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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr
A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a
How near is the end of the world? That is a question that has plagued mankind for generations. The Disciples asked Jesus, "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3). The Disciples asked Jesus for a sign that would show how near we are to the end of this age.
On two different occasions Christ cautioned them against speculating about the exact time (Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:7). However, He did give them a number of signs that would indicate the general time, as the end approaches. He said:
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28).
All of the signs Christ gave are now visible on the world scene. It therefore appears that we are now moving rapidly toward the end of history and the close of this present age. Here are six of the most important signs that we are nearing the end of the world as we know it:
1. The reestablishing of Israel in 1948, with the Jewish people returning to their God-given homeland (Luke 21:24; Matthew 24:32-34; Ezekiel 37:21; 38:8).
2. The rise of the "common market," a coalition of European nations moving toward union (Daniel 2:40-45; Revelation 17:12).
3. The increase of worldwide persecution against Christians and Jews (Matthew 24:9-10; Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1).
4. The increase of worldwide famines, imbalanced ecology, pestilences like the AIDS epidemic, and an increase of earthquakes (Matthew 24:7).
5. The rise of apostasy in Christianity (II Thessalonians 2:3; Matthew 24:11-12).
6. The return of mankind to conditions like those that prevailed in the days of Noah, before the great Flood (Matthew 24:37-39).
When new-evangelical evangelist Billy Graham received the Congressional Gold Medal from the United States Congress, he said this:
We are a society poised on the brink of self-destruction. Our culture is plagued with crime and violence, drug abuse, racial and ethnic tension, broken families and corruption.
In his book, The Vanishing Ministry, Dr. Woodrow Kroll shows that between 3,500 and 4,000 churches close their doors forever each year in the United States. I spoke with a young man from the Hmong tribe in Cambodia on the telephone last week. People in the Hmong tribe are experiencing tremendous revival in Cambodia and Viet Nam. But this young man is an exchange student here in the United States, in one of our eastern colleges. He had heard about my book, Today's Apostasy, on a radio program in Minnesota. He phoned me to ask about the book. He said he has sensed that something is wrong in America, that the so-called Christians here often seem lifeless and dead, compared to the revival he has experienced first-hand in the jungles of Cambodia. I had to agree with him. These are dark and frightening days for true Christians in America and around the world. In many churches, Christians try to get you to come every Sunday. But it is hard to get you to listen. You won't make a commitment to be in church every week. Little things that come up seem more important to you than being in church. You would rather "fool around" than be here in church. I don't care how many Bible verses you know, or how many prayers you've prayed, if you're not in your local church every Sunday, you are lost and going to Hell in my estimation.
Last Sunday over twenty-six thousand people ran half naked through the streets of Los Angeles during the traditional hour of Christian worship, in the annual marathon. As these wild neo-pagans ran through our city streets, we huddled here in church. Only a small number of people are real Christians at this dark, pagan hour of world history.
Is there any hope? Is there any way out of the darkness? I have to give a resounding "yes" to those questions. Yes, there is hope! But it will not come from man. Our hope is in the second coming of Christ, and in the rapture of true Christians! And I want to speak about the rapture briefly this morning.
I. The events of the rapture
First let us consider the great events surrounding the occurrence we call "the rapture." Our text this morning tells us a great deal about it.
1. Christ will descend from Heaven. The text says:
"The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…"
2. But He will not come all the way down to earth. The text says:
"to meet the Lord in the air…"
3. There will be a loud "shout," and a trumpet will blow as Christ comes down in the
air. The text says:
"with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump (trumpet) of God…"
4. The true Christians who have already died will be resurrected and lifted up in the sky (i.e. raptured):.
The text says:
"And the dead in Christ shall rise first…"
5. Then those true Christians who are still living will be raptured also, lifted up in the sky to meet Jesus. The text says:
"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air…"
These are the five tremendous truths of the rapture. This is the hope of real Christians. Our hope lies in the resurrection of the living and the dead, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus said:
"I go to prepare a place for you. And…I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3).
II. Then, secondly, think about the comfort of the rapture.
Our text concludes by saying:
"Wherefore comfort one another with these words"
For the truly converted Christian, there is great comfort and encouragement in this promise of God.
Think how horrible it is for lost people who are not real Christians when a loved one dies. They look at the dead body. They think, "I will never see my loved one again." Their hearts ache with bitter hopelessness. They watch the coffin lowered into a black hole in the ground. They hear the dirt falling on the coffin. They think about the body rotting, full of worms, under the ground. They think about their own body being buried like that some day. They are filled with terrific horror, hopelessness and helplessness. The Bible speaks of them as "others which have no hope" (I Thessalonians 4:13). The Bible speaks of lost people as "having no hope, and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).
How about you? Do you have the hope of eternal life? Do you have the hope of certain resurrection? Do you have assurance that your dead body will rise and be raptured to meet Christ in the air? If you don't have an assurance of those facts, you "have no hope." There is "no hope" for you! (ref. I Thessalonians 4:13; Ephesians 2:12).
That's why you need to turn to Christ fully and wholeheartedly today. Only Christ can give you hope. And turning to Christ begins by your commitment to be in this church every Sunday. And it isn't enough to come once in a while, when it's convenient. That won't help you at all. You need to make a commitment to be here every Sunday and never miss - no matter what comes up. That's the only thing that will help you get converted. You see, if you don't come back here, you're not going to get saved. That other church you went to didn't do you any good. Come back here! And do it every Sunday. Then you'll have a wonderful chance of getting saved. Being in church regularly is the first step.
And then examine yourself inwardly. See how wicked and sinful your heart is. Come to distrust your own heart and hate the evil in your sinful nature. Give up all trust in yourself. Stop trusting your own feelings and thoughts. Come to hate your sin. Come to the place of hating your own sinful heart.
And then fling yourself, throw yourself, on Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God. Christ died on the Cross so your filthiness could be cleansed, so your sins could be washed away in His Blood. And He is alive in Heaven now, at the right side of God. Come to Jesus, and believe in Him fully, and your sins will be washed away, and you'll be ready for the rapture!
III. But, thirdly, there is a warning in the rapture.
And the warning is this: if Christ comes in the air and you are not converted, you will be left behind! Dr. Tim LaHaye has had several books on the New York Times bestseller list on that subject, "Left Behind." More people are reading the "Left Behind" books than any other books in America.
How about you? Will you be left behind when the rapture comes? This will not be a pleasant world after the rapture. God's bowl judgments will be poured out in wrath against sin. The world will be under a curse and under great judgment. The world will be a thousand times more frightening than it is now. I would not want to be left behind if I were you!
People will have incurable sores on their bodies. They will wander about seeking water, but the world's water supply will be poisoned. I find it interesting that Saddam Hussein threatened to poison our water supply just two weeks ago. And many other horrors will come to Los Angeles, and to the whole world, soon after the rapture (ref. Revelation 16:1-21).
I would not want to be here when God pours out His judgments on this world. I would want to be raptured if I were you. I would want to have my sins washed away in Christ's Blood so I could go to Heaven if I were you.
Get into this church every Sunday. Make it an important part of your weekly schedule. Stop fooling around with God. Be here in church every Sunday.
Secondly, listen hard to the sermons I preach. Let God bring you under conviction of sin. Let Him show you that you are a lost sinner. Think about your sins. Think of how your sin is poisoning you, and how it is ruining you life and damning you.
Thirdly, think about Jesus Christ. Think about how Jesus can cleanse your sins with His Blood, and give you a whole new life in the local church.
God bless you as you do it!
Solo by Mrs. Jeanne Hanson: "Christ Returneth." Our deacon, Mr. Griffith, did not sing a solo before the sermon. He is with his dying mother in New England.
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THE OUTLINE OF
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a
I. The events of the rapture, I Thessalonians 4:16-17;
II. The comfort of the rapture, I Thessalonians 4:18;
III. The warning in the rapture, Revelation 16:1-21.