Joy-Deprived Saints :: By Jonathan Brentner

I know I’m not alone in this. It’s something that’s far too common based on my experience as well as from what others tell me.

We hear excellent presentations of the gospel, but they end without an ending. There’s no mention of eternal life or our glorious hope of resurrected bodies. Yes, sometimes the pastor mentions glory in his concluding prayer or perhaps quotes John 3:16, but what does “glory” or “everlasting life” signify apart from the context of the New Testament? Will we be spirits floating around like Jacob Marley, or will we find ourselves sitting all alone on a cloud with harp in hand? I don’t think so.

The Bible is quite clear about our joyful hope of receiving immortal bodies at Jesus’ appearing (1 Corinthians 15:48-54, Philippians 3:20-21). This is not a fringe teaching, not at all, but it comes from several passages where the wording is unmistakable and cannot be misconstrued to mean anything else than our hope of resurrected bodies like that of our Savior after He rose from the dead.

Scripture tells us that Jesus will appear, hopefully soon, and at that time, He will raise the dead in Christ and catch living believers up to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). It’s then the Lord will give both groups of saints glorified and imperishable bodies. The words of the passages mentioned above refer to the event that today we call the “Rapture!”

The Forgotten Resurrection

I sometimes wonder if pastors who exclude references to our resurrection in their preaching genuinely believe the words of 1 Corinthians 15:19:

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

In the preceding verses, Paul refutes those in Corinth who claimed that there was no such thing as a resurrection (15:12-18). If true, he argues, then we must conclude that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, and our faith is thus “futile.” The end of such a dire possibility is that the “dead in Christ have perished,” and we who are alive are “most to be pitied” (ESV) or “miserable” (KJV) because our hope doesn’t extend beyond this life (see vv. 18-19).

Paul begins verse 20 with the glorious fact that “Christ has been raised from the dead,” and in 1 Corinthians 15:47-57, he sums up our forever hope with the joyous reality of our resurrection as New Testament saints. In language that can’t be misunderstood to mean anything else, the apostle says there’s coming a time when Jesus will raise the dead with imperishable bodies and, after that, gloriously transform believers still alive at His appearing, the Rapture of His Church.

Paul emphasizes our joyous hope again in Philippians 3:20-21:

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (emphasis added)

Because Jesus rose from the dead, our over-the-top blissful hope is that someday we will possess a glorious body like that of our Savior. The sense of verse 20 is that of an “excited anticipation” of Jesus’ appearing. It signifies a yearning of the soul for the time that Jesus raises the dead in Christ and wholly transforms us with immortality. In Romans 8:23, it’s our groaning as we await the future “redemption of our bodies.”

I can’t imagine that Paul preached the Gospel apart from adding context to our hope of eternal life, that of our expectation of glorified bodies at Jesus’ appearing. I explain why I’m so certain of this in The Tragic Result of Divorcing the Rapture from the Gospel.

It’s wonderful to know that because of Jesus, we enjoy complete forgiveness of sins. We all need reminders of God’s grace and steadfast love toward us as well as the anticipation of our future resurrection at Jesus’ appearing, forgotten in most churches today. It’s the latter that comforts our souls as we watch our world descend into violence, lawlessness, and wickedness beyond what we once thought possible.

Throwing Out the Baby with the Bath Water

There’s an old expression that dates all the way back to 1512, “Throwing out the baby with the bath water.” The idea behind the saying is that if part of a concept is good, don’t toss it all away because you think a part of it is bad.

Is this not what many pastors do today? They fear the negative results of mentioning the dreaded word “Rapture,” oh my, so along with never mentioning Jesus’ future appearing, they also never mention the matter of the resurrection of New Testament saints or the glorious transformation of those who will be alive at the time. Water and baby both go out the window.

One of the reasons that I wrote The Triumph of the Redeemed-An Eternal Perspective that Calms Our Fears in Perilous Times was to provide pastors with a biblical basis for the Rapture from which they could boldly preach about Jesus’ appearing and the over-the-top joyous blessings associated with our receipt of immortal and imperishable bodies. I also wrote to provide a firm biblical foundation for the pre-Tribulation Rapture so that believers might rejoice in what lies ahead for them after the Rapture.

I often wonder why so many pastors refuse to mention our joyous hope of living forever in glorious, resurrected bodies. One could easily emphasize this biblical truth by mentioning you know what.

In my opinion, this results from unbelief. Pastors and teachers immersed in covenant theology must spiritualize a very large number of Old and New Testament passages that teach the restoration of a kingdom for Israel. In doing so, they deny the reality of the Tribulation and Jesus’ thousand-year reign. And because of these errant beliefs, they must find alternate interpretations for passages that refer to Jesus’ appearing as an event separate from the Second Coming.

Some in the covenant theology camp teach that the words in 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 denote the believers’ regeneration rather than our future resurrection. I was totally stunned when I first read this errant interpretation, but to my dismay, this false rendering of these verses has become common in many churches. This goes far beyond forgetting the physical resurrection of the saints; it rather signifies a denial of this cherished belief so prominent in God’s Word. It’s a sanctified version of your “Best Life Now.”

What’s the Big Deal?

At this point, one might ask, “What’s the big deal?” As long as the gospel is proclaimed and people respond, why raise such a fuss?

Yes, the presentation of the gospel is able to yield wonderful results even when it comes without a peep regarding our biblical hope of resurrection bodies. But why can’t the Lord produce at least the same results with the inclusion of our joyous hope?

Why is telling people that Jesus offers them a glorious future with resurrection bodies more offensive than telling them they are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness? What am I not seeing here?

The “big deal” is this: when pastors operate with the illusion that the truths associated with Jesus’ appearing are offensive or divisive to both unbelievers and immature saints, they deprive everyone of hearing the details of our amazing future joy.

Such silence leads to joy-deprived saints who also lack the teaching that the Apostle Paul says enables us to “stand firm” in our faith (Philippians 4:1). The truths associated with a proper rendering of 1 Corinthians 15:48-57 encourage us to remain faithful in serving the Lord (see verse 58).

Furthermore, silence regarding our eternal bliss often stems from more serious issues than simply a fear of rocking the boat on Sunday mornings. Covenant theology places Jesus’ return in the far distant future, which has the logical outcome of causing believers to focus on the things of this world rather than Jesus’ appearing.

Because Covenant theology erroneously exalts the church as God’s kingdom, over time, it leads directly to preterism and dominion theology. These heretical teachings fall far, far short of offering the joy that comes with a solid biblical understanding of our hope in Jesus’ imminent return to take His Church to glory.

This is my complaint about those that proclaim the gospel without mentioning eternal life, or perhaps saving it for the concluding prayer (when most people are thinking about what to eat rather than the words of the prayer). Such presentations deprive the saints of hearing about the wondrous hope set before them, our anchor that holds within the veil during the fiercest of storms of this life (Hebrews 7:18-19).

It’s not that we can’t experience joy apart from hearing about our hope; it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. However, it helps tremendously to know that we will live forever in bodies that will never age, get sick, die, or experience any of the discomforts of this life. These thoughts bring joy to my heart every day!

Why do so many pastors hide these glorious truths from the saints and deny them the refreshing of their souls that comes from our joyous anticipation of glory?

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