Tag Archives: Jesus’ return

Today’s Scripture – March 8, 2018

Luke 17:26-37 (NIV) “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
“Where, Lord?” they asked.
He replied,
“Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

Jesus uses two distinct events, the flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom, as illustrations of what it will be like when He returns. The first thing that both events have in common is that God’s judgment was poured out on many people living outside of His law – in Noah’s day, on all humanity, and in Lot’s day, on all of the people of the plain near the Dead Sea. The second thing is that, in both cases, God removed the righteous people (as well as some of their family members who weren’t necessarily righteous, but who were saved by grace) before His wrath arrived on the rest.

In Noah’s case (Genesis 6-9), God warned Him in enough time to build the ark, and used it to save not only Noah, but representatives of all of the air breathing animal kinds. Noah and his wife were saved, along with three of their sons and their wives, so that they could repopulate the earth after the flood.

In Lot’s case (Genesis 19), Lot was saved by being led by two destroying angels out of the city at daybreak, along with his wife and two of his daughters. He was told to flee to the mountains, but was fearful, and begged to be allowed to flee instead to the smallest of the five cities of the plain, Zoar. The angels graciously allowed it, and Zoar itself was spared from immediate annihilation because of Lot taking refuge there, although the people who lived there didn’t realize how close they had come to sharing the fate of Sodom. Lot’s wife was lost, turned into a pillar of salt when she turned back toward Sodom, and Lot’s daughters turned out to be very worldly and corrupt. But Lot himself was protected from the destruction.

The point Jesus was making was that His return would resemble those times of judgment. In both cases, the judgment that fell caught the vast majority of people by surprise, completely destroying them in the midst of living out their day-to-day lives, leaving no survivors. And, in both cases, the righteous were taken out the way before the destruction hit, so that they were not destroyed along with the unrighteous.

Jesus warned that His coming would arrive suddenly, while people were going about their normal lives, thinking it is just an ordinary day. But before the disaster hits, God will take His people out of the way, so that they will survive. But the destruction of those who do not follow Jesus, and any who turn away at the last minute (“Remember Lot’s wife!”) will be complete. They will be swept away just as surely and completely as those left outside of the ark, just as surely and completely as those left in Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain.

Father, I have read and been told about many different scenarios of Jesus’ return. But He Himself didn’t give a great many specifics. This, though, tells us all that we need to know. It tells us that when He returns the people of Your kingdom will be saved, and those not in Your kingdom will be destroyed. So we know that we need to make sure that we belong to You, and to urge those that we love into Your kingdom before that day, so that they can be saved as well. Thank you for this clear warning. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 7, 2018

Luke 17:22-25 (NIV) Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

Jesus turns away from the Pharisees who were questioning Him and addresses His disciples. The cross is looming directly ahead of Him, and He is aware of the long and often painful mission that He will be leaving in the hands of these men when His work here is done.

Jesus realized that in the space between Jesus’ ascension and His return, there will be a tendency for His followers to grow discouraged and to jump at every sign that His return might be imminent. But that will be a weakness for them, a distraction, not a strength. So He warned them away from that.

Even today many are claiming that the end is near. It is absolutely nearer than ever. But Jesus clearly warned His followers: “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.” (Acts 1:7-8 NIV) He was directing them away from analyzing signs and timelines, and back focusing on the vital work of expanding the kingdom of God that He had commissioned them to do. And through these words, He is steering today’s disciples back to the same focus.

Jesus Himself was not immune to longing for His ultimate return to come. But even He knew that there was work to do to fill up the time until then. In His case, the work involved the suffering and rejection that was waiting for Him in Jerusalem in just a few days. To get to the one required steadfast commitment to go through the other.

Father, Your guidance in this is good and necessary. It really is easy for us to get distracted, pulled off message, by our vision of Jesus’ return. But, like Jesus Himself, we have a vital job to do here and now, before that vision can be realized. Walk with us, Lord, as we do the work of growing Your kingdom, and of being Your representatives until Jesus comes, so that when He does return, we may be glad, and not ashamed. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 20, 2017

Matthew 25:1-13 (NIV) “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. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Jesus continues to focus on His final return, and on the need for His followers to always be ready. In this parable, His followers are symbolized by ten virgins. Five of the virgins are classified as wise, good role models for the people of the kingdom.  Five are classified as foolish, poor role models.

Many have debated the fine points of this parable, such as what the oil represents, to whom the foolish virgins must go to buy some more, and whether or not it is loving for the wise virgins to refuse to share their oil with the foolish virgins. But the details are much less consequential than the overarching story line. Of the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come, only the wise virgins are prepared for a long await before He arrives. The foolish virgins expect Him to arrive very soon, and see no need to bring extra oil for their lamps.

When the herald announces the bridegroom’s approach, the wise virgins are ready, and refill their lamps with the extra oil that they brought along. But the foolish virgins find themselves unprepared, and try to scramble to get ready. The wise virgins are not willing to sacrifice their own preparedness for those foolish people who neglected to stay prepared, and there is no time for them to get prepared (in this story, by gong to the shop for more oil). While they are scrambling, the bridegroom comes and sweeps those who are ready into the wedding feast, leaving the unprepared virgins on the outside.

The final scene is reminiscent of the flood of Noah. For years, or more likely, decades, Noah had been building the ark and urging people to repent. But the whole project seemed like foolishness to them. But once the rain began, those who wanted to get on the ark found the door closed, sealed by God Himself (Genesis 7:16). It didn’t matter that they were ready to believe now, that they were now ready to repent. The window of opportunity had passed, and the door to salvation was shut.

Jesus’ final statement continues the theme of His discourse: His return will come without advance notice, at a time when even His followers don’t expect it. So we, as His disciples, must constantly live ready, so that when He does return, we won’t be left out in the darkness.

Father, over and over again, Jesus sings this same chorus: keep watch, be ready. We should pay close attention! Help me to live ready, today and every day, and never grow complacent, or ever allow myself to think, “Probably not today.” Amen.

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