What Does Jesus Say About His Coming?

First in a Series of Six Messages

The Warning!

Jackson Snyder, September 28, 1995

based on The End, by Conyers

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PREVIEW End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology

 

Matthew 25:31-46

 

We are on the verge of experience the blessed hope of the ages, the return of the Savior Yahshua ben Yahweh, Jesus Christ.  The Bible deals with seven thousand years of salvation history.  But now Bible time is up; six thousand years have passed.  There is only time left for the promised one thousand year millennium.  What an exciting thought! 

 

A Great New Political Visionary

   Envision an imaginary new political figure rising in our country.  He lives in Washington. He's become well known in political circles because of his mix of insightful political and religious commentary. He is a frequent talk-show guest and writes an influential magazine column. And although he has never run for office, he has a strong following among the poor and powerless who would support his campaign if he decided to run.

   The important people who are usually thought of as supporting the poor have come out against him.  Senators Daschle and Kennedy, and minority gurus Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton denounce him because he’s exposed their wastefulness, godlessness and greed. Some of the conservative congressmen have likewise warned their constituencies about him, because he has labeled them "entrenched country clubbers" and called for their defeat in the next election.

   The President fears our man might run against him in the next primary; rumor has it that he has political ambitions. Therefore, the CIA is constantly following him and monitoring his speeches. Some presidential aides feel that there needs to be a crackdown on his kind, and they’ve been trying to dig up some dirt, hoping he’ll make the wrong move or say the wrong thing.

   Today, our man’s leading a demonstration of poor people in front of the Capitol building. He's about to make a speech, and the crowd becomes quiet. All ears are tuned to what he is about to say. His words flow more like a sermon than a political speech. It’s short and to the point.  He says that the people running the country must reduce their own selfish expectations and look toward the victims of injustice, the poor, sick or needy.

   "If you greedy congressmen of this Capitol building don’t do as I say," he concludes with confidence, "then, like every other great nation before, we will be overthrown by those whom we have neglected and subverted. I tell you this day," he concludes, pointing behind him to the Capitol Building, "if we don’t correct our steps toward paths of righteousness, the day will come when not one stone is left upon the other of that great and symbolic structure behind me!"

   At these words, there is thunderous applause among those assembled on the Capitol steps. But behind closed doors inside the Capitol Building, his enemies have heard just what they've waited for - a threat against the government and the American way of life. And now they have grounds to silence this subversive up-and-comer once and for all.  The end.

 

The Temple World

  The scenario that I have created is very similar to what is portrayed in Mark 13.

Mark 13:1-4 (NIV) As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" {2} "Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

By saying "on the record" that the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed, Jesus is prophesying that everything that the Temple stood for would be uprooted along with it - every power structure, every religious ritual, every greedy politician, every vestige of the present system. The life everyone knows would be destroyed and replaced by another kind of world!

   The Temple was their world.  All assumed to be permanent, sacred, and serving as a symbol for interpreting reality to all the people forever.  Herod had spared no expense; this temple was 3 times the size of Solomon's and far more opulent than the Forum in Rome.  Single stones were 20 - 40 feet in width, weighing 150+ tons.  It was 50 years in the building, 20 more years of building would finally complete it.  Because of its illusion of permanence, it was an easy mental jump from Jesus' prediction of the "destruction of the temple" to the "destruction of the world."

   The Temple was sacred; a symbol of Yahweh’s rule on earth; it was the center of Jewish thinking; the geographic center of the earth; the highest place on the earth; the dwelling of God; containing the Holy of Holies - where Yahweh and man met face to face only once a year at the day of atonement.

   It was where Abraham brought Isaac for sacrifice; where David ruled; where Solomon built under God's direction a "house that would endure forever."  The Temple was sacred in the majesty of its worship; the garb and luxury of its priests, the bloody and terrifying system of its sacrifices; its solemn and detailed processions -- the people relied on it to order their very existence.

   The Temple represented the world by depicting ordinary occurrences as though they originated outside in the supernatural. Even after the temple was destroyed, Jewish thinkers conceived of a New Temple in Heaven that would one day descend. The Temple, its permanence and its holiness, was the gear upon which all time, history, religion, and reality turned; life for the Jews of Jesus' day was inconceivable without it.

   So the threat of the Temple’s destruction, as Jesus predicted it, would be seen as a cataclysmic rupture in the relationship between Heaven and Earth, between God and humanity. It's no wonder Jesus was condemned.  Liars at his trial witnessed that he said he would destroy it! That would be like saying he would destroy the entire universe that the religious and political had worked so hard to maintain for centuries. Through it's obliteration, the very fabric of society would be erased, leaving the powerful powerless, and the powerless in anarchic power.  We might feel something of this in America if one of our "sacred" places were likewise desecrated, like the Capitol or the entire city of Washington.

   In a recent movie (Die Hard II), a band of terrorists bomb the great dome of the Capitol building while Congress is in session inside. The Capitol dome is destroyed; many powerful political leaders are killed by falling debris; the United States and all she stands for are jeopardized. Reality, as we have created it, is destroyed with but one rocket grenade.  Destroyed, that is, until the Hero can once more single-handedly sets everything aright within the next hour and a half.

   The feeling we get when watching is that it could never happen here to us; that the Capitol building is terrorist-proof, or too sacred, or too meaningful to be destroyed. It just couldn't happen here, and if it did, everything we have believed in and relied on would be in question. 

   That's the kind of upheaval that we must envision to enter the thought world of the Messiah's return and Yahweh's Kingdom Come. Obviously, Jesus' disciples felt the impact of his words, and they were shocked! They wanted the Roman Forum destroyed, not the Temple of Yahweh! It’s not surprising that :

  {3} As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, {4} "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?"

   Jesus predicted in verse 30 that "this generation will see these things take place." As it turned out, exactly one generation of 40 years passed when his prophecy came true. In 68 A.D., Jerusalem came under siege by General Vespasian’s Roman armies. After two years of battle, Jerusalem fell. The city and its temple were completely leveled and burned, and over one hundred thousand people were summarily executed. In one day everything that the Jews knew and believed was at an end.

   What this says to us is that our perception of reality may quickly and completely vanish. The fabric of everything Americans believe could be torn asunder. But it may not happen over night. The change over may be insidious. But we should be able to see it coming, for we have been forewarned. And we must see it or we are doomed.  Few people who have lived 50 years will testify that we are not living in the same world that existed in their childhood.  Everything has changed.  The disruption of reality that was prophesied to precede Messiah's return has brought hardship, panic and world war on earth in the last 150 years.  Many of our sacred temples have been destroyed in the last 40 years.  Yet we Messianic believers must rest assured that the Messiah will usher in our greatest hope and most fervent prayer – that the Kingdoms of the world will become the kingdoms of our Creator – that His will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven forever after.

 

How Are We To Live In the Meantime

     In the meantime, we must expectantly watch, diligently work, and prayerfully wait - watch, work, and wait - watch, work, and wait. Watch.  Work.  Wait.  For as believers in Messiah’s soon return, we must live in four layers of expectancy as the time of waiting shortens.

 

He will Set Things Right

   1. There must be a moral expectancy that Yahshua is going to set things right. Political power struggles over moral issues are always an indication of spiritual power struggles. Read the Old Testament.  All struggles there, all wars, are caused by the disobedience of Yahweh’s people to the plain and simple teachings of his law and prophets.  Political upheavals are the birth pangs of Yahweh's Kingdom breaking in. Why? Because the coming of the Kingdom is political - we must expect universal justice as an answer to the struggle between right and wrong.  There is to be an absolute morality - it is Yahshua’s morality - and we expect that when he comes, he will punish wrongdoers and institute righteousness.  Any coming Messiah who doesn't defeat the devil's hoards and institute equality, economic stability, and moral rectitude is not Yahshua. Let us make no mistake; he is coming to set all aright; he is coming to judge the earth and all its inhabitants.  In the meantime, we prepare ourselves by emulating Jesus as closely as we are able, becoming imitations of Christ for the world.

 

We Must Live Expectantly

   2. There must also be a providential expectancy - all the longings and searchings that we born-again believers have felt in the deepest recesses of our hearts will be fulfilled and satisfied in the years following his return. In the New Kingdom, outward conditions will finally satisfy inner longings. Society will be restructured so that the True Children of the Father will be empowered in love to rule and to reign over geographical areas we call nations. And there will be no more tears, death, disease or debilitation for we who are his servants.  However, for all others, injustices like hunger and corruption will continue, but only so long as we allow them, for we will be given the authority, the power and the responsibility to make corrections.  We will all become missionaries, but in a new mold, ina world on the mend.  Now, as we live in expectation of this New Society, we actually begin to change present reality. As we see history moving towards the Kingdom of the Messiah, we aid history in preparing its arrival. We set the stage.  Yahweh's divine providence is made manifest in our expectations! (Hebrews 11:1)

 

We Observe an Ethic of Waiting

   3. There must be an ethic of waiting.   Yahshua has given us a precise ethic to follow in Matthew 24 and 25; he shows us men and women in different stages of waiting.  Like the owner of a house waiting for a thief, one man is ready:

If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:43-44).

Another man, as he awaits the return of his master, becomes greedy:

But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:48-51)

A bridal party is half prepared, half unprepared, for the groom:

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. (Matthew 25:1-4)

   Some will not invest their gifts wisely, like the man who was give one talent ($10,000) to invest on behalf of his master:

The man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' (Matthew 25:24-25)

Because the man had not invested what the master had given him, this unfaithful servant is cast into outer darkness.

   So Jesus describes in stories four states of waiting: either people are unaware of his coming, dreading it, preparing or not preparing for it, or ready for it anytime. It is this last state of waiting that provides us with an ethic for waiting. To be ready means to live each day in hope - each and every day - trusting in God with eager expectation.  In which state do you reside?

 

We Must Be Busily Living in the Kingdom Even Before It Comes

   4. But even hopeful preparation is not sufficient. There must be activity.

A little girl was upset because her brother had set a rabbit trap in the back yard. She told her Sunday School teacher about it. "I prayed to God that no rabbit would come near that trap." The teacher replied, "Then whad ya do?" "I prayed that the trap wouldn't work if a rabbit did get in it." "Then whad ya do?" "Then I told my mother." "Then whad ya do?" "Well, then I went out and knocked that trap to pieces."

Those who are living in hope are "knocking traps to pieces." As in Jesus' last great parable, read as today's lesson, we must do our best to provide (1) food for the hungry, (2) drink for the thirsty, a (3) welcome for the stranger, (4) clothing for the naked, (5) healing for the sick, and (6) visitation for the prisoner -- providing these services in both physical and spiritual ways. We are to be living lives that esteem others before ourselves -- self-sacrificial lives -- doing the works that Jesus himself did, and still greater works. This is the secret of having assurance of our own salvation over the furnace of trial. We do Yahshua’ will as set forth in his Word and we wait.

   Bible Scholar Conyers comments:

How we respond to this moment - the poor man in our midst, the starving child, the prisoner - is in fact the way we greet the last moment of life, the last moment of our country, the last moment of our planet Earth, the first moment of a newly manifest and apparent kingdom of God.

You know, Y2K wasn’t all hype.  It served to separate those who would prepare from those who wouldn’t.

 

An Example of Right Attitude

   What a strong tie there is between the coming of Messiah and the living of our daily lives!  One end-time saint, who lived out Christ's ethic for waiting, wrote these words about her hope in Messiah’s soon return:

The best part is the blessed hope of his soon coming. How I ever lived before I grasped that wonderful truth, I do not know. How anyone lives without it these trying days I cannot imagine. Each morning I think, with a leap of the heart, "He may come today." And each evening, "When I awake I may be in glory." Each day must be lived as though it were to be my last, and there is so much to be done to purify myself and to set my house in order. I am on tiptoe with expectancy. There are no more gray days -- for they're all touched with color; no more dark days -- for the radiance of His coming is on the horizon; no more dull days, with glory just around the corner; and no more lonely days, with His footsteps coming ever nearer, and the thought that soon, soon, I shall see His blessed face and be forever through with pain and tears.

It is this type of attitude, hope, and active morality that will survive the destruction of all the modern-day temples and capitols and institutions and cultures and endure into the Kingdom of Heaven. And if you watch and wait and endure to the end in faith and good works, you will find yourself not only preserved unto your Savior’s glorification but ruling and reigning with him over the nations of a planet restored. The alternative, Jesus says, is will be weeping and gnashing.

   Is Christ's return vital to you? Are you living in expectant longing for Kingdom Come? Are you preparing? When your temple has not one stone left upon another, will you be able to stand in Christ?

 

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