Looking Ahead 

Joel 3:1
“For behold, in those days and at that time…”

Joel leads us to the climax of this book. Chapter one spoke of a locust army attacking Israel as a form of judgment for sin, chapter two spoke of the Babylonian army and captivity of the nation. Now chapter three speaks of the ultimate judgment upon the nations who rebel against God and come against His people. All that follows, points ahead to the time when God will restore all things. Paul wrote,

Ephesians 1:10 “. . . that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”

Martin Lloyd Jones referred to this event as “God’s Ultimate Purpose”,and Paul called it “the dispensation of the fullness of the times”, while  Joel had used the term, “Day of the Lord”. This is the event that all things are headed toward. This is the end of the road of life. All things are heading toward the time when God will restore all things, and set His kingdom upon the earth.

Joel had previously predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit. After the gift of the Spirit was given at Pentecost, the early Christians correctly viewed themselves as having entered the last days. David Guzik refers to the last days this way,

“Many have the wrong idea of the “last days”, thinking only in terms of the final years or months immediately before the return of Jesus in glory to this earth, or the rapture of the Church. Scripturally, we can think of the last days as an era, one that began with the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Since that time, the Church has not been rushing towards a distant edge that represents the consummation of all things. Instead, at the Day of Pentecost the Church came to the edge – and has run parallel to the brink for some 2,000 years.”

That is why the NT writers lived with an expectation of Christ’s soon return.

Revelation 22:20 “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Romans 13:11 “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”

And that is why we should be living with the same expectation. Joel went on to describe the final event in these last days. A time when all nations will gather at the valley of Jehoshaphat in one final rebellion against God only to be completely destroyed. This event is commonly referred to as the battle of Armageddon. As horrible as this event is, it is not the desire of God. He describes a glorious banquet in heaven awaiting those who receive Christ. God desires all men to be saved (2Peter 3:9). In the parable of the wedding feast He sought to persuade those who refused the invitation (Matthew 22:8-9). The desire of God is for man to beat their swords into plows, not the other way around. There will be a time when it is too late to turn to God, but today is not that day. The right response to realizing what is coming, is to refuse to remain one more day counted among those who are in rebellion against God. I am reminded of the poem by James Weldon Johnson who speaks of the folly of resisting God,

“Young man, Young man, Your arm’s too short to box with God.”

There is only one way to win in a battle against the Lord, SURRENDER!

Pastor Jim

 

Kingdoms Rise And Fall

Daniel 2:31-35
“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome.
This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream serves as a timeline of world kingdoms, from the time of Daniel until the return of Christ. The image refers to six kingdoms, five that are temporary, and one that will last forever. Four of the six have already come and gone, while the final two are still in our future. The fulfillment of the first four gives us assurance of the fulfillment of the final two.

The first kingdom, represented by the gold head, was Babylon. It was a splendid kingdom with great power that seemed unconquerable, until a coalition of the Medes and Persians combined and defeated them. This second kingdom, represented by the chest of silver, spread to become the largest empire the world had ever seen, and ruled the Middle East for over two hundred years. Their expansion took them as far west as Greece. It was their attack upon Greece which led to their downfall. It was  a young king from northern Greece who gathered the fractured city states, and overthrew Persia. Greece, the bronze belly, ruled the world until the rise of the Roman Empire, represented by the legs of iron.

The final two kingdoms are yet to come upon the world stage. Daniel uses the imagery of ten toes to describe a ten nation empire, somehow connected with Rome. This empire will rule until the time when the Kingdom of Christ is set up in the world. Jesus, seen as a large stone, will defeat world empires and set up His kingdom, which will be ruled with righteousness and governed with peace.

Today we live somewhere between two kingdoms. The world stage is becoming more and more global in its focus, and will soon begin to specifically fulfill the predictions of Daniel. The way to prepare for what is coming, is to become a citizen of the kingdom of God. John wrote,

John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name”

Are you ready for the reign of Christ? Have you received Him, had your sins washed away and turned from your old life? Are you living for the Kingdom which is still to come?

Pastor Jim

 

 

The War Is Over 

Isaiah 2:4
He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Tragically, God is blamed for many of the atrocities committed by man. I say tragically, not because God cannot or will not defend Himself, but because as long as we blame God for what men do, we will fail to find a real solution to the problem. The chief wrong in this world is the heart of man. We see this demonstrated daily in the horrific actions reported on our TV screens. We hear of power hungry people oppressing others, in pursuit of their own ambitions. This happens everywhere on the globe. Sometimes, it is in a far away land where a political vacuum has allowed for the strongest force to take over, other times it happens locally where a person uses the tragedy in someone’s life for their own personal gain. Wherever and whenever it happens, it screams to us that the chief problem in our world is the heart of man.

God has a solution to this problem. That solution is the reign of Christ, and it takes place in two ways. First, when a person accepts Christ and surrenders to Him, his first step is self denial. We lay our sinful ways and selfish ambitions down at the cross, and in their place we pick up the Word and ways of God. In Isaiah’s time, the people were being chided for failing to treat one another the way God had called them to. He wanted Israel to be a beacon of light to the world, and much of that light had to do with the care they were to give to each other. Once they forsook the Lord, ‘self’ began to drive the nation, just as it drove the nation’s around them. Christ solves the self-problem when we are willing to lay ourselves down. This will transform our homes, our relationships, our churches, and ultimately our communities.

The second way this problem will be solved, is when Christ comes to set up His kingdom. Isaiah tells us, at that time, war will be a hazy memory of the past. All the money spent on research and expansion of defense will be reallocated to other things. The world will experience the only era of peace it has ever known. Not a peace held together by the threat of retaliation, but a peace that stems from the Prince of Peace reigning and ruling in righteousness.

We should long for, and live for, the One who will one day come and make all things right.

Pastor Jim

 

It’s All Mine

Obadiah

The book of Obadiah is written as a warning to Edom; a people who inhabited the area that is present day Jordan. They are warned that because of their pride, they would soon be overthrown. That prophecy was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar passed through the area and conquered Edom.

The book also contains a message for Israel.

“But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness;
The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”
Obadiah 1:17

When Abraham was first called by God, he was given great and precious promises. He was told he would become a great nation, possess a great land, and provide a blessing for all nations. While these promises were fulfilled to a limited degree, Israel never experienced their fullness. We might say, they failed to ever really possess their possessions. When Joshua led the people into the land to take occupancy, he heard the Lord say,

Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.” Joshua 13:1

After years of walking in the Promised Land, Israel had yet to experience all God had for them.

Many Christians do the same thing. While we might experience conversion, we neglect to move very far beyond that and find  we haven’t really experienced the fulness of our salvation. We, like Israel, fail to possess our possessions; but what are these possessions?

First, we possess the forgiveness of sin. Without coming to Christ for forgiveness, we are not a Christian. However, the moment we will lay down our pride and confess our sins and need for Christ to save us, we are washed in the blood of the lamb and become a child of God. That being said, it is important to realize there is much more to the Christian life than forgiveness. We are also promised victory over sin. In other words, we do not have to live constantly falling back into the same sins over and over again. Paul wrote,

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  Romans 8:37

And

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Romans 6:12

Beyond that, the Bible also promises the believer will be given power to effectively serve the King of Kings. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who were equipped by God to impact the world for the kingdom of heaven. Each of these individuals did so because they were willing to move on from forgiveness to service. I think a valid question to ask yourself is, “What have I done for the Kingdom of God?” If you have no answer or the answer causes you to look back in time, then you are failing to possess your possessions. It is high time we start investing in the Kingdom, after all, we will be spending eternity there.

Pastor Jim

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