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”

The Government Will Be on His Shoulder, But What Does it Mean that the Kingdom of God Is Now

How should Christians orientate themselves to the world in which we live and conduct ourselves in the political and governmental spheres of present life?

The following passage from the Prophet, Isaiah, isn’t just a platitude to recite at Christmas:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Jesus has many names, but the one used (perhaps) the most is Lord. All authority on heaven and earth has been given to Jesus. (Matt. 28:18) Christians revel in that statement. In the next breath, after Jesus said this, he said:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations….”

Matthew 28:19

When we think of the authority and lordship of Jesus, we might jump immediately to the ultimate conclusion – of Jesus ruling and reigning at the right hand of the Father. When Jesus told the disciples that all authority had been given him, however, his instruction to follow does not take us where our minds might be tempted to go. He did command us to take over the government or set up a new government.

His charge to the disciples was to go to all nations and make disciples.

That is still his instruction at this time.

Perhaps, we can be excused for forgetting the last instructions he gave after almost 2000 years. Or maybe not…. He was pretty clear about it. We also have the following reminder from the Apostle, Peter:

“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. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3:8-9)

Of course, the government will ultimately be committed into His hands. (Is. 22:21) He will ultimately make a footstool of all his enemies. (Ps. 110:1) Jesus will ultimately sit on the throne with throngs of people proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy. Lord God Almighty!” (Rev. 4:2)

Jesus will be seen as the Lion of Judah and the Root of King David (Rev. 5:5) at that time with a sharp sword coming out of his mouth, striking down the the nations, ruling them with an iron scepter, and treading “the winepress with the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty!” (Rev. 19:15)

But, that time is yet to come. We aren’t there yet.

Even in John’s vision of this future time, the most common description of Jesus is as a Lamb (28 times). Jesus is first the Lamb who was slain, and that is the most prominent name he is given, even in the Book of Revelation.

We have yet to experience Jesus, the Lion of Judah, with sword in his mouth, a scepter in his hand, and a winepress at his feet. That time has not yet come.

Meanwhile, Jesus came not to Judge the world, but to save the world. (John 12:47) Jesus came not for the healthy, but the sick; and Jesus presently desires mercy. (Matt. 9:12-13)

Jesus is not yet the Judge, treading a winepress with the fury of the wrath of God Almighty; He is the Good Shepherd searching for the lost sheep. He is not presently in the business of condemning the world; he is currently in the business of seeking and saving the lost. (Luke 9:10)

So, we should be.

The charge that Jesus gave us – to go and make disciples of all the nations – is still our marching orders. It hasn’t changed.

No matter how close we think we are to the end, God is still currently in the mode of being patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but wanting everyone to come to repentance.

We are easily distracted by many things. We can be so obsessed about the past and we can be so forward-thinking that we forget about the present. We can be so focused on the end times that we do not understand the times in which we live.

We may be close to the end times, but we may yet be far off, by human reckoning. To God, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. (2 Pet. 3:8) Jesus said we would not know the day or the hour. Most importantly, we are still in the times in which Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations.

He didn’t tell us to make enemies of the nations. He didn’t tell us to set up new nations. He didn’t tell us to take over nations. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

This, so far, is just a preface for talking about politics and government in the 21st Century. Yes, the government will be on the shoulders of Jesus, but what of the Kingdom of God now? How should Christians orientate themselves to the world in which we live and conduct ourselves in the political and governmental spheres of present life?

Continue reading “The Government Will Be on His Shoulder, But What Does it Mean that the Kingdom of God Is Now”

The World is Passing Away

We live in a world in which our greatest desires can never be realized

“the present form of this world is passing away.”

(1 Corinthians 7:31)

Perspective makes all the difference in how we see the world and live our lives. The perspective of faith is wholly different than the perspective of skepticism. The person who has been born again, born from above, born of the spirit[1], is a new creature; the new has come and the old has passed away.[2] We are no longer of this world, though we continue to live in it.[3]

Do we really grasp the meaning of these things? Sometimes I wonder. I wonder about myself as I look back at the things that have captured my attention at times, the anxiety and worries I have had about temporal things, and all the time I have wasted doing trivial things.

Continue reading “The World is Passing Away”

Pay Attention to the Signs


[T]he appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. 1 Cor. 7:29-31

We fit church into our busy weeks. We find time most days to pray for a few minutes and to do some reading of Scripture. On bad days, we might go the whole day praying only in passing as we hustle from one preoccupation to the next.

I do not know what all followers of Christ do in their every day lives, but the description above could be said about most days in my life; and, from speaking to many other people, I think it might also describe the lives of many (most?) other self-professed followers of Christ in these modern times more or less.

We live in a world that is constantly demanding our attention. The words Paul spoke to the Corinthians above seem out of place in our harried, modern society in which we fill most moments of our day with work or some form of entertainment, including the very phones that we all carry. But, if the world was passing away in Paul’s day when he wrote to the Corinthians, how much more is it passing today?! How much closer to the end are we?

Recorded history goes back thousands of years. We celebrate the monuments to that history, from the Egyptian pyramids, to the gigantic heads on Easter Island to modern skyscrapers. We live with the illusion that humanity and life as we have known it will go on forever. We know that it will not, and it  can not, but we live our everyday lives as if we have all the time in the world (except to meet our work deadlines, put away retirement money and plan for the next car purchase, vacation or college for our children).

If Paul were preaching today, I wonder what he would say? Would it be any different?

Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!  Psalm 39:6

These words in Psalm 39 was penned hundreds of years before Paul was born. The words of the Psalmist were old when Paul said “the world is passing away! Paul would have been in similar relation to the words of the Psalmist when he spoke of the world passing away.

like a flower of the grass [the rich man] will pass away. James 1:10

James was citing Psalm 102 when he spoke of the fate of the rich man. These words were poignant to the followers of Christ that James addressed within a generation of Jesus walking the earth in person. Now, thousands of years later, have those words lost their poignancy?

[F]or ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls….’ 1 Peter 1:24

All flesh, rich and poor alike, everyone who was ever born – in fact all humanity – all the people who have ever lived, are like the lower of the grass: here today, gone tomorrow. God keeps bringing me back and back again to the same theme.

My son and I visited a new church last weekend. Two new churches in fact. We promised some friends who are members of a “Harvest” Church about ten miles east of us that is forming a new congregation where I live that we would visit them. We asked what time church began, but I did not bother to ask where they meet because I thought I knew.

On Sunday morning we headed out to where I thought we were going. We got to the place where I knew we needed to turn, and there was a sign that said “Harvest Church to the right” with an arrow. Except, I thought we needed to go left, so I turned left.

We arrived a few minutes later at the Harvest Bible Chapel to a full parking lot, and we caught the last half of the sermon. Clearly, church started well before the time we were told. We also did not see our friends anywhere. I did not think about the sign I had ignored until after the sermon was over.

The sermon was about signs!

My son and I spoke immediately after the sermon was over and concluded that this was the wrong church. We should have turned left at the sign. So, we left and made it to the other church, Harvest Church, the one we were supposed to be visiting, the one that was left when I went right, and caught the second half of that sermon too.

I guess I was supposed to hear the sermon at the first Harvest about the signs of the “last days” out of Mark 13. I thought I knew where I was going, but I was wrong! Even when I saw the sign, I took the path I had already constructed in my head, ignoring the sign, and continued stubbornly forward to the wrong place.

Even I can understand the message God was showing me. Do not ignore the signs! Jesus said,

No one knows the day or the hour (Mark 13:32), but when the signs appear we should recognize that Christ is near, “right at the door!” (Mark 13:29)

The Old Testament Prophet, Isaiah, said,

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; ofor the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; pbut my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed. Isaiah 51:6

The signs are everywhere. We have not arrived to our ultimate destination. We are sojourners and travelers in this temporary sphere that travels through time and space that did not always exist.

“The world is passing away…” (1 Cor. 7:31), “but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:25 (citing Isaiah 40:6, 9)) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mark 13:31)

If this is true, and I believe with everything in me that it is, then this reality should affect every moment, every thought and everything that we do, but I confess to you that I often do not live as if this were reality.  God is faithful, though, to continue to remind me. Even when I ignore the signs and follow my own path, God is there – even at the “wrong destination” – reminding me to follow the signs. What a gracious God we serve!

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17

Why would we not want to serve a God like that! We look forward to the day of the Lord, and we should live like it. Peter tells us

the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 1 Peter 3:10

The possibility of heavenly bodies burning up and dissolving is something that Peter probably had a hard time imagining. Today, with our knowledge of nuclear science, it is not that hard to imagine. Weapons of mass destruction are capable of wiping all of humanity out within hours. We even have novels and movies about the apocalyptic idea that, today, certainly is within the realm of possibility.

All of Scripture tells us that this is not just a possibility; it is the inevitable.

This world, this life is not all there is. The Christ-like figure holding the sign reading, “The end of the world is near”, is a cartoonist’s joke. It is the reality of this temporal life we live and a  reminder that there is something else to come.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded…. 1 Peter 4:7

The world may or may not end tomorrow, or the next day, but it will end. Your life, my life, will end. Let us live the reality of that truth and devote ourselves all the more to God who loves us.