14 October, 2014

Is It Wrong to Speak of the End Times?

Several people have been making comments to me, or to others who I know saying that writing things such as my blog entry about the vision I had is nothing but theatrics and scare tactics and that we (the church) don't need to talk about this sort of thing. They insist we should focus only on the love of God. I really am not going to write to argue with anyone, because those folks have their mind made up and they are comfortable where they are. I happen to disagree with them. There is a lot written in the Bible about the last days, and I believe it is there for a reason. In fact, I KNOW it is there for a reason. So much about what the Bible speaks of is taking place right before our eyes. The signs are all around us, both in the church and in the world. In the church, we see exactly what the Bible warns us of where people have exchanged the truth for a lie and preach "another gospel."  Jesus himself spoke with very real clarity about those last days when the disciples asked him about when these things would happen. If it were not important, then I really think Jesus would have said, "Just preach love and everything will be alright."  The fact is that it was because He loves us that He gives these warnings. When you love someone you give the a heads up or a warning so that they don't miss something important. Could you imagine if someone knew the bridge was out ahead and they did not try to warn you as you went speeding by? Love is more than gooey emotion... it speaks truth. 

In Mark the 13th chapter, for the entire chapter Jesus is talking about the last days. At the end of that chapter, in the last 6 verses, Jesus says something very interesting.
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 
33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 
34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 
36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 
37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

The imagery which Jesus uses here is that of not being ready or prepared for Jesus when he returns. He warns us to watch for his coming and be ready because we do not know when he will return. Now, the question is, "Why would Jesus do this?"  Why such a warning if all we needed to do was make a decision for Christ and nothing more?   The fact is that Jesus uses a number of parables like this to express the idea that we are to prepare ourselves for his return at any moment and watch for its coming. The warning is pretty evident to the one with open eyes and ears... that if you are not ready you will miss out.

So what does it mean to be ready and watch as a Christian? Again, I believe this is more than making a decision to be a Christian. Being a Christian is far more than a decision. It is radial change. It is such a transformation that the Bible calls it being, "born again."  To me, I think it is pretty evident that we are radically transformed, so much so that Paul would write "do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is... his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)  When this sort of transformation takes place you are no longer asking, "can I do this and still be a Christian." There will be no need, because the renewed mind rejects those worldly patterns. The New Testament Christians were so radically transformed that the people of Antioch began to call the followers of Christ, "Christians."  That was not a compliment! They were insulting them, saying they acted just like the one they called the "Christ" (Jesus). What they meant as an insult was in fact a testament of how radical the transformation of their lives had become. We should be the same. 

Let's get back to Jesus' warning at the end of Mark chapter 13. Jesus warns to be ready, to not let the Master find them asleep. To me this means that we are to be be and do the things that Jesus would want us to do rather than simply doing what we want to do, which is what the modern church is telling us that we can do.  In the Mark passage Jesus uses the image of servants being left to do the task assigned to them. The idea being that when the master comes back he will be happy with those who are doing the tasks he set and angry with those who aren’t... those who are “sleeping.” Keith Green had a powerful song back in the 1980's about being "Asleep in the Light."  (Look it up on Youtube.)  The thing is, the tasks that Jesus has left for us to do is to make disciples. Not converts... "disciples."  Disciples are those who are radically transformed... not those who have "joined the club."  We are to live for God at every moment and to "watch" for His return. (Yes, it is in the Bible!) This means that we are to be reading his word and praying, meeting with other Christians to encourage and build them up. It means living a godly life and taking the time and effort to tell others of the hope and joy you have in knowing Jesus. And all the while, watch the signs. Jesus said "when you see these things... lift your heads, for your redemption is near."  He clearly said we would see the signs and know the day was close, which tells me that it is absolutely correct to tell others that His return is close at hand.

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