March 17th 2019: Alan Davison

Alan Davison-March19Luke 21:28

The Aramaic word ‘maranatha’ occurs only once in the Bible. The Greek version, ‘parousia’ means ‘coming’ or ‘presence,’ In Biblical times it refers to the coming of Jesus, His Advent. ‘If anyone has no love for the lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16:22) Maranatha should mean the same for us as the original citizens in the first century A.D. Revelation 22:20 and the two letters of Thessalonians both refer to the second coming of the Lord. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament which refer to the Second Coming, and 380 references to the Lord coming again.

We can be certain Jesus will come again. 

This morning, we will look at what Jesus says about His return.

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near’ (Luke 21:28).

‘When these things begin to happen.’
Note the emphasis in the previous verse, ‘Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory’ (Luke 21:27). There is a contrast to verse 8, ‘And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them’ (Luke 21:8). It is clear that when someone has to tell us he is the Messiah, clearly he is not! Everyone will see the Messiah return. ‘Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen (Revelation 1:7).

Every day we are alive on earth brings us a day closer to Jesus’ return. As believers, we can look forward to this.

‘Look up.’
It seems simple enough but it is something we struggle with. Something happens to us and our initial reaction is to look around for solutions when we should look up! We should pray without ceasing, live our lives in a prayerful fashion. It should impact how we live our lives. Jesus is encouraging us to keep our eyes on God. It we retain focus on Him, He will do great things in our lives. Our Lord’s return needs to sustain us in our present circumstances. We need to be faithful to the Lord to the very end.

There have been many in the past and today, who have considered the coming of Jesus to be imminent. Rather, what we should do is live with the thought that the coming of Jesus may be imminent. Jesus tells us these things because they are to have a bearing on our present activity. Look up and be prepared.

‘Lift up your heads.’
This is not quite the same as just looking up. Christ does not want us to be inactive as we wait for His second coming. We often face spiritual battles. Ephesians speaks of the armour of God with good reason. God provides us with spiritual armour. He is not only in the front-line with us. To take up the armour of God is to identify with Jesus. To be called a Christian is to accept we will be identified with Christ. Many will seek to persecute us.

Our human nature wants to obtain our own salvation, but salvation only happens when we yield to Christ. It is nothing of ourselves. We should be unashamed of the gospel. We are to stand on the truth and for the truth. Jesus declares persecution will turn out as an occasion for testimony (Luke 21:13).

Another aspect to lifting our heads is our need to be aware of what is happening around us, lest we be taken by the wiles of Satan. We need to search the scriptures daily. Look up to God and His Word, lift up our heads, God has work for us to do.

‘Because your redemption draws near.’
Jesus clearly speaks to believers. While Jesus has already paid the price of our sins and redeemed us, in order to be fit for heaven we need to be more like Jesus. ‘For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself’ (Philippians 20-21). Be expectant for the Lord’s return. We are free of the power of sin. On that day, when we are finally transformed, we will know we are beyond all sin.

Watch and pray (Luke 21:36). Look forward to that great day. We have a general concern for those who don’t yet believe, and also a specific concern for close family and friends who are not Christians. If they remain in that state they will truly know what fear is when Jesus returns (Luke 21:26). This is the end for those who do not believe in God. Yet contrast this with believers who are to watch and pray always, looking up to God.

We are also to look forward to His coming. In this way we will be counted worthy because Jesus has clothes us with righteousness (Luke 21:36). It will be a great day, redemption completed!

July 22nd 2017: Alan Davison

alan davision - july 20171 Thessalonians 1: 9-10

1 Thessalonians is generally considered to be one of the first epistles written by Paul. Thessalonica was an important port city, strategically places by the Aegean Sea, therefore a very good trade route. Paul recognised this made the city a very good place to spread the gospel. In Acts 17: 1-9 we read that initially Paul’s message was well received but after three weeks this changed. The frustrations of the people were taken out on Jason, one of the first converts. In the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians Paul continued to think of the Thessalonians with thanks. Their reputation needed no defending. ‘For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.’ (1 Thessalonians 1: 8). The Thessalonians had made good progress in the faith.

What can we learn from the Thessalonians?

First, they turned to God from idols, ‘you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:9). This is a picture of repentance.

Secondly, the turned away from idols. This tells us they were likely to have been Gentiles. In Greek culture, the twelve main gods were set in gorges in Mount Olympus. Each of the gods would have had a temple. People would have looked to Mount Olympus and would have been reminded of these gods. But the Thessalonians ‘turned away’ from their idols. Every family would have had their own personal idol, something that had been important to them in their past, but now they had turned away from these.

In our society today there are many idols, such as love of money. The Thessalonians had not only turned away from their idols but they had turned to God. They replaced idol worship with worship of the one true God. They had a purpose in their lives. We too need to have a purpose in our lives, a focus for our existence. Following true conversion the Thessalonians acted differently. They found real life comes from the God of the Bible.

The Thessalonians served a living, true God. Slavery was common practice of the day. However, this was not slavery as we think of today. In Greek culture, slaves were cared for by their owners. The slaves did the menial tasks but there was a reciprocal relationship. At the end of their period of service a slave could opt to remain in their master’s service. Whole-hearted service was to serve a master who was so good the slave would want to remain with him. We are in service to a Master who really cares. Ownership came at a great price – Christ’s death for us as He set aside His glory. God’s justice had to be met. Once we are His we are always His. We can never pay back the price. ‘And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.’ (John 10: 28-29).

There are two descriptions of God:  ‘you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:9). The people serve a living God. This is in contrast to the inanimate idols. We have a relationship with God which deepens over time. Scripture tells us Jesus is the only way we can obtain access to God. We can come to God in different ways; some have a sudden experience, like Paul on the road to Damascus, others have a gradual awareness, like Timothy. We each have an individual relationship with God.

God is also described as ‘true.’ The idols were false gods. Our God is eager to help. It is a liberating experience.

‘Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; oh deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!’ (Psalm 47:1) The Psalmist is being taunted and slandered by his enemies but his plea comes in verse 3: ‘Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle.’ By appealing to God’s truth, the Psalmist is vindicated. No matter what accusations Satan throws at us, Jesus Christ’s blood vindicates us.

The Thessalonians had a desire to serve God. There’s an internal change. They waited. Doesn’t that grate on our human nature? They waited – not sitting idly around, but waiting expectantly for the return of Jesus Christ. ‘For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). The term ‘wait’ comes from the Greek ‘perusia,’ awaiting a royal visit. There is great debate about what form the second coming will take. There are even suggestions what some American airlines will not allow two Christian pilots to fly together in case the rapture occurs. Whatever one believes, what is clear is that Christ will return and Christians should eagerly await His return, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus!’ (Revelation 22:20).

The second coming also brings with it judgement. We will be judged by what we have done in Jesus’ service (Matthew 25:21). No-one knows when Jesus will return, ‘But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.’ (Mark 13: 32). We need to live our lives as if Christ would come today, always looking to do God’s Will in our lives, which Wayne Grudem refers to as ‘responsible egesis.’

We know there is a day coming when Jesus will return. Accept the Lord Jesus as your Saviour. ‘Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.’ (Luke 21:28). The Thessalonians were going about the Lord’s business as if He would return at any moment. We should be living as if Jesus is on the point of returning now.

The Thessalonians turned from idols to God, they repented of their sins and looked to the living God. They sought to serve God whole-heartedly. Critically, they lived their lives in the knowledge that Jesus will return again. On that day Christians will be protected from God’s wrath. We need to know Jesus will most certainly return again. Let us all echo the closing prayer of Revelation, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus!’ (Revelation 22:20).

Revelation 22-20