late, here's this word for you from scripture. 1 Peter 3, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance".

Why has Jesus not come back yet? He's waiting for more people to believe. And my prayer is that we will have a minimum of one more spiritual awakening before the Lord comes for his church. One more. Maybe more. I think you can make a pretty good scriptural case for there being a spiritual awakening before the Lord's return, but that's what we should be praying for. That's why we've asked you all to be praying for revival, and pray that God will send a spiritual awakening. It will come at the right moment. Martin Luther once said, and he said this to me personally... not really. He said, "There are two days on my calendar, this day and that day. That day, the day of the Lord". Now, we can grow impatient. "Lord, come on. Return. I'm so tired of this horrible world. Come for us"! Okay, yes, but you have a job to do. We have a job to do. We need to reach more people with the gospel.

Point number two: As much as possible, stand in unity with fellow Christians. As much as it's possible, as we await the Lord's return, stand in unity with fellow Christians. Look at verse 9: "Don't grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. Look, the judge is standing at the door". Don't complain about other believers. Go to them and try to help them. To grumble about means to groan within oneself. It's a description of a person with a bitter attitude who is always criticizing and complaining.

Someone might say, "I have the spiritual gift of criticism". No, you don't. There's no gift like that. "Well, I just see everything that's wrong". Well, that's part of the problem. Don't be that person. The problem with bitter people is they generally can't keep their bitterness to themselves. That's why the Bible warns about a rooted bitterness springing up and defiling many. Don't be that person tearing others down. You have a disagreement with someone, go to them.

Nowadays with social media, especially Twitter, people will just attack one another. Christians will attack one another without even understanding the other person's position. And this goes against what Jesus says in Matthew 18:15 when he says, "If another believer sins against you, go privately to them and point out the offense, and if they listen and confess, you've won that person back". Listen, never tear others down to lift yourself up. Never make yourself look better at the expense of someone else. "Oh, well, they don't do this, but I do it". You know, don't do that. The Bible actually says you should not engage in that, why?

Point number three: Be aware of the afterlife. Meaning you're going to be judged. Verse 9, "For look, the judge is standing at the door". Christians will be judged, but let's explain that. There are different judgments in the Bible. There's the great white throne judgment spoken of in Revelation 20, where the small and the great stand before God and the books are opened. And a book is opened which is the Book of Life, and we read whoever does not have their name written in the Book of Life is cast into the lake of fire. That judgment is for nonbelievers only. No Christian will stand at the great white throne judgment. I don't even think we'll be present at the great white throne judgment. But then there's another judgment the Bible speaks of called the judgment seat of Christ.

Now, that's not a judgment as to whether or not you will get to heaven. As a matter of fact, that particular judgment takes place in heaven. And Paul writing about it in 2 Corinthians 5 says, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body according to what he has done, whether good or bad". So, this is not are you gonna get to heaven? You're in heaven, but this is about rewards. You see, rewards are gonna be given in heaven.

You know, the Bible says your father who sees you in secret will one day reward you openly, and the Bible talks about different crowns that are given. There's a crown of life, there's a crown of rejoicing, and other crowns listed in scripture that God will give out. So, here's when you will be rewarded. Think of sort of like the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys. You're receiving an award for what you did on earth. And we might be surprised by who some of these awards to go.

We think oh, you know, Billy Graham is gonna get every award. Well, maybe he will, but maybe we'll be up in heaven, "And the award goes to Maud Frickenbinder". Who? Don't google that name, I made it up. There is no Maud Frickenbinder. It's sort of like Bobby Buzzkill, these are fictitious characters. Maud Frickenbinder. Who is Maud Frickenbinder? Did she ever write a book? No. Was she in a Christian band? No. Was she some kind of a preacher? No.

Who was she? She was a faithful old lady that was immobilized in her home and stayed and prayed for people all around the world, and she was faithful to what God called her to do, and she'll be rewarded, because her Father who sees her in secret will reward her openly. Listen, you will not be judged for what God has called me to do. I will not be judged for what God has called you to do. We will each be judged for what God has called us individually to do. So live the way you want to be living and make your life count.

Hey, have you ever heard the term "Rapture" before, as in the Rapture of the church? Now, some will say, you know, you can't find the word "Rapture" in the Bible. That's true. But then again, you can't find the word "Bible" in the Bible or the word "Trinity" in the Bible. Clearly, the Trinity is taught in Scripture. Actually, you can find the word "Rapture" if you have a Latin translation because Rapture is a translation of the word "rapturas" which is actually a translation of the Greek word "harpazo," and that word you find many times in the Bible. Paul talks about it in 1 Thessalonians 4 when he says, "The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel and the dead in Christ will be caught up".

That's that Greek word, harpazo, that word appears many other times in the New Testament as well. It means to be taken suddenly. There is a generation that will not see death, that will be going about their business on one day, they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. And this is gonna be the great reunion when believers are gonna be reunited with other believers who have preceded them to heaven, because the Bible says that they will be raised from their graves and we will be caught up together in the clouds with them. And then Paul writes, "So comfort one another with these words". So we need to be ready for the Lord's return. It could happen in a moment. The Bible says in the twinkling of an eye. So be ready, Jesus is coming. Pass it on.

Point number four: Be courageous. Be courageous. Verse 2, "Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. The hope of Christ coming should give us courage". Another translation puts it this way: "Put iron into your soul". I like that. Even another translation says, "Be resolute". Be resolute. And by the way, that's the same word used to describe Jesus going to the cross. We're in Luke 9:51, we read: "As the time approached for him to be taken to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem". What kept Jesus going on that day as he carried the cross for us? After his back had been ripped open with a Roman cat of nine tails most likely. The people were crying, "Crucify him. Let his blood be upon us and upon our children".

His disciples largely were in hiding. He's carrying that cross, but yet he pressed on resolutely. What kept him going? The answer is found in Hebrews 12 when it says, "For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and now is set down on the right hand of God". The joy. So, something motivated Jesus. It was the joy set before him. What was the joy? It was the knowledge that you and me and all of us would believe one day he was dying for our sins, and that made it worth it for Christ. He had his eyes on the prize. He was headed toward the goal, and that's what we need to keep our eyes on as we go through the adversities and hardships and challenges of life.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep your eyes on heaven. Keep your eyes on eternity. Think about the first martyr of the church, a young courageous man named Stephen. He was called before the Sanhedrin, which was sort of like the Supreme Court of the day. And they were gonna rule on what he said, and if he was, you know, a clever young man, he might have just said a few words and gone home for dinner, but he saw it as a great opportunity to preach the gospel. And the Bible says as he stood before them, his face was like that of an angel. His face was radiant, and you wonder what does that look like?

I remember years ago, Cathy and I were with Billy and Ruth Graham and... And Ruth was not long for this world. She was very ill. She preceded Billy to heaven by a few years. She was in a wheelchair, and they were sitting there. And Billy asked Dennis to play a song, so Dennis pulled out his guitar and started playing what we call the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. And I watched them as he was playing this song, and they were kind of gazing into each other's eyes, they were having this special moment. It was so sweet, really. And Ruth was like glowing. And I thought it was so amazing 'cause she was very ill, but it's almost like she was radiating light or something. I was looking and, "Wow".

And then after the song was done, Billy turned to Ruth and said, "That was the song they played on our first date". 'Cause Billy took her to see Handel's Messiah. And I thought that was so beautiful, but when I think of someone's face shining like an angel, I remember Ruth, you know? And that Stephen, his face is shining like an angel, and then we read in Acts 7:55, "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God, and saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God's right hand. And he said, 'Hey, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God's right hand!'"

Oh, that just ticked them off. They started screaming. They put their hands over their ears, and as they stoned him, and you have to understand how horrible it is to die from stoning, 'cause it's not immediate. It's a long, painful, horrific process. "As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' And he fell to his knees, 'Lord, don't charge them with this sin!'" And with that, he fell asleep. He died a violent death, but he fell asleep. That phrase "falling asleep" is often used in the Bible to describe death. It's another way of saying someone died. But that is only used of the death of the Christian. The phrase "they fell asleep" is never used of the death of a nonbeliever, only of the believer.

So think about this. You know, falling asleep is not the worst thing that can happen, is it? Fact, you kinda look forward to it, especially as you get a little older. You know, when you're young, "I don't wanna sleep. Take a nap? No, no, hate naps". When you're older, it's like, "Go take a nap". "Yes, nap". So, that's a beautiful picture of what happens to the believer who keeps his eyes on the Lord, giving us the courage.

Number five: Be trusting. Be trusting. And think of the example of Job, verse 11. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him in the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. Job's story begins in heaven as God is bragging on his faithful servant. It is believed by many that Job is the oldest book of the Bible, meaning it was the first book of the Bible written, even before Genesis. So, here's the Lord and the angels are appearing before him, and Satan is among them because Satan is a fallen angel also known as Lucifer, and God starts bragging on his servant Job. "Have you considered my servant Job?" says the Lord, "A perfect and upright man, one that fears God and shuns evil".

The devil says, "Oh," this is paraphrased, "give me a break. Give me a little time with Job. You know, remove that wall you've put around him and we'll see what he's really made of. I'm telling you right now, he'll curse you to your face". And the Lord said, "All right, go ahead". So here's Job back on planet Earth. He's living the godly life, he's doin' everything he should do, so much so, God's braggin' on him. By the way, I've thought when I read that verse, "Lord, if you for a fleeting moment are feeling proud of me and Satan's around, don't say anything".

Here's Job, the righteous man, living the godly life, and all of a sudden one tragedy after another comes on him in rapid succession, starting with the loss of his employment, the loss of his property, his livestock, and then worst of all, his own children die. So did Job curse God as Satan said he would? No, the Bible says Job came to the Lord and said, "Naked came me into this world. Naked will I leave. Blessed be the name of the Lord". Wow. That backfired. So, Satan said, "I'm not done," and boils came on Job. He was covered in boils. Have you ever had a boil? You ever lance a boil? Eee. He's covered in boils, so much so he's scraping them with little bits of broken pottery, and his wife comes to him and to add insult to injury, says, "Why don't you just curse God and die". Job said, "You didn't say that when you were drivin' the Mercedes".

He didn't say that, but I mean, seriously? Thank you, Mrs. Job, for those encouraging words. See, the problem with Job is he had never read the Book of Job. If he read it, he would know there's all these heavenly happenings affecting him on Earth. And in the same way, we don't know what's going on in heaven when things happen in life that don't make sense, but Job passes the test with flying colors. Well, in the end, God gave him everything back. He had double everything he had before, except his children. He was not given the children that died back, but he hoped and believed he would see them again. Job had an amazing insight into the future when he writes in Job 19, "As for me, I know my redeemer lives, and he will stand on the earth at last. And after my body is decayed, in my body I will see God". Wow! Job knew Messiah was coming. "I know my redeemer lives, and he'll stand on the earth, and I know in my flesh I will see God".

Let me go back to 1 Thessalonians 4. The Bible teaches something that we call a bodily resurrection. What does that mean? That means when your body is buried, it's gonna come out of the grave again one day. Going back to 1 Thessalonians 4, it says the Lord, there'll be a shout from heaven, the voice of the archangel. The dead in Christ will rise first, those are our loved ones that are in the grave, and we'll be caught up together with them in the clouds, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

So, when you have a loved one who has died... let me take a quick poll, how many of you have a loved one in heaven? Raise your hand. Okay, they're in heaven right now, but they don't have their new glorified body yet. And they're gonna receive their glorified body, when? At the rapture of the church. They'll rise, they'll be caught up to meet the Lord, the new body's given to them, then we're reunited in heaven. And that is why, Paul goes on to say, "Therefore comfort one another with these words". Back to Job. "I know in my flesh I'll see God". You're gonna see your loved ones again. And you'll recognize them because the new body's connected to the old body.

I think sometimes we think in heaven we'll be a different person with no memories. Not at all. You'll remember things from Earth. And you'll recognize one another. Because I've been asked the question, "Will we recognize one another in heaven"? And my response is, "Do you think you'll be more stupid in heaven than you were on Earth"? You won't be. You'll know more, not less. Yes, you'll recognize one another, but you're gonna see the glorified version of Greg, with lots of hair, or maybe no hair. What if the glorified state is the absence of hair? Ever thought about that? These are the thoughts of a bald man. Anyway, whatever it is, it'll be awesome. It'll be great. I'm not really concerned about it.

So, what are we to do as we await the coming of the Lord? Number one, be patient. Number two, as much as possible, stand in unity with fellow Christians. Verse 9, "Don't grumble, don't complain, tearing others down". Number three, be aware of the afterlife. Keep your eyes on heaven. Verse 9. Number four, be courageous. Verse 2. And then number five, be trusting. Remember the example of Job.
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