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Our Christmas Hope - By Matt Ward - http://www.raptureready.com/soap2/ward41.html
"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20).
One of the most important messages given by Jesus before he ascended into heaven has brightened Christmas every year for centuries. It certainly brightens my Christmas each year. The message is that Jesus is alive and He is coming soon!
As the disciples stood gazing into the clouds after the resurrected Lord had ascended from the surface of the earth, rising higher and higher into the sky, to be eventually hidden in the clouds, two angels suddenly appeared with a vitally important message:
"Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
There is a hope embedded in this message that one day Jesus will return for his own. A short time earlier, whilst Jesus was celebrating Passover with his disciples he revealed to them,
"Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward" (John13:36).
At this point the disciples must have felt crushed, after all this was the man most of them believed would usher in a new Messianic age. Here he is telling them he is departing and leaving them in their greatest hour of need. The disciples must have been distraught, feeling as if the very ground they stood upon was pulled out from underneath them.
But then, as always, Jesus reassured them,
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John. 14:1-3).
Jesus was departing with a specific purpose in mind and he had a definite plan to return. He wasn't intending to just leave them, but described a specific scenario through which they would once again be united to him and with him.
Jesus referred to a Jewish wedding to help his disciples understand. Using this imagery Jesus attempted to convey not only the absolute certainty of his return, but the inexpressible joy that would accompany it!
In Jewish weddings after paying tribute to the bride's father and establishing the marriage covenant with his father-in-law, the Jewish Bridegroom would return home to his own father for a time to prepare a dwelling place in his own father's house fit for his bride. This is where the Jewish bride and bridegroom would live, in the father's house.
After completing the dwelling places for himself and his new bride (and all to his father's satisfaction), allowing his fiancé time to adjust to and prepare for her upcoming married life, the father of the groom would indicate that it was at last time for the bridegroom to return for his beautiful bride. With a shout the bridegroom would announce his arrival and along with his trusted companions and friends, would take her away to her new home. The bride would leave her old home on hearing the voice of her new husband and immediately leave with him.
This is the imagery that Jesus used to convey the meaning of his absence. This imagery perfectly fits the concept of the Rapture of the Church. Jesus Christ has left to prepare a place for his bride and will once again return so that, "...where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:3).
The apostle John, in his Apocalypse glimpsed this glorious future when he saw the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, "The Lamb [Christ] has come, and His wife has made herself ready ... arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright" (Revelation 19:7-8).
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, this is your destiny. This is your hope, our Blessed Hope!
From the first members of the bride of Christ, huddled together in the upper room during the final Passover celebration to each member of the church today, we have all now become a royal priesthood, through Jesus Christ.
When Jesus departed he emphasized that His purpose was to go and prepare a place for his followers, his Bride, and that he would shortly return for them. The phrase ...and if I go and prepare a place for you... conditionally links His departure with His return: "I will come again" (John. 14:3).
We are entering a time in history that the Bible speaks much of. Indeed, the Bible talks more about the events of this generation than any other, more even than of the time Jesus first walked the shores of Galilee two thousand years ago.
The coming months may bring difficulties. For some of us this may mean persecution; indeed each passing day seems to confirm this reality. If the Lord tarries much longer, the Body of Christ will begin to experience real persecution in the West, just as it is currently in the Middle East.
But we have a living, dynamic and real hope. We have Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior. Never will he leave us, never will he forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Jesus is coming back soon, and it is this living hope that will give us the strength and courage to move forward in this coming New Year, even if persecution is lurking up ahead.
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:8)
"However, as it is written: "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived"- the things God has prepared for those who love him..." (1 Corinthians 2:9)