THE PRINCIPLE OF BEING TOGETHER
Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California
Copyright © 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved
As a mature believer, you will find opportunities to encourage, challenge, comfort, and console other Christians. This encouragement will stimulate them and refresh them just like a cool drink on a hot dry day. That's the way we should be as maturing believers. Your guidance and direction based on divine viewpoint will challenge them to maintain their focus on the Word of God. You cannot isolate yourselves as so many Christians try to do. How can you help other believers if you are never around other believers? We must meet for the intake of the Word of God and the spiritual fellowship the local church provides. Only through this interaction between believers at all levels of spiritual maturity and with different spiritual gifts is there mutual edification of the Body of Christ. This is the fellowship of the Body.
The Fellowship of The Body
Every believer in the Church Age is a member of the Body of Christ. The Body should not be fragmented with each member isolating themselves with his or her own private sources for the intake of the Word of God. Modern electronic devices such as audio or video tape players as well as books, pamphlets and your notes from Bible classes are wonderful means for supplementing your intake of the Word of God. However, these must be connected to a local church with an independent pastor-teacher. The local church provides a unique source of the Word of God with its services, Bible classes, missionary support, and local outreach to the unbeliever. It also provides fellowship and opportunity for social interaction among like-minded believers. You are a part of the Body and you should not isolate yourself from your local church. You should become a very important part of it.
You will never have a chance to encourage someone or to be encouraged unless you spend time with other people. This points out the importance of the fellowship of the Body of Christ. Believers should meet together for the intake of Bible truth. It is not the normal Christian way of life for believers to consistently intake of the Word alone! The apostolic church met every day for intake of the Word and fellowship. The doctrine of the breaking of bread and prayer illustrate this principle of being together. Sunday church services, weekday Bible classes, and fellowship with one another provide opportunities for mutual encouragement.
Home Bible classes can be an important part of any ministry. In home Bible classes, questions can easily be asked after the study time, especially while teaching the basics. Here, people are being introduced to basic Bible truth and have questions. Home Bible classes are more effective when a question and answer period follows the teaching. It is encouraging to see people hungry for the Word of God. Their desire to seek answers from the Bible is important and their pressing questions demand divine viewpoint answers. Fellowship and refreshments provided after Bible classes are a wonderful ministry of encouragement. Here, you can see believers who are together and enjoying each others company. This social interaction demands application of unconditional love. You must maintain a relaxed mental attitude based on the Bible doctrine you have learned. We need to grow in this ministry of encouragement and that is why we must be together. We cannot isolate ourselves and ever be a source of encouragement to other believers.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the source of eternal life. We have everlasting life the moment we receive him as our Savior. The Greek word koinonia means fellowship. You have to be with other believers to have fellowship with them. You cannot maintain an attitude of isolation from other believers, both individually and as a local church. We isolate ourselves from people who need our help. A local church can reach out to believers and unbelievers in their community by making donations to specific people who are known to need help. These donations can be food, clothing, or other help. The local church can reach these people by bringing needed items and giving them Gospel information and other Biblical and church information. This gives people in the local church's area information where the Word of God is taught. People become saved and then seek Bible doctrine at the local church under face-to-face teaching.
This is an encouragement to other people. It's an encouragement to people in the congregation because this way they get the Gospel out to other people. Believers, who are growing spiritually, become motivated by doctrine resident in their souls to volunteer for local outreach ministries like this. Most local churches lack such local outreach ministries because there are too few people in the church who are serving and, therefore, exercising their spiritual gift(s). The "faithful few" serve in church organization, administration, music, teaching and outreach. Most people do not.
In many local churches, it is a common occurrence that only a few believers, motivated by divine truth, financially support the church. Many people are stingy when giving. There is usually a small cadre of people in the church who give, just as there is a small cadre of people in the church who serve. This is a problem. This is because many people just want to come out on Sundays, take in the information, and enjoy a little fellowship with other believers. They want no further involvement with the church. They isolate themselves by this.
When many in a congregation isolate themselves, the local church is not functioning as a team to get the Gospel out. There is a reduced impact on the community and help is not provided as it should be in the community. Through meeting this need in the community, the local church can relate the Gospel and Bible truth to them. This is fellowship. Fellowship is a total partnership. The word means a sharing or a partnership. We are sharing God's thinking and plan for mankind. We share through our priesthood and our ambassadorship. We also share in our fellowship.
These are all wrapped up in the word koinonia. It does not simply refer to social life with other Christians. Social life is part of fellowship as well as a result of fellowship. We all enjoy meaningful social life. It is a great challenge and blessing. Fellowship is for sharing the thinking of God and His purpose for our lives. This is one of the intended functions of our priesthood. Together as a team, we can fulfill our function as ambassadors. That includes encouraging one another. The icing on the cake is the social life that we have together as believers.
The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:2-3)
According to 1 John 1:3, when we are filled with the Spirit, we are in fellowship with the Father and the Son. As Spirit-filled believers, we will begin to understand the role of the Father in His plan as it relates to the Christian way of life. His plan provides all the assets and operational components for our residence in the Fellowship Sphere for Time. In fellowship with the Lord, we come to love and appreciate who and what Christ is. We discover that He meets all of our needs and even sustains the universe.
We also discover, through Bible truth, the fantastic magnitude of what the Lord Jesus Christ did at the time of the Creation. We learn that he just spoke the Word and all came into existence - out of nothing. The entire universe came into being. This included our galaxy and all other galaxies in the universe. Jesus Christ created instantaneously and out of nothing billions and billions of light years of space and everything in it. Therefore, He has the power to meet our needs and to control human history.
Fellowship with God the Father and His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ form the basis for our fellowship with others. This is the emphasis of true fellowship. We cannot have fellowship with one another as a result of our fellowship with the Lord unless we meet together. In fact, the Apostle Paul stated in the Book of Ephesians that the Body of Christ is to grow and edify itself. It is to build itself up in unconditional love for one another based on virtue love for Jesus Christ.
This love for the Lord Jesus Christ coupled with Biblical self-respect and unconditional love for one another gives each believer spiritual autonomy. To do that, each part of the Body must function properly. Each member of the Body of Christ must be built up based on unconditional or impersonal love. Then, through operation of each believer's spiritual gift, each one's respective ministry is performed. Of course, a part of that privilege we have is to encourage one another.
The Importance of Our Meeting Together
There are many words in the New Testament used to describe the functioning Body of Christ and what Christians are to do for one another. Few words are more frequently used than the Greek word for encouragement. The word is parakaleo. Para means along side and kaleo means to call. The literal meaning is to call along side. The interpretive meaning is to call someone to your side to help them or have someone called to your side to help you. The word has the connotation of comfort, encouragement, consolation, challenge, and help.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:16)
The most comprehensive instruction that we have in the New Testament for encouraging one another appears in Hebrews 10. It is a greatly neglected passage. It is important for a proper understanding of confession of sin and its ramifications as well as the doctrine of encouragement.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, (Hebrews 10:19-20)
Our confidence comes from our personal love relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through worship. Worship is the intake and metabolization of Bible truth under the ministry of the filling of the Holy Spirit. We develop a great confidence in God because Jesus Christ took all of our sins upon Himself on the Cross. He bore the sins of the entire human race. That is why we have an eternal relationship with God. He paid the penalty and took our place. By His substitutionary spiritual death, He provided salvation in full. This is why we, as Church Age believers, are eternally members of the Royal Family of God.
We know that the sin problem has been solved and we received Him as our Savior. We then entered into an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. In that relationship, we begin to experience the great stability resulting from confidence in basic Bible truths such as Positional Truth and Eternal Security. Motivated by our confidence in Bible doctrine and our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we begin to grow up spiritually.
and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, (Hebrews 10:21)
Our high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ at the Father's right hand, is our defense attorney and our surety. We know that we are going to be with the Lord forever and we know this because the Lord Jesus Christ is there. He is our guarantee of eternal relationship with God. We have all of this because of our so great and incomparable salvation. We should be challenged by this! This should always be in our thought pattern of the soul.
There should be no hypocrisy in our thinking, but a mental attitude and thought pattern that continually puts doctrine as number one in priority. Our scale of values should always be related to our love relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. He should be first in our priorities. People, circumstances, and details of life should be second. If you put Christ first, He will cause you to follow in His footsteps because He put all other people before himself. Jesus Christ was the servant of Jehovah. You become a servant of God when you follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ. This requires a genuine and sincere heart which is a right lobe of the soul that is loaded with Bible truth so that you can truly help other believers.
having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:22-23)
Hebrews 10:22 refers to confession of sin with a change of mental attitude that goes with bona fide confession. This does not mean with a mental attitude that you won't do it again, but with the mental attitude that you don't want to do it again. With this identification of sins to God the Father and the change of mental attitude regarding that sin, there is forgiveness and cleansing and we are restored to fellowship with the Lord.
Hebrews 10:23 shows the great stability of mentality of the mature believer. Here is a beautiful picture of all the great things that we have by way of salvation. Jesus Christ is our high priest and through spiritual growth we can have great confidence in God. We have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who is totally faithful, trustworthy and dependable. We become faithful as we follow in His steps.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
The phrase "to spur" in Hebrews 10:24 means that we can challenge and motivate other people to have a close walk with the Lord by how we live and by what we say. We can motivate other people by helping them, encouraging them, comforting them, and consoling them. All of this can only occur by attending and serving in your selected local church.
You have the opportunity and responsibility to consistently attend Bible class for the intake of the Word of God. Don't make excuses. Excuses are not bona fide. However, there are justified reasons for not being able to attend Bible class. For example, attending school or work during scheduled Bible classes are legitimate responsibilities that would keep you from church. There are 101 excuses one can cite for not being at Bible class. Your motivation and attitude toward the Word of God will determine whether you create and rationalize "good reasons" for putting other activities before the intake of the Word of God.
From Hebrews 10:25, the phrase "as some are in the habit of doing" refers to the backsliding or reversionistic believer with a negative attitude. The phrase "but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching" refers to the imminency of the Rapture or the Day of Christ. You should think about encouraging someone today, because you might not be here tomorrow. That is why the Apostolic Age, the early church, had such a tremendous impact in their witness and testimony. Everywhere they went, people said, "see how they love one another." This was their encouragement, caring, and helping one another in action. It was because of the imminency of the Rapture. It was very real to them. The Lord could come at any moment. Therefore, they were going to be on their toes for every opportunity to help a fellow believer. This is a part of our ambassadorial action.
This is the metabolized or epignosis doctrine - the full knowledge of the doctrine. This is the doctrine related to confidence, assurance, and stability of mentality. This is the doctrine that allows us to encourage and help one another by being in the local church. We gain the full knowledge of the Word by attending Bible class. When we choose not to go to church, we are putting other things higher in priority than the regular, consistent intake of the Word of God. When we do this, our confession of known sins while knowingly omitting this one sin of negative volition to Bible doctrine results in no restoration to fellowship or filling of the Holy Spirit. You must have a change of mental attitude with regard to attendance at the local church. When you do, you will confess it as sin and fellowship will be restored. The Word of God commands us to attend the local church. Verse 25 makes it very clear that it is a command to all believers. It is not an option, it is an obligation!
The application to the Hebrew Christians at that time was to not go into the Jerusalem temple. They were not to replace meeting for the intake of Bible doctrine at the local church with going into the Jerusalem temple. That was the shadow worship. The shadow worship was all fulfilled in the person and work of Christ. They were to live in the reality of the Church Age. They were to separate from the Jerusalem temple and not give up meeting together in Christian worship by going back into Judaistic worship. This also relates to us today.
The phrase "let us not give up meeting together" in Hebrews 10:25 means it is not valid to stay home and listen to a tape, read a book, or to be out on the golf course, or at the beach when you could be in Bible class. This is not a legalistic standard. It is a mandate command from the Word of God that we are to meet together. Trying to learn Bible truth at home alone, with your tape recorder and your books when you could be at Bible class in the local church, is willfully disobeying this command and causes you to stay out of fellowship. You have the full knowledge that you should not stay away from Bible class at the local church. If you reject that doctrine, then your confession of all known sins while excluding this one known sin means your confession of sin is unacceptable to God. The Holy Spirit will not ever be in control of your soul if unconfessed sin still resides there. It also keeps you from being in a position where someone can encourage you, help you, challenge you, comfort you, and console you. The Word of God says don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together. If you do, you are sinning willfully.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, (Hebrews 10:26)
The phrase "no sacrifice for sins is left" in Hebrews 10:26 means that Jesus Christ was the only sacrifice for sins on the cross and he died for all of your sins which is called Unlimited Atonement. It is important to understand that all of the sins you commit after salvation are forgiven with restoration to fellowship on the basis of confessing with a correct mental attitude. If it is your full intent to go out and commit the same sin again, then this constitutes a mental attitude sin and will prevent restoration to fellowship. If there is no change of mental attitude (repentance) toward committing the sin, then you are just playing a game with God. You must acknowledge or cite ALL KNOWN SINS as transgressions against God and have the mental attitude that you need the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to help you from committing the sin again.
It is understood that some people cannot make it to Bible class consistently because of school, work or some other legitimate reason. Some people can make it to all the classes. For those who cannot, tapes of Bible classes are available for makeup purposes. If your priorities have doctrine first and you want to obey the entire Word of God, then you will make it to Bible class whenever possible. If you have selective obedience to the Word of God, you are not obeying it at all. You, as a believer, are commanded to obey the entire counsel of the Word of God - every mandate command. If you have the epignosis knowledge of Bible truth and you do not obey it, then you do not reside in the Power Sphere for Time - you remain out of fellowship.
You can relate this to any sin whether a mental attitude sin or a sin of the tongue. If you have a propensity to gossip and malign and you realize it is wrong and a sin, you simply cite or acknowledge it as so to The Father. You are then restored to fellowship. However, if you immediately get the phone and call your friend to "discuss" the faults and failures of Edna, or Susie, or Ezmarellda, then you are immediately back out of fellowship. If it was your full intent to continue gossiping while you were "confessing" known sins to the Father, the immediate timing of this indicates there was no change of mental attitude and thus, no restoration to fellowship. You should not tell God that you will never sin again. That is not realistic. What is important is the attitude that you recognize it as sin and do not want to do it again. This is the change of mental attitude or repentance.
In salvation, acknowledgment that you are spiritually lost with belief in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross is the act of repentance. In confession of sin, acknowledgment of sin as against God and belief that fellowship with the Holy Spirit will be restored if your mental attitude is correct is true repentance. The same principle applies in salvation and in spirituality. This is not adding works to confession of sin. This is simply the other side of the coin. Correct restoration to fellowship is using confession, not as a license to sin, but as a license to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. We serve the Lord Jesus Christ by encouraging one another as He encouraged people during His incarnation.
Hebrews 10:26 commands us to be an encouragement to others. This is our ambassadorial action as a result of our spiritual growth. If there is little spiritual growth because we put things in life ahead of face-to-face teaching, then we remain under divine discipline. This is seen in the context of verse 27.
but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:27)
For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." (Hebrews 10:30)
Does Hebrews 10:30 mean the Lord will judge the unbeliever? The Lord will judge the unbeliever at the Great White Throne Judgement following the Millennium. He will judge their unbelief in Jesus Christ, NOT their sins. All sins have been judged and paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. Here, it means the Lord will judge His people - believers only. This is divine discipline. This is the way it is throughout the entire chapter. This is a very important chapter in conveying the whole picture of the doctrine of confession of sin. It is also important for our challenge to be together to encourage one another.
If believers "give up meeting together" and go their own self-centered way with their "me first" attitude, how are they ever going to have normal spiritual growth with other people encouraging them? Every believer has been encouraged by some other believer at some time, either by a friend, a loved one, or a relative. That encouragement has helped each of us to maintain our focus on the intake and application of God's Word. We must realize that believers cannot grow spiritually as they ought to in isolation from one another. We cannot live our lives in a vacuum.
Experiential Christianity involves a uniquely personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship includes the capacity to love Him and to be occupied with Him. It is a personal relationship and a corporate relationship and experience. Your ambassadorship includes interacting with believers and helping and encouraging them. This concept is emphasized in 1 John 1:1.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1)
1 John 1:1 refers to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thomas touched the nail scars and thrust his hand into the wound in the side of the Lord Jesus. This is the testimony of the Apostle John. He was an eyewitness to the entire ministry of the incarnation, the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection and the ascension. He is talking about the Word of Life which is a title for the Lord Jesus. The Greek word LOGOS refers to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Living Word. The Lord Jesus Christ is the one who gives us life. This life is not only eternal life, but an abundant life.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)
The "full" life in John 10:10 is achieved through spiritual growth coupled with our interaction with other believers who help, challenge and encourage us. The witness of their life and the witness of their lips is an encouragement to us. What an encouragement this can be through the years! Pastor-teachers who have had the privilege of being under the ministry of great Bible teachers are encouraged and challenged to study and teach. For example, Dr. Charles Lee Fineberg was the toughest professor I ever had in seminary, but I'm thankful for him. He was an encouragement to me to study then and that encouragement has lasted even to this day. R.B. Thieme, Jr. of Berachah Church in Houston, Texas said the hardest professor he ever had in his academic experience was Dr. Fineberg who taught him Hebrew at Dallas Theological Seminary. This is a great example of how teachers can be a tremendous encouragement and challenge to their students.
The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee presented doctrine in such a simple format that anyone could understand. Keeping it simple was always his motto. There is probably no Bible teacher of our generation that has been more honored than J. Vernon McGee. This is an example of the abundant life. Other believers in our lives can encourage us to hang in there with the Word so we can receive the abundant life.
The Three-fold Purpose of Encouragement
As we fulfill our ministry of encouragement, we see more clearly the purpose of encouragement. The purpose of encouragement is three-fold. When we are together, we encourage each other in faith. When we are together, we encourage each other in hope. When we are together, we encourage each other in love. The goals for Christians who meet together regularly and encourage one another from a divine viewpoint are discussed below. The three-fold purpose of encouragement involves faith, hope which is absolute confidence, and love which is unconditional virtue love.
let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)
Hebrews 10:22 tells us to have a non-hypocritical thought pattern of the soul with true motivation and a true scale of values. This means to have a mental attitude with true norms and standards based upon the Word of God. This means divine viewpoint from metabolized doctrine resident in your thinking. This is a "sincere heart in full assurance of faith." As we continue to meet together and encourage one another, we should grow in faith. The Greek word pistis here emphasizes doctrine producing faith. The word pistis is the full confidence of doctrine which is the source of our faith. Remember, it takes your positive faith response to the Gospel to be eternally saved. This faith is only a little bit more than no faith at all. Faith is an absolute. You cannot measure it by volume or weight. You either have faith, or you do not.
To receive eternal salvation from God, you simply say, "I believe in Christ for salvation." You don't have to say anything less. You dare not say anything more. You do not say, "I believe in Christ and acknowledge his lordship and commit and yield and surrender and promise to give two million dollars to the church." You must simply believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That just requires just a little bit of faith. Following salvation, understanding and using all of the rationales of faith-rest requires knowledge of doctrine upon doctrine. It takes time for a "babe in Christ" to become a "man of God" who understands the full function of the faith-rest life. You have to understand what the Word of God has to say about the Sustaining Grace rationale, the Confession of Sin rationale whenever necessary, the Plan of God rationale, and the Essence of God rationale. That requires spiritual growth under the Word of God.
It is encouraging to each of us to trust the Lord and to have a deeper faith in Him. It is also encouraging in our spiritual growth to meet together as like-minded believers and relate divine viewpoint and our doctrinal application to experience. A growing and deepening faith-rest reflects that the thinking of the Lord is not merely a collection of academic ideas. If we understand and use the faith-rest rationales, although God is an invisible spirit, His thoughts and principles become more real to us than our surroundings. We can then begin to understand Him with a correct emotional response. Therefore, when we gather regularly in the local church, we are to encourage one another to approach the Lord in this way. We are to trust Him for every detail of our lives through the faith-rest life. By doing so, we grow together in our faith. This is a powerful form of encouragement.
Believers should grow together in hope. This is a part of encouragement. Spiritual growth produces stability of mentality. Knowing and loving the Lord results in great stability in the thought pattern of the soul. When something bad happens, you might be disappointed, but you don't become "totally bummed out," discouraged, or dejected.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
I was talking with someone recently that mentioned they were very depressed and felt no one really cared for them. He felt that people listen to him only because they have to and don't really want him near them. This type of attitude, if not turned, can be very tragic. I tried to relate the fact that as we grow spiritually, we have times of disappointment, but we should not have perpetual discouragement. We are to have our eyes on the Lord, not people, things, self, or circumstances. With our eyes on the Lord, we have stability of mentality. This is that hope or confidence being built up. This is holding unswervingly to the hope we profess. Our Lord is faithful, trustworthy and dependable.
Our faith is produced by mutual encouragement, as is our hope or confidence. Where faith relates more to the present and in whom we believe, hope relates more to the future and what we believe. Hope is the result of metabolized Bible truth in the soul that enables you to love the Lord Jesus Christ and to have confidence in Him. This does not include confidence in other people or self. If you have confidence in other people or yourself, you will be disillusioned when they fail or when you fail. However, we should have a trust for fellow believers who we know are growing spiritually. We should have a trust tempered with the knowledge that they have an old sin nature and are going to fail just as we have an old sin nature and are going to fail. Application of Bible truth means we are not "shot down" because we love one another unconditionally under the filling of the Holy Spirit. We must have absolute confidence in God. Although confidence is built upon faith, it is possible to be strong in faith but to be weak in hope. This is illustrated in the Word of God.
In the early part of the Church Age, we know that every day they gathered for the intake of the Word of God. Every day they encouraged each other. As a result of this, they grew in faith, love, and hope. Here is normal spiritual growth for the Christian congregation in Thessalonica.
In the entire book of 2 Thessalonians, there is no mention of hope. They had a decrease in hope or their confidence in God. Why? They accepted false doctrine. They accepted false teaching regarding Eschatology which deals with prophecy or future events. Some false teachers came along and taught them that Nero was the Anti-Christ and that they were in the Tribulation period. This meant that they would probably be martyred and that the Lord was not going to come back until the end of the Tribulation period.
The imminency of the Rapture is not a meaningful doctrine unless you believe that the Rapture terminates the Church Age. It is not meaningful unless you believe the Church Age ends when the last member of the Body becomes a member of the Body by receiving Christ as Savior. It is not meaningful unless you believe that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation. The false teachers told them that they were already in the Tribulation period. What happened? It destroyed their hope. How can you think of the Rapture as a blessed hope, a comforting hope, a purifying hope if you're already in the Tribulation period?!
They said Nero is the Anti-Christ. Of course, he was actually a type or foreshadow of the Anti-Christ as many of the evil emperors of the Roman Empire were. They fit the picture of what the Man of Sin, the ruler of the Restored Roman Empire, will do in the Tribulation period. The believers in Thessalonica started with accurate doctrine and accepted the information concerning the Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church. They believed that the Man of Sin would not be revealed until after the Rapture of the Church - at the beginning of the Tribulation period. Then, false teachers came along. They said they had Epistles from the Apostle Paul himself that said that was not right and they were living in the Tribulation period. They said the Rapture was not going to occur until the end of the Tribulation when Nero, as the Man of Sin and ruler of the Restored Roman Empire, would kill them all. The result was no hope, confidence or assurance, because it was false doctrine.
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
The Bible clearly tells us in many passages that the Rapture of the Church is to be our blessed hope. It is to be our comforting, encouraging, stimulating, and challenging hope. When the last member of the Body receives Christ and we all go up, that is the Rapture. Then we have the Tribulation period of about seven years on the earth followed by the Second Advent. At the Rapture, Jesus Christ comes FOR His saints. At the Second Advent, He comes WITH His saints. This is the clear cut teaching of the Word of God. You can never have confidence in God when you receive and believe false doctrine - ANY type of false doctrine. It is the intake and metabolization of accurate doctrine that enables you to love Jesus Christ and to have Him as your hope and your confidence. The quintessence of our hope or confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ is the fact that the Rapture will occur as written in 1 Thessalonians 4. This is the Rapture of the Church which is our blessed and comforting hope.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)
When you realize that the Lord could come for you at any instant, you will have a lifestyle of righteousness and holy living as a result of the filling of the Spirit and your growth under the Word of God. You are going to make sure that your life is above board from every standpoint. You will separate from those with no integrity or honor in their business or personal relationships. You will realize that the Lord more than takes up the slack and gives you every blessing that He wants you to receive. This is our confidence. As Paul stated in 1 Thessalonians, the Thessalonians were strong in faith and hope. In 2 Thessalonians they were still strong in faith, but they had become weak in hope. Why? False doctrine. False doctrine destroys our confidence in God. If you are under false doctrine, you will never have anything with which to encourage other believers. When we are together, we should encourage each other to grow in our love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
And now these three remain faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The word love in Hebrews 10:24 is the Greek word agape which means to have a relaxed mental attitude toward others. It means to think of them and interact with them based on divine norms and standards resident in your soul from metabolization of Bible truth. You should consider strongly how you can encourage each other with unconditional or impersonal love. More than any other quality in Christian virtue, mutual encouragement among members of the Body of Christ should stimulate or challenge one another to love and perform good deeds or divine good. Paul emphasized this truth to the Corinthians.
Unconditional love of the brethren is a result of our personal love relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This love is not automatic. We should be strongly motivated to grow in unconditional love of the brethren. This is also seen in the following passages:
follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts. (1 Corinthians 14:1a)
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (1 John 3:11)
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 John 3:23)
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11 )
And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. (2 John 1:5 )
These passages tell us that love has to be nurtured and developed among Christians just as it is in marriage. We should consider carefully how we can motivate, challenge and encourage each other to practice this important Christian virtue. The phrase "In all things love" should be our guide. In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love. Remember the testimony of the early church where they met together regularly. As a result, they encouraged each as a result of their spiritual growth. Those near them said, "see how they love one another."
The Means of Fulfilling The Three-fold Purpose
How do we obtain or fulfill the three-fold purpose of encouraging each other in faith and hope and love? We do so by realizing that the New Testament is the complete unveiling of the Son of God and of the Plan of God to each one of us. We see this from Hebrews 7.
It was fitting and right and to our benefit, as Christians, that we should have such a high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is impeccable and He is holy, which means He is perfectly set apart unto the Father and His plan for the incarnation. He is innocent, totally sinless, undefiled, separate from sinners and exalted above the heavens. This is His ultimate glorification at the Father's right hand.
Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26)
When it says, "above the heavens," it refers to all three heavens. The atmosphere, stratosphere, and ionosphere surrounding planet earth is the first heaven. The vast expanse of space with billions and billions of light years of distance with all of the galaxies is the second heaven. The third heaven is the throne of God. Jesus Christ, in Hebrews 7:26, is depicted in His ultimate glorification as being above all of the heavens. That means that, although He is in the third heaven at the Father's right hand, He is above all the heavens because He created them all.
The deity of Jesus Christ created the entire universe. He created the heaven that you and I will live with Him forever in and enjoy all the perfect conditions of the eternal future. He created the firmament above as well as the firmament below - everything that we have in our atmosphere, stratosphere and ionosphere. Jesus Christ's deity is the Creator and His humanity is exalted at the right hand of the Father. He controls human history because He sustains the entire universe. Therefore, He can provide for each of us. That is encouraging, isn't it? That is something you can encourage another believer with. The Lord Jesus Christ will always meet all of our needs. He is exalted above the heavens.
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:27)
Aaron and other high priests were members of the human race and the Levitical Priesthood of the Age of Israel. They had sin natures and used them. Remember, Aaron was the first high priest of Israel, but let his old sin nature lead him astray with the Jews in the wilderness. They came up with a golden calf as an object of worship. They became involved in the Egyptian expression of the phallic cult. They were doing this when Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments on the mountain. The high priests, as members of the human race, let their old sin natures control their thoughts and actions, so they offered sacrifices for their own sins. Christ gave His great sacrifice once for all on the cross. He is both priest and victim. He bore all of our sins in His own body on the tree. His spiritual death for the sins of the entire human race was once for all.
For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:28 )
These men were weak like Aaron because they each had a sin nature. However, we are bound by the "Word of the Oath." The Word of the Oath or doctrine of the Oath is everything in the New Covenant for the Church. This is the new Grace contract for the Church Age believer. It was ratified in the blood, or the spiritual death of the Lord Jesus Christ. This came after the Law and appointed a Son, the Lord Jesus Christ - the eternal Son of God. He is made perfect forever. We, as believers, have the Lord Jesus Christ at the Father's right hand as our great high priest. He sent the Holy Spirit to Church Age believers beginning in 30 A.D. Following that, under divine inspiration, men formulated and completed the Canon of Scripture. The entire Word of God is that revelation of God the Father, the thinking of the Son, the voice of the Holy Spirit, and it is to be the basis of our encouragement.
The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, (Hebrews 8:1)
The main point in Hebrews 8:1 is that we have such a high priest who has taken His seat at the right hand of the Father in the heavens. The application is that without the message from the Scriptures, we as believers would have nothing with which to encourage one another. Everything in the Bible is Christocentric or refers to the person and work of Jesus Christ and the Plan of God that exists for each of us. We enter this divine plan by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. Jesus Christ is our great high priest. His complete sacrifice for mankind resulted in God the Father's acceptance of this sacrifice by Christ being resurrected and exalted above the heavens. There, He now meets all of our needs. This comes from the Scripture and that is the source of our encouragement.
The Scriptures as a Source of Encouragement
Without the Bible, we would have nothing with which to encourage one another. So, the basis for your encouraging another Christian is your perception and metabolization of Bible truth. This metabolization gives you absolute confidence in the Lord. You worship Him, love Him, and are occupied with the person of Christ. The intake and metabolization of the Word by faith (pistis) is also the basis of our faith.
Your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is based on personal love (philos) for the Lord Jesus Christ through Bible truth or absolute confidence in God. This results in unconditional love (agape) of other believers. We can encourage others in faith, hope and love. It all comes from the message of the Scripture.
Here is the great challenge that is always before us. There are always many competing activities in our culture that make it easy for Christians to neglect meeting together regularly. This is especially true in today's materialistic society. Each of us could think of a thousand and one things to do that could take priority over meeting regularly as Christians for the intake of the Word. These wrong priorities will prevent us from applying the Word, helping other believers, and being a source of encouragement to them.
Another problem that we have today is that congregational meetings are thought by some to be for spectators only. They think that pastor-teacher is to speak and the congregation is to listen - that is all. We must be participants by concentrating on the teaching and then metabolizing the Word with positive volition. Then, we should apply the Word in reaching out and helping other people and being an encouragement to others.