Strangers in a Strange Land

Christians truly are a strange lot. In a sense we’re a bit like Moses, who fled into the land of Midian, after killing an Egyptian slave-master. We are, as Moses then declared himself, strangers in a strange land (Exodus 2:22).moses kills egyptianWe don’t really fit snugly into the modern world, but then it’s understandable that Christians have always been out of step with the rest of the world. Even when the western world was nominally Christian, those who believed in Jesus and His message of loving their enemies (Mat 5:44) but hating sin, were never in the majority.

It may appear difficult to hold love and hate together harmoniously, but that’s what Jesus tells us is the hallmark of a Christian. Once we step over into belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and His biblical message, we are a people filled with contradictions. Yet everything makes perfect sense because our new life is in Christ. Jesus once said:

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)

Christians understand these words of Jesus to mean, “We are in the world, but no longer of the world.” We live within our human communities on planet Earth, but now our focus is on the Greater Reality and the things of this world are no longer as they once were to us. Although we live in mortal bodies and dwell in a finite world, we now have an eternal perspective.

As Christians we have learned that it is wise to fear God (Psalm 111:10), but we are never afraid of Him. When we spend time with God we are in awe of His great majesty and blessed by His overwhelming reality. There is nowhere else we would rather be than in His presence.worshipOur first and greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ, even though we have never seen Him with our human eyes. And although we understand how spiritually poor and lowly we truly are, we can talk freely about the most insignificant details of our lives with the One who is King of all kings, Lord of all lords and Creator of heaven and Earth, without ever feeling any incongruity in doing so.

Christians believe that in Christ we died, yet we are more alive than ever before and fully expect to live forever (Romans 6:8). We base this belief on the sure and certain knowledge that, because we have accepted God’s free gift of eternal life, the second death will never touch us (Rev 2:11).

When we come into the presence of our holy God we are painfully conscious that in our sinful nature dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18) and yet we understand that we are cleansed from sin. We are at peace knowing He accepts us completely because we are now in Christ and covered by His righteousness. And so we live our new and wonder filled lives surrounded by contradictions. Paul told the Corinthians that as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17):

We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. (2 Cor 6:10)

We have not been miraculously transformed into supernatural beings, yet we live our lives in the presence of the Heavenly Father and are filled with wonder at His awesome power and everlasting love. We understand that in our own right and our own strength we are undeserving and have nothing of any merit to offer, yet we know without question that we are the very apple of God’s eye (Deut 32:10) and that for each one of us the Eternal Son became flesh and died on the cross of Calvary.

© Carlos Lozano /Licenced from

© Carlos Lozano /Licensed from

When we look at that cross we are completely pessimistic, because we know that the same judgment that fell on the Lord of glory condemned in that one act all nature and all of humanity. We are heartbroken as we contemplate this truth, but we reject every human hope that is not centred on Christ, because we know that all of humanity’s noblest efforts are only dust building on dust.

Yet we are calmly, restfully optimistic. If the cross condemns the world, the glorious resurrection of Christ guarantees the ultimate triumph of good throughout the universe. Through Christ all will be well at last. Thus the Christian confidently awaits the consummation of all things through Jesus Christ who died and victoriously rose again. The great love and mercy of God will be manifest throughout all the world and He will ensure justice and mercy prevail. It is with absolute assurance that we watch and wait for His return.

© Marinv |

© Marinv |

When we think about what Jesus did for us on that cross we remember that, as Paul put it:

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. (1 Cor 1:18)

Paul goes on to explain:

As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters?

God makes the wisdom of this world look foolish because God, in His wisdom, saw to it that the world would never know Him through human wisdom and He has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven and it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews find it an offensive obstacle and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (1 Cor 1:19-23)

School of Athens by Raphael

School of Athens by Raphael

God knew the spin the “philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters” would put on the knowledge of this world, but He ensured we could all have access to His Truth (John 14:6). And this Truth has nothing to do with the amassing of knowledge; it has nothing to do with having the IQ of a genius – this Truth is a Man like no other that has ever walked the Earth. But we are easily caught up in the wisdom of this world, it’s seductive.

However, in God’s universe it is His wisdom that is true wisdom. The wisdom of this world is a poor relation. Paul declared that:

….. if anyone thinks they know anything, they know nothing yet as it needs to be known. (1 Cor 8:2)

After reading some of Nietzsche’s works, he appears to me to be the epitome of a person who has become so enraptured by his own intelligence and the wisdom of this world, he is completely deaf to the things of God. The pure irony, and one would have to say the absolute tragedy of Nietzsche’s life, is that he lost his mind. His great treasure slipped away from him and he was reduced to insanity and died when he was only 56 (as I’m about to turn 65 this seems awfully young to me). All our greatest intellectual achievements cannot give us what we were truly destined to become – eternal people living in a loving relationship with our merciful Father.

When we take our place in God’s eternal family we are no longer Earth bound, our values, our hopes and our beliefs are not those of this world, they came by revelation and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Our new life in Christ can be difficult to navigate at times, but we also know that when we are weak, then we are at our strongest, because Jesus said:

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

God created a universe filled with opposites and unredeemed humanity wants to reject this reality. It seems today people want a universe that is filled with 50 shades of grey. We don’t want anyone to tell us that something is wrong and something else is right. We demand the right to decide these things for ourselves. We don’t like the fact that God created life and death, light and darkness, good and evil, we want everything to be somehow naturally neutral.

shades of greyGod knew this would be the case. He knew we would want to be our own gods and decide our own destinies. And He has allowed us to do just that. We must each decide for ourselves whether we want to be part of God’s eternal family and take our place in His new universe after He destroys sin and death. No person is capable of creating an entirely new universe that will run along the lines they think God should have set in the first place. Instead, doubters have created a myth which pretends nature made this present creation without supernatural agency and people are therefore free to live their lives exactly as they choose.

Some people actually like to think that one day humanity will be able to control light and dark, good and evil and life and death. No matter how much people want to believe this they cannot change God’s program now and they never will be able to, because this is God’s universe and we are His creation. God designed the universe to run according to His laws and we must either accept His Way or forfeit our eternal destinies.Jesus preachingIn the gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus explained to His listeners that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven. He likens Himself to the miraculous manna that God gave to Moses and the Israelites to sustain them as they traveled through the wilderness.

For 40 years the children of Israel fed on the heavenly bread, or manna, in the dessert; it gave them life and strength for that day. Once they’d collected the manna they could not store it up, they had to gather it afresh every morning and it was sufficient for that day’s needs (Exodus 16). Christians are like the Jews following Moses and the signs God set before them around the Sinai Dessert. As each new day dawns for the followers of Christ we go to Him for our life and strength. He has directed us to “feed on Him” as we sojourn in this wilderness world.

mannaThis is the basis of the Christian otherworldliness and the reason our understanding of life, our worldview, is foolishness to those who reject Christ’s message. Our focus is on the Man who is like no other man. He was born into the human community, but He was unlike any other person who has ever lived.

  • He came from heaven,
  • lived a sinless life for 33 years on Earth,
  • preached a new commandment,
  • introduced a new covenant,
  • was judicially murdered,
  • rose to life after three days in the grave,
  • walk and talked throughout Israel for 40 days,
  • then ascended to heaven to take His place with the Father in a transformed human body.

Once a person knows, understands and accepts the message Jesus came to impart to humanity, an entirely new awareness of human destiny fills their being. It is as if a door opens up that shows us a different world. This other world sits alongside the natural world but it is a Greater Reality; it is the eternal world that can only be perceived and entered through the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father by the Holy Spirit. There is no way to comprehend this eternal world through the physical senses and human reason. God has limited access to this Greater Reality to those who have their eyes on His Son.

For the Christian, while we walk on this Earth, we are seated with Christ in heaven (Eph 2:6) and though we were born on Earth we find that since being born again we are no longer completely at home on this beautiful planet. We are indeed strangers in a strange land awaiting the return of our Lord.

©Review & Herald Publishing/ Licensed from

©Review & Herald Publishing/ Licensed from

He will come again and He will deal the final blow to death, pain and suffering, ultimately bringing about the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan and purpose for humanity. He is reaching out to each and every person born onto this benighted world (John 12:32; Romans 8:20-23), graciously offering each one a place in His new, eternal creation (Rev 21:1). Can you see Him? Can you hear Him? He’s calling you!

The inspiration and some of the words in this post came from INCREDIBLE CHRISTIAN! by A.W. Tozer

Coming – Ready or Not

One of our favourite games when we were kids was Hiding. Someone would cover their eyes and everyone else would find a place to hide. The person whose eyes were covered would begin to count, then call, “Coming, ready or not.” During the counting we’d all scamper around looking for a place to hide, and I’m sure, being small children, we found a lot more places to hide in those days than we’d find now.


At the moment I feel a little like we are facing a countdown. I believe our world is poised for the second most momentous event in its history, The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The most important event in history so far, the birth of Jesus, changed the world immeasurably. Even though many modern historians are trying to write His influence out of history, they will find it difficult to alter the calendar around which the 21st century world revolves. Every time we write a date we are making reference to that world-changing event, when God was born into the world to save humanity from destruction.

Some people insist they don’t need saving. I remember hearing someone at the National Gallery of Australia, who was standing in front of a renaissance painting of the crucifixion, saying, “I didn’t ask Him to die for me.” It wrenched my heart to stand there and look at someone who had no idea of their enormous need. We need to be changed to meet our Creator. And no matter whether we’re ready or not, Jesus will come again. He told His disciples a number of times He would return after His ascension and the early Christians continued to repeat the message of His imminent return.


God gave details of the return of Jesus in such a way, that throughout the history of the church, the followers of Jesus were always hoping He would come in their lifetime. Knowing this, why should we have any confidence in the idea that He will actually return in the immediate future? Why is it that many Christians believe it will actually happen very soon?

The answer is to be found in the study of Bible prophecy. Prophecy is a particular way of communicating a message that will only be understood by the people it is intended for. If Christians do not take the time to prayerfully study prophecy, they may not hear God’s message to them. Until recently, not everyone had access to the scriptures, but now that so many people can study the Bible for themselves, many Christians are looking very carefully at New Testament prophecies, and also at those in the Old Testament that appear to be awaiting fulfilment. And a surprising number of these believers feel the signs point to Jesus returning in the not too distant future.

The timing of the Lord’s return has always been an important issue for His followers. Matthew records an incident that occurred during Jesus’ time on Earth:

And as He sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of you coming, and of the end of the world?” (Mat 24:3)

Most people would be aware that if we do not know the language or culture of another person, it is very difficult to understand what they are saying to us. In the same way people need the Holy Spirit to open Bible prophecy up to them so that they can understand what God is saying. As Peter wrote:

Know this, no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Prophecy is not meant to be understood by non-Christians, it is God’s special message to His people, who are filled with His Holy Spirit. God opens His Word to people at just the right time, and now, at this point in history, as people have been seeking to understand the signs Jesus gave to His disciples, He has been opening the scriptures up to indicate that His return is at hand.

reading scriptureOver the past 100 years Christians have been studying and sharing ideas on the many biblical passages surrounding this topic and many believe that Jesus will actually return twice. The first will not really be a return of the Lord Jesus to Earth, Jesus will come to lift the believers out of the Earth. This may not be a time when unbelievers will actually see Him, they may only be aware that many people, who were followers of Jesus, suddenly disappeared. Paul described this episode in his letters. He writes:

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1Cor 15:51-53)

To the Thessalonians Paul wrote:

For they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the One who is rescuing us from the wrath to come. (1Thes 1:9-10)

In the same letter he goes on to say:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thes 4:13-18)

Paul is concerned that believers should not be ignorant, or “uninformed”, about Jesus’ return, like people who “have no hope”. He is writing to assure believers that “those who have fallen asleep in Jesus”, that is, born-again believers who have already died, will be resurrected and will “rise first”, before the believers who are still alive at that time are transformed to be united with them. Then they will all be “caught up together” to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air. This is a description of an event that has come to be known as The Rapture (from the Latin rapturo or raeptius, which means to seize, carry off or to snatch out or away).

rapturePaul clearly explains that this event is a time when believers will be rescued, when they will be snatched away from the wrath to come. He then goes on to explain what will happen next:

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you don’t need me to write to you. For you know perfectly that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. For when they are saying, “Peace and safety”, then suddenly destruction will come upon them, like labour pains upon a woman with child – and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sister, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Th 5:1-9)

This event does not sound like the Second Coming, because Jesus does not come all the way down to Earth during this event. He only comes to meet the believers in the air. Paul explains that The Rapture will be a comfort to believers, because it will be a supreme act of God’s grace, when His love and mercy rescues them from the wrath and sudden destruction that is about to be poured out on the Earth during a period called The Great Tribulation. In his letters Paul is describing two incidents occurring in two different places. The children of the light have the hope of salvation and will be lifted away, while those who persist in darkness will remain to experience the wrath to come.

Believers will be rescued from the worst of the persecution, wars, natural disasters, and judgments that the Revelation, the book of Daniel and the other prophetic scriptures explain will occur during the seven year period leading up to the Second Coming. Christians will not to be caught off guard by The Rapture because they have been warned to remain watchful and sober.

However, unbelievers will be feeling reasonably safe and secure at this time and they will not be prepared to listen to their Christian friends who are waiting and watching for their Lord. For the unbeliever, Jesus will come “like a thief in the night”, to snatch away the saints. He will come and take away His people, and because they will not be watching for Him, the unbelievers may not even be aware it is happening until after the event.

Although there are some Christians who reject this understanding of prophecy, it creates a striking harmony between the many scriptures that cover the topic. I have written in far more detail about my reasons for coming to this conclusion in my book (see the Revelation chapter). I have also covered a number of reasons why many students of eschatology feel the Lord’s return is imminent.

Sadly, people who are not born-again believers in Christ at the time of The Rapture, will remain on the Earth to live through what Jesus referred to as the Great Tribulation (Mat 24:21). However, the Bible teaches that people who repent and turn to Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord during the Tribulation, will be forgiven of their sins, regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit and saved from ultimate judgment and eternal destruction. These new believers will still have to endure the horrors that will occur on the Earth during that time, and many will face martyrdom, but I believe God will give them a special outpouring of His Spirit to enable them to reach out to the lost in God’s last momentous attempt to reach people before Jesus returns and this present age draws to a close. This will be the time when people are offered their very last chance to be part of God’s eternal kingdom.

When Paul describes the “sudden destruction” as being like “labour pains” (1 Thes 5:3), he is using the same concept the Lord Jesus used when He explained that the world will experience “birth pangs” in the last days (Matthew 24:8). At that time Jesus was talking to a Jewish audience, and just as with Paul, He then went on to give a description of the Tribulation, during which time He will be reaching out to His people, the Jews, in a mighty effort to bring them back to Himself (Is 27:12,13). Revelation tells us God will recruit 144 000 Jews to perform this task of evangelisation during the Great Tribulation (Rev 7:4).

While we don’t know exactly when The Rapture will occur, it seems it will not come during a time of intense “contraction” such as a major economic or military upheaval or natural disasters, but rather, during a time of “release”; a time when things appear to the non-Christian world to be peaceful and safe. We know labour pains start out with long pauses between contractions, and gradually become more frequent and more intense. Jesus explained that there would be signs that were simply the beginning of the labour pains and that once these began to occur people would know the end was near. As no one could possibly describe any moment during The Great Tribulation as a time of “peace and safety”, it follows that the Rapture cannot take place during this time when God pours out His wrath on a world that has resolutely refused to turn to Him.

For those of us who are eagerly anticipating His return, Jesus tells us:

“I leave you peace. It is my own peace I give you. I give you peace in a different way than the world does. So don’t be troubled. Don’t be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am leaving, but I will come back for you.’ (John 14:27-28a)

Jesus was assuring His disciples that even though He was about to be crucified, He would return and they should not be afraid. If He were to return for the saints at the end of the Great Tribulation, it would be very difficult for Christians not to be troubled by the events that will precede His coming. In the book of Revelation we have a very clear picture of a time that would terrify even the most pious of saints. Instead, the Lord assured His people He will rescue them from this horrific time.

Following the resurrection, Jesus did return to His people for a short time. However, His last instruction for them before He ascended was that they should tell people everywhere about Him. This is exactly what Christians have been occupied in doing since He went to be with the Father. In the 21st century, Christians have added a new aspect to this message – anyone who wants to be part of God’s rescue program, which is scheduled to occur just before the Great Tribulation, can find their hope of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

After Jesus was caught up in the clouds at His ascension, some angels assured His watching followers that Jesus would return again. As Luke described it:

“But the Holy Spirit will come on you and give you power and you will be my witnesses. You will tell people everywhere about me – in Jerusalem, in the rest of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.” After Jesus said this, He was lifted up into the sky. While they were watching, He went into a cloud, and they could not see Him. They were staring into the sky where He had gone. Suddenly two men wearing white clothes were standing beside them. They said, “Men from Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? You saw Jesus carried away from you into heaven. He will come back in the same way you saw him go.” (Act 1:8-11)

Throughout the history of the church Christians have eagerly anticipated the return of Christ (1 Cor 1:7; Php 3:20; 2 Tim 4:8; Heb 9:28). Today, many believers are not anticipating having to endure the Great Tribulation, because the Lord has promised they will be spared from God’s wrath. Instead, these believers are anticipating being taken away to be with the Lord forever (1 Thes 4:18). This is a wonderful hope. The fact that Jesus has not, as yet, returned simply means more people will have the opportunity to be part of His rescue plan and His eternal kingdom. But before this kingdom can be realised on Earth, there is yet the Great Tribulation to be actioned on Earth. As Matthew records, Jesus told his disciples:

“For then shall be Great Tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be.” (Mat 24:21)

The Great Tribulation will be the time when God’s judgment on evil will be executed on Earth. It is hard for mortal people to understand the immortal, omniscient, omnipotent God who created the universe, but He has given us His Holy Spirit and His Word, The Bible, through which we can learn a great deal about His purposes and plans. God has very good reasons for this final outpouring of His wrath upon the Earth. I address these reasons more fully in my book. We can choose to avoid this horrific time by simply acknowledging our Creator as having supreme authority over us and giving our lives into the hands of His Son. He has been reaching out to humanity with love and mercy from the beginning of time, but He will not allow evil to endure forever. In Revelation we find:

And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains; and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand? (Rev 6:15-17)

This will not be a game. God created a magnificent planet and filled it with miraculous living creatures, but humanity has despoiled God’s creation. People have lied, hated, cheated, killed, polluted, perverted and destroyed, and they have resolutely refused to be subject to their Creator. This is His universe and many choose to be wilfully ignorant of His plans and purposes for their lives. During the Great Tribulation there will be nowhere to hide from the Creator or from His Truth. However, this is not the end. Jesus said:

“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mat 24:29-30)

the-second-coming1This is not part of the events described by Paul during The Rapture, this is a description of the Second Coming, which all the world will see. It will occur at the end of the Great Tribulation, when Jesus returns to the Earth with the transformed saints to establish His thousand year reign on Earth (Rev 19:11-20:6). He will come, whether we’re ready or not.

For those who know and love Him, Jesus will return to take them to be with Him eternally. Those people who have chosen to remain on planet Earth during the Great Tribulation will then live through the worst seven years humanity has ever endured. During this time many will turn to their Creator, having been driven, finally, to an understanding of their need for salvation. However, those who resolutely refuse to acknowledge the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ as their Creator may try to hide. But eventually, we must all face our Creator. Will we stand before Him as a beloved child, redeemed, cleansed and transformed, or as a rebellious renegade, doomed for destruction?