Sunday, July 08, 2007

How Should We Live in Light of the Coming End (Part 2 of 5)

The Christian's Perspective
Let’s begin by considering the Christian’s perspective, in light of the coming end. Peter begins verse 7 with a phrase, which, at first glance, may appear to be a rather ominous warning. The genuine follower of Christ should not see it as such. The Christian should and can read these words with great hope and anticipation. Peter writes, “The end of all things is near.”

Understandably, our eyes are immediately drawn to the first two words—“the end.” These two words are translated from the Greek phrase to telos. The words “the end,” while they imply the completion of history, but also the goal of history.

John MacArthur wrote: “The Greek word for ‘end’ is never used in the New Testament as a chronological end, as if something simply stops. Instead, the word means a consummation, a goal achieved, a result attained, or a realization. Having emphasized triumphant suffering through death [in verses 1-6], Peter here begins to emphasize triumphant suffering through the second coming of Christ, which is the goal of all things. He is calling believers to live obediently and expectantly in the light of Christ’s return.”[1]

Peter spoke this way before. It was during his second sermon, which we find in Acts 3. (Acts 3-5 is one of my favorite sections of the Bible. There will come a time in this country when genuine followers of Christ will have to follow Peter John’s lead, which we see in Acts 3-5.). Listen to Peter’s words. Listen to how he called the people to repentance and obedience in light of Christ’s imminent return. Beginning in Acts 3:17…

And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. ~ Acts 3:17-21

The wording in this passage is very similar to what we see in 1 Peter 4:1-7. The time of Christ’s victorious suffering has been fulfilled, through His death on the cross. And the end, the consummation, the triumphant goal of all things is imminent, and will be fulfilled through the glorious return of Jesus Christ. It is with this same sense of expectancy and urgency that Peter spoke to the Jews at the Portico of Solomon that he is speaking to the believers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia in his first letter. It is with this same sense of expectancy and urgency with which the Word of God is speaking to us, now!

To emphasize his point, Peter specifically states that the end “is near.” The phrase “is near” is in the perfect tense, which means “the end [is] impending—having drawn near and now in a position to break in.”[2]

Having served a number of search warrants during my law enforcement career, I can attest to the fact that some of the most intense moments during the execution of a search warrant are the milliseconds before you ram or kick the door. The law requires that officers give what is called a “knock and notice,” before making forcible entry into a location—before, if necessary, breaking down the door.

Having gone through the lengthy process of preparing the warrant, swearing before a judge to the validity of the affidavit, and preparing an “ops plan” to execute the warrant, I remember the sense of anticipation as my team suited-up and made our way to the location. The end of all of the careful preparation was near.

When we arrived at the location, we would quietly make our way to the front door—each of us having our assigned positions in line and assigned areas of responsibility. Tradition at the time I was on the team held that whoever wrote the search warrant would (most times, if not always) be the first person in the door.

No turning back now. The time had drawn near. We were in position. Making entry into the location was imminent. “Knock, knock, knock! Sheriff’s Department! Search Warrant!” (A momentary pause) “BAM!” I loved it!

What I just shared with you was a snapshot of a search warrant from the perspective of a deputy sheriff standing outside the door. Let me assure you that the perspective is quite different for those inside the location. The perspective of the Christian, in light of the reality of Christ’s imminent return, should be like that of a person inside a house who, looking out the window, sees a half dozen deputy sheriff’s clad in Kevlar entry gear rushing toward the door.

Whether you see those same deputy sheriff’s through the eyes of a guilty criminal or an innocent person is something we will discuss in a little while. The Christian’s perspective, in light of what Peter writes: “the end of all things is near,” should be this. The return of Jesus Christ is so near we should not wonder when He will return. We should live with the reasonable anticipation and excitement that today is the day. We should live as people who are ready for His return; and we should live as people who are deeply concerned that others are ready for His return.

Such a faith-filled, biblical hope will not bring us to the point of making faulty predictions about His return (the way false prophets and religions like the Jehovah’s Witnesses have done over the years). Instead we will live as people who are on the alert. Jesus said:

Therefore, be on the alert-- for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrowing, or in the morning--lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all, “Be on the alert!” ~ Mark 13:35-37
In light of what we just read in Mark 13, I want to take a moment to ask and answer the following question. Why hasn’t God revealed the exact time of the Lord’s return? Have you ever wondered about that? Well, I’m going to turn to a smarter man than me who I think has given a good answer to the question. Once again, I turn to John MacArthur. He wrote the following:

Even though God wants believers to focus on the hope of Christ’s return, He has chosen not to reveal its exact time. If they knew the specific date of the Lord’s return was far off, believers could lose motivation and become complacent or, if they know it was near, engage in frenzied, panicked activity as the day approached. Imminence eliminates both extremes so all Christians throughout the history of the church can live with biblically balanced expectancy.[3]
So, how should we live in light of the coming end? We should live as people who expect the Lord’s return to happen at any moment. Before we move on to consider our Christian duty and goal in light of the coming end, I think a little mutual accountability would be appropriate. Do you think Christians in America and the American Church in general, by and large, live and minister with the perspective that Jesus might return before I finish this sermon?

Sadly, I believe the answer is no. Now, allow me to preface this next provocative question by saying that there is nothing inherently sinful about building bigger churches. But consider this: if we are expecting the Lord to return at any moment, why is the American Church spending literally millions of dollars to build bigger churches?

If the American Church is expecting the Lord to return at any moment, why does the American Church spend far more money on making our stay on earth more comfortable and to entertain unbelievers than we do on supporting missionaries and reaching the lost with the gospel?

If the American Church is expecting the Lord to return at any moment why do most churches in America spend the bulk of the church’s money on keeping the organization alive, or maintaining a facility? Can someone show me anywhere in Scripture where the word “campus” is used to describe where the church gathered? Can someone show me anywhere in Scripture where the term “CEO” is used to describe a pastor, elder, or bishop?

Why is it that some churches treat providing financial support to missionaries and investing resources in evangelism as an afterthought while, at the same time, looking at spending tens of thousands of dollars building coffee shops and burger joints in the lobby of the church in order to make the unbelieving visitor more comfortable as a necessary part of fulfilling the church’s vision? Vision of what: caffeinating and carb-loading the people?! News flash: Frappuccinos and Big Macs are not the power of God for salvation. Only the Law and the Gospel, lovingly and rightly proclaimed, is the power of God for salvation!

If we are expecting the Lord to return at any moment, shouldn’t we, as Christians, continually engage in telling lost souls the Gospel Truth? Shouldn’t we be spending our time, energy, and resources doing that which the Lord has allowed His Church to remain on earth to accomplish—to seek and save those who are lost and bound for hell?

Instead, it appears that the American Church is not living with an urgent, anticipatory perspective of the Lord’s imminent return. Sadly, it appears that the American Church is living with plans of being here for a long time, and making the stay as comfortable as possible.

Now, let’s bring it a little closer to home. If you are living with the perspective that “the end of all things is near,” if your are living with the perspective that the Lord could return at any moment, then with whom have you shared the Law and the Gospel in the last 24 hours? The last week? The last month? The last year? Ever?

As we transition, now, from looking at the Christian’s perspective to the Christian’s duty, let’s bring this portion of our study to a close with something Peter said in his second letter. Peter wrote:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. ~ 2 Peter 3:10-13

Theologian D. Edmond Hiebert wrote the following:"

As human history moves alongside the edge of the eschatological future, the line of separation at times seems razor-thin. Only God’s longsuffering holds back the impending manifestation of that day. That consciousness should have its impact on present Christian living.”[4]

To be continued.....

[1]MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. 1 Pe 4:7
[2] Hiebert, D. Edmond: 1 Peter. Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1984, 1992, p. 268
[3] MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary—1 Peter. Chicago
: Moody Publishers., 2004, p. 236
[4] Ibid. Hiebert, p. 269

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If I could find a church that taught this stuff, I would go to church. Can you please hurry up and post Part 3? :-)