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Christ's Return - The Coming Challenge
I'm no prophet, but
That title might imply that Iʼm about to make a prophecy. Iʼm not. All objective revelation from God available to us is found in Scripture. Or you might think that Iʼm an expert on contemporary cultural trends. Iʼm not. The world does not need any more of those. If you must know from whence I come, Iʼd place myself in the shoes of Simeon or Anna, humble disciples who recognized the coming Messiah, not before, but when He appeared.
Our hope (read “assurance”) is that He who came once will come again in power and glory. Ha, but when? I know, it is not for us “to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). However disciples of Jesus may recognize Godʼs work as it unfolds, as did Simeon and Anna.
Things I'm reasonably sure of
1.Christians may expect a severe time of trial and oppression by the enemies of Christ. Some call this “the tribulation.” I believe it is the intensification of the hostility every true disciple faces the minute he identifies by faith with Jesus.
2.While today God has provided both visible and invisible means of supporting his people, the former will become irrelevant and destroyed, perhaps soon. What are those visible means? Church structures and programs, para-church organizations, Christian publishing houses and outreach ministries; everything that gives visibility to Godʼs people. Yes, even faithful Christian agencies and structures will cease to exist.
3.Jesus Christ remains on the throne, ever faithful to his promise, “Behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) By His Spirit, he provides that invisible, yet no less real, support. We can count on that!
4.Under the Saviorʼs watchful eye, his people can expect a most excruciating test to their loyalty. Persecuted by the world and isolated from each other, we shall have to choose between loyalty to Him who purchased us with his blood, on the one hand; and assimilation into the surrounding culture marked by self-indulgent materialism, on the other. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith (not churches and structures) on earth?” (Luke 18:8, parenthesis mine)
5.This testing will not last long, but the time will come when the true people of God feel that all is lost, their faith wavering on the brink of despair. Thatʼs when the Savior returns. “The dead in Christ will arise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:17)
6.Weʼll be with the Lord forever, but not in the air for long. We shall fall in in behind Him , as the “armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure.” (Revelation 19:14) Together with our victorious Lord, we conquer all his and our enemies. Christʼs eternal kingdom on earth is established. “Then the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)
Without providing exact dates or identifying specific people or events, Scriptures repeatedly reveal this sequence of events. The most obvious is found in Revelation 11 where the two witnesses represent the visible and faithful church.
Things I wonder about
1.Might western secularism and Islamic fundamentalism link up to war against all that even appears Christian?
2.Are my brothers and sisters in Christ so narcissistically engaged in building their Christian structures and programs that they will go down with them when destroyed?
3.Is the formula - faith + frequent participation in church programs and structures = growing Christian - biblically founded? Might godly shut-ins and doctors and nurses and others who canʼt make it to the Sunday morning services be more ready for the coming challenge than we who camp at church?
4.If we buckle under minor inconvenience and slight offenses will we stand up to the real test? “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?” (Jeremiah 12:5)
Things I urge upon you
1.Embrace the gospel! Unless your heart is wrapped around the cross, the world will wrap itself around you. Jesus loved you such that he left his throne in heaven to bear the grief and penalty of sin on your behalf. He suffered death and the just temporary abandonment by the Father so that you may live and never be abandoned by your Heavenly Father.
2.Energetically find a way to worship and fellowship and serve with others of like faith. The structures and programs that facilitate these will not always be there. The opportunity is now.
3.Donʼt relate to folks according to what religious structures and programs they participate in but rather according to the hunger they display to know God and his ways. The worldling sitting in the next cubicle at work may be more hungry than the brother sitting with you at church.