Advent Waiting: Watching for the Bridegroom

Advent: Second Week
Advent: Second Week

So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.

Matt. 24: 42 NLT

Watchfulness is a passionate desire for the presence of the bridegroom which awakens within us a spiritual sensitivity to the signs of his soon arrival. This spiritual sensitivity is a heart connection with the Holy Spirit who graces the believer with insights and discernment concerning the times and seasons immediately preceding Christ’s parousia. A watchful attitude is characterized by being spiritually alert, holy and ready for Christ’s return, as opposed to spiritual dullness typified by worldly attitudes and sinful passions. (HT: Mike Bickle)

We must not only have faith in [Christ], but must wait on Him; not only must hope, but must watch for Him; not only love Him, but must long for Him; not only obey Him, but must look out, look up earnestly for our reward, which is Himself. We must not only make Him the Object of our faith, hope, and charity, but we must make it our duty not to believe the world, not to hope in the world, not to love the world. We must resolve not to hang on the world’s opinion, or study its wishes. It is our mere wisdom to be thus detached from all things below. . . .

They, then, watch and wait for their Lord, who are tender and sensitive in their devotion towards Him; who feed on the thought of Him, hang on His words; live in His smile, and thrive and grow under His hand. They are eager for His approval, quick in catching His meaning, jealous of His honour. They see Him in all things, expect Him in all events, and amid all the cares, the interests, and the pursuits of this life, still would feel an awful joy, not a disappointment, did they hear that He was on the point of coming.

John Henry Newman,   “Waiting for Christ”

 

Advent Anticipation: The Blessed Hope

Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Titus 2:13 ESV

The second coming (i.e., Second Advent) takes places when Christ returns in bodily form to receive the church and judge the nations. That coming is personal and real for we, the Christ-followers, will see him face-to-face and rejoice at his appearing. Knowing that one day we will see Jesus visibly, we are powerfully motivated to walk in holiness (1 John 3:2-3).

Christ died on our behalf, the Holy Spirit changed our hearts; as result, God freed us from our bondage to live for him. In gratitude, we desire to please our Savior by our behavior. “No shame,” is the watchword for the expectation of Jesus’ coming (1 John 2:28). We desire our lives, attitudes, and actions to honor Christ upon his return. The advent motivation for purity of heart and pleasing our Lord propels us forward in a world gone mad (2 Pet. 3:11). We await a blessed hope, not a terror in the night, or a tragedy of epic proportion, but a Savior who loves and is ready to receive us into his presence.

The Lord shall come! The Church in the early ages took up the subject as of profoundest and most pressing interest, ‘looking for that blessed hope.’ It was no minor hope to the primitive saints. It cheered them at parting with their Lord, and it comforted them at parting with one another.

It upheld them in evil days; it nerved them for warfare; it gave them patience under persecution; it animated them in their work; it kept alive their zeal; it enabled them to look calmly round upon an evil world, and to face its mustering storms; it showed them resurrection and glory, fixing their eye upon scenes beyond the deathbed and the tomb; it ever reminded them of the day of meeting, when Jesus will gather all His own together, and those who have slept in Him shall awake to glory, honor, and immortality.

Horatius Bonar, The Revelation of Jesus Christ

HT: Of First Importance  

The Future

 

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Phil. 3:13-14 ESV

The future is that which will be; that which will exist at any time after the present moment; the next second is future as opposed to what has happened and is happening. For the believer, the future is not to be feared, but placed into the hands of an all-knowing, all-sovereign God.  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34 ESV). The Christian places his or her confidence about the future in a God who is all-loving, all-wise, and all-powerful. Believers are assured, not anxious about the future: the Cross has taken care of our past, present, and future sin.

Precisely this the curiosity of the believer: it means forging ahead and not looking back. If the believer is not afraid of the mystery of the future, it is not for any heroic reason, for he knows who ordains the future and who yet does not allow the future to become our undoing. The believer knows who sets the goals and guarantees them. In this knowledge the restlessness of all our thoughts and quests abate.

Helmut Thielicke, Notes From a Wayfarer: The Autobiography of Helmut Thielicke, trans., David R. Law (New York, Paragon House, 1995), 418.

The Point of the Resurrection

 

The Resurrection of the Dead

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thess. 4:16 ESV

When Christ returns, he will raise from the dead the bodies of all believers who have died in Christ since the beginning of time (1 Thes. 4:15-18).  Jesus will reunite these bodies with their spirits which have been residing in heaven (Phil. 1:21, Dan. 12:2-3). Also, he will change the bodies of all those believers who are alive, giving them glorified bodies. Therefore, all believers from all time will have perfect resurrection bodies just like their Savior. The resurrection of the dead is the final work of God in applying Christ’s work on the Cross to our lives and to creation (1 Cor. 15:50-57).

The point of the resurrection . . . is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. . . What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it . . . What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it . . . ). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York, HarperOne, 2008).

Judgment Day

The Final Act on the Final Day

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God.

2 Thess. 1:5

Judgment Day refers to a future event when God will call all men and women to account for their acts of righteousness or wickedness done on this earth. All wrongs performed on this earth will be righted, all righteous deeds honored, and all souls called into account. The Apostle Paul declared that our judgment is imminent, “The Lord is near” (Phil. 4:4). Christians will be accepted based on Christ’s work on their behalf. Their good works were all achieved through Christ’s shed blood and his most gracious grace. Believers do not have to demand justice in this life for the Lord himself will right all wrongs on Judgment Day. Believers are free to minister life not justice for God for in his omniscience is perfectly capable of knowing men and women’s hearts.

When the end comes and we are taken for judgment above, we will then clearly understand in God the mysteries that puzzle us now. Not one of us will think to say, “Lord, if it had been some other way, all would be well.”

Julian of Norwich, Showings

 

Advent Waiting

Advent Waiting

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3 ESV

Advent waiting is the prayerful longing for God’s Holy Spirit to pour upon us. In preparation for the coming church and secular year, we yearn for the transformation of our hearts. Advent waiting is gratefulness for Christ’s first coming while eagerly expecting Christ’s second coming in glorious majesty. Advent waiting converts our personalities as we await Christ’s physical appearance in the skies.

In this present world, we endure while calmly trusting the Holy Spirit to be Christ in us in the midst of a fallen and decadent world.  In hope, we look forward to seeing our blessed Savior face-to-face. Oscar Romero, martyred archbishop of San Salvador, points to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model for Advent waiting:

Even when all despaired
at the hour when Christ was dying on the cross,
Mary, serene,
awaited the hour of the resurrection.
Mary is the symbol
of the people who suffer oppression and injustice.
Theirs is the calm suffering
that awaits the resurrection.
It is Christian suffering,
the suffering of the church,
which does not accept the present injustices
but awaits without rancor the moment
when the Risen One will return
to give us the redemption we await.

Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love, trans., James R. Brockman, S. J. (Farmington, Penn.: The Bruderhof Foundation, 2003), 27.

The season of Advent begins this Sunday, November 28th.

Ever Looking

The Second Advent and Christlikeness

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

The second coming (i.e., Second Advent) occurs when Christ returns in bodily form to receive the church and judge the nations. That coming is personal and real for we, the Christ-followers, will see him face-to-face and rejoice in his appearing. Knowing that one day we will see Jesus visibly, we are powerfully motivated to walk in holiness (1 John 3:2-3). Christ died on our behalf, the Holy Spirit changed our hearts; as result, God freed us from our bondage to live for him. In gratitude, we desire to please our Savior by our behavior. “No shame,” is the watchword for the expectation of Jesus’ coming (1 John 2:28). We desire our lives, attitudes, and actions to honor Christ upon his return.

Living in the reality of Christ’s return makes a difference in a Christian’s behavior. Since Christians someday will be like Him, a desire should grow within the Christian to become like Him now. That was Paul’s passion, expressed in Phil. 3:12–14 (see notes there). That calls for a purifying of sin, in which we play a part (see notes on 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Tim. 5:22; 1 Pet. 1:22).

John MacArthur, NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, Electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Word, 1998), 1 Jn 3:3.

Those who denounce the doctrine of the second advent as speculative, fanciful and unpractical, would do well to reconsider the subject. The doctrine was not so regarded in the days of the apostles. In their eyes, patience, hope, diligence, moderation, personal holiness, were inseparably connected with an expectation of the Lord’s return. Happy is the Christian who has learned to think with them! To be ever looking for the Lord’s appearing is one of the best helps to a close walk with God.

J.C. Ryle, Day by Day with J.C. Ryle, “Second Coming”, 281.

On Reading the Book of Revelation (Updated)

Apocalyptic Literature

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

Rev.1:1-3

Apocalyptic writing tells a symbolic story by which eternal insight is given by an angel to a visionary prophet. This heavenly perspective explains God’s eternal purposes to a church that is struggling on earth with persecution, oppression, trials, and sorrow. Apocalyptic literature uses powerful images to prick the imagination and draw the reader into God’s eternal perspective on the events of this world.

First, seventy per cent of the symbols’ meaning are drawn from the original context of  the Old Testament’s use of that symbol. Second, John’s symbols are also pulled from the contemporary Roman world using pagan images to illustrate sources of evil in the world. Third in our culture, we tend to think of symbols as meaning something less than real or true. John’s symbols are intended to convey deep theological meaning while simultaneously impacting our spirits and emotions. We tend to read a text “literally” as opposed to reading it “symbolically” as if a literal interpretation makes the text more true. In the Bible, symbols are understood to be just as “true” as other more historical or literary passages.

Before Apocalyptic literature can be applied to our day, the text must be read in the light of its original context. In other words, the writing must make sense to the readers of the first century before it speaks to a reader in the twenty-first century.

Apocalyptic literature was written not only to inform the church, but to impact believers’ emotions and encourage their spirits as well. We need to read the Book of Revelation with our hearts as well as our minds. Apocalyptic literature is designed to uplift our emotions by strengthening our wills with the truth of God’s sovereign grace and the power of his redeeming Cross.

What then is the Book of Revelation’s message?

1. That God is awesomely majestic, as well as sovereign in all our troubles.

2. That Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb ultimately brings complete deliverance for those who trust in him.

3. That God’s judgements on the world are often to serve notice on the world that God will avenge his people.

4. That regardless of how things appear in the short run, “sin does not go unpunished,” and God will judge.

5. That God can accomplish his purposes through a small and persecuted remnant; he is not dependent on what the world values as power.

6. That worship leads us from grief over our sufferings to God’s eternal purposes seen from a heavenly perspective.

7. That proclaiming Christ invited persecution, the normal state of committed believers in this age.

8. That Christ is worth dying for.

9. That a radical contrast exists between the God’s kingdom (exemplified in the bride, the new Jerusalem) and the world’s values (exemplified in the prostitute, Babylon).

10. That the hope God has prepared for us exceeds our present sufferings.

11. That God’s plan and church ultimately include representatives of all peoples.

Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIVAC(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 41.

Enoch: A Last Days Man


An Advent Prophetic Word

When Enoch was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

Gen. 5:21-24 (NLT)

Genesis five shares a short story about a man named Enoch and his unusual and distinctive walk with God. What makes Enoch’s walk powerful was his determination to commune with God no matter how badly the culture around him was morally deteriorating. Like Enoch, the church finds itself in a perilous place: a decadent culture challenging the church to dare live its commitment to Biblical truth (2 Tim. 3:1-5). We like Enoch must be determined in our hearts to walk with God no matter how bad things become.

Many in the church make excuses, “It’s too hard to walk in the Spirit, we just can’t do it in the midst of all these problems.” Yet, the Bible speaks powerfully, “God’s grace is sufficient in all weakness” (2 Cor. 12: 1-10). Grace is available always, in every place, at any time, in the all-sufficient person, Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Imagine, Enoch walked with God never knowing the power of the Cross, no experience of the Holy Spirit, no benefits of the covenant, no grace in the sacraments, no sweetness of fellowship with other believers, no spiritual encouragement through the church, etc., yet he continued in sweet communion with our most loving and gracious God.

No matter how bad our circumstances are, grace is available to respond like Jesus in every life situation (2 Cor. 9:8). Grace is available for all our current circumstances no matter our tight funds, no matter our emotional need, no matter how frustrating our lives: God gives us grace to walk in the Spirit to respond like Jesus in every life situation (Gal. 5:16-26). Our circumstances are never bigger than God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:1-10).

St. Thomas More declared, “The times are never so bad that a good man cannot live in them.” The Apostle Paul reminds us that when sin increases, grace abounds the more (Rom. 5:20).Enoch tapped into that grace and walked with God. To walk with God means to talk with God. Their communion with one another was intimate and personal. Enoch knew God’s heart and God was blessed by his love (John 17:24). The Lord wanted to be with Enoch,”God took him away” (Gen. 5:24), thus the Lord allowed Enoch to by-pass death and brought him straight into his presence.

Not only did Enoch walk with God when all others were rejecting the Lord: he walked intimately and powerfully in constant communication with his heavenly Father (Heb. 11: 5-6). To walk by faith and please God with our attitude means to catch the heartbeat of God by believing and obeying his word not because we ought to, but because we want to. The writer of Hebrews commends Enoch because his heart of faith pleased God (Heb. 11: 5-6). Faith is a gift from God and a choice of our hearts enabling any child of God to believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are faithful, sufficient, and present for every life circumstance. Maintaining faith is a battle of the heart, staying fixed on the goodness and faithfulness of God. Enoch maintained his faith in a culture that had chosen to reject and blaspheme God. In this, Enoch pleased God’s heart. Enoch heard God’s voice thereby knowing God’s heart thereby he was able to share God’s word. Enoch did not hoard God’s word unto himself, Enoch taught God’s heart to a people who were constantly resisting God’s grace. Enoch was willing to share a message that was not going to be heard–a message of judgement:

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

Jude 14-15 (NKJV)

By God’s grace, Enoch walked with God, heard his heart, knew his ways, and communicated God’s truth in a decadent and decaying culture.

Three hundred years is a long time. What kept Enoch walking with God for three hundred years? He had an awareness of judgment coming. He had a sensitivity to the ungodliness of the age. And he drew closer to God as the reality of these things pressed in upon him. The way to graph it would be to make a circle, space these three items around the circle, and then show by arrows that each one influenced the other. The more Enoch was aware of the judgment, the more sensitive he was to sin. The more sensitive he was to sin, the closer he wanted to walk with God. The closer he walked with God, the more clearly he saw that judgment was necessary. Or the other way: the more clearly he saw the judgment coming, the closer he wanted to walk with God, and the closer he walked with God the more sensitive he was to ungodliness.

If you keep close to God, you will keep from sin. But if you sin persistently, you will fall away from God. Then you will rename the sin. You will not talk about pride, the great sin; you will call it “self-esteem,” “self-worth,” or what is “due to me.” You will not talk about gluttony and materialism; you will talk about “the good life.” You will not talk about disobedience; you will talk about “shortcomings.” You will not talk about the Ten Commandments and your violation of them; you will talk about your “mistakes.” It is only when you draw close to God that these things will become increasingly sinful in your sight. Only then will they work together to make you a preacher committed to calling men and women to repentance and faith in Christ before the judgment comes.

James Montgomery Boice cited in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, 2nd edition (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008).

We too can trust Christ and find him faithful in the midst of morally decadent culture. First, we walk with God by allowing the prevailing power of the Holy Spirit to subdue our sinful nature. Second, we trust God’s atoning work in Christ that our sin has been forgiven and forgotten. We stop striving in our best efforts to be accepted with God and we trust Christ’s supreme effort as our means to acceptance with God. Third, we abide in constant, conscious presence of Christ. We abide in Christ by holding steady in his presence trusting God’s promises by faith irrespective of the challenges, trials, and tribulations of our lives.

‘And Enoch walked with God’ (Gen. 5:22,24), that is, he kept up and maintained a holy, settled, habitual, though undoubtedly not altogether uninterrupted communion and fellowship with God, in and through Christ Jesus. So that to sum up what has been said . . . walking with God consists especially in the fixed habitual bent of the will for God, in an habitual dependence upon his power and promise, in an habitual voluntary dedication of our all to his glory, in an habitual eyeing of his precept in all we do, and in an habitual complacence in his pleasure in all we suffer.

George Whitefield, Selected Sermons of George Whitefield (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).

Fourth, we are committed to continual growth in the knowledge and love of God (2 Peter 3:18). We commit to grow in Christ by reading his word, praying his will, trusting his promises, receiving his grace in the sacraments, fellowshipping with his servants, and serving his church. God is raising up Last Days Enoch’s who will walk with God in the midst of a hostile, apathetic, and immoral culture.

The Blessed Hope (Sermon Series)

The Second Coming of Jesus

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thess 4:16-17 (ESV)

Sunday at Lamb of God, I began a series of sermons on the Second Coming of Christ. My burden is that our parish would come to experience the pure joy of anticipating Christ’s return. Too often, Second Coming teaching has generated fear and confusion in the church. My desire is to preach Christ and not a theological system. Our focus will not be on the mark of the beast, secret rapture, and/or secular events, but the final triumph of Christ. When Christ appears, he will completely defeat the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. Paul describes the Second Coming as the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) not a tormenting fear, or a tragic disaster, or a lost cause, but a blessed hope.

Biblical hope is not a wishful desire, but the confident expectation that the good things that God has promised he will bring to pass. We hope to see Jesus face-to-face. We hope to see loved ones again who have died in Christ. We hope that sickness and suffering will end and death will be no more. This Biblical hope does not disappoint (Rom. 5:5) for one day Christ will appear in the clouds and death will be defeated (1 Cor. 15:25-26) and we will reign with him forever.

Salvation is not a matter that concerns only the destiny of the individual soul. It includes the entire course of human history and mankind as a whole. The coming of Christ is a definitive event for all men; it means either salvation or judgment. Furthermore, salvation is not merely an individual matter; it concerns the whole people of God, and it includes the transformation of the entire physical order.

George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 557.

My message can found at the Lamb of God Charismatic Episcopal Church website for listening or downloading.