Curious, they stopped momentarily, until they recognized the attraction was only the young teacher from Nazareth.
"Some are convinced he is Messiah..." her voice trailed off as they trudged along.
"Don't be daft!" he retorted. "We've been waiting for hundreds of years, and we shall go on waiting. Each generation has been convinced He will come in their lifetime." Under his breath he muttered, "We should be so lucky..."
Several weeks ago I was looking at the headlines, overwhelmed by the unprecedented scope and severity of suffering in the world today. Multiple earthquakes, countries crumbling, the death of the Pacific Ocean, refugees running for their lives, political upheaval...on and on it goes. I found myself dismissing the very signs Jesus spoke of in regard to His return! Quite frankly, it's easier NOT to think about it!
Peter gives a stern warning against this attitude in his second letter:
"Above all, you must understand in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation...
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends, With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day...He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but EVERYONE to come to repentance. But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way,
WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE OUGHT YOU TO BE???"
We have watched one too many disaster movies. I can read through this passage without flinching! Now stop for a moment. Personalize the scene Peter describes above:
Picture yourself at home on a sunny Saturday afternoon. You are going about your business...watching TV, catching up on laundry, mowing the grass, reading a good book, whatever it is you would likely be doing. Without warning you are overwhelmed by blinding light, followed a split-second later by the roar of consuming fire. In an instant your physical body (and everything around you) is incinerated. Your soul is sent spiraling into eternal darkness and torment.
This will be the fate of every person on the earth who does not genuinely know Jesus!
Those who missed Jesus during His earthly ministry would have the benefit of the apostles' teaching and the Scriptures for years to come. There was yet time for repentance...
At His return, there will be NO SECOND CHANCES!
Jesus warned us that we would be vulnerable to deception...and be in danger of ignoring
the signs of the times:
"For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, UNTIL THE DAY WHEN NOAH ENTERED THE ARK, and they were UNAWARE until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:37-39)
"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates." (Matthew 24:32-33)
"See that no one leads you astray...Be on guard...I have told you these things beforehand...stay awake, I say to you, STAY AWAKE!" (Mark 13)
Jesus does NOT want us to miss this! He is quite specific in regard to the signs of His coming: (summarized from Matthew 24)
1. Widespread deception/false prophets: "See that no one leads you astray..."
2. Wars and rumors of wars
3. Nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom
These are "The beginning of the birth pains...
1. They will deliver you up to tribulation
2. They will put you to death
3. You will be hated by all nations for My Name's sake
4. Then many will FALL AWAY
5. They will betray one another and hate one another
6. False prophets will arise and lead many astray
7. Lawlessness will be increased
8. The love of many will grow cold
9. An 'abomination' of desolation will stand in the holy place (Temple Mount)
This brings me right back to the headlines! We are caught in this contradiction...on one hand we know that "No one knows the day and the hour." On the other hand, Jesus is adamant that we "stay awake, keep watch, be on guard..." His return could be years away...but WHAT IF He is coming soon???
According to the Gospel of Luke there were a few who recognized the Messiah when He arrived in the unlikely and unexpected form of a tiny baby. Who were they? How did they know? What set them apart from the multitudes who were oblivious to the most historic and pivotal moment in history? What can we learn about keeping watch/being ready?
There was nothing special about these guys. They lived simple, humble lives. These were not the scholars or religious professionals of their day. They held no delusion of self-importance. They were merely guarding their sheep in the stillness of the night when an angel of the Lord appeared to them, bearing a very specific announcement:
"Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
Simeon: A 'righteous and devout' man in Jerusalem, who was 'waiting for the consolation of Israel.' (waiting-Greek 'prosdechomai' - to wait with confidence and patience) Luke 2:25-26 tells us that the Holy Spirit was upon him, and that the Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ!
Wisemen from the East: These were foreigners who likely came from Babylon. We can imagine that the Babylonians had been introduced to the God of the Bible by Daniel and his cohorts during the Exile. These men had studied the Scriptures and were so familiar with them that they recognized the signs of Messiah's coming and followed His star to Bethlehem.
We have the testimony of Scripture. We have ears to hear, eyes to see, and the saintly example of those who have gone before us...
We are without excuse.
Lord, grant us humility and single-minded devotion to You. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and draw us into Your Word, that we might be prepared to recognize the signs of Your coming. Consume us with passion for the lost! Fill us and pour us out for Your Kingdom and Glory. Amen.
"You know the time, the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.
For salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
The night is far gone; the day is at hand.
So let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light."