Jesus who loves the little children is often preached; the Jesus who came to
set fire on earth, to bring not peace but a sword, is seldom preached. But
that does not mean that his words no longer carry meaning or import.
"I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it
were already kindled! "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I
am until it is accomplished! "Do you
suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather
division; for from now on five members in one household
will be divided, three against two and two against three. "They will be divided, father against son and son
against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against
(Luk 12:49-53 NASB)
lesson will soon touch upon end times; no area of Christian thought has such
wildly different and bitterly held convictions as that. No doubt there is
someone out there who conceives of this message as meaning a literal fire. To
that person I offer my humble apologies; I just can’t see it your way. Please
forgive me – and tolerate me for a couple of pages.
in general, is interpreted symbolically as referring to the Holy Spirit. This
interpretation comes, of course, from the day of Pentecost when tongues of fire
were the outward sign of the Spirit. To generalize the meaning, we must recall
that the function of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin and of
judgment to come. Any man so convicted will hear the Gospel as it truly is:
is this conviction which forces the Great Divide. The Gospel is either truth
itself or a terribly malicious tale, deceiving billions. The two points of
view are summed up nicely in Jesus’ dialogue with Pontius Pilate:
Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I
have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth
hears My voice." Pilate *said to Him, "What is truth?"
And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and *said to them,
"I find no guilt in Him.
(Joh 18:37-38 NASB)
our time there are two primary views of the truth; each with its own ultimate
view holds that truth exists independently of the existence of man. Man
discovers truth, but does not create it. This is the view held by most
Christians of most times.
other view holds that man creates and sanctifies truth. Like the umpire,
they tell us “it ain’t nothing until I call it.”
latter view is the position taken by most thought leaders of our day. From
that point of view, then, we may determine what those people would like to do
to the Christians in their midst:
man determines truth, anything that proclaims an absolute truth must be
people are dangerous, threatening to eliminate such basic human rights as
abortion (to mention the most prominent example.)
therefore need to act against these people by all means possible – in the
name of Truth, of course.
because we determine truth, those people can be subjected to anything from
ridicule to torture; such treatment is right, because we know that it is.
should be noted that when the humanists persecute the Christians, it is a good
thing and proper use of power; in the meanwhile, all Christians should be
abjectly apologizing for the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem witch trials.)
division is in us
makes one person take one point of view versus another?
reason is expediency. We want something, and one view or the other seems
convenient. (“I want to sleep with my girlfriend; therefore, there is no
delight in wishful thinking. Some variation of humanism (for example, New
Age thinking) appeals to them because they would like it to be true.
Since man is the judge, it is therefore true for them. Truth therefore
has many shades.
delight in cynicism; if they can’t see, feel or touch it, it’s not true
(which eliminates, by the way, high school geometry.)
some of us take truth as revealed (and discovered) and make the transition to
faith. It is interesting to see how God has arranged matters:
has given us plenty of evidence – both in Scripture (which is the
historical record of his dealings with us) and in life.
the evidence is not subject to absolute proof, as we would see it in
mathematics. Faith requires the leap from evidence to belief.
has so constructed the universe that it tends to force the decision:
believe, or believe not.
by its very nature, admits the possibility of doubt. But it also forces the
decision; there is no half way point. And the division is concerning the
person and office of Jesus of Nazareth.
the Great Divide
Scripture makes it clear:
love for Christ MUST come first, above all other things. All other good
things are subordinate to this, and are instructed by it. (For example,
my responsibilities in marriage are taught by Scripture, not just my
faith admits the possibility of rejection, some will reject it. And some
of those will be in our own households. When this happens, we must decide
which is first.
honor of rejection for Christ’s sake is so great that God takes steps to
keep us humble – he keeps this treasure in “jars of clay” – us.
of the times
this is interesting (I hope) but we must ask: so what? Christ provides the
answer: the day of judgment is coming.
He was also saying to the crowds, "When you see a
cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'A shower is coming,' and so it
turns out. "And when you see a south wind
blowing, you say, 'It will be a hot day,' and it turns out that way. "You
hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky,
but why do you not analyze this present time? "And
why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? "For while you are going with your opponent to appear
before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag
you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the
officer throw you into prison. "I say to
you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last
(Luk 12:54-59 NASB)
things first: one of the messages here is simply that the average person is
not blind. You should be able to pick up on the signs of the times. But
that’s not the same thing as saying, “I know when the Lord will return.”
Indeed, the signs of his imminent return are not to be misused or
are signs to the active Christian – not to be interpreted by those of idle
study of these signs is not meant to replace active Christian living, but
rather are a part of it. A Christian of no works but plentiful reading on
end times is no Christian – but he will receive greater condemnation for
all example to the contrary, such signs are not to divide the body of
Christ, but unite it.
then, just what are these signs?
The church will find itself riddled with all sorts of man-made doctrine,
contrary to the clear meaning of the Scriptures.
“man of sin” or the “man of lawlessness” will be revealed. Many
nominations have been made for the job. The most common one is the Pope
(either the papal system, or a particular pope to come.)
great delusion will come too – those whose hearts do not place Christ
first will have a new system of beliefs.
people will consider the faith something to be mocked.
will be tribulation; the true followers of Christ will be hated by all
will fall away from the faith and betray those who are still faithful.
Gospel will be preached to all peoples before the end comes.
abomination of desolation will be made – and there is a great deal of
debate about that.
will be signs in the heavens – taken literally or figuratively.
You are now an expert on the end times.
our Lord specifically warns us that we cannot know the times set by the Father
for this. We do get some advice on the timing, however:
tells us He will return “like a thief in the night.” In other words,
NOBODY will get this right. It’s going to be a surprise to most people.
then, we will have wars and rumors of wars – perfectly normal, it means
fact, things will be going on just fine; he compares it to the days of
Noah. No one, but Noah & company, saw the use for a boat. At Christ’s
return, only the true Christians will be ready.
God the Father knows the time.
short, don’t buy anyone’s theory that tells you all the answers. It’s wrong.
what are we supposed to be doing when he returns? Same things we ought to be
doing now! But here are four things you might look into:
you’re going to wait – so wait patiently. Look forward to his return, but
don’t make it your life’s work to know when.
what God commands us to do – make disciples, preach the Gospel, help the
poor and the sick – knowing he could be here any minute now.
follow the experts in this. There are many conflicting views out there;
strident partisanship is their hallmark. Have nothing to do with those
who divide the church.
encourage each other with the thought of his return. There should be a
difference at a Christian’s funeral.
for the persecution
about this persecution?
it. Watch for it and pray that God will give us the strength to handle
you do, do not return evil for evil. Prepare to overcome the evil one by
returning good for evil.
important: “take up the Cross.” Acknowledge that God is right and just
in this too. Bear with gladness the burden he gives you. Then when the
heavy burden of persecution comes, you will know where to find your
persecution actually strikes.
do I do when the persecution actually arrives?
the early church, scatter. God is taking the persecution and using it to
spread the Gospel.
the early church, pray for deliverance. No one in their right mind wants
persecution. That’s not the issue; the issue is what do we do when it
the early church, count it all joy when it comes. It means that Satan has
found in us a foe worthy of his steel.
of his steel? Let the church walk in the power of Christ, and not her own
riches and devices, and Satan will soon find himself overmatched by those who
know they are weak – and therefore are strong.