Out of every continent, country, and nation, He is reaching out to build His body, the church. But the church is not only universal in scope; it is local as well. In these places, music and message mingle to refresh sagging spirits, confront wrong, point the way, model the truth, help the hurting, hold out hope to the discouraged, rescue the perishing, and care for the dying.
We have examined the Scriptures to find out what we are to be involved in between now and when Christ returns. But what is the Lord doing? What is He concerned about during this present time? The answer is clear, according to the New Testament. It’s the same project He’s been working on since the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18), and that is what He has been doing.
Paranormal phenomena and speculation about the afterlife usually draw immediate attention. Everyone, it seems, looks with interest when the curtain of death is lifted. Books, seminars, and television programs abound with claims of out-of-body death experiences, speaking with the dead, and so on. Are these illusions or reality? In Luke’s gospel, Jesus recounts an intriguing story of one who spoke from the grave.
Where do we go from here? What will happen to us when life is over? What lies ahead…in the misty, shadowy, fuzzy world beyond the grave? What will be our final destiny? Many will say, “Death. Death ends everything.” Popular answer, but it’s wrong. Death may be the last stop in our earthly journey, but it cannot be considered our ultimate destination.
With all our daily activities and responsibilities, we tend to push the central doctrines of the Bible onto the back burner. But these truths are vital to our daily Christian walk. Consider the doctrine of the return of Christ—what we believe about this important doctrine affects the way we live our lives. And if there’s one thing we can know for sure, it’s that Jesus will come back to earth one day! But what do we do until then?
Few things are clearer in Scripture than Christ’s return. Once He revealed the news of His death and departure from this earth, He wasted no time in reassuring His followers that He would indeed be coming back. Again and again, God’s Word includes statements, hints, symbols, implications, and undeniable predictions of the promise of Christ’s return. Cynics may sneer and doubters may laugh, but our Lord keeps His promises.
In earlier times the slaughter of animals, the presence of blood, and the connection between these symbols, the sinner, and deliverance from that sin were common scenes…everyday affairs. Because we are so removed from all that, words and phrases like “sacrifice,” “shedding of blood,” and “altar” need to be explained and understood. By doing so, our appreciation for the cross where God’s Lamb was slain will be enhanced.
A substitute is someone who takes the place of or acts instead of another. In education substitute teachers stand before a class usually taught by someone else. In the game of baseball a substitute hitter or runner is commonly used to take another player's place. What is true in the classroom and sports is also true in our relationship with the living God.
The path of humanity is littered with the trash of depravity. Instead of being shining examples of beauty, righteousness, and perfection, we have darkened the world with hostility, hatred, and unrest. War and brutality score the history of humankind. Deceit and wickedness make up our story. Even our best—courageous warriors, heroes of humanity, graceful artists—fall embarrassingly short of perfection.
Instead of obeying the clear warnings of their Creator, Adam and Eve deliberately and willfully chose to rebel. And we’ve been living with the consequences ever since—humanity is mentally confused, emotionally afraid, and spiritually dead. However, the good news is God didn’t abandon us in our rebellion. In mercy and grace He provided the way out of our self-made mess through His Son, Jesus Christ.