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Holy Week Devotion - Saturday - Pastor Rex

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Because He Lives, Jesus Is Coming Again

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

I remember preparing for my first sermon. I had studied and studied Matthew 24–25, The Olivet Discourse of Jesus. At that time, I was employed by Praises Christian Books & Gifts. One day while working, the owner—a dear friend and mentor —asked me, “What do you plan to preach on?” I replied, “Matthew 24, do you have any advice?” He responded, “Yeah . . . don’t preach on Matthew 24!” His caution was correct! An untrained, green, first-time preaching, preacher-boy had no business swimming in the deep end of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse. The most seasoned scholars have had a difficult time interpreting Jesus’ magnum opus on end times prophecy. 

Now in my seventeenth year of pastoral ministry and ninth year of theological training, I hope (with still some hesitation) that I can accurately convey Christ’s meaning. In the passage above, the disciples asked three questions in one: (1) When will these things be? (2) What will be the sign of your coming? (3) What will be the sign of the end of the age? One of the difficulties of interpretation is the little word “and” that separates each question. The word can serve as a marker of connection, or it can serve as a marker indicating no connection, but addition (e.g., “also”). I follow the latter understanding between the first question and the next two questions. That is to say, Jesus’ statement about the destruction of the temple in verse two prompted their first question (“when will these things be?”), but also additional questions, “also what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The second and third questions are connected or coordinated not only by the word “and” but also by both sharing the interrogative “what?” and by sharing the verb “will be.” 

The first question seeks the “when” of what Jesus mentioned in verse two—the destruction of the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus never answers this question, at least not directly. In verse 4–8, he is concerned about the disciples being led astray by false christs. He assured them that they will hear of wars, international conflicts, and diverse calamities in various places. These things are not the end; rather, he calls them “the beginning of birth pains.” He tells them not to be alarmed or disturbed by these things. Perhaps, it was during this “beginning of birth pains” that the Herodian Temple was destroyed by Imperator Titus in 70 AD

At this point, Jesus turned his focus toward the globe, toward all peoples, and toward answering the coordinated second and third questions asked by his disciples. I believe the rest of Matthew 24–25 focuses on “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The disciples’ additional questions are understandable—If the temple were to be destroyed, then what will be the sign of the advent of Messianic glory and of the completion of the age of earthly kingdoms? To answer these related questions, we’ll need to look closely at the terms “the sign,” “coming,” and “end.”

First, “the sign” is mentioned at 24:24, 30. In verse 24, Jesus warned of false christs and false prophets deceptive, yet wondrous signs and wonders. In verse 30, “the sign” is “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” At this, notice that “all the tribes of the earth will mourn.” Specifically, “the clouds of heaven” are “the sign”; they are the vehicle on which Christ will descend at his second coming. All celestial lights will fade as a backdrop against which Christ will descend from heaven to earth in the brilliant radiance of his glory.

Second, “coming” is the Greek term parousia. This has become something of a technical term in the New Testament attached to the specific second coming of Christ. In the Olivet Discourse, it is used in 24:27, 37, 39. In verse 27, the second coming of the Son of Man is contrasted to the secrecy or the hiddenness of the false christs (v. 26). The parousia of Christ will be plain and obvious, not hidden or secret. Jesus illustrated this with the image of vultures gathering in the air over a corpse (v. 28). In verses 37 and 39, the second coming of Christ remains without a revealed time or date and therefore sudden. It hangs over the world, as did God’s warning in the days of Noah. In verses 40–44, Jesus illustrated his second coming with the sudden and unanticipated break-in by a thief. The language of “one taken and one left” is not language about the rapture of the church; rather, it is connected to the second coming—one will be taken to judgment, one will be left to enter the kingdom (see also 25:31–46). Therefore, Jesus called his disciples to readiness.

Thirdly, “end” is translated from two words, both of which refer to the completion of a duration or period of time. Paired with the term “age,” it speaks here about the end of the age of earthly kingdoms, coinciding with the earthly advent of the Messiah’s kingdom. The terms for “end” are found in Matthew 13:39–40, 49; 24:6, 13–14; 28:20. In chapter 13, the end is the time when the angels will be commissioned with separating the wicked from the righteous. In 24:6, the end is not associated with “any old war.” This isn’t a local conflict, but a global experience. For the believing community, this end is our finish line (24:13), so persevere in faith, hope, and love. Further, this end will not come until the good news of the kingdom is proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to every people group. Here, Jesus connected global evangelization with his second coming and the completion of the age of earthly kingdoms. “All nations” lacks descriptiveness. “People groups,” which can be many in a single nation, is a better translation. Lastly, in 28:20, after Jesus commissioned the eleven disciples to make disciples in every people group, he promised to be with them “to the end of the age.” 

Before concluding, one particularly troublesome verse in the Olivet Discourse is 24:34, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” This has led many to believe that all of what Jesus said in Matthew 24–25 must have been fulfilled in 70 AD when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus. However, as we have seen, Jesus’ prophetic sermon entails too grand a vision to be contained in another local Jerusalem temple destruction by yet another nation. So, we may ask, is there another way to understand what Jesus meant by “this generation”? There is. Matthew recorded Jesus using it elsewhere, for example, in 12:39, 16:4, and 17:17, where “generation” refers to a trans-temporal quality or kind of generation, an evil, faithless, sign-seeking, adulterous, and twisted kind of generation (cf. Num. 32:13; Deut. 32:5). While this is a plausible interpretation, I don’t think the qualitative generation is what Jesus had in mind. His use of “this” with “generation” specifies, but the specific generation isn’t necessarily the generation to which the disciples belonged. The note in the NET Bible gets it right here: it’s “the generation that sees the signs of the end . . . once the movement toward the return of Christ begins all the events connected with it will happen quickly, in rapid succession.” Therefore, “this generation” refers to whatever specific generation experiences the sign of his coming (i.e., Jesus coming in the clouds) and of the end of the age (i.e., the end of earthly kingdoms coinciding with the earthly reign of Messiah). Since we purposely do not know when this will happen, this is applicable to every generation, as a call to readiness for the Lord’ return.

So this Easter, let’s remember that the resurrection of Jesus Christ means that he is poised to come again. Let us be ready, alert, and eagerly loving the Lord’s return. Additionally, let us make disciples of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than play at guessing games regarding the Lord’s return. For faithfulness in our stewardship of the gospel will make us ready for Christ’s coming. Remember Jesus’ words to his disciples prior to his ascension: So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6–8).

Posted by Rex Howe

Holy Week Devotion - Joel Meyer

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Because Jesus rose, believer’s lives are powerfully changed.

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
- Philipians 3:7-11 (ESV, emphasis added)

What is the power of Jesus’ resurrection?

The Bible tells of a deeply religious man who lived righteously from his youth. He was born into a God fearing family; he studied the law and devoted his life to it. He became a leader of his people - a respected scholar who knew the Law and defended it passionately. His behavior was beyond reproach. By all standards of the day, he was a good man.

Somehow, though, this good man found himself watching the murder of another man and applauding it. He went from town to town throwing his countrymen in prison and disrupting families. This man was Saul, and this man demonstrated the power of religion. We heard about that same power at work in the Sanhedrin when Pastor Rex preached on Sunday - the power that led them to react with indignation at the wondrous deeds of Jesus. That’s the power of religion, of man-made attempts to save ourselves apart from God: it is no power at all. Those of us who try the power of religion find it enslaves us further, or we end up rejecting it as powerless to bring real change, real freedom.

If you read the start of Philipians 3, you’ll see that Paul is contrasting his old religious ways with the power of Jesus’ resurrection. His conclusion? “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss” (v7). By this point Paul was a changed man, symbolized by his new name. What happened?

Paul encountered the risen Christ. Through that experience he learned something: Jesus did what Paul never could. Jesus lived the perfect life - inwardly and outwardly - and then died to take the punishment for our sins. In His resurrection he proved that the payment was complete and that He had power over sin and death. Paul no longer had to strive to earn his righteousness. Neither do you.

The amazing thing is that the change we so often try to find in religion begins to happen in us when we place our faith in Christ’s completed work on the cross. The Holy Spirit does what we can’t as he sanctifies us.

When we recognize that our only hope is the work of Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection from the dead our lives can be powerfully changed. Your punishment was taken by him, His perfect righteousness was given to you. There is nothing you have to do other than accept this by faith. In this way you identify the power of the resurrection in your own life which makes you dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11). Count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus your Lord (Phil 3:8), and you will see that He powerfully changes your life!

Holy Week Devotion - Rob Scott

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Because Jesus Rose Again, He Alone Is Our Great High Priest

Hebrews 4:14-16
…”Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

Note:  Before Jesus can be our great High Priest and fulfill that ministry in our lives, we must first be saved.  Our salvation is a pre-requisite to the ministry of His priesthood.  

Question:  Are you saved? (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 4:12; John 3:16)

The high priestly ministry of Jesus in the believer’s life has a double aspect:  that of Advocate and Intercessor.  I John 2:1 states that Jesus Christ, the Righteous, is our advocate with the Father.  Hebrews 7:25 states that Jesus is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him (Intercessor).

Jesus became our great High Priest by the power of a life that could not be destroyed.  God, the Father, through an oath to the Lord Jesus said, “You are a priest forever and your priesthood lasts forever.”  (read carefully Hebrews 6:16-20)

What does all of this mean practically for the believer today?

  1. Those who are saved have a great High Priest, Jesus, the risen Christ, who has saved us completely, to the uttermost, forever.  Nothing can destroy our salvation or separate us from the love of God. Jesus, by the power of the resurrection, maintains our salvation.
  2. Jesus completely understands one can better identify with our personalities, weaknesses, sin, struggles, temptations, etc.  Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves.
  3. Because of all Jesus accomplished through his resurrection and his ascension to the Father’s right hand, we have all access, anytime, any place, any situation life throws at us to come to him boldly with confidence to obtain mercy and grace knowing we have Jesus, the great High Priest who intercedes and pleads for us to God, our Father.

He is Risen and serves as our great High Priest!

Rob Scott
Director of WLC Youth Ministries