Because of the pagan lifestyle from which the church in Corinth emerged, Paul had much to teach them about living in holiness and righteousness. They had immorality among them that they apparently didn’t recognize as such. There were issues among some of the women in church exhibiting improper conduct by speaking out of turn. What to do surrounding the issue of marriage was a major concern as well. As to this last item, Paul included some warnings that we should also heed.
Paul gave his advice and admonitions, not directly as a Word from the Lord, but based on his relationship with Him and His knowledge of how He would approach the situation. In essence, Paul determined that those who need to marry should do so, and those who could refrain should do that. In this context he gave an unexpected warning in 1 Corinthians 7:29:
This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short…
What was he referring to? I think we can only answer that question because of a subsequent statement he made in 1 Corinthians 7:31:
… For the present form of this world is passing away.
In giving his advice to the Corinthians it seems as if he believed that perhaps Jesus was coming soon, which would change everything. What Paul wanted the church to do was to live in such a way that the people would have no regrets. He wanted to ensure that no one engaged in sexual immorality, which could come about through an improper relationship that a man had with a woman.
Paul was celibate, and the Lord had given him the means and restraint that he didn’t struggle with sexual desires that would have led him astray. He dealt with other issues, but lust wasn’t one of them. There seems to be a near future that he had in mind which would make marriage more difficult. Even then, he thought these troubles were upon them, Note 1 Corinthians 7:26:
I think that in view of the present distress…
Did this have to do with Roman occupation? Or was there something bigger that he had in mind? In this letter he speaks of the coming resurrection of the dead through the Rapture of the church. Was the distress of the day gathering in intensity such that he believed Jesus could come back for them at any time?
I think it’s likely. Paul had the perspective that the return of the Lord was imminent. That being the case, it was necessary for all believers to live as though they were in the very last moments of this life. He wanted them to be without spot or blemish so they would not be ashamed when facing the Lord. For them to live in that manner was an urgent plea that Paul had for them. What if Christ returned at the moment they were sinning? Paul couldn’t countenance that such a thing would happen, and he wanted the church to live in that fear and reverence.
The prospect of Jesus’ imminent return has been the hope of many through the years. Did Paul and subsequent generations have the timing wrong? Yes, but they were absolutely correct as to how anyone in any generation should live who professed Jesus as Lord. Unfortunately, because He didn’t come back on the timetable that some had set for Him, many have wandered from the faith in these intervening years. It has led to an apostate church, or if not that, an apathy toward anticipating Jesus’ return.
Many now take the approach where they say they’re “pan-Rapture.” That is, whenever it happens, it’s fine because it’ll all pan out. Frankly, I think that’s a cop out. It takes away the idea of the Blessed Hope. In times such as we’re undergoing, I believe it can lead to fear and depression.
We see the world crumbling around us with lawlessness, demonic activity off the charts, and the threat of violence toward us from our own government. Is there any hope? Not if you don’t cling to the idea that Jesus will come to rescue us.
The fact that He didn’t return in the 1970s after Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth seems to have completely taken the wind out of many people’s sails who once believed in the pre-Tribulation Rapture. That may actually have led to some number of them becoming post-Tribbers, i.e. thinking that believers must go through the Tribulation; that Jesus won’t come for His church.
I think that’s sad. Without the hope of deliverance from this lost world that hates God and His children, it seems to me this can lead to bitterness, even anger. If that’s the case, where is our witness? Shouldn’t we who love the Lord be joyful, even in the midst of difficulties?
I can certainly see people resenting God with the prospect of entering the most horrible time in the history of earth. Where’s the comfort in that? Should we all be looking forward to having our heads lopped off after incredible torture and pain?
What about the character of God? Will He really allow His Bride to endure such indignities?
I don’t believe it.
Jesus died for our sins that we would not face the wrath of God. His wrath is executed during the Tribulation. It is for Israel and the rest of the unbelieving world. It is not for those who love and revere Him. That would be a cruel joke. God will not do that.
Even as Paul warned that time was short, and this present world would soon pass away, so it is now. Our hope in Jesus’ imminent return will soon be rewarded. Will we experience difficulties before then? Yes, absolutely. But we will not see the Antichrist nor the Tribulation to follow.