The Pharisees ask Jesus when the kingdom of God is going to appear. Jesus tells them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable.”
“The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable” — really?
So many people today talk about Jesus’ return, of His appearing in the clouds, of the disappearance of presumably millions of Christians in an instant flash. Sounds observable to me! Sounds like people are going to say, “‘Look here!’ or ‘there!'”
But Jesus says, “You see, the kingdom of God is among you.”
The Pharisees do not see, but think they do. Therefore, they remain blind. The disciples listen. Jesus tells them they are going to “long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but won’t see it.” (Luke 17:22) He warns them not “to follow or run after” false messiahs just because people get excited and say, “Look here!” (Luke 17:23) Rather, the kingdom of God is within them, and within us.
Jesus says, “The man in the field must not turn back.” (Luke 17:31)
“All the prophets testify about [Jesus Christ] that through His Name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:43)
Peter preaches this to Cornelius, who has recently sent for him after “a man in a dazzling robe” stands before him and tells him that He has heard his prayers. Cornelius says to Peter, “You did the right thing in coming. So we are all present before God, to hear everything you are commanded by the Lord.” (Acts 10:30,33)
Peter begins by verbally recognizing that “God doesn’t show favoritism.” (Acts 10:34) Peter realizes that “in every nation the person who fears [God] and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.” (Acts 10:35) Peter then proceeds to tell Cornelius of the events which led to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Peter proclaims, “[Jesus] is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42)
If Jesus judges you as clean, then you are clean.
With Peter’s words, Cornelius and the other Gentiles with him, believe and through the Name of Jesus Christ each is saved from his sins. The Holy Spirit descends on each one so that they speak in other languages and declare the greatness of God. At this point, Peter calls for these new believers to be baptized with water for they have already been sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Seeking God and being sought by Him — in every nation, people are being saved. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
“This is eternal life: that [we] may know You, the only true God, and the One You send — Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) I’m always a bit bewildered that people don’t seem to realize they are in hell. Obviously some people are extremely aware of being in hell — their circumstances make their condition painfully obvious. For others, however, this earth has many pleasures — its natural beauty is one of its best attributes. Of course, we owe that entirely to the Creator. But, after the fall into sin by Adam and Eve, we — in our natural state — also find ourselves in trapped in hell. Remember the angels usher us out of the garden of Eden and bare the way back.
Jesus reveals God to us. As we accept Him as God — that is, Lord and Savior, Healer and Coming King — we are ushered out of hell and into His kingdom. Because we remain on this earth for a time, we may be very aware of the trappings of hell around us. But, we are not of this world. We are foreigners, waiting for our full inheritance, our heavenly country, as the author of Hebrews writes.
Knowing God is eternal life.
“[Christ] enters once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” The blood of goats and calves secure only a temporary redemption, one that requires repeating and repeating, year after year. “Under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)
“Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer Himself repeatedly.” (Hebrews 9:24-25) Instead, He “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)
“Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” (Hebrews 9:28)
Notice when Christ returns, He is not coming back to deal with sin, for He has already finished dealing with sin. Instead, when He comes again, He is returning to save. His sacrifice for us is once for all, and need not be repeated.
Paul outlines rather thoroughly the qualifications for the office of overseer (or bishop): this person “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife (or the man of one woman), sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (1 Timothy 3:2-3) He should also be able to “manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive.” (1 Timothy 3:4) And, “he must not be a new convert.” (1 Timothy 3:6)
Then Paul writes to Timothy that in addition to these fine qualities, the bishop (or overseer) “must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
Today, I believe this final quality is overlooked and even demeaned as a catering to the world. Think about the recent scandal involving the self-proclaimed prophet who confidently announced the coming of the last day, and the ‘rapture’ of Christ’s church. Even now, this man is claiming the second coming was only miscalculated and is actually going to occur in October of this year. This man is hardly “thought well of by outsiders” and has indeed become “a snare of the devil.” He is leading many people to mock our Lord; and is likely causing new converts to doubt the veracity of God’s organized church and even His Word.
Nothing in the Word of God is to be skimmed over and is to never be dismissed as irrelevant — Paul clearly teaches that a person who desires to lead “must be well thought of by outsiders.”
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord’s glory, as the waters cover the sea.”
“What use is a carved idol after its craftsman carves it? It is only a cast image, a teacher of lies. For the one who crafts its shape trusts in it and makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood: Wake up! or to mute stone: Come alive! Can it teach? Look! It may be plated with gold and silver, yet there is no breath in it at all. But the Lord is in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence.” (Habakkuk 2:18-20)
With the talk of the ‘rapture’ – the supposed taking of one over another at the Lord’s second coming – I rather doubt the Lord is pleased with the attention this has taken from His glory. Some of us have created an idol with no power to save us and followed after it. The cast image is the myriad ideas of the ‘end of time.’ We speculate and call it prophesy. Our idol is a teacher of lies.
Rather than worry over what we are not allowed to know – for no one knows the day of the Lord – we ought to remember “the Lord God comes with strength, and His power establishes His rule. His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him. He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those that are nursing. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or who gave Him His counsel? Who did He consult with? Who gave Him understanding and taught Him the paths of justice? Who taught Him knowledge and showed Him the way of understanding? Who will you compare God with? What likeness will you compare Him to?” (Isaiah 40:10-14,18)
Certainly we ought not to compare God to the feeble cast images that consist only of our ideas of His return.