Protected Information

Mark 13:32-33: Jesus says “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on your guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

Why doesn’t God tell us everything. Wouldn’t it be helpful for us? Wouldn’t it make us better? However, God protected some information because it could be misused.

As Jesus prepared his disciples for the time he would complete his work on this earth, he wanted them to understand there are some things they will never know. This was especially true regarding the last day. He made it clear, no one had that knowledge. Even at that time as he humbled himself to the point of death, he chose not to have that knowledge. Still, wouldn’t it be better if this knowledge were not protected?

In his undeserved love the Lord chose to protect certain information about the last day. His concern was that this knowledge would be misused. He would be right. Because of our sinful nature we would indulge ourselves right up to the time when the Lord would return. We would even feel secure in this destructive life style because we knew that there would always be time to change. But would we?

This is why Jesus makes the last day and hour protected information. He also exhorts us to keep watch and be on guard. Not knowing when Jesus will come suddenly turns our attention to what we need to do to be prepared.

In the time which remains we can dedicate ourselves to grow in his Word and to grow in the peace of his forgiveness. We can dedicate ourselves to a more faithful life of prayer and loving service. This will keep us focused and ready.

Although the day and hour of the Lord’s return is protected information, we can find great joy and peace in what we do know about our Savior and how he prepares us for his return.

Judgement Day

We are living in the end times. So what?

Will the End Times reveal a gift or a tragedy for us? What will we await?

When we’re in the thick of a “holiday season,” the commercials and holiday specials on TV attempt to dictate what life should be like at that time of year. We often see families smiling and laughing. But how often do our lives really look and feel anything like those overly produced moments we see in movies and on TV? Is our holiday experience filled with laughter and delight, or is it mostly filled with stress and anxiety? The chaos of this life and the whirlwind of increasingly busy schedules can leave us with a sense of longing rather than fulfillment.

The pain and hardship of this life, whether in this time of year or anytime, should come as no surprise. We are living in the End Times, the last days before the end of the world comes. But so what? What difference does that make? God makes it clear that we shouldn’t be surprised when life isn’t the Hollywood ideal. In fact, because of sin in this world, God says that this life is going to be troublesome. He even warns us that wickedness will increase in the last days.

However, we live in the End Times like a child watches the calendar for Christmas. We wait with that same sort of eager excitement because we, too, are waiting for a gift. We’re not waiting for toys and games wrapped in shiny paper. There is something much better coming.  As the apostle Paul wrote in the Bible: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

God promised a Savior right at the scene of the world’s first sin. He followed through on that promise by sending Jesus to pay the price for everyone’s sins by dying on the cross. God’s forgiveness is ours now; trusting in Jesus we are God’s children! And as his children we stand waiting for the rest of that gift: rescue from this world of hardship to be brought to an eternal life where only good exists.

Jesus’ work for us, his death and his resurrection, assure us of his love. While there may be dark times in this life, none of those change God’s love. He is with us now to help us get through the rough times. Because of Jesus and the gift of salvation that he won for us, finally God will take us to be with him forever in heaven. These End Times will give way to an eternity of true joy!

How will we know when Judgment Day is near?

The Stevens family was planning a trip over the Thanksgiving weekend to visit relatives in northern Wisconsin. The initial game plan was that everyone in their family would pack for the trip on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, tidy up final packing needs before going to bed on Wednesday night, and basically just roll out of bed on Thursday morning and hit the road. You can probably guess how it really happened.

Tuesday night ended up being packed with piano lessons, dance class, a gymnastics workout and a basketball game. Wednesday afternoon they had to finish last minute laundry, get someone to watch the dog, and look for the luggage still buried in the attic from summer vacation. Wednesday evening they managed to finish the laundry and find the luggage, but they were all tired and figured they could get up early Thursday morning and pack for the trip. That ended up being a stressful disaster of the entire family needing the bathroom at the same time, crossing paths in the kitchen at the same time, and forgetting pillows, CD player batteries, and the fruit salad—not to mention leaving two hours late.

How will we know when Judgement Day is near? “Prepare!” is Jesus’ most revealing answer. Sure, Jesus instructs us about the “signs of the times” that alert us he is coming, as birth pains remind a pregnant mother it’s time to go to the hospital. And these signs have been happening ever since Jesus spoke about them: wars, hurricanes, violence, catastrophes. We hear about them on the news and they rightly remind us that we are only visiting this planet. Our real destiny is eternity. But when?

“No one knows about that day or hour,” Jesus explains (Matthew 24:36).

We all want to be ready for Judgement Day like the Stevens family wanted to be ready for their trip, but our lives are busy too. Are your bags packed for heaven right now or has the busyness of life left you hoping to get at it soon enough? If Jesus returns this afternoon, what would you regret leaving undone, unpacked, or unprepared? The people of Noah’s day knew the flood was coming. Crazy old Noah was building a huge ark in an area of the country that had no large body of water as an emergency alert to everyone that the flood was near, but they didn’t care. They didn’t believe it because they didn’t want to believe it. They were too involved in the busyness of their lives “eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage.” If any of us lets the busyness of life distract our attention from actively watching for Jesus, when Jesus comes we will be left behind for destruction. “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left” (Matthew 24:40,41).

When Jesus comes he will find people involved in everyday activities. The busyness of those activities will have so occupied the lives of some that they don’t expect the unexpected return of Jesus, and it catches them by surprise. Don’t be one of them. Expect the unexpected. Repent of falling asleep in a night of spiritual inactivity and live as a child of the day, watching diligently and actively waiting, preparing for that day, persevering in doing God’s will, and praying that you can help others prepare for the day when Jesus comes.

How will we know when Judgement Day is near? Jesus answers that question, not by putting a date on our calendars, but by filling our days with activities and attention so that we are ready whenever he does return. It could be tomorrow. It could be centuries from now. If he does come tomorrow or three months from now, however, don’t be surprised, saying, “Jesus is here?” Rather expect the unexpected and say, “Jesus is here!”

When Will Jesus’ 1000 Year Reign Begin?

A teacher at a Christian college tells a story about his switching from another Christian denomination to the Lutheran church.  He had been teaching his class about baptism, and he realized that what his church taught was not the same as what the Bible taught.

So he studied up on everything the Bible had to say about baptism, then researched what all of the Christian churches had to say on the matter.  He thought that Lutherans sounded the most biblical, so he found a Lutheran church and began to study what it taught.

At the end of his studies, he was convinced that the particular Lutheran church he found taught everything correctly from the Bible except for one thing:  they did not teach the millennium, that is, Jesus reigning for a thousand years on the earth before the end of the world.

The teacher thought that all good conservative, biblical Christians believed in the millennium.

The Lutheran pastor challenged the teacher to find a single Bible passage in which Jesus sets up a thousand year reign on the earth.  The teacher tells of his amazement as he searched the Scriptures and realized that the millennium as he thought of it was nowhere in the Bible.

There are two passages in the Bible that speak of a thousand years.  One is 2 Peter 3:8.  It is not talking about a millennium.  The other is Revelation 20:1-7.  There, in vivid picture language, the author describes only two things happening during a thousand-year period:

•    Satan is hindered
•    Believers reign with Christ

These two things are happening right now!  Satan is hindered by the preaching of the gospel (1 John 3:8).  Believers are reigning with Christ (John 5:24).  These two things began to happen just after Jesus rose from the dead.  These two things will continue happening until Jesus comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

From the very beginning of the book, Revelation describes itself as the kind of literature in which the numbers are to be interpreted, not taken at face value.  A thousand years is simply a long and complete period of time, the time in which people who come to faith in Jesus as their Savior are counted as kings (1 Peter 2:9).

Limiting Jesus’ reign to a thousand years is a serious mistake.  How long does he actually reign?  If you’ve ever heard Handel’s “Messiah,” you know the answer.  “And he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)!

What Will the Verdict be on Judgment Day?

The Bible says that some day Jesus will return to this earth “in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31,32). We refer to this as Judgment Day, since a public verdict will be pronounced for all people, dead or alive. Some will pleasantly live forever in the paradise of heaven and the rest will painfully live forever in the prison of hell.

What worries people about Judgment Day is having their sins broadcast on a big screen, and then some heavenly figure fumbles through a book, doesn’t find their name, and they are dropped through a trap door into hell. Will that happen? The Bible says it won’t for anyone who trusts in Jesus. You have the assurance that gaining God’s heavenly and daily blessings depends not on what you do, but on what Jesus did.

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father,” Jesus will say to you on Judgment Day when you show up depending on the blessings of God and not the boasting of all you’ve done. “Take your inheritance,” Jesus will say to you as a child of God, who will receive the right to live in God’s heavenly mansion like an heir receives the family fortune – not by earning it but by being born into it, in your case through faith in Jesus (Matthew 25:34). In the end, God provides a way for you to enjoy his love and peace now and forever. That “way” is Jesus and his work of living without sin for you, dying in your place under God’s wrath, and rising triumphantly over death and the devil. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned” (John 3:18). Trust in the work of Jesus and you have no reason to fear Judgment Day or Monday or a bad day or any day.

Unbelievers, however, reveal no such attitude of humility toward themselves and trust in Jesus. They have approached the God of heaven like gruff goats without respect, without honor, and without sorrow for their sins. Those who trust in themselves ask, “Why do you punish me?” They are confident that their own good life gives them the right to enter heaven. But a good life isn’t what God demands from us; sincere intentions of trying our best don’t meet God’s expectations, either. God requires complete holiness, in every way, all the time. So, stand in front of God as the star of the show, and you’re attracting not only his spotlight to your good performance in life, but you’re asking for his X-ray examination of your most secret sins as well. “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (John 3:18).

Trusting in Jesus means that your sins do not curse you and that Satan cannot control you. Trusting in Jesus means that your life right now, every day, has a purpose and you have a reason from heaven to live. It doesn’t matter whether your last three dates have dumped you or not. It doesn’t matter whether you met your sales quota or not. It doesn’t matter whether crippling disease or deadly cancer is taking over your body or not. Trusting in Jesus means that he makes you valuable and you don’t need to do great things in order to be somebody, but rather do humble things in order to help anybody.

Jesus, your Good Shepherd, cares enough about you that he doesn’t want you to worry about tomorrow or payday or Judgment Day or eternity; rather, he wants you to wait for it with joy, anticipate its coming with confidence and follow his footsteps of serving and loving others. Jesus, your King, will always protect you from harm, and in the end will meet you with open arms and praise you with words of approval, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

“Why me?” you will ask.

“Because of me,” Jesus will answer.

What will Judgment Day be Like?

Mention the phrase “Judgment Day” to ten different people and you’ll probably hear ten different explanations of the biblical term. Some promote the false idea that Christ may return in some sort of covert mission, and if we’re not equipped properly we’ll miss it like people who can’t see a 3D movie because they don’t have the special glasses. Others figure that Christ’s coming on the last day to end the world is such a long time off that they can eat, drink, and be merry with no concern for spiritual priorities. Still others accumulate their good works like vouchers for eternal life, waiting for the day when they can cash them all in to an extremely impressed God. So what will it really be like?

Do you feel even just a little anxiety about where you’ll be on Judgment Day, how you’ll respond to the global chaos, and what kind of forms you’ll need to fill out at the pearly gates, if you even make it there safely? And what if, in heaven, they use Word Perfect instead of Microsoft Word, and what if dogs are allowed in heaven but no cats, and what if you can’t bring any beverage containers filled with your favorite soda or coffee – we’ll only drink prune juice in paradise?

Like a promotional brochure for the perfect vacation, the Bible answers any anxiety about Judgment Day and heaven not with every specific little detail (although we do have a few) but with the big, reassuring promise: Judgment Day will be just right. Plan for it. Anticipate it. But don’t worry about it.

In a response to this confusion concerning Judgment Day, the Bible touches us with the actual temperature of Judgment Day. The Bible wants us to have the full assurance that Judgment Day won’t be so hot that it burns us with fires only meant for hell, and Judgment Day won’t be so cold and heaven so sterile that we’ll be frozen with boredom and chilled with thoughts of how nice we had it on earth. “God’s judgment is right,” the Bible reassures, and then adds, “God is just” (2 Thessalonians 1:1-2). Those two words, “right” and “just,” actually mean the same thing, and putting them together is a perfect way to capture and convey their correct meaning. Just right. That applies to God, it applies to every one of his actions, and it applies to Judgment Day.

God is just right when he says that you have wronged him and others sinfully. God is just right when he says that his Son, Jesus Christ, has paid with his life for your sins and has risen from the dead to blaze a path of eternal life for you. Put your worries about Judgment Day to rest in the hands of a gracious God.

Therefore you are not worried about Judgment Day when by faith you understand that heaven’s owner has already written your name in heaven’s reservation book. It’ll be just right, even if you’re not too sure about the details. God will take care of anyone who trusts him. He’ll send his angels to escort you safely through the chaos with priority, first-class service. He’ll welcome you warmly as a host expecting you. He’ll show you to the spread of his banquet of love and let you taste of his eternal feast.

But what if, on Judgment Day, you choose door number two instead of door number three? What if, on Judgment Day, you zig instead of zag? What if you’re miles away from loved ones or minutes short of accomplishing a really good thing? How can you live knowing that you might mess it all up and miss out on heaven forever? You can live knowing that God will never mess it up, and will never miss the slightest technicality when it comes to taking you to heaven. Your perseverance through earthly life as well as your perpetual heavenly life are both in God’s hands. Judgment Day will be just right.