This Week's Feature Article by Jack Kelley
Last week's question on whether homosexual believers will be taken in the Rapture or not has really sparked some interesting, even emotional comment.
As we begin this study, let's clarify a few points. Living a homosexual lifestyle is living in sin. Both Old and New Testaments make that clear. But all believers are sinners, and we're all living in sin of some kind. Half of us who've been married have also been divorced. The percentage of Christian women who've had abortions is the same as for non-believers. Many of us have sins we simply cannot stop committing. (These are sometimes called besetting sins.) Some don't really want to stop committing these sins, but many have “cried out to the Lord in sack cloth and ashes” for deliverance and still can't stop.
This is not a new phenomenon. Some of the great heroes of the Bible had sin problems they couldn't control. Moses had trouble with his temper, David had a weakness for women, and we'll get to Paul in a minute.
If you don't have any besetting sins, praise the Lord. But dismissing someone else's problem by saying they should just stop sinning shows an appalling lack of sensitivity. This is especially true since millions of believers have spent years trying unsuccessfully to stop doing things like smoking, drinking to excess, watching porn, etc. Others can't control their anger, lust, appetite, or envy. Would you deny all of them participation to the rapture? Maybe the next time you hear of someone struggling with sin you should take some time to ponder the old saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” And if you don't have any sins you can't keep yourself from committing, why are you sinning at all?
If you're part of the vast majority that does struggle regularly with a besetting sin, you can understand the plight of others like you. Paul had this in mind when he wrote Romans 7:14-25.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Please read this carefully. Judging by the standards of some believers I've received eMails from lately, Paul has identified himself as an unrepentant sinner in these verses, because he continues to do things he knows he shouldn't be doing. They would say that he's either not qualified to go in the rapture or will spend the Millennium in the outer darkness, learning how to be an overcomer. (Don't get me started on that one.)
But Paul's reaction was totally different. He said that when he was sinning, he was not being himself. In other words, it wasn't Paul who was sinning but the sin nature that dwelt within him. He told the Corinthians that when they accepted the Lord they became a new creation. He said that in God's eyes the person they had been before was gone and they were now a new person altogether. He said that because Jesus, who knew no sin, had been made sin for them, they were now as righteous as God Himself. (2 Cor 5:17,21)
When Jesus went to the cross He took all the sins of our lives with Him. (Col. 2:13-14) That means past, present, and future, from the very first to the very last. This is one of the things that makes the New Covenant so much better than the Old. Every year on Yom Kippur, Israel's past sins were atoned for and the slate was wiped clean. But they immediately began sinning again and so the next year they had to do it all over, and the year after that and the year after that, and so on. That's because it's impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (Hebr. 10:3-4)
But Jesus offered one sacrifice for all time, past, present, and future. If you're born again, every sin of your life has been identified and atonement has been made. That's what Jesus meant when He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) All that's left is for you to accept and believe. If you stop and think for just a moment, you'll see that it's the only way it could be, because none of us can completely stop sinning, and there's no sacrifice left. Either the Lord's blood has paid for all the sins of our life, or else it was an exercise in futility, and we're all irretrievably lost.
This is why with all of Paul's exhortations to go beyond salvation and strive for victory over our sin nature, he never threatened us with the loss of our salvation for failing. In fact, one of his strongest pleas was that we strive to live up to that which we have already attained. (Phil 3:16) In other words, become in fact what we already are in faith. But even he couldn't do it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25)
Here Paul tells us that the harder he tried to “be good” the more his sin nature resisted. He loved the Law of God but his sin nature made him a prisoner of sin. What a hopeless place to be, condemned to a life of disappointing the One he wanted most to please. But thanks be to the Lord Jesus who rescues us from our body of death. The new Paul, the Paul that God saw, had the motives and intentions of someone who tries to please God, even though his sin nature prevented him from carrying them out. And God, who alone can judge the intent of our hearts, chose to see only the new Paul, all of whose sins had been atoned for at the cross. He had been separated as far from his sins as the East is separated from the West. (Psalm 103:12) As far as God was concerned the new Paul never sinned at all. It was the sin dwelling in him that did it.
And then the summary statement, Romans 8:1. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
As I said earlier, living a homosexual lifestyle is living in sin. Many believers have agonized over this problem. As one who hasn't experienced it, I can't even begin to grasp its magnitude. They know that a just God can not condemn His children for behavior they have no control over. And yet they've spent years in shame and humiliation trying unsuccessfully to stop committing their besetting sin. Some finally succumb to the false conclusion that God must have made them that way. Others rebel as a way to vent their frustration. And can you imagine how much harder their challenge becomes as society in general and even many who claim to be part of the Church affirm and encourage their behavior as being nothing more than an alternative lifestyle, no better or worse than any other? Contrast that attitude with others in the Church who treat them like lepers, sinners beyond redemption. Neither opinion is correct, so what is their true circumstance? Why can't anyone tell them? What happened to Romans 8:1? Is it only Jesus who can forgive a sin without fear of leaving the impression that he condones it?
He commanded us to love one another as He loved us, and to forgive each other as He forgave us. He was talking about how we should treat each other as believers. He never spoke a single word that encourages the condemnation of a brother or sister. On the contrary, He spoke against it. (Matt. 7:1-2 & Luke 6:37) As far as salvation is concerned, He said all who ask will receive (Matt. 7:7), that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13), and that who so ever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
This is where the Lord's faithfulness comes in. Having agonized on the cross for every sinful act of their lives, He could no more abandon them now than He did then. He gave them the faith to believe that He would save them (Ephes. 2:8-9) and has accepted responsibility for keeping them saved. (2 Cor. 1:21-22) When they fall into the pit of despair, He comes to pull them out. (Matt. 12:11-12) When they wander away from the flock, he goes in search of them.(Luke 15:4) Having begun a good work in them, He is faithful and will carry it on to completion, (Phil. 1:6) not losing a single one of them along the way. (John 6:38-40).
On the day of the Rapture every one who has trusted Him for salvation will disappear in the twinkling of an eye. The only thing the Church will leave behind is our accursed sin nature that's prevented us from living the life we desire. The new bodies we'll receive have neither flaw nor blemish, so millions of raptured believers will finally be free of their besetting sins.
None of this is meant to condone sin or diminish the destructive effect it has on our lives. Nor is it meant to say that we should learn to be comfortable around it. And if you're thinking that they're getting a free ride for their sin, consider that nearly every health, accident, or mortality statistic demonstrates that calling the homosexual lifestyle “gay” is a cruel joke indeed. This is especially true among males, where life expectancy is decades shorter, and accident rates are much higher. They're also far more likely to be murdered or to commit suicide.
As Stephen was being stoned to death, he fell to his knees and cried out, “Lord don't hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). When Jesus was hanging on the cross He looked at those who had put Him there and prayed, “Father forgive them. They don't know what they're doing.” (Luke 23:34) This is the testimony of two witnesses, showing us the proper reaction to the sinners in our midst. We need to understand that none of us could ever deserve to go in the Rapture. We're all sinners worthy of the worst kind of judgment. There is no such thing as a believer who's less deserving than we are because the Church is not a merit based organization. It's faith based. When we see a brother or sister struggling with sin we should be praying for them instead of condemning them. It could just as easily have been us.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35) Selah 12-06-08
Reprinted with permission of the author, Jack Kelley. See: http://gracethrufaith.com/selah/homosexuals-in-the-rapture/
Posted, December 6, 2008.