Friday, July 18, 2014

"Living in a time of fulfillment …"

Day #203:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - July 19th

Scripture Reading:  Luke 21 - 22 …

As Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples shortly before His crucifixion, He continued to teach them about the coming of His kingdom.  He said, "What is written about me is reaching its fulfillment" (22:37).  The disciples lived in a time of fulfillment in God's plan to establish His kingdom and to bring salvation through the promised Messiah, the Savior …  so do we!!  We need to read God's Word and pray that God will give us understanding through the work of His Spirit within us so that we do not take our eyes off of Jesus and become distracted by the things of this world.  There is so much more going on than meets the eye.

As the days led up to Jesus' crucifixion, most people went on about their everyday lives.  Even after His death and resurrection most people (almost ALL!) missed the significance of what had just happened.  Little could they know that the world would never be the same as Jesus ascended into heaven and then poured out His Spirit to begin the Church age, the preaching of the Gospel to all nations.  They simply went on about their lives … and Jesus says people will do the same right up to His return.

Chapter 21 begins with a simple observation:  A poor widow putting all she had into the temple treasury.  Why would she do such a thing?  We know nothing more about her other than this, but Jesus commends her for giving out of her poverty, while others gave out of their wealth.  Jesus warned often about the lure of money and material things, and by her giving this widow displayed her dependence on God and perhaps her anticipation of soon entering God's kingdom in heaven.  It was not her gift that would get her to heaven, but the surrendering of all she had to offer, trusting God to provide … her faith in the coming Savior.  She could not know that He was watching her as she gave her offering.  We should consider that as we give ours!

The rest of Chapter 21 parallels part of Matthew 24, as Jesus tells the disciples that the temple will be destroyed and they ask Him when all these things will happen.  As in the Matthew's Gospel, Jesus warns them not to be deceived.  Some will come and claim to be the Christ and set dates, but there would be many things that had to happen BEFORE He came.  If they were listening to Jesus, they could not have imagined that it would happen soon.

Unlike Matthew, however, Luke records Jesus explaining what WOULD come next.  In verses 12-24  Jesus talks about a time of intense persecution, but this is not the time of great distress that Jesus mentions in Matthew 24:21-22, which will come immediately before His return, but rather, the persecution preceding the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Jesus says, "All men will hate you because of me … but not a hair of your head will perish.  By standing firm you will gain life" (21:17-19).  Even though the apostles and other believers died for their faith, Jesus' promise was fulfilled … they entered into eternal life and did not perish!

Jesus then continues in verses 25-36 to explain what will happen immediately prior to His return (Matthew 24:29-35).  As He does in Matthew 24, Jesus describes the signs in the sky as happening before the end, as John speaks of the same thing in Revelation 6:12-14.  But before God pours out His wrath upon the world, believers will be delivered in the rapture.  The generation that sees ALL of these things happening will know that the kingdom of God is near (24:31).  While we see some of the signs pointing to Jesus' return today, there are still some things that must happen before the time of distress (the Great Tribulation) and the rapture.

Moving to Chapter 22, the time had come for Jesus to be betrayed and crucified.  There is no way for us to comprehend what Jesus was thinking and feeling as this time drew near.  He knew what was going to happen.  He had told the disciples that the Son of Man would suffer, be put to death … AND on the third day rise again!  What must happen between this time and His resurrection, however, was anguish so horrible that we cannot begin to imagine it.

The chief priest and teachers of the law were looking for a way to "get rid of" Jesus (22:2).  Satan had left Jesus in the wilderness after he had tried to tempt Him, with no success, and he had tried to use his demons to fight against Jesus as He healed and ministered to people.  Now Satan entered Judas Iscariot and incited him to betray Jesus.  He apparently believed that he could help the chief priests and the teachers of the law "get rid of him."

Jesus "eagerly desired to eat this Passover" with the disciples before His crucifixion (22:15).  Why?  To teach them … first about the meaning of the Passover and then about serving one another.  When Jesus said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," He was pointing to a new stage in God's plan to gather a people for Himself.  The "old covenant" was the Mosaic covenant, the Law.  The Law taught: "Do this and live!"  But no one could do it.  As Paul explains later to the Galatians, "The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (3:24).  To the Romans, Paul would write, "Through the law we become conscious of sin" (3:20).  The old covenant pointed to the reality of our sin, but the blood of the sacrifices could not pay for it!!

THIS blood … CHRIST's blood, was different.  HIS blood was the perfect sacrifice for sin and through faith in Him the door to heaven and access to the Father would be given to all who believed.  This was the most important transition in the history of mankind!!  Throughout the entire Church age those who believe are called to "do this in remembrance of" Jesus, the Christ, our Savior.

Jesus also taught them the importance and necessity of serving one another, as He served them.  This was a familiar topic as Jesus had spoken of it often.  "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).  As He served, so should they.  They had nothing to lose because He was GIVING them the kingdom … an eternal kingdom … How important is that for us to know, to believe and to confess!  We have an enemy and Jesus warns Peter that Satan wanted to get rid of HIM, too.  Peter would deny Jesus, but Jesus would have the last word (John 21) and Peter would be "reinstated."

This was the time for Satan and the Pharisees and others to do their worst … but Jesus would win … There will be another time when the forces of evil attempt to exterminate the followers of Christ and the descendants of Abraham, but they will fail again.  All that Jesus said would happen did, just as He said it would.  Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him and the soldiers mocked Him.  Soon the people would reject Him.  But in spite of all that, "the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God" (22:69).  Nothing can or will stop God's plan from being fulfilled … no thing and no one!

As you and I live in this time of fulfillment, pray earnestly that you will not fall into temptation.  Read and study God's Word, watch so that you will not be deceived.  God warns that the coming of the Antichrist, the "lawless one," will come "with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.  They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness" (II Thessalonians 2:9-12).

Do not be deceived!  "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" (Matthew 4:17).  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31).  "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).  Love the truth, believe the truth and you will be saved!!

"Father in heaven, as we live in the midst of the fulfillment of the ages, open my eyes to see clearly the truth You have revealed in Your Word.  I confess my sin before You and claim the blood of Jesus as my only hope.  I believe He bore my sin and that my sins are forgiven solely and completely by Your grace, and that Your Spirit now lives within me, conforming me to the image of Jesus as I seek You through Your Word.  Thank You, Father, for loving me and saving me, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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