Joy, not Anxiety

“Be anxious for nothing …”

Philippians 4:6

Many people in the world are anxious and worrying about current events. We seem to forget that everyone is going to die sometime (Hebrews 9:27). It is only a matter of how and when. Where we spend eternity is of far more importance as it is forever. The arrogance of man is that he thinks he can save himself by defying the Creator who sustains his very being.

Some think they can save the world by maintaining the climate as they believe it was. In this they often forget that the world has been changing considerably during its existence. They acknowledge that there has been an ice age and therefore considerable global warming since then.

Now we have a virus that has allowed governments to turn countries into police states with absolute control of people’s movements. Stores have signs saying they will not accept cash payments. The world is anxious and has therefore surrendered individual rights. As we read prophecies in the Bible it seems we are on the verge of the removal of Jesus calling out His church prior to the Tribulation period. The stage is being set but is that a reason for Christians to be anxious?

The context of Paul writing this explains how and why we don’t need to be anxious. In the previous verse he has written, “The Lord is at hand.” He is not far off and He is coming again. In verse four he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We can rejoice and not be anxious because each day brings us nearer to that day of our deliverance (Romans 13:11). The fact that we are able to observe this in a way that previous generations could not is the reason we can rejoice and not be anxious. We are concerned for our unsaved family and friends and this will be expressed in more fervent prayer and willingness to share with them. Anxiety is a slur on the character of God.

There is a remedy for anxiety. Faith in Jesus is the remedy. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Reading the Bible will reveal to us how frequently God’s people have been in dire situations yet He delivered them. Paul writes, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We cannot just dispel anxiety. It is not in our power to do so. It is there or it is not. Knowing and believing God’s word is the way God frees us of anxiety so we can rejoice in faith in Him.

Take Comfort

“But of that day and hour no one knows … But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be”

Matthew 24:36, 37

Jesus wants His disciples to understand that there will be no warning of His Second Coming. People will be eating, getting married and all the things that people do when unaware of imminent judgment. When it comes it will be totally unexpected by the world’s population in spite of the warnings in God’s word. Those of us who have believed God’s warning and are prepared will not be here. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 that all believers will be caught up to be with Jesus in “the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). This will leave a confused and fearful world in which there are absolutely no believers.

For the second time in human history for a while there will be no believers on earth. The first time was after Adam sinned until he was restored by God. This removal of all believers is what Paul speaks of when he wrote, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Without the Holy Spirit’s presence in Christ’s church, corruption and wickedness will be unrestrained. Paul gives detailed descriptions of what that will be like in Romans 1:20-32 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Jesus gives the days of Noah as a partial description of those days. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:6, 11). Believers are salt and light and by the Holy Spirit act as restrainers on the sinfulness of mankind.

Though we don’t know the day of our departure we do know that it is imminent. That is, it is the next thing to happen on God’s prophetic calendar and it will be without warning. In Paul’s description of that event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 he says it should bring us comfort. We will only be comforted if we actually believe what Paul has written and our desire to be with Jesus is greater than our desire for this world. God told Abraham what He was about to do because Abraham took God at His word (Genesis 18:17). Those, and only those, who take God at His word will be comforted.

Up and Away

“The Lord Himself will descend with a shout … and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

The Bible does not give the timing of Jesus’ Second Coming. In fact Jesus tells us that He will come when the world least expects Him. However, believers are encouraged to look for His coming and be ready. As with His first coming He will come exactly at the right time.

On the biblical prophetic calendar the next event is when Jesus removes His church from the world. There is nothing in prophecy that must occur before that event so it could happen today or in a hundred years – only the Lord knows!

We are given a lot of information about what the world’s condition will be soon after the church is taken out. Jesus Himself gives us much information that has been recorded by Matthew (Chapters 24 & 25). There are many people and groups of people mentioned in the Bible who will live in that time. In consideration of the Bible’s description of the world’s condition at that time it seems quite plausible to believe that the church could be taken up soon. If that did happen then the people who feature in the tribulation period could already be alive today:

  • The 144,000 Israelites, 12,000 from each tribe (Revelation 7 & 14)
  • the two witnesses and those who kill and/or witness their death and resurrection (Revelation 11)
  • the multitudes of new believers who are martyred during the tribulation and those who kill them
  • The many unbelievers who will seek death (Revelation 6:15-16)
  • the false prophet (Revelation 17 and later)
  • the Beast, also called the Antichrist (1 John 2:18f; Revelation 13 and later)
  • The many who will protect Israelites in a world of anti-Semitism worse even than the holocaust (Matthew 25:35f)
  • The multitude of believing Jews and Gentiles who will enter the earthly kingdom at Christ’s Second Coming

There are other groups mentioned but this list is sufficient to awaken us to the times in which we live. People we live alongside may be included among those mentioned above.

Since there is the possibility that these events may take place soon, and the participants may be alive now, how should we conduct ourselves? The Apostle Paul gives an answer to that question in 2 Thessalonians 3:6f. It is evident from his letters that he expected that Jesus might return in his lifetime. His instruction to the believers of his time is equally valid for our time. At such a time we cannot be idle.

Because there may be little time that is not reason to sit back and wait, it is reason to be acting in full obedience to the Great Commission. Jesus’ command to make disciples is not rescinded and He makes no mention of a retirement plan this side of heaven (Matthew 28:19-20).

No Subtractions

“The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:47

In our western societies we are seeing the loss of Christian values in all areas of leadership at an alarming rate. This is a reflection of a similar loss in the general society. As a society we have made ourselves judges of God’s word instead of allowing God’s word to judge us and we have deemed His word as unworthy of our acceptance.

Some conclude that it is only a matter of time before the church ceases to exist because it is irrelevant in modern society. As a percentage of our population the number of true Christians may be decreasing in some regions. It may even be that the total number of true Christians is dwindling in some regions. However, even if this was so, true Christians are still being added to the church of Jesus Christ daily with no subtractions.

In many countries there are few Christians due to persecution that has caused emigration or even death. This has meant that there is a lesser witness but there have been no subtractions from the church, the body of Christ. Paul wrote, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8) and, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (i.e. more of Christ; Philippians 1:21).

Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). He also said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). There will be no subtractions from Christ’s church. This led Paul to write, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

God has been pleased to maintain a faithful witness throughout the ages and He will do so until the consummation. In the meanwhile the number of true Christians alive on the earth at any given time may rise or fall but the number in His church is always increasing, never decreasing.

In countries that are most hostile toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ people are being added to His church, none are subtracted. Every person who puts their trust in Jesus Christ is a reverberation of the victory won at Calvary and a testimony that Jesus Christ is still building His church.

Those who oppose and persecute Christ and His church cannot see the millions who have already entered His church and who are forever sealed. None will ever be subtracted.

The day is approaching when Jesus will call His church home. It will be at the right time and on time. Whenever that day is Paul wrote, “for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11) and exhorted us to live in the light of our imminent departure to first meet Him but also to meet all others who are members of His church. What a glorious day when we all meet together and worship the Lord Jesus Christ. None will be missing!

When the World Rejoices

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” 2 Thessalonians 2:7

There is a day approaching when the world will find cause for unrestrained joy. It will be the day that the Lord removes all believers in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul describes that day in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the lord.”

Jesus mentioned this day years earlier and His words are recorded in John 14:3,”I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

What Jesus and Paul are saying is that there will be a day when there are absolutely no believers in the world. That will be a day of rejoicing for the world but the rejoicing will be short-lived. In the verse at the head of this article Paul tells us that what is restraining evil in the world will be removed. That will be the opportunity for wickedness and evil to blossom unrestrained.

We are not left solely to our imaginations. Paul gives a brief outline of the character of the world in that day. It may appear to have already come but it is not yet the total character and full expression of what it will be. The presence of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s church still restrains wickedness and evil. The preaching of God’s word is contrary to the way the world wants to go and it currently acts as a restraint. The world is finding less opposition than in the past but there is still considerable restraint on wickedness through believers. When those who love Jesus Christ, teach His word and faithfully witness to the risen Christ are removed, those whom the Lord has given over to believe a lie (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12) will have their day. What will the character of the world look like when all godly influence is removed?

Paul gives us a brief description in 2 Timothy 3:1-4. People will love themselves. This means that they will have no concern for anyone but “number one.” They will have a love for money and they will boast in their achievements full of pride. They will give no credit to the grace of God but take all credit to themselves. Children will be disobedient and rebellious toward their parents. People will be unthankful, unholy, unloving unforgiving, slanderers and totally without self discipline. They will be brutal toward each other, hate that which is good, treacherous in relationships, trampling over others and laughing at those they consider weak. Their one great love is themselves and this will be expressed in an insatiable love for pleasure with little or no thought for others or their Creator.

You may say this is a current description of our world. In many ways it is but there is still a restraint. Imagine what it will be like when there is no restraint! The good news in this account of the future world is that Jesus Christ will intervene to fulfill His covenant with Israel and redeem multitudes, both Jew and Gentile, out of this corrupt world.