Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Advent—Looking for Jesus’ Return

Since Jesus already came to earth as a man (a baby who grew into a man) about two thousand years ago, Advent (coming) isn’t about Jesus’ first coming but his second one.

Indeed much has been said and written about “The End Times”—often too much and too little. I tend to hold “End Time prophecies” and eschatological interpretations of current events at arm’s length because they tend to focus heavily on one aspect, adding to the Word, taking away from it or rearranging it. Much paralyzing fear is generated; keeping God’s people from doing the work Jesus assigned us.

But some people, you may say, are scared into the Kingdom (of God) this way, but I have to wonder what they are being brought to--when scripture is changed to enable the process. Besides fear breeds fear not love or life.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

It seems strange that the same people who preach that the church will be raptured before “The Great Tribulation” seem to be the same ones who are so worried about “Armageddon”, the last battle at the end of the world (after the Tribulation). Jesus is most definitely coming back for his followers, but he has given us some clear guidelines that have been largely ignored.

Fear Not
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Matthew 24:6

This was the watchword the Lord gave me after “September 11”—it still applies.

No Avoiding It

Such things must happen Matthew 24:6b

Theses things, wars, earthquakes, famines will happen, must happen because they are the signs of the end. Nor can we completely prevent them, though we may be able to lessen some of the effects through considerate decisions and perhaps science. We can’t, as one pastor said, pray away the signs of the end times nor, I would add, protest them away with picket signs, petitions nor boycotts, though avoiding being a part of making them worse is wise.

but the end is still to come. Matthew 24:6b
These things aren’t IT but only the signs of the end.

Jesus’ emphasized that we should avoid being deceived by false prophets (v.11) since many will appear and that we should stand firm until the end in order to be saved. This doesn’t sound like we’ll have an easy ticket out. A major focus rather than wringing our hands about how bad things are (hint:read history;things have always been bad and often good,just as now) but on shoring up our faith (Jude 20) and living holy and obedient lives.

Jesus went on to say (v.14) that “this gospel will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (people groups) and then the end will come.” Missions are crucial to eschatology (study of the End Times) but the average Christian isn’t all that interested in seeing to it that every one hears the Good News. Notice that Jesus said, “this gospel of the kingdom” not the gospel of the cross (which is a MAJOR part), he also said that we’re to teach them to obey everything he commanded us. (Matthew 28) Any gospel that teaches less is not “this gospel of the kingdom”. Any gospel that disrespects or disregards the poor, women or aliens, waves a national flag or seeks to put Christians under Mosaic Law not only is not the gospel of the kingdom (of God) but what Paul called “a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all.” (Galatians 1:7)

We need to be careful what we teach and what we’re taught—always taking the teachings of Jesus (including that which he taught through the apostles) as our standard rather than “conventional wisdom”, culture or “what I’ve always been taught”. And we need to be careful what teachings we export to other parts of the world. For example, I read that there are women in an African country who are called by the name of Jesus, yet they believe that they can only be saved by having babies! This is NOT Good News! What happened to grace? The true meaning of I Timothy 2:15 was apparently ignored--to great harm. The Greek says “the childbearing” and clearly points to Jesus, born of Mary, who was Eve’s seed (or offspring)! Genesis 3:15

In summary, we need to avoid fear, watch the signs, be ready by preaching the gospel of the kingdom to all nations (and living it!) and standing firm, not being taken in by the many false prophets. There’s no time for fearful hand wringing! We’ve got work to do!

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