Monday, January 30 2023

Bible Reading for: December 26

Jude, 2 Peter 1-3

The day is coming when Christ returns and there will no longer be any hope for the Lost to receive salvation. Until that time, you are to share the truth.

My grandfather was a preacher. Eventually he had his own church, but prior to that, he worked for the railroad during the week and then would set up old fashioned tent revivals on the weekends. My mother and her two sisters formed a trio and would sing hymns at the meetings. A couple of years ago my mother told me that watching the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” reminded her of those days. You see George Clooney’s character had a number of children, and at one point in the movie, three of them sang a hymn at the kind of meeting my mother sang at so many years ago.

I took this walk down memory lane because today’s passage reminded me of something that happened at my grandfather’s church when I was very young. Grandad lived in a suburb of Columbus Ohio, and I lived in a suburb of Chicago Illinois. On one trip to visit my grandparents, they took me to church and I sat in on my grandmother’s Sunday School class; she taught an all-boys class. I can’t remember my exact age, but I think I was between 6 and 8 years old. The boys in her class were closer to 13 I think.

At any rate, grandma asked the class how they could reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable claims of Biblical creation (6 days) and evolution (billions of years). The class sat silent for an uncomfortable amount of time. I was much younger than those boys, and a stranger in their midst to boot. I didn’t want to speak up, but the silence was painful, and the answer seemed rather obvious to me. I raised my hand, and my grandmother, somewhat surprised for I was a rather shy child at the time, called on me. I said, “If God lives forever how long is His day?” “His days could be billions of years long.” My grandmother seemed stunned, but agreed and moved on. From that day forward, I believe it was my grandparent’s deepest desire that I become a preacher. Though I am a part-time, unpaid member of my church staff, and have now preached from the pulpit a handful of times, their desire has yet to be fully consummated.

So, why the story? Peter answers the question I answered as a young boy in today’s passage.

2 Peter 3:8-12 ESV
“[8] But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. [11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [12] waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”

In Paul’s letters, which, interestingly enough, Peter mentions in today’s passage, we get a sense that he expected Christ’s return to be during his lifetime. He conveyed a true sense of urgency for the work of Followers of The Way. Two thousand years later, Christ has not returned. Why the long delay? Why was Paul, seemingly wrong about the time frame? Let me ask you this; what is quick in God time? Not only is your life a blink of the eye in terms of eternity, so is 2,000 years. Beyond that, God is not in a hurry to pour out judgment. Prior to Christ’s return, hope for the Lost remains. The moment Christ returns, that hope is gone forever. Do we understand forever? It is an exceedingly long time!

There are at least two examples in the Old Testament that demonstrates God’s willingness to allow the maximum amount of time to pass before He finally dispenses judgment and justice. You remember, of course, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham urged God to postpone judgment on Sodom as long as there were at least ten righteous residents. The thing is, God wasn’t being premature. He knew there were not ten righteous people in the land. In fact, I don’t think even Lot and his family could be considered righteous, but God saved them because they were kin to Abraham. When God chose to pour out judgment, Sodom had passed the point of no return.

In Genesis, God told Abraham about the future of his descendants. He told him that his children would go off to slavery for 400 years but then would be brought back to the land God had promised them. The reason for this delay in obtaining their inheritance was that the iniquity of the current residents wasn’t yet complete.

Genesis 15:13-16 ESV
“[13] Then the LORD said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. [14] But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. [15] As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. [16] And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.'”

When God brought the children of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, out of Egypt, He wrought great destruction upon that nation. Their time of judgment was at hand. When God brought the children of Israel into the Promised Land, He gave them orders to destroy every indigenous man, woman, and child. Was God being heartless? Was this simply wonton destruction perpetrated because God was playing favorites? No. God gave the indigenous peoples, the Amorites, Caananites, and all the other ites, the fullness of time to repent and return to God. They refused, and eventually came to their point of no return. In the fullness of God’s time, judgment was poured out. He used a blessing given to the Israelites as His sword of judgment on the Amorites.

The fullness of time has not yet occurred for the world at large. There is still time to repent. There is still time to be saved. God is patient toward the Lost, not wanting any to perish, but there is a time to come when the world will have passed the point of no return. At that point Christ will return, and with His return, hope for the Lost will vanish forever.

How does that make you feel, to know that lost friends, neighbors, even family, may one day be beyond hope? That day isn’t thousands of years off. The day they die is, for them, the day of Christ’s return. At that point, they will stand before Him without hope, already condemned by their sin. You are not responsible for their salvation, every person must make their own decision, but you are responsible for sharing the truth. Even if you have shared Christ with them before, continue to look for opportunities to share with them again. Christ didn’t give up on you, don’t you give up on them. The day is coming.

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)

Your brother and servant in Christ,
Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Reading Plans
Bible Order: 1 John 4 – Jude
Old Testament Only: Habakkuk 1–3
New Testament Only: Revelation 15–16

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