What Is Jesus Waiting For?

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What Is Jesus Waiting For?

 James R. Aist

“Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were since the beginning of the creation.” – 2 Peter 3:4

Jesus promised that, one day, He would return, do away with evil deeds, punish evildoers forever, and establish His righteous and everlasting Kingdom on earth (Revelation 21:1-8). But, it’s been more than 2,000 years since He ascended into heaven, and still, He hasn’t come again as He promised. So, you may ask, as many others have (e.g., 2 Peter 3:3-4), “What in the world is He waiting for?” In this article I will try to shed some light on the answer to that question. As you read further, please bear in mind that the Bible mentions many things that will happen before the Second Coming, but most of these things do not relate directly to the purpose, or the “end game,” of His waiting. So, please bear in mind that here, I am focusing specifically on what it is that God is accomplishing by having Jesus wait.

To do that, I want to begin at the beginning. The evil that we witness or experience today has its origins in the original sin of Adam, which is commonly referred to as The Fall of Man (Genesis 3). As a result of The Fall, mankind has been separated from God, born with a sinful nature and living in a cursed creation ever since. At some level, all of the evil in the present world can be traced back, directly or indirectly, to this entry of sin into the world. This means that mankind, not God, is the root cause of evil in this fallen world, so, let’s be careful to not blame God for it. God will eradicate evil and restore righteousness to the earth some day.

But that begs the question, doesn’t it? Why does God continue to allow evil to continue when He has been planning to end it all along? My response to that question would be that He will end it when the time comes. So now we have arrived at the topic of this article: What is Jesus waiting for, anyway? I believe the Bible provides an answer, and I will try to explain it, but I can’t promise that it will satisfy you.

About the Second Coming, Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness. But He is patient with us, because He does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In context (2 Peter 1 and 3), “any”, “all” and “us”, refer specifically to born-again believers (2 Peter 1:1), the elect of God (2 Peter 1:10), so that a fuller exposition of the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9 would be, “…He does not want any (of His elect) to perish, but all (of His elect) to come to repentance.” Peter is saying that Jesus will not come again until all of His elect have repented and have been saved.

And Paul struck a similar note when he wrote, “For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, lest you be wise in your own estimation, for a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and so all Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:25-26a). Thus, when the full number of Gentiles has been saved, then the partial hardening of Israel will be lifted, all Israel will be saved and end times events can proceed to completion, including the Second Coming.

Taken together, then, these two verses tell us that what Jesus is waiting for is the salvation of all God’s elect, both Jews and Gentiles. And, from God’s perspective, this is, indeed, a very good reason for Jesus to wait, don’t you think?

There are a couple of related and supporting verses that also  should be noted here. One is Matthew 24:14, where Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” How does this relate to the topic at hand? Here’s how: It is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world that will result in the salvation of all God’s elect, so that end times events can proceed to completion, including the Second Coming. The other verse is Romans 8:19-21, where Paul wrote, “The eager expectation of the creation waits for the appearance of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” The “appearance of the sons of God” will not be completed until the salvation of all God’s elect is accomplished, because these are “the sons of God”. Thus, the creation also is eagerly waiting for the same thing that Jesus is waiting for. Following that, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth”, and “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption.”

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

 

Homosexuality and Choice

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Homosexuality and Choice

James R. Aist

“We now have scientifically sound evidence, coming from homosexuals themselves, for a significant role of choice in homosexuality.

Homosexual activists insist that homosexuality is not a choice, whereas many born-again Christians claim that it is. In my investigations into the truths about homosexuality, I have found that there is truth in both positions. Furthermore, a relatively recent scientific study has shed light on this issue and inspired me to take a second look into the relevant facts, which turn out to be quite instructive, if not surprising.

There seems to be some consensus that most homosexual people do not choose to have the same-sex attractions and sexual feelings that they experience initially, and I believe this consensus to be true. But that doesn’t mean that living a homosexual life-style does not involve choices. Once that first same-sex sexual attraction is encountered, there is a choice as to whether or not to act on it (either through fantasies or sexual encounters), and the same choice is made every time that attraction is experienced. Bi-sexual people make a choice every time they engage in homosexual sex rather than heterosexual sex. Heterosexual people who are married with children and then forsake their marriage for a homosexual relationship have made a choice to do so. And the fluidity in sexual orientation, found especially in lesbians but also in gays, speaks to the choice of sexual orientation available to many homosexual people, at least until their late teens (1). And where there is choice there is also the potential for change.

There is also reason to believe that, especially in the early days of one’s homosexual activity, the sexual pleasure experienced in homosexual encounters intensifies and reinforces same-sex attractions and sexual feelings, making it more difficult for any heterosexual inclinations to be sensed or expressed later on (2). At this point, homosexuality has become strongly established and sexual attractions, feelings, fantasies and behaviors are exclusively homosexual. Apparently, there is virtually no longer any role of choice involved, barring spontaneous change (3) or effective therapy (4).

The role of choice in the development of homosexuality has been investigated scientifically for more than two decades, but there have been severe limitations on the accuracy and reliability of the results because of inadequate sample sizes, unreliable sampling methods and the limited scope of the sampled populations (5, 6). Those limitations changed considerably in 2010 with publication of the results of a large, probability study of the USA population with respect to self-identified homosexuality (5). In this study, 12.1% of gay men, 31.6% of lesbians, 61.7% of bisexual men and 59.5% of bisexual women reported a small to large amount of perceived choice in their sexual orientation. This is the largest and most reliable scientific study to date of the role of choice in the development of homosexuality, and it revealed that, while a large majority of exclusively homosexual people do not believe choice had a significant role in their development of homosexuality, many of them believe it did. And a clear majority of bisexual men and women claim that there was a significant role of choice in the development of their sexual orientation. So, we now have scientifically sound evidence, coming from homosexuals themselves, for a significant role of choice in homosexuality. That said, we should keep in mind that the practice of homosexuality always involves a choice, as I implied in the opening paragraph.

Since choice 1) often is perceived to be a factor in the development of exclusive homosexuality, especially in women, and 2) always is involved in the practice of homosexuality, it should be of no surprise that the best evidence available on sexual orientation change efforts shows that both secular and religious therapy programs designed to help dissatisfied homosexuals overcome their homosexuality have success rates in the 25%-30% range (4). For these ex-homosexual people, homosexuality was not immutable. Rather, they chose to overcome it and did.

(Note: It is important to keep in mind that the summary data cited above on the role of choice in the development of homosexuality, despite being reported by individuals, applies directly only to the respective populations of the subjects in the studies and not necessarily to any one individual. Each person’s sexual orientation experience is unique to that person.)

References Cited:

  1. Whitehead, N. and B. Whitehead. 2012. Chapter 12. Can sexual orientation change? (click HERE)
  2. Aist, J. 2012. Are Homosexuals Really Born Gay? (click HERE)
  3. Aist, J. 2012. Spontaneous Change in Sexual Orientation: It Does Happen! (click HERE) 
  4. Aist, J. 2012. Homosexuality: Good News! (click HERE) 
  5. Herek, G.M., et al. 2010. Demographic, Psychological, and Social Characteristics of Self-Identified Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults in a US Probability Sample. Sex Res Soc Policy 7:176-200. 
  6. Diamond, L.M. and C.J. Rosky. 2016. Scrutinizing Immutability: Research on Sexual Orientation and U.S. Legal Advocacy for Sexual Minorities. J Sex Res 53:363-391.

 (To read more of my articles on homosexuality, click HERE)

The Mechanics of Prayer

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The Mechanics of Prayer

James R. Aist

“Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” – (Matthew 6:10)

In the model for prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples, Jesus said “…your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” That is a powerful prayer that all born-again Christians can agree on. Won’t it be wonderful when that prayer is fully manifested on the earth, when Jesus comes and removes all wickedness and all evildoers? But, what are we to do in the “here and now”? Is there some way that we can call down the will and the power of God to deal with our needs and troubles in this fallen world until Jesus comes again? The answer, of course, is yes, we can pray. Many true and helpful things have been said and written about prayer, but, out of all that, what I want us to focus on for a few moments is the mechanism of prayer, or, how prayer works. And there are some very clear prerequisites for effectual prayer given in the Bible.

The most overarching prerequisite for effectual prayer is righteousness. James declared that “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much” (James 5:16). And John strongly confirms this point: “We know that God does not listen to sinners. But if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31). So, be diligent to obey the will of God in your daily life. That brings us to the second prerequisite for effectual prayer.

Concerning God, John wrote, “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). For our prayers to be effective then, we must pray according to God’s will, which He will reveal to us if we are listening. We really wouldn’t want it any other way, would we? To pray effectively, then, we must pray with the heart and the mindset of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed. “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Next, let’s consider some things Jesus had to say about effectual prayer.

In Matthew 18:19-20, Jesus said this to His disciples “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are assembled in My name, there I am in their midst.” Thus, praying with at least one “prayer partner” is the third prerequisite for effectual prayer.

Now, let’s turn to something Jesus said to His disciples that speaks more directly and instructively about the mechanics of prayer per se. He said, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). When one reads this verse in the immediate context of Matthew 17-19, it becomes obvious that in verse 18, Jesus is giving us an insight into how prayer works: we continue the process by praying to God in heaven (binding and loosing on earth) according to His revealed word to us; then God answers from heaven (binding and loosing in heaven) and accomplishes on earth what we prayed for. Moreover, we see this same insight concerning binding and loosing on earth identified as “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 16:19, where Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Jesus’ use here (Matthew 16:19) of the exact same phraseology that He uses in Matthew 18:17-19 identifies this binding and loosing on earth as relating specifically to prayer.

What, then, are “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”? They are not hand tools (keys) by which the gates of heaven are locked and unlocked, as some have imagined. Rather, in view of Jesus words referenced above, the keys of the kingdom of heaven are best understood to be insights into to the mechanism by which God’s will is to be accomplished on earth. Put another way, this is how we can get the will and the power of God applied to our earthly needs. So, taken together, these verses indicate that, in order for us to have God’s power applied to our needs on earth through prayer, we should 1) discern the will of God as He reveals it to us, 2) enlist at least one other believer to agree with us in prayer, and 3) pray according to God’s will. Then God in heaven will do on earth, for us, whatever we asked. And this, according to Jesus, is how the will of God will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” The critical – and, perhaps, most insightful – aspects of all of this for our present consideration is that God initiates the process by revealing His will to us, and He has given it to us to then respond with prayer so that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven (cf. Matthew 6:10)!

To summarize briefly, God first reveals His will to us. In response, we pray to God for help, according to His will. From heaven, God hears and responds to our request, unleashing His power on earth on our behalf. In this way we cooperate with God in accomplishing His will on earth. We have the very “keys of the kingdom of heaven” in our hands, and it is up to us to follow through with prayer, as Jesus taught us to do. God never leaves us to fend for ourselves, but is “… our refuge and strength, a well-proven help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). So, let’s be sure to do our part in this process; that is, listen and pray.

Recommended reading:

Nee, Watchman. 1995. The Prayer Ministry of the Church. Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA. pp. 35-37.

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

Why Must Christians Be Judged on the Day of the Lord?

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Why Must Christians Be Judged on the Day of the Lord?

James R. Aist

“…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this comes the judgment…” – Hebrews 9:27

The Bible refers to two different judgments, both presided over by Christ, whereby all mankind will be judged. At the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), non-Christians will be judged, found guilty of their sins and condemned to hell (the Lake of Fire). But, it is at the Judgment (or, Bema) Seat of Christ that Christians will be judged (2 Corinthians 5:10). Have you ever wondered why born-again Christians will be judged? After all, Jesus died to pay the price for our sins, and God has forgiven them, right? So, what is left to be judged? Answers to these questions can be found in the unique nature and purpose of the Judgment/Bema Seat of Christ, the judgment reserved for all true believers.

There are four fundamental, biblical facts that must first be set forth before one can understand why Christians must be judged. First, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Second, all of our actions – whether good or bad – are recorded in heaven and are, in some way, attached to our account in the Book of Works (Revelation 20:12). Third, God does not allow any bad or evil thing to enter heaven (Psalm 5:4; Revelation 21:27). And fourth, the Judgment/Bema Seat of Christ is for Christians only and will not be a judgment of our sins – which were judged and punished on the cross – but a judgment of our “good” works (e.g., Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10) after we were saved. Can you see already where I am going with this?

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

This verse from 1 John is often quoted as a proof verse for the doctrine of forgiveness of sins, as well it should be. But why did John tack on “…and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”? What’s that about, anyway? After our sins are forgiven, what is the unrighteousness from which we still need to be cleansed?

I suggest that this unrighteousness is the stain or record of unrighteousness that is attached to some of our efforts to build on the foundation that Jesus laid (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) and that remains in the Book of Works (Revelation 20:12) until we pass through the Judgment/Bema Seat of Christ. Jesus referred to this judgment in Revelation 22:12, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me to give to each one according to his work.” The Apostle Paul described the process of this judgment in this way: “For no one can lay another foundation than that which was laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or stubble, each one’s work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If anyone’s work which he has built on the foundation endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss. But he himself will be saved, still going through the fire” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Thus, I propose that the purposes of the judgment that Christians will undergo between death and heaven (Hebrews 9:27) are to 1) purify them from all unrighteousness pertaining to their works that do not survive the test, and 2) reward them for their works that do survive the test. Once purified, they can now pass into heaven with their good works without bringing any unrighteousness with them.

Paul used the analogy of the well-known (at that time) process of purifying precious metals with refining fire (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) to help us understand the nature and purpose of the Judgment/Bema Seat of Christ, and his analogy works very well. Another analogy, perhaps one which is more familiar to us in this day and age, would be a water purification filter. We use such a filter to remove undesirable, chemical contaminants from water while allowing the water itself to pass through freely. More specifically, the contaminants are bound (stuck) to the filter, but the water is not. Thus, when we drink the purified water, we are not contaminating our bodies. Similarly, the Judgment/Bema Seat of Christ “cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), and we can pass through the judgment without contaminating heaven.

So, while we will probably not enjoy having our works exposed and tested in this manner, we should, nonetheless, look forward to this judgment, because that is what will keep heaven pure when we enter into our final and eternal destination. And, we just might receive a reward from Jesus for some of our works!

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)