Posts Tagged 'Second Coming'

Glory, Part 6

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When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.”   (Matthew 25:31 | NIV84)

In our sixth study of the how the word “glory” is used in the New Testament, we turn to The Olivet Discourse, so called because Jesus gave a series of teachings while on the Mount of Olives.  The Olivet Discourse is found in all three Synoptic Gospels and most of it deals with the the Second Coming of our Lord and of the end of the age.  

Setting the scene

Jesus began this lengthy teaching in Matthew 24, as He left the Temple grounds for the last time.   He had been soundly rejected by the leaders of Israel, and His word to His people was a solemn one:

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.  “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”  (Matthew 24:1-2 | NIV84)

Herod’s Temple was a magnificent structure, which took a long time to build.  Herod’s desire was to build a religious edifice as great and as glorious as Solomon’s temple.  He began to restore the old Temple around 20 BC and believe it or not, work was still in progress during the days of Jesus!  It must have been a shocking thing for Jesus’ disciples to hear that this great Temple would be laid waste.  The literal fulfillment of this prediction occurred in 70 AD.  Jewish historian Josephus was an eyewitness, and here is his account:

The Temple area was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.  

For their part, the disciples were befuddled; they needed more information, so they asked Jesus three questions related to His prediction:

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  (Matthew 24:3 | NIV84)

For some reason, Jesus started off by answering the third question first:  “What will be the sign of…the end of the age?”  Actually, in the verses that follow, the great Teacher gives no less than 10 signs of the end of the age.  

  1. False messiah’s will appear, verse 5, declaring that they are the Christ – the Messiah.
  2. Wars and rumors of wars will abound, verse 6.   Of course, there have been wars in every generation, though apparently near the end they will increase, probably in intensity and frequency.
  3. Famines,
  4. Plagues,
  5. Earthquakes, all in verse 7.  Famines and plagues frequently go together and, as in the case of war, while there have always been earthquakes, at the end there will be more of them in strange places.
  6. The sixth sign is persecution, found in verse 9.  The followers of Christ will face mounting stress and pressure as they seek to live out their faith in the face of constant persecution.
  7. The seventh sign, found in verse 10, goes like this:  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,  (Matthew 24:10 | NIV84). That’s a frightening thought, that at some point in the future there will be a great “falling away” from the faith.  But read how the KJV translates this sign:  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  (Matthew 24:10 | KJV).   You begin to see what the end times will look like; a time of lawlessness when people both inside the church and outside will be “offended” or “scandalized” and many will just give up on God and the good life altogether.  
  8. In verse 11, the eighth sign is given:  false prophets.  This makes sense.  In a time of hopelessness and despair, devious people will come along with words of false hope.
  9. The ninth sign is a disturbing one:  In the last days, there will be a decided lack of love, verse 12.  
  10. The final sign is the evangelization of the world, verse 14.  

Conditions in the world just prior to the return of Jesus will be dreadful.  As we read through these verses in Matthew 24, we can see parallels in the book of Revelation.  Much of what Jesus predicted is what John saw in his vision:  the state of the world during the Tribulation.  

That brings us to this verse, which is linked to what Jesus had spoken about in regards to the Temple:

So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand…(Matthew 24:15 | NIV84)

That phrase, “abomination that causes desolation,” is seen three times in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11) and refers simply to an unholy, detestable thing that will cause the Temple to become useless or unusable.  In the far future tense, this prophecy of Daniel’s is seen when the Antichrist sets up an image of himself in the Temple in Jerusalem in Revelation 13:14 – 

Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.   (Revelation 13:14 | NIV84)

But here is a prophecy with several fulfillments throughout history.  In 168 BC, an altar dedicated to Zeus was set up on the sacred altar in the Temple, rendering the Temple useless for the Jews.  It was also fulfilled in 70 AD, some four decades after the Olivet Discourse, when Rome desecrated the Temple before it was destroyed.  But the final fulfillment of this prophecy will be happen during the Tribulation period of the end times.

The Second Coming

If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.   (Matthew 24:22 | NIV84)

This is another one of Jesus’ predictions that carries a dual fulfillment.  In 70 AD, when the siege and fall of Jerusalem took place, Josephus tells us that over one million Jews were killed and up to 100,000 were sold as slaves.  But there will be a future fulfillment during the Great Tribulation at the end of the age.  

The main theme of the second half of this very long chapter is a call to remain faithful to the Lord no matter what; in the face of dangerous persecution and in the wake of many false messiah’s.  

At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible.  See, I have told you ahead of time.  (Matthew 24:23-25 | NIV84)

There has always been and will always be a very real temptation for Christians to “latch onto” the “next best thing or person” that comes along in the Christian sub-culture, especially during rough times.  During the Tribulation, that temptation will be all the more intense.  But Jesus described what His coming will be like.  He won’t be like the false teachers and false Christ’s.  When He returns, it will be miraculous, sudden, and surprising:

Immediately after the distress of those days “ ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.  (Matthew 24:29-30 | NIV84)

It’s certain that the Lord will return and it is certain that difficult days are in store for believers.  And in His wisdom, Jesus gave His followers, both the disciples and us, these teachings so that we won’t ever be ignorant.  Nobody can know for sure when Jesus will return, so believers need to be ready all the time; no believer wants to be caught off guard at the moment of Christ’s glorious return.

Three parables

In chapter 25, Jesus keeps going with His end times teachings with three parables.  The first one, the parable of wise and foolish maidens (25:1 – 13), is a story emphasizing the need for believers to be prepared for His return.  Jesus could come back any time, and His people need to be ready – watching and waiting.   

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 | NIV84)

The parable of the talents, 25:14 – 30, deals with the believer’s responsibility to use his God-given gifts in the days prior to the Lord’s return.  While you’re watching and waiting for the Lord to return, you shouldn’t be sitting around, twiddling your thumbs.  Remember what Paul wrote:

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  (Ephesians 5:15-16 | NIV84)

And that gets us to the parable of the sheep and the goats, 25:31 – 46.  Of the three, this one is, to my mind, the darkest.  It’s simply about the final judgment.  In the parable, Jesus is the Judge, King, and Shepherd.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  (Matthew 25:31-33 | NIV84)

Why sheep and goats?  Sheep were prominent animals in the Jewish sacrificial system.  They were also very valuable sources of food and clothing.  Goats, on the other hand, are very destructive animals – they gorge themselves on vegetation, often ruining fields and contributing to erosion as they simply rip up plants out of the soil, roots and all.

The interesting thing about sheep and goats is that they grazed together in the same pasture, and freely mingled together so closely that from a distance, you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart.  At some point, though, the shepherds would have to go and separate the two because invariably the male goats would turn very hostile toward the sheep.

In the final judgment, Jesus as Judge, King, and Shepherd, will separate the sheep (His people, true believers), from the goats (non-believers) and the sheep will be invited to share in the Kingdom.  For the sheep, it will be a beautiful moment.  They lived lives, not just doing good deeds for people in need, but ministering to the Lord in how they lived.  Everything the sheep did, they did for the Lord.  People were just the beneficiaries of their Christ-centered living.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  (Matthew 25:35-36 | NIV84)

But not so for the goats:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  (Matthew 25:41-43 | NIV84)

The goats will be people who were so busy, they never gave a thought for Jesus.  God will  judge the people and nations of the world, based on their response to the Gospel and how they lived out their faith on earth.  

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Peter and Jude, Part 5

For some reason, the doctrine of our Lord’s Second Coming has always produced division in His Church. And it’s not just a recent thing, either. Even back in the days of the apostles, this precious doctrine was mocked, laughed at, and doubted.

They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4 | NIV84)

For his part, Peter had absolutely no doubt that Jesus would keep His word and come back. Why would the apostle doubt it? With his very own eyes, Peter saw Jesus’ transfiguration on the mount and had experienced a slight foretaste of the future glory.

The people to whom Peter wrote this second letter were having their doubts; they were succumbing to false teaching and that resulted in a disbelief in the Second Coming. No Christian can afford to disregard or doubt this doctrine for to do so is to bring into question the veracity of the words of Jesus Himself! Not only that, belief in the Second Coming results in holy living, and that’s not unimportant.

Up to this point, chapter 3 in 2 Peter, Peter had been dealing with the libertines – these immoral and disreputable false teachers – and their victims. Of them, Peter concluded,

For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (2 Peter 2:18, 19 | NIV84)

Some of their “empty, boastful words” dealt with the Second Coming. They didn’t believe it and they mocked those who did. With a new chapter comes a new line of thought. Peter wants his readers to think and think hard about the words spoken by the prophets and the apostles.

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. (2 Peter 3:1, 2 | NIV84)

As one scholar wisely noted,

No state of grace this side of heaven exempts men from the need of repeated reminders of the truths of the Christian message, and all of this becomes the more urgent in the light of Christ’s imminent return to earth.

It’s not that the readers of this letter were morally depraved, but they were in danger of losing the purity of doctrine they had once held so tightly to. They were having niggling doubts about the Second Coming and as a result, they were just beginning to take on the characteristics of their nasty false teachers.

It’s so easy for believers of any generation to get distracted from the truth. It’s one thing to get distracted, though, but very often a mindless distraction can turn into the wedge that separates us from the truth of God’s Word. J.C. Ryle’s words on this are a powerful reminder of how wispy thin our grasp on the truth may be:

Amidst the flood of dangerous reading, I plead for my Master’s book; I call upon you not to forget the book of the soul. Do not let newspapers, novels, and romances be read, while the prophets and apostles are despised. Do not let the exciting and sensual swallow up your attention, while the edifying and sanctifying can find no place in your mind.

The day will come

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3, 4 | NIV84)

That phrase, “first of all,” means what Peter is about to say is of vital importance. What was so important for his readers to know? Simply that in “the last days, scoffers would come.” Obviously, Peter believed he was living in the last days, so we today may be confident that we are most definitely living in the last of the last days! And in these last days, people who lead self-indulgent lives will come to doubt the coming of the Lord. They will deny the coming of the Lord because to them, it will have become a ridiculous notion.

It is true that there have always been doubters and scoffers. There were those who mocked and made fun of Noah, and of Lot in Sodom, and even of Jesus Himself. Some people may doubt honestly, like Thomas, but the honest doubter is not who Peter has in mind here. The people Peter wrote about were not merely doubters, but men who had now come to violently oppose the doctrine of the Second Coming. These false teachers repudiated the promise of His coming because, they argued, things never change. They taught that God created everything, but that He never intervenes in the course of human history. Their God is a cold, impersonal one. Surely that line of thinking characterizes 21st century man; God is not real to him therefore he feels no obligation to live righteously. Even in the Church of Jesus Christ there are those who never give a moment’s thought to the Lord’s return.

But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:5 – 7 | NIV84)

Peter’s handling of the false teachers was nothing less than brilliant. The scoffers insisted that God never intervenes; that things have always been the same, yet that isn’t true! Creation itself was a divine intervention and a disruption in history. Not only that, the same God who spoke about the Second Coming, also spoke the world into existence and He can speak it out existence. God’s Word starts, sustains, and stops all life. These false teachers were playing with the worst kind of fire; in the end this fire of God’s truth would consume them.

Verse 7 is not a prophecy so much as a promise: There will come a day when this world as we have come to know it, will be renovated by fire and the wicked judged. Indeed, things cannot and will not continue as they have been. The apostle John wrote about this very thing in Revelation 20:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (revelation 20:1 | NIV84)

When we read what Peter wrote, those sobering words lead us to two inescapable conclusions: God is absolutely in control of this world, from beginning to end. Regardless of some people may teach or believe, God is control. And second, we Christians need to trust God and His Word.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8, 9 | NIV84)

Not only is God 100% in control, but He is always on time. The scoffers would have believers think that God has either abandoned them or is taking a nap or just doesn’t keep His promises, but God is not bound by man’s version of time. God exists way, way, way outside of any concept of time and space man’s puny brain can conceive. No, God is not dragging His feet when it comes to keeping His promises. God is not late, He’s never early, but always on time. God’s timing is never determined by outside circumstances or other people. He is always in control and His only motivation is love. God loved the world so much He gave the world His only Son. And it is because of His love for the world that Jesus has not come back yet. Ravi Zacharias wrote,

Time is the brush of God, as He paints His masterpiece on the heart of humanity.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:10 | NIV84)

Scoffers and doubters and false teachers may come, most people may ignore the Word of God concerning the Second Coming, but as Peter put it, “the day of the Lord WILL come,” end of discussion. Our Lord said essentially the same thing:

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44 | NIV84)

The Day of the Lord may begin in secret, but it will end with stunning earth-changes that Peter mentioned in verse 7. This planet of ours that we consider so permanent and dependable will not endure as it is today. It will change as God does His thing.

Live as if it can happen any day

The great Adrian Rogers once said this:

We ought to be living as if Jesus died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back this afternoon.

He’s right. The suddenness of our Lord’s return is a great motivating factor in living right. This was a favorite teaching of Peter:

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (2 Peter 3:11, 12 | NIV84)

This is Peter’s practical application for the heady doctrine of the Second Coming. All Christian doctrine should influence how we live because there must be a connection between what we believe and how we live. For the Christians of Peter’s day, the kind of global destruction Peter described would have seemed impossible. But in our day, it is not only possible but probable. Peter says it is not only probable, but an abslute certainty. It’s all part of God’s plan for man and the world. Given that, we should be ready and prepared for it can happen any time. Part of being ready for Jesus Christ’s return is living lives marked by righteousness and holiness.

Closely connected to how we should live is the worldview we adopt. Christians should be “looking forward to” the Second Coming. And, while God has His own timetable, apparently Christians can hasten or speed up the day by fulfilling some necessary conditions for it to take place. Some of those conditions could be these:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14 | NIV84)

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. (Acts 3:19, 20 | NIV84)

The doctrine of the Second Coming was never intended to be divisive. It should unite all believers in a common belief that encourages them keep the faith, keep trusting God, and keep living right. Matthew Henry said it best:

God will work when He pleases, how He pleases, and by what means He pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but He will perform His word, honor our faith, and reward them that diligently seek Him.

Just Say Yes, Part 6

In the New Testament, a significant number of people said “yes” to Jesus Christ. We’re looking at a handful of them in this series, and so far, we looked at five of them:

• A couple of blind men, followers of Jesus both, said “yes” to Jesus and were healed of their blindness, Matthew 9:28;
• Some disciples replied “yes” to the teachings of Jesus, even though they weren’t quite sure what He was talking about. In their case, “yes” was a statement of faith, Matthew 13:51;
• That Syrophonecian woman – a foreigner – agreed with Jesus’ designation of her as a “dog,” and immediately received exactly what she needed from Him, Matthew 15:27;
• When her brother Lazarus died, his sister Martha said “yes” to Jesus, as the Resurrection, John 11:27;
• Peter, the impetuous apostle, said “yes” to Jesus not once, but three times, pledging his love and devotion to the Lord, John 21:15, 16.

Saying “yes” to the Lord is showing Him and others that you have faith – faith in Him and in His Word and abilities. As we learn to say “yes” to Jesus, we are living in obedience to God’s will and we are creating the conditions in which God will bless us and answer our prayers.

Not only that, from the moment you said “yes” to God’s gracious invitation to salvation, at least four simple blessings began to flow into your life:

Peace

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… (Ephesians 2:14 | NIV84)

Jesus Christ has “made the two one.” In other words, by saying “yes” to Jesus’ gift of salvation, He has immediately made peace between you and God. God’s not angry at you anymore. His wrath, previously directed at you because of your sin, is gone in a moment when you said “yes” to Him.

Purpose

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 3:10 | NIV84)

When you start living for God, He gives your life purpose. Once you lived for yourself – and that’s the loneliest way to live – but now you live for Him, and that means blessing others as God has blessed you. It means planning your days and nights around HIS will for you. It means consciously looking for all those “good works” God has prepared for you to do.

Fellowship

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household… (Ephesians 3:19 | NIV4)

Saying “yes” to God put you in a whole new family! You are now members of God’s family; and it’s a huge one! You are bound to believers from all time from all walks of life by the blood of Jesus. Not only that, when you said your first “yes” to God, you became a citizen of Heaven and enjoy all the rights and privileges that citizenship gives you.

Focus

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 3:18 | NIV84)

Do you realize the profundity of that single verse? Because we said “yes” to God, we can enter His presence by His Spirit. We can pray with assurance that He hears our prayers. We can be guaranteed that He knows our needs and our desires. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are able to focus on God because we are in His presence and we are made aware that He is our Sole Provider.

Peter wasn’t the only apostle who said “yes” to Jesus; John also said “yes” in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20 | NIV84)

Not only is that verse from the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, it also contains the last promise of the Bible and the last prayer of the Bible.

And, actually, there are two “yes’s” in that verse. Jesus said “yes” and John said “amen,” which is essentially as saying “yes” to what Jesus had just said “yes” to. Let’s take a look at John’s very consequential “yes.”

A profound book

The book of Revelation is truly profound. We call it a book, but really it’s just a long letter to seven churches, which are named for us in the first three chapters. This letter, or book, contains admonitions to those seven churches and it contains something else:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1, 2 \ NIV84)

When we read chapters 4 – 22, we are reading “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” That’s just a fancy way of saying that we are reading something that God showed Jesus, which He in turned showed to John, and John in turn showed to us through what he wrote to these seven churches. What God revealed to Jesus was nothing less than what the future holds for Jews, Gentiles, and the Church. It’s a book of prophecies concerning certain events that will take place, including the Second Coming of Jesus, and how those events will touch the lives of God’s people.

Every book in the Bible is just as important as the other, but Revelation is the climax and consummation of God’s Word to man. God has told man everything he needs to know to live the “good life,” and Revelation simply confirms everything the previous 65 book of the Bible said.

John put Jesus’ revelation from God to paper. John was an apostle, who also wrote the Gospel of John and three other letters. He was also a prophet and a leader of the churches in and around Asia Minor. He was the son of Zebedee and he and his family were very successful and prosperous fishermen. John was particularly close to Jesus, along with James and Peter. Even though he was mentioned only three times in the whole book of Acts, John was a key figure in the early Church. Tradition says that John eventually settled in Ephesus, where, under the reign of Domitian, he was arrested and banished to a small island known as Patmos to work in the mines there.

Revelation was one of the last parts of the New Testament written, some time in the 90’s. When you read the first three chapters, you can get a sense of how complacent the church had become during its second generation. It’s sad that most of those seven churches had already forsaken the beliefs and convictions of their fathers.

There are different ways to interpret the book of Revelation, and the purpose of this study is not to teach those differing schools of interpretation. Instead, I want to focus solely on the last few verses of the last chapter, which make the epilogue of the book.

The last words of the angel, 22:6 – 11

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” (Revelation 22:6 | NIV84)

This angel had been with John throughout the book and among his final words are words of reassurance John had heard before, and likely needed to hear again. The “words are trustworthy and true,” that is, the amazing things John had seen and heard are dependable – these incredible prophecies may be counted upon to take place.

God had given His Son His program for the future of mankind and Jesus gave that program to John to give to the churches. That program is profound and far reaching and so phenomenal, we need this reassurance that God will, as He has always done throughout history, keep His promises.

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:10, 11 | NIV84)

The angel told John not to “conceal” or “hide” what he saw. It’s interesting that, given the dramatic similarities between this book and the Old Testament book of Daniel that Daniel was told to do exactly the opposite!

The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future. (Daniel 8:26 | NIV84)

Why? In Daniel’s day, the things he saw – essentially the same things John saw – were a long way from being fulfilled. But now, in John’s day, “the time is near.” Many of the things both Daniel and John saw concerned the early church. Some of those prophecies have already come to pass, in part or in whole, during the days of the Roman Empire. And yet, there are other prophecies that have a continuing fulfillment throughout the centuries. There’s a reason why history repeats itself. As Sherlock Holmes said in “The Valley of Fear,”

Everything comes in circles. The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up. It’s all been done before, and will be again.

That’s the way it is with some of the prophecies of Revelation and Daniel. But all the prophecies of Revelation, the partially fulfilled ones and the ones being continually fulfilled, will be completely fulfilled in the future, by the time Jesus comes back.

The time of man’s dominance on the earth will draw to an end; the age of grace that we are presently enjoying, the long probationary period, will be over:

“Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:11 | NIV84)

That’s a curious verse. What it simply means is that even in the very end of days, people will continue to live as they always have. Good or bad. And for those not repenting, it will be too late. That’s a scary thought. There will be a day when God’s patience and grace will run out.

The last words of Jesus, 22:12 – 16

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12 | NIV84)

That’s Jesus talking and it’s exciting. We all know about salvation by grace. We all know about the Second Coming. But now we hear about rewards He will be bring with Him when He comes back! Salvation is entirely a work of grace, but rewards are based on our works.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:11 – 15 | NIV84)

We don’t talk much about that, but rewards are a pretty big deal that should be talked about; they are a great motivation for living right. Don’t you like gifts? Jesus is coming back and He’s bringing rewards with Him.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16 | NIV84)

There you have it; that’s how we got this book of Revelation. Jesus sent that angel who was hanging around John all the time, to give the apostle “this testimony,” or the revelation to the seven churches. Everything John heard and saw came from Jesus. None of the visions or prophecies came out of John’s head.

This is Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man. He’s the “Root and the Offspring of David,” thus the true and promised King of kings; the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to Israel. He’s the “bright Morning Star,” because Jesus Christ IS the new day and the new dawn. To every believer, Christ is the Promise of new day. He shines today as brightly as in the day of John on Patmos. Jesus Christ: He doen’t set and He doesn’t fall.

The last words of the Spirit and the Bride, 22:17

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17 | NIV84)

Those are the words of the Holy Spirit and of the Church, collectively, crying out for the Lord to return, and crying out for those who are in need to come and receive the “free gift of the water of life.” Only Jesus can meet the needs of your heart. His gifts, His ‘water of life’ always satisfy; always give you what you need.

The last words of John. 22:18

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:18 | NIV84)

John quotes Jesus; the Lord is coming soon. To everything that he has seen and heard, John says “Amen,” he says “yes.”

• “Yes” to the last words of the angel: everything in the book of Revelation is true, reliable, and dependable. In fact, ALL of God’s Word is true, reliable, and dependable!
• “Yes” to the last words of Jesus: He IS coming soon; He IS bringing rewards for His people; He is the genuine, long awaited King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
• “Yes” to the last words of the Spirit and the Church: Come Lord Jesus! Come all who need Him! Jesus Christ, the soon coming King is also the Source of everything you need – everything you will ever need!
• “Yes” was John’s final word to everything he saw and heard and to the promise of the Second Coming.

Yes! Amen! Those should be our final words, too.

7 Healthy Habits, Conclusion

IMG_20160311_075512In all, there are seven healthy habits every Christian should cultivate in his life.

For most of us, our behavior is dictated by our habits. For example, a lot of us have to be at work at a certain time, so our bedtime is determined by habit; we get the sleep we think we need so we can stay awake and focused at work. If we like to shower every morning, we set our alarms at the same time so we can take the time to do that. Those are good habits, especially the showering one. So is brushing your teeth. Good habits make for a healthy, productive, and content life. Bad habits have the opposite effect. They make us nervous, short-tempered, grouchy, and hard to live with. The best way to rid yourself of bad (and sometimes dangerous) habits is simply to replace them with good ones. If you’re a Christian your new good habits should be Bible based and Christ-centered, like the ones we’ve already looked at. Here are the concluding two healthy habits for Christians.

Stand for Christ, Ephesians 6:13

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (NIV)

Anybody who has ever studied Paul’s letter to the Ephesians inevitably concludes that it is Paul’s masterpiece, at least as far as the Church is concerned. More than any of Paul’s other writings, this letter sets forth the ideals of Christian living within the Body of Christ . John Chrysostom wrote this about Ephesians:

This epistle is full to the brim of thoughts and doctrines sublime and momentous.

And Samuel Coleridge thought so highly of this letter, he described thusly:

It is the divinest composition of man.

High praise for a letter written to people long dead and to a church long since dissolved. Which is odd, since the great hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” was based inspired by this very letter.

The sixth healthy habit for Christians is based on a group of verses found near the end of the letter, Ephesians 6:10 – 20, and it has to do with the notion of standing for Christ. And this is one of the most practical pieces of advice Paul could give to Christians because most of us need it. One of the greatest misconceptions we have is to assume that our salvation exempts us trials and tribulations in life. In fact, the opposite is often the case. Jesus Himself, usually Mr Encouragement, taught that following Him will more likely than not cause problems, not end them. One time, He compared following Him to a king preparing to battle an enemy. The king has to fight smart; he has to used his head.

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:31 – 33 NIV)

Jesus’ point is not capitulation in the face of an enemy, but rather it is found in the king’s actions: he sat down to consider. In other words, in the face of battle, the key to victory is a cool head that makes preparations. In Ephesians, Paul teaches us that, like the battle-hardened king, the Christian faces conflict, and victory lies in the mind. That is, making sure we make the proper preparations to win. And for that, there are resources available.

The first resource is really just a mental attitude:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10 NIV)

You might wonder how this is a mental attitude. The word, “strong,” is a Greek word written in the present passive tense. That’s significant. It means being strong in the Lord must be, first of all, a continual thing. Christians need to always be strong in the Lord. But it also suggests that the source of strength lies outside of the Christian – it comes from Christ Himself. Christians are to be empowered by the Lord. The attitude is one of obedience and submission. We are to let the power of God be exercised in our lives. Victory over conflict in this life is passive on our part – we emerge on top by letting Christ do the work. The nature of the conflict is so serious, nothing less than what Paul referred to as “the power of His might” is enough for us to win. We don’t have the ability to win in ourselves; we need the power of God. “Power” is a word that refers to “working power,” power that is doing something, while “might” has to do with a reserve – an inherent strength. What Paul is getting at here is vitally important for us to grasp: we need the operating power of God, which comes from His endless reserves, to live victoriously.

That all sounds so easy. But it obviously isn’t, since Paul took the time write about it and the Holy Spirit preserved this letter for us. Back in chapter one, Paul wrote about his prayer for his Ephesian friends:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18, 19a NIV)

Paul wrote that slightly confusing sentence because we cannot comprehend God’s power in us, therefore we need to pray to Him so that He would open “the eyes of our hearts” so that we might finally understand the tremendous power to live righteously and victoriously that resides IN us. And furthermore, the apostle went to write this:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being… (Ephesians 3:16 NIV)

Power, power everywhere is available to the Christian to live victoriously if we’ll allow it to flow through us. In the spiritual conflicts which we face every day, we must draw continually on Christ’s power. That goes for the individual Christian, but also for the Church, as it seeks to overcome the darkness of the world with the light of God. Tapping into that power will allow us to stand for Christ no matter what. Here’s the habit that will help us to do just that:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11 NIV)

We must habitually “put on the full armor of God” to stand. The Greek behind “full armor” is the funny looking and sounding panoplian, which suggests “completeness.” Christians are to continually or habitually put on every piece of the available armor. Or enemy – Satan – who is behind all of our conflicts, is so formidable that we must clothe ourselves with all God has for us. Nobody – no Christian – has an inherent defense against Satan’s clever schemes. You will always fail going up against him without the full armor of God.

So the sixth healthy habit is standing firm.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13 NIV)

We need all of God’s resources to stand during “the day of evil,” which simply refers any time you are attacked by some temptation, discouragement or any crisis which would cause you to sin. The “evil day” is inevitable for every single Christian.  Really, every day is “the day of evil.”

Watch for Christ’s Return, Mark 13:33

Be on guard! Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come. (Mark 13:33 NIV)

Speaking of “the day of evil,” the days in which Mark wrote his gospel were surely evil ones. Christians in Rome were being persecuted by Nero and his wicked policies making the 60’s a truly horrific decade to be a follower of Jesus Christ! Meanwhile, Christians in Jerusalem faced an uncertain future in the closing years of that same decade. So tumultuous were these years, Jerusalem would be essentially razed to the ground in 70 AD. It was in this atmosphere that Mark wrote chapter 13 of his Gospel – a chapter of reassurance mixed with commands dealing with how to face a bleak future. It’s prophetic in nature, but our final healthy habit is found in it.

This verse is part of Jesus’ famous Olivette Discourse, which is a little more complete and exciting in Matthew 24. The disciples were feeling good as they looked at the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. But Jesus gave them a dose of reality:

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2 NIV)

Sure, taught Jesus, things aren’t too bad right now, but “the day of evil” is coming. Things were going to get bad for believers in Jerusalem. And things are going to get bad for you too. I don’t have to be a prophet to tell you that. It’s life. Nothing ever stays the same for anybody. If times are bad, just wait, they’ll get better. And if times are good, enjoy them because it’s going to get bad. It’s just the way life is. That’s the way it was for the disciples and the Christians of the first century, and it’s the way it is for you, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ. When the dark times come, what do you do as a Christian facing those rough times? Jesus says watch for Him. Watch for His return.

Now, of course, large parts of the Olivette Discourse are eschatological – they deal with life during the Tribulation, a period of time yet to occur. During those finals years of life on earth as we know it, persecuted Jews and believers will need to take heart because Jesus will return in power and glory. But there is a something for us believers today. We may be encouraged in our discouragement by remembering that Jesus Christ is coming back. He hasn’t left us as orphans. He hasn’t by any stretch turned His back on we whom He gave His life to save. The healthy habit every Christian should cultivate in his life is this one: watching for the Lord’s return. He can come back any time. There is nothing keeping Jesus from returning except for the Father’s time table. Nobody can tell you just when Jesus will return, but He will. He promised to.

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. (Mark 13:34 NIV)

We’re the servants. Believers have been left in charge of the Lord’s house. We each have a job to do.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15 – 17 NIV)

Jesus called them our “assigned tasks,” work that God has for us to do for His Kingdom, and Paul encouraged believers to “live as wise” people, “making the most of every opportunity.” The greatest opportunities to serve Christ and glorify God come when “the days are evil.” And only very foolish Christians don’t know what God’s will for them is.

The final healthy habit is an important one. Remember Jesus is returning; look for His Second Coming. Each one of us who calls himself a Christian needs to be making the most of every opportunity during rough days to serve the Lord. Much of that service involves putting in place healthy habits that become parts of our everyday routine. Let’s develop all seven healthy habits so that our lives will living testimonies to the greatness of God.

Jesus as King

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During the Christmas season, we hear this prophecy many times. It’s a sad testimony to the state of Christian education and education in general in America that a lot of Christians and very few non-believers know where it comes from. It wasn’t Handel that wrote these words, it was the prophet Isaiah:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6, 7 TNIV)

The prophecies given in Isaiah chapters 7 – 12 were given during the reign of King Ahaz, king of Judah. The southern kingdom didn’t have too many bad kings, but Ahaz was one bad dude. Our prophet began his career as the national voice of God in the year King Uzziah died, who was a good king who reigned for some 52 years. Following him was his son, Jotham, who was a hypocritical phony. Ahaz was Jotham’s son, Uzziah’s grandson and he was just bad to the bone. It was during his tenure on the throne that Isaiah made these famous prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. God’s people needed hope after enduring decades of shifty, evil leadership. To say that this was a dark time in Judah’s history would be an understatement. Many people had become disenchanted with the faith; they thought God had forsaken the nation. They needed to know that God was still there; that He still cared, but especially the people needed to know that God was still in control.

The countdown began with a child

The fact of the coming Messiah began with the prophecy found in Isaiah 7 –

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 TNIV)

We hear that verse all time in reference to Jesus Christ; that’s how the New Testament applied it, so we know that Jesus Christ’s birth was the final fulfilment of this wonderful prophecy. However, the word “therefore” is important because it tells us more is going on. Isaiah is speaking to evil king Ahaz. Here’s the context:

“The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’ ” Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. ” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test. ” (Isaiah 7:9 – 12 TNIV)

Ahaz was facing a crisis and he didn’t know if he should seek help from the Lord or from the Assyians. He called on the prophet Isaiah for advice. Isaiah told him to ask God for a sign, but the stubborn king refused. But the Lord, through His prophet, was going to speak to Ahaz whether the king wanted to listen or not. That’s why the “therefore” is there as the beginning of verse 14.

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of human beings? Will you try the patience of my God also?” (Isaiah 7:13 TNIV)

You have to admire Isaiah’s straightforwardness! He’d had it with the house of David – the ruling elite of his day. The people were fed up with them, he was fed up with them, and the prophet invoked the Lord – the Lord was growing impatient with the house of David. “Therefore,” like it or not, God was going to give the house of David a sign.

The immediate fulfilment of this prophecy is found in the very next chapter –

Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria. ” (Isaiah 8:3 – 4 TNIV)

God used Isaiah’s son, with the unfortunate name of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, as a living clock; a way to indicate how soon disaster would overtake the nation. It would happen before the kid would be able to talk.

Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion. (Isaiah 8:18 TNIV)

Signs, wonders, portents…Israel was going to fall to the Assyrians and it was going to happen soon. God used Isaiah and his family as an indicator. The house of David needed to pay attention and get its house in order or what eventually happened to Israel would happen to them.

Historically, Isaiah’s living prophecy came to pass. King Ahaz, king of Judah, was scared of that the Syrian-Israel coalition, yet his fears were unfounded. Within 65 years, all the nations that threatened him were destroyed. He should have trusted in the Lord. But, while Judah survived intact, much devastation occurred at the hand of the Assyrians.

If this teaches us anything it’s the importance of keeping our faith and our focus on God. The real problems of life – the real threats we may face – are not our circumstances. The real issue is whether or not we will trust the Lord no matter.

Another child

God had used a child to teach a lesson. Here in chapter 9 of Isaiah, the prophet’s attention shifts from the immediate future of Judah and his people to the future. And the Lord will use another child to teach His people that, even though they felt abandoned by God, He in no way had forgotten them and even during this dark time of Hebrew history, the Lord was working to accomplish His purposes for His people.

By this time, Judah was suffering. They hadn’t been destroyed by the Assyrians, but the Assyrians had inflicted considerable damage to the kingdom. However, all was not lost.

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:1, 2 TNIV)

There was no need for hopelessness. There would come a Messiah who would make things right and restore the glory of the kingdom. Of course, that would be in the future. Here’s the fulfilment of the first couple of verses –

Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:13 – 16 TNIV)

Verse 2 has reference to the first coming. Even though Isaiah wrote it in the past tense, it was yet to occur. When Jesus came, light dawned on a dark world.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 TNIV)

That “great light” burst forth out of Galilee as Jesus began His public ministry there. But all was not well. In between verses 2 and 3 there is a gap, that so far has lasted over 2,000 years.

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as soldiers rejoice when dividing the plunder. (Isaiah 9:3 TNIV)

There was no joy in Israel during the time of Jesus and certainly none after He ascended to Heaven. The things Isaiah wrote about in verses 3 – 5 will occur in the future. You may wonder why Isaiah didn’t talk about things happening today, during the present 2,000+ year gap. The answer is simple. During this period, God has called out the Church and is working through the Church. This was hidden from Isaiah and all the Old Testament prophets. Try as you might, you won’t find the Church anywhere in a word of prophecy. On this, Paul helps us out –

Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to faith and obedience… (Romans 16:25, 26 TNIV)

The “mystery” Paul wrote about is the Church. Isaiah passed over what wasn’t revealed to him. But, what was revealed to him is something we talk about, read about, and sing about every year: the birth of the Christ child.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 TNIV)

The first phrase, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…” is Jesus at His first coming. Everything after that will be Jesus at His triumphant Second Coming. At that time, our Lord will be the earth’s true, only, and final King, because “on his shoulder” will rest all the authority He needs to be the greatest King and Sovereign this planet has ever known. What follows in this stunning verse are not only descriptions but titles of Jesus Christ as King.

Wonderful, Counsellor. These two words should be hyphenated. King Jesus will be a Wonder of a Counsellor. All the wisdom of the universe, of the ages, will reside in our coming King.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34 TNIV)

Our King needs no counsellor; He needs no advisors. He doesn’t come to decisions based on meetings held in His office. Jesus Christ, the coming King, is Wisdom personified.

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30 TNIV)

Mighty God. Our King will be the Divine Warrior. He is the One to whom “all power is given.” He is not only omniscient, but also omnipotent. The Hebrew is El Gibbor. ‘El’ always refers to the Godhead in an absolute sense. In Jesus rests all – all – the power of the Godhead.

Everlasting Father. The Hebrew is beautiful: Avi – Ad, the “Father of Eternity.” What a description of the King of Kings! He is the Father in perpetuity. He will always be our Heavenly Father. The idea Isaiah is putting across is one of time and space. The child who was born 2,000 years ago is the Father of time and space. There is not a nook or cranny the whole universe where Jesus Christ is not the Father. There is no point in space or time where He is not present.

Prince of Peace. This final name suggests the characteristics of His rule: peace, complete, absolute peace on earth. The Hebrew word is shalom, which not only indicates an absence of war and strife, also speaks of a condition of health, harmony, and complete well-being in every way.

There can be no peace on earth until Jesus Christ returns as its true, final King. His government will be perfect – it will grow and increase. He will sit on the throne of His father, David.  How will all this come about?: God will cause it all to happen.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7 TNIV)

Man may have his plans. Nations may plot and scheme plans that will take them decades out into the future, but God’s zeal – His perfect and holy will – will always come to pass in spite of what man thinks or wants.

Things To Come

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Jesus made several trips to Jerusalem during His ministry on Earth, but Mark records just one, and Mark 11 and 12 describe our Lord’s actions and teachings in Jerusalem and around the Temple. The Jerusalem we read about in these two chapters of Mark is a dark and dangerous city. Jerusalem had become a hotbed of hostility and unbelief. Like the prophets before Him, Jesus experienced the constant hostility of the city’s religious and political leaders.

Throughout Mark 11 and 12 we witness what happens to a community, Jerusalem in this case, when it fails to fully realize its calling to follow the Word and the will of God. There is a breakdown in society and culture and especially of religion. This is shown in Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, which had been turned into “den of robbers” by the religious elite. Most preachers and Bible students like to talk about the righteous anger of Jesus when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers, but Mark wants his readers to understand Jesus didn’t do these things because He was angry. It was a form of judgment. He had previously cursed an unproductive fig tree (Israel) and would tell a parable about the destruction of the tenants of a vineyard who were also unproductive (Israel). These three incidents show that God takes seriously the moral and spiritual conduct of a nation, and they set up Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13.

A change of scene, same teaching Mark 13:1 – 4

As he was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, what beautiful buildings these are! Look at the decorated stonework on the walls.”

Jesus replied, “Yes, look! For not one stone will be left upon another, except as ruins.” (Mark 13:1, 2 TLB)

As Jesus and His disciples left the Temple grounds, the disciples couldn’t help but comment on the greatness of the architecture. You and I have no concept of how beautiful Herod’s Temple was. Apparently it was truly a magnificent structure that literally took the breath away. That makes Jesus’ statement all the more startling. On that beautiful day, how could the apostles imagine a day when that great Temple, not even finished yet, would lay in ruins? How would it even be possible to topple the massive stones used in the Temple’s construction?

What Jesus said was startling, but it shouldn’t have been surprising. The prophets had already written about the very thing Jesus was talking to His disciples about this day.

It is because of you that Jerusalem will be plowed like a field and become a heap of rubble; the mountaintop where the Temple stands will be overgrown with brush. (Micah 3:13 TLB)

But Mark, far from writing like an ignorant fisherman, wrote like a theologian. He made it very clear that the coming destruction would be a direct judgment of God. George Beasley-Murray in his work, Jesus and the Last Days, wrote:

Mark’s setting of the prophecy at this point inevitably confirms the impression that the ruin of the Temple is the divinely ordained judgment upon Israel for its rejection of the Word of God brought by Jesus.

The judgment of God upon His people as predicted by Jesus was absolute. Josephus, our go-to Jewish historian wrote about the destruction of Israel and the Temple by Titus in 70 AD:

Caesar ordered the whole city and the Temple to be razed to the ground…the wall encompassing the city was so completely leveled to the ground as to leave future visitors to the spot no ground for believing that it had ever been inhabited.

Make no mistake: Caesar was angry with the Jews. But he was only a tool in the hands of God as He executed His judgment upon His people.

Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows! (Galatians 6:7 TLB)

The disciples asked Jesus two questions that are the key to understanding Mark 13 and our future.

And as he sat on the slopes of the Mount of Olives across the valley from Jerusalem, Peter, James, John, and Andrew got alone with him and asked him, “Just when is all this going to happen to the Temple? Will there be some warning ahead of time?” (Mark 13:3, 4 TLB)

Two streams, one destiny

Mark 13, along with Matthew 24, are difficult for modern Bible readers to understand. There is a lot of Jewish apocalyptic language used that would have been easily understood by the disciples that we miss. And there are really two levels of prophecy in Mark 13: prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (fulfilled in 70 AD) and prophecies concerning the second coming of Christ (not yet fulfilled). These are interwoven, spoken in the same breath. Some were fulfilled in 70 AD, some will be fulfilled in our future, and others had a partial fulfillment in 70 AD but will be fully fulfilled at the Second Coming.

Let’s look at the disciple’s questions.

Will there be some warning ahead of time?

Naturally the disciples wanted to know about signs. Lots of Jews wanted to know about signs. Previously the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus and He refused. But the disciples asked for signs and our Lord answered their request.

The signs Jesus gives He treats like one, long continuous sign from His time, through our time, into the Tribulation, and ending when He returns. There will be:

False teachers, vs. 5, 6.

These will be people supposedly preaching the truth, but they will be preaching lies; they will be preaching their own brand of theology that has little or nothing to do with the Bible.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible wrath of God is upon all those who do them. Don’t even associate with such people. (Ephesians 5:6, 7 TLB)

There have always been false teachers, by the way. They aren’t an invention of a liberal church in America. Although you could say liberal evangelicals have perfected the art of false teaching. False teachers were the bane of Paul’s existence and were the main reason why he wrote some of his letters. These false teachers claimed to be messengers from God but were really anything but. Their purpose was to lead gullible and ignorant believers astray.  That’s the purpose of all false teachers, of all time.

Wars and rumors of wars, vs. 7

And wars will break out near and far, but this is not the signal of the end-time. (TLB)

Again, just like false teachers have always been around, there have always been wars going on all over the earth. In point of fact, peace is the exception, not the norm in most places. Wars actually serve a very useful function: they bear testimony to the fact that Prince of Peace has not yet established His kingdom on earth. There was plenty destruction and violence leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, yet during the years just prior to the return of Christ, conditions on earth will have degenerated drastically, as sinful man casts off all restraints and the Lord allows him to do so.

Natural disasters, vs. 8

...there will be earthquakes in many lands, and famines.

When we read in Revelation about the strange events taking place on earth during the Tribulation, it’s easy to understand why there will be an increase in things like earthquake and famines.

Hatred for His sake, vs. 9 – 13

You will be dragged before the courts, and beaten in the synagogues, and accused before governors and kings of being my followers. This is your opportunity to tell them the Good News. (Mark 13:9 TLB)

We know this happened in the early chapters of Acts, and in various parts of the world Christians have been “dragged before the courts” since the book of Acts. It’s hard to believe that Christians are being sued and fined outrageous amounts on account of their faith in America, but this “soft tyranny” against believers is becoming all-too common in this land of the not-so-free-anymore.

Natural affection perverted, vs. 12

Brothers will betray each other to death, fathers will betray their own children, and children will betray their parents to be killed.

This must surely be the most heartbreaking sign of all. Not only will Christians face hostile courts, councils, synagogues, politicians, beatings, and other persecution, they will also experience hostility from their own families.

Don’t trust anyone, not your best friend—not even your wife! For the son despises his father; the daughter defies her mother; the bride curses her mother-in-law. Yes, a man’s enemies will be found in his own home. (Micah 6:5, 6 TLB)

How is this even possible? Matthew gives us the answer:

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other… (Matthew 24:10 NIV)

Deceitful workers of wonders, vs. 22

For there will be many false Messiahs and false prophets who will do wonderful miracles that would deceive, if possible, even God’s own children.

False teachers are one thing, but false teachers that seem to be able to work supernatural wonders are something else. Demon possessed preachers and religious leaders, claiming to do the work of Christ, will cause even believers to fall away from the true faith.

Changes in the material universe, vs. 24

After the tribulation ends, then the sun will grow dim and the moon will not shine, and the stars will fall—the heavens will convulse.

These verses have traditionally been regarded a description of what will happen in the sky just prior to the glorious appearing of the Messiah. Bible scholars are divided as to how literally to take this verse and verses like it. One thing is certain, though, the coming into our world of the Messiah and His kingdom will be a cataclysmic event.

When is all this going to happen?

Contextually, the disciples were wondering when the Temple was going to be destroyed. Jesus, in He giving His answer, answers that question but then proceeds to talk about His Second Coming.

Nobody knows for sure, vs. 32

However, no one, not even the angels in heaven, nor I myself, knows the day or hour when these things will happen; only the Father knows.

As it was in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of Christ be. The fact of the coming flood was preached by Noah for two hundred years as he built his ark, but nobody, not even Noah, knew when the time would come to shut the door.

The fact of Jesus’ Second Coming cannot be denied. The Old Testament prophets saw it, Jesus talked about it, and the New Testament predicts it. It will happen; He will come again.

The Gospel will be preached, vs. 10

And the Good News must first be made known in every nation before the end-time finally comes.

This is a sign but also a condition to be fulfilled. When the last person on earth has heard the Gospel, the time will have come to Jesus to come back.

The abomination of desolation will be set up, vs. 14

When you see the horrible thing standing in the Temple—reader, pay attention!—flee, if you can, to the Judean hills.

This prediction is found in Daniel 9 and was previously fulfilled in Jewish history, but it will happen one more time just prior to the Second Coming.

Jesus’ advice

Our Lord had given His disciples a lot to think about. And we have a lot to think about, too. Jesus is coming again. We don’t know when it will happen. But one thing is certain: we are to be ready. There is no room for apathy, indifference, or unbelief in the Church regarding this. Jesus’ advice to His disciples is His advice to us, today.

First, we are to trust Him.

Take care! I have warned you! (Mark 13:23 TLB)

Indeed He has. There are no surprises. Jesus has warned us that things will get worse and worse in our world before He returns. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised when we see Christians persecuted anywhere in the world, even here in America. But we need to trust Him.

Second, we need to be watchful. Three times in verses 33 – 37 He urged His followers to be watchful; to keep their eyes open; to be alert. Jesus hasn’t left us in the dark. He has told us everything we need to know. Our job now is to be wise; to be spiritually wide awake.

Third, we are to pray.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. (Mark 13:33 AV)

The one who is watching and paying attention to the signs will also be an intercessor. Don’t become discouraged or disheartened about the state of our country or of the world. Pray! Watch and pray! Faith in His coming should lead to a better, more spiritual life.

Paul, who knew the Lord could come at any time, gave the best piece of advice:

So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good. Ephesians 5:15, 16 TLB)

Three Appearances of Jesus, 4

BeFunky_Signs+of+the+Times.jpg

In all, Jesus will make three appearances, each corresponding to an aspect of our salvation.  His first appearance on earth as a baby in a manger brought God’s plan of salvation down to man from the Father.  His second appearance was in Heaven, after His death, resurrection and ascension.  There, Jesus makes intercession for His people, maintaining their salvation.  Our Lord’s third and final appearance will be when He returns to earth in power and glory.  This will be the consummation of our salvation.

When Jesus returns to earth, He will be returning with His saints.  Let’s take a moment to distinguish Jesus’ returning with His saints and His coming for them.

Some results when He comes for His people 

We call this event the Rapture.  Jesus will appear in the clouds for His people, but He won’t touch down on earth.  His purpose will be to remove believers from the earth just prior to the Tribulation, a period of seven years during which God will pour out His wrath on the nations of the world in judgment.  He will also bring Israel to its knees, metaphorically speaking, for the purpose of bringing them into His family.  Given the main purposes for the Tribulation, there is no need for the Church to be here.  Even so, during this time there will be many converts to Christ; great revivals will break out and even in the midst of God’s judgments, the Gospel will be preached.

Here’s what will happen when Jesus comes for His people:

The resurrection of the dead in Christ. 

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord.   (1 Thessalonians 4:16  TLB)

What a stirring passage of Scripture!  The Lord Himself – not an angel – will step out of heaven to personally call His people to Himself.  He won’t be sending surrogates get His people.  When He returns to establish His kingdom on earth, He will send His angels to do the ground work, but He will be the One gathering His people.

He will descend with a “mighty shout.”  Jesus didn’t do a lot of shouting during His time on earth, but He did shout at Lazarus to come out of the tomb.  There will also be the “soul-stirring cry of the archangel” and the “great trumpet-call of God.”   It is Jesus who will be commanding the “dead in Christ” to rise.  His voice alone will be orchestrating the events on earth.   This is what Revelation refers to as “the first resurrection.”  The apostle Paul wanted to part of this group:

So whatever it takes, I will be one who lives in the fresh newness of life of those who are alive from the dead.  (Philippians 3:11  TLB)

The transformation of the living.

Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up…  (1 Thessalonians 4:17a  TLB)

As the Lord descends, the saints will ascend to meet Him in the air.  That phrase, “caught up,” is from the Greek verb harpazo, meaning, “to seize and carry off speedily, to catch away.”  This is where we get the term, rapture.  There will be a glad reunion with the departed and resurrected loved ones:

Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.  (1 Thessalonians 4:17  TLB) 

It is here that this event will occur:

It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For there will be a trumpet blast from the sky, and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too.  For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever.  (1 Corinthians 15:52, 53  TLB) 

What a marvelous day this will be.  It will be an orderly event:  the dead will be raised first, followed by the living.  That last phrase is, to me, the most exciting one:  and remain with him forever.  Nothing and no one will be able to take us away from our Lord.  Little wonder Paul said this:

So comfort and encourage each other with this news.  (1 Thessalonians 4:18  TLB)

The things we’ve been talking about shouldn’t terrify or confuse any believer.  The teaching of the end times, and in particular the rapture, should be a comfort to all believers.  That word “comfort” also means “exhort.”  Believes are to talk about these things to comfort, in the traditional sense, but also to exhort each other.  Jesus will be taking His Church out of the earth one of these days, ready or not.  The dead will be lifted out of their graves first, followed by the living and together we will be standing with the Lord, in His presence forever.  In fact, we will be coming back with Him to the earth when He physically, literally and visibly returns to earth.

Some results when Jesus appears with His people.

Jesus will have a job to do when He comes back.  He will –

Manifest His own. 

Part of living right is thinking right.  According to Paul, one motivation for living and thinking right is the prospect of a glorious future:

And when Christ who is our real life comes back again, you will shine with him and share in all his glories.  (Colossians 3:4  TLB)

Part of our glorious future will be our manifestation alongside Christ when He returns.  He second coming will be full of majesty and splendor, and we will be right there, in the midst of it.  Lightfoot’s ancient comments still make you shiver:

The veil which now shrouds your higher life from others, and even partly from yourselves, will be withdrawn.  The world which persecutes, despises, ignores now, will then be blinded with the dazzling glory of the revelation.  

Punish the disobedient. 

And so I would say to you who are suffering, God will give you rest along with us when the Lord Jesus appears suddenly from heaven in flaming fire with his mighty angels, bringing judgment on those who do not wish to know God and who refuse to accept his plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ.  They will be punished in everlasting hell, forever separated from the Lord, never to see the glory of his power…  (2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 9  TLB)

This is not an insignificant thing that Jesus will do.  Right now, we see criminals and evil doers getting away with it.  The justice system seems to be a joke and the perpetrators of crimes seem to get more consideration than the victims.  But we are assured that when Jesus comes back, He will mete out perfect justice.  Nobody will be getting away with anything.

Closely related to His punishment of those who are disobedient, will be what happens to the nations of this world.

Judge the nations. 

But when I, the Messiah, shall come in my glory, and all the angels with me, then I shall sit upon my throne of glory.  And all the nations shall be gathered before me. And I will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and place the sheep at my right hand, and the goats at my left.  (Matthew 25:31 – 33  TLB)

The grip nations have on their citizens and their ungodly rule of this world will finally be broken as our Lord calls them to account for the godlessness.

Restore Israel. 

No, God is not finished with Israel.  Not by a long shot.  Some churches teach something called Replacement Theology, which says that God is done with Israel and that the Church has taken its place.  Therefore, all the promises made to Israel may now be claimed by the Church.  That’s not only bad theology, it’s anti-Semitic.  When Jesus returns He will completely restore national Israel.  It will finally be the nation God always intended it to be.

The Lord will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David! And the royal line will be as God, like the Angel of the Lord who goes before them!  For my plan is to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  Then I will pour out the spirit of grace and prayer on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on him they pierced, and mourn for him as for an only son, and grieve bitterly for him as for an oldest child who died.  (Zechariah 12:8 – 20  TLB)

I want you to know about this truth from God, dear brothers, so that you will not feel proud and start bragging. Yes, it is true that some of the Jews have set themselves against the Gospel now, but this will last only until all of you Gentiles have come to Christ—those of you who will.  And then all Israel will be saved. Do you remember what the prophets said about this? “There shall come out of Zion a Deliverer, and he shall turn the Jews from all ungodliness.  At that time I will take away their sins, just as I promised.”  (Romans 11:25 – 27  TLB) 

Destroy the Antichrist. 

The Antichrist will be, and he may already be, a real person.  He will be the big political leader during the Tribulation.

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.  But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  (Revelation 19:19, 20  TLB)

Rule the nations. 

Our Lord will judge the nations but He won’t destroy them; He will rule them.  The world will – and even today already is – desperate for a political savior; that one brilliant politician who will make everything right and undo all the damage done by previous leaders.  The fact is, only Jesus will be able to do this.

In his days may the righteous flourish and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.   May he rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.  (Psalm 72:7, 8  TLB) 

The Lord will be king over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.  (Zechariah 14:9  TLB)

Some signs of signs of His coming. 

While there are no signs for when the rapture may occur – it could have happened any time in the past and can happen any time in the future – there are many, many signs that will point to the Second coming of Jesus.

We know that the Bible does not teach that the Church will convert the world.  That just isn’t going to happen.  We know that the world will be in terrible shape just before Christ comes.  Things may be bad now, but imagine how things will be with the Church it taken out of the way?  All the horrible things that will take place during the seven-year Tribulation will be the signs pointing to Christ’s return.

The preaching of the Gospel. 

Yes, even though the Church will be taken away, many people will come to know Jesus during the Tribulation and they will take the message of salvation all over the world.

And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it, and then, finally, the end will come.  (Matthew 24:14  TLB)

Of course, the Gospel  has been preached since the days of the Apostles, and it’s being preached today.  But during the Tribulation, with the convergence of Bible prophecy and the knowledge that supernatural events are occurring, many will find the Lord and preach the Gospel in spite of the danger.  There will be many martyrs during this time, but if history teaches us anything, it’s that the more pressure the world exerts against believers, the harder they pushback.  The Gospel will be preached around the world like never before.

The budding fig tree, Israel. 

Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see the events taking place that I’ve described you can be just as sure that the Kingdom of God is near.  (Luke 21:29 – 31 TLB) 

The fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel.  God doesn’t keep time with a Timex.  If you want to know how far along we in God’s prophetic timetable, look to the nation of Israel.

This parable is found in all three Synoptics, but is most complete in Matthew 24.  The fig tree represents Israel.  Her revival will be the harbinger of the Messiah’s return.

Perilous times. 

You may as well know this too, Timothy, that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian.  (2 Timothy 3:1  TLB) 

Then there will be strange events in the skies—warnings, evil omens and portents in the sun, moon and stars; and down here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  The courage of many people will falter because of the fearful fate they see coming upon the earth, for the stability of the very heavens will be broken up.  Then the peoples of the earth shall see me, the Messiah, coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  So when all these things begin to happen, stand straight and look up! For your salvation is near.  (Luke 21:25 – 28  TLB) 

Perilous is a good word to describe the days just preceding the Second Coming, for sure!

The cry of the Bridegroom’s friends. 

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.  (Matthew 25:6  KJV) 

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…  (2 Peter 3:10a  KJV)

We don’t know when the rapture will occur and we don’t know when Jesus will come again, but the fact of His coming is settled in Scripture.  He is coming.  And He will be here when the world is least expecting Him.

We aren’t in the Tribulation yet, no matter how bad circumstances may be, but even now the signs pointing to His return are obvious to those of us who are looking.  The way things are going, with all the violence and uncertainty all over the world, now more than ever, all believers should lift up their heads, and know that their redemption draweth nigh.


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