Passages: Joshua 20-21, Acts 1, Jeremiah 8, Matthew 24,
Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
When we speak of the promises of God, we’re talking about things that will happen, at least that’s the way we Christians see it. When God tells us that something will come to pass, it will. The problem is that most seem to then comb through the Bible looking at the promises of God hoping to foretell the future. After all, God doesn’t want believers unaware, does He? He would tell us such things for a reason, wouldn’t He?
The passages for today cover some of the richest of these “apocalypse” texts. But here you’ll find little reason to sell your things, buy canned goods, build a bomb shelter and wait for Armageddon. Instead, the promises here are told for a reason that I fear most western Christians will invariably misunderstand. These things are written so that the people who read them might be strengthened to persevere through what is to come.
For example, take the Matthew 24 passage. It does go into some pretty harsh predictions for the future, including a massive amount of tribulation, but don’t miss the context for the statements. The disciples had asked when the buildings will be thrown down (referring to the temple) and what will be the signs of Jesus’ coming. Jesus answers in such a way as to make sure that his disciples are not deceived (v. 4). He then gives them warnings as to how lawlessness will come to pass, and how people will claim to be Jesus. There will be natural disasters and many people will die, but that will not be the end.
Now, many can start to catalogue the events and try to correlate them with CNN Interactive, but that would be missing the point. Jesus is not telling us that we should spend our time reading signs to determine the end, but rather that we should read the signs so that we will be strengthened to carry on, rather than weakened by the opposition. That we should continue to spread the Gospel, as when that is finished as a testimony to all the nations (v.14). All of these apparently negative things we see and face are within God’s plan.
This is echoed in the first part of Acts 1, where we see Jesus telling the disciples that they are to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. (which he says in response to the question of when he will bring about his kingdom). Again, we are to look to the end, to the establishment of the kingdom of God and the return of King Jesus, but it is not a passive wait, we are heralds of the coming kingdom. The message of the warnings and prophecies are to embolden us to be faithful to Christ, and to carry out what he calls us to, not simply to discern the signs and so avoid pain and trouble for ourselves.
May we be so empowered by the promises of God, that we live for Him despite afflictions, indeed, may we see affliction as a part of Jesus’ promise coming to pass, and thus a seal on the rest of the promises he made to those who trust in Him, to His eternal Glory!