LIFE PRESERVERS

God’s life preserver has nothing to do with escaping what is to come. He has designed everything for you to be able to survive the Great Tribulation, not run from it.

We know that what we call a life preserver is actually a personal flotation device.

NOTE: For a video of this message, click here.

NOTE: For a podcast of this message, click here.

A personal flotation device is designed to keep you afloat in the water long after you have lost your ability to keep yourself from drowning.

As a Boy Scout and as a member of the Red Cross, I was taught life saving techniques for drowning victims as well as other traumatic injuries.

In the event of an emergency situation, I could be of assistance in preserving someone’s life.

All of that is only for an individual basis—preserving the life of an individual facing a life-threatening situation.

In our scripture lesson today (Gen. 18:20-32), we hear about Abraham trying to preserve the life of an entire city.

Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry,
and I will speak again but this once.
Suppose ten are found there.”
He answered,
“For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”
Gen 18:32

This happened when Abraham heard that God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham began a negotiation with the Lord by asking if He would destroy the city if 50 righteous people were in it.

He was doing this because his nephew Lot and his family had chosen to settle in Sodom.

As we see in this verse, Abraham kept up his negotiations beginning with 50 and taking it all the way down to 10.

Why he didn’t ask if God would spare the city for just one righteous person, is a mystery.

Maybe he realized he was pushing his luck with the Lord. I don’t know.

Anyway, we know the story.

There were not 10 righteous people found within the gates of Sodom and God destroyed the city.

However, He did warn Lot before carrying out His plan, and Lot was able to escape—but not without tragedy.

He lost his wife because she was very much attached to her way of life within that city.

There is much to learn from Lot’s wife and her attachment, but I am fascinated with another aspect of the story.

God was willing to preserve the city with all its wickedness if only 10 righteous people were found within the gates.

Those 10 people would have preserved the lives of their neighbors without even realizing it—without doing anything special.

Their very existence would have preserved the lives of their neighbors.

But, such is not always the case.

Sometimes, people are taken away even though righteousness may dwell next door.

I want us to look at some examples of this from the scriptures.

Maybe by doing this, we can gain some understanding of the not-to-distant future.

Let’s begin with Noah whom Peter calls a preacher of righteousness.

if he did not spare the ancient world,
but preserved Noah,
a herald of righteousness, with seven others,
when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
2Pe 2:5

We do not find any place in the stories where Noah ever preached anything using words.

Apparently, his life was a message as Saint Francis is quoted as saying.

“Preach the gospel at all times 
and if necessary, 
use words.” 
Francis of Assisi

What happened?

Everyone knows the story. Noah was preserved while everyone else was destroyed.

They had a life preserver living among them, but they paid no attention.

The life preserver survived the flood.

In our story of Sodom and Gomorrah, we find that Lot was preserved from the destruction.

and if he rescued righteous Lot,
greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked
2Pe 2:7

In this section of Peter’s letter, he is writing that God knows how to preserve the godly from the day of trial or disaster intended for a larger segment of the population.

The trial, or the test, or the tribulation may come upon a particular area, but God has already planned the deliverance of His people before the disaster strikes.

There are numerous promises in the scriptures about this, and there are two by which I continuously live.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Isa 26:3

Every movie, every book, every story about disaster and tragedy tells us that life-saving decisions are not made by those who are in a panic.

Panic and fear renders the mind incapable of clear thinking.

It is only the peaceful mind that is able to see through all the chaos and come up with a plan that will preserve life.

Another promise is found in the Psalms.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
Psa 91:7-8

The entire 91st psalm is a promise to those who put their trust in the Lord.

I have highlighted only two verses which summarize all the other verses.

You would do well to read this psalm on a regular basis until it becomes a part of your being.

These stories and others have a bearing on what we believe about what the future holds for the people of God.

Many have made their focus the fact that Noah was taken out of the flood and that Lot was removed from Sodom.

From those two stories have come some interesting scenarios about how God is going to preserve us during a time known as the Great Tribulation.

Many Christians today apparently do not believe that God is willing, or that He has the power to preserve His people during a time of great trials—especially when it comes to the time known as The Great Tribulation.

This phrase—The Great Tribulation—is used only three times in the NT.

Once in Matthew and twice in the Revelation.

Based on these three references and other verses from the Revelation, people believe that there will be all kinds of chaos, confusion, turmoil and trouble in the earth.

It will be so bad that no one will be able to withstand the troubles.

And since God is not able to preserve and protect His people from these troubles, He will take them away in an event known as the Rapture.

Is it possible that this is purely an American concept born of our weakness for enduring pain?

Try telling the people of Uganda that they will be raptured before the Great Tribulation as they cradle their young in their lap while they slowly die of starvation.

Tell the Ukrainian people that they will be raptured before the world descends into chaos.

Tell the Pakistani people who watch their neighbors being beheaded that God will remove them before the Great Tribulation.

These are not one-off events like our recent floods in Virginia, or the mass shootings scattered around our country.

This is their everyday life and has been for a seriously long time.

People who believe in this Great Escape theory will retort that none of this is worldwide yet.

While I would agree with that, I also agree that the Scriptures teach something entirely opposite from any idea of being snatched out of this world before trouble strikes.

Our Scripture Lesson shows one instance of this, but it is not the only one.

What about when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, living in the land of Goshen during the 10 terrible plagues Moses declared for the Egyptians?

The people of God were protected in the midst of the turmoil.

What about the three Hebrew children being thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar?

The king was so enraged by their disobedience that he had the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, but the three boys danced in the flames.

We also know that though three went in, there were four in the fire.

One of them touched the fire so that no one was destroyed.

These are all instances of God’s people remaining in the midst of tribulation, but not being touched by it.

These are just illustrations of the truth I am sharing with you, but there are also some plain verses of scripture telling of this truth.

The righteous will never be removed,
but the wicked will not dwell in the land.
Pro 10:30

When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
but the righteous is established forever.
Pro 10:25

for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.
Psa 37:22

The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.
Psa 37:29

There are many more, but since they all say basically the same thing there is no need to read each one.

Each of the verses we just read said that it is the wicked who will be removed from the earth—not the righteous.

Let’s look at a passage from the NT which is used to prove the escape theory.

Then two men will be in the field;
one will be taken and one left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken and one left.
Matt 24:40-41

Cartoons have been drawn and movies have been made showing this scenario of two people engaged in daily life.

One gets raptured away to be with the Lord, and the other is left to go through the Great Tribulation.

This is simply another instance of taking a verse completely out of its context and trying to make it say something other than what was intended.

Let’s back up a couple of verses where Jesus is talking about the days of Noah.

For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
until the day when Noah entered the ark,
and they were unaware until the flood came
and swept them all away,
so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Mat 24:38-39

The KJV translates “swept” as ‘took’—the flood took them all away.

That makes it easy to turn the verse on its head as Noah being “took.”

So, the one who is taken is portrayed as the righteous one, while the one who is left is wicked.

But, such is not the case.

Noah was preserved throughout the terrible 40-day torrential rains.

The others were destroyed.

Noah was a “life-preserver” for not only his family, but also the entire earth.

The people of God belong to God and to the earth which He has prepared for them.

He is in no way going to abandon His creation to let it suffer at the hands of those who rebel against His authority.

Let’s look at one more passage which teaches this same thing from a different angle.

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
He who has ears, let him hear.
Mat 13:40-43

This seems to be the exact opposite of the rapture theory.

This imaginative theory says that the righteous are removed and darkness takes over.

This parable of Jesus says the wicked are removed, and then the righteous shine.

Our American way of thinking that God will remove us before the trouble strikes is based more on our fear of trouble than it is based on confidence in God.

Our confidence should be in Christ and His word.

All we need is just one touch from Him and our life will be preserved through any hardship.

One more promise from the Lord and we can quit.

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance,
I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world,
to try those who dwell on the earth.
Rev 3:10

Yes, there are many who believe that the way the Lord will keep us from the hour of trial is by removing us to heaven.

Since there is no biblical example that could indicate this, I hope you can begin to see the false hope that has been preached as the Rapture.

May you begin to place your hope and trust in the Lord Jesus instead of in some doctrine, for He is well able to keep you safe and sound from all harm.

THE PRE-EMINENCE OF CHRIST

Jesus is not simply a historical figure who lived some 2000 years ago. He is the exact representation of God. Anything you believe about God must be found in Jesus, or it is a faulty concept.

Jesus is not simply a historical figure who lived some 2000 years ago. He is the exact representation of God. Anything you believe about God must be found in Jesus, or it is a faulty concept.

NOTE—For a video of this message, click here.

NOTE—For a podcast of this message, click here.

Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians to combat Gnosticism, which was beginning to creep into the churches which had more of a Greek-type population instead of a Jewish background.

Judaism was the problem with the Galatian churches, where teachers were trying to bring people under some form of Jewish law in order to be saved.

GNOSTICISM was a prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin.

Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, they called the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote supreme divine being.

They believed that only an esoteric knowledge of Jesus could enable the redemption of anyone.

It is that esoteric aspect which is the foundation of almost every cult.

Esoteric is a word not in our common everyday language. A good synonym might be “mysterious”.

ESOTERIC
intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people
with a specialized knowledge or interest.

For me, Einstein’s theories are esoteric—mysterious.

However, in reference to Christianity, the esoteric knowledge of Christ taught by the Gnostics was, and still is, dangerous to the faith.

I say “still is” because I have encountered this form of knowledge many times in my almost six decades of serving the Lord.

So, Paul wrote this letter which has been preserved for us by the Holy Spirit to give us a clear picture of who Christ is, what He did, and how our salvation is brought about.

Colossians 1:13-22 is such a powerful section of scripture that I am going to do something different today.

We are going through the entire section and highlight the thoughts Paul leaves with us, instead of my normal jumping around through many different verses of scripture.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Col 1:13-14

I Have written on this previously, and I tried to show you that our salvation—from beginning to end—is done by God alone.

We have nothing to do with it.

I am not going to belabor that point again, although it does show up again a little later on in this section.

He delivered us and He transferred us.

We didn’t change kingdom allegiance on our own.

He then explains what redemption means—the forgiveness of sins.

Our sins have been forgiven, and you will not see anywhere in this section the necessity of our repentance for that to happen.

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
Col 1:15

Paul begins here to combat one of the basic tenets of the gnostic heresy, which is that Jesus is just a lesser emanation of God.

NO. Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

We see this stated more forcefully by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews.

He is the radiance of the glory of God
and the exact imprint of his nature, …
Heb 1:3

I love the way this is translated by the various Bible translations.

KJV        Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,

NLT  The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God,

NIV  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,

CSB  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature

NET  The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence

RSV  He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature,

Jesus shows us everything we need to know about God.

If our understanding of God is not seen in Jesus, we are looking at a faulty image.

Recall that Jesus said to Philip, “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

As we continue with Paul’s exaltation of Jesus

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–
all things were created through him and for him.
Col 1:16

The Gnostics believed that because of the holiness and purity of God, there was no way He could have directly created this earth in the unwholesome condition it is in.

They taught that only spiritual things were good and that material things were bad.

But, here Paul reveals their lie and says that absolutely everything was created by God through Jesus.

Everything—both the invisible or spiritual and the visible or material.

Continuing now

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Col 1:17

Gnosticism taught that since the world was created apart from God’s direct involvement, that after it was created, He simply let go of any and all concern.

This is what Paul is attacking here by saying that all things are held together in Christ.

It is difficult to imagine the chaos that would be in this world if God did not have His hand on us.

Self-destruction would have occurred long ago.

And now Paul begins to add a different angle to the reality of Christ.

And he is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in everything he might be preeminent.
Col 1:18

We see that Jesus is the head of the body, and that body is the church.

He is also the firstborn from the dead.

This phrase often causes concern for people, because they are thinking of at least two instances before Christ’s resurrection of men who were raised from the dead.

One was when a dead man was thrown into a grave with the bones of Elisha. There was still so much life left in just Elisha’s bones, that the dead man jumped up out of the grave and ran away. (2 Kings 13:21)

A more famous resurrection would be that of Lazarus, the friend of Jesus whom He called forth from the grave. (John 11:14ff)

With these in mind, the question becomes how can Jesus be the firstborn from the dead.

Jesus still lives.

All the others lived again to die again.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
Col 1:19

This is why Christ is preeminent in all things.

All the fulness of God was pleased to dwell in Him.

We do not have that option.

We each carry aspects of God and His fulness, but we do not contain all His fulness.

As stated earlier in this section, everything we can know about God is revealed in Jesus.

If it is not in Him, then it is a faulty concept.

and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross.
Col 1:20

If you would take this verse and meditate on its meaning and ramifications for a few days, much of your theology could possibly be challenged.

Through the work of Jesus when He was on earth, God reconciled all things to Himself.

All things.

We have been taught a backward application of the cross.

We have been told that because of the cross, we now have the opportunity to become reconciled to God.

We need to do this because God is mad at us, but He will quit being angry if we will admit our sin and accept Jesus.

That is not what is stated here.

That reconciliation is a done deal. Peace has been declared.

God is not angry with us.

Paul continues

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
Col 1:21

Those of you who have been listening to me for a while know that I have taught unless God initiates the action, there is nothing we can do towards our understanding of Him and His ways.

This verse is a prime example for me.

I taught for years about our being enemies of God.

We were alienated from the things of God and hostile to the things of God.

At least that is the way it appeared to us.

A careful reading of this verse, though, shows that were only alienated in our minds.

It was because of the way we thought about what God required of us.

We only thought that we were separated from God.

But, we weren’t.

Never have been.

Once again, it is due to a faulty understanding of a single verse of Scripture.

but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Isa 59:2

We have taken this to mean that God removes Himself from us due to our sin.

Not true.

Let’s consider the first sin ever committed.

Of course, I am talking about Adam and Eve in the Garden.

When they ate of the forbidden fruit, what happened?

And he said,
“I heard the sound of you in the garden,
and I was afraid,
because I was naked,
and I hid myself.”
Gen 3:10

Adam did the hiding, not God.

God came looking for Adam.

He comes looking for us, because we have separated in our minds by our faulty thinking.

But that is not the end of the story. Paul continues

he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death,
in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
Col 1:22

There is that word “reconcile” again.

And again, it is what God has done for us and to us without any effort on our part.

This is explained more fully and plainly in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2Co 5:18-19

What I have been declaring to you today cannot be stated more plainly than Paul does here.

It is all from God through Christ.

We have been reconciled to God.

Because He does not count our sins against us.

All that remains is for you to accept that reconciliation by saying “Thank You.”

Let go of your fear of hell, your fear of displeasing the Father.

Accept the fact that there is nothing you can do to make God any happier with you just the way you are.

He loves you.

There is nothing else to say.