I want to begin this letter by expressing my thanks for all the cards, emails, text messages, calls and flowers received when I was unwell recently. I also am grateful to all who stood in for me over what should have been a full weekend for me. I got up Saturday morning and felt fine, but within a few minutes was writhing in agony so much so that Linda called the ambulance and in a relatively short time I was in hospital. I am not in a position to prove this, but it has been said that the pain equals or surpasses that of labour pains. All I can say is that I was very glad when they diagnosed kidney stones and gave me a very specific painkiller.
The suddenness of it was a shock, but it has caused me to think of verses in 1 Thessalonians 5
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security”, then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Paul has just given a glorious description of the hope that we have as Christians, when Christ returns and the redemption of the earth and God’s people is complete (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). He then says that is going to happen suddenly and it will be shocking. It is all too easy to become complacent. We worship a faithful God, day follows night, summer follows spring … He maintains a glorious order in this world, but the day is coming when He will bring it all to a very sudden end.
Nothing prepared for the suddenness of the pain, even though I had heard that kidney stones were painful I did not expect it to happen to me, but it did! Many of us know that Christ will return and this world order as we know it will come to an end, but how many of us actually live conscious that it could happen today. In this letter Paul uses that event as a great encouragement to all believers, when he writes, 16 “… the dead in Christ will rise first” – there will be a resurrection of all believers. He then describes how those believers still living “17 …will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” and brings things to a glorious promise as he describes our eternal future, stating “17 … we will always be with the Lord.“
That is a glorious and certain hope for all believers, but writing of this day to the Philippians he says, “10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11) It is clear that we will all bow the knee before Jesus Christ and we will all acknowledge Him as Lord. For the believer we will acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour, but for the complacent, who have not prepared for that day He will be confessed as Lord and Judge. Just as labour pains and many infections cause horrendous pain, so judgement will result in excruciating and eternal pain for those who have not prepared to meet their Maker and Lord. The Lord Jesus said, Mark 9, “43 … It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. … 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’”.
Those are solemn and tragic words, but there is a way of escape, by dealing with the cause of judgement, our personal sin and looking in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking Him NOW to forgive your sins, so that you might enjoy an eternity of peace with Him.
Your very grateful pastor,
Bernard Lewis June 2017