Three Hours of Darkness

For a few hours Monday, there was unity in America, as all people with special glasses were gazing at the eclipse. There were exclamations of wonder and awe. Others were disappointed, expecting more than they saw. We have read only a few articles about the experience. My thoughts ran from how gracious God is to share His glory with us, to His bringing this unity, if only for a few hours. More than this, my thoughts have been centered on another day in history over two thousand years ago, when there were three hours of darkness during the middle of the day. Never hearing a sermon on this, I searched for what Charles Spurgeon had to say, and am blessed that I can share it here. He actually preached on this passage twice. The link to the second one is shared after this one. I pray your hearts will be blessed by this sermon as mine has been.

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.”
Matthew 27:45

“THIS darkness was not occasioned by any of the natural causes which generally produce darkness. It was in the middle of the day, precisely at noon, that the darkness came. It could not have been caused by an eclipse, for, it being the time of the Passover, we know that the moon was just then at its fullest—at which period no such thing as an eclipse of the sun could possibly occur. It could not, then, have been produced from that cause.

And from the way in which Luke describes it, it does not seem to have been occasioned by the sun being eclipsed by any other body, for if you look to his narrative you will find he seems to say that the darkness came first, and that afterwards the sun became dark. Whether this was through some dense vapor coming over the face of the earth, an intensification of some of these fogs to which we are so accustomed, or whether it was through a miraculous action upon the atmosphere, so that while the sun shone its light was no longer able to reach the eye, we cannot tell, but in some way or other darkness prevailed over all the land from twelve o’clock till three in the afternoon.

We suppose that this darkness came on suddenly and, if so, it must have been most striking. Just in the midst of their ribald mirth, while they were staring at the naked body of their victim and insulting Him with their jests and jeers, wagging their heads, and thrusting out their tongues—just at that very moment total darkness came on!

We suppose it to have been total, or, at any rate, such a gloom as to be a “darkness” which “was over all the land.” We suppose, too, that just as suddenly this darkness was withdrawn. As soon as the Savior expired, just at the moment when He gave His last triumphant shout, “It is finished,” the sun gleamed forth again and the earth laughed once more in the sunlight—for the great trial of Christ, the great struggle for man’s salvation—was then all over! Such a phenomenon must have been most striking. The sudden darkening and the sudden lighting up of the world must have been a thing to be remembered and to be talked of by all who saw it!

As for ourselves at this time, we have not so much to do with the physical causes or with the appearance, itself, as with the spiritual meaning of this darkness. There is light in this darkness, if not to the natural, yet to the spiritual eye, if we have grace to discern it.

That Sacrifice!—the death of Him—
The high and ever Holy One!

Well may the conscious heaven grow dim,
And blacken the beholding sun.”

There is something to be learned, even from the darkness—something to be learned from the light, and something to be learned from both the darkness and the light together. In the first place, there is, we believe—

I. SOMETHING TO BE LEARNED IN THIS REMARKABLE DARKNESS which covered all the land during the sharpest and severest part of our Savior’s agony.

We learn, first, the sympathy of creation with her Lord. There is a singular sympathy in creation between God’s vicegerent on earth, namely, man, and the world. When man was in his integrity, then the earth was fruitful, but when man fell, the curse fell upon the ground as well as upon man. “Cursed is the ground for your sake.” Then the thorn and the thistle sprang up, being sent by God as a token of His displeasure with man. We believe, brothers and sisters, that “the creature was made subject to vanity not willingly,” and that in due time, when sin has been cleansed away; this earth of ours will be redeemed from the curse.

We are looking for the happy and halcyon time when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the trumpet of the archangel and the voice of God, and then this poor darkened planet shall be washed from her night garments of mist, and shall shine out like her sister stars, the unfallen worlds, praising and magnifying the God who created her! Now if there is this sympathy, as we are sure there is, between the earth and man, much more is there a sympathy between the earth and God—and still more between the earth and that Man who was God as well as man! Observe that when He was born, midnight turned to midday, and when He died mid-day turned to midnight.

When He was born, heaven was lit up with splendor and from angelic choirs the Bethlehem song was heard, while men also rejoiced, because unto them a child was born, unto them a Son was given. But when he died, heaven put out her brightest light! “You sun, of this great world, both eye and soul,” you did—and, perceiving it in midday—midnight, with your face all wrapped as in a mantle for very shame, you did lament Him whom men scoffed and mocked, for you were the chief mourner at the death of the King of Kings.

The earth, then, thus showed her sympathy with the Lord Jesus Christ by her darkness. Remember, too, that she also trembled through her ribs of stone, for there was an earthquake and the veil of the temple was split in two—and even death acknowledged its defeat, for many of the saints that slept, arose. There is a wondrous sympathy, then, between the world and He who made and redeemed the world—and this was manifested by the darkening of the world at the time of His death!

But, secondly, there was in great deal more in the darkness than this. It was surely a rebuke and a check to the insulting cruelty of man! What louder rebuke, though without a sound! What stronger check, though without a voice, could have been offered to that assembled throng? The Roman in his pride, the Jew in his bigotry and the Gentile in his hatred of all that was sacred, were all there—and all did their utmost to pour contempt on Christ! And just in the midst of it they were like the men who sought after a light in Sodom—as if they were all smitten with blindness—they could not find their way! It was all dark round about Him. Now they could no longer scoff at Him. They dared not now say, “Let Him come down from the cross!”

I suppose that during those three hours there must have been an intense silence, or if men ventured to use their lips, they whispered to one another, “What is this that has come upon us? Is this the judgment, and is that man, after all, the King of the Jews, and is this darkness, this darkness which may be felt, the taking away of the light of mercy from our eyes that we may perish in everlasting darkness?” I think I can hear them muttering thus, as some of them found their way to their homes, stumbling and falling to the ground, and others of them coming together for the sake of company to keep up their courage—but all of them sitting astonished in the thick darkness and wondering what it could mean— when a tremor went through all the earth and the veil of the temple was split and even the heathen centurion, astonished by all these surprising concomitants of the death of this crucified man, said, “Surely this must be the Son of God!” It was an amazing rebuke, then, to the wickedness of man which then came to its climax round about the cross.

Was it not also, in the third place, the furnishing of our Savior with a retiring room, not that He might get a shelter, but that He might now be able to do His great work—bear the full weight of our sins and endure the extremities of the divine wrath? I must not say it, but I do think it would have been impossible for human eyes to have looked upon the Savior when He was in the full vortex of the storm of wrath which fell upon Him—and that God, even in mercy to man, shut the door that man’s eyes might not see the Savior in that fearful extremity of misery! It was not meet, when He trod the winepress, so that He should be gazed upon. He must tread the winepress alone in all the fullest meaning of that word, with not even an eye to gaze upon Him! It must be in the thick that He must press those grapes of wrath and stain His garments with His blood.

Oh, brothers and sisters, you can have no thought—it is impossible you should— of the depth of the Savior’s sufferings! The Greek liturgy, when it speaks of Christ’s sufferings as “Your unknown sufferings,” has just hit the mark. They were unknown—unknown to us and unknown, also, perhaps, to lost souls in hell, so dire and so extreme were they! He was shut up in the darkness that He might there alone bear the whole of it.

And was not this darkness, too, intended to be to us a sort of emblem of His state? It is as much as if God had said to us, “You want to know what Christ had to suffer? You cannot know, but that black darkness is the emblem of it.” The darkness seems to say to us, “Oh, mortal, you cannot understand me— those poor optics of yours are meant for another element, namely, for light—you lose yourself in me! You cannot find a pathway in the thick black darkness.”

So Christ on the cross seems to say to us, “My people, you can follow Me to some extent. In some of My paths you must follow Me, but here, as your atoning surety and as the vicarious sacrifice for your sins—here you cannot follow Me. This is not your element— you will lose yourselves here. You cannot comprehend it! It is only I, only I who have endured the wrath of God, and know what it means, who can travel on this road.” Christian, when you are most oppressed in soul with fellowship with Christ, and when you feel that when asked the question, with James and John, “Are you able to drink of this cup, and to be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized?” you could answer, “Yes, we are able”—mind, there is a point where you are not able—there is something in that cup which you cannot drink. There is a depth in that baptism which you cannot know.

Thank God that you cannot know it! Bless the Master that those paths of horrid gloom, where hell’s blackest nights thicken into the most intense infinitude of darkness, you can never know! “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” was not a cry for you, but for the Savior! To be cast out of God’s presence and to bear the weight of sin, is not for you, but for Christ. He has done it for you, and so the darkness becomes a fit emblem to you because you cannot understand it, neither can you fathom nor understand the depths of the Savior’s sufferings.

Once more. Does not the darkness, inasmuch as it is an emblem of Christ’s sufferings, also set forth to us our own condition? I suppose the Savior was, by force of His suretyship, compelled to take the very place which the sinner should have occupied. The plan of salvation is just this, that Christ shall take the sinner’s place and suffer in the sinner’s stead what the sinner ought to have suffered. The very pith and marrow of the gospel lies in that word—“substitution.” Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. We take Christ’s place because Christ took our place! He stood in the place of lost sinners. Well now, the place of a lost sinner is the place of darkness. Outer darkness will be his eternal place, and darkness is his present state—his natural condition—as the Apostle said, “We were sometimes darkness.”

“Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,

When God, the mighty Maker, died
For man, the creature’s sin.”

So the Savior is made to be in darkness and as man would have had to abide forever in darkness, misery, despair, and hopelessness, so the Savior is, for three hours, denied the light of the sun! He is denied all comfort, denied all mercies—He is left without a glimpse of His Father, or a ray from the light of the sun because He then stood in the place of His people! Ah, Christian, ought not this to make you hate sin, to think that sin thus put you in the dark and would have kept you there, and continued you in the bleakness of darkness forever?

Ought it not, too, to make you hate it when you remember that it put your Lord in the dark, and made Him hang bleeding from His wounds without a light to cheer Him or a glimpse to comfort Him? If, Christian, you do not hate sin when you think of this darkness, surely you must be still in the dark! We gather, then, these few lessons from the darkness, though we are persuaded that there are many more in it. But now we come to—

II. GATHER SOME LESSONS FROM THE LIGHT.  Con’d.
Gracious Father, thank you for the darkness of that day, when Jesus passed through it on our behalf, so that we, as your people, will never have to experience this darkness; your judgment reserved for those who have rejected your Son as the Light of truth that came into our darkness to save us. In Jesus’ name we thank you and praise you. Amen.

The Three Hours of Darkness ~ Charles Spurgeon’s second sermon on Matthew 27:45

A Year for CONTENTMENT

youre-invited-mingle-before-you-jingle1-1r5pkol-1Knowing my own need, the Lord is leading me in the year of 2017 to continue in my desire and search for the contentment that is found in Him alone. It is easy to read about, to talk about, to search for its meaning and to hope and pray for it. Like “humility” which was our subject for 2014, and “meditation” for 2015, “contentment” has not only to be sought after, but prayed for, desired with the whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and more importantly, waited for with patient endurance.  All of these are possible only by His working them in us as His family in His kingdom.

This is our plan for this New Year, and we invite you to come with us, to help us to discover what the Lord wants and has prepared for us.contentment

Contentment is a subject not only to be studied and pursued, but can be described in many ways. It is the desire of most people, but misunderstood when it comes to knowing how contentment is achieved. Since the beginning of time, we learn that contentment does not come from the things of this world.   Without even using the word or a definition, our first parents experienced what I call a seventh sense (we will look at this later) in the Garden of Eden. They were content, until Satan convinced them that they needed more than God had given them.

We live in the same environment as our first parents, but with a greater need. Contentment is a state of being. No one is born with it. Like the apostle Paul, it must be learned, and the lessons do not come from other human beings. The enemy supernaturally instilled the spirit of discontent, and only one who is stronger than he can deliver us from it.

Divine Contentment

For many years Thomas Watson’s book, The Art of Divine Contentment has been a source of study and delight. You can download free and read with us or download free MP3. Unlike our review and study of Andrew Murray’s Humility, we will not be reading through this book chapter by chapter, but we will use some of Watson’s quotes.

We want you to come with us through this year and to add your comments. We will be posting one, two or three times a week. Not every post will be titled contentment, but relating to it in some way, as we continue our search for this precious state, which our Lord desires for us. He died to deliver us from this horrific power of oppression and discontent, which is opposite from life in His kingdom.

Our posts will relate also to a book that we will be finishing this year. Thriving Under Oppression is relative to the spirit that keeps us from contentment and the life for which Christ has saved us. Soon we will publish God Is Our Goal. This too is relative to the life that is lived here in anticipation of the eternal life that is ours in Christ.  Who knows; maybe this will end up being a book, and you will have helped me write it (Proceeds always designated for missions and charity).

We encourage you to share this invitation with your readers or others you would want to be a part of this movement for 2017.
YES ~ let’s call it a “movement for contentment” ~ long needed for the Christian community.
What effect would our contentment have upon the world?

“Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who in Christ, has blessed us
with every spiritual blessing
in heavenly places.”
Ephesians 1:3

Gracious Father in heaven, it is you who has created us so that we may delight ourselves in you; who has redeemed us and restored us to an even greater estate from which we fell. Only you can bring us from the power of the oppressor to you, to know your presence and power, to work in us supernaturally this contentment for which you saved us in Christ. Draw those that you want to be a part of this year’s blessings as you lead us and teach us by the power of your Holy Spirit. Open our hearts, our minds, our ears, our wills, to you, to our Lord Jesus Christ and your Holy Spirit, so that we do not miss anything you have prepared for us. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.
invitationImage from Related Article: Contentment

An Incarnation for a New Creation

“The Incarnation of the Son of God is the terminology used to describe what happened when the second person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God, “became flesh” as he was miraculously conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary according to the Bible. In the incarnation, the divine nature of the Son was perfectly united with human nature in one divine Person. This person, Jesus Christ, was both “truly God and truly man.” Theopidia

The Incarnation

“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.
And the word became flesh
and dwelt among us.”

John 1:1, 14

For what purpose? Could not God from heaven continue His supernatural work by His own Spirit as He had in the Old Testament?

There are many Biblical references to explain why God chose to manifest Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Mediation

Just as there were prophets, priests, and kings in the old covenant as mediators between God and His people, they were not capable to accomplish God’s plan. His intention for the first creation was to have human beings bearing His image. That image was marred, distorted by disobedience to His Word; the relationship that He desired was put on hold.

So, there was a need and the plan for a mediation, which meant that there had to be a dual role, and so Jesus, the second person of the Trinity was born to be the mediator between God and men.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”
1 Timothy 2:5

He came to fulfill the law, something no other human could do. (Matthew 5:17) As a mediator, He first had to do what the first man failed to do ~ obey the Creator. He had to show a full obedience to the word and will of the law. For thirty-three years He proved His humanity, by being tempted as we are, yet without sin, so that as our sacrifice, He would be offered as a permanent sacrifice for all who believe in Him.

All the promises of God are revealed and fulfilled in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

God made Him to be our “Go To” for all things. What the law could not do for us, in us, or through us, He does in us through Christ.

Jesus’ words:
He reveals that He was the “bread of life” ~ “the bread of God who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John6:33-35)

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

The one whose birth the shepherds attended, became the good Shepherd .

“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
John 10:28

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth.
Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

John 18:37

John’s words:

“… he appeared to take away sins… 1 John 3:5

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:b

From the writer of Hebrews we learn that Jesus, in sharing flesh and blood, partaking of the same life as ours would, through death, destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who were subject to fear of death and the judgment of God. (Hebrews 2:10-15; 1 John 4:17-19)

The New Creation

Jesus, having lived a holy life, became the Lamb of sacrifice for our sins, He took upon Himself our sin and punishment, in exchange for His righteousness. (Romans 3:21-26; Romans 6:23: 2 Corinthians 5:21)images

Through His life and death we are given a new life by the power of His Holy Spirit; sent by the Father to draw us to Christ, He gives us a new heart and spirit. Through the written word of God, the Spirit reveals the living Word in us, and we are born again as a new creation. (Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:3,21; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7;  2 Corinthians 5:17-19; James 1:18)

He fulfills the image of the Father in us. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18)

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
1 Corinthians 15:21-22

In 1 Corinthians 15 we learn that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. There is first a natural body, a man of dust, inherited from Adam the first man. The spiritual, imperishable man is Jesus Christ, the man of heaven and those who are of heaven ~ born of His Spirit. (John 1:12-13)

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
(1 Corinthians 15:42-49)

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.
(Galatians 4:4-7)

“Emmanuel” ~ God with us was the prophecy of Isaiah 8:10.  “And they shall call his name Immanuel.” Matthew 1:23

“The promised seed shall be Immanuel, God with us; let that word comfort you that God is with us. The strongest consolations, in time of trouble, are those which are borrowed from Christ, our relation to him, our interest in him, and our expectations of him and from him.” Matthew Henry

(There are so many more references in each of these categories of the incarnation, mediation, and new creation. A book has been written already. Please comment with some of your favorites.)

Dear Father, reveal and fulfill your plan for our salvation in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of your Holy Spirit in us ~ to your glory and our joy.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
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JESUS CHRIST IS LORD

Jesus Christ is Lord, He is our King.
From heaven He rules;  Over everything.

He rules in heaven,  He rules in earth.
He rules over death.  He rules over birth.

Over all our joys,  Over every sorrow,
Over our todays,  Over our tomorrows.

Thursday, before the duties of my day began, these words came to mind. I am not a poet, but occasionally a rhyme like this starts in my head. There was no special meaning, and I had thought to add the words “unfinished song” as part of the title. But, when the day was over no other words were needed.

imagesAs Jerry and I watched the flames from Cape Canaveral that morning, my first thoughts were of the prophecy of the earth’s demise. This seemed to be a preview of what God can do with man’s inventions. Yet, many other thoughts surfaced. So, bear with me a little as I unravel them.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg is quoted by CNN, “I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite. The satellite would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.”

Zuckerberg also said he has other technologies to help connect people. “We will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided. ” (CNN)  This satellite was supposed to provide internet connections to Africa, where Zuckerberg was visiting when the explosion happened.

From his response, he reveals that he does not have all his eggs in one basket. Nor, do we suppose, his loss left him poverty-stricken. It was only a setback in his plans.

Some may say that God was showing His hand in that explosion on Thursday, but when Zuckerberg succeeds in launching another satellite for Facebook, God will use it to carry the message of His Son to the ends of the earth. He doesn’t need Facebook, but He will enable us to use it to His glory.

And, let us remember that when our dreams go up in flames, the author and finisher of our hopes and plans is still ruling and reigning for His glory, our work, and our joy.

images (1)Jesus Christ is Lord.

Dear Father, thank you for dreams that reach higher than the sky, that are for your kingdom. Continue until you have fulfilled your plan for your work in us here. In Jesus’ name I pray.

The Value of the Lord’s Day

The worth of what we have is proven by how we spend it. The person who values the small amount of money that he has will spend it wisely on what is important to him. He, in understanding his needs, will spend his money on necessities before he buys something trivial.

The same is true with the spiritual blessings that God gives us.   The Lord’s Day is one of those blessings and is needful for His children. If this was not so He would not have placed such a high priority on it and in it. If it is so valuable to Him it should also be to us as His children.

“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price,

went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”  
Matthew 13:45-46

oyster-wound-brings-forth-a-pearlWhere do we find in God’s word the value of the Christian Sabbath? I believe that we discover this in the pattern that was given for the first Sabbath. I have read books that are focused on the Lord’s Day, its ordinances set forth by the Jewish Sabbath, and the transition to the first day of the week as the honor given to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath. I have come to my understanding, by way of prayer and study, to peace and commitment in the value of the Lord’s Day. My conclusion can be summed up in the statements and scriptural references found in the Shorter Catechism. Many have found this as a teaching basis for an introduction to the Christian Faith. Presbyterians and Baptists have used it alike, except for the doctrines on baptism.

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy
Like many other things of Biblical teaching some things are spoken, but not practiced.
There is more written in the Scriptures and in the Shorter Catechism about the fourth commandment than any other commandment. Does this not prove the value God has placed on it? When he set aside the seventh day he blessed it and hallowed it. We understand this to mean that the Lord’s Day is also blessed because it the day of our Lord’s Resurrection, the day of victory over sin and death for His people. This is the value of the Lord’s Day that is placed on the Christian faith and by His grace given to us. Let me share with you what is derived from God’s word and the doctrine that was established and accepted in the early church, based on the first day as the Lord’s Day and the Christian Sabbath.

Q 60: How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?

A: The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

 Q 61: What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?

A: The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

“ If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable: and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.” Isaiah 58:13

Here was the settling point for me, and how I arrived at the value God has placed on the Lord’s Day, in honor of Christ Jesus, His Son, and our Lord. The same value placed on the Jewish Sabbath after God’s work of creation applies to the day that is honorable to Christ, the second person of the Trinity, after His work of redemption.

Commands and Promises
With His commands come promises. If we spend our time as He desires for us, of which He is worthy, here is the promise that follows in verse 14.

“Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”

How much more is the importance of sanctifying the Lord’s Day? His purpose for the first day of each week is that we spend our time with Him, in the public and private worship and fellowship of the Father and the Son in Spirit and truth. As He was refreshed after His six-day work of creation (Exodus 31:17) His desire for us is to experience this refreshing after our work week.   This promise was made to the heritage of Jacob. The Israelites were God’s people and so are we, as Abraham’s offspring ~ children of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and the church and body of Christ.

The Lord’s Day is meant to be a delight for us as we spend the whole day on Him, with Him. This is the practice and the preparation for that eternal day with Him. If you have never experienced a whole day with the Lord on His day, I encourage you to pray and seek His guidance for how He wants you to meet Him, in obedience to His word. You will not be disappointed. Your week will take on a different meaning as He causes you “to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feeds you with the heritage of His dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ~ the eternal bread of life.

“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious;”
1 Peter 2:7

Dear heavenly Father, as you created and rested; and was refreshed after your labor, teach us how to rest on the Lord’s Day; in you and all that you and your Son and your Holy Spirit have done for us.  Refresh us by your word and your Spirit in all that is holy and valuable to you.  Keep us holy, that we may keep your day holy.  Fill us with your presence and power for the work you have planned for us this week; and bring us to your refreshing in Christ next Lord’s Day.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

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R
elated article: A Summary of John Owen on the Sabbath

Will Christians Be Secretly Raptured?

(I am posting this article from The Gospel Coalition, October 9, for future reference to the subject of dispensationalism.)

This past weekend the eschatological thriller Left Behind left-behind-movieopened in theaters. It joins a flood of Christian movies this year including Exodus, Son of God, God’s Not DeadHeaven Is for Real, and Noah. Okay, let’s not count Noah.

Yet Left Behind stands out among this surge of Christian films, not just because it stars Nicholas Cage, and not just because it’s based on the wildly successfulLeft Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Perhaps more than the other films, Left Behind captures believers’ imagination because it portrays a future, world-changing event: the secret rapture, that moment Jesus suddenly snatches up all Christians to himself years prior to his visible second coming.

As producer and writer Paul LaLonde put it, “It’s a Bible-based movie, it’s a biblical story, it’s a true story—it just hasn’t happened yet.” As a result, it can cause us to wonder, What will it be like when all the Christians suddenly disappear? How close are we to the rapture? Will I be taken or left behind? 

But there’s another question we should ask, one that may surprise you: “Is the rapture taught in the Bible?” It may come as a shock to learn that many Bible-believing Christians today doubt the rapture, and that most Christians throughout history had never even heard of it.

Brief History of the Secret Rapture

The doctrine of the secret rapture emerged during the early 19th century through the teachings of John Nelson Darby (1800–1882). Darby was one of the early leaders of the Plymouth Brethren movement, and his teachings became known as “dispensationalism.”

Darby’s dispensationalism distinguished sharply between Israel and the church. The former was earthly, he believed, and the latter heavenly. God had two distinct peoples and separate plans for each. Thus Darby understood Old Testament prophecies as applying only to Israel, the earthly people of God. Rather than “spiritualizing” such prophecies, he expected a literal fulfillment of God’s promises to literal Israel. So when, according to dispensational thought, would God fulfill his prophecies to Israel? During the millennium (Rev. 20:1–8) after Jesus’ second coming.

So in order for God to resume these plans for Israel, Darby believed, God would first need to remove the church from the world. Hence arose the need for the secret rapture. Darby had in effect proposed something new: a two-stage return of Jesus. Jesus would first come to “rapture” the church, and then return again in visible glory.1

Darby’s views spread rapidly, especially in the United States. The dispensational system, including the secret rapture, was disseminated through prophecy conferences and received support from evangelists like D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday. By far the most important boost for Darby’s teaching, however, came from theScofield Reference Bible. Scofield’s work became the English standard for fundamentalist, Bible-believing Christians in the early 20th century, and in the process exposed thousands of readers to the secret rapture through his dispensational-informed study notes.

The secret rapture doctrine continued to gain steam in the latter half of the 20th century, and the advent of modern Israel in 1948 seemed a clear sign that God was restarting his plans for Israel. The rapture must be close! Books like Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth and movies like A Thief in the Night further popularized dispensational teaching. And then there are the Left Behind novels, which have sold millions of copies and captured the imagination of a new generation.

The rise and spread of the secret rapture teaching is a remarkable story. In just a century and a half, a previously unknown doctrine has become a central eschatological hope for millions.

(Read the remainder of the article here.)

God’s Covenant of Grace

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“God hath made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things, and sure.

This is all my salvation, and all my desire.”
2 Samuel 23:5

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You have bought me
You have sought me
You have caught me
You have brought me
You have taught me

Today, by the power of your will and grace, make everything in my life YOUR OWN.
In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

(Quote for covenant from Heaven Opened ~ The Riches of God’s Covenant by Richard Alleine)