We Prepare for the End Times Simply by Being Faithful and Diligent Daily

Interior of Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire – United Kingdom. Photo taken on 6th of May 2019

In my daily Bible reading today, I read through Luke 17. While I have been reading through the Gospels, the kingdom of God has been the theme that has caught my eye. I have meditated and written on the kingdom of God a few times recently in my latest trip through the Gospels in chronological order.

Today, I read the following:

“When he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable; no one will say, ‘See here!’ or ‘There!’ For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.’”

Luke 17:20-22 CSB

The Pharisees asked Jesus about the Kingdom of God. This was their orientation. They looked back on David the king and all the kings of Israel and on a future Messiah who would reestablish the throne of the Davidic Kingdom. They were predisposed to think this way for tens of generations.

The response Jesus gave them wasn’t what they expected or what they hoped for. If Jesus was the Messiah, as some people were claiming, he would certainly reestablish the ancient kingdom in short order. Or so they thought.

What did he mean that the kingdom wasn’t coming with something observable?! What good would a kingdom be that could not be seen? What kind of a kingdom would that be?

At the same time, if they could get past their assumptions driven by their long-awaited expectations and listen to what Jesus was saying, they would focus on the statement: “For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst!” Present tense!

In many of the parables Jesus spoke about the kingdom, he paints a picture of the kingdom as something like leaven that makes bread rise or a small seed like a mustard seed that grows up into a large bush that can hold many birds.


These parables suggest that the kingdom of God does not come with pomp and circumstance in impressive form. It is more like salt and light, things that we take completely for granted, which we either can’t live without or which enhance or flavor and preserve and sustain us in ways that we might not even appreciate.

“The kingdom of God,” Jesus said, “is in our midst”, but we are apt to miss it if we do not appreciate what he means. Kingdoms have a king, of course, and Jesus is that king, but he is not a king now in the common sense of the word. He has not (yet) established an earthly kingdom, but a “heavenly one”.

Just as God created all that is seen from what is unseen, Jesus has established the kingdom, for now, through what is unseen. He invites us into His kingdom. It’s a gift offered to us. (Eph. 2:8)

The kingdom is nothing we can earn. (Eph. 2:9) We can’t be born into it; we don’t receive it as a privileged offer; we aren’t selected to receive the offer. (John 1:12) The kingdom is offered freely to all who respond by faith and enter into it.

The kingdom of God is experienced through relationship with God, the Father, through the mediation of Jesus, the Son, and the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. We live out the kingdom of God in community with other believers and our interactions in the world. If we are true ambassadors of God’s kingdom, people will be attracted to our salt and light – or repelled by it as they who rejected Jesus were repelled.

The kingdom of God is demonstrated on earth now through lives of people who have given themselves over to its king, through the lives of people who follow Jesus, who have taken up their crosses, who have given up their lives, and who have devoted themselves to becoming like their Lord and savior. Where two or more gather to pray in Christ’s name, he is there.

This is the good news of the gospel that Jesus proclaimed to the poor, the freedom he proclaimed to the prisoners, the recovery of sight to the blind and the freedom to the oppressed. The kingdom of God is here and now openly available to all who would submit to Jesus Christ as Lord and King. But, Jesus also spoke of the future.

As Jesus often did with his closest disciples, he shared with them more intimate details that were not shared with the crowds at large:

“Then he told the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you won’t see it. They will say to you, ‘See there!’ or ‘See here!’ Don’t follow or run after them. For as the lightning flashes from horizon to horizon and lights up the sky, so the Son of Man will be in his day. But first it is necessary that he suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

Luke 17:22-25

As believers, we can take solace and guidance from these words. The disciples were not prepared for what was to come – the ugly public condemnation, humiliation, and dominance of Roman authority over the Messiah, the king of God’s kingdom. They were not prepared for his suffering and death at the insistence of many of God’s own people.

The darkness of the world threatened to snuff out the light of God’s kingdom in them, and the darkness of today’s world does the same in us. Jesus warned them, and the warning stands for us, that the world would treat them (and us) the same way it treated him.

Jesus knew his followers would mourn for him and long for his return. This is a challenge for all true believers in Jesus Christ. We long for him to be with us, to return to earth. To right the wrongs and wipe away the tears.

We are tempted, therefore, to focus our attention on trying to determine when he will return. We are tempted to speculate and fixate on it. Indeed, people have written books and developed theologies about it. We even have a word for it: eschatology.

Many people over the years have claimed to figure it out and predict when he will return, but Jesus warned against us doing that. Jesus said no one will know the day or hour. Christ will return when he returns. His return will be unmistakable, but first came the business of suffering and dying.


Of course, Jesus suffered and died 2000 years ago now. We are tempted to think that times are different, but I believe Jesus was talking both about the present time and the future. His words to the disciples when he was anticipated his own imminent suffering and death provide us guidance still today.

Continue reading “We Prepare for the End Times Simply by Being Faithful and Diligent Daily”

How Did Jesus, the Exact Representation of God, Describe Himself and Demonstrate Who He Is?

I find myself contemplating often the words Jesus used to describe his purpose. Jesus gave us description immediately before he launched into his public ministry. This is the way it went down, and this is what he said:

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

‘And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

Luke 4:16-21

The famous announcement of his purpose came after John the Baptist piqued the interest of the local people, proclaiming, “Prepare the way for the Lord”. It came after John the Baptist challenged people to repent and be baptized.

The announcement took place after Jesus spent 40 days out in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. Jesus had not yet begun his “public ministry”, when he stood up to read in his home town synagogue from the words of Isaiah, the Prophet – words spoken about Jesus over 500 years before that day.

This was the announcement of what Jesus came to do. The Spirit was on him to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of our Lord’s favor.

It wasn’t just a prophecy to be fulfilled. It was the very purpose for which God emptied Himself and became a man incarnate. God came to reveal Himself in the material world, to reveal His very heart and His love for mankind.

This was the message that He was trying to convey over the many centuries through the one people who inclined an ear toward Him. But, they didn’t completely get it. They wandered and strayed in their devotion to God, and they mistook His law for nothing but a code of conduct that might earn them the favor of God.

They didn’t understand the relationship He desired to form with them. They didn’t understand His love for them or the singularity of His own devotion to them and the purposes He established for them before the foundation of the heavens and the earth.

They didn’t even recognize Him when He came to them, albeit emptied of all that would not fit into human form (Phil. 2:5-7) They didn’t recognize Him stripped of all His power, holiness and glory.

He did not come with pomp and circumstance. He came humbly in the form of a man just like them. His coming was barely a whisper. is arrival went all but unnoticed. Born in a humble setting to poor, common parents, he grew up in an area of Judea that was off the beaten path and not a little “backwards”.

His first 30 years of life were so unremarkable we know next to nothing about them. The first public stir that is recorded is the day he stood up and read from the Isaiah scroll, sat down, and announced, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

People were so unready for anything extraordinary from Jesus that they marveled and asked each other, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22) Then, he seemed to provoke them (Luke 4:23-28), and they burned with anger at his audacity. (Luke 4:28)

It was an inauspicious start to his “public ministry”. He bombed in his hometown synagogue.

What he said of himself, however, is preserved for eternity. It is the key to understanding the heart and character of God revealed through Jesus, “the exact representation of His nature”. (Heb. 1:3) What Jesus said that day and what Jesus did is the best demonstration of God’s heart and character that we, as finite beings, might understand.

Continue reading “How Did Jesus, the Exact Representation of God, Describe Himself and Demonstrate Who He Is?”

Why Did God Subject the World to Futility?

Photo by Ken Gortowski

I want to focus on the following statements Paul made in his letter to the Romans:

“[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject[i] itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so…. 

Romans 8:7

“[C]reation was subjected[ii] to futility[iii], not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free ….”

Romans 8: 20-21

Life and death, the universe and all the “stuff” that is, ever was and ever will be are “in God’s hands”. That is another way of saying that God created everything. God is timeless and immaterial and has created all that is material out of nothing, including us.

But the material world, the world as we know it, is passing away (1 John 2:17), even from the moment it was created! That’s what science (the second law of thermodynamics) tells us also. The world has been has been “winding down” since the “Big Bang”.

Paul’s statement about the “futility” to which the world has been subjected suggests that futility is part of God’s ultimate plan, because it was done “in hope”.

If that doesn’t add up for you, I don’t think you are alone. I have been puzzling on it for awhile. What possibly could be the plan?

The trite response that “God’s ways are not our ways” falls short. We want to know, though perhaps it’s true that we may never completely understand. Still, I have some ideas that are informed by Scripture that I will try to lay out in this article.

Continue reading “Why Did God Subject the World to Futility?”

Abraham, Isaac, the Blood Path, Christ and Him Crucified

I started on a journey of exploring the story of Abraham and Isaac deeper and with more nuance with The Story of Abraham and Isaac Revisited: Introduction. The story of God’s request of Abraham to sacrifice his son, and Abraham being seemingly willing to do it, is quite misunderstood, especially without reference to the Ancient Near East context.

Child sacrifice was ubiquitous among the religions with which Abraham was familiar. Abraham would have thought the demand for the sacrifice of Isaac unsurprising among the arbitrary and capricious gods in the Ancient Near East world he knew.

The whole story is an exploration of the revelation that the God of Abraham is different than all the other Ancient Near Eastern gods. In the subsequent article, The Story of Abraham and Isaac Revisited: Here I am!, we explore the interpersonal dynamics of Abraham and Isaac that set the stage for much greater revelation of which God is.

Through Abraham’s dutiful and faithful obedience to the demand he feared would be required of him, God demonstrated His character in a way that was indelibly etched into the experience and psyche of Abraham and Isaac. God would not make the same kinds of demands as the other gods: God would provide the sacrifice Abraham feared would be required of him.

In Abraham, Faith and a Hope Deferred, I may seem to take a sideways turn off the path of greater revelation of God’s character to Abraham, but I will finish the story in this article and get the reader to that point. The ground we covered in that last article included the blessing of God that Abraham experienced, but the pall of God’s unfulfilled promise hung over him.

In Genesis 15, Abraham sought more assurance from God that the land he lived as a stranger in would really become the land of his descendants and, more fundamentally, that he would actually have descendants. Many years had passed, and Abraham was still childless.

God asks Abraham to set up a covenant with five animals of specific types slaughtered, cut in half and placed opposite each other on either side of a depression. The blood of those animals drained into the depression creating a blood path that was the stage for entering a covenant between God and Abraham.

Abraham would have known the drill. As the lesser party to the covenant, he would have gone first, signifying that God should do to him (stomp on a pool of his blood) if Abraham didn’t keep his part of the bargain. With the lesser party committed to the covenant, the greater party would seal the deal, going next.

Only Abraham hesitates. He doesn’t stomp through the blood path. He waits so long that he must drive the birds of prey away from the decaying carcasses. Then Abraham falls into a fitful and dark sleep.

Abraham may have realized the significance of the covenant God was asking him to make. Abraham was not worried so much about the commitment God would be making to him, but about the commitment Abraham would be making to God!

God comes to Abraham in his sleep, and the assurance is far from satisfying: God says the promise to Abraham’s descendants would not be finalized for 400 years! Abraham would be long dead and gone.

This is where we pick up the story. This is where we get the next revelation of the kind of God the God of Abraham is. If we aren’t tracking with the story, we won’t appreciate what happens next:

Continue reading “Abraham, Isaac, the Blood Path, Christ and Him Crucified”

Abraham, Faith, and the Hope Deferred

I ended the article, The Story of Abraham and Isaac Revisited: Here I Am, with a promise to come back to the story of Abraham and Isaac one more time. Recall that Abraham had the intuition to tell Isaac “God would provide” when Isaac asked him where the lamb was for the sacrifice.

We do not know whether Abraham really believed what he told Isaac, whether he was simply being hopeful, or whether he was merely dodging Isaac’s question. We learn in Sunday school that Abraham truly believed it. Perhaps, that is the right answer.

I say that, not because of a Sunday lesson, but because of Abraham’s experience and particularly his experience with God in moments of great doubt and angst. One such moment was described in Genesis Chapter 15. The set up is interesting.

Four kings conspired together to attack Sodom and Gomorrah. They attacked and routed the inhabitants, seizing their goods and carrying off Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his possessions. (Genesis 14:5-12) Abram (as he was still known at the time) responded immediately with “318 trained men in his household”. He pursued them, routed them, pushing them all the way to Damascus, and recovered Lot and all the goods. (Genesis 14:13-16

Melchizedek, “priest of the God Most High”, pronounced Abraham blessed by “God Most High”, and Abram tithed a tenth to him. (Genesis 14:18-20) After this great victory and blessing from Melchizedek, we read that the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield [sovereign],
    your very great reward.”

Genesis 15:1

We might expect Abram to be exalting in the afterglow of his decisive routing of the four kings and blessing by Melchizedek, but he wasn’t. Abram appears to be struggling with the lack of fulfillment of the promises God gave him so many years before.

Abram is human. He has held onto the promise, but his faith is waning. The doubts are rising. Though God had just given him an encouraging word, Abram is focused on the unfulfilled promise:

“But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?'”

Genesis 15:2

The text continues with Abram still talking. That means God hasn’t responded, and so Abram continues:

“And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.'”

Genesis 15:3

Finally, God breaks in, telling Abraham that his legacy would come from his own flesh and blood, taking Abram outside to look at the sky and telling him his offspring would be like the stars. (Genesis 15:4-5)

We are told that Abram believed in that moment, and God, who sees the hearts of men and knows the thoughts and the intents of mean’s hearts, credited that belief to Abram as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) God also reminded Abram that He brought Abram out of Ur to the land Abram stood on to give it to him. (Genesis 15:7)

Though Abram believed, and though God had just given him more assurance, Abram kept pressing:

But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?’”

Genesis 15:8

It wasn’t for lack of belief that Abram kept pressing God. We were just told Abram believed. In fact, this was the very moment that God credited Abram with righteousness for his faith!

At the same time, Abram was pressing God for something more than a bare promise. Doubt is not the absence of faith, and pressing God for assurance is not a lack of faith. I hear echoes here of another father who cried out for his son when Jesus promised deliverance, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

God doesn’t rebuke Abram, and he doesn’t take away the righteousness God had just credited to Abram. In the same vein, Jesus didn’t rebuke the father who asked for help in his believing unbelief. Jesus commended him, and God tells Abram,

“Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

Genesis 15:9

If you are scratching your head right now, that is good! God’s response begs for some understanding and insight. Just as Abram pressed God, we should be pressing right now for understanding.

Continue reading “Abraham, Faith, and the Hope Deferred”