1. Every generation has thought that they were living in the end times and that Jesus would be returning soon.
Yet here we are. Since the ascension of our Lord there has not been a generation that did not believe that their generation was the last and that Christ would return within their lifetime. It is off course no different in our day. I have lost count of the many “end of the world” predictions that have been made in my lifetime alone. Yet our Lord made it clear that only the Father knows the time:
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” Acts 1:6-7 (KJV)
It is clear that we just cannot pin point the Lord’s return with any amount of certainty. I am not saying that we must be prophetically insensitive. By all means, let us observe the signs of the times such as blood moons and shemitas. My appeal is that we do it in a Scripturally literate manner. In particular, a manner in which we do not lose sight of what is most important.
In regard to what is important, and what is uppermost on the Father’s heart, The Apostle Peter gives us a framework of the Father’s priority and process:.
“…knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation…but do not overlook this one fact beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” 2 Peter 3: 4-8 (KJV)
We should note that God’s timing is different to ours. Further, His timing is influenced by His mercy, which is revealed in his patience toward sinful man. God really desires that none should perish. His express desire is that all shall be brought to repentance. My concern is that if we lose sight of the Father’s priority for souls, we will fall prey to what is not as important.
James futher emphasises God’s patience:
“Be patient therefore, bretheren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath LONG PATIENCE FOR IT, until he receive the early and latter rain” James 5:7 (KJV)
Put another way, some dangers we may fall prey to include:
a) God's timing is not ours i.e. no one knows the time or the hour of His return. If we place too much emphasis on the end times (blood moons and star signs) we risk falling prey to losing sight of what is really important namely reaching the lost for Christ.
b) We may become disillusioned by false predictions. If our predictions fail to come to pass, we may lose hope and risk wandering off from the faith or worse, dishearten those that follow us, in fact, we may be creating the scoffers that Peter refers to.
In this regard the Scripture is clear: “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed by them” Jer. 10:2 (KJV)
2. In any wedding the bride is the limiting factor in regard to the commencing of the wedding ceremony.
Similarly, Jesus is returning for a glorious Bride/Church that has readied herself for His return. Could it be perhaps that the Church as the Bride of Christ, in some small way, may influence the return of Jesus?
“Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it. That He might sanctify and cleanse it with washing with the word, That he might present it to himself a GLORIOUS Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Eph 5:25-27 (KJV)
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and HIS WIFE HATH MADE HERSELF READY. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen IS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF SAINTS” Rev 19:7-8
This Scripture makes it clear that the righteous works of the saints constitutes the garment of the bride. We know that the saints are righteous by virtue of Jesus’ work on the cross, but the works that saints do as a result of their right standing with God in Christ, becomes the fine linen of the Bride’s wedding garment. This means that the bride readies herself when the saints start doing their works of righteousness in the world. I am not convinced that the bride has donned her wedding garment yet. In my opinion, the bride is closer than she ever has been but she is not yet completely ready. My point is that it seems as if the Bride has not and possibly is not, readying herself for her groom. Are we (through our kingdom labours) perhaps supposed to co-labour with God in order to see the return of Jesus?
3. Every nation has not yet heard the Gospel of the kingdom.
Jesus Himself prophesied that every nation, tribe and tongue will have a witness of the Gospel and then the end will come.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and THEN THE END SHALL COME.” Matt 24:14 (emphasis my own)
According to the Joshua Project approximately 6600 people groups are unreached (unreached = less than 2% Christ-follower and less than 5% Professing Christian).
Of the 50 largest unreached people groups:
- All have less than 2% Christ-followers
- Individuals in these groups have very limited, if any, access to the Gospel
- One in five people on earth live in these unreached people groups
- These 50 people groups comprise 1,365 billion souls
- Every group of the 50 unreached peoples are larger than 10,000,000 in population
- 46 of these 50 unreached peoples are in the 10/40 window, 43 are in closed countries (Preaching is a crime)
- 86% of all Hindus, Muslims and Buddhist do not know a Christian
This begs the following questions for consideration:
- Whose responsibility is it to reach the unreached people groups?
- Are there any significant strategic plans in place to reach these groups and in what time period?
Whatever the answers, I don’t see the goal of reaching every one of these groups in the next decade being attained. So I conclude that (in view of God’s word) it may be that Jesus will not be returning anytime soon (or at least, barring a miracle, not in the next decade).
4. All things are not yet restored.
The Apostle Peter, preaching to the Jews said:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, WHOM HEAVEN MUST RECEIVE UNTIL THE TIME FOR RESTORING ALL the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. “ Acts 3:19 KJV (emphasis my own)
- Heaven must receive (hold) Jesus until the restoration of all things about which God spoke through his holy prophets
Lets look at one of those prophets that spoke of restoration:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” Is 61:1-2 (KJV)
Jesus announcing his ministry read from this very portion of Scripture and declared in Luke 4:21 “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”
Now let us return to Isaiah 61 to note what Jesus left out at that time (in my opinion on purpose):
“…that THEY MAY BE CALLED OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified” Is 61:3 (KJV) (emphasis my own)
“THEY SHALL BUILD UP THE ANCIENT RUINS, THEY SHALL RAISE UP THE FORMER DEVASTATIONS” Is 61:4 (KJV) (emphasis my own)
“THEY SHALL REPAIR THE RUINED CITIES, the devastations of many generations” Is 61:4c (KJV) (emphasis my own)
What I observe from Scripture is that Jesus did His part and we (as his body) are called to do ours. Perhaps we have outsourced to God (through prayer alone) what has been our portion all along. Let us consider some questions in regard to restoration:
- Whose responsibility is it to “restore all things”? Is it not the very people that have been revived by Jesus’ ministry i.e. the Church?
- Do you observe in our world the Church involved in restoring cities, cultures and nations?
Off course, that is not to say that there are not pockets of activity. However, it is certainly not a “Tipping point” of sufficient evidence that “he may be glorified”. What we do observe is the following:
- Nigeria has some of the largest Churches in the world, yet it is considered to be the 15th most corrupt nation in the world (Amnesty international)
- Indianapolis, Indiana has the most Churches per capita (1 Church for every 289 people) yet this city has a crime index of 3, which means that it’s citizens are more prone to experience violent crime than 97% of US cities! (www.neighbourhoodscout.com). In addition, Indianapolis is recognised as one of the cities with the highest statistics of Child Abuse and Neglect. Clearly the salt has lost its “saltiness” and the light has been hidden under a “bushel”, the leaven is not influencing the “lump” which means the Church is not yet doing the works of righteousness and are not yet readying herself for her groom!
From the above, I conclude that, in the presence of God’s people, cities remain in ruins, devastation pervade the streets and the city walls remain broken. Consequently, heaven must continue to “receive (hold) Jesus” until things change.
Let me be clear, I am not looking for some Christian perfect world or utopian society. The Lord said that the “tares and the wheat” (sons of darkness and sons of the kingdom) must grow together (Matt 13). This is exactly what we observe in our world. Societies are a mixed bag of good and evil and everything in between as a result of people that bring their influence to bear. My issue is that I am not sure we can clearly distinguish between the wheat and the tares at this present moment. My proposal is that this state of affairs, could possibly be an indication that the field is not yet ready for harvest i.e. the wheat is not yet ripe enough (through works of righteousness) to allow the land owner to send in his reapers.
5. All His enemies are not yet made His footstool.
“For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, the lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Mark 12:36
“For he must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet.“ 1 Cor. 15:25
It is clear from this Scripture that all the spiritual enemies of Jesus must be under his feet i.e. in subjection to His body the Church. The last enemy to be subdued will be death (which will happen at His coming 1 Cor. 15: 26).
For the more “spiritual warfare – minded” among us- according to Charisma magazine there are 7 demonic principalities battling the Church:
- The spirit of religion (Rev 2:4-5,7). Religious works rather than a relationship with Christ
- The spirit of intimidation (Rev 2:10-11). Persecution against the true believers where believers are faithful under persecution but fail to stand up against the persecution
- The spirit of compromise (Rev 2:12, 14-17). Compromising the truth of God for cultural acceptance
- The spirit of Jezebel (Rev 2:18-20,26). Control and manipulation of God’s people
- The spirit of traditionalism (Rev 3:1-6). Cultural or traditional values outweighing the truth of Scripture or worse a syncretistic merging of the two
- The spirit of inferiority (Rev 3:7-8, 12). The Church’s battle for relevance in a pluralistic society
- The spirit of pride (Revelation 3:14-17,21)
The Lord actually gives the answer (to each of the Churches) on how to deal with these spiritual principalities. He introduces Who He is to the Churches and that by coming to him the Church will find the answers to the challenges they face. The question is are we doing it!
For the not so “spiritual warfare - minded” among us- Peter Strang in Ministry Today proposes 20 issues that are facing the Church today. Here follows a summary of his points which I have categorised under my own headings:
- Prophetic leadership rather than prosthetic leadership (Called vs. positional leadership)
- Abusive Pastors - “The Man of God” syndrome
- Apostolic leaders - Networks are great but Apostolic passion is needed for movement progress
- Emerging leaders - Neglecting to raise and release young leaders
- Accountability - Lack of leadership accountability in things that matter
- Traditionalism and cultural issues - Preferring culture over Scripture
- Bridge building with evangelicals - Many networks yet not one Church (inter network collaboration)
- Pride- Lack of humility and taking responsibility for failures.
- Praise and worship - Praise and worship are not a music show.
- Supernatural power - Lack of demonstrating the power of the Spirit.
- Scripturally sound teaching - Topical is great but are we neglecting Biblical exposition?
Issues of right living
- Righteous living - Sin pervades from the pew to the pulpit (not to mention the Ashley Madison issue). In my view the issue on the one side is that sin is so seemingly pervasive and tolerated in the Church. On the other hand, acknowledging that Pastors and leaders, face temptation and actually sin but respond to their sin in an unbiblical manner. Sin is one issue the other issue is how leaders respond to their sin and how others in the body of Christ treat those among us who have sinned. It appears that our understanding and application of grace falls short from the Gospel revelation. Every minister must be firmly positioned in the grace of God as the Apostle Paul noted “But by the grace of God I am that I am” 1 Cor. 15:10 (KJV). For example, why did so many Pastors opt to commit suicide upon being discovered as a member of Ashley Madison? Is the grace of God not sufficient enough to redeem us from our failings?
- Right Doctrine - From the emergent Church to the rise of universalist doctrines influencing the Church
- Racism - The number 1 problem facing the Church (according to Billy Graham).
- Progressive evangelist - The fading influence of the office of the evangelist
- Social justice - Not engaging the issues of the day.
- Discipling men - Men are leaving the Church and many social issues are linked to men.
- World mission - Neglecting our mission to the world.
- Multiethnicity - Not reaching everyone for the sake of Christ.
It seems as if these principalities or issues are not only in the Church but having great influence among God’s people i.e. they are not yet under our feet. Therefore, Jesus must remain at the Father’s right hand until his enemies are made his footstool.
So, here is my appeal to the Church: “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” Eph 5:14.
Let us stop getting wrapped up in end time predictions and scaring people with intriguing thoughts of an impending apocalypse. Rather let us get on with the work to which we have been called. Let us get to a place where we as the bride can say with the Spirit “Come Lord Jesus” and that we do so not out of desperation “to get out of here” but rather out of expectation because the work we have been given, is being accomplished. #Kenako