Sunday, 27 March 2011

Thief in the night...

Some of us remember the 70’s movie ‘A thief in the night’, supposedly based on the end time teaching in the Book of Revelation. In it, a woman is exploring Christianity, but wakes one day to reports that millions of people, including her husband, have mysteriously disappeared. It turns out that they were faithful Christians who had been raptured. The moral of the story being ‘make sure you’re ready for Jesus’ return or else you will be left behind.’

Toby was preaching this morning about the church at Sardis and Jesus’ diagnosis of their spiritual condition. In the middle of Jesus’ address to that church come the words: ‘“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. ” (Revelation 3:3,).
The Church at Sardis, contrary to its own perceptions, was not doing well. They had the reputation of being a ‘lively’ church, but in fact, says Jesus, they were spiritually dead. As Toby preached this morning, it seems that they were dead, particularly in terms of their witness and faithfulness to Jesus. If they do not repent and discover afresh the priority of Jesus and the gospel in their lives, then Jesus will come against them, unexpectedly, like a thief.
Far from speaking of the glorious coming of Jesus at the second coming, this verse speaks of Jesus coming against that wayward church in the 2nd century - and churches throughout the church age that behaved in such a way.

But doesn’t Jesus speak somewhere else about coming like a thief in the night? Yes, when speaking to his disciples about his return he said: “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. ” (Matthew 24:42–43, ESV).
But if you read the whole of that chapter it will become clear that Jesus uses the analogy of the thief in the night to make the point of their needed alertness in the face of his unannounced coming - thieves catch people out - he is not however, making a statement about the style of his coming.
Earlier in Matthew chapter 24 when speaking of his return, Jesus speaks of lightning, of the heavens being shaken.. “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. ” (Matthew 24:30) And that is far from thief-like!
More on this as we go further in the book of Revelation, but let me make the point here that I believe that Scripture teaches that the second coming of Jesus, far from being a secret thing, will be awesome in every way! There will be trumpets, lightning, cosmic shakings, and central to it all, the appearing of Jesus in all his splendor for all the people of the earth to see. And we who belong to him will be caught up to meet him in the air!

I don't know about you but on that day I want to be able to say along with the apostle Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ” (2 Timothy 4:7–8,)


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Jezebel, Jesus, and the future..

Bit of a tricky passage I had to preach on this week - the Letter to the Church at Thyatira. It raises some interesting themes such as Jezebel, judgment, and ruling over the nations, however the main theme of the passage is clear and I trust I kept to that when preaching. In this blog I’ll try to fill in the gaps & give some more detail to things briefly alluded to.

The main theme I explored was ‘The Church and the workplace’, because in Thyatira this is where church members were in danger of wrecking the witness of the church due to a tendency to compromise with workplace culture under the guise of spiritual tolerance. I think that there is an allusion to the Book of Daniel in the opening words of Jesus to this church (v18), and what better role model in this instance than Daniel with his resounding “No!” to cultural compromise. Destinies rest in the answer we give at such moments, and deception lurks in the shadows, ready to beguile, confuse, and ultimately to wreck us.
And that’s what the Jezebel theme is all about. There was someone in the church who encouraged the ‘enlightened’ to fraternize with the workplace culture, going along with their morality in the name of mission, when they, like Daniel, should have said ‘No!”. Jezebel was the one who taught her husband, King Ahab, to compromise, such that .... he did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. ” (1 Kings 16:30–33, ESV)

What about the promise of ruling of nations, rods of iron & things in verse 27? Once again we need to look to the OT to enlighten us, and we find that this is a quotation from Psalm 2, a Messianic psalm, one that points to Jesus: “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” ” (Psalm 2:7–9).
So what is being said to the believers at Thyatira is that if they remain faithful to Jesus, then they will be co-regents with Christ. And when, I hear you ask, might that be? Time to declare my colours!
I believe that Jesus’ (‘millennial’) reign has already begun, and that this book of Revelation shows us that Jesus is now exalted, glorified, and seated on His throne. Heaven’s perspective is that Jesus is Lord over the nations, Now! and in fact in a few chapters time, we will read of His powerful exercise of power over the nations. King Jesus is in control!
So how do we reign with him? Well, in a measure, we do now, but when we die, in that moment we will be in his presence, co-regents with him, sharing his rule (2Cor 5:8), in what we call the intermediate state, awaiting the ‘Day of the Lord’ when Jesus comes again to make all things new, This will be no halfway house awaiting a further onslaught of evil after another 1000 years. No, when Jesus comes again it will be a great day, an all decisive day when sin and satan are dealt with once and for all, and heaven and earth are restored to what God always intended.

And in closing, faithful believers at Thyatira were also promised the Morning Star. What’s that? Simply, it’s Jesus, he’s the bright, morning star that we live for and whose coming we look for:
““I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. ” (Revelation 22:16–17)