When I grew up the focus on End Times was about the wrath of God. How God would judge the earth, separate the saved from the lost into Heaven and Hell, burn up the earth and start all over with a new heaven and new earth. We’d study the seals to be opened, the bowls of wrath to be poured out and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
We even sang an old gospel song: Jesus is coming soon morning or night or noon. Many will meet their doom. Trumpets will sound. Such a happy little song…
But the thought of many meeting their doom didn’t set well with me. I know that’s what will happen, but the reality of God’s wrath isn’t something I could get excited about. I always look to Jer 29:11 I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.
Our hope for the future isn’t built on God’s wrath but His goodness. But what if God’s goodness comes wrapped up in something bad? What happens to our hope then?
There’s a common proverb when a hurricane is coming: hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
· To have hope for a good result, while simultaneously getting ready for a negative outcome.
· Having a positive attitude, but making sure you are ready for disaster.
My dad tried to use that on me when I went to college. My calling was to preach and I wanted to prepare, so I got my B.A. in Bible. But he wanted me to get a “secular” degree instead, to have something to fall back on if preaching didn’t work out. His was a plan that placed confidence in something I could do if God didn’t come through for me. It anticipated failure rather than success.
What may work in a strategic plan for hurricanes creates a pessimistic outlook for life. At some point we just need to burn the ships and march forward. In 1519, Cortes led an expedition of 600 Spanish soldiers into Mexico. To make sure their focus was on the road ahead and not some escape plan in case things went wrong, he had the men gather on the shore and watch the ships destroyed. It was all in, no matter what.
When it comes to trusting God for the future, regardless of what that future holds, we must be all in, no matter what. Illness can’t override that trust. Accidents can’t override that trust. Death cannot override that trust. Whatever happens between now and Jesus coming can’t override that trust.
But Hope for the best and prepare for the worst is to spend our time preparing for failure rather than success.
When the Lord is working out His plans there is no failure to prepare for. His ways are always best. We may go through bad to get to that best, but we never count on the bad as the final outcome. We count on the good God has planned even up until the end. That’s our hope.
Preparing for the worst is an easy trap to fall into when we hear of wars and rumors of wars or in our case: riots, disease and a fearful November.
Whether these things lead us to the return of the Lord or merely move us closer to it, the Return of Jesus is a good thing. It’s not bad or scary unless you are among those left behind. The end of the world is going to be rough but we’ll be gone before the wrath of God is poured out through the final judgments.
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Rom 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Col 3:6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
Eph 2:3-6 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Rom 5:9-10 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
When the Lord returns and gathers up those who belong to Him – what we call the rapture – this separation of lost from saved, know that that distinction has already been made in Heaven. It will happen in an instant because the Lord knows who are His.
Jesus said: Matt 24:27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
The suddenness of His coming will capture us away before we can prepare ourselves. In fact, the Rapture isn’t something you can prepare for, except to be certain of your salvation before it happens. When the Trumpet sounds, you won’t be saying on the way up, “Wait, wait I forgot my phone.”
Jesus’ return was a compelling desire of First Century Christians. Their cry was, “Maranantha!” Come, Lord Jesus. Though some wanted to shut down their lives and just sit and wait, Paul stressed that they keep alert, ready at any moment while they lived each moment to the glory of God. That’s what we do. It’s out there, it’s coming, but that’s not my concern. My concern is living today to honor God. How?
Not fearing, though things get fearful. Not worrying, though I have no solutions. Not panicking, though every fiber in me wants to run away. Living to honor God. We don’t wait until we hear the trumpet to try and adjust our lives to honoring Him.
Jesus said: Acts 1:7 It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; He also said Matt 24:36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
Paul added to that: 1Thess 5:1-6 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace [from riots] and safety [from covid]!" [or peace and safety from the promises of a peace treaty as Daniel prophesied] then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
It will come upon us suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child. Interesting reference Paul makes.
Unless a baby is delivered by Cesarian Section, nobody knows the exact moment the baby will be born. You know it’s coming. The signs are all there. The birth pangs have begun. But you can’t point to the specific instant it will happen. In the same way, God has kept us from knowing when Jesus will return. And because we feel the pangs and see what’s going on every day, we know it will be soon, yet we still don’t know when.
Mark 13:7-8 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
The Jewish Talmud says there are Ten Birth Pangs to the Messiah’s coming.
1. Jews must return to Israel and the desert will blossom. That has been going on since 1948.
2. World will be in a state of complete segregation and degradation.
3. Without moral values.
a. When wealth is taken away – none suffer
b. When health is taken away – some suffer
c. When character is taken away – all suffer
4. Truth will decrease and lies will prevail.
5. Fewer wise righteous persons.
6. Many Jews will give up hope of redemption, which means they no longer anticipate the Messiah to come.
7. Young will treat Old with disrespect.
8. Learning will be rejected because people will desire a life of ease. Bible will become an unknown book.
9. Whole world will turn against Israel. The recent agreements with Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Kosovo and now Bahrain have caused great stirring among Russian and the Muslim communities but much delight in Israel and the US.
10. Jews will fight each other. Religious vs secular
I found myself naïve when I discovered most Jews were not religious.
Only 38 percent of the world-wide Jewish population considers itself religious, while 54% sees itself as non-religious or secular and 2% categorizes itself as atheist. Which means 56% define themselves as secular Jews, with a commitment to the value of being a Jew but not having the commitment to Jewish values according to Jewish religious traditions. Yet, God has plans for Israel that will come into play after the church is removed. (More on that next week.)
But religious Jews have an expectation the Messiah is yet to come. I looked into this and found there is a Jewish timeline they are following. Let’s explore that by going back to the beginning:
Gen 1:1-3 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said let there be…and Creation began.
It’s at that point opinions vary in describing what happened next and how long it took for it to happen.
There are some who believe God created all that exists in six 24-hour days. It’s called the Young Earth Theory. That the earth is only 6000 years old. Then there are Old Earth proponents who say those days were time frames with a much longer distance between events. Who’s right?
The question is: Was the introduction in Genesis a historical account or a summary that placed creation completely into God’s hands? Peter did say: 2Pet 3:8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. Of course, his context is the return of the Lord, but would that not apply in all of God’s doings? Even in prophetic language a day represents a year.
Neither position honors God more nor does either one dishonor Him. They both begin with the same statement: In the beginning God created. Just don’t fall into the heresy of Evolution, by saying God started it and then let evolution take it from there. That’s Deism, that God set everything in motion and now just sits back and watches it run. No, He created with purpose and design. If there is any change or adaptation of any creature, God pre-programed that into their DNA at the beginning.
But since we’re using the creation as a connection with Jewish understandings of the Messiah coming, how does the time frame factor in?
It’s true the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah. So, to them, He is still yet to come. It is interesting, however, that there is growing anticipation with many in the Jewish community that the Messiah may be coming soon. For the past several years they have reassembled the priestly order and Levites to learn the practices of sacrifice. But one vital ingredient essential to cleansing the priests to be able to perform the sacrifice as well as cleanse the implements needed for those sacrifices hasn’t been available – the ashes of a red heifer.
Several heifers have been born in Israel this century, but none has met all the requirements mentioned in the Bible, until August 2018. A calf that was born then fits the criteria. She is a red heifer and is now two years of age with no more than two black hairs on her entire body and without any blemish. Because she meets the qualifications, many faithful Jews believe this calf moves them closer to rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, reinstalling the sacrificial system, ushering in the coming of the Messiah and then bringing about the final judgment.
What’s also interesting is how the creation of Adam plays a part in this timeline.
In the Talmud there is: Olam Hazeh – which means this present world. We might use the word extant or in the existence of, like when you look on a gravestone and see the beginning date but not ending date. That person is still extant, still in existence. Olam Hazeh is the current existence of the world.
To the Jews, this present world is scheduled to endure for 6000 years. Its time began the moment Adam became a living soul and extends to the coming of the Messiah.
The Jewish calendar says this is the year 5780. This Friday, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, it will be 5781. That number is counted from the creation of Adam and Eve. How do they come up with that?
Gen 5:4-12 Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died. Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh. Then Seth lived eight hundred and seven years after he became the father of Enosh, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died. Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan. Then Enosh lived eight hundred and fifteen years after he became the father of Kenan, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died. Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel.
Keep following that genealogy and then add up all the numbers for how old the dad was when he had the son and how old that son was that had his son, you come up with 1656 years from Adam to Noah. Those who want Adam to have been created much further back in time say Moses skipped generations, that these are just the more important ones mentioned. However, reading the text literally leaves no room for that. So, Adam to Noah 1656 years.
Gen 5:32 Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Gen 11:10-16 These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was one hundred years old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters. Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and became the father of Shelah; and Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Shelah, and he had other sons and daughters. Shelah lived thirty years, and became the father of Eber; and Shelah lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Eber, and he had other sons and daughters. Eber lived thirty-four years, and became the father of Peleg;
Keep going and soon you come to: Gen 11:24-26 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and became the father of Terah; and Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after he became the father of Terah, and he had other sons and daughters. Terah lived seventy years, and became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.
From Adam to Noah is 1656 years. Then from Noah to Abraham is 390 years, which altogether is 2046.
Abraham to David is around 1000. David to Jesus is another 1000, which averages out to be right at 4000 years from Adam to Jesus. Since Jesus, add another 2000 years and you’re at 6000.
So, why all of this? The Jews have Adam being created 5780 years ago. Their Olam Hazeh – this present age – is scheduled to last only 6000 years. Because none of the dates are specific enough to accurately say this is the year 5780, we are in the range of their final days as well. Next week we’ll take this a step further.
1. We will never know the day the Lord will return.
2. Because of that, we must first make sure of our salvation, then live each day to the glory of God.
3. More is happening now that at any time in history to say Jesus will return soon.
4. So, we say: “Maranantha! Come, Lord Jesus!”
Our hope isn’t in the future. Our hope is in the One who has planned out the future.