The Agora
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Loving his appearing

The Bible refers to two very different sorts of people:

(1) those who love Christ's appearing:
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2Ti 4: 8)
... and

(2) those who love this present world:
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1Jo 2:15).
It is a simple fact that every knowledgeable, responsible adult falls into one of these two categories. For each of us, it is an "either-or" situation: Either we love Christ and eagerly look for his Coming, or we love this present evil world.

It is true that one's love for the world may be expressed in various ways: one may go in for the "high life", or one may be generally sober-minded, hard-working, and a "good citizen". And there are a myriad of other variations on the theme "lover of this world" -- but they all come down to the same thing in the end. It really does not matter by which of the many available paths a man becomes lost in the "wilderness" -- the only thing that does matter is that he has missed the one path that leads to the Kingdom of God.

But the most deceptive of the ways, or "paths", by which man demonstrates his love for this world is... the pseudo-religious path. To walk in this way, a man may speak highly of Christ and his Coming. He may thus fool others (and he may even fool himself) into believing that he loves Christ's appearing, when what he really loves is talking about it!

How can we tell if we fall into this special sub-category of "lovers of this world"? If we are indeed fooling ourselves, then the time to discover that unpleasant truth is now, while we can still confess our sin, and return to our first love.

The Bible can help us answer this question, by directing our attention to a similar class of people in earlier times. These were Jews who lived many years ago, even before the first coming of Jesus. Like many professing believers today, these Jews attached a great deal of importance to the coming of their Messiah. Their prophets had taught them to look forward to the Messiah's coming, and this expectation had become a central feature of their religion.

Yet God instructed Amos to write:
"Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD!"
-- Why?...

"For what end is it [ie, will it be] for you? the day of the LORD is [ie, will be] darkness, and not light" (5:18).

And Malachi wrote:
"The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?" (Mal 3:1,2).
Unfolding events justified the stern warnings of the prophets. When God's Son did appear in Israel, many Jews -- including most of the really "religious" Jews -- were still unprepared. The circumstances of the Lord's coming were dramatically different from what they had expected. And the Messiah who appeared was radically different from the "Messiah" they had come to expect. And so they actually hated him and rejected him, bringing condemnation upon themselves.

Why were the people of Israel not prepared? What went wrong? Let Paul explain:
"For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him" (Acts 13:27).
"They knew him not!" They did not recognize the One for whom they and their forefathers had been looking for hundreds of years. And this, despite the fact that they did read the Old Testament Scriptures about him "every sabbath day".

They would have read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 time after time, but they gained nothing from their reading. Because their minds were filled with their own ideas about the coming Deliverer, they were not open to receive the truths revealed in those Bible passages. They could not receive the teaching that their Saviour would be despised and suffer -- they read but they did not understand; and, ironically, they became the very people who despised him and caused him to suffer. And so they fulfilled these scriptures to their own confusion.

These "religious" Jews read their Bibles as a solemn duty, a ritual performed most regularly and carefully. Probably the mere physical exercise of reading the words made them feel good. But, sadly, it was all a deception and a snare. They did not read to gain instruction: they thought they knew all the answers already. And because they regarded themselves as a holy people, full of wisdom and knowledge, they were altogether unaware of how unreceptive they were. Those truths they did not like, the truths which would have prepared them to receive their Messiah when he appeared, were automatically rejected.

Do we know men like this? Is it just possible that we, today, are shutting our minds to unpleasant or difficult truths when we read our Bibles? We should face the possibility that our mental picture of the coming Christ, and our ideas about the events related to his appearing, may be shaped at least in part by human prejudice. And it is just possible that our prejudiced acceptance of certain traditions, and our prejudiced rejection of certain Bible teachings, may be as dangerous to our spiritual well-being as the similar prejudices of earlier generation in Israel were to theirs.

How can we know if this is true of us? The only proper answer is this: Those who truly love Christ's appearing (as distinct from those who love to talk about it, and those who love to have others think they love it) will always read their Bibles with open minds, and will always be willing to be taught further from its pages, especially as regards its prophecies of the Messiah's Coming!

How amazing that some of those who, in other settings, readily approve of the principle that the Bible must be the ultimate authority, seem to forget that this principle also applies to the Bible's prophecies about the Last Days.

Past Bible students have sounded out similar warnings against a "comfortable", "traditional" reading of the Bible:
"All writers and speakers must be unceremoniously tried by this [the Word of God]; for, God hath said, that 'if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them'. It matters not who the sinner may be; pope, cardinal, archbishop, bishop, minister, or their admirers; or, even one of the saints of God, or an angel himself; nothing he may say, or write, must be received unless in strict conformity to this word; and of this the people must judge for themselves upon their own responsibility; and in the face of their eternal weal [well-being], or rejection from the Kingdom of God. To this Book [the Bible], then, we appeal for light -- for information concerning the things which shall be hereafter" (John Thomas, Elpis Israel, 1847, p 170).
These words, written over 140 years ago, are powerful reminders of what must be the measure of our prophetic understanding and the direction of our lives: for Christ is coming soon!

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