Jesus’ second coming
Although there is no time here to extensively address the issue of why it might on a superficial reading of Colossians 3:18-4:1 appear as if Scripture were condoning the slavery (as we understand it in the 21st century) let me make some brief comment before we get to applying this passage to our lives.
Yesterday’s devotion made it clear that the foundation for these imperatives for godly living was that Jesus is now our Lord, our King and this is what His kingdom ought to be like. Does that mean then that slavery is endorsed as part of Jesus’ kingdom?
No. As the ESV translators have said in the preface to their translation; “A particular difficulty is presented when words in biblical Hebrew and Greek refer to ancient practices and institutions that do not correspond directly to those in the modern world.”
Translators seek to translate the original words into the modern equivalent in English and yet sometimes that English word can contain (as does the word ‘slave’) modern meaning that is distracting from what the original meaning was to the original hearers.
Here in Colossians ‘bondservants’ (in the ESV translation) is the word used to translate the Greek word, ‘doulos’ (which can mean either slave, bondservant or servant). In the Roman Empire, a bondservant was someone who was officially bound under contract to serve his/her master for seven years, when the contract expired the person was freed.
Scripture instructs ‘bondservants’ (ESV) or ‘slaves’ (NIV) to ‘obey’ their earthly masters and to work hard, to work as if they are working not just for their earthly masters but for the Lord ultimately (see 3:22-25).
The question is how does this apply to the present day since employment practices have changed so dramatically? The most obvious ‘hermeneutic bridge’ to the present is surely the issue of employment and being an employee or an employer.
Employees have ‘masters’ or ‘bosses’ whom they are contracted to work for. And as Christ followers we are to be the most incredible employees (Colossians 3:22-25)! We are to work respectfully, to work harder than anyone else because in fact we are working for our ultimate Master – Jesus. We are therefore those who are looking not just for the reward of a salary but looking for His reward in eternity for how we worked.
In Colossians 4:1 the instruction turns to those who are called ‘master’ by others. These are the equivalent of employers in our day. And to such people the instruction is clear and bold. Masters are to treat those who work for them in a manner that gives dignity, honour, value & proper respect (see the general instruction in 1 Peter 2:17).
Christ followers who employ other people are to know that their King requires that their faith and their belonging to His kingdom must impact their treatment of others in all spheres of life. And so, those who employ others are to be just and to be fair in all their dealings with their employees. They are to pay fairly and justly, they are to be like their Master, Jesus is towards them.
Finally, they are to keep in mind that they will appear one day before their Master, Jesus and will give an account on that day for how they treated those who worked for them.
What we see in this section of Scripture is that Jesus’ kingdom rule impacts every sphere of life. Employees for whom Jesus is Lord become the best employees on the planet and employers likewise have their employment practices transformed by the Lordship of Jesus so that they become blessing to those who work for them. Nothing in life is untouched by our followership of Jesus.
So in closing; whether you work for someone or whether you employ anyone in any context, contemplate for a moment whether your attitude, your thinking and your treatment of others in those contexts is godly?
Are you treating others (employers or employees) as King Jesus wants you to?
What might need to change?
The Gospel explained in three verses. Verses 16, 18 & 36 of chapter 3 of John’s gospel present a full and clear picture of the Gospel hope that we have in Jesus and the desperate situation of those who reject Jesus.
‘For God so loved the world’ (vs16)
The good news Jesus introduces here is news that would have been radical to the Jewish hearer – that God so loved, not just Israel but the whole world. God had foretold of this widening of His blessing to encompass the whole world when He covenanted to bless Abraham and that Abraham in turn would bless all the familes of the earth. The prophets had prophesied about this too like when Zechariah prophesied about the future incarnation of Christ and the impact this would have on the nations not just Israel;
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. (Zechariah 2:10-11)
‘that whoever believes in Him’ (vs16)
The offer is as wide as can be, it is to anyone, to whosoever. But the offer is not without condition. The condition for all people, whoever they are, is that they must believe. They must have faith in or put their trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
‘should not perish but have eternal life’ (vs16)
The result of believing in Jesus is that the believer can be assured that they will not be die/perish or be destroyed in the judgement to come but will enter into perpetual/eternal/everlasting/forever life!
‘Whoever believes in Him is not condemned’ (vs18)
All those who believe in Jesus are not and will not be condemned. They will not be judged or damned by God the righteous judge.
‘but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God’ (vs18)
In sharp contrast is the current and future position anyone is in who does not believe in Jesus. There is no nuetral ground here. Our post-modern pluralistic world likes to make space for and validate every perspective but that is not the teaching of Scripture. As inclusive as the ‘whoever’ is positively in vs16, that same ‘whoever’ is now inclusive of all who do not believe.
All who do not believe are at this very moment condemned by God! They are in the most dangerous position imaginable right now and will be into eternity if there is no change. They will be damned by God because they rejected God’s only Son whom God lovingly sent to save them from their sinful condition and consequences.
‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.’ (vs36)
Re-iterating what He has already said, Jesus repeats the wide offer that anyone may believe in Him and that those who believe already have in this life entered into the eternal life only He can give us. The Christ follower is not waiting for something that is only future but enters into real life now in this present age already.
However, again in sharp contrast whoever disbelieves/not believes/is disobedient/obeys not/is unbelieving will not experience this life that’s possible now or into eternity because their position is that the justifiable righeous indignation of the Holy One remains on them now and forever.
All are invited to believe, all who believe will be forgiven and be given life eternal now and forevermore all because of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection, because of the love of Father God. And yet not all will believe, and those who reject Jesus are right now in this present moment condemned already and have the wrath of God focussed on them.
May we who have already believed, tirelessly take this kind offer God’s made to ALL so that whoever believes will be forgiven, saved & will receive everlasting life now and forever.
When it comes to questions regarding the end of the ages, the last days, the tribulation, judgement day & Jesus’ second coming – there are lots of questions and abounding interpretations.
Chapter 13 starts with one of the disciples remarking to Jesus how amazing the architecture of the temple in Jerusalem was. Maybe surprisingly to them Jesus replies prophesying about the imminent destruction of the temple (which happened in AD70) and launches into a discourse that teaches them regarding this imminent tribulation in Jerusalem & also instructs the disciples and us on the end times.
When we read sections like this in Scripture, may I suggest an approach. Focus on the imperatives – the crucial action items, the things we are urged to do.
Its a bit like driving in thick mist. Most years around this time of year when I and my family travel down to another part of the country at night, there is a section of the trip that almost invariably poses the challenge of really thick mist at night. The national speed limit is 120km/h but on those night long sections of driving safely require a speed as low as 20-30km/h. There is just too much that can’t be seen, questions as it were; is there an oncoming bend in the road (with dangerous cliffs), is there a truck or car just around the corner? In moments like this, apart from slowing down, I choose to focus not on what I can’t see, but to focus on what I can see! I can see the yellow line on the left margin of the road & I can see the middle line of the road. So I focus on those and know that what’s imperative is for me to stay between those two lines in order to stay on the road and to stay on my side of the road.
Passages like this are similar. Sometimes they uncover more questions than answers, provide more mystery than revelation. They are difficult to reconcile with other passages at times… However they also contain yellow & white lines – the imperatives.
Read again through this chapter and look for every imperative, everything you can do, are instructed to do.
What’s the overall impression you have now of what Jesus is telling you regarding the end times?
- “Be on your guard” 3x
- “Don’t be anxious” 1x
- “Persevere” (implied from ‘the one who endures to the end will be saved’ vs13) 1x
- “Stay awake” 3x
We are to be watchful & alert, not fearful, we are to persevere knowing Jesus will come for His ‘elect’ (vs20&27)! Come Lord Jesus come. Choose your focus!
The Thessalonian church faced persecution from those outside of the faith, which the apostle has addressed in chapter 1. Now in chapter 2 he turns his attention to another form of opposition that can be even more difficult to withstand: false teaching.
Some had been claiming that Jesus had already returned, and that the Thessalonians had somehow missed it (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)! Sadly this sort of stuff still happens today. Just the other day the world was supposed to have ended – ooooops did you miss that!
Did you know that according to some, the so-called “Rapture” was supposed to have happened on Sep 23rd 2017. Some doomsday so-called Christians who seem more focused more on crazy number patterns & astronomy than on the Bible itself put together a Youtube clip watched by 4.5million people in under 2months claiming such.
And yet, no surprise really, but we are still all here. Or did Jesus come back and we somehow missed; ‘Jesus’ shout of command’, ‘the voice of the archangel’, the trumpet blast of God’ ‘and dead people rising up everywhere’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16)…?
Friend, “Let no one deceive you in any way” (vs3), “we ask you brothers not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed” (vs2). Jesus is coming back, he will destroy the anti-Christ with just the breath of his mouth (vs8) – no contest! There will be displays of power and false signs and wicked deception from Satan himself (vs9-10) but we are all called to ‘love the truth and so be saved’ (vs10)
And Jesus Christ Himself is the way and the truth, and so believing in Him, trusting in Him is the only way to life eternal. So do it, trust Him, believe in Him, and call all you know to do the same.
And, if you have already believed in Jesus, stand firm (vs15) and hold to what you know from Scripture and may Jesus Himself comfort your hearts and cause you to do great good works in the world because of Him (vs16).
Paul has been boasting about these Thessalonian believers to other churches. He has been encouraged by their growing faith and love, and also by their steadfastness and faith in the midst of the persecution and the affliction they have had to endure because of their faith.
“Faith under fire becomes faith refined by the fire.”
But what comfort is there for those who are being treated unjustly, persecuted because of their faith in Christ?
“…indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7)
What comfort is there? Scripture answers that God is just. Implied here is that our Father God who is the righteous all-knowing judge of all sees everything that is done and that which is not done that ought to have been done. God is just, because God will afflict those who have afflicted His children.
And so the knowledge that God is just gives relief/rest to one who has been unjustly treated or who has seen their loved ones unjustly treated.
We are often tempted to make premature assessments, in this life. It can and does sometimes look like the unjust go unpunished, seemingly unaffected by their sin and seemingly free from consequences despite the despicable things they have inflicted on others. Our systems of justice often let people down as the justice they deserve slips away into the cracks of our sin-broken societal systems of justice.
But for those who call God ‘Father’ there will be justice. Our Father will act on our behalf and knowing this relieves us of any need to attempt to ‘repay evil with evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Rather, we can and should forgive people. As we do, we are stopping that thing they did from continuing to rob or hurt us into the future. Forgiving people sets the forgiver free, and leaves the forgiven before the God of all the earth – who is just.
Ask Father God right now. Is there anyone I need to forgive?
Choose now to set yourself free, choose now to stop allowing that thing from continuing to impact your life. Thank your Father that He is just.
When though? You might say, well I haven’t seen God being just yet!
I believe there are times when we do see the justice of God in this lifetime come upon people, but this passage is very clear that the time everyone will know that God is just is on the day when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with attending angels and flames of fire (vs7-8).
On that day God the righteous judge will ‘inflict vengeance/retribution’ (vs8) on those who wronged his children (implied by the context) and specifically on those who rejected Jesus Christ.
Note how God is the active agent here, God the righteous just judge is the One inflicting retribution. This clear teaching in Scripture confronts the unbiblical popular notion that the God of Scripture is some wishy washy dispenser of ‘love’ or that it is loving to the victim to let the wicked go unpunished for the sin done to them!
And yet on this same day that Jesus comes back in all His glory, on this day when the unrighteous who rejected Christ will face the punishment for their sin (vs9) and will be shut out from the presence of God forever and ever, on that same day those of us who believed in Jesus will be glorying in Jesus, will be marvelling at Jesus in all His revealed splendour and majesty (vs10)!
May, you believe, may you ask Jesus Himself to forgive you of the wrong you’ve done before that Day. May you and I reach out to EVERYONE we can while we still can with the good news that anyone can join that happy crowd (vs10) if they will only bow the knee now and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and ask Him to forgive them of their sin.
For if you do accept Jesus, God is just, and so will forgive you of your sin, you will not face any punishment for whatever you did, because God already punished that sin when Jesus died on the cross in your place for your sin, and so God will be just to save you and welcome you into a glorious eternity with Him.
Have you crossed the line of faith and put your faith in Jesus and asked Him to forgive you of all your sin?
Ask the Holy Spirit now to put people on your heart who don’t yet believe in Jesus, pray for them and DO ANYTHING the Holy Spirit leads you to do…
There is a day when the temporary separation brought about by all death in this life will be overturned by the greatest day of re-unification ever!
I find airports very interesting spaces. Going to an airport one can observe a whole range of contrasting emotions on display.
On the side of departures there are last hugs, last kisses and last looks – endings, separations, increasing distance, tears & questions of when we will see one another next.
Yet, on the side of arrivals its the opposite. There are first hugs, kisses & words of joy and love. Decreasing distance, intimacy and re-unification, the resumption of relationships…
Death is like the departure section of the airport. The second coming of Jesus, however, is like the arrivals section! There is a day when the wait will be over, the distance between us and Jesus will evaporate forever, and a day when the separation we have endured from loved ones who died as believers will be over forever and ever.
These Thessalonians had questions about loved ones who had died, here in these verses Scripture describes the amazing day to come when King Jesus will return as King. The underlying Greek word (‘parousia) used here and translated as ‘the coming of the’ Lord is a word that has special meaning. It’s not just like a friend ‘coming’ round to your house but the picture the Thessalonians would have had when that word was used would have been that of a victorious king leading his armies and his captives in a victory parade through the streets, to be received with cheers and celebration from his home city/kingdom.
We get hints of this incredible scene when this passage describes the picture of Jesus’ return with three sounds;
- Jesus declaring loudly with a shout/command ,
The voice of an archangel (chief angel) saying something about Jesus no doubt
- And God sounding a heavenly trumpet!
- In this moment there will be the greatest day of re-unification ever! It seems from vs15-16 that those who had already died, believing in Jesus will be raised and then they will join Jesus in His ‘parousia’, in His victory procession as ‘God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep’ (vs14).
I can imagine Jesus in all His glory out front, and the host of believers behind Him singing glorying in Him and yet at the same time looking out for, finding in the crowd and waving with joy and excitement at those who are still alive who believed in Jesus. What a day of re-unification, joy unspeakable! This is comforting for us who just feel the loss of separation in the present time, this sadness will be overcome with everlasting joy.
Lastly, the result of what I’m calling Re-uniting Day will be an intimate proximity to Jesus that will never be undone again; “and so we will always be with the Lord” (vs17).
These truths should encourage us, and should be used by us to encourage one another (vs18).
Who can you encourage with these words today?
Have you done it yet?
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)
There is clearly an urgency in this parable! Something inside everyone of us wants to not be one of those 5 young women who weren’t ready in the moment when suddenly the Bridegroom is here and there is no time to prepare or get ready any longer…
…And then “the door was shut.”
What terrible finality.
‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Jesus is clearly urging us to be ready, to be alert, to be watching, waiting for His return. No one listening to this parable would have wanted their experience to be that of these young women who had not prepared for the delayed yet imminent arrival of the bridegroom.
I have no doubt that this parable has been used many times to preach that we as believers in Jesus need to “be ready”, “keep our lamps filled with oil”, “tarry in prayer”, “be ever watchful”…
The problem is that this all too easily slips into a teaching which is not the gospel – the good news about a righteousness and a new relationship with the Father because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross alone.
You see, before you know it our salvation is not by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, it is no longer that we are saved by Jesus + nothing because we have added something! We need to keep our lamp full of oil or we need to be ready…
This is such a slippery slope towards trusting in our works our ability to stay ready, to be prepared and this is not what is being taught here by Jesus.
“But we need to persevere” – I here you say. I love what JI Packer has written in his Concise Theology concerning perseverance;
Let it first be said that in declaring the eternal security of God’s people it is clearer to speak of their preservation than, as is commonly done, of their perseverance. Perseverance means persistence under discouragement and contrary pressure. The assertion that believers persevere in faith and obedience despite everything is true, but the reason is that Jesus Christ through the Spirit persists in preserving them…
…Reformed theology echoes this emphasis. The Westminster Confession declares,
They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved. (XVII.1) The doctrine declares that the regenerate are saved through persevering in faith and Christian living to the end (Heb. 3:6; 6:11; 10:35–39), and that it is God who keeps them persevering. That does not mean that all who ever professed conversion will be saved. False professions are made; short-term enthusiasts fall away (Matt. 13:20–22); many who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” will not be acknowledged (Matt. 7:21–23). Only those who show themselves to be regenerate by pursuing heart-holiness and true neighbor-love as they pass through this world are entitled to believe themselves secure in Christ. – JI Packer (Concise Theology)
Having believed in Jesus, we need to persevere, but it is God who preserves us, keeps us persevering to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8) and therefore we can be assured of our salvation and God can be glorified as the One who calls, saves, sanctifies and will glorify us (Romans 8:29-30).
Back to the parable…
There is a real urgency and a real finality in this parable, a warning that if ignored will be followed by being shut out with no opportunity for reversal.
So the real question is how does one get ready for the bridegroom’s return?
The answer is, by believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and your adoption as God’s child. If you have believed in Jesus already, then you ARE ready for His return!
The urgency and the appeal here is for those who have not yet accepted that Jesus is Lord and Saviour for all people can only prepare for His return before He returns. No one will in that moment of His return be able to suddenly prepare so as to gain access into the Kingdom, into the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Just as the young women who had not prepared earlier could not borrow oil in the moment, so too we cannot “borrow” or “ride on the coattails of” someone else’s faith. Each one of us needs to be prepared prior to that moment when suddenly the Bridegroom (Jesus) will appear.
I have always been struck by the contrast in the experience foretold in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10. On the same day, in the same moment those who didn’t “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” will suffer wrath, will be afraid of King Jesus while at the same time those who had during their lives believed the gospel will be marvelling in the splendour and majesty of their King who has come. What a contrast. It sounds so similar to Jesus’ parable – some are delighting in a wedding feast and the Bridegroom who has come and others are outside a locked door.
The gospel invitation is for all; as Randy Alcorn says; “No man can get out of hell but each man can keep out of it.” The appeal is for all to get ready, and to do so now, today. It might appear as though the Bridegroom has been delayed but He will come suddenly.
So, how can people prepare?
By believing in Jesus Christ who is Lord and Saviour for the forgiveness of their sins and then by receiving God’s adoption of them as His beloved children (John 1:12).
Having believed in Jesus you then are like one of those young women who was ready, Father God sends His Holy Spirit to fill us, enabling us to walk with Him and for Him – we are ready, because we believed in Jesus.
As Angus Buchan always preaches; “good people (you could say ready people) don’t go to heaven, believers in Jesus do!”
If you have believed in Jesus, you are ready. Don’t read this parable wondering, worrying whether you will be ready when He returns, you are ready, already. So rest assured, thank God that He has made you ready and that He will preserve you to the end…
…And, invite everyone you can to come to Jesus to receive His free gift of righteousness and right relationship with God the Father through believing in Him for the forgiveness of their sins.