Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Good Things of These Last Days

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1).

The apostle Peter says very much the same thing, and he himself points back to the Lord and the Prophets for the foundation of his conviction: “ should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (2 Peter 3:2,3). Note, too, that Jesus issues this warning by way of “commandment.” False teachers will come and will, from the inside of the congregation, attempt to lead the people astray in their beliefs and actions.

Reading both of the last letters of Paul and Peter, we become aware that they were already well-acquainted with the threats of the “last days.” They were themselves living in the “last days.” Their fellow apostle John goes so far as to say “it is the last hour,” and that “now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). That was some time ago.

I believe the “last days” to be the Gospel Age between the advents of Christ, known in those six verses in the Revelation (and nowhere else) as “the millennium.”

In the midst of the trouble, tribulation, and turmoil that fills most of “last days” discussion these days, we overlook the promised fruit of these days.

In these “last days,” we have the fullness of the revelation of God in the Son of God. We need no other Word. Christ is gloriously all-sufficient to meet our needs, far beyond what we could ever imagine.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, Whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:1-4).

In “these last days,” we have been given the Person of the Trinity Who is the Gift and Promise of the Father through the Son, the Holy Spirit. We are never alone. We are never without the personal Presence and Power of God.

“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel [in 2:28-32]: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”’” (Acts 2:14-21).

In these “last days,” we know that the fruit, purpose, and promised culmination of this age is the resurrection. All else – including the difficulty that overwhelmingly saturates the contemporary discussion like a perverse obsession – pales in comparison to this flowering, this fruit-bearing of this last age.

“And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day...whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:39,40,33,54).

This is the faith of Martha at the tomb of her brother, a faith in which Jesus reveals Himself to be the goal of these “last days.”

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, Who is coming into the world’” (John 11:23-27).

We are, as the apostles all warn, to be on guard that false teachers do not lead the congregation of the Lord astray (the warning is for the health of the congregation, and not for outside perceived threats, where most of our focus is). However, we must never lose sight of the gift of the Holy Spirit, given by the Father through the risen Son. The glorious gifting and work of the Trinity is the great theme of this final age, and should move us to great praise every one of these “last days.”

If you have not been reconciled to the Father through His Son, repent of your sins and confess Jesus Christ as Lord, believing that He died for your sins and lives forever for your joyful eternal life.

“For He says [in Isaiah 49:8], ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says [in Psalm 95:7,8], ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion...’” (Hebrews 3:7,8).

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