During a recent quiet time Bible study, I focused on Jesus' warnings that Jerusalem would be destroyed and that HE, the glorious Son of Man, would return in glory to claim those who belong to HIM. Jesus emphasized that his disciples always need to be ready, but not fearful, of his imminent return in glory. (See Matthew 24:1-51; Mark 13:1-37; and Luke 21:5-36 for Jesus' teaching.)
Those passages are some of the most studied and debated teachings of Jesus. Scholars have tried for centuries to discern which part of them make up the Lord's prophecies of the end of the age and which prophecies speak only about the destruction of Jerusalem. As convincing, and confusing, the different points of view about interpreting Jesus' promises can be, I believe the Holy Spirit led me to some rock-solid convictions about what I need to do and who I needed to be as we live in these last days that actually began on the first Pentecost after the Lord's resurrection (Acts 2:14-21; Hebrews 1:1-3).
When I take consider Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-18) and add it to Jesus' warnings about the destruction of the Temple and teachings about the end of the world, I get a well-rounded view of what discipleship should be like in the hostile world of the end times.
My discipleship involves six stages of intersection with our world in anticipation of the dawning of the day when:
The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah (Revelation 11:15).
I hope these observations are a blessing to you as you seek to be a JesuShaped disciple in our world, today.
I place my hope in Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, as I declare my faith in Jesus as the source of my hope before others. My hope, my future, and my journey forward are tied to Jesus, His identity, and HIS plans. My future does not pivot on whether I have the insight or abilities to correctly parse the difficult teachings about the last days and the destruction of Jerusalem. I put my trust in the Crucified One, Jesus, who as the Christ of Israel, Lord of the universe, and Savior of the world, defeated death and brought immortality and life to light through HIS life, death, and life after death!
Satan will not let my faith, or the work of God's people, go unopposed. I most certainly will face, and my world will face, many ongoing crises, and then one day, an ultimate crisis. However, these crises don't control my life or my future. I am part of a broken world, but I am also part of God's family awaiting our Healer, the King of glory, the victorious Son of Man who is coming for us in victory.
As in every storm, Jesus will come to calm the storms. I need, and we need, to be calm and hold onto our faith, refusing to give up or give in to fear. We need to be ready for the Lord's coming, always, staying awake in faith to HIS promises and trusting in HIS deliverance.
In times of both crisis and celebration, we do need to cry out for help and call on the Lord Jesus to return. We cry out for HIM to come to us to bring us help, healing and hope through the Holy Spirit, WHO gives us the words to say as we face our times of trial. We also cry out to Jesus praying for HIS ultimate return and our deliverance.
During each of the previous stages, I need to be sharing my faith. Jesus' ultimate return will not occur until we have declared the Good News to all the people of the world. My work of sharing my faith is a part of Jesus' coming in victory and hastening the day of HIS return.
Jesus will come as the glorious Son of Man and be crowned King of all things and all people. Every knee will bow before the Lord and recognize HIM in HIS glory. Jesus' people will share in HIS glory and delight in our reunion with LORD's people, the saved from all times as God's children in the presence of their LORD, forever.
I may never untangle every nuance of Jesus' prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem and HIS coming at the end of time. However, I can look at what is going on in my life and in my world, then use these six markers to know what my responsibility is, and what assured hope I have, for that time in my life and in my world.
Despite the mess the world appears to have made of itself, I must remember that because of Jesus, I have both a destiny and a destination. I am on a journey of hope that is moving toward Jesus' ultimate victory. I will have different challenges and responsibilities for varying stages of this journey. I can, however, remember that my journey has a destination and I have a destiny that is tied to Jesus' glorious victory that lies ahead!
As Paul says to the Thessalonians twice when discussing such things, we should encourage, comfort, exhort, and edify each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11).