Sara's Musings

Be Ready

February 2012
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Eschatology (a study of the end times) has always been a fascinating topic for many people. From a Christian perspective, Jesus had a lot to say to His disciples about the end times in His second longest discourse known as the Olivet Discourse (his longest discourse was the Sermon on the Mount–the subject of which is how to live as a follower of Jesus Christ). The Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25) contains the signs of the end of the age as well as three parables (The Parable of the Ten Virgins; The Parable of the Talents; and The Sheep and the Goats). And, in the last two verses of the Bible, in Rev. 22:20-21, the very clear indication is that Jesus could return at any time: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Over the years there has been a lot of speculation and “date setting” by various people regarding when Jesus Christ would return to earth (e.g. also known as “The Second Coming”); however, it is important to note that the day and the hour of Christ’s return is unknown to anyone except God (Matt. 24:36-39): “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

I have no desire to become a part of the discussion that has been ongoing for decades, indeed, centuries now regarding the various views on the rapture of the church or the tribulation/millennium. No, my focus is on what Jesus had to say in his Olivet Discourse and at the end of the book of Revelation–a statement that He repeated in three separate verses in the last chapter (Rev. 22: 7, 12, 20)–“Behold, I am coming soon.” These passages clearly point to the fact that His coming will be both sudden and unexpected by most of the world and that it will happen at a time that is just like the time before the flood in Noah’s day.

As a young girl growing up in the church, references to the return of Jesus Christ were fairly common, and there was much anticipation among many Christians at that time about this very fact and how it influenced how they lived their lives. And, if I remember right, there was a plethora of songs made famous even as recent as just a couple of decades ago regarding the fact that Jesus could come back at any time. And, there were and still are a variety of Christian television programs devoted entirely to the signs of the end times and the return of Jesus Christ. However, speculation about these events has become more important than anticipation of Jesus’ actual return.

Over the past two or more decades I have noticed as the culture has invaded the church and replaced Jesus as the first love of our lives (due to money and materialism taking a much more prominent place in the lives of Christians) that there has been a definite “waning” of the desire to see Jesus Christ come back “too soon.” This is nothing new as far as the history of the church is concerned but the vast expansion of this attitude and lifestyle among Christians has brought about “the days of Noah” in large measure inside of our churches and our lives here in America. It seems as if nobody really wants to see Jesus Christ come back anytime soon (even though our world is in incredible turmoil).

And that should give us all pause for thought . . . .

I’m not implying that all Christians in America have been swallowed up by greed and the love of money and all the things it can do and buy for them, but the emphasis on “prosperity” and living “the good life,” has overridden the rule of Jesus Christ over our lives. Much like the frog being slowly boiled to death in a pan of water heating up over time, we have slowly, and many times, not so slowly, acclimated to the whims of our culture to the point where our prayers have become, in large part, requests for “more” stuff. We have forgotten Who it is who called us, and what He has called us to do.

“Behold, I am coming quickly . . . .” We barely recognize that Voice anymore.

Instead, we live much like they did in the days of Noah. We concern ourselves with our own personal lives and “needs” and there are vast quantities of  “Christian” books  and CD’s on the market at any given time to make sure the focus stays on “us,” while making the authors rich (it is, after all, a vicious cycle). That is not to say that there aren’t many Christian books out there that are rock solid, but they usually don’t focus on us and the authors didn’t write them to get rich. Also, due to the fact that we as Christians have lost our ability to discern spiritual matters we swallow whole anything anyone with “Christian” celebrity status says or writes. And, we have become so concerned with our “stuff” and our “money” and our “wants” which we disguise as needs that we have forgotten all about the fact that we live in a hurting world that needs to know about Jesus Christ. And, our “witness” of self-centeredness drives people away from Jesus Christ and not to Him.

I know because I used to live at that address. I bought many of the popular “Christian” books that cater to self under the guise of Christianity and actually promise nothing more in the end than to make money for the authors and keep you focused on yourself instead of Jesus. All during that time the Bible sat hardly read on my bookshelf. And I barely recognized the Voice of the One who had redeemed me all those years ago because I had lost my focus.

Fortunately, the One who had called and redeemed me so many, many years ago pulled me out of that mess (see post titled Second Chances), and over the course of the past three years has opened my eyes and my heart again to what it means to really follow after Him. And I’m still learning, too. And, I am more grateful to Him for doing that then either words or praise can adequately express, even though the circumstances He allowed in my life to bring about this change were horrific to say the least.

If you recognize yourself in anything I have written, don’t be angry or upset. Jesus Christ values you more than you can even imagine, and He wants to change you from the inside out. But as long as we keep living like they did in the days of Noah—acclimating to everything our culture has to offer us and keeping our focus on ourselves—we drown out His voice and His life in us, and we become like salt that has lost its saltiness and “is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matt. 5:13).

My suggestion is to first read the “Olivet Discourse” (Matt. 24 & 25) and then go back to the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5-7) to learn how to get the focus of your life back on Jesus Christ and how He wants to you live until He returns because as He declared in Rev. 22:12-13“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20-21).

YouTube video–“Midnight Cry” sung by Michael English and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (1991):

Photo credit here

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3 Comments

  1. Rev. Carlene Appel says:

    Sara,
    Jesus’ prophecy in Matt. 24 has been taken out of context by date setters for years,. In truth he was foretelling the fall of Jerusalem which did come to pass in 70 AD (or CE).

    Both Daniel and the Revelation are what’s known as apocryphal books. They are written in times of persecution and the purpose is to encourage the faithful to press on and stay faithful-because God wins in the end. Apocryphal books contain lots of imagery–dreams, visions, allegory, etc. and the date mongers read way too much into it. In fact if you were to examine different versions of the Bible for Daniel, how the 7th week gets interpreted depends upon where the punctuation is.

    The history behind how the Bible came together is fascinating and it is truly evidence of God’s hand that despite scribal errors and editorial insertions by very obviously biased editors in some cases, we have a faith story that is seamless and continues to get the job done that God intended. I gave a presentation at a Rotary Club meeting on the Dead Sea Scrolls during the time of my last pastorate. How they were obtained reads like a spy novel–smuggled, hidden under floor boards of a shoe shop, murder and more.

    When I teach on this area, ultimately I want people to trust that Jesus is coming back, so they should spend their time doing what He’s called them to do rather than biblical “navel gazing.” That way when He does return that’s what He’ll find them doing instead of standing around gawking into the sky.

    Blessings!

    Like

    • Thanks for your comment, Carlene. The “preterist” view is that which endorses the same view you hold for Matt. 24 (e.g., that it was foretelling the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD). However, there are various schools of thought on that passage and I believe that the events that Jesus described in Matt. 24 are already in the birth pangs and will culminate during the seven-year tribulation period still to come. Because of these other views that have been debated for decades, that is why I stated in my post that I did not wish to become a part of those “discussions.” The point I was making in this post was that we, as Christians, need to repent of our self-centered lifestyles and lukewarm attitudes regarding the fact that Jesus could return at any time. Also, we need to be about the business God has for us to do in advancing the Gospel instead of speculating or “setting dates” regarding how soon He will be coming back. I agree with you that “date setting ” and speculation are not what we should be doing, and that what we should be doing is spreading the Gospel (after all, it is the very best news there is in this world). So even though we disagree on the interpretation of Matt. 24, we do agree that we should always be active servants while eagerly anticipating the day of His return. Again, I always appreciate your thoughts, Carlene!

      Like

  2. yoongz says:

    Thanks for the refocus! Let us indeed get ready for His Coming. In my bible study last week, there was the question, “Are you ready for the Lord’s return?” my answer was “i don’t think i would ever be completely ready but i want to be so Holy Spirit help me to be ready. Amen.”

    Like

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