19. Understanding faith. (Part 1 of the Faith series.)

Some Christians think of faith as an almost magical force: If you muster enough of it, then you’ll stay healthy and become wealthy. Though it sounds true, that is not necessarily the big picture we see when we study Scriptures. The author of Hebrews delved deep into the subject of faith,  and came up with an amazing revelation!  In Chapter 11, which is dubbed as the ‘Faith Hall of Fame’ there are not only those who got what they hoped for, but also those who didn’t get what they hoped for. Some ‘through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice and gained what was promised; who shut the mouth of lions, quenched the fury of flames and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned into strength and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies … Others were tortured and refused to the released, so that they may gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed into two; they were put to death by the sword … They went about destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them … These were all commended for their faith.’ – (Hebrews 11:33-39) The Bible doesn’t say that those who didn’t get what they hoped for were lacking in faith but says that there is something better in store for them; that they might gain a ‘better resurrection’! All their believing was never in vain though they never got what they asked for.  The Bible portrays faith as something that needs to be guarded, at all cost! The faith described in Hebrews is not sugarcoated: God does not guarantee a life of luxury and ease. It is tough faith: a constant commitment to hang on and believe God against all odds, no matter what! So Paul wrote to Timothy in his  farewell letter : ‘I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.’ – ( 2 Timothy 4:7)

What then is faith? The opening statement by the author of Hebrews has become the classical definition of faith. ‘Faith is the substance or  surety of things hoped for, the evidence or certainty of things not seen.’ – (Hebrews 11:1 KJV/ NIV)  From this definition of faith, we get two aspects (a particular part or feature of something) that constitute faith. The first aspect being the  ‘certainty’ and the second aspect being the  ‘surety’. (Different translations uses different words but throughout this article, will stick to these two words. )  Almost all of us have faith, meaning, we are ‘certain  of things not seen’,  but often we are not ‘sure of what we hope for’. – (Hebrews 11:1) We ‘believe that God exists’ but we are not sure whether ‘he rewards those who earnestly seek him’. – ( Vs 6) We probably might have the certainty about God’s ability but have no surety of his willingness!  But it takes both these aspects to make our faith complete and workable. If either one of them is missing, then our faith is crippled. If we have the certainty that God exists and that he is able, it is not to our credit because ‘this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God’ – (Ephesians 2:8) whereas if we have the surety that God is willing and rewards those who earnestly seek him, then it pleases God and he credits it to us. ‘This is what the ancients were commended for’ – (Hebrews 11:2), because they were not only certain of things not seen but also were sure of things hoped for. Simply put, they trusted God against all odds!

How do we get this surety? It does not necessarily come from previous experiences because inspite of all the miracles the Israelites saw in Egypt and in the desert, they always failed to trust God whenever they faced the next crisis because only knew his deeds but not his ways. – ( Psalm 103:7) But Gentiles like the Centurion and the Canaanite woman, who had no previous experience of God’s deliverance, showed great faith that even amazed Jesus and he promptly commended them for their faith! – (Matthew 8:10, 15:28) The surety they had came from the understanding of who Jesus is. The Centurion recognised him to be a man of spiritual authority and the Canaanite woman realised that the Gentiles too needed a Saviour and recognised him to be the One. Though we read that Abraham, ‘believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness’ – (Genesis 15:6), he still didn’t have the surety he needed and therefore said, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” ( vs 8) So ‘on that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram’ ( vs 18) to give him the surety of the promise. The covenant gave him the surety and made his faith whole. (We too have a covenant in the blood of Jesus to give us this surety of his will.) Abraham’s faith was unlike those of his contemporaries who also probably believed in the existence of God but he believed in a ‘God who gives life to the dead and call things that are not as though they were.’ – (Romans 4;7) And unlike us, he didn’t get this understanding about the nature of God from Scriptures for they were not written yet! He understood that God call things that are not as though they were, when God changed his name to Abraham – (Genesis 17:5), which means ‘father of many’, even when he didn’t have any! (But still there was a truth in that phrase because Issac was after all in the loins of Abraham, just as Scripture says Levi was in the loins of Abraham, when he gave a tenth to Melchizedek. – Hebrews 7:9-10) God taught him to speak the language of faith by calling things done in the spiritual realm when it still had not manifested in the physical realm. (We too are being taught to speak the language of faith when we call things that are not as though they were! For instance, we confess we are healed by the stripes of Jesus, when in reality the healing is yet to be manifested in the physical.) Moreover, Abraham believed that God had the power to raise the dead and therefore was unhesitant to sacrifice his only son. He probably was the first person to believe in the power of the resurrection because ‘He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Issac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Issac back from death.’ – (Hebrews 11:19) Abraham’s faith was well founded in his knowledge of God that he was not only certain of God’s existence but also was sure of God’s goodness. All his previous experiences further backed up his faith. We too can get this surety of God’s goodness today through our knowledge of him who has made a covenant with us in the blood of Christ. When our faith becomes complete and workable, locked doors begin to open because faith is the key to miracles! Amen.

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18. Baptism in Spirit and Power – The promise to the reborn. (Part 7 of the born again series.)

‘On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:4-5)  It was just a few days before this that Jesus breathed on them and said, “Re (once again) ceive (get) the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) Having said that, men can ‘once again get’ the Holy Spirit to dwell in them, just as it had dwelt in Adam, prior to his fall.  This is the whole essence of rebirth and evidently, the disciples were born again the very moment they received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The disciples might have thought that’s all there was to it, but to their pleasant surprise, Jesus instructed them to tarry in Jerusalem for yet another supernatural experience! Obviously it was not to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which they had already received but to receive something which they hadn’t received; which is the infilling in the Holy Spirit. Speaking of the infilling, Jesus said: “For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” The reason Jesus drew this parallel between the two was to show that they will be baptized into another substance, just as John baptized his disciples into water. Here the reference was not about the person of Holy Spirit who was to come on the day of Pentecost or about the presence of the Holy Spirit, which they had already received, but it was about the substance into which they were to be baptized; the Spirit that flows from within God. It is also referred to as the ‘living waters’, which can quench our spiritual thirst.  “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.’ (John 7:37-39) ‘For we were all given one Spirit to drink.’ (1 Corinthians 12:13)

What is interesting is the fact that  Jesus gave this instruction to tarry in Jerusalem, to those who were already born again, because the promise of the Spirit was originally meant for them. However, it was first made to Abraham, when he became the heir of the world by faith. ‘It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be the heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.’ (Romans 4:13) But how were the descendants of Abraham supposed to take possession of the whole earth, when they were limited by their geographical boundaries? The answer was in imparting the Holy Spirit even to the Gentiles who would believe in God. ‘The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith … He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. The promise were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, … meaning one person, who is Christ.’ (Galatians 3:8-16) Then when the seed to whom the promise referred had come, he said, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

When did the disciples hear him speak about the Promise? Jesus first mentioned about the Holy Spirit while introducing another Counselor. “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him for he lives WITH YOU and will be IN YOU. (John 14:16-17) Here he mentions the two dimensions in which the Holy Spirit operates but later on, before his ascension, he spoke about the third dimensions in which the Holy Spirit would operate. “But you will receive Power when the Holy Spirit comes ON YOU and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The Holy Spirit was ‘WITH US’  to SAVE US, is now ‘IN US’ to CHANGE US and will be ‘UPON US’ to USE US. There is no power without the Holy Spirit but when he comes upon us, we will receive Power. Power for what? To be witnesses! Witnesses of what? The resurrection of Jesus! Not only were they supposed to be witnesses of Christ with their words and with their  lives  but they were also supposed  to be witnesses of Christ with the power of resurrection, demonstrated through signs, wonders and miracles. “You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:48-49)

How could they wait in prayer and worship continually for ten days, without having the presence of the Holy Spirit within them? Infact receiving the baptism in the Spirit is the tangible proof of our rebirth, because no one can receive it without being born again. Therefore Peter said of those gathered at  Cornelius’ house: “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:47) Here are a group of people who were not baptized in water, yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit! Undoubtedly, they were born again! ‘So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.’ (Vs 48) How did they receive the baptism in the Spirit without being baptized in water? The only prerequisite before receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and Power, is the rebirth experience. Hence, the only question that we need to ask ourselves is: “Am I born again?” If you answer is “yes”, then tarry for the promise, but if you are not sure of this spiritual experience, then ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into it. Amen. (I suppose it would be helpful for you, if you would go back and read from Part 1 of this series, to know more about this spiritual experience. God bless you.)

17. One baptism: The washing of rebirth.(Part 6 of the born again series.)

‘There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM; one God and Father of all …’ (Ephesians 4:4) Yet the author of Hebrews, refers to ‘BAPTISMS’ in plural, while listing the ‘elementary teachings about Christ.’ For he wrote: ‘Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of :-
1. Repentance
2. Faith in God
3. Instructions about BAPTISMS
4. Laying on of hands
5. Resurrection of the dead
6. Eternal judgement
And God permitting, we will do so.’ (Hebrews 6:1–3) What is seemingly a contradiction, is in fact not, because though there are many baptisms, there is only ONE BAPTISM that can save and it is the ‘washing of rebirth’. ‘He has saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit …’ (Titus 3:5) It is easy to understand baptisms, if we consider ‘who’ baptizes ‘whom’ in ‘what’. The one who baptizes is being called the ‘Agent’ and the person who is baptized is being called the ‘Recipient’ and what they are baptized into is being called the ‘Element’ in the chart below:-

Agent > Recipient > Element

Holy Spirit > Believer > in Blood

Disciple > Believer > in Water

Jesus > Believer > in Spirit

Jesus > Believer > in Fire

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful … He will baptise you in HOLY SPIRIT and with FIRE.” (Matthew 3:11) Jesus himself was baptized in water and thereafter in the Holy Spirit and Power. ‘When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too!’ (Luke 3:21) ‘Jesus full of the HOLY SPIRIT returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert … Jesus returned to Galilee in the POWER of the Spirit.’ (Luke 4:1,14) ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the HOLY SPIRIT and POWER and he went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.’ (Acts 10:38) Hence the author of Hebrews (presumably Paul) was right in addressing baptisms in plural because there are in fact three baptisms ie., in WATER, HOLY SPIRIT and POWER / FIRE (They are essentially the same because on the day of Pentecost, the disciples received power after ‘tongues of fire’ came upon them.) But which of the three was Paul referring to as the ‘One baptism‘ in Ephesians or was he referring to the most important and essential for salvation, the ‘washing of rebirth’ in the blood of the lamb? It’s relevance can be understood if we realise that Christ wouldn’t baptise a person in the Holy Spirit and Power unless the person first experience the ‘washing of rebirth’, though men might not hesitate to baptise them in water! That is the reason why many who have been baptized only in water, haven’t received the baptism in the Spirit because they haven’t been sprinkled by the blood of the lamb. ‘We have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.’ (1 Peter 1:2)

Can we then call the ‘washing of rebirth’ as the ‘baptism in the blood of the lamb’? Jesus, who was baptized in Water, Holy Spirit and Power said: “But I have another baptism to undergo and how distressed I am until it is completed!” (Luke 12:50) He was obviously referring to his death as a baptism that he had to undergo. As a matter of fact, those who stood at the foot of the cross were sprinkled with the blood and water from Jesus’ side as he was pierced. ‘One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.’ (John 19:34) It was following this sprinkling by the blood at the cross that they received the Holy Spirit, post resurrection. ‘And with that he breathed on them and said,” Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20:22) The water is symbolic of the Spirit since Jesus himself said : “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”. By this he meant the Spirit whom those who believed in him were later to receive.’ (John 7:38-39) Wherever the blood of Christ is sprinkled, only there the Holy Spirit is poured out!

Why is the ‘washing of rebirth’ being referred to as the ‘one baptism’? Because, none of the other baptisms are essential for salvation! If it were, the thief on the cross wouldn’t be in Paradise! I suppose he could have said this better than Paul : ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20) Here is a man who physically experienced the symbolism of baptism, which is the death, burial and resurrection in Christ. ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may life a new life.’ (Romans 6:4) Therefore, baptism in water cannot be more relevant than the washing of rebirth. Moreover, those who have experienced the ‘washing of rebirth’ and received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit might not experience the baptism in Holy Spirit and Power because that is meant for service and not an essential for salvation. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the world.” (Acts 1:8) Amen.

16. Relevance of rebirth.(Part 5 of the born again series.)

‘Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:17) The relevance of rebirth cannot be understated because it ushers in the most profound change within a person, to the extent that the Bible calls them a ‘new creation’. So what is new in us who are born again? Definitely our bodies are still the same even after the rebirth experience. However, the Bible assures us that a day is coming, when these bodies of ours will be transformed – ‘in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye …’ because  ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God …’ ( 1 Corinthians 15:50-52) ‘Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.’ (Philippians 3:20-21) The deposit of the Holy Spirit in those who are born again is the guarantee that this would happen to them. ‘Having believed you have been marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.’ (Ephesians 1:13-14)

If not our bodies, then what is new in us who are born again? Definitely, our spirits are still the same but the Holy Spirit has begun within us a process of renewal which has eternal significance, because it not only transforms our minds now and will transform our bodies later, at his coming. ‘He has saved us through the washing of rebirth ( by the blood) and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he has poured on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour…’ ( Titus 3:5-6) Since the process of renewal is ongoing, the Bible exhorts us to continually ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.’ (Colossians 3:10) Paul testified to this daily process of renewal in his life when he wrote :‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’  ( 2 Corinthians 4:16) 

So, to the question, what is new in us who are born again, the relevant answer would be that we received the ‘mind of Christ’. Definitely, our souls (the seat of our mind, will and emotions) are the same but it has experienced a dramatic change (Greek: metanoia means ‘change of mind’, repentance, the state of changing any or all the elements composing one’s life: attitudes, thoughts and behaviour concerning the demands of God for right living.) ‘Man without the Spirit cannot accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned … But we have the mind of Christ.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:14,16) The reason for this assertion is the fact that our minds are now controlled by the Holy Spirit and therefore we have an attitude of mind that was also found in Christ. ‘The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so … you however are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (Romans 8:6-9  The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds’ (Romans 12:2) Therefore we are admonished ‘to be made new in the attitude of our minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’ ( Ephesians 4:23) Another reason for the assertion that those who are born again have received the ‘mind of Christ’ is because they are able to discern everything and make right judgements. ‘We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us … The spiritual man makes judgement about all things but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:12,15)

As a disciple of Christ, Paul had this attitude towards his fellow men : ‘For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a wordly point of view. Though we once  regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’. ( 2 Corinthians 5:14-17) Do we lack the mind to forgive others inspite of us believing in Christ or do we rake up other’s past,  inspite of them believing in Christ? If so, we haven’t received the ‘mind of Christ’ and our ‘Rebirth’ is questionable! The evidence of rebirth is in our reconciliation with God and men. Many would reconcile with God but will not reconcile with men, though it is expected of them. ‘Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ ( Colossians 3:13) This has become the ‘gold standard’ by which a believer will be measured and if found lacking, this would be what God has to say, on that day : “You wicked servant … Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured … ) “This is how the heavenly Father will treat each one of you unless you forgive from your heart!” (Matthew 18:33-35) We risk being left behind at Rapture, if we are alive at his return or risk being left behind in Hades at the first resurrection, if we die before his return. So it is not optional to forgive but mandatory that we forgive others just as he has forgiven us. 

Not only were we renewed  in attitude towards others but also in our attitude towards God and even concerning our bodies. It is impossible to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ towards God if we persist in unbelief. So the Bible requires that ‘we live by faith and not by sight.’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:7) ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ (Hebrews 10:38 / Habakkuk 2:4) Moreover, our attitude towards our bodies is revealed in our refusal to defile ourselves. ‘Daniel resolved not to defile himself with royal food and wine’ ( Daniel 1:8) because it was offered to the Babylonian gods as sacrifices. Our rights over our bodies should not end up denying God’s rights over our bodies. The slogan : ‘My body, my choice’ goes against the tenets of Christianity because the word of God says: ‘The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body … Therefore honor God with your body.’ ( 1 Corinthians 6:13-20)

Attitudes of our renewed minds match up quite well with what was said early in the article titled ‘Three evidences of rebirth’ – (Part 2 of this series). A ‘fervent heart’ is matched by an ‘attitude of gratitude’, an ‘opened mind’ is matched by an ‘attitude of forgiveness’ and a ‘sanctified body’ is matched by an ‘attitude of consecration’. We live in an age when spiritual words and concepts have come to mean different things, a far cry from what it was meant to be! A ‘watered down’ version of rebirth, which unduly emphasizes water baptism over the inner experience, has shifted the focus away from the true meaning of rebirth. All who are born again have essentially had a Pentecostal experience but not all Pentecostals are born again. As for those who are born again, let ‘your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus …‘ (Philippians 2:5) for you have the ‘mind of Christ’. Amen.

15. The travail of Rebirth.(Part 4 of the born again series.)

The word ‘travail’ means painful or laborious effort and that is why the term is also used to describe the labor pain that a woman experiences while giving birth. Understanding this parallel between newbirth and rebirth, Paul wrote: ‘My little children, for whom I am again in  the pain of childbirth ( KJV travail ) until Christ is  formed in you … I am perplexed about you.’ ( Galatians 4:19-20) Just as human gestation (the process or period of growth of the fetus inside the womb from the time of conception till birth) takes nine months, so also the process or period of Rebirth takes time, until Christ is formed in us. The period of travail starts from the moment we hear the gospel and ends with our rebirth.

Nature itself gives us insights into the process of rebirth. Just as a single cell zygote (means  ‘yoked’) is formed as a result of the union of the male and female gametes, so also the ‘seed of the Word of God’ sown into the ‘womb of our spirit’, be yoked  with ‘faith’ to become one entity. ‘The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.’ (Hebrews 4:2) Just as the embryo implants itself firmly on the uterine wall with the help of the placenta, so also the embryonic ‘word and faith’ in us be implanted firmly in the ‘womb of our spirit’. ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth … humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ (James 1:18-21) Just as the embryo (It is called a  fetus, only from the end of the second month of pregnancy) is nourished  through the umbilical cord, so also the embryonic faith formed in us be nourished through the lifeline of word and prayer. (For this reason Parents need to share the word with their children and pray for their salvation.) ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded, now lives in you also … continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ ( 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15) Just as a prominent blood vessel in the embryo begins to take form of a rudimentary heart, so also a  ‘heart for God’, begins to take form within us. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) And just as the rudimentary heart within  the  embryo begins to pulsate miraculously by the third week, so also the impartation of the ‘Spirit of  Christ’ causes our hearts to come alive. ‘If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

Have you ever wondered what causes the rudimentary heart within the embryo to pulsate all of a sudden? Modern Science has not been able to explain how the rudimentary heart begins to pulsate by the third week. It will remain a mystery for the world but the Bible gives us some insight into the mystery. Since the heart stops when the spirit leaves the body, the opposite holds true as well  i.e, it begins to beat when a spirit (in the context of humans) and a soul (the seat of mind, will and emotions) is given to the  embryo – (That is why abortion  even at an earlier stage of pregnancy is foeticide and they will be held accountable to God.)

Being born again is a profound mystery and the greatest miracle. Don’t assume it happened because you were born  a Christian. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You have to be born again!'” ( John 3:6-7) The travail of rebirth that I experienced, started in 1986 and lasted seven years until I was born again in 1993. ( To access my testimony, please visit my website http://teachingofchrist.in and read the article titled: ‘My testimony: A case study’, under the main Menu.)  It might not be the same timeframe for everyone but invariably there is a process of rebirth that everyone will go through and a period of time associated with it, from their first encounter with God till the time they are born again. Though the disciples had met Jesus, three and a half years back, it was only after his resurrection, that their lives were transformed, when they received the Holy Spirit. ‘And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20:22)  The parable of the sower doesn’t say that irrespective of where the seed fell, it was fruitful. “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word, understands it and produce a crop …” ( Matthew 13 : 23 ) Since the Holy Spirit comes to take permanent residence in us, he cannot come into hearts where the Gospel has fallen by the wayside or on rocky ground or among thorns. He waits for the heart to be ready to receive him once for all.

This message might not seem relevant to you now but in the light of what is to come, it is imperative because your Rebirth will decide whether you will be Raptured or left behind! “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) Over the years I have often asked people, “Did you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, having heard the gospel?” Almost all hands go up! I should have rather asked, “How many times have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?” But my next question makes them uneasy! “Did you experience rebirth, having accepted Christ?” Many hands that were lifted up, go down because they are not sure of their Rebirth. And if I asked those who claim to be born again : “Did you receive the baptism of the Spirit, having been born again?” Even the rest of the hands that were lifted up, go down. It is a fallacy to think that everyone invariably receives the Holy Spirit by default, immediately after they are baptized in water. There are many in the Church, like Simon the Sorcerer, who believed and was baptized. But when he came before the Apostle Peter, to receive the gift of the Spirit, he was told : “You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent … for I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Acts 8:21- 23)
So here is a believer who did everything but repent ! And there are plenty of them like him in the Church, who have been baptized in water, without having gone through the process of rebirth, because they were hurried through the process by those who were eager baptize them in water so that they could boast of the numbers. They were told that water baptism would solve all their problems and therefore they were glad to receive it, as if it were their ticket to heaven! If you have read my write ups in the born again series, you might have noted that I have put water baptism in its right context, stating that salvation is only by faith and not by works. Works include even water baptism, taken either as a child or as an adult because without having believed, it is a meaningless ritual that cannot save. It is essentially an outward expression of an inward experience and therefore should be rightly called Believer’s baptism! No matter whatever it is called or however it is done, the bottom line will remain the same: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.” ( Acts 16:31) Amen.

14. Three agents of rebirth. (Part 3 of the born again series.)

Why is rebirth a miracle? Firstly, because the miracle of rebirth is beyond our human will! ‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’ (John 1:12-13) We might have been born in a christian household but that doesn’t make us a Christian. “Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying,’You must be born again.’ (John 3:6-7) Yet it is not in our efforts but in His Sovereign choice! ‘I will have mercy on whom I want to have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It therefore does not depend on man’s desire or effort but on God’s mercy.’ ( Romans 9:15-16) Secondly, rebirth is a miracle because it is a mystery! “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Though it seems to be mysterious, yet the Bible sheds light on the three agents of rebirth and it is the coming together of these three that results in the greatest miracle! ‘ ‘For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.’ (1 John 5:7-8) What is said of Christ, the first born of God, is true of us who have been born of God as well.

The three agents of rebirth are as follows:-

1. The Spirit – The Holy Spirit is the central agent of transformation responsible for the rebirth because it is he who reveals the  Saviour to us and convicts us of the need for salvation. “When the counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, he will testify about me.” (John 15:26) “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin, righteousness and judgement.” (John 16:8) The Holy Spirit ministers the word of God and the blood of Christ, which are the other two agents of rebirth he works with. Though it is men who minister the word of God, it is the Holy Spirit who opens the heart of the listeners to believe in the person of  Christ. ‘One of those listening was a woman named Lydia … The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.’ ( Acts 16:14) Therefore, Paul said: ‘ Our Gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 1:5) On the day of Pentecost, the three thousand who heard Peter speak were cut to heart because the Holy Spirit convicted them. ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation …’ ( 2 Corinthians 7:10)

2.  The water“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” ( John 3:5) Many assume that the water means baptism but it doesn’t cleanse a man inwardly! Instead, Paul called it the ‘washing of rebirth through the word’.  ‘ … Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the WASHING WITH WATER THROUGH THE WORD and to present her to himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish but holy and blameless’. ( Ephesians 5:25-27) ‘He saved us through the WASHING OF REBIRTH and RENEWAL BY THE  HOLY SPIRIT  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour…’ ( Titus 3:5) The Word of God is rightly called the ‘sword of the Spirit’ because it is the word of God which the Holy Spirit uses to cut our hearts. ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12) Hence, Peter affirmatively wrote: ‘ For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’ (1 Peter 1:23) ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth …’ (James 1:18) Without experiencing this ‘washing of rebirth by the word of God’ and ‘renewal by the Holy Spirit’, baptism in water is meaningless because ‘it is not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience towards God.’ ( 1Peter 3:21) It is the outward expression of an inward experience without which it becomes a ritual that will never save you, whether you were baptized as a child or as an adult, because salvation is by faith and not by works.

3. The Blood – Following the washing with water through the word of God, the Holy Spirit washes us in the blood of Christ, all who have believed in Him and have confessed their sins. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9) Once the foundation of sin is done away with, then curses begin to break and bodies begin to heal in the name of Jesus because that is the order in which it happened during the fall of man and therefore, it will be the order in which it is undone by the Holy Spirit. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.’ ( Romans 8:1-2) The Holy Spirit then takes permanent residence within our hearts, at which point we are most assuredly born again and are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When the Spirit left Adam, he felt naked but now when the Spirit returns, we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, just as the prodigal son was clothed with the best robe. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet … Let’s have a feast and celebrate for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate. ( Luke 15:22-24) “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner who repents .” (Luke 15:10) We too are given a ring for our finger, meaning the authority ( Matthew 28:18) and sandals for our feet meaning our assignment on earth.

The three agents of rebirth ie the Spirit of God, the word of God (water) and the blood of Christ, have to come together for the miracle of rebirth to happen and it is not in our own making. However, it is God’s will for everyone of us but the Holy Spirit waits for the perfect time to indwell within our hearts because once he resides, he is never supposed to leave. The day this happens will be the greatest day of your life because that is the best thing that could ever happen to you. What prepares you for that day is the Word of God and prayer. ‘As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of … how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.’ ( 2Timothy 3:14-15) We see the three agents come together even in the life of Jesus, to testify to his Sonship, Christship and Lordship. ‘He did not come by WATER only, but by WATER and BLOOD. And it is the SPIRIT who testifies because the SPIRIT is the truth.’ ( 1 John 5:6) Amen. (To know more about this topic, read the article titled: ‘The gospel about Jesus and the three fold testimony of God’, under the header ‘Bible study’. Thank you.)

13. Three evidences of rebirth.(Part 2 of the born again series.)

After Jesus rose from dead, on the morning of the first day of the week, he appeared to the women and to Peter. Then towards evening, he appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:1,13,29) They returned at once to Jerusalem to report it to the Apostles. ‘While they were taking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you” …  ‘Then he opened their minds’ so they could understand the Scriptures.(Luke 24:36-45) Speaking of the same incident, John wrote, ‘On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together … Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” … And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. (John 20:19-22) How did Jesus open their minds to understand Scriptures? We can infer from the above Scriptures that their minds were opened when they received the Holy Spirit.

The three evidences of rebirth are as follows:– 

1. Opened mind – The first evidence of rebirth is therefore an ‘opened mind’.  But why should our minds be opened?  ‘The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:14) Therefore the Holy Spirit will have to bypass our minds and come into our hearts to take control of our minds.  ‘The mind of the sinful man is death but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so … You, however are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (Romans 8:6-9)  All the doubts that cloud our minds suddenly disappears and a new understanding dawns. It is said that we don’t surprise God with our questions but He surprises us with his answers and it is true! ‘As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.’ ( 1 John 2:27)

2. Prayerful heart – The second evidence of rebirth is a fervent heart.  Soon after the Apostles experienced an opened mind, ‘they all joined together constantly in prayer …’ (Acts 1:14) ‘And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.’ ( Luke 24:53) Although the Apostles had been with Jesus for three and a half years, they were never seen praying but were found sleeping, when he instructed them to pray. “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” … When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them.”Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  The reason they couldn’t pray as Jesus did was because they had not received the Holy Spirit yet. But the moment they received the Holy Spirit, they began to pray earnestly as Jesus did. Suffice to say that  anyone who doesn’t have a secret prayer life is not born again. Jesus was often found praying in a solitary place and this was his instruction to his disciples as well: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then you Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ( Matthew 6:6) ‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.’ ( Ephesians 6:18)

3. Sanctified Body – The third evidence of rebirth is Holiness. ‘No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God ‘ ( 1 John 3:9) This might seem  unrealistic and unattainable to us in this generation but the Apostle Paul taught otherwise and exhorted Titus to teach the same. ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and wordly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ … These, then are the things you should teach.’ (Titus 2:11-13) The apostle John taught that those who love God will inevitably overcome the world. ‘This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. ( 1 John 5:3-4) The reason why his commands are not burdensome is because we have the means to overcome, which is the Holy Spirit. ‘And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.’ (Romans 8:9) but ‘those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.’ (Galatians 5:24) ‘Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your reasonable act of worship’ (Romans 12:1) and ‘without holiness no one will see the Lord.’ (Hebrews 12:14)

These three evidences are for us to know whether we are born again but others around us might never get to see these evidences. Instead, they get to see the fruit of the Spirit in us as a result of our rebirth. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and it’s fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33) “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) “This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8) If you haven’t experienced an ‘opened mind’, a fervent heart and a sanctified body, then you are probably not born again because immediately after our justification by faith, the process of sanctification begins, when our hearts are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God, our minds were cleansed by the word of God and our bodies were cleansed by the Spirit of God. This is an ongoing process until glorification happens at the coming of the Lord. ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctity you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) If you are not sure of your rebirth, then “Repent and believe the good news” today! ( Mark 1:15) The primary requirement is to believe or else, how can you repent? Ofcourse, there might be those who need not repent but they still have to believe. Nathanael probably had nothing to repent about but he had to believe. ( John 1:47,50) That is why the sacrament is rightly called ‘Believer’s Baptism’ and it doesn’t matter whether a person is an adult or a child, as long as they personally believe for themselves. Therefore, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ (Acts 2:38-39) Amen.

12. Am I ‘born again’? (Part 1 of the born again series.)

Wait! Don’t shy away from asking yourself this important question in this last hour, to know whether you will be Raptured to heaven, before the Tribulation. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” ( John 3:3) It is a term that has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted by many. The Episcopals have misunderstood it to be doctrine of the Pentecostals, not realising that these are the words of Jesus himself, while the Pentecostals have misinterpreted it as baptism in water. Not even Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council and Israel’s teacher, understood what Jesus meant. Hence Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3: 5-7) The most common reply to the above question is that they were baptized in water as a child or as an adult but that is not the response that was asked for, rather their experience before taking the water baptism! The question, in Paul’s own words would be : “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” ( Acts 19:2) Receiving once again the presence of the Holy Spirit which left Adam and Eve, when they sinned and spiritually died, is the sum and substance of being born again. And with that he breathed on them and said, “Re (means once again) -ceive ( means get) the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) That became the standard by which the Apostles assessed a believer and not by the claims of healing and prosperity one might have received after turning to Christ.

The three moments in time when the disciples of Jesus were baptized, as documented in Scriptures are:-

1. Some, after they literally met with the Messiah. ‘The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus. ( John 1:41-42) ‘Jesus and his disciples went into the countryside where he spent some time with them and baptized ( John 3:22) ‘Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although infact it was not Jesus who baptized but his disciples.’ (John 4:1-2)

2. Some, after they heard the gospel on the day of Pentecost and were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Those that accepted the message was baptized and about three thousand were added to their number that day.( Acts 2:37-41)

3. Some, after they heard the gospel and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. ‘While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message … Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized in the water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.’ (Acts 10:44-48)

Which of these three was the premise for your baptism? A physical encounter with Christ ? Or were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Or received the baptism in the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Of course, no one has had a physical encounter with Christ, since his days on earth but there might be those who have had a vision of Christ, like Paul on the road to Damascus, but even then, he was baptized only after having received the Holy Spirit, when Ananias placed his hands on him. ‘Placing his hands on Saul, he said,” Brother Saul, the Lord … has sent me so that you may … be filled with the Holy Spirit … He got up and was baptized..’ (Acts 9:17-18) If you haven’t experienced any of these, then you probably are not born again and had no premise for taking the water baptism, as a child or as an adult and it won’t save you because we are saved by faith alone and not by works.

What must I do to be born again? First of all we need to realise that rebirth is a mystery and nothing short of a miracle, which happens in His time. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” ( John 3:8) On the day of Pentecost, the wind blew and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and the wind has been blowing ever since throughout the Church age. ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting ... All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit …’ ( Acts 2:2-4) ‘Then Peter stood up with the eleven and raised his voice and addressed the crowd … “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to heart and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Brothers what shall we do?” Peter replied, “REPENT and be BAPTIZED …” (Acts 2:14-38) There is yet another term that comes before these two which Peter didn’t say because it was understood without being said. “Repent and BELIEVE the good news.” (Mark 1:15) Therefore the three key words, in their right order should be :-

1. Believe

2. Repent

3. Be Baptized.

How can you repent unless you believe and why should you be baptized unless you repent? Nevertheless, it happens all the time when people miss out on the first two and hurry up to get baptized because they were told that it would solve all their problems. Simon the Sorcerer believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12) but did not repent. Therefore Peter had to tell him, “Repent … For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” ( Acts 8:22-23) Baptism alone will not save anyone whereas those who believe and repent will be saved, though not baptized! The salvation of the thief on the cross, is an eloquent testimony of this timeless truth that salvation is by faith alone and not by works. ( He would have received the baptism, had he been alive. However, his death on the cross with Christ was more meaningful than the ritual that baptism symbolises.) Moreover, it is in agreement with what Paul and Silas told the jailer in Philippi, in reply to his question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – you and your household.” … then immediately he and all his family were baptized.’ (Acts 16:31-33)

What hinders us from being born again? The Holy Spirit comes to impart the righteousness of Jesus but our self- righteousness is what hinders him. Speaking of the Israelites, Paul said: ‘Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.’ ( Romans 10:3) But speaking of himself, Paul said : “Whatever was to my profit, I count it a loss for the sake of Christ … I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.’ ( Philippians 3:7-9) Speaking of this righteousness, Jesus said: ‘For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:20) Just as the filthy rags of prodigal son was stripped and he was clothed with the best robe ( Luke 15:22), so let’s be stripped of our self-righteousness and be clothed with the robe of Jesus ‘for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ ( Galatians 3:27) Amen.

22. Seven harvests of souls. (Part 7 of the Rapture series.)

1. THE ‘DEAD IN CHRIST’ RESURRECTED BEFORE TRIBULATION : “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25) ‘Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man … But each in his own turn : Christ, the firstfruits; then when he comes, those who belong to him.’ (1 Corinthians 15:21,23)  ‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the ( first ) trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first.’  (1 Thessalonians 4:16) 

* The ‘dead in Christ’ also include old testament saints who were resurrected in their spirits as they ascended with Christ. ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ (Ephesians 4:7) But they await bodily resurrection, together with the new testament saints. ‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what was promised … only together with us (New testament saints) would they (Old testament saints)  be made perfect.’ (Hebrews 11:39-40) However, the Bible does say that some saints were bodily resurrected at the time of Jesus’ death.‘The tombs broke open and bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life … and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the Holy city and appeared to many people.’ ( Matthew 27:52-53) They entered heaven led by Christ. ‘And he is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.’ ( Colossians 1:18) Could they be the 24 elders found seated in the presence of God?(Revelation 4: 4)

2. THE ‘ALIVE IN CHRIST’ RAPTURED BEFORE TRIBULATION : I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” (Luke 17:34-36) According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep … 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.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 4:15,17)

* The ‘dead in Christ’ and the ‘alive in Christ’ together constitute the ‘Raptured saints’. The ‘Tribulation saints’ comprises of multitudes of nominal Christians  and Gentiles who will believe in Christ, on account of  ‘Rapture’ but many among them will be martyred for their faith. The ‘Raptured saints’ and the ‘Tribulation saints’ together constitute the ‘Church’, which is the ‘body of Christ’. Just as crops are not harvested just once but several times, during a season, as and when it ripens, souls too are not harvested together but several times, as and when they mature. All the Raptured saints in heaven will constitute the ‘firstfruits’; all the tribulation saints on earth can be reckoned as the ‘main harvest’ and the survivors from tribulation who will be found worthy to enter the millennial kingdom and the dead in Hades, who will escape from being condemned to hell at the last judgement, will make up the ‘gleanings’.

3. THE MARTYRED TRIBULATION SAINTS  ( MOSTLY GENTILES ) RESURRECTED BEFORE THE MILLENIUM : ‘When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained … they were told to wait a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.’ (Revelation 6:9-11) ‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb … These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.’ ( Revelation 7:9-14) ‘At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels with a loud ( last ) trumpet call and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.’ ( Mark 13: 26-27/Matthew 24:30-31)  ‘For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.’ ( 1Corintians 15:51-52) ‘I saw thrones on which were seated those who have been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God … They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years … This is the ‘first resurrection’. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first Resurrection … they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.’ (Revelation 20:4-6)

* Since the Gentiles and Jews are martyred at two different stages during the tribulation, it makes sense to differentiate between the two harvests. Many nominal Christians and Gentiles will believe in Christ and be martyred during the first half of the tribulation while Jews will turn to Christ only during the second half of the tribulation, after the ministry of the two witnesses; the desecration of the temple and the events that follow. However, both Gentile and Jewish saints who are martyred during Tribulation will be resurrected together before the millennium. Those who escape martyrdom and survive the Tribulation, will also enter the millenium, provided they haven’t taken the mark of the beast. ‘There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandment and remain faithful to Jesus.’  (Revelation 14:11-12)

4. THE 144,000 FROM ALL THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL RAPTURED DURING TRIBULATION : ‘Then I heard the number of those who were sealed : 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.’ ( Revelation 7:4) “When you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation … let those in Judea flee to the mountains … For then there will be great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world …” (Matthew 24:15-21)  ‘A woman (which is Israel) clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head ... She was pregnant … gave birth … her child (her firstfruit) was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman (the Jewish church) fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.’ (Revelation 12:1-6) ‘Then I looked and there before me was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion and with him the 144,000 … They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.’ (Revelation 14:1-4).

* The two witnesses (Enoch and Elijah), who will be killed during the tribulation, by the beast from the Abyss (the false prophet) but will be resurrected, three and a half days later, are not in a category by themselves because they should have been counted with the ‘dead in Christ’, had they been dead in the past but since they are still alive, they will be the last of the two pre-testament and old testament saints respectively, who are yet to die and be bodily resurrected. ( Revelation 11:3-12) ‘These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth’ (Zechariah 4:14)

5. THE MARTYRED TRIBULATION SAINTS ( MOSTLY JEWS ) RESURRECTED BEFORE THE MILLENIUM : ‘Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” … “Take your sickle and reap because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth and the earth was harvested.’  (Revelation 14:13-16) ‘And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 15:2-3) ‘And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded … They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.’  (Revelation 20:4-5)

* The reason they are mostly Jews is because almost all Gentile believers will be killed before the abomination that causes desolation’ is set up ‘in the middle of the seven.’ (Daniel 9:27) ‘Then I saw another beast coming out of the earth … He ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived … and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.’ ( Revelation 13:11-15)

6. THE SURVIVORS FROM TRIBULATION WHO ENTER THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM : “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates his sheep from goats. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine (the believers), you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels …’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

* However, many of the descendants of the survivors who entered the millenium, will be wicked and will join Satan for the final rebellion against God but the righteous will inhabit the new earth and populate it. ‘When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.’ (Revelation 20:7-10)

7. THE DEAD FROM HADES WHOSE NAMES ARE FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LIFE AT THE FINAL JUDGEMENT AFTER MILLENNIUM : “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29) ‘Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it … And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them … If anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.’ ( Revelation 20:11-15)

* At the final judgement of the dead, it was not the names of the living, who reigned with him for a thousand years, that were looked for in the book of life but of the dead who came up from Hades. Why look for their names in the book of life if that was not probable ? ‘All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law … For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law … they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness …) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.’ (Romans 2:12-16) It would be the justice of God to those who never heard the gospel but lived by their conscience. They will be judged by their deeds and if they have done good, will rise to live. As for those who believed the gospel and confessed his name but were not born again, they didn’t go to heaven but to Hades when they died, contrary to popular belief. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again … no one will enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:3,5). Nevertheless, the Bible say ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Joel 2:32) ‘If you confess with your mouth,”Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ (Romans 10:9-10) ‘lf any man builds on this foundation … his work will be shown for what it is … fire will test the quality of each man’s work … If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.‘ ( 1 Corinthians 3:12-15) It just takes believing and confessing the name of Lord to escape the raging fire of hell but it takes more than just calling on the name of the Lord to enter heaven. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7: 21) Amen.

21. The last trumpet. (Part 6 of the Rapture series.)

‘Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.’ (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) What is the last trumpet? Some assume it to be the seventh trumpet mentioned in the book of revelation, but was Paul actually referring to it?  The book of revelation was written in 96 AD, over 40 years after Paul had written his first letter to the Corinthians in 54 AD and therefore he obviously couldn’t be referring to the seven trumpets because prior to  the revelation John received at Patmos, there weren’t any reference in Scriptures about the seven trumpets of judgement. Further adding to the doubt is the fact that John didn’t write  about the resurrection of the dead in the context of  trumpets just as Paul wrote in his epistle to the Corinthians, further proving that they both were referring to  different events!  ‘The seventh angel sounded his trumpet and there were loud voices in heaven which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he will reign for ever and ever.” ( This is the mystery of God that was accomplished when the seventh angel sounded his trumpet, as sworn before God by an angel in Revelation 10:7) … Then God’s temple in heaven was opened and within the temple was seen the ark of the covenant.’ (Revelation 11:15-19) Further down we read: ‘Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues.’ ( Revelation 15:6) Since the judgements of God weren’t over with the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the dead in Christ were not resurrected yet but instead God’s judgement continued, culminating with  the seven bowls of God’s wrath.

So if the last trumpet is not the same as the seventh trumpet, what then was Paul referring to? He was probably referring to the two trumpets in the book of Numbers. The Lord said to Moses: ‘Make two trumpets of hammered silver and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out. When both are sounded, the community is to assemble before you … If only one is sounded, the leaders – the heads of the clans of Israel are to assemble before you … At the sounding of the second blast, the camps … are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out’ ( Numbers 10:1-6) Referring to these two trumpets, Paul wrote : ‘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.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)  This is the first trumpet, signalling the setting out ( Rapture ? ) of the saints to heaven; those who were dead in Christ as well as those who are still alive. Then at his second coming, the second trumpet or the last trumpet, will sound and the tribulation saints will be gathered together with the Raptured saints. “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud TRUMPET CALL and they will gather his elect from the four winds, [ from one end of the heavens to the other / from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.]” (Matthew 24:30-31/ Mark 13:27) ‘And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.( The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. Second death has no power over them but they will be priests of God and of his Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.’  (Revelation 20: 4-6) Amen.

20. Firstfruits from among men. (Part 5 of the Rapture series.)

‘Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep … but EACH IN HIS OWN TURN : CHRIST, THE FIRST FRUITS; THEN, WHEN HE COMES, THOSE WHO BELONG TO HIM. ( 1 Corinthians 15:20-24) We therefore understand from this passage that all the saints are not resurrected together but the ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ will be resurected before those who will  be resurected only at the second coming of Jesus. Paul differentiated between the two groups of saints by putting one before the other, when sequencing the order of their resurrection.

The passage prompts me to ask  two key questions – Qn 1: Who are  the ‘Firstfruits’ and when will they be resurrected ? (Those who are quick to debunk  pre-tribulation Rapture, should honestly try to answer this question.) To start with we need to ask the question : What does the term ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ mean?  As the term itself suggests, it is any fruit or grain that was harvested first because it ripened first. The term also implies  that there could be more than one harvest during a season because the  fruits don’t ripen together. Sometimes trees bloom twice within a year, if conditions are conducive and the fruits are harvested several times, as and when it ripens. Scripturally, the term ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ mean those souls who are ‘harvested’ first and it also implies that there will be souls who will be ‘harvested’ later on. Paul was possibly referring  to the ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ when he wrote: ‘the dead in Christ shall 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.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)  It is interesting to note that even in this passage, we find an order of resurrection which places the ‘dead in Christ’ before the ‘alive in Christ’. Does the Bible actually refer to believers as  FIRSTFRUITS? ‘Creation waits with eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed … we ourselves who have the FIRSTFRUITS of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons , the redemption of our bodies.’ (Romans 8:19-23) ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of FIRSTFRUITS of all he created.’ (James 1:18) From these passages we understand that the term ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ include all the saints throughout the entire Church age and not just those who were resurrected with Christ and ascended with him.( Ephesians 4:8) John even called the 144,000  from the tribes of Israel who were to be sealed, as ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ ! ‘Then I looked and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion and with him the 144,000 … They were purchased from among men and offered as FIRSTFRUITS to God and the Lamb.‘ ( Revelation 14:1-4)

Qn 2: Who are ‘those who belong to him’, who will be resurrected when he comes ‘And I saw souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection.’ (Revelation 20:4-6)

In conclusion, the ‘Firstfruits‘ are the Raptured saints and they include the ‘dead in Christ’ who will rise first, the ‘alive in Christ’, who will be ‘caught up’ together with them ( 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) and also the 144,000 who will be sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel and will be ‘snatched up’ to God during the tribulation. ( Revelation 7:4, 12:5,  14:1-3) The Tribulation saints who will be martyred and  are next in turn to be resurrected at the second coming of Jesus can be called the ‘Secondfruits’. However, both are considered blessed to take part in the ‘first resurrection’. ‘The second death has no power over them but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.’ (Revelation 20:6) The rest of the dead will be resurrected only after a thousand years at the ‘second resurrection’. ‘And I saw the dead, great and small standing before the throne and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books … If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.’ (Revelation 20:12-15) When God has chosen us from among men to be to firstfruits unto him, why settle for the second? Amen.

19. The open door.(Part 4 of the Rapture series.)

See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut … (Why?) … I know you have little strength yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name … Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on earth.” (Revelation 3:8-10) John entered through this door and was shown what must take place after the Church age. ‘After this I looked and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this. At once I was in the Spirit and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it … Surrounding the throne there were twenty four other thrones and seated on them were twenty four elders’ (Revelation 4: 1-4) (The Greek word Presbyteros translated as ‘elders’ has always been used to address the elders or official leaders of the Jewish community.) Old testament Prophets like Isaiah and Ezekial had seen visions of God seated on his throne (Isaiah 6:1-2, Ezekiel 1:25-28)  but they never saw men seated in the presence of God. Who then are these men seated on twenty four thrones and whence did they come from? Are they the saints who were  bodily resurrected after the death of  Christ and ascended together with him to heaven? ‘The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the Holy city and appeared to many people.’ (Matthew 27:52-53) ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ (Psalm 68:18/Ephesians 4:8) Or are they the ‘dead in Christ’ who were the first to rise at Rapture? ‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command with the voice of an 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.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Why twenty four elders? The priesthood was divided into 24 division ( 1Chronicles 24:1-9) and therefore the 24 elders may represent the entire priesthood of believers.(Exodus 19:6, 1Peter 2:9) Whoever they might be, the truth of the matter is that since these redeemed men are seen in heaven all throughout the time of the fulfillment of the book of Revelation, beginning with Chapter 4, they must have been Raptured prior to it. And they get to witness the glorious event mentioned in Chapter 5, when the Lamb of God is glorified: ‘Then I saw the Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders … Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels … they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” ( Revelation 5:6-12) This would be in fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer : “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began … Father, I want those you have given me to be with me and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you have loved me before creation of the world.” (John 17:5,24) The Church, the Lamb’s bride will be ‘caught up’ to witness him take the scroll from the right hand of Him who is seated on the throne and open its seals.

In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus said that the door would be closed soon after the wise virgins have entered. ‘At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom … The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came ‘Sir!Sir!’, they said. ‘Open the door for us! But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ (Matthew 25:1-10) Those who debunk pre-tribulation Rapture should answer this question: When do they presume the door to be shut? If it is before tribulation, who then are these virgins who entered before tribulation? If it is after the tribulation, at the second coming of Jesus, what sense does it make to shut the door when infact John wrote: ‘I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True … The armies of heaven were following him riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.’( Revelation 19:11-14) Why go up to heaven in a post-tribulation Rapture when they all are coming down? As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the open door is ‘that you may escape all that is about to happen and that you may stand before the Son of Man’ ( Luke 21:36) Metaphorically, the door stands for Jesus because elsewhere he said : “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.” ( John 10:9) “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) Amen.

18. Why a pre-tribulation Rapture ? (Part 3 of the Rapture series.)

We found from Scriptures that Rapture is not a myth but the truth because the concept of the righteous escaping the judgement of God has a strong Scriptural precedent. Infact Paul instructed the Church to encourage one another with these words: ‘According to the Lord’s own word … we who are still alive and are left will be caught up … in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Encourage each other with these words.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18) We also found from Scriptures that this promise is for those who have entered into a blood covenant with God through the sacrifice of Jesus and have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Now to conclude this exegesis, it would be encouraging to consider the three scriptural reasons for a pre-tribulation Rapture :-

1. Rapture will take place because the person of the Holy Spirit will not leave behind the Church, the bride of Christ in whom he took residence on the day of Pentecost, when he is taken out of the way for the man of lawlessness to be revealed. The only reason why the Antichrist is being held back from coming on to the world stage before the appointed time is because the person of the Holy Spirit is present on earth: ‘ … the day of the Lord … will not come until the rebellion (Greek: apostasia means turning away, rebellion)  occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction … you know what is holding him back so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.’ ( 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7) The mission of the Holy Spirit can be  better understood from other parallels in Scripture. For instance, the Bible says that the physical presence of God prevented the Egyptian army from vanquishing the army of Israel on the banks of the Red sea, prior to the crossing over. ‘By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud … and by night in a pillar of fire … Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left it’s place in front of the people … The pillar of cloud moved from the front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.’ ( Exodus 14:19-20).  Likewise, the Holy Spirit stands in between the forces of darkness and of light and he has prevented the kingdom of darkness from vanquishing the Church. But the moment the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way, together with the Church, this world will be subjected to Satan and he will set up his end time kingdom but it will last only for 7 years because God will judge his kingdom and will destroy it during the tribulation. Another parallel in Scriptures that reveals the mission of the Holy Spirit is the story of  Eliezar who was sent under oath by Abraham to find a bride for his son Issac and upon finding  Rebecca, she was entrusted to his care and he brought her safely to Isssac. ‘So the servant took Rebecca and left. Now Issac had come from Beer Lahai Roi … And as he looked up , he saw camels approaching. Rebecca also looked up and saw Issac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?” “He is my master,” the servant answered … Issac brought her into the tent … and he married her.’ (Genesis 24:61-67) The reason why the Holy Spirit wouldn’t leave behind the Church, the  bride of Christ, when he is  taken out of the way, is because he was entrusted with the bride of Christ and he has to take her to Christ who will come in the air to receive her, just as Issac came out to the fields to receive Rebecca. That is why the Scripture says that both the Spirit and the bride eagerly await the coming of the groom. ‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” (Revelation 22:17)

2. Rapture will take place because it would be the justice of God to the righteous: ‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? … Be it far from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike … Will not the judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:23-25) In all acts of judgement described in the Bible, we have never seen the righteous becoming victims of his wrath, ‘for God did not appoint us 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 together with him.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)

3.Rapture will take place because it would be the greatest witness to the world: What would the day be like when countless believers are found missing? The realisation of the truth will sink into the hearts of those who never believed and countless will believe and will turn to the Lord. Infact more Gentiles will be saved during the tribulation than now. ‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language … These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ ( Revelation 7:9-15) There is a interesting parallel in the book of Revelation about the response of the unsaved to the rapture of the two witnesses who can be said to be ‘dead in Christ’. ‘Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them,”Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. At that hour there was a great earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed … the survivors were terrified and gave Glory to the God of heaven.’( Revelation 11:12-13) yet there will be many who will refuse to repent of what they had done and glorify God but will curse him. (Revelation 16:9,11,21) The purpose of Pre-tribulation Rapture is not only to keep the righteous out of judgement but also to get the wicked to believe and repent. Amen.

17. Who will be Raptured ? (Part 2 of the Rapture series.)

There are some paradoxes ( a seemingly contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well founded or true) in the Bible, which might seem contradictory but upon reasoning, both the statements are found to be true. For example, we read in Joel 2:32 that : ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved‘ yet Jesus contradicted that statement when he said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the Kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven.” ( Mathew 7:21 ) However, both these statements are found to be true in their respective contexts ! In other words, all it takes to be saved from hell is to call on the name of the Lord BUT it takes more than just calling on the name of the Lord, to enter heaven! Jesus said,“I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again … no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of the water and Spirit” ( John 3:3,5) but on the contrary, there are Scriptures which implies that some who were not born again will still escape from being thrown into the lake of fire because their names were found written in the book of life. ‘Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it … And I saw the dead, great and small standing before the throne and books were opened … The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books … death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them … The lake of fire is the second death … If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.’ – Therefore it also implies that if anyone’s name was found written in the book of life, he was not thrown into the lake of fire – (Revelation 20:11-15) This raises some controversial and uncomfortable questions! 1). Why were the names of those who were given up by death and Hades looked for in the book of life, after the thousand years was over ? 2). If their names were already in the book of life, why were they not resurrected at the start of the thousand years ? Who then are these people? Could they be the Gentiles who who never heard the gospel but lived according to their conscience (Romans 2:12-16) or nominal Christians who confessed the name of the Lord but were never born again? Yet because they called on the name of the Lord, they will be saved from hell  but will not be considered ‘blessed and holy’ to part take in the first resurrection. For we read: ‘And I saw the the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the word of God … They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years’.   ( Revelation 20:4-6) The following  words of Jesus further validates this truth: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and THOSE WHO HEAR will live … Do not be amazed at this for a time is coming when ALL who are in their graves WILL HEAR  his voice and come out- those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”( John 5: 25- 29) In saying so, Jesus clearly  differentiated between the first and the second resurrection.

Thus far we considered the resurrection of the ‘dead in Christ’ and now considering the Rapture of the ‘living in Christ’, Paul wrote : ‘According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till 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 arch angel 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.’ ( 1Thessalonians 4:15-17) The ‘dead in Christ’ and the ‘living in Christ’ are those who have been ‘marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.’ (Ephesians 1:13-14) How else can a person ‘be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet’ (1 Corinthians 15:51-52), if it not be for the deposit of the Holy Spirit in them? How can a person receive the Holy Spirit unless he or she has been washed in the blood of the new covenant in Christ? So it is imperative that a person be born again and have a covenant relationship with God if he or she has to escape the coming wrath of God. It is to the faithful believer that Christ promised : “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” ( Revelation 3:10) The day is coming when God will summon his people saying: “Gather to me my consecrated ones who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” (Psalm 50:5) Amen.

16. Rapture : Myth or truth ? (Part 1 of the Rapture series.)

The exegesis ( critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of Scripture ) about Rapture are all contradictory because those who regard it as a myth ( a widely held but false belief or idea), claim that the idea of a Rapture has no historical precedent (an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances) while others who believe it to be the truth, seem to  differ in their understanding about the timing of the Rapture;  whether Christ’s return will occur as one or as two events. Those who assert a pre-tribulation Rapture see them as two events, holding the view  that the rapture will precede the  second coming of Christ whereas those who  assert a post-tribulation rapture see it as one event, at the second coming of Christ. Those who are critics of  the  pre-tribulation Rapture claim that this doctrine was not around for 1800 years but it is a relatively new doctrine among the American Evangelical Protestants since the nineteenth century. (They assert that this teaching was popularized extensively in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby, who had been influenced by Margaret McDonald, a teenage girl who had a vision of a pre-tribulation Rapture during the revival in Glasgow, Scotland. Darby who was one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren, went to investigate this revival and was convinced about this teaching about Rapture though not about the manifestations of the Spirit that took place there. He eventually brought this teaching to the United States where he met the great Evangelist  DL Moody, who then became the world wide disseminator of this theology of dispensationalism and pre tribulation Rapture. It was further popularized in the United States in the early 20th century by the wide circulation of the Scofield study Bible and later on the novels and films  based on these novels captured the Christian imagination.) The critics of this theology also assert that it is a layman’s interpretation of Scriptures,  without  proper understanding of the original Hebrew and Greek texts. But that is not a prerequisite to understand the truth because Jesus himself said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children.” ( Luke 10:21) Amen.

What we have to find out is whether this teaching has a Scriptural precedent and not just a historical precedent,  because many a fact overlooked by the previous generations  have been rediscovered by the next. If it does have a Scriptural precedent, then the origins of this teaching can be traced back to the early church; to the Apostles and even to Christ himself ! However, our search for the truth immediately uncovers the fact that the word ‘Rapture’ doesn’t exist in any of the English translations of the Bible. Instead we find  the  Greek word harpazō (Ancient Greek: ἁρπάζω, meaning ‘to snatch away’ or ‘to seize’) as used in  Paul’s  first Epistle to the Thessalonians to describe the event in which believers in Christ will be snatched away from earth into the air. ‘According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you 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.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) The Greek word ‘harpazō’ has also been used several times in the new testament to describe other similar situations. For instance, the book of Acts says, ‘the Spirit of the Lord suddenly [harpazō – took away] Philip and the eunuch did not see him again …’ ( Acts 8:39) In another instance, Paul says : ‘I know a man in Christ  who was [harpazō – caught up] to the third heaven. Whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know … was [harpazō – caught up] to paradise.’ ( 2 Corinthians 12:2-4) And yet in another instance John wrote: ‘A great and wondrous sign  appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with a sun … she was pregnant and … was about to give birth … the dragon stood in front of the woman … so that he might devour her child the moment it was born …  she gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule the world with an iron sceptre. And her child was [harpazō – snatched up] to God and to his throne.’ ( Revelation 12:1-6) In this context, it could mean the ascension of Jesus Christ, as mentioned in Acts 1:9 and/or could mean the first fruits of the Church being snatched up to heaven to keep them from the reach of the enemy. In addition to all these verbal reference are  the graphic details of the escape some had from God’s judgement, which further strengthens our belief in Rapture. The waters of judgement prophesied by Noah came upon the world and all mankind perished but Noah and those with him in the Ark were kept from the rising waters. (Genesis 7:23) The judgement foretold to Abraham came upon Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing these cities to ashes  but Lot and his family fled to the mountains and  were kept from the rain of sulphur.( Gen 19:17-25) The judgement prophesied by Moses came upon Egypt and devastated the land but the Israelites in Goshen were kept from the plagues. (Exodus 8:22,9:7,10:23,11:7) The judgement feared by the people of Jericho came upon them and leveled the wall and their city but Rahab and those with her inside the house were kept because she tied the scarlet cord to the window in keeping with the oath made by the two spies sent by Joshua. ( Joshua 2:8-21, 6:22-25)
The four instances mentioned above about those who escaped God’s judgement have one thing in common: they were all taken out from the theatre of action. But then in most cases the theatre of action was limited to a region as in the case of Sodom, Egypt and Jericho and those who were objects of his mercy ( Ro 9 :22-23) were either shifted to another location, as in case of Lot and Rahab or were already in another location, as in case of the Israelites in Goshen, whereas during the floods, the theatre of action was worldwide and Noah and those with him in the Ark were lifted up above the waters of judgement. ‘… by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.’ ( 2 Pt 3:6-7) In that case, the objects of his mercy will have to be removed from the theatre of action, which is the entire world, to keep them from the flames of judgement. Would you like to be trapped in it or escape from it ? All these incidents are in agreement with what is said in Scripture: ‘For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 5:10) Jesus himself prophesied about the impending judgement when he said: “For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch and pray that you may be able to ESCAPE ( Greek: ekpheugō means to escape or slip through ) all that is about to happen and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” ( Luke 21:35-36) So how are you supposed to escape? By Rapture?