End Times?

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

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.

I sense with each passing day of infection surges and quarantines … inner city violence and destruction … there are many who are asking if we are living in the “end times”.  Is the Lord Jesus returning?  If all the “required” prophecies have been fulfilled, then what is His delay in coming?  The Apostle Peter gives us some insight into answer because these same questions were being asked within a generation of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Times of unrest and civil disorder within the Roman Empire and the Jewish nation had reached a fervor that by 70 A.D. Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed.  For the followers of Christ Jesus … believers … it must have felt similar to the times we see unfolding before our own eyes.  And it is a question that believers would continue to ask in generations to come as kingdoms rise and fall … as totalitarian dictators attempt world dominance … and as untold humans are subjected to a myriad of atrocities under the influence of demonic forces.  So the people of God ask: “Where are you, God?  How long will you allow evil to continue? In the Book of Acts, we read this account:

Acts 1:3-11 (NIV)

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After His suffering, He presented Himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God. On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized in water, but in a few days you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around Him and asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”

Notice the question they asked of Jesus before He ascended: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  They must have believed that Jesus in His risen body would now rule and reign over Israel.  To me, to have this discussion recorded, indicates the apostles were indeed eyewitnesses of His bodily resurrection in a physical human form to have interacted with Him over the past 40 days to inquire of His intentions post resurrection.  But observe a couple of things: 1) Jesus does not answer their question; rather, He tells them “it is not for you to know.”  None of us will ever know the day or the hour. But then Jesus turns their thoughts to the anointing of the Holy Spirit to “receive power” to become His witnesses.  The question regarding the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel had been redirected to the building of the coming Kingdom of Heaven. And then, without explanation or further physical contact, Jesus left them … ascending into the clouds and leaving their view.  Then two angels appeared and spoke to the apostles; assuring them Jesus would come back again.

But the apostles knew these things … or at least Jesus told them what would occur.  Did they listen to the parables?  Did they understand their riddled metaphors? Maybe, we too, should revisit the Parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19:11-26. It begins: “While they were listening to this, Jesus went on to tell them a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.” And the nobleman provided resources for his servants to work while he was gone. You can read the rest of it. Of interest, Jesus shared this story just prior to entering Jerusalem on a donkey before zealous voices proclaiming “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”

So, what was Jesus trying to tell His disciples about the Kingdom of God?  Well, it would not appear at once.  It would be “received” upon His return.  And His servants are to be engaged in building and expanding the Kingdom He is returning to receive unto Himself.  That’s the best I can distill it down. Maybe the question being asked is not one of concerning ourselves with the “timing” of His promised return; rather, the concern to be reflected upon is building the Kingdom in His absence….  In short, we are to be busy with Kingdom work right here … right now.  We have been given the power of His Holy Spirit to be His witnesses. This means we believe in the One God sent.  This means we testify to the truth of His life, death, burial, and bodily resurrection. This means we abide in Him. This means we live as Jesus did.  This means we are working … not for our salvation … but for the Kingdom of God.  “In His defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.” (Cf. John 5:17) And, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (Cf. John 9:4) That we were saved to work in the Kingdom is evident, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

So, I pray that we will look deeper at these questions?  When will the Kingdom be restored?  When will Christ return?  Only the Father knows … and it is NOT for us know.  But what we do know is that Jesus is returning for His Church.  And so the question is whether His Church will be filled or will it be emptied?  Jesus has planned a marriage supper … a banquet … and we are to invite the guests to His celebration.  We are to go into the highways and byways to bring guests.  There is a lot work to be done.  There is a lot of preparation to be made. There is a great sense of urgency because the Day of the Lord will come like a thief!” We have no time to waste because the bridegroom will soon appear as He told us.  So let us be about His business … let us be found doing what He commanded us to do.  And then … let what Peter exhorted somehow motivate us more – knowing this: The Lord is not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:3-14 (NIV)

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 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. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Granted to Suffer

Philippians 1:27-30 (NIV)


27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

When I read this passage of Scripture this morning, I had to stop at Verse 29 and really let it marinate in my soul. In the context, we see Paul addressing the believers at the Church of Philippi and encouraging them to stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ. He tells them to not be frightened by the persecution that will continue against them because of their faith – and more importantly – the sharing of their faith with others. Regardless of what happens, Paul urges them to conduct themselves “in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” There is great application of this Scripture for believers today in the context of our hedonistic culture and relativism.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

As we see the culture careening further into narcissism and darkness; cascading away from the commandments and love of God; and rejecting the unity of faith to be found in Christ Jesus; we need to heed the exhortation of Paul to “stand firm in the one Spirit and strive together as one for the faith of the gospel.” Paul encourages us not to be frightened or intimidated in doing so despite the vehement opposition believers will face in standing for the truth found in Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself spoke on this very issue and admonished, “You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Cf. Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17)

Matthew 24:4-14 (NIV)

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

John 15:18-25 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know Him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates Me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (Cf. Psalm 35:19)

So take a look at Philippians 1:29 with these Scriptures in mind: For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him…. Note first that our faith in Jesus – our capacity to believe in Him – was GRANTED. To grant something is to give, bestow, allow, or permit. So just as God granted us repentance that leads to eternal life (Cf. Acts 11:18), even our faith in Jesus the Son is a gift from God the Father! For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8) And what Paul states in this verse is that we have been granted the gift of suffering for Jesus! That’s right! Suffering for the sake of Christ Jesus has been bestowed upon us by the Father; and Paul is encouraging us to view the persecution and hate we will endure from the world as still another precious gift from God….

I think suffering in any form is definitely not something most people would prefer to receive or embrace for that matter. No one desires the infliction of verbal or emotional abuse, physical or mental anguish, or bodily harm. Yet, we see these things happening to Christians more and more around the world … along with the unrestrained vitriol that has emerged in our own country towards believers and the faith once delivered to the saints. (Cf. Jude 1:3) But Jesus told us as believers and disciples to expect such treatment. And Paul calls for us to view such vicious and hateful conduct as “a sign to unbelievers that they will receive destruction and a sign to believers that they will receive salvation.” To me,”This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep His commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” (Cf. Revelation 14:12)

1 Peter 4:12-19 (NIV)

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Cf. Proverbs 11:31) 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 2:20-23 (NIV)

20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:9) 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to the Father who judges justly.

1 Peter 10:13-18 (NIV)

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

I do not have the answers on why God allows suffering in our human existence, but it appears to me the experience does have a profound effect upon accomplishing higher purposes for our faith and for our fellowship with God. God might not ever reveal more answers to these questions until we enter the next chapter of eternal life; but for now we do have His promise that suffering will not continue to be part of our experience as His children:

Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Cf. Isaiah 25:8-9)He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

So our challenge is to trust in God and His promises. We have been granted repentance through the kindness of God. We have been granted salvation through the sacrificial death of His Son. We have been granted eternal life through the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we have been granted the experience of suffering for Jesus Christ. For it is through suffering, that we learn obedience (Cf. Hebrews 5:8) and through obedience we demonstrate our love for God (Cf. John 14:15) We do not have to understand it all, but what we can do is embrace what God has already revealed and demonstrated to us through His great love and compassion found in His Son.

I pray and encourage believers to understand that God is not unjust when He allows us to suffer for our faith in Jesus Christ … the faith of the gospel. This kind of suffering has been “granted” and should be embraced with its full purpose in mind. I pray we will stand firm in the one Spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel; and that we will in no way be intimidated by those who oppose the gospel or reject the truth of God found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, the suffering we will endure is a sign to unbelievers that they will not inherit eternal life. Their unrighteous conduct is evidence of their destruction. But for us who believe and suffer for the name of Jesus, it will be a testimony to our salvation. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!