I have been out of circulation for a little while due to some rather difficult circumstances my family has had to face. While I will not discuss the details of this, suffice it to say that God has been blessing us through the furnace of the refiner’s fire. In the last year we have faced a great number of difficulties. As a result, there have been days where we have wept because of the suffering we faced. There have also been days where we rejoiced in our pain that we serve a great and powerful God who knew exactly what He was doing, even if we didn’t. Through all this time, my faith has been tried in ways I never expected. Even today, as I write this post, I know that in my heart, despondency and depression are close at hand. If I did not admit this, if I tried to tell you that we have been all smiles, never doubting God for even a moment, I would be a terrible liar. Yet, I write this, not to complain so that people will comfort me. I write it to be a comfort to you.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 tells us “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” What this is teaching us is that God allows us to endure suffering and affliction and that He comforts us in that affliction. In turn, we then can comfort others in their suffering, with the same comfort we received from God. That is to say that one of the reasons we endure suffering is so we can be comforted and in turn we can comfort others who suffer.
It sounds like a crazy revolving door, yet it makes a lot of sense. If the world were just one giant accidental cosmic burp, as evolution teaches us, then there is not one thing in which we can find comfort in our suffering. In fact, suffering and affliction should be exalted because it is what culls the weaker of the species off. We should not seek to comfort those who are hurting; we should let them die off because they are too weak to handle the harsh realities of life.
Yet, it is in the gospel that we find the reason for comfort. God created the entire universe, this massive, seemingly endless expanse. And tucked away in one tiny portion of it, He created a planet where He placed mankind. There, He placed the breath of life into man and gave him dominion over all His creation. God gave man but one command, to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yet, Adam, in his wanton rebellion, ate of the tree, ushering in death and forever tainting mankind in sin. The creation was perfect, no suffering, no death, and no affliction. Yet, the perfect creation was forever marred by the sin of man. Now mankind must endure suffering because of the wickedness of his heart.
God then promised Adam that from his descendants would one day come a Seed that would defeat death and redeem fallen man. In that promise was comfort. It was a promise that despite what man brought upon himself, God would one day rescue him from it. That promise was fulfilled when the Son of God came down from His throne and took on humanity. Jesus Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to the law of God, yet He willing received the wrath of the Father at the cross and took the full punishment that all sinners deserve. Following His death, Christ was buried in the tomb, yet rose Himself three days later, defeating sin and death. God promised comfort to those who would recognize their sinfulness before a holy Judge, who would repent of those sins and throw themselves at the foot of the blood stained cross, crying out in faith to the One who had died for them. That comfort was given when sinners were made sinless in the eyes of God, being given the righteousness of Christ in exchange for the sinful burden He nailed to the cross.
All those who have ever trusted in Christ – those looking forward from the promise made to Adam in the garden and those looking back at the finished work of the cross – have the comfort of knowing that their sins are forgiven and that they will experience eternal life in the presence of their Savior. But they also have comfort in knowing two other things. One, that when they enter into that eternal life, all pain and suffering will come to an end. And that, two, while in this life, all the pain and suffering they endure will happen only because the sovereign will of God has allowed it. No momentary affliction, no matter how intense, will be felt without the express decree of God. And in that is great comfort, because if God has willed it, then it is for His glory and our ultimate good.
How can pain and suffering be good? First, it reminds us that this life is only temporary. This world, as beautiful and amazing as it can be, is a fallen, busted wreck. It is tainted by the effect of sin brought into it by man. Because it is in this state, one day, God will destroy it all and create a new heavens and a new earth. Suffering in this life reminds us that God’s sovereign decree is that one day He will bring all things into judgment. Only those who have repented and placed their faith in Christ while be spared His righteous wrath, poured down in fire from Heaven. Suffering causes us to long for that day when He will restore His creation, and reminds us to hold onto this world with very light hands.
Secondly, suffering causes us to realize we are not in control of our lives. There is nothing that happens to us that God has not ordained. Therefore, no matter how hard we try to orchestrate the events of our lives so that we have the great success and most comfort possible, only God can determine what the next day (or hour, or even minute) will bring. Suffering humbles us and causes us to understand that we cannot for even one moment be in complete control of our lives. We wholly depend upon God for life and breath. Therefore, suffering makes us cling tightly to the Master of our destiny, knowing that everything He does is right and good. It frees us from trying to be the ultimate director in the play that we try to write for ourselves. It causes us to rest in Him who ordained it from the very beginning.
Of course, such rest does not come easily for us sinful beings trapped in this tainted flesh. That is why God continually allows suffering and affliction to tear us from the grasp of wretched and rebellious world. With each new trial in our lives, if we will but cling to the Master, the pain we feel will be comforted by the very One who brought us into that suffering. And as He carries us through it, we can look back and see where He has refined us into a fine and precious tool, created for His workmanship. Then we can know that the suffering we endured was for His purposes, and for our ultimate good.
I implore you know, if you are going through a terrible trial, cling to the Lord. Know that He is using this time to make you into something He will use. It is not easy, it is most certainly painful. If you will but trust in Him alone, not so that you may gain something from it, but so that you may bring glory to Him, then you will find that one day you can be a comfort to someone else who is enduring a time of testing. You can testify to how God used your pain to strip away those things that kept you trapped in a sinful mindset. How He humbled and purified you, how He made you fit for His use. During this time, do not cry out as if this suffering never should have occurred to you. Know that, were God to give us what we truly deserve, this light affliction would be nothing compared to His judgment. So glory in His mercy that this time of hurting is His work in you, and find comfort in knowing there is not one thing God has allowed in your life that is not a blessing from Him
When Will Christ Return?
A defense of Reformed A-millennialism
Taken from http://www.mountainretreatorg.net in compliance with their copyright.
When will Christ return? Will He return before or after the Great Tribulation? This is a question that has baffled many, and has been the source of much debate among Christian groups. Historically, there were as many, or more who believed in a post-tribulation return of Christ as believed in a pre-tribulation return of Christ. Today, with the tele-popularization of dispensational pre-millennialism by tele-evangelistic groups, including those of Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Ed Dobson, Jack Van Impe and John MacArthur, by the growth of the charismatic movement, by the popularity of the Scofield, and the Ryrie reference Bibles, and of late with the popularity of the Left Behind series of novels, little more is heard of the historic teaching of a-millennialism. Many would give a strange look to a Christian who would say that he does not believe in a Pre-tribulation rapture, nor in the future re-establishment of Israel as the people of God. Yet such was the doctrine of most of the great reformers, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, and William Tyndale, is presented in the Westminster Confession, and is the position held by most Reformed, Presbyterian, Reformed Baptist, and Lutheran churches.
Very few people today question the teachings of their churches or of their educators. People on the most part have a blind-faith in what they have been taught. Yet the Bible forbids that we should trust in what we are taught, especially when it comes to the Bible. Rather we’re to be as the Bereans and search the scriptures to see if the doctrines are true (Acts 17:11). “Study to show thyself approved unto God”( 2 Timothy 2:15 ).
Certainly the author would not suggest that all who adhere to the Pre-Tribulation, pre-millennial return of Christ fail to diligently search the scriptures. Certainly there are also those among the reformed groups that have accepted a-millennialism because their church teaches it. Yet pre-tribulation, pre-millennialism is gaining much ground among those who do not search the scriptures because of the tele-popularization of this teaching.
What are the differences between Pre-tribulation-Pre-millennialism and A-millennialism?
The main difference between Pre-millennialist (whether Pre-trib, Mid-trib, or Post-trib) and a-millennialist is their interpretation of Revelation chapter twenty.
In Revelation 20, there is a period of 1000 years (a millennium) in which Satan is bound, and in which the believers reign with Christ. The pre-millennialist believe that this era follows the return of Christ. Hence they believe Christ will return pre-millennially. The a-millennialist believe that the millennium is symbolic of the whole New Testament era. Hence they believe that Christ will return a-millennially, that is, there will be no future millennium era.
Which view does the Bible teach? Both of these groups will say that the Bible clearly teaches its view. How can both of these groups be totally convinced that they are correct? Certainly we cannot say that one of these groups is not composed of diligent Bible students. Certainly both of these groups have those among them that do diligently study the scriptures. The main difference between these groups is how they go about interpreting the scriptures.
The one group primarily interprets prophesy by looking at the New Testament as a parenthesis within the Old Testament prophesies, (hence the Old Testament prophesies are complete in themselves, and the New Testament is a separate plan of God that was not revealed in the Old Testament. [This is what they call the “mystery” of Ephesians 3:3-6 and Revelation 10:7] ). While the other group uses the New Testament in its interpretation of the Old Testament. This group believes that the key to interpreting Old Testament Prophesy is found in the New Testament. The first group is the Pre-tribulation Pre-millennialist, the second is the A-millennialist.
In this essay the author will show why he believes that the second group is preferable to the first. This will require a diligent survey of the scriptures. For this, one must put aside what he has been taught and search the scriptures for himself and see what the Bible teaches.
Certainly the author of this essay is not infallible. Hence one should not put trust in what is written herein, but should diligently check to see if this is supported by the scriptures. If it is not faithful to the scriptures, then it, along with anything that one has been taught which may not be faithful to the scriptures must be disregarded.
Here are reasons why the author believes in a Post-tribulation, a-millennial return of Christ:
Every sifting comes by divine command and permission. Satan must ask leave before he can lay a finger upon Job. Nay, more, in some sense our siftings are directly the work of heaven, for the text says, “I will sift the house of Israel”. Satan, like a drudge, may hold the sieve, hoping to destroy the corn; but the overruling hand of the Master is accomplishing the purity of the grain by the very process which the enemy intended to be destructive. Precious, but much sifted corn of the Lord’s floor, be comforted by the blessed fact that the Lord directeth both flail and sieve to His own glory, and to thine eternal profit.
The Lord Jesus will surely use the fan which is in His hand, and will divide the precious from the vile. All are not Israel that are of Israel; the heap on the barn floor is not clean provender, and hence the winnowing process must be performed. In the sieve true weight alone has power. Husks and chaff being devoid of substance must fly before the wind, and only solid corn will remain.
Observe the complete safety of the Lord’s wheat; even the least grain has a promise of preservation. God Himself sifts, and therefore it is stern and terrible work; He sifts them in all places, “among the nations”; He sifts them in the most effectual manner, “like corn is sifted in a sieve”; and yet for all this, not the smallest, lightest, or most shrivelled grain, is permitted to fall to the ground. Every individual believer is precious in the sight of the Lord, a shepherd would not lose one sheep, nor a jeweller one diamond, nor a mother one child, nor a man one limb of his body, nor will the Lord lose one of His redeemed people. However little we may be, if we are the Lord’s, we may rejoice that we are preserved in Christ Jesus.
– Charles Spurgeon
1834 – 1892
Thou art my hope in the day of evil (Jeremiah 17:17)
The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. True, it is written in God’s Word, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;” and it is a great truth, that religion is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above; but experience tells us that if the course of the just be “As the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” yet sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds cover the believer’s sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the “green pastures” by the side of the “still waters”, but suddenly they find the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the Land of Goshen they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen.” Oh! Say not so, thou who are walking in darkness. The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of His children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotton bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.
– C.H. Spurgeon