The delay

Key verse: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. (2 Peter 3:8)
Since Jesus departed into heaven, and the disciples started to fulfill the Great Commission, every early Christian has been waiting the return of our Lord. It has been almost 2000 years since these events took place, yet Jesus has not come back, leaving many to wonder, both then and now, what could possibly be holding Him up. The world is descending into chaos and anarchy, and Jesus seems to have forgotten His promise. What’s worse, He seems to have forgotten us, in this fallen world.
Peter addresses some of these issues in his second letter to the churches (ch. 3), and says that even in the mid-late 1st century there were scoffers asking “Where is the promise of his coming?” and “all things continue” as they always have. This clash of ideologies has been present since those times. In one camp, we have people who claim that Jesus is returning soon. In the other camp, we have those who say he’s forgotten about His promise.
Peter says that the latter group are ignorant of the fact that everything was created by the word of God. He also mentions the flood in the same thought (v. 5,6). This is important because the same kind of attitude can be seen in the days of Noah. While Noah was building the ark, he preached to people that the world would soon end, and that they should repent of their evil and return to God’s grace. Then, as now, there were scoffers, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24: 36-39).
In other words, Jesus is saying that there is a catch 22 situation. Those who proclaim that the end is near, have no idea when the end will come, while those who scoff demand evidence that the end is near. Neither camp seems to be able to convince the other, because the believers in the second advent rely on faith, and the scoffers rely on skepticism. In order for the skeptics to believe, they must become faithful, and in order for the believers to doubt, they must become skeptics. This situation does certainly happen, and there’s a constant trade-off between the camps, but there isn’t a clear winner yet.
Now, as faithful Christians, we know that Jesus will keep His word. God cannot lie, because everything He says becomes reality. If God tried to lie, and say that the sky is red instead of blue, the sky would become red. If God tried to lie by saying the color yellow doesn’t exist, the color yellow would be gone from the universe. The word of God is immutable, it is truth, it doesn’t change. When Jesus says that He will return, that means He will return. He never gave a date for His return, so we must wait patiently, and try to convince the skeptics that His return is imminent so that they too may taste the reward of eternal life with the King of the universe.
What the early Christians didn’t seem to understand, and this applies to most modern Christians as well, is the timeline that must first complete before Jesus’ return. Jesus points to the book of Daniel as an important part of scripture that deals with date prophecies (Matthew 24:15). There are two big date prophecies related to the end times in the book of Daniel: the 2300 days, and the 1260 days. I will address these in future studies, but for now, it is enough to understand that these prophecies were not yet fulfilled for the early Christians.
This leads me to believe that they either forgot to study Daniel, or they didn’t know what it all meant, as the angel speaking to Daniel does say that the words would be sealed until the end days (Daniel 12:4). This would mean that the prophecies wouldn’t make sense until they become fulfilled in the modern era.
As we will see in later studies, we are living in the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary. In order to understand what Jesus is doing right now, we must understand the symbolism of Leviticus 16 and the earthly sanctuary in general. These are the days spoken of by Peter in his second epistle: God “is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”.
This delay, then, is for our sake, the inhabitants of the earth. God doesn’t want us to perish into death, but He wants us all to be saved. Brethren, those in the church and those outside, remember the promises of God and that the word of God is truth. God doesn’t have the capability to lie. His very words become reality, so whatever He says is true. Jesus is coming back, and His second advent is near. Keep the faith, remain strong, and prepare for the coming onslaught upon those who have the faith of Jesus and keep the commandments of God.
Prayer: Our heavenly Father, we cannot wait to see you and to be in your presence. We cannot fully comprehend what it will be like to live with you, and have eternal life. We do look forward to find out though, and to discover all the secrets of the universe. We ask that you send us your Holy Spirit so that we may be strengthened against the tide of evil of this world. We ask that our lives will be cleansed of sin so that we may stand in front of you without blemish. We ask that the gospel will reach every living person in this world and that all will keep your word in they hearts so that it may blossom into life. Maranatha, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

If Jesus came tomorrow

If Jesus came tomorrow, would you be happy? Would you welcome Him with open arms, or would you cower in fear under a rock? Christians always claim that Jesus could come tomorrow, or at any moment, unforeseen. It’s because of this uncertainty that Christians must always strive to live a holy life. It would be extremely unfortunate for Jesus to come tomorrow and to find us not ready to welcome Him (Matthew 25:1-13).
In Matthew 5:19, Jesus tells His followers that “whosoever therefore shall break one these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is addressing the immutability of the Law of God as it relates to the eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is saying that breaking the least of God’s commandments will cause the breaker to be the least in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is clearly addressing believers here, not unbelievers because believers know the Law of God. There’s a greater expectation for the believer to keep the Law of God compared to an unbeliever.
Most Christians are aware that God has a set of laws, or commandments, that He expects us to faithfully adhere to in our daily lives. Exodus 20 has the details, but let’s look at the outline:
  • Do not worship other gods
  • Do not make images of things in heaven or earth to worship them
  • Do not use the name of God lightly
  • Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy
  • Respect your parents
  • Do not kill
  • Do not commit adultery
  • Do not steal
  • Do not lie
  • Do not covet
Every Christian on Earth is guilty of breaking at least one of these commandments. According to Jesus, even one broken commandment relegates us to the bottom of the ladder. Looking back at Biblical men and women, there is not a single one whom we can point to as a shining example, except for Jesus Himself. How do we reconcile these seemingly disparate realities? On the one hand, “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). On the other hand, Jesus expects us to keep His commandments (John 14:15) and be righteous.
The answer to this dichotomy is in the book of James. Christians do good works through having the faith of Jesus, and our faith is kept strong through doing good works. As a born-again Christian, I have experienced this relationship between faith and works first-hand. At the beginning of the journey, the Holy Spirit starts to gently nudge the person toward repentance. As each sin is repented, the person starts to fix their eyes upon Jesus and to want to be molded in His image. The person no longer has a desire to sin; sin becomes abhorrent. The more we listen to the Holy Spirit’s nudges, the closer we come to understanding God’s will for us. This leads us to want to live holy lives, untainted by sin.
Unfortunately, sin is still very much a part of this world. As much as we want to be holy we will not be able to be like Jesus until the Holy Spirit fills us completely, just prior to Jesus’ second advent, during an event known as the latter rain (more to follow on this topic in a future posting). Until that future time, we must live in a perpetual cycle of repentance, and praying for guidance so that we may not sin. We must be continually be broken by the Rock who is Jesus Christ so that we will not be crushed by the same Rock at His second coming (Matthew 21:44).
I have a challenge for those of you reading this article. Look at the Law of God, either the simplified list above or the detailed list in Exodus 20, and think about how you have broken each commandment at one time or another in your life. After you do that, think about how Jesus hung on the cross, for you and as you, and how He paid the price of sin, which is death, so that you don’t have to. Think about the gift of eternal life that accompanies each repentant soul and how easily this gift can be claimed.
This Sabbath, I pray that all who call themselves Christians will hearken to Jesus’ challenge, to try to live a holy life through the power granted to us through the Holy Spirit. I pray that those who are not Christians will see the shining lights in the darkness of this world. I pray that everyone will come into the light before it’s too late, and that everyone will be counted with the sheep at the second advent.

Caring for the forbidden tree

The Bible is quite vague regarding the conversations between God and the first people, but we know a few things, from which we can infer others. For one, God asked Adam and Eve to be caretakers of His creation. We read from Genesis 2:15 that “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” The other known directive is that God explicitly forbade Adam and Eve from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge. From Genesis 2:16,17 the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

What we can infer from these two commands is that God intended for Adam and Eve to care for the forbidden tree, but not to partake from its fruit. This is much different from what Eve assumed God said. In Genesis 3:2,3 Eve tells the serpent that they may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” Her and Adam seemed to almost make up their own rules that would help keep them away from the tree, even though they were meant to care for it. If they had cared for it, the snake would not have been attracted to that tree, which seemed peculiar from all others in the garden due to its unkempt appearance. Even if the snake had tried to still use the tree, Eve would not have been afraid of it to the same degree, and she would have been able to express God’s will for them in relation to the tree correctly.

This is the result of not knowing the will of the Lord, but making up our own rules that sound good in theory, but are quite terrible in practice. Another perfect example of this is the rules put into place by the Jewish religious leaders following the exile in Babylon. Their intentions were good, but by the time Jesus came to live among them, the Jews were very far from keeping the laws of God, even though they thought they were doing just that. God said “I desire mercy, not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13).

Where am I going with this? For most Christians who have studied these passages, these are pretty obvious truths and conclusions, right? However, the implications seem to fly right over our collective heads. Do we have forbidden fruits before our eyes? Are we still meant to be stewards of the forbidden trees of the world? Let’s take a look at a highly enticing fruit in our world today, drugs. Some people go so far as to condone the use of drugs by citing the word of God. There are people out there who take Genesis 1:29 and make it seem as if marijuana, which is a seed-bearing plant, is ok to consume. I was one of those people, a drug user who found God, but did not want to give up smoking weed. I’m extremely thankful that God gave me the power to recognize my sin and to repent of it.

In light of this, how do we as a church treat drug users in general? Do we treat them as God wants us to, by being stewards of His creation, or do we treat them with contempt and fear as Adam and Eve treated the tree of knowledge? I believe that in most cases, and certainly in my own personal experience, it’s the latter. What about other forbidden fruit? Prostitutes, liars, thieves, murderers, Sabbath breakers, etc. Do we treat these people with love and care, or do we try to not associate with them, if it can be helped?

I’m guilty of this more than most. I have this false sense that if I just ignore “those people”, they won’t bother me. This is not what God wants me to do. Jesus came to this world to save the sinners and he was known to hang out with some hard people. However, “those people” eventually followed Him and their lives became blessed and they became a blessing to others. The great commission to spread the gospel means we have to spread the gospel to all people, not just the ones we consider worthy in our own judgement. We are meant to care for the forbidden tree while not partaking of its fruit. This is the most important task of God’s church. This is what’s going to cause all people to hear the word of God and be saved. We must practice the love and tolerance that we preach.

Brothers, sisters, friends, in light of the second quarter’s message in our Sabbath school, we must forego sanctimony and reach out to the ones who nobody wants. This is how we win souls for Jesus, starting right in our backyard. Set condemnation aside, let God be the judge, and just be a loving friend to those who need it most. Embracing and welcoming drug addicts and prostitutes does not mean we condone their behavior, but it does mean we love the sinner while hating the sin. This is God’s will for us, until Jesus returns.