Monday, March 10, 2014

Pastoral Pings ~ Three Steps to the Best Future

          Ever since starting through the Revelation, the book has become more beautiful to me than ever. The masterful tapestry of pictures God has given us are like a museum full of displays, each one telling us how to think about certain parts of the future.

          Once we understand that it is not for us “to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority”,[1] we gain the freedom of no longer feeling pressured to conform the book of Revelation to any checklist of events. Instead, we can appreciate the character of the age in which we live, and accept that this time will be filled with all kinds of bad things as described in detail in various epistles, and in picture-book form in the Revelation.

          As we leave the times and seasons in God’s sovereign hands, we can seek the fullest experience of the Holy Spirit who will empower us to be Jesus’ witnesses wherever we are.[2] We can then participate in getting this gospel of the kingdom out to the whole world,[3] both waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God”,[4] without becoming discouraged because of how bad things often look, since God’s word has made it very clear how bad it will be.[5]

          My contention is that everything the New Testament wrote about the future in reference to things taking place after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, can be divided into three distinct sections. We are presently living in the “last hour” until Jesus returns.[6] Jesus’ return is the culmination of all life as we know it, ushering in the most radical changes the world has ever seen.

          The Return of Christ is also a singular event, not broken up into many stages. In his first coming, Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world.[7] In his second coming he does come to judge, and so his return will show his condemnation of the unrighteous, and the complete fulfillment of salvation for those who had experienced the righteousness of faith in his name.[8]

          Once Jesus’ return in judgment separates the sheep from the goats,[9] the sheep and the goats both enter into their eternal state. There are many descriptions of what is ahead for those who repented and received Jesus Christ by faith. There is also a clear picture of what is ahead for those who refused and rebelled against the gospel of the kingdom. When we enter that final state, whichever is ours because of our response to Jesus Christ, it is where we remain forever.

          Once we recognize that the future is characterized by these three events, or seasons, we can then let the Scriptures tell us what each of these experiences will be like. No matter which Scripture we read that speaks about the church’s place in anything that comes after the first coming of Christ, it will tell us either about the last hour we are in now, the return of Christ whenever it takes place, or what it will be like for us after we enter into the joy of our Master.

          There should be comfort in this for the simple reason that we don’t actually need to trust what people say when they arrange Scriptures in their own series of time frames that try to tell us how the times and seasons will appear. We can tell anyone who tries to take us into their own series of markers that our Lord and Savior said that it is not for us to know those things, so we aren’t going to pretend we know them, no matter how masterful and creative their charts appear.

          Life becomes simple (though never easy) when we focus on living for Christ until he comes. When we think that every day we want to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can be Jesus’ witnesses in our families, jobs, neighborhoods, and worlds, we will be right where God wants us when his Son returns, or when he takes us home because our work on earth is finished. 

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Acts 1:7
[2] Acts 1:8
[3] Matthew 24:14
[4] II Peter 3:12
[5] Romans 1:18-32 and II Timothy 3:1-9 give detailed descriptions of the characteristics of this last hour.
[6] I John 2:18
[7] John 3:16-18
[8] Matthew 24:30-31 shows how the nations will mourn because Jesus is coming in judgment, while the elect will be gathered to be with the Lord forever. Revelation 6:15-17 emphasizes how Jesus’ second coming will be one of judgment and wrath against the lost.
[9] Matthew 25

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