YOUR BROTHER WILL RISE AGAIN

John 11:24 – Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day”.

The eleventh chapter of John gives us one of the greatest messages of hope. Mary and Martha had expected Jesus to immediately come when hearing of their brother’s sickness. He did not, and Lazarus died. He was buried before the Lord arrived. Their hopes were dashed and they were only left with the hope of the future resurrection. Life is filled with dashed hopes and expectations for many. Some people experience more than others.

When Jesus arrived, Martha appealed to Him by saying, “Even now, I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (John 11:22). Jesus assured Martha that her brother would rise again. Martha responded that she knew he would rise again in the resurrection on the last day. This is an important statement that helps us to understand the next great event. Martha’s statement is consistent with both Old and New Testament Scriptures that indicate the resurrection is the final event of human history, happening on the “last day,” as Paul said, “at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Jesus then gave Martha the cornerstone of our Christian Faith. “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26). “Never die,” is the greatest guarantee we possess. That promise contains all the promises of God. “They are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). For the believer, life is settled in the “I am.” Our life is hidden in Christ, who is in God.

Martha was contending with human emotions in the passing of this good man, Lazarus. She was confused and broken, yet abiding in her was faith concerning the future resurrection. As you prepare for the New Year set your eyes on Jesus, the resurrection and the life. He alone provides hope and stability as we weather difficult seasons in life. There is no promise made of an easy life void of hurt and difficulty. But there is the promise of both His presence and His physical return. Jesus’ presence made the difference in Lazarus’ case. The resurrection of Christ sealed the future for all those who put their trust in Him.

As the early church faced Great Tribulation and the future destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus instructed John to write down what he saw and send it to the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation, which is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).

Christ Jesus rules the nations, directing events for His purposes. He revealed to John how He was about to direct the events at the end of that generation who first heard the Good News of His Gospel, events of judgment against His enemies. Beloved, be encouraged, regardless of what may happen in your life or in the nations, Jesus is Lord! He is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Coming King who will judge all those who have rejected His Covenant. Hope in God! Trust in Christ! Be filled again and again with the Holy Spirit. Enjoy your life in God.

Father, I thank You for Your promise given to Martha, “he will rise again”. I thank You that Your promises are Yes and Amen to Your glory. Help me bring glory to Your name throughout the coming year.  

GOD’S SON HAS SPOKEN IN THESE LAST DAYS

Hebrews 1:1-2 – God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

These words were written to Hebrew believers who were being persecuted and had become discouraged. The author wrote, “In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:2). And again he wrote, “How will we escape if we neglect so great salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:3-4).

The Gospel was preached and confirmed in the generation of the disciples. Part of the message was a coming judgment on the Jewish nation that rejected two things. They did not accept the New Covenant in the blood of Christ and the presence of the kingdom in the person of the Holy Spirit. The writer of Hebrews identified the last days as beginning in the ministry of Jesus. For that generation, it was the end of the Jewish religious system as they knew it. The city of Jerusalem along with the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, just as Jesus had warned throughout His earthly ministry. The Apostles gave the same message of warning throughout their ministry.

Just before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus entered the temple and judged the religious leaders with very harsh words (Matthew 23). He went on to share with His disciples in Matthew 24 concerning the events which would transpire in their generation before His return when He would finish the apocalyptic judgment on the Jewish religious system which had rejected His Messianic message and the gift of His Holy Spirit. Once we understand the “Gospels” and the message of the apostles to their generation, we can inquire of the Lord of our generation. We can look forward to His bodily return for His church and the eventual judgment of the Gentile nations who reject His Lordship in the earth.

The early church was created at the beginning of the last days, as represented by Peter in his first sermon recorded in Acts 2. Our generation exists at the end of those last days when we are to be looking for the literal and physical return of our Lord. The message of His return is a vital message needing to be preached in our times. Unfortunately, men have scrambled the message of Christ’s return with their own ideas, making it difficult for people to receive. The message is clear and not as complicated as it has been made out to be. In the very same way Christ fulfilled all His words to His disciples when He came in judgment of the Christ-rejecting Jewish system. This time, He will come to judge the whole world, but this time His saints will be with Him.

Paul described the “mystery of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” Just as Mary’s boy was born and brought redemptive hope to all of Israel and eventually the entire world, hope continues as we wait for His victorious return. 

Father, I thank You that You sent Your Son to speak in these last days. I put my faith in all He has spoken and wait for Your promises to be fulfilled in my Lord’s return. Help me speak clearly and plainly of Your return in the hopes of many coming to Christ.

THE HARD ROAD BEFORE THE DISCIPLES

Matthew 10:23 – You will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

Chapter ten of Matthew is the clearest expression of Jesus to His disciples that He would return before they had finished their mission of taking the Gospel to every city in Israel. At the time of Jesus’ statement they did not comprehend what He meant. Throughout their ministry they looked for His return. They truly desired to be with Him. Throughout history, believers hoped for Jesus’ return. They interpreted the events of their times as the certainty of His return. It is no different in our day.

Beloved, it is important to understand what Jesus was saying to His disciples before we try to understand how these Scriptures apply to our generation. In Matthew 10, we read of Jesus sending His disciples out to the towns of Israel with power to heal and cast out demons. They went with a clear word of the good news that the Messiah was present. They were sent only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6). They “proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven was at hand and to prove it, they healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed the lepers, and cast out demons” (Matthew 10:7-8).  Jesus gave them many other instructions as well. He warned them that there would be wolves among the sheep that would try to harm them.

Jesus defined the clear meaning of discipleship for His disciples. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master (Matthew 10:24). I encourage you to read the whole tenth chapter. Jesus spoke very clearly of that generation and the mission He was giving to His disciples. It was a mission to the House of Israel. In the book of Acts, we see that the Samaritans and Gentiles were brought into God’s plan as well. The first and primary mission of these disciples, who became apostles, was to the lost sheep of Israel.

Jesus was saying to them, “You will not finish the mission before I come.” They fully expected Christ’s return before the end of the century. When Jesus spoke of His return, it is obvious He was not speaking of His physical appearance. To have a better understanding of the glorious return of Christ, it is important to understand what took place in first century Christianity.

As Jesus spoke of the “Son of Man coming,” He spoke of His return to judge unbelieving Israel at the end of that generation. He is not speaking of the end of the world, but the end of an age. The age of Moses, or the age of the Law, was about to be brought to an end. It had served its purpose and now all of Israel was called to be reconstituted through and under King Jesus. The message went out to every city of Israel. All of the tribes of Israel heard the message that the kingdom of God was present among them. The message was confirmed with signs following. Tomorrow we will see the contrast of what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 10:23 and His return at the end of the world to receive His church and judge the nations who reject His offer of salvation.

Father, I thank You for the Scriptures that speak of Your plans and purposes. I thank You for the blessed hope of Christ’s return and pray that I will be filled with Your Holy Spirit daily in order to represent You well with whomever I come in contact.    

KEEPING YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE

Hebrews 12:2 (KJV) – Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus is the prize!

Joseph kept his eye on Mary and then Mary and Jesus after the Lord’s birth. He knew His responsibility in serving the God of Israel. While God, who is in heaven, was the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit, Joseph provided earthly fathering for Jesus. Jesus was known as “the carpenter” (Matthew 6:3), one could surmise that He worked with Joseph in the carpenter shop.

John the Baptist looked for the “Lamb of God.” His eyes were looking for the one who would take away the sins of the world. With the information we have about John, we know he was filled with the Holy Spirit while in his mother’s womb. We know he separated himself from society and spent time in the wilderness, no doubt, seeking God concerning his assignment.

All of the disciples of our Lord were engaged in the society and culture of that day. They had jobs, they were integrated with family and their immediate culture. The twelve saw Jesus and followed Him at His invitational call. Eleven kept their eyes on Christ and fulfilled their calling. One turned out to be a “traitor,” selling out to the Lord’s enemies for a few pieces of silver.

Down through history the story is told of multitudes whose spiritual eyes were drawn to Jesus and followed Him. Some followed Christ to martyrdom. Many others have stories that will not be told until eternity. All those who followed the Lord in this life found fulfillment in their obedience to His leading.

Along with these saints, we are looking for the glorious return of our Lord and Savior in bodily form. The Scriptures tell us that when He comes “His reward is with Him” (Revelation 22:12). The prize is Christ, but He is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). We are called to keep our eyes “fixed upon Jesus” (1 John 3:3). All our hope, our absolute certainty, is rooted in the promise of His return for His own. It is important day by day to remind ourselves, He is coming again and His reward is with Him. Keep your eyes fixed upon the Savior. The things of this life will soon fade away, but He is our steadfast hope.

Father, I thank You for all those who have demonstrated that their eyes were fixed on Jesus. Help me to keep my eyes on the prize. Protect me from the distractions of the world and the challenges in life that can cause me to take my eyes off the Lord and His reward.

THE RETURN OF OUR GREAT GOD AND KING

Titus 2:13-14 – Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Isn’t our God good? He prepared the entire world for the advent of our Savior, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. As we celebrate His first advent of 2,000 years ago, let us not forget His Second Advent is before us. The Lord is even now preparing the modern world for the greatest event in all history, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in bodily form to receive His redeemed people and judge all who have rejected His gracious offer of salvation and eternal life.

Every believer should be looking for the blessed hope. The world does not have such hope. The world only possesses ideas of trying to produce utopia, peace among men, and a better world system. The problem is deeply rooted in man, mainly his heart that is filled with selfishness and pride. Even in democracies, it is observable how corrupt the heart of man has become. Political campaigns are filled with ego and pride. It is a proven fact that negative campaigning is effective.

The answer to man’s dilemma is rooted in our scripture for today. Christ Jesus gave Himself to redeem us from every lawless deed. Humans cannot help themselves when it comes to being lawless before God. We just can’t keep His laws, no matter how hard we try. We can discipline ourselves to be as good as possible, but there is no hope of attaining God-like righteousness without Christ. The Holy Spirit redeems us and imparts a right standing before God because of what Christ has done. The Holy Spirit is always at work in our lives to purify and set us apart to be zealous for every good deed. Christ’s work in us is not only for today, but that He might present us to God His Father in eternity. He is coming back for a spotless bride, not resulting from our efforts, but rather His cleansing blood.

As we leave this Christmas season and walk toward a New Year, let us move our eyes from the babe in a manger to the ascended Lord who is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High. He is the one who is preparing to return for His blood-washed people and judge all those who refused His Gospel of Peace. This year, allow the Holy Spirit to work deeper in your heart. Embrace His plan and purpose of producing more of Jesus in all you do and say.

Father, I thank You for the redemption that has freed me from lawlessness unto good deeds. I pray for daily infillings of Your Holy Spirit to help me grow into Jesus’ image and likeness. I pray for Your church to be prepared for Your glorious return to take place, in Your perfect timing.