It was a battle against water and a race against time. In June 2018, a young soccer team and their coach were trapped on a muddy ledge two and a half miles inside the flooded Tham Luang caves in Thailand. They had been stranded there for ten days when two experienced cave divers finally found them.
It took a long scramble and dangerous dives through swirling muddy water to reach them. There were strong currents, and one part of the narrow, submerged section was only two feet high and three feet wide. The youngest boy was 11; all the boys were weak and emaciated, and some couldn’t even swim. How could they possibly be rescued?
Time was not on the rescuers’ side. In spite of water being pumped out of the caves, the advancing monsoon season was threatening to push conditions beyond human control. Different ideas were tried unsuccessfully, and finally, in desperation, it was decided to heavily sedate the boys, give them oxygen tanks and full protection from the water, then individually pull them through the winding passages.
Two divers were assigned to each boy, and teams at staging posts along the way assisted. In the drier sections, stretchers and even pulleys were used. It took a grueling four hours to bring the first boy out. Finally, after 72 hours, all the boys and their coach were free, and the rescue teams fled the caves just in time as the water rose.
The whole world’s attention was on this courageous rescue, and thousands of prayers went up for the boys’ safety. There was great rejoicing when everyone was brought out alive, although tragically, one Thai diver died in the torturous process.
Jesus’ rescue of the human race from destruction has been even harder than this! He had to become human and dive through the turbulence of the world’s hatred and rejection to reach us. He, too, lost His life in the process—a necessary part of His self-sacrificing rescue operation. He is also bringing us out of our trapped situation individually with great care. What makes Jesus’ rescue work especially difficult is that our full consciousness and cooperation are required, but we often fight against Him.
The rescue effort for the human race is not complete yet. Jesus is in heaven now, still fully engaged in it. It’s important to understand His present work so we can cooperate and help Him to successfully rescue us. Let’s look at what He’s doing and why.
1. What does Jesus want to rescue us from?
Isaiah 8:22 Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish.
Ephesians 2:12 At that time you were without Christ, ...strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
The first verse doesn’t just describe today’s world. Every generation has suffered these conditions.
2. What wonderful things does God want us to experience instead?
Psalm 16:11 You [God] will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 107:9 For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
In the beginning, God created human beings with His own character of unselfish love. That way they were able to have the joy of being close to Him forever. Having His law of love in their hearts as the spring of all thoughts and actions brought harmony with Him and each other.
3. What now cuts us off from God and keeps us in trouble and darkness?
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Sin is thoughts, words, and actions that come from putting ourselves before God and others. It rebels against God’s law of love, shutting us out from God.
4. What else does sin do to us?
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”
Romans 6:23 The wages of sin is death.
Sin causes us serious problems. Instead of being full of God’s kindness and joy, our hearts are polluted with self-deception and selfishness. Our guilt from breaking God’s law of love will ultimately cause our annihilation.
5. Is there a way back to God for humanity?
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The requirements needed to restore God’s character in us were so self-giving and so extreme that only the Son of God could provide them for humanity.
1. What is the basis of our way back to God?
Romans 5:8, 10 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.... For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Jesus took on human nature, lived a sinless life, and bore the death penalty for all our sins. His selfless life and death on Earth are offered to us as a legal substitute for our self-focused life if we choose to surrender our life to Him. On the basis of this wonderful provision, Jesus’ life in heaven is now spent individually helping us to live a new unselfish life that will restore God’s character of love in us.
2. How does Jesus make it possible for God to hear and answer our prayers?
Romans 8:34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
God is not against us, but our sins must be handled justly. Whenever we ask forgiveness of God, Jesus presents our prayers to God, pointing to His death for us as satisfying the penalty for our sin. He adds His prayers to ours, and then God can justly forgive and cleanse us.
3. How does Jesus work through the Holy Spirit to help us individually?
John 14:16-18 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
The Holy Spirit is a vital part of our restoration. Jesus sends Him to draw us individually to Himself, and then, if we respond and give our lives to Him, to live in our minds. The Spirit unites us with Jesus and impresses our hearts with personal messages from Him as we study His Word—the Bible. This wonderful individual union is called being “in Christ.”
4. What difference does this union make?
Romans 5:5 The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
When we give ourselves to God and come into union with Jesus, we receive a change of heart and mind from God that’s so radical it’s called being “born again.” We then grow spiritually by God’s power as we live in Christ through prayer and obeying His Word.
5. How will we relate to God’s law now?
Ephesians 2:10 We are His [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
These good works are works of kindness and self-sacrifice, done daily from our recreated heart with the personal help of Jesus. Gal. 2:20. They fulfill the requirements of God’s law and gradually develop God’s character in us.
6. What help does Jesus offer when we’re tempted or if we sin?
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Through Jesus’ individual work for us in heaven, forgiveness and help to overcome temptation to sin are constantly available to us. We need His help daily, and it’s only a prayer away!
1. What will happen at Jesus’ second coming?
1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Revelation 20:5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
2. In order to raise only those who will receive eternal life, what must Jesus do before He returns?
1 Peter 4:17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if itbegins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Revelation 3:5 [Jesus speaking]“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
So that God’s fairness and justice are beyond question, before Jesus returns there must be an open examination of all humans who have once given themselves to God. Everyone who has served God has been written in the Book of Life, although some may never have heard Jesus’ name. The pre-Advent judgment examines their life records to see if they have lived for God with a changed heart or held on to their sins. Jesus is our representative in this judgment which has already started. Rev. 14:6, 7.
All Jesus’ work in heaven is to help us to have our sins forgiven, constantly receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts, and reflect God’s loving character in good works. Then, when it’s our turn, we will pass this review and be with Jesus forever when He returns.
Jesus is currently putting enormous energy into effecting a lasting heart change in each one of us so we can live with Him forever. He’s also part of the judgment that determines who’s ready for His second coming.
I choose to cooperate with Jesus in His wonderful work from heaven to rescue me from sin. I want to fully commit my life to Him and be with Him always.
All Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.