Publication: One-to-One, Winter/Spring 2005
…How to Escape from Escapism and See Christ’s Kingdom Extended in and Through your Life
Recently, I was with a group of Christians when a lady asked, “Brother Charles, do you believe that Jesus is coming soon?” I sensed that she did, and knew that she was part of a church that was focused on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I thought that she probably hoped that He would come before 2005. I could certainly join her in that!
I grew up in a church focused on the Second Coming of Christ. I know the scriptures regarding His return and our love for His return. And as a pastor, I often referred to them. Scriptures such as Matthew 24 and Acts 1:7 tell us several significant aspects about this subject:
- We should not say that the Lord delays His coming
- We should be found ministering in righteousness when He comes
- We should love His appearing
- No man knows the day or the hour of His return
I have heard and read many predictions regarding the Lord’s return, including dates, as I am sure you have. A lot of books have been sold that offer such predictions and scenarios. That is not my calling, however.
THE OTHER QUESTION
There is another question which, if my memory serves me correctly; no one has ever asked me: “Brother Charles, what should we do if Jesus does not come soon?” I suppose that someone might think it heretical to ask such a question. While we must live in readiness for His return, we must also live in readiness for the possibility that He may not return immediately. In other words, we must focus on our mission and His Kingdom as we know it.
So, suppose He comes back in 2005…are you ready? Or suppose He does not, what will you do in the days and months ahead? Some will ask, “What in the world will I do?” Others will ask, ‘What can I do in the world?”
Most of the early Christians were Jews who accepted Jesus Christ. The New Testament indicates that many of them (and also Gentile believers) expected Jesus to return in their lifetimes. They lived in very difficult times and under great persecution. Many were killed. Some were so convinced of His soon return that they did little or no work and made no plans for the future (see 1Thessalmians5). It is evident that the Apostle Paul lived in expectation of Christ’s return; however, he never lost his sense of mission.
The book of Hebrews is a letter written to Jewish believers, some who were contemplating a return to Judaism because Jesus bad not come back as soon as expected (see Hebrews 10:35-39). And some were discouraged by the sufferings that they and others endured. The temple was still functioning in Jerusalem and it represented tradition and some security. Of course, its existence would be short-lived.
The writer of Hebrews (who is unknown to us, but who I believe to be the Apostle Paul) was seeking to establish these Christians to face the future and not to draw back due to disappointment.
This inspired book is a rich source for us as we face the future, sometimes discouraged by events, and desiring the security of former days. It is tempting to love His appearing for the wrong reason-not because we love Him, but because we want to “get out of here!” But there is another, better view: victory that overcomes the world (see 1 John 5:4).
LESSONS FROM HEBREWS
We are here today because many of our forefathers and mothers faced the future. Yes, some gathered in houses and on mountains to wait for Jesus to come back-but most did not. Most Christians loved His appearing, but obeyed His commission to face the world and the future. I am sure they took courage from the Hebrew epistle and we can too.
It would be impossible to cover the entire book of Hebrews in this article. However, I want to draw some personal lessons from it and recommend them to you as we face the future.
CHAPTER 1: Jesus Christ is the supreme revelation of the Father and Heir of all things. Verses 1-4 are a beautiful statement of the Gospel. Jesus is both Creator and Consummator. All things began and will end in His hands!
CHAPTER 2: Don’t neglect or forget what you have heard. The words that we have received were confirmed supernaturally, and we are stewards of His purpose.
CHAPTER 3: Jesus Christ is faithful to his Apostolic and High Priestly Calling. This means, He is the sent forth One and Mediator between God and man to reveal the purpose of God. We are partakers of His calling.
CHAPTER 4: Faith in Christ will bring us to rest. Rest is not merely a day; it is ceasing our own labor and entering into His will. Our High Priest knows our condition and we can trust Him. We can come boldly to His throne of grace and find mercy and grace in a time of need.
CHAPTER 5: Jesus’ high Priesthood is eternal. In contrast to Aaron, He is a priest forever (see verse 6).
CHAPTER 6:We are called to go beyond the foundations of faith to inherit the promises made to our father Abraham, “Surely blessing I will bless you and multiplying I will multiply you.” God swore by Himself to uphold this promise in spite of all conditions. This hope is an anchor to our souls and is rooted in His presence where Jesus has gone into heaven’s holiest and highest place.
CHAPTER 7: We are called to tithe our increase (what we redeem from the world) to the higher priesthood of Jesus Christ. Even Father Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, the Priest of Salem, who is a type of Christ-without beginning or end.
CHAPTER 8: Jesus obtained a more excellent ministry and established a better and more lasting covenant. The laws of God and His covenant are written, not in stone, but in our hearts. He has fulfilled the promise of Jeremiah 31:31-34. (Note: The temple was destroyed shortly after the Book of Hebrews was written.)
CHAPTER 9: The New Covenant was ratified, not with the blood of animals, but with the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. By His blood, Jesus obtained eternal redemption for us. By His death, the covenant was put in force. There is no other covenant that offers divine guarantees of our salvation-through any season.
CHAPTER 10: Because of Christ’s sacrifice, no other sacrifices of blood are needed. What we are called to do is to do His will. Salvation was finished at the cross; now, only the mission is before us! Jesus did not draw back, and neither must we.
CHAPTER 11: Faith in God’s Word has been the substance of history. The examples are numerous and heroic. These heroes of faith were pilgrims and strangers to the world system, and they lived and died in faith for a better city.
CHAPTER 12: In the face of historical witnesses, we are called to run with patience, endure, and keep our eyes on Jesus as we run. As with Jesus, there is a joy and reward set before us. Avoid bitterness and keep your eyes on what we are coming to-the unshakable Kingdom.
CHAPTER 13: Walk in love, avoid sin, and know that the Lord will never leave or forsake you. Support your leaders, be a joy and not a grief, and be prepared to be led out of the city gate as Jesus was. Continue to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (you will especially want to read verses 20-21).
So, how does the letter to the Hebrews help you and me to face the future? In a word, it establishes us.
It anchors us in Christ, His Covenant, His Kingdom, and His purpose in the earth. It enables me to launch out in faith to do His will, whatever the cost. It reminds me that He understands my need and is now, at this very moment, praying for me. It declares to me that as He was in history, so shall He be in the future. It helps me to be patient and endure, and to know that victory is assured regardless of what appears to natural eyes.
I love the hymn “Christ, The Solid Rock.” I especially love the verse which says, “His oath, His covenant, His blood, support me in the whelming flood , when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.”
My prayer is that we will plant our feet on Christ and our hope in Christ; that we will not be tossed about or shaken and that we will commit ourselves to His will as our fathers have. I want my children to know, and my spiritual sons and daughters to know, that we have an anchor for the storm, and a help in times of need. By His grace, we are more than conquerors through Him Who loves us.
I urge you therefore to know your leaders…support and pray for them as unto the Lord. Be ready should the Lord suddenly appear-or should you suddenly appear before Him. And, please pray for us here at CSM, that we may finish our race in strength and joy. God bless you!
Scripture Reference: Matthew 24; Acts 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5; Hebrews 10:35-39; 1 John 5:4; Hebrews 1-13; Jeremiah 31:31-34