Looking Ahead

How do we adequately prepare for what’s ahead – either the immediate future or the long-term horizon view? It is without doubt that those who have a Biblically-based broad-brushstroke narrative and trajectory of “certain hope” focused on Jesus are in a good place to pioneer whatever lies ahead.

We believe that we’re created in God’s image and likeness. We believe that life, therefore, has meaning and purpose. In other words, that suffering also has some kind of larger, transcendent context. We identify as God’s offspring, His children. We cherish that we’re loved so much, and often marvel that such a great price has been paid in our redemption (in Jesus). We hold dear that Jesus is coming again, in glory, might and power. And, from those scriptures, we also become cognisant that His coming will be preceded by a time “that has never happened before nor will ever happen again”.

We can easily become immersed, for example, in the descriptive narrative throughout Matthew 24 and Luke 21, as well as ponder the rich imagery throughout Revelation, each contributing to a broad-brushstroke array of the events at the end of this age and the heralding of the new.

The Lord has revealed just enough for us to know and all that we need for today. Of course, none of us particularly relish facing what appear to be increasingly difficult times. Here we’re comforted by Jesus words:

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”

“In this world you will have tribulation,” says Jesus, “but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

The notion of suffering for Christ begins with Jesus’ teachings and proceeds throughout the apostolic letters. The question, of course, is how are we ever going to adequately negotiate these times – given that the past 70 or so years in the West at least since World War 2 has been relatively peaceful, abundantly prosperous, full of opportunity, with generally good health services, a stable economy, and parliaments that still affirm the Bible before each session? Many have become complacent, beguiled by ungodly ideologies. Our society that grew from its Judaic-Christian roots is now in the throes of accelerated, declining change.

When Jesus said, “As in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man,” he referred to a previous age known by its extreme violence, sexual depravity and social malevolence. Thus, “the Days of Noah” are also synonymous with a great “reset”.

God thus simply flushed away all the wickedness, and through this baptism of water, started again. And, at the brightness of Jesus’ coming, begins another “GREAT RESET”: Return, Reset, Resurrection followed by an age of Righteousness. But all this is preceded by “birth pains”.

So, here’s the question: How are you and I (or our children and grandchildren) ever going to be adequately prepared to face all this yet “unwritten” but certain interim future?

The good news is, that as we abide in Christ and His words are intrinsic to our narrative, our future trajectory is not uncertain. We are victors in Christ!

How does this happen? God prepares and equips us over many years and through all kinds of circumstances, like He has done throughout history. For example, Joseph was prepared through unjust and arduous suffering before he attained the pinnacle of leadership in Egypt. Imagine languishing in prison for many years at the behest of a lying, promiscuous woman!

Likewise, Moses was prepared for his life’s calling, first in the courts of Pharaoh, then in the wilderness for decades, before his life’s mission and purpose became apparent.

David the unknown shepherd boy had his first fights with a lion and then a bear, before embracing a calling to leadership, replete with ensuing battles and many epic struggles.

Jesus equipped and mentored his closest followers for over three years to take on the biggest job of all – in the midst of Roman cruelty and oppression. It’s terrifying to contemplate how many crucifixions those disciples may have witnessed before they saw Jesus go that same fate?

God equips us all before he allows us to step into “future history”. Jesus so many times exhibited a stunningly accurate foretelling of the immediate as well as long-term future. He said to Peter with unwavering confidence: “Satan has asked for you. But I have prayed for you and when you have turned…” the corner in this.

When Jesus called his disciples, he said, “I will make you…” There were no shortcuts to what Jesus had in mind. God knows who we’re becoming, and we need to trust His handiwork. It is the Lord’s work and all is of His making. Gold and silver are refined by fire; Jesus is building His church, and he’s not using sticks and straw. Our part is to remain available and faithful – looking indeed to a future that is gloriously brighter than we may dimly envisage today.

John Classic
By John Classic

Surprise! (Exactly when you thought you really understood).

One of the remarkable things about the Bible, especially prophecy, is its SURPRISING nature. Things come to eventuate exactly as scripture foretells, and we find ourselves (or those at the time it occurs) as absolutely surprised and not really expecting it!

For example, even though there was a great deal of Messianic expectation when Jesus was born, and the ancients understood the prophecies given, in Isaiah for example, where “a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14) – that is “God with us”, when Jesus did come to this earth and was born as a baby boy in Bethlehem, it really came as a surprise.

When you read the gospel accounts, you soon pick up on that sense of surprise from Mary’s visitation by the angel Gabriel, from Joseph’s experience, from the shepherd’s in the field to the arrival of the wise men.

When Jesus came it was a surprise.

It also happened in the discourse when Jesus repeatedly told his disciples that he would be handed over to the Gentiles, he would suffer, be killed and that he would be raised three days and three nights later. I don’t think that the disciples, as the scriptures attest to, really understood or fully comprehended what Jesus was foretelling.

Thus when you read the gospel accounts when early on that Sunday morning, long after Jesus had been resurrected, the people immediately involved were nothing less than surprised! The angel at the tomb spoke to the women were surprised. The disciples were surprised. They only understood what actually happened some time after those events occurred.

I think Jesus understands that “sense of surprise” we experience. When Jesus was telling his disciples about the upcoming resurrections, as cited in John 5:28-29, he said, “Don’t be amazed; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice – and come out, those who have lived righteously to a resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to a resurrection of judgment.”

And here Jesus prefaced his words by saying, “Don’t marvel” or “Don’t be amazed!” So, one day in the future, when we find ourselves participating in either of those resurrections, we’ll probably find it “surprising” – more surprising and amazing than we can ever imagine today.

The last book of the Bible is part letter, part prophecy and part apocalypse. The Book of Revelation is prefaced by telling us of “things that must soon take place”, and so over the years theologians and scholars alike have disagreed and debated whether these mysterious things and events in Revelation happened completely in the past or whether they exist yet in the future. But, the bottom line is, that even though we know that Jesus Christ is coming as “King of kings, and Lord of lords”, in might and in power and in glory, his coming is probably going to happen in a way that we really don’t fully comprehend or imagine today. We’ll probably be more surprised than anything else.

So when the day comes and the words of God become fulfilled, may we all be more than pleasantly surprised!

For the MessageWeek team, I’m John Klassek.