Luke 21:24-36 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 (New King James Version)
These two passages give us a unique insight into Christ's Return for his followers. It is of paramount importance to realise that Jesus makes a clear distinction between his followers and everyone else in regards to His Return:
Luke 21:27 "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory"
Note the use of the word "they", these are they who are not His followers. Christ compares the "watchers", his followers v36 with those who will be caught unawares by His Return:
Luke 21:35 "For it will come as a snare on those who dwell on the face of the whole earth"
Going back to verse 28 we read Jesus says:
"when these things begin to happen look up and lift up your head because your redemption draws near."
We see here the implication of two phases in Christ's Return - it is the only way to explain the "redemption" and the "snare". This is emphatically brought home in verse 36:-
"Watch therefore and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man"
Worthy means that we are trusting in Christ for our Salvation, vigilant and ready to go. We should not be focused on the things of this world that will indeed pass away but be looking to eternity. The word ESCAPE clearly points to Christ bringing judgements on this world that the Christian will be saved from.
The passage in 1 Thessalonians bears out these same ideas. Christ's Return to the "air" for His Church talks of the separation of His people from the world in a dramatic physical way, caught up to the skies to meet Him above the clouds. There then follows an exhortation to watch and not sleep but especially note verse 9:-
"For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ"
Here "wrath" parallels the "snare" talked about in Luke. God's wrath is coming on a Christ rejecting world when the "wrath of the Lamb" given in great detail in the book of Revelation will be poured out on this earth. Natural disasters increasing is only the beginning signalling our approaching redemption:
Luke 21:26 "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near".
The destruction of this planet foretold in Revelation is of a magnitude far greater than any natural disasters we have ever seen.
If we trust Christ as our Saviour we can watch and wait with expectancy for His Return knowing that we will escape the fearful judgement coming on this world.
Rev 6:15-17 "And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks. "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
Help those who suffer because they are persecuted because they belong to Christ
Mark 9:41 NIV
"I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward".
This is a promise directly from Christ which should spur us on to help those who suffer because they own His name.
see http://www.barnabasfund.org (I apologize for a spelling mistake here previously where I had put barnabusfund instead of barnabasfund)
God wants people to pray like they really mean it!
2 Kings 20:1-11 NIV
King Hezekiah had reigned in Jerusalem for 14 years as King of Judah, he had been a godly king, honouring God and ruling justly. He was 39 years of age and had been struck down with an incurable disease. The prophet Isaiah was sent by God to tell the king that he was not going to recover "This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order because you are going to die; you will not recover". Like most of us in the same situation, Hezekiah was overcome with the knowledge that this was the end of his life. The Bible says that on hearing this verdict on his illness he 'turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord "Remember O Lord how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.' Isaiah left the king but had not left the palace before God spoke to him again and told him to return to Hezekiah because He had decided that he should recover and indeed live for another 15 years.
"This is what the Lord, the God of your father David says I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you" 2Kings 20:5b
I don't believe Hezekiah's tears were of self pity but a cry to God for mercy because of the way he had honoured God in his life as king. God had not only heard his prayer but seen his tears - how often does God see our tears when we pray for His intervention. Jesus said "and I will do whatever you ask in MY NAME, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask ME for anything in MY NAME and I will do it." John 14:13,14 NIV
This is a BIG promise but we must be serious in our asking and sometimes this means we ask in tears!
The Prayer of Faith
Matthew 21:22 NIV
Jesus said "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" However, we must remember that asking in the name of Jesus is paramount.
John 14:13,14 "and I will do whatever you ask in MY NAME, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask ME for anything in MY NAME, and I will do it."
Bringing glory to the Father was and is Christ's aim - when we ask things in His name we should remember AND mention that we rejoice in the Father's glory and honour His Name. Asking in faith is like learning to walk - we must learn to step out in faith BELIEVING that He will not let us fall because we are doing it for HIS glory.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.
John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
Jesus Christ's claim to deity was very clear
John 8:58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM!"
You can reject Christ's claims now but his victory is assured
Rev 11:15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ and he will reign for ever and ever."
Many millions will shout and praise the name of Christ in heaven - the question is, will YOU be among them?
These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord's instruction. They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.
Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!"
15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it."
Like the Israelites of old, people today don't want to hear about disasters which will come upon them if they persist in their sin and continue to turn away from God. They want to hear of pleasant things - they want to hear that they are not really too bad after all - God wont condemn them will He? surely never!
Ministers of religion today are one of the causes of vast hordes of people rushing into a lost eternity because they have been fooled into a sense of false security by "pleasant things". How many ministers of religion preach a warning at funerals about the dangers of rejecting Christ? For fear of hurting relatives feelings they miss out the unpleasantness of hell and thereby fail to warn their audience! Even worse, many such ministers of the faith dont even believe in hell themselves! Jesus warned more of hell than He spoke of heaven - He died a terrible death on a cross to save those who would put their trust in him from hell - how many millions are going to hell because ministers of religion prophesy illusions?
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.
One of the most interesting things about this verse is what the rider is NOT called. He is not called Love, Mighty God, Cousellor or any other previously used appelations for God but I think one of the most beautiful names ever used for Him - Faithful and True.
This picture of Christ coming in triumph to set up his earthly kingdom for 1000 years is something all Christians should look forward too - have you ever wonder WHY we CAN look forward to this? It is because He is Faithful and True - so unlike human love which is often a love for the moment - "what suits me now but don't expect it to always be like this type love". No wonder Jesus spoke about "this adulterous and sinful generation" Mark 8:38 since he came down very strongly against divorce. Divorce symbolises a lack of faithfulness which is why I believe Christ was very vociferous in His condemnation of it while he didn't even mention polygamy (see my Bible study on Polygamy).
There is so much to look forward to in heaven but one is certainly an end to unfaithfulness!
Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead - have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living".
There is much in this passage but briefly; error is born out of not knowing the Scriptures or by not taking the Scriptures as a whole. Earthly marriage is only a temporal state which will be replaced by the marriage of the church to Christ, an eternal state.
The final point made by Christ about the resurrection is brilliant in its simplicity! I am looking forward to meeting Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the reality of those now living in God's presence is a portent of the blessing awaiting us if we trust in Christ as our Redeemer.
"I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven."
This is only a short passage but like so much of what Jesus said it contains so much - matters of eternal life and death! To disown Christ is to be UNKNOWN in heaven, its as simple as that!
When talking about the Holy Spirit Jesus makes a special distinction. Many say that blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is the personal rejection of the conviction of the Spirit about sin and the need to accept Christ as Saviour. I believe it also refers to those who actively mock the work of God in Christ and therefore attack the very work the Holy Spirit does in convicting people of sin - they are in danger of becoming walking corpses bound for Hell!
Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;no-one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
The metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep is very applicable here - why? because of the complete reliance of the sheep on the shepherd. It is the hand of the shepherd that keeps the sheep NOT the capabilities of the sheep to keep out of danger. Jesus always relates everything he does to the Father and no more so than here. The ultimate protection for the sheep is the Father who despite the attacks of Satan on the sheep is able to keep them secure - Praise God!
Exodus 14:22 "the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left"
Psalm 66:6a "He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the river on foot - "(the river, refers to the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land).
Psalm 78:13 "He divided the sea and led them through; he made the water stand firm like a wall."
Psalm 114:3-5 "The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back;"
Psalm 136:13 "to him who divided the Red Sea asunder His loves endures forever, and brought Israel through the midst of it, His love endures forever. but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; His love endures forever."
Isaiah 43:16-17 "This is what the Lord says - he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick"
Isaiah 51:10 "Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over?"
Isaiah 63:11-12 "Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people - where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, who sent his glorious arm of power to be at Moses' right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for himself everlasting renown, who led them through the depths?"
The full story of this most famous miracle from the Bible is told in great detail in Exodus chapter 14. Specifically it is made clear that God planned this miracle to bring glory to himself and to demonstrate to the Israelites that he was indeed God. Much rubbish has been written about this miracle in an attempt to take away the miraculous - indeed to rob God of the glory! Some have suggested that the name really means "sea of reeds" and that the Israelites actually waded through a marsh - this is stupidity of the first order! Verse 22 states that "the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left" - hardly a walk in a marsh! Moreover, the complete destruction of the Egyptian army would seem unlikely if only a small amount of water was involved.
The fact that this miracle is mentioned so many times shows its great importance in God's plan. It was not only the final deliverance from the Egyptians but it symbolised the path to heaven made possible by God through the Messiah to come. It is interesting that Isaiah 51:10 states "who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over" Jacob's family went into Egypt and their descendants left 430 years later as 600,000 men plus women and children - we can only stand in awe and wonder at what God is able to do for His redeemed.
"For John came to you to show you the way of righteous and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this you did not repent and believe."
Jesus here was talking to the religious leaders of the Jewish people, those who imagined themselves above repentance and filled with their own self-righteousness. However, those whom the leaders considered the outcasts of society, saw their need, and repented of their sin and believed God would indeed forgive them. Jesus was clearly teaching here that ALL need to repent, as He said to Nicodemus, "You MUST be born again" - without repentance and trust in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus in our place no one will ever see God or heaven!
Leviticus 20:10 "If a man commits adultery with another man's wife - with the wife of his neighbour - both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death"
John 8:3-11 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you?" "No-one, sir," she said. Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
Matthew 5:17-18"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."
Luke 5:18....25 Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat.When Jesus saw their faith he said, "Friend your sins are forgiven." The Pharisees and teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone? Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked.Which is easier: to say 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say 'Get up and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." He said to the paralysed man, " I tell you, get up, take up your mat and go home."
How do we interpret the Old Testament Law today? Is there a difference between the Ten Commandments and the punishments as described in Leviticus for breaking the Law?
Jesus said that he came to fulfil the Law - he did this by living a perfect life and therefore fulfilled the Law to the letter - a "lamb without blemish!" Although Christ fulfilled the Law he was willing to forgive the woman taken in adultery, not because of a new law but he knew that mercy and forgiveness would be possible due to his sacrificial death on the cross "taking the punishment for our sin". "the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins". This means that the punishment for adultery could be waived because of Christ's sacrifice although the sin of adultery stood unaltered - the crime and the punishment can only be separated because of Christ's sacrifice, because he took the punishment.
Notice that Jesus said to the woman "neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more". Christ was without sin so he could have condemned the woman but he showed her mercy. The key factor is that mercy is NOT a law and cannot be assumed as a "right". Christ at no time advocated a society without law but he encouraged mercy as a better way. There is no indication that the woman was unrepentant - without repentance mercy becomes a travesty since it makes a mockery of Christ's sacrifice. ALL mercy is only possible by calling on Christ's name since ALL sin must ultimately be accounted for before God. If someone sins against us then their sin is also a sin against God.
The punishments for sins such as adultery in Leviticus show us the seriousness of sin in God's eyes. The mercy which Christ showed does not detract from the seriousness of the crime but rather his agonizing death on the cross emphasizes that "someone" has to take the punishment for sin so that mercy is possible for those who repent. All Christians agree that the sacrificial love of Jesus for us is shown most vividly on the cross - He took the punishment for our crimes!
Micah 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." NIV
Isaiah 53:4-6 Surely he took our Infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. NIV
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 49:6 he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." NIV
God the Father has a sense of humour, of all the so called "good and the great" none saw the choir of angels, it was humble shepherds who saw the only massed angel throng ever seen by man - God thinks so little of what and who we class as important!
The few verses above sum up the mission of Jesus the Messiah from eternity past to Bethlehem, to the Cross and Redemption made available to all who believe, to his victory in leading not only the remnant of Israel but myriads of Gentiles to glory. To how many it is just another Christmas with no concept of the eternal significance of Christ's coming and the opportunity they have to find peace and an eternal home in heaven - they march headlong into the caverns of hell with not a second thought for the "beloved Son of God".
John15:18,19, 23-25 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you..23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no-one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason' (Psalm 35:19 & 69:4)" NIV
No one "likes" to be hated, yet Jesus told his disciples that as he was hated so would they be hated. this is probably the most common reason for Christians being slow to witness to their faith. In these verses the word hate is mentioned seven times, a very strong emphasis on how certain an experience this would be for his followers. How do we overcome the fear of being hated? Only by loving the "hater" for Jesus sake because of the length he was willing to go to save those who would trust in him. However, a blessing for those who share the gospel is the joy of seeing souls "plucked as brands from the burning".
Here is a recent example from India of Jesus followers being hated:-
On 6 February 2004 a large gang of Hindu extremists forcibly entered the homes of six women, in Kilipala village, Jagatsinghpur district, and dragged them into the street. The women were singled out as they were converts to Christianity and refused to return to Hinduism. They were then subjected to beatings and the humiliation of having their heads tonsured. Those who resisted were further degraded by being stripped.
Sanjukta Kandi, one of the six victims, declared "The villagers tortured and humiliated me before forcibly tonsuring my head. They didn't even spare my daughter." Two of those attacked were only 15 years old. All of them have since fled the village, along with around 15 other Christians, for fear of future attacks.
Thirty-five people have been accused of the attack, including Hindu relatives of the six women. The district administration has promised to bring the perpetrators to justice, but the state of Orissa has a bad record for turning a blind eye to the persecution of Christians.
(reproduced from information provided by the Barnabas Fund, http://www.barnabasfund.org/)
Pray in Secret
Matthew 6:5-8"But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."NIV
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, as well as giving them the model "Lord's Prayer", he taught them two main criteria for effective prayer. Firstly they were to pray in secret. This is important because we are praying to the Father, not to anyone else God the Father wants to know the heart of his children, like a child going to his father for help, advice or requests. This is not to say that public prayers have no value, but Christians must always guard against praying to the gallery in such situations.
Secondly, Jesus emphasised the need to avoid repetition God the Father hears you the first time, in fact he knows what is in your heart before you utter the words. Often a human father knows what his child wants before they speak but he still wants to hear the confirmation from the lips of his son or daughter. Although God does not want continuous repetition he does see value in persistence in prayer over a period of time eg. the parable of the unjust judge. If you want to be heard in prayer be short and to the point but keep coming back until you get an answer. You might not get your answer until you die and meet your Lord but your faithfulness in prayer will not go unnoticed by Him.