JESUS ON THE FUTURE PROMISES
The Promises of God, how do they affect the future? There was a definite change with the arrival of Jesus. He became the future. A new age began with him and in him. It was Jesus who declared: “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John” (Mt. 11:13). And, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt. 5:17). Jesus’ Coming marked three major changes. The first and most important one was that man had a direct access to God in Christ. One no longer had to seek out a priest, go to a Temple or climb a Mountain to worship God (Jn. 4:21-24). The other was that God through Christ began to bring in a new order or kingdom that was not of this world (Mk. 1:15; Jn. 18:26). Jesus shifted the responsibility from a group or a nation to the individual. The reign of God began in man and not in a system or a religion (Lk. 17:20-21).
Jesus too found it very painful and troubling while looking at the Holy City and telling his loved ones, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down” (Mk. 13:2). It would all happen in their generation (Mk. 13:30). “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and your children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you’” (Lk. 19:41-44). Early Jesus issued this appeal, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Mt. 23:37-39). At the end of time, there will be a recognition service for Jesus not just by Israel alone, but also by all the nations (Mt. 24:30). On the way to be crucified, women mourned and wept, Jesus turned and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘(Lk.23: 28-30; Ho.10: 8). Some thirty years later the Romans began to inflict the Jews with sorrows that has continued into our time.
The rejection of Israel did not exactly open the door to the Gentile world. The kingdom Jesus had announced was near was not a shoe in. There was not going to be another Moses or a David, neither was there going to be peace but a sword and men would use violence to build another religious kingdom, the Ecclesia or the Church (Mt. 10:34; 11:12). Instead of going into the world and make disciples (Ac. 1:8; Mt. 28:19), they gathered at the Temple and had the world come to them. After Pentecost, thousands gathered daily for prayer and most of them had given up property and work, expecting Jesus to take them up any day (Ac. 2:42-3:1). Too many people out of work depending on miracles created problems and Herod began to remove the leadership and caused them to leave Jerusalem and spread the Good News in homes and schools as Jesus had commissioned them the first time (Ac. 12:2,17; Mt. 10:11-13). Herod in a way was the instrument that drove the Apostles to do what Jesus had commanded. They went into the world and were overwhelmed with and by the Gentile response (Ac.10).
Jesus message was aimed at the people that were the slaves of those in power and against religions that were costly idols made by profiteers (Mt. 11:4-6; Ac. 19:23-27). The Christian God wanted nothing but love and that it be shared. He condemned no on, judged no one, sacrificed no one and offered a place in heaven free of any charges. One could trust Jesus for the promises without belonging to expensive religious organizations and structures. The “Unknown God” even appealed to the Greek intellectuals, like Luke to whom we owe most of the early history of Christendom (Ac. 17:16-34). This system of reaching people in their homes and wherever a group could gather worked well for over one hundred years. It was this type of approach Jesus had commissioned the twelve disciples to use among the lost sheep of Israel – a people that were no longer allowed to enter the Temple or a Synagogue (Mt. 10:5-20).
What then changed the direction of the Jesus’ movement? Powerful individual leaders with sincere desire began to tie the Promises to themselves and to their places of worship, their nationalities and their denominations. It began with James who laid down the first rules of conduct and it has continued into our time, when new leaders emerge with new Christian organizations (Ac.15). These leaders tell us that we have direct access to God in Christ, but woe unto us if we do not agree with their thinking. The advice of a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law still holds today, “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Ac. 5:33-39). Whenever men have taken charge and insisted that they knew what God wanted, they proved or disproved themselves. Nevertheless, there always have been and shall be individuals that shall be witnesses for Christ and not fit in with the established religions of the day.
Jesus was not optimistic that great numbers would hang on to his Promises. He knew what was in a man or see what they are going to do in the future (Jn. 2:25). Man’s endurance to be faithful to him was on his mind when He asked, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth” (Lk. 18:8)? He knew man’s spirit was willing but the flesh lacked endurance (Mt. 26:41). He knew his followers would be apprehended, mistreated and even killed. During such difficult times, many believers will depart form following Him, grow cold in their love and become enamored by Christ pretenders with false promises. Even the faithful ones shall look to the sky for deliverance. The world will become more wicked; yet Jesus the Christ cannot intervene until every human being has had a chance to hear the message of the kingdom of God (Mt. 24:9-14). Jesus took that feeling with him to Gethsemane and to the cross. He begged the Father to take the cup from him and felt forsaken by God (Mk. 14:33-36; 15:34).
Pentecost began as promised and the disciples were indeed doing work similar to what Jesus had done. The Book of Acts is about the Apostles reaching out into the world as a testimony of Jesus promise that the Holy Spirit would back them (Jn. 14:15-21; 16:5-16; Ac. 1:8). And indeed, the Counselor was assisting men like Peter, Paul, Luke, Mark, John and others to write down what Jesus said and did (Jn. 14:26). These writings became the guide for the followers of Jesus. In time, different leaders took it upon themselves to define certain vital concepts like faith, grace and love as basic to man’s salvation. In truth, these are God’s absolute Promises to man because God has no interest in man’s eternal demise (II Pe. 3:9). For man to claim them, he must repent, believe and obey Jesus. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (Jn. 20:21-23). “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt. 6:15). Jesus’ words do require serious consideration regarding man’s part in his own redemption. God’s kingdom on earth shall continue to be managed by forceful men (Mt. 11:12) until the last martyr for Christ has been counted and then Christ will judge the world (Rev. 6:9-11).
Jesus announced His return with these words: “Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Mt. 24:29-31). After that, the final struggle between Christ and Satan will commence. It will not be with materially destructive weapons, but between good and evil spirits. The Word of God shall come out of the mouth of Christ and demolish the earthly forces of Satan (Rev. 19:11-18). Before that day of reckoning, God will commission two witnesses to warn the world for three and one half years. But the world will kill them and God will resurrect them and take them up to heaven (Rev. 11:1-14). These are the two olive trees and the two Lampstands that Zechariah linked with Zerubbabel and Joshua, two individuals that represent the resurrection of Israel as a nation and Jesus the Christ and the constant rebirth of New Testament Christianity (Zech. 4). Both, Israel and Christianity were and still are God’s witnesses in the world and are the blot in Satan’s domain on earth that he used to bribe the Son of God (Mt. 4:8-9; Lk. 4:5-8).
Armageddon shall mark a new beginning for Christ and those only that laid down their lives on their Lord’s behalf. John was allowed to see a glimpse of Christ and His Bride and their marriage celebration that shall last a thousand years. The Bride consists of those that died for Him. These shall also reign with Christ for a thousand years without being interfered by Satan. The thousand years is the time it shall take for the healing of planet earth. “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations any more until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.” “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”
At the end of the thousand years of healing, the all merciful Creator will give Satan and the planet earth a second chance but to no avail. Satan will take this opportunity to destroy any connection God had with man and the world. Again, Satan deliberately distorted God’s command and brought doom in himself and his followers. John had this vision, “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – God and Magog – to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breath of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came out of heaven and devoured them. And the devil, that deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:7-10). What one causes, one must face and live with it (Mt. 25:41-46).