The Last Days?

Today, the feast of trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) continues for Jews all over the world as their new year. Aside from a time of celebration, Biblically the festival calls for contemplation and repentance in preparation for the Day of Atonement (as mentioned in the previous post). These Jewish festivals established by God Himself call Israel to recall God’s acts of faithfulness and remain steadfast in their commitment for God. As also mentioned in the former post, many of these feasts have fulfillment in Christ’s redemptive work. Furthermore, there are some who speculate that God’s future acts may revolve around the symbolism and timing found in these festivals. Jesus’ crucifixion occurred around Passover and His resurrection during the accompanying feast of unleavened bread. There are also those who speculate that Jesus’ Divine conception or actual birth occurred on the Feast of Tabernacles symbolizing Divinity tabernacling again with humanity. 

For similar reasons, there are some who speculate that Jesus’ rapture may occur around the Feast of Trumpets in light of the 1 Thessalonians 1:16 trumpet of God. While Jesus did say in Matthew 24:36 that no man knows the day or hour of Christ’s return, He did answer the disciples’ question with signs for the timing near His return. So, will Jesus someday rapture His church around the Feast of Trumpets? We have no way to know for sure. We simply know that His return is soon and we must therefore be ready at all times (Acts 1:11, Revelation 22:7)!

Regarding the times of the seasons and the imminent return of Christ, it is indeed interesting what is going on in our own world today.

Amidst all of the turmoil, unrest, and persecution, we also hear opinions about the timing of Jewish festivals and even some talking about signs in the skies like the tetrad blood moon events this year and next year.

Through all of this attention on the end times, what is to be the Christian’s response and focus?

First as foundational and foremost, we must always come back to the Scriptures for they are our bedrock source of truth. The following is simply an attempt to steer our minds that Word-centered direction…

The events of our day are increasingly troubling as we hear of atrocities committed against religious “minorities” on the other side of the world. It’s very easy for us to read of promised persecution in Scripture and somehow diminish it’s seriousness. It’s difficult for those of us, who live shielded from the realities of violent opposition in our “safe” American cocoon, to see the chaos unfolding on the other side of the globe as part of what Jesus promised would come (John 15:18-22; 16:1-4; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 10-15). It’s hard for us to realize that Hebrews 11:35-38 describes violent persecution that occurred with God’s people that is quite similar to what actually is happening in our own day. 

What then is to be our Biblical response to this ongoing persecution on the other side of the globe?

My mind is drawn to Matthew 24 where the disciples ask Jesus about the sign of His coming, and Jesus responds with the birth pain signs we read through the chapter. At the end of his answer, however, Jesus’ challenge for them is to stay awake and be ready (Matthew 24:41-44).

We may hear David’s anguishing heart for God’s deliverance from his enemies during his life as a fugitive from Saul and be motivated to pray for similar deliverance for those under persecution. Yet, we often don’t see physical deliverance from persecution. At the other end of the Scriptures, we read in Revelation 6:9-10 where the martyrs cry to God for vengeance saying, “How long, O Lord?”

So what can we as Christians living in these last days do?

Answer: We are to be about the very same things Jesus commanded us to live for… waging the war on His mission of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20) and picturing this Gospel through our Christlike actions (Ephesians 2:10, 3:10). This is seen largely in Ephesians 4 where Paul challenges the Ephesian church with it’s calling, which was for those spiritually gifted with teaching roles within the church to equip the rest of the church to do the work of God’s ministry all with the goal of seeing all of Christ’s followers mature into being like Jesus. Thus, our lives are to be about worshipping God, actively submitting to His equipping of us through the church, and then being the church on mission together as we proclaim and exemplify the Gospel to a hurting, sin-wrecked world. 

In Philippians, Paul’s words to the concerned church in Philippi drip with his perspective of suffering for Christ. Writing literally from prison, Paul encourages the believers to be encouraged that Paul views the Gospel immensely worthy of suffering, for he was suffering for Christ’s sake (Philippians 1:29-30). Earlier in chapter 1 Paul shared his eternal perspective that must have been greatly frustrating for his opponents. If the opposition allowed Paul to live, that was for Christ as he still proclaimed the Gospel. If the opposition put him in prison, he still sang praise to God and shared Jesus with those in prison. If the opposition decided to kill him, Paul said that was great gain for He would then be with Christ in heaven (Philippians 1:21)!  

Literally, for us as the church today, if we live, it is for Christ and if we die, it is eternal gain for we too will be with Christ. This is a difficult perspective to sometimes maintain, as our world subtly chips away at it with the gods of comfort, apathy, acceptance, tolerance, and ultimately tragic deception. May our supreme cry of our lives, the very heartbeat of our hearts, resonate loudly with Paul’s in Philippians 3:7-11… that we actively engage in Christ’s purposes all for His glory, which will bring persecution worthy of the redemption purchased at Calvary!

We read from Ephesians 6 that this indeed is a spiritual battle that we must actively engage through the Spirit’s power every day. Never do you find in Scripture the idea that we are to run from opposition that comes from faithfulness to Christ’s mission. We do, however, have promises that opposition will indeed come, especially in the last days.

Regardless of the next opinion of when Christ may return, we must keep our responsibility constant before us. As we continue to see the birth pain signs from Matthew 24 become a reality in our own day and the days ahead, we have two choices with our lives. We can plod forward in complete apathy, numb from the brevity of our calling in life. Or… We can engage in the mission as Jesus’ church and advance through the darkness of this sin-wrecked world in the power of the Spirit, proclaiming the message of Jesus’ redemption, and bringing glory to the Father. 

Engage in our study of Scripture. Engage in our communion with God through prayer. Engage in our pursuit of holiness. Engage in our Gospel-centered, self-sacrificing marriages and parenting. Engage in our raising up successive generations as committed disciples of Jesus. Engage in our Biblically redeemed calling to be men and women according to God’s design. Engage in our submission to living each day in the Spirit and thereby producing the fruit of the Spirit as characteristic of our lives. Engage in our passion to share the Gospel with those God places in our path. Engage in our responsibility of using our own spiritual gifting to intentionally make disciples. Engage in our calling to be committed to the local church. Engage in our calling to intentionally allow ourselves to enter into authentic relationships of discipleship community. Engage in our passion to picture the Gospel through our outreach with the downtrodden and poor.

You get the idea… engage in living as Christ did, all flowing from your worship of Him! We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)!

Finally, as we see Biblical signs (like intensified suffering) become realities in our own day, may we allow them to have the impact Jesus challenged in Matthew 24 of keeping us awake and ready, fully engaged on His mission for us as His church! If you want to put words to the confidence we have going forward amidst intense opposition and trial, read Paul in Romans 8:18-39 or 2 Corinthians 4:8-18!

 

- Derek