Christianity crumbles if Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead.
In Luke 21 we continue our study of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, just outside the city of Jerusalem, as He explains truths concerning His approaching death, resurrection, ascension to Heaven and then His future return to reign over this earth.
Next day He will gather in an upper room with His disciples for their last supper together. There He will comfort them concerning these matters. That conversation is found in John 13-17.
In His Olivet Discourse, He answers their questions concerning His return to reign, as the Old Testament prophets had prophesied. Even Job, who probably lived about 2000 BC during the time of Abraham, shared some amazing, inspired, prophetic insights concerning the resurrection in Job 19:23-27.
There are three phases of the resurrection
First, Christ’s bodily resurrection
This is part of the Doctrine of Christ upon which our faith stands or falls. I Corinthians 15:23 lists this resurrection as being the firstfruits of all future resurrections. As the firstfruits of a crop assure us more is coming, so Christ’s resurrection assures us that more resurrections are coming. According to II John 7-11, this doctrine is so important that to deny it classifies one as an apostate.
Along with the details of Christ’s resurrection as found in the final chapters of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; I Corinthians 15 is the major chapter in the Bible that explains the doctrine of the Resurrection of Christ and what it means for us.
If there is no resurrection, Christianity crumbles. We have no hope and we are living in a dream world. We, of all people, are to be pitied as the biggest fools on earth.
While the unconverted live to draw all the pleasures they can out of life; we Christians live solely for the glory of God. Our entire existence and purpose is to live in the light of eternity and lead others to prepare to meet God. That’s the burden of Paul which he shares with us in II Corinthians 5:7-21.
Going back to I Corinthians 15, we are made aware that upon the bodily resurrection of Christ, hangs the veracity and our assurance of His Second Coming to this earth.
The second phase of the resurrection is Christ’s coming for Christians. This coming is better known as The Rapture of Saints.
This resurrection is referred to in I Corinthians 15:23 “Afterwards, they that are Christ’s at His coming.” Because Christ rose bodily from the dead in a glorified body, we are guaranteed that we Christians will also rise in glorified bodies when Christ returns for us.
I Corinthians 15:50-58 describes this second coming for His own. It will take place in an instant, “in the twinkling of an eye” The dead in Christ shall be changed into our glorified bodies. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 gives further details of this wonderful event. Note, that it will take place in the air. Jesus will not come down to earth at this coming. We will be caught up or snatched up in an instant, whether we died and were in grave, or whether we are alive on that glad day.
The best part of all of this is that we are promised that from that moment on, we will forever be with the Lord. Never again throughout eternity will we ever be separated from Christ our Saviour and Lord. What a comfort that ought to be for each of us as Christians! This coming according to Hebrews 9:27-28 is for those who await His coming with anticipation. I John 3:2-3 teaches us that the very thought and anticipation of this coming is a purifying hope to us. I surely don’t want to be found involved in sin when He returns for me.
Titus 2:13 speaks of His two comings: first, the Blessed Hope of the rapture of the saints and then seven years later, His glorious appearing when He returns and King of kings and Lord or lords to reign for a Millennium.
There are no signs of the rapture. It is imminent. In fact, it has been imminent for these past 2000 years. According to I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul expected Jesus to return in his life time, and Christians have expected His imminent return ever since.
The third phase of Christ’s Resurrection is His coming in glory to this earth.
At that coming, Jesus feet will touch earth on the Mount of Olives, according to Zechariah 14:4. He will be returning in power and great glory to begin His Millennial reign on earth, described in Revelation 19-20.
The Order of the Olivet Discourse, as found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21
Now go to the three Gospel accounts of the Olivet Discourse. Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Note the ways these chapters are organized.
In Mathew 24, Jesus describes this present age in verses 4-14. He describes His coming in glory in 24:15-35. Then He concludes with the warning of His imminent Rapture for His own in 24:36-51.
The same order is found in Mark 13. The present Church age in 13:5-13, His coming in glory in 13:14-31 and the imminent rapture of saints in 13:32-37
Finally, the same order is found in Luke 21. This present age starts with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70AD. Luke 21:6-24. This present age is summarized in Luke 21:24 as involving Israel being trodden down of the gentiles until the time of the gentiles be fulfilled.
Then in 21:25-33 we read of Christ’s coming in glory to reign. Note in verse 31 that it is announced that Christ’s Kingdom is about to begin. Verse 32 says that those living at that time will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled. Finally in 21:34-36 we are warned again of the rapture, which is the next event on Christ prophetic agenda.
Let it be clear. When Jesus returns to reign, no one will miss it. You won’t have to wonder, is this the return of Christ prophesied in the Bible? It will be unmistakable. The doctrine of Christ’s second coming is a terrifying event for the lost; but it is the blessed hope of the Christian. Read of its terror in Revelation 6:1`2-17.
The Church, A Called Out People for His Name
In Acts 15 the early church was having a special called council meeting to take care of some problems. James, the leader of the Jerusalem church is speaking by inspiration of God and in 15:13-18 lays out God’s plan for the church age. But before we look at that plan, understand that God originally called the Jews out from the rest of the world to be His special people and to bless the world. They failed. So God established the Church, composed of Jewish and Gentile saints in Christ to bless the world.
He begins by referring to Simeon, the elderly man spoken of in Luke 2:25-35, who first referred to how God was going to bless the Gentiles. In Acts 15:14 James makes a crucial statement regarding God’s purpose. In this age God is calling out a new, distinct people from the Gentiles and from the Jews to glorify His name. This new people is no less than the Church.
When the Church is completed, James says in Acts 15:16-17, then He will return His attention to the Jews and bless them. In other words, after the last sinner, Jew or gentile in this Church Age has come to Christ and His Church is complete, then Christ is going to turn His attention to the Jews during the Tribulation and they will be saved, as Romans 11:25-33 states.
Jesus plain promise of His return
Finally, turn to Jesus plain promise in John 14:1-3 that He has gone to prepare a place for us, and He has promised to return for us that where He is, there we may be also. That is prophesy stripped down to the bare bones. Though He has given us much more information, and I am glad to share what I understand; yet in the final analysis, John 14:1-3 is good enough for me. If I knew nothing else about prophesy, I would be satisfied just to know that I will be with Jesus throughout eternity.
Where do you stand with Christ? That’s the only question you need to deal with. Will you be caught up with the saints to meet the Lord in the air or will you be left behind to face the wrath of Christ as described in Revelation 6:12-17 and in Revelation 20:12-15? I urge you not to postpone this matter another hour. Settle it now and forever by trusting Christ as your Saviour and submitting to Him as your Lord.
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