Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ Faithful and Wise When Jesus Comes

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.[1]
          We do not need to accept a man-dependent interpretation of a certain Scripture just because we do not know for sure what a Scripture means. There is something to be said for growing up in Jesus Christ like little children who are not depending on ourselves, but on our parents who know much more than we do. There is something good in not knowing something so that it strengthens our trust in the one who knows everything.
          We do ourselves a huge disservice when we demand that we understand everything ourselves. Sometimes the greatest gift of Scripture is to assure us that God understands everything, especially what he meant by the words he breathed-out for us. After all, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and his ways higher than our ways.[2] Why do we keep thinking we need to know and understand as much as he does?
          Sometimes, maybe often, it is a good thing for our souls to be still in faith that he is God, and that he will be exalted in the nations somehow, just as he said.[3] With such faith, we get the joy of waiting with eager anticipation for the day that we see it all come together in a reality that will be exactly the way he said it would be, even though at this time we have no clue how everything will fall into place.
          After all, when Jesus came the first time, God blew everyone away with a kind of Messiah that no one expected. Even those who most studied the Scriptures about the Messiah could not see him for what he was. Those who were his real disciples through repentance and faith were still thoroughly shocked and grieved when they saw what was happening to him because not one of them could see that Jesus was doing exactly what the prophets had written.
          There is a theme in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ where he was the Shepherd who knew what he was doing, and he was leading sheep who did not need to know what it was like for him to be the Shepherd of their souls. It was enough for them to feel like sheep who were being so shepherded as Psalm 23 had described.
          Even when Jesus told his disciples what he was doing, they still had to walk with him through their ignorance. They needed the revelations of Jesus that they had not yet experienced. They had to travel through their filtering of what he was saying, through their wrong conclusions and impressions, arriving at places where they suddenly saw him in ways they had never seen him before, in ways they could not have imagined until they got there.
          When Jesus told his disciples to get into a boat, the terrible storm that came up along the way was not a barrier to them arriving on the other side of the lake.[4] However, the little faith of his disciples needed addressing, and so they had to meet Jesus as the Lord of the wind and waves, something they could not have known by doctrine until they had known it by experience.
          When Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus’s sickness would not end in death, and that God would be glorified in what was taking place, the disciples never imagined that Lazarus could die without hindering what Jesus had spoken the least little bit.[5] When they arrived at the home of Lazarus’s sisters, the disciples were more impacted by the four days Lazarus had been dead than the words Jesus had spoken. So, Jesus did the thing required to fulfill his words, and gave his disciples a revelation of himself as the Resurrection and the Life, something they did not know about him even though he had told them what would happen.
          Then there is the monumental experience of the cross. Even though Jesus had told his disciples repeatedly that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the religious leaders,[6] Jesus’ prophetic words could not convince his disciples that the promises of God would be fulfilled through his death at the hands of Romans and Pharisees, not through Jesus leading a band of mighty men to greater fame than David had accomplished in his day.[7] Jesus would become the perfect Savior through his crucifixion,[8] something he could not do by simply calling on his divine power to drive Romans and Hypocrites out of Jerusalem.[9]
          The thing that is consistent in these events is also consistent in the work of God in taking Joseph from prison and making him Prime Minster of Egypt,[10] in delivering Israel through the Red Sea,[11] and conquering the city of Jericho through marching and a great shout.[12] The people could not discern the will of God, the work of God, the ways of God, from what they saw with their eyes. They could only know the work of God, the plans of God, by his words of revelation. They had to take it by faith that God would do something that defied what they saw with their eyes. As Paul made so clear later, faith comes from hearing, not from seeing, and hearing comes from the words of Jesus Christ.[13]
          When we come to the book of Revelation, and take pictures that are impossible to pin down to exact times, seasons, and events, and demand that we put things into something precise, something we can see with our eyes because it makes sense to us, we are missing the point of Scripture, that we conquer by faith, not by sight.[14]
          When we come to these six seals,[15] and stand in wonder that there is so little to go on, and so little solid ground for interpreting these pictures further than what is described, we must encourage our hearts, and one another, to put faith in the picture, not in anyone’s interpretation of the picture.
          If children see and hear these pictures, and accept that these things will turn out exactly as God’s word describes, and then carry on with being the children of God growing up in the Lord Jesus Christ, learning to use their gifts to serve the body of Christ,[16] watching for ways to serve Jesus in our care for others,[17] they will be ready when Jesus comes. They will be the ones the Master finds serving him and his household when he returns.[18] They are the ones who will be told that they are the good and faithful servants of God, and must now enter into the eternal joy of their master.
          My contention is that, someone can read this second seal without any confidence that they know for sure who or what the red horse is, how it will look for the rider to take peace from the earth, how many times people will slay one another in fulfillment of this prophetic word, or how many ways the great sword will be expressed throughout history, and yet they can find great comfort and encouragement from knowing that this is a component of the end times beginning from when Jesus unleashed his church into the world to make disciples of all nations, until the day he returns because the full number of the elect have been brought into the kingdom.
          This person can get about the real business of the kingdom, unfazed by the lack of peace in the world, unfazed by stories of people slaying each other, unfazed by all the weapons that will be used by one human against another, because they trust that such a characteristic of the age fits right in with what Jesus said. They can put all their attention into being peacemakers[19] who now understand that they will never bring peace to the world, will never bring whole nations to have peace with God, but will bring people from all nations to have peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.[20]
          When I consider the simplicity of what the word of God describes, and the obvious limitation on how little it explains, I see a wonderful purpose in the pictures of the seals. There is not enough there for us to focus on the seals in trying to match them up with specific world events, and so we can tell our sarky pride, Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed.”[21] “Now get back to work!”[22]
          Today, the servant of God must consider, what has God spoken to you about in his word, what is he showing you of his work, and how will you join him in such a way that you are a branch abiding in Christ and bearing much fruit?[23] What must you do today that qualifies as keeping in step with the Holy Spirit?[24] How do you put your faithfulness on display by putting Jesus’ words into practice?[25] How will you use your spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ?[26]
          If we abide in Jesus today, joining whatever he is doing,[27] it will not matter how little we think about the fulfillment of the seven seals. If today is the day of Jesus’ coming, his angels will have no trouble finding us, gathering us together with all the dead in Christ who have been raised first, bringing us together in the clouds, and beginning our experience of being forever with the Lord.[28] Our inability to pin the seven seals down to specific events that we will recognize beforehand is no limitation at all.
          As long as we are walking in the Spirit, abiding in Christ, doing the daily will of the Master, we can live in the constant hope of these beautiful words of Christ: Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.[29]
© 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] Revelation 6:3-4
[2] Isaiah 55:9
[3] Psalm 46:10
[4] Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25
[5] John 11
[6] Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33; Luke 9:21-22; Luke 17:20-37
[7] II Samuel 23
[8] Hebrews 5:7-10
[9] If Jesus had not died for our sins, he could not make us righteous. If he could not make us righteous, he could not have any fellowship with us whatsoever. Only through the peace of the cross can we have relationship with Jesus Christ. God’s love could not be satisfied by giving Israel another experience of the glory days of David and Solomon, only to leave them dead in their sins. This is why Paul would defend himself by saying, 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26) Take note of the emphasis that “the Christ MUST suffer”. Without the Messiah’s suffering, there would be no salvation.
[10] Genesis 37-50
[11] Exodus 13-14
[13] Romans 10:17
[14] II Corinthians 5:7
[15] Revelation 6
[16] I Peter 4:10
[17] Matthew 25:34-40
[18] Matthew 25:14-30
[19] Matthew 5:9
[20] Romans 5:1
[21] Job 38:11
[22] My added conclusion!
[23] John 15:1-11
[24] Galatians 5:25
[25] Matthew 7:24-27
[26] Ephesians 4:11-16
[27] John 5:17-20
[28] Matthew 24:29-31; I Thessalonians 4:13-18
[29] Matthew 24:45-46

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