What’s the worst that can happen? That a good question, a question that is often worth considering when we have to make difficult decisions.
Last week we cancelled church, for the fourth time in our history. And really, we probably didn’t need to. And if you arrived for the second service and nobody was here, I’m sorry that you didn’t get the news.
So, to clarify, if we are going to cancel or modify a service there will be three ways we let people know. 1. The website, go to www.cornerstonehfx.ca/weather and there will be an announcement. 2. Our Facebook page, which is www.facebook.com/cornerstonehfx
And 3. We will send out an email to the Cornerstone Connection list, which is our e.bulletin. If you don’t receive Cornerstone Connections each Thursday, you can sign up at www.cornerstonehfx.ca/cornerstone-connections or simply use a connect card in the seat back in front of you.
So, why did we cancel? That was a call that I made, along with the pastors of Deep Water, Kings Church and Hillside Wesleyan.
The forecast was for freezing rain from 8 until noon time. And I can drive in snow, I think most of us can, if we take our time and have decent tires. But freezing rain and ice-covered roads scare me.
And we basically asked the question: What’s the worst-case scenario. Keeping church open and the forecast being correct, there was a chance that someone who was volunteering would feel compelled to be here and be in a serious accident. On the other hand the worst case if we cancelled church and the forecast wasn’t nearly as dire as projected, we’d feel silly.
And at the end of the day, when I’m here, I make the decision to cancel. For right or for wrong.
We do that in our lives all the time. If we are told we need surgery, we look at the worst-case scenario in having surgery or in not having surgery. If we are thinking about quitting our jobs and changing careers, we look at the worst case scenarios.
A while back I discovered a book called Worst-Case Scenarios. And in the book are all kinds of helpful hints for what to do if you find yourself in various situations. For twenty bucks you can know what to do if you are bit by a poisonous snake, have to fend off a shark, or get stuck in quicksand.
For example, on page 137 we discover how to survive if your parachute fails to open.
1. As soon as you realize that your chute is bad, signal to a jumping companion whose chute has not yet opened that you are having a malfunction.
2. When your companion (and new best friend) gets to you, hooks arms.
3. Once you are hooked together, the two of you will still be falling at terminal velocity, or about 200 Kilometres per hour. (when your friend opens his chute, there will be no way either of you will be able to hold on to another normally, so hook your arms into his chest strap.
4. Open the Chute, the force will be great enough that you will probably dislocate or break your arms. Prepare for the pain.
5. Steer the canopy. You must avoid powerlines and obstacles at all costs.
6. If there is a body of water nearby, head for that.
And again, there are pictures.
And it was from that book that we came up with this series. And over the next couple of months we are going to be looking at worst case scenarios from the Bible. Last week we looked at What to do if you have to fight a giant. Next week we are going to be looking at What to do if you get swallowed by a big fish.
I know that for the first service, last Sunday we had close to twenty people show up for the service. And they were here when I preached for the live stream. I’m not sure, if anyone came for the 11 o’clock service, because at 10:30 like Elvis, I had left the building.
But if you came at 11 o’clock, what was your first reaction when you arrived? What did you think when everything was dark, and the lights were off? Where is everybody? And then you saw the sign in the door, saying that we had cancelled.
If you’ve been around the church for any length of time you may have heard the term “The Rapture” and you may or may not have a clear idea of what the rapture is.
Now understand, the concept of the rapture, and the theology of the rapture isn’t universally agreed on by all New Testament scholars.
Most serious New Testament scholars have no issue with concept of Christ returning. Where there is some debate is whether or not the church will be taken before the second coming. And I’m not going to enter into that debate at the door. If you want to talk End Time Scenarios, it’s going to cost you at least a coffee and maybe lunch.
So, with that disclaimer, we’ll go back to what’s the worst that can happen? If you have an understanding of the rapture and it doesn’t happen, you can say “Well that was mildly entertaining.” On the other hand, if the rapture does happen and you wrote it off as just a quirky theology you might end up say, “shoot, I wish I had of paid more attention to Denn.”
So, what happens if you’ve never accepted Christ as your saviour, you’ve been meaning to become a Christ follower, but you were sure that you had lots of time, and then one morning you wake up and everyone you knew who was Christ follower is no longer here?
1. Accept the Present Reality
There will be all kinds of ways to rationalize what has happened, and it will be rationalized and explained away by the authorities.
But rationalizing it and explaining it away won’t be helpful.
Jesus promised that he would return and collect his church before the final chapter of history was to be played out.
Time and time again we are told that just as Christ came the first time that he would come a second time and part of that promise was that he would take the church, his church to be with him.
And that event has come to be known as the Rapture of the Church. Rapture being defined in Collins English Dictionary as 1. the state of mind resulting from feelings of high emotion; joyous ecstasy
2. an expression of ecstatic joy
3. the act of transporting a person from one sphere of existence to another, esp from earth to heaven
And so there have been books written, movies produced, and songs recorded about this event. As Christians we talk about it, we joke about it, ever seen the bumper sticker that says “In case of rapture this car will be driverless”?
I saw one a while back that said, “In case of rapture, can I have your car?” And another that said, “In case of rapture, give this car to my mother-in-law.”
Or my favourite “In case of rapture this car will be pulled over while I reconsider my previous theology.”
We study it, it intrigues us, but I wonder if we really, seriously deep down in our hearts we believe that someday that Christians all over the world will disappear?
There will come a time, that it will happen. Maybe not today or tomorrow but it will happen.
The book of 1 Thessalonians has several references to the return of Christ and the rapture of the church.
Paul wrote this letter to the believers in that city to clarify specific doctrines and teachings. One of the issues that he addressed was a concern by some believers that if the rapture happened and the Church was called home what would happen to Christians who had already died?
He answers that in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.
And so, Paul speaks of the Christians who have already died rising up to meet Christ.
Not a pretty picture but I’m not sure that it needs to be a literal translation with graveyards erupting all over the world, although that would be kind of neat, or whether Paul was simply trying to make a point that those Christians who have already died will not miss out on the glory of the second coming but will have a very prominent part in it.
You will notice that Paul lumps himself in with those who will still be alive when Christ returns. There are a couple of explanations for that. First, he may very well have anticipated that he would be alive, there’s nothing wrong with that. Or maybe he was simply using the preacher’s “we”.
However, Paul gives some very clear details on what will happen. He starts by saying, For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.
You catch it, there is one shout from the Lord, one call from the archangel and one trumpet blast and then the Lord comes.
The Greek word that is used for shout is the same one that was used when a charioteer called to his horses or the call to the rowers in a galley or a commander’s shout to his troops, but the word was always one of command and authority.
And so, it is the Lord himself who announces his arrival this time. No star in the sky, no chorus of angels simply the Lord saying, “Yo, I’m back!”
And with that proclamation he calls his church to be with him. Both those who have gone before and those who are still alive. And we are told that they are caught up in the clouds.
Again, we don’t know if we are to translate that literally as whoosh and we are gone through the roof. Which would be really cool except I’m afraid of heights. When I was at Bible College, I had a Convertible and I drove with the top down whenever the temp was above 5˚ Celsius. My rational was that I didn’t want to ruin the roof if the rapture came.
Or maybe it be a little more subtle then that. You know, one minute you are here and the next minute there you are, gone.
A hint is given in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.
I actually prefer some of the other translations which say in the twinkling of an eye, not that it makes a lot of difference. In a research paper entitled “Blink duration as an indicator of driver sleepiness in professional bus drivers,” the authors reported that a blink for a sleepy bus driver was 8.23 milliseconds and the blink duration for non-sleepy bus drivers was 5.19 milliseconds.
Now I would suspect that bus drivers are pretty close to normal people, so on average a blink would be around 6.71 milliseconds. So even if we do the flying through the air thing, most people won’t see us. Especially tired bus drivers.
And the final description kind of says it all and Paul feels no need to elaborate when he states Then we will be with the Lord forever.
2. Acknowledge Why You Didn’t Go
Again, I would suspect there will be all kinds of theories not only on who is missing but on who isn’t.
The short answer to the question, “who is going?”, is “Christians”. But what or who exactly are “Christians?”
That should be fairly elementary, because Christian was first used to mean follower of Christ.
However, today it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a something, as much as it means you’re not a something else. When someone says they are a Christian in 2020 it simply means that they’re not a Hindu or Buddhist or a Muslim.
And so it’s not enough to say that Christians will be raptured, we need to define what we mean by Christian. Perhaps the easiest way would be to say that a Christian is someone who loves Jesus, and then we can let Jesus define what it means to love him.
And Jesus does that in John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.
And then he reiterates it and expands on that statement in John 14:21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
Both 1 and 2 Thessalonians dealt with the rapture of the church, listen to whom both letters are addressed because they both start the same way 1 Thessalonians 1:1 This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy. We are writing to the church in Thessalonica, to you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May God give you grace and peace.
And so, the letters, and subsequently the instructions concerning the second coming are addressed to those who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, if the ones who are gone are Christians, who’s left?
The short answer is everybody else. And that’s tough. Because there will be people who are sitting here today that if the rapture happened right now would have to lock up for us. The keys are on my desk, and the mortgage is due next Tuesday, it’s $7,000.00.
And the reality is that as Christians some of you have spouses, children and parents who aren’t going and every one of us have friends who aren’t going.
And I would suspect that there will even be people who think that because they’ve done all the right things, and have dotted all their I’s and crossed all their t’s and have tried to be good and religious, think they are going to make the trip and they are going to be left behind.
Jesus made a comment in Luke 6:46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?
We read in, John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
You say, “That’s not fair.” Oh really?
Let’s not talk about the millions of people who haven’t heard, because with television and radio and print, the message is out there.
I will have to let God deal with the fairness of those who haven’t had the opportunity to hear the message.
Let’s deal with those who have had every opportunity to respond and didn’t. The Bible makes a fairly simple proposition when it tells us if we are sorry for our sins, ask God for forgiveness and turn our lives over to Christ that we will have eternal life.
And if we don’t then we won’t. Plain and simple. And when the roll is called up yonder, your name won’t be on it. Understand?
But understand this, the rapture is not a matter of reward it is a matter of salvation. You can’t do enough good things to make the short, list there is only one thing you can do, and that is accept the free gift of salvation that Christ offers.
At the end of many of the chapters in “The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook” there are sections on how to prepare, so you don’t face the worst-case. In the section on your parachute not opening it tells us to check our chutes, make sure the parachute is folded in straight lines and that the slider is positioned correctly. That makes sense.
Prepare to Not be Left Behind
There are many people who want to do their own thing and then get straight with God at the eleventh hour. The problem arises when you don’t make it to the eleventh hour. Perhaps because of Illness or tragedy, or the rapture. So, you might be wondering, what’s the time line, the best before date, so to speak?
The short answer is we just don’t know when the end will come.
However, there are some indications in the scriptures that we’d be wise not to ignore. Now understand that there are at least three different viewpoints. There are those who claim the rapture will happen before the Tribulation happens, the guys are looking at the tribulation in their early morning life group on Tuesdays.
That is called a pre-tribulation view. There are those who believe that it will happen midway through the tribulation and that theory is called Mid-tribulation and then there are those who believe that the church will have to go through the tribulation and that of course is called Post-tribulation. And each side has their own biblical reasons and it really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.
Personally, I side with the pre-tribulation theory. Here are a couple of reasons why. And before I start with this, if you disagree with me here, the appropriate time to discuss it is not following the service, again, give me a call and we’ll hash it out over a coffee sometime.
In the book of Revelation, when Jesus spoke to the church in Philiadelphia he said this in Revelation 3:10 “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. If we believe that the word of God was valid for those it was written to 2000 years ago and equally valid for those who read it today, then this is still a promise. That Jesus will protect us from the time of great testing that will come upon the whole world. It was Ronald Ward who said “At the climax of history the Lord will not be without his church, and his church will not be without him.”
I read an interesting theory awhile back in a book written by Dr. M.R. Dehaan 50 years ago.
It was in relation to the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians where Paul is writing to the church because some people were saying that the end times were beginning. Paul tells the believers in that church that the Day of the Lord won’t come until the man of lawlessness is revealed. That is the anti-Christ. Listen to 2 Thessalonians 2:7 For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way.
So, who is the one holding the Anti-Christ back?
Some have said that it was the Roman Empire, but that’s come and gone, others have said that it was government in general.
Dehaan says that Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit, and when the Church is raptured that the Holy Spirit’s work here on earth will be done and he will step out of the way allowing the anti-Christ full sway.
Understand that it will take a catastrophic event like the disappearance of billions of people, to set the wheels into motion as they are recorded in the book of the Revelation.
We are told that Christ will come like a thief in the night, well let me tell you, by the time the seven years of tribulation are finished there would be no doubt about what was going to happen next.
Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 24:37-38 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat.
In other words, it will be life as usual.
The Day of the Lord will begin just like any other day and that would not be possible after the events of the tribulation because nothing will be the same after the tribulation.
And so if it could be any day then it could be today. And that is why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.
So where are you at? If suddenly the Lord himself came down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God, would you be ready?
If not, then today, right now, is the time to make sure that you are ready. I’m going to pray and if you are serious about becoming a Christian then you simply repeat after me, you don’t have to pray out loud, God will hear the cry of your heart.
If you prayed that prayer today then you need to let someone know that you’ve become a Christian, the person you came with or me. If you should have prayed the prayer and you didn’t don’t forget if we all disappear to turn the lights off on your way out.