Jesus Contact 22

Preparing for Jesus’ Return – part 2

In part one of this two-part series, we looked at some of actions necessary to take in order to be ready for Christ’s return. We saw that we have to have our spiritual house in order (being right with God by accepting the salvation that He offers (through Jesus) now. Because, if you die or He comes back (whichever comes first) and you haven’t made that commitment, you don’t get a second chance. You have to accept Christ and do your best to walk in HIs footsteps. To help you accomplish that, Jesus said to be persistent in your prayers.

Also, He told us to be on the alert for imposters claiming to be Him, or, know where He is. In addition, He said that we must remain humble, having the simple unquestioning faith of a child, so as to be able to enter the kingdom – throwing any ‘self-righteousness’ aside…

Jesus and HIs apostles are still making the last journey to Galilee when He is approached by a wealthy young ruler who asks Him what kind of good deed is it that must he do, in order to earn eternal life. (Wrong question, because you cannot earn your way to heaven.) Christ responds by telling the ruler to keep the Ten Commandments.

The ruler says that he is already doing that and then asks Him what else it is that He must perform. Jesus replies:

If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me]. Mt. 19:21 AMP

Jesus is not telling the young ruler to make himself poor. He is trying to get this him to see his disobedience to the first of the Ten Commandments by making wealth his god. Sadly, the young man could not let his ‘god’ go and departed from Jesus, because in spite of all of his riches, his soul was poverty-stricken. Christ then says to His apostles:

“Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Mt. 19:23, 24. NKJV

Wealthy people are not necessarily wicked. They can enter the kingdom if they don’t make a ‘god’ out of their possessions. Wealth is a blessing from God. Jesus is only saying that it can be a great struggle for one to step into the kingdom if they try to keep a death grip on their worldly concerns.

The apostles are besides themselves over Jesus’ declaration. The cultural thinking of their day was that riches were blessings that gave one an advantage for attaining salvation. Now they are wondering if anyone can be saved. Jesus perceives their distress and says:

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Mt. 19:26 ESV

What He’s saying is that when you bring God into your life, make Him your focus and implement His wisdom regarding the stewardship of your worldly blessings, your passage to heaven remains intact.

In a typical human fashion, the apostle Peter tells Jesus that all of the apostles have given up everything for Him; and he wants to know what’s in it for them. Jesus doesn’t answer Peter’s selfishness at first. Instead, He tells him that their reward will be the honor of being able to sit with Him at the heavenly governing council. Then Jesus expounds upon what everyone will receive if they put Him first in their lives:

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mt. 19:29, 30. NKJV

Again, Christ is speaking metaphorically. You don’t have to literally leave your house or your family in order to be able to follow Him. Just don’t make ‘gods’ out of them by prioritizing them over Jesus.

Notice too, the admonition at the end of Jesus’ reply, which was for Peter’s sake – to teach him that one must serve for the sake of serving, from their love for God – not for the express purpose to get a reward. Later on in their journey, Jesus would emphasize this again by telling the apostles to follow His example:

Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free.] Mt. 20:28 AMP

On Monday of the last week of Jesus’ incarnate life on this earth, He re-emphasizes the importance of one’s focus of servitude:

“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” Jn. 12:25, 26. NKJV

On Tuesday of that same week, Jesus taught in the Temple for the last time. When He and the apostles were leaving, Jesus told them that near the end of time, the world will be filled with wars, famines and earthquakes, and that the followers of Christ will suffer persecution from an unbelieving world:

“…they will lay their hands upon you and persecute you delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought out before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not to be able to contradict or resist.” Lk. 21:12 – 15. NKJV

“…he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Mt. 24:13 NKJV

It’s all about staying in faith…

Wars, persecution and tribulation; but then, Christ will return!

“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Mt. 24:30 NKJV

The majority of the world will ‘mourn’ because they rejected Christ; and at that moment, they will know that He is the real deal, and that they have missed the boat. Yet His return will carry a far different meaning for His followers – because they prepared for His coming!

“Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift your heads, because your redemption draws near…when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.” Lk. 21:28 & 31. NKJV

On Thursday of Jesus’ final week, He tells His apostles that everything has now been set in motion for His imminent death, which will bring forth the glory of God’s redemptive work for His children. Then, He lays down the last aspect of how to prepare for His return:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jn. 13:34, 35. NKJV

He follows this with a demonstration of ‘communion’ and how we are to practice it regularly to remind ourselves of God’s grace through Christ – exercising our faith in the forgiveness of our sins that He facilitated with the sacrifice of HIs body and blood, symbolized in the sacrament that we receive.

Jesus then touches upon how to express our love:

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make our home with him.” Jn. 14:23 NKJV

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jn. 15:11 – 13. NKJV

The love of God is the love that keeps on giving. We are commanded to prepare for the second coming of our Savior, but God doesn’t leave us to just our own efforts. He sends us the Holy Spirit to build upon them:

“When He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will tell you of things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” Jn. 16:7 – 14. NKJV

And with that, Jesus faced His persecutors and stepped up to the cross to make good the Promise – the one guaranteed for those who prepare for His contact…

Goodnight and God bless.

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Jesus Contact 21

Preparing For Jesus’ Return

Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd, and He takes that opportunity to tell them a parable that alludes to His ‘second coming.’

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!

But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Lk. 12:35 – 40. ESV

Christ is saying that it is vital we get our spiritual house in order, to the best of our ability (in right-standing with God) before He returns (or before our earth suit wears out – whichever comes first), or it will be too late! Salvation will no longer be available. Jesus speaks again to this urgency:

“And why do you judge even on your own initiative what is right? For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there, make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent!” Lk. 12:57 – 59. NASB

Jesus is trying to get the people to see that their salvation is standing right there in front of them (He being their spiritual ‘opponent’ at that point – due to their heretofore rejection of Him). He’s also letting them know that they must grab hold of that salvation before they have to stand in front of the judgment seat. Jesus sums it all up with a call to action:

“…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Lk. 13:5 NKJV

Christ travels to the region of Perea, where He expounds upon the same critical lesson to another crowd:

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. when once the Master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, “Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you where you are from. Depart form Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.” Lk. 13:24 – 28. NKJV

You can say you are a follower of Jesus, but you have to do the following…

Addressing yet another crowd, Jesus speaks to some raucous Pharisees within – teaching everyone that salvation was His way or no way:

Until John came, (John the Baptist) there was the Law and the Prophets; since then the good news (the Gospel) of the kingdom is being preached, and everyone strives violently to go in [would force his own way rather than God’s way into it.] Yet it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away that for one dot of the Law to fail and become void. Lk. 16:16, 17. AMP

And just in case anyone is thinking that they can be elevated from hell to heaven, Jesus tell the crowd (to point to the Pharisee’s love of money) a parable about a rich man who ignores a beggar who lived outside of his gate. Upon both of their deaths, the rich man finds himself in hell, but he sees the beggar with Abraham in heaven. The rich man pleads to Abraham to send him water. Abraham replies:

‘…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Lk. 16:26 NKJV

Jesus is letting us know that when our time has expired, our thoughts and actions will have determined out final destination – one which is written in stone for eternity…

In the beginning of 30 A.D., Jesus and the apostles are beginning their final journey to Jerusalem. Passing through Samaria and Galilee, He encounters (you guessed it) a group of Pharisees, who ask Him to tell them exactly when the kingdom of God will come. He responds by telling them that they are looking at the kingdom right now – in the person of Himself and in the hearts of all those who follow Him.

Then Jesus turns to His apostles and says:

“The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them! For as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” Lk. 17:22 -24. ESV

Jesus is preparing His disciples for the times when they will long for their Savior’s return, warning them that they will be vulnerable to the false claims of others who profess to be the Messiah, or, contend to know HIs whereabouts.

He is urging them to ignore those events because His return will be global in its impact. Jesus continues painting the picture of His second coming:

“But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will also be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate, they drink, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the Ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all…Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” Lk. 17:25 – 27 & 30. NKJV

Jesus is inferring that His disciples need to continually warn non-believers about the compelling urgency of accepting Him as their Savior and getting their life right with God, because the devastation that follows His return for those who don’t, will be as severe and final as the flood of Noah’s time. He is telling them that just like then, many people will stay mired in the affairs of this world until it’s too late. A great separation is coming:

“On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.” Lk. 17:31, 32. ESV

“I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.” Lk. 17:34 NASB

You have to be ready when Christ returns, by having both feet firmly planted in the kingdom of God. Jesus will accept no ‘fence sitters’ (e.g. Lot’s wife). You are either with Christ or you become one of those who are ‘left behind.’ And being left behind, does not look like a good place to be:

“Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” Lk. 17:37 NASB

Yet Jesus is so full of compassion. He leaves His followers with hope by relating a parable (Lk. 18:1 – 7.) to illustrate the importance of faithful persistent prayer for one’s heavenly outcome. The parable tells of a widow who had suffered an injustice at the hands of an adversary. Distraught, she took her plight to an unbelieving and unjust judge, who initially ignores her pleas until her persistent reappearances in his court changes his mind; and then justice is meted out.

God, being the ultimate ‘just’ judge, will not let the persistent prayers of His children go unanswered.

Jesus immediately recounts an additional parable to the apostles (Lk. 18:9 – 13), where there was a Pharisee and a ‘tax collector’ (the lowest occupation in the social strata at that time) who went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee boasted about his self-righteousness, claiming that he was so much better than the sinners around him. The tax collector on the other hand, would not even raise his eyes towards heaven. Instead, he beat his chest and cried out to God – begging Him to have mercy because of his sins. Jesus finishes:

“I tell you that this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself while be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Lk. 18:14 NKJV

It’s a warning about the danger of arrogantly believing that one’s own righteousness will usher them into the kingdom of God. Only the righteousness conferred upon you by Christ when you accept His salvation, will make that connection for you.

Arrogance is not accepted in those who would try to enter. Jesus drives that point home soon thereafter, when, while He was teaching another crowd, they brought their children to Him so that He might lay His hands upon them. The apostles tried to shoo them away, but Jesus delivers a rebuke:

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, will by no means enter it.” Mk. 10:13 – 15. NKJV

Simple faith and humility are the keys to entering heaven.

To be continued…

Good night and God bless.