Plagues of Distinction (Advent 13, 2020)

Today, I’m going somewhat controversial on you.  I was trained in the tradition of a “pre-Tribulation Rapture”.  Whoa, whoa, whoa! you say.  Too confusing.  I don’t understand it.  Don’t go there, you say. 

Watch me.  (grinning)

There’s a reason I hold timing of “The Rapture” loosely, the Rapture, of course, being that moment of the End Times when Christians alive will (after the God-fearers who have long passed) rise to be with our Savior.  In the pre-Tribulation idea, the blessed all rise so that the only ones left behind are those who suffer the Tribulation.  The blessed have been elected to avoid all that unpleasantness and turmoil.  At least that’s the idea of a Rapture that happens before the horrific Tribulation (when everything really bad hits the fan.) 

Let’s be clear: I understand why some people believe it will all happen that way and I won’t criticize those who do because no one really knows.

Here’s what feeds my view: Jesus didn’t just come as a Christmas baby, important as that event was.  He came to die on a Good Friday Cross.  He promised that He will come back and bring us to be with Him (John 14:1-4).  That return will include The Rapture. Until then, it’s follow Him….but what does that mean?

I believe today’s Scripture can help us understand what happens in the End Times.  Today, we’re in Exodus.  God’s people are supposed to leave Egypt to worship God.  Through His servant Moses, God announces plagues on all of Egypt.

Exodus 7:16 Then say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened.  17 This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood.  18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.'”  19 The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt– over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs– and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.”

Everyone was plagued with some of it.  The Nile was not selective.  Verses 20-21 of Exodus 7 tell us blood was everywhere and all the open Nile water everywhere was undrinkable for 7 days.

Everyone suffered.  Hold that thought. 
Here comes Divine Intervention.

Beginning in Exodus 8:21, there’s a difference.  A plague of flies is announced.  Exodus 8:22 “‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land.  23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.'”

Reread those two verses.  It’s powerful and encouraging.  God is distinguishing between people who are His and people who are not—it’s a sign.  Plagues all around.  But God’s people are shielded as a witness that they are different.  They are shielded by the power of God while plagues take place all around them.  The Egyptians can see it.  God’s people can see it. Distinctions: it preaches.

Questions for further thought:

  • Why didn’t God just take all the Israelites out of Goshen and zap the Egyptians with plague after plague while the Hebrews made haste out of Egypt? 
  • Think about wrath versus witness.  How does this relate to a pattern perhaps of the End Times?  Read Zephaniah 1:11-18.  Is the very end sudden or gradual? 
  • What about punishment leading up to that day?  Read Revelation 7.  Who are the ones in white robes (verses 13-14)? 
  • Why might God want to delay beaming up all the good little Christians while He zaps those left behind to smoldering cinders?  Think deeply about the character of God, the importance of witness, and the terrible balance of love and wrath God performs with absolute perfection, delicate meticulousness, and complete righteousness.

Father God, how we praise You that You are a merciful God! You are steadfast in Your love, boundless in Your grace and mercy! We praise You and thank You for the powerful witness of Christians in a dark world…oh, that we may be emboldened to shine our light even more so as the Day of Your return approaches! We thank You Lord for the persecution and suffering that Jesus endured, and the way that He learned obedience through His suffering. May we look at suffering in our lives through a different lens, through the lens of witness, and as these times of difficulty become more and more dire, we ask Lord that the power of Your Holy Spirit would shield us from whatever comes. O Lord that You would bring us safely into the Kingdom. We thank You that the Scriptures remind us that nothing can snatch us out of Your hands. We hold to that truth, Lord! We cling to that promise, and we praise You and thank You that there is nothing that compares to You! There is nothing that can be done to us in this life that compares to what good You will accomplish even in a world of rebellious unbelievers and unrepentant sinners. Lord we ask that You would show mercy upon our family members, use us as witnesses to Your grace during this holy season of Your Son’s birth. Lord, many of us know people intimately (maybe a spouse, maybe a child, maybe parents, siblings, neighbors, or friends) who are not saved. We ask Lord that You would delay Your judgment until they’ve awakened from their slumber, that You would empower us, giving the words necessary to bring them to a saving faith in You before the End comes. We praise You, Lord, that it is Your desire that none perish but all come to repentance. And while we know not all will, we thank You Lord for this divine bridge of mercy called patience, called the long wait. We know Lord that You are every bit as active in the times of our waiting as You are in the times of Your action. Thank You for where we can see You at work. We ask that You would redeem the waiting times of our lives for our good and Your glory. Amen.

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Advent 2020 began Sunday, November 29th and continues to Thursday, December 24th as we celebrate the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and look forward to His Second Coming.  “Divine Intervention” is this year’s devotional study. By signing up on the sidebar of my Home Page you can receive these daily devotionals. Or they will be reposted on SeminaryGal’s Facebook page as well.

Together we will see how God has been actively involved all along as Divine Intervention for a hurting world and nations in tumult– Intervention for you and for me when our status as sinners required nothing short of a miracle.

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Acknowledging inquiries about an entire season’s devotionals for your study group’s planning purposes, Seminary Gal’s prior seasons’ Advent devotionals can be accessed via the archives to the right and are as follows: 

  • Last year’s Advent Devotional Series God’s Christmas list explored what might be on God’s Christmas list, learning what He wants from us. It began December 1, 2019.
  • Storyteller began December 2, 2018 and entered into the Christmas story through its telling.
  • The 2017 series Still Christmas, began December 3, 2017 and was the Advent complement to the Lenten series, Be Still and Know that I AM God.
  • The 2016 season devotionals were called Timeless: The Message of Christmas for All Ages” and explored how the message of Christmas is timeless truth, for all ages of people, and for all ages at all times.  Timeless hope, encouragement, grace, peace, and love as we looked into the Word, saw the face of our Lord Jesus, and experienced restoration in His presence.  His goodness and His Gospel are truly Timeless. The 2016 devotionals began November 27, 2016.
  • The 2015 season devotionals were titled Incarnation and involved digging deep–and yes, I mean deep– in this important mystery of Christian theology.  They began November 29, 2015.
  • Carol Me, Christmas! remains one of my most popular offerings and tells the Christmas story through our most beloved Christmas hymns and carols.  You can access all of the numbered devotionals from 2014 via the archives.  They began November 30, 2014.
  • The 2013 series was Emmanuel: When LOVE Showed Up in Person and examined the Prologue to the Gospel of John.  It began December 1, 2013.
  • The 2012 series focused on Expecting the Unexpected…the unexpected, unlikely, and uniquely divine qualities of God’s perfect plan outlined in Luke’s account of the Christmas story.  It began December 1, 2012.

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on December 11, 2020

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