Straining toward what is ahead

One of my goals this semester is to read and reflect on passages from the bible about the “end times”. I haven’t really put much effort into this goal, because I was meant to ask someone about which passages I should read, and I haven’t quite gotten around to that. But God is good, and in three different places, these passages have come up (don’t you love when he does that?), so I shall reflect:

Last night at church, we read 1 Thessalonians 5 and were challenged to live “resurrection lives” in light of the result of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. Paul gives the church instructions and reminders for how they are to live, knowing that Jesus will return “like a thief in the night” (v2). So Christians are to live in the light, not the dark, being “alert and self controlled” (v6) and to “encourage one another and build each other up” (v11). We are to respect those above us in the Lord and care for those who are weak. We are to “be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” (v16-18). And remember that “the one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (v24).

In our Growth Group bible study at uni, we read Matthew 21:1-22:14, which includes many parables about the kingdom of God. One of the themes running through Matthew is the idea of “produce fruit in keeping with repentance”, and in the parable of the tenants, Jesus has a go at the Pharisees who have not been producing fruit as they should. The Pharisees themselves know that the owner of the vineyard “will bring those wretches to a wretched end” and hand the vineyard over to “others who will give his share of the crop at harvest time” (21:41).

The parable of the wedding banquet describes how the invitations went out first to the Jews, then when they rejected the invite, to everyone else, “good and bad” who came to the wedding hall. We were confused when one was thrown out because he was not wearing “wedding clothes” (22:12) – we thought this meant that he was not ready as he should have been.

In my personal bible reading, I’ve been going through Isaiah; today was Isaiah 51-52. I’m starting to understand why some people think the last chunk of Isaiah is written by someone other than Isaiah, because there is a lot of past tense talk about things that hadn’t happened yet, according to the timeline at the beginning of the book (i.e. talking about redemption from exile, in past tense, before they are even exiled). Nevertheless, there are wonderful promises of God’s people being redeemed and saved.

“The law will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.
My righteousness draws near speedily,

my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
The islands will look to me
and wait in hope for my arm.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its in habitants die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.”
– Isaiah 51:4-6

I still need to reflect further on what it means to live in light of Jesus’ return. But at least in the meantime, there are a few things I need to hear and turn to God in: prayer, rejoicing and thankfulness, growing in godliness, listening to his word and caring for others – perhaps this is just what producing fruit is.

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