2009-02-22_1157_Church

This is the last installment in this series on what we are praying for when we pray “Your kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer. This post will address what will happen after Jesus returns, and what lies ahead for those who are His followers. These scriptures speak for themselves. The fact that most of us haven’t heard about them, talked about them, or even thought about them should be a matter of repentance and prayer.

Let’s start with a very obvious passage. Well, from my point of view, these will all be obvious.

After Paul had instructed the Corinthians that he had laid a foundation—Jesus Christ—he told the believers that they should be careful how they built upon that foundation.

“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12–15).1

Paul makes it very clear that some will receive rewards in the “Day”—and some will not.

Is this important to us? We’re talking about eternity here.

And this:

“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).

And this:

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10).

Please note that Paul “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” Yes, if you claim to be a Christian, that means you and Jesus will have a face-to-face.

Is what you’re doing in your Christian life here on earth preparing you for this?

Because it will happen.

It is very clear that this topic was important to Paul.

But is it important to us?

However, more will be going on after Jesus returns than having your works evaluated. Paul makes these startling statements:

“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:1–3).

Jesus talked about this, as well. Read the startling promises He made in the Book of Revelation:

“The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father” (Revelation 2:26–27).

And this:

“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:21–22).

Finally, here is something that John wrote that should add to our concern about that Day:

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

I contend that there is a profound ignorance in the Church about the day of rewards, judgment, and future rulership. I earnestly ask you to read, think about, and study these Scriptures and consider the real-life implications for you and your eternal life. Because Jesus is returning. He promised He would. And once He does, there will be no chance to turn back and make amends. What we’ve done—or not done—has all been written down.

Please, if you have not considered the truth of this reality, repent and pray for His help and mercy. He is a merciful God. He will help you.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you.

1All Scripture references from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

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We’ve been looking at what is seemingly an innocuous part of the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come. All too often, we simply pray this without giving the implications of our prayer a second thought.

One thing a Christian is praying for is a time of deception.

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:23–24).1

We are also praying for a rebellion or falling away that will accompany the coming of the lawless one:

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–5).

This coming of this lawless one will happen because something—“what is restraining him” and/or someone—“he who now restrains”—will be taken out of the way. So, we are praying that this removal will happen.

“And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:6–7).

Christians are who are asking for the God’s kingdom to arrive are also praying that people will be required to take a number or mark so they will be able to buy and sell, which will be required by a “beast.”

“Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Revelation 13:16–17).

In addition, Christians are actually praying for Jesus to judge them.

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10).

And, yes, we are praying for a time of fear, distress, foreboding, and perplexity.

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25–27).

Christians are praying for a great many dreadful things to happen when they pray for the Father’s kingdom to come. I encourage the reader to study the Book of Revelation. However, as difficult and frightful as these things to come are, it is all, ultimately, good. It is good because God planned the establishment of His kingdom. It is good because God is good, and therefore God’s kingdom must also be good.

Next week, we will look at—finally!—the good things Christians are praying for when they pray for the Father’s kingdom to come.

1The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

 

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Last week, we looked at Jesus’ warning about the days that would precede His return. The concerns about wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes may dominate our thinking, but the first thing He said about what will happen during that time to come was, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray” (Matthew 24:4–5).1

And, we also considered this question Jesus asked: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:4-5 and His question in Luke 18:8 should trouble us.

This is why.

The Book of Revelation tells us about a man, which it calls a beast—more accurately, a second beast—which will have stunning power. He will possess not only spiritual power, but political and economic power:

“It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Revelation 13:13–17).

This beast will perform great signs.

It will tell people to make an image of the first beast.

It will give breath to this image as well as the ability to speak. It will appear to have life, the kind of life that we are familiar with.

He will cause people to worship this now life-like image.

He will cause everyone to take a mark. If people don’t take this mark, they cannot buy or sell. This would effectively cause “mark deniers” to possibly become homeless, suffer great privation, and be in danger of starvation.

So, we come back to Jesus’ warning. Do not be led astray by those coming who claim to be “the Christ,” the Messiah. The Deliverer. The Savior.

The one who saves people.

The one who rescues people.

And we return to His question: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Christian, what will you do when you are faced with either giving in to taking the mark, or very possibly starving to death? Not being able to buy gasoline? Not be able to buy…anything? Will you yearn desperately for a “deliverer”? Yes, you will.

However, which deliverer will it be? The one who will give you instant help because you take the mark, or One who will not immediately help you—but will give you eternal life after a time of trouble and suffering?

If you are alive during this time, will you have faith?

 

1All scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1030195Last week we looked at the problematic aspect of praying to the Father, as the Lord directed us to do in the Lord’s Prayer, that “Your kingdom come.” Praying this way means that one of the things that must happen is that the “rebellion,” or the “falling away,” or the “apostasy” must occur (2 Thessalonians 2:3). As I wrote at the end of the last post, this is not good news. Here’s why.

Jesus taught that false prophets would arise before the day of His coming. This is a long passage, but in order to talk about it, we must read it:

“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come’” (Matthew 24:3–14).1

I’d like to draw your attention to Jesus’ first response to the questions His disciples asked at the beginning: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

What was Jesus’ first response? Was it about earthquakes and wars? No. It was, “See that no one leads you astray.”

Not being led astray as Christians in these last days should be our primary concern. Terrible times may be in store for those who are reading this. I know many Christians believe the Church will not be here for what is called the Tribulation, but it is not my purpose to argue that here. My purpose is to center in on what Jesus’ primary concern about the days that preceded His return was: Do not be led astray.

After His warning about being led astray, Jesus said, “For many will come in my name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.”

If you’re a Christian reading this, you may say, “How could anyone possibly believe that someone else showing up on the earth is the Christ, the Messiah?”

Be careful.

There are several reasons to be careful, which we’ll continue to consider but the primary reason for concern is that Jesus said it was going to happen: “…they will lead many astray.” Not they might—they will.

And here’s another. Jesus asked this question in Luke: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:7–8).

A Christian may respond, “I will never stop believing in Jesus!”

Well, then, why would Jesus ask such a question?

More next week.

 

1All scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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I’m writing this post in light of the recent Easter bomb attack in Pakistan, which killed around seventy Christians and injured hundreds.

However, this article is not specifically about that tragedy.

It is about the Last Days.

And the Lord’s Prayer.

What do these three things have in common?

A little background.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus told us to pray, “Your kingdom come.” So, when Christians pray this part of the prayer, what are they praying for?

When Jesus began His ministry, the first recorded proclamation to come from His lips after His temptation in the wilderness was that the kingdom of heaven had arrived: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17).1

In Luke 17:21, Jesus said that the kingdom of God was “in the midst” of those who were listening to His teaching. He was referring to Himself.

If the kingdom of heaven arrived with Jesus, why did He tell us to pray that it should come?

The answer is that, yes, it arrived with Jesus, but it is also yet to come. It will not fully arrive in reality until some unknown future time. “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15). This announcent was made after many terrible things had happened on the earth.

I do not understand the chronology of the events in the Book of Revelation. However, some definite statements occur in other letters that may help clear things up for us concerning the return of Jesus and the coming of His kingdom.

For instance, Paul wrote that the day of the Lord’s return will not happen until after the man of lawlessness is revealed.

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:1–4).

Then Paul wrote about this lawless man, the son of destruction: “And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:6–8).

There is something or someone who is restraining the appearance of the lawless one, also called the anti-Christ. What or who that restrainer is, is not known, in spite of our speculations.

We also see here that the “rebellion” or “falling away” of the Church must occur before the Lord returns.

This is not good news.

We will continue this subject in the next article, next week.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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If God Himself dying for us was not enough—and it is—let us return to this astounding truth: He is our servant. Let us tread carefully here, but we cannot deny the truths He proclaimed. Jesus, our Lord, Creator, and Savior, spoke the following words about Himself:

Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them (Luke 12:35–37). 1

What kind of God is this? What will you do when the glorious God who offered Himself in sacrifice for rebellious sinners like you, stoops to serve you dinner?

Our Humbled Inability

We cannot—would be unable to—exalt the totality of His love if we wrote countless volumes during our brief life span. The lyrics of the stirring hymn by Frederick Lehman come to mind:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

These articles about the God of love are woefully inadequate. Nevertheless, enough is written here about our God to give Him glory forever and ever.

And we will.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

 

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“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

God’s love suffers but endures. Jesus wept over His rebellious city, Jerusalem, realizing her destruction was near. She had not known Him or His love (Luke 19:41-44). He longed to protectively take her under His wings, like a hen with her chicks (Luke 13:34). Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. We are not told why. Was He weeping over the reality of death and the sadness it brings? Was His weeping an intermingling of profound joy and deep sorrow because He knew in the unfathomable depths of His being that He would die to defeat such death, such sorrow? (John 11:1-44). Love suffers, but love bears up under that agony, by God’s strength and grace, and knows resurrection and victory lie ahead. Love believes “all things”—the truth, God’s truth—of all things good. All is well and will be well. In His love, we endure. We mourn with our brothers and sisters. We weep with those who weep. We link arms and persevere with each other in trial. We encourage each other in the eternal truth, the eternal love of things, because all that we presently know will pass away, but love, thanks be to our God and Savior, will never end. It will go on and on, forever.

God’s Love Never Ends

The love of our God is not weak or wavering. Jeremiah, although mourning over the devastation of his people, wrote two of the most marvelous verses in Scripture:

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23).1

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that the spiritual gifts—prophesy, tongues—will cease; knowledge itself will pass away. But not love. The love of God is unrelenting. It will. Not. Stop. The supply of mercy God possesses cannot be exhausted. Your sins cannot overcome it. All of the evil that people have done or will do cannot overwhelm it. The Lord God has the capacity to love every fallen person—yes, that includes you—everywhere, at all times. It is a true saying that the Lord God Himself, full of glory and power, will love us, care for us, and provide for His people—forever.

The love put forth in 1 Corinthians 13 is an impossible standard for us to reach. We should read these verses; rather, be read by them, repent, and rejoice. Because in our utter failure to love as He loves, He—loves us.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society

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God’s love is not easily angered or provoked (verse 5). God is lovingly patient, unselfish, and therefore slow to anger. When anger erupts from us, it is because we love ourselves too greatly. Someone or something has inconvenienced, disrespected, or disagreed with us. The love of God is not characterized by this kind of irritability. We naturally—sinfully—consider ourselves too important to be annoyed. The most magnificent Being in the universe, however, is humble and slow to anger. Our too-quick provocations stem from a lack of the maturing of God’ self-deprecating love in us. However, He will help us as we ask, understanding that the fruit of the Spirit is very often a very slow-going process.

God’s love does not rejoice at wrongdoing (verse 6). Christians should not be happy when someone is diminished, shamed, or afflicted due to their sin or someone else’s. This is not love. Instead, heaven rejoices when a sinner rejects immorality and injustice and repents. “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).1 It is God’s will that evil is defeated and His loving truth prevails. When we rejoice in wrongdoing done to others, we self-righteously think that somehow they deserve it because God is judging them. Jesus addressed this way of thinking:

“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1–5).

God the Father loves us and hates evil, which is destructive to the soul. If we are so callous as to rejoice at sinful and destructive wrongdoing, we demonstrate our lack of love for people and for the truth. It is an unbecoming and insidious way for Christians to behave.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society

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In this post, we’ll continue to look at the God of love as presented in 1 Corinthians 13.

Paul wrote in verse four that God’s love does not produce envy. God does not envy because He possesses everything that exists. He needs nothing at all from His creation, nor from us. “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14).1 Therefore, the sons and daughters of the God who owns everything should not envy, either. Our Father has the ability to provide for us whatever we need out of His inexhaustible resources.

However, we often think that He has not given us what we think we need. It seems He has provided more abundantly for others than for us. Our conclusion is that although God is able to provide, He either does not care or is unaware of our needs. In spite of our doubts, Jesus clearly instructs us to:

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:28b–34).

This is a truth and a promise from God Himself. He will take care of you. The Father knows what you require. When we are not provided with what we think is needed, we are tempted to envy those who have what we do not. It then becomes a matter of faith in the Father’s love and ability. Instead of taking a step of faith, we take a short step to envy. We have now entered into a dark, shallow, and worldly perception of God who has become something like a genie or a divine lottery.

Finally, being envious about worldly things is a myopic, worldly understanding of true possessions. Believers in Jesus Christ will someday inherit and share all that is His for eternity.

God’s love does not produce boasting or arrogance. Again, this thought naturally follows the truth that preceded it. If you possess or accomplish something, it is because the Lord provided it, in His great grace, as He does to all. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3–4). He has given you all things—all that is needed. You did not. To boast about yourself, your possessions, or your achievements displays a lack of understanding of the Lord’s providing love for others and your place of rank among those He loves. You have exalted yourself above them. You have now taken on an attribute God opposes: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Alternatively, do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:4–6).

God’s love is not rude. The NIV translates this portion: “It does not dishonor others.” Being rude and thus dishonoring others is an understandable furtherance of the effects of boasting and pride. We may have an abundance of possessions. Others are poor. We are not. We think we were given superior natural and physical gifts that those unfortunate, “inferior” ones were not. We can play volleyball well. They cannot. They are ugly. We are not. They are stupid. We are not—and we tell them so. This is not the way the God of love thinks or behaves. He gives everyone exactly what they need for their good and His glory. If we dishonor and diminish others by rudely proclaiming our supposed greatness, we do not understand God’s love. He loves the ones we rudely dishonor. Mary expressed God’s heart when she met Elizabeth and John leapt in his mother’s womb:

“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:51–53).

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society

 

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