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Archive for May 24th, 2011

Lusting for heaven

Ok, we’ve had some fun with Harold Camping over the past few months (and especially last week) and we have mocked his false and baseless teachings but now that it’s clear that he has again misled thousands, it’s time to state some things clearly and one thing in particular, namely this: It is sin to desire that God would snatch you away from this earth to heaven.

Now, that probably sounds like heresy — especially to a generation which has had this perspective drilled into them from their youth (through sermons, music, movies, and books). But, in spite of all that, I stand by it: To be disappointed that you were not raptured out of this world last Saturday evening is sin.

Christians have been given a job to do. We call it the great commission — because it is the greatest privilege and honor that humans could ever have (Matthew 28:18-20). It’s the greatest job in the world: Discipling the nations as witnesses and ambassadors of the King of King and Lord of Lords. Baptizing men and teaching men all the commandments Jesus has given us, calling them to repent of sin and seeing them escape the prison house of Death and enter into the joys of life eternal.

This job is to the most glorious calling any man has ever been given. And it ought be our greatest joy.

So why isn’t it? Why is it that so many Christians sit around filled with longing to leave this world behind? Why do so many apparently despise the great calling they have been given? In large measure, it’s because quacks like Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, Harold Camping and myriads of unknown ministers who have drilled the idea into everyone’s heads that it is better to be in heaven than in “this wicked world.”

George Whitfield once learned a hard lesson about this mistaken attitude from the (by then) old pastor William Tennant. Whitefield was still a young man when he met Tennant along with a group of ministers he was to address. Whitefield began to expound upon the “burden” of laboring in the ministry and of his great longing to be done with his work and go to be with Jesus. He then appealed to the gathered group of ministers if it were not their great comfort that they might soon die and go to be with Christ. Everyone agreed . . . except the oldest among them, William Tennant.

Whitefield turned to him and said, “Well brother Tennant, you are the oldest man amongst us, do you not rejoice to think that your time is so near at hand, when you will be called home and freed from all the difficulties attending this chequered scene?”

Tennant at first refused to reply but after Whitefield pressed him again, he said: “No, sir, it is no pleasure to me at all, and if you knew your duty it would be none to you. I have nothing to do with death; my business is to live as long as I can — as well as I can — and to serve my Lord and Master as faithfully as I can, until he shall think proper to call me home. . . [S]uppose you had hired a man to serve you faithfullly for a given time in a particular service, and he should, without any reason on your part, and before he had performed half his service, become weary of it, and upon every occasion be expressing a wish to be discharged or placed in other circumstances. Would you not call him a wicked and slothful servant and unworthy of the privileges of your employ?”

There you go. That’s the issue here. Jesus has called us to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13-16) — and this requires that we remain on the earth as long as He desires us to remain. We are to disciple the nations and that takes time and patient labor. For us to sit around wishing He would come and relieve us of the responsibility He has given us is to despise His honor and the good of the world.

Is there something wrong with us when we wish we didn’t have to do these things? Is there something wrong with wishing you could be relieved of these responsibilities? Yes. There is something wrong. And it’s called sin.

Rapture fever is sin. It is a Satanic lusting for heaven when Jesus has given us a job to do. If we really loved Him and loved our neighbors like we ought, we’d be thankful for the honor of doing His will, serving those around us, and seeking the welfare of our cities. We’d be concerned to know what He’s revealed and we’d be happy to leave the things He has not revealed with Him. We’d be thankful for the privilege of living in this world as ambassadors for the King.

We have been called to labor with joy and confidence, persevering in season and out, seeking by the power of the Spirit to see the world transformed by the gospel. To lust for heaven when you have this job to do is sin.

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