Looking for blessed hope
Looking for the blessed hope
Looking for the blessed hope
24 May 2009 – Philip Lawrence, Nottingham Jarvis Road Ecclesia, England
Readings: Joshua 10, Isaiah 14, 1 Timothy 6 Reading from 2 Timothy and Paul’s wonderful vision of glory. “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing”. 2 Timothy 4:8 (ESV). It is impossible to read this verse without our conscience prompting us to ask; do I love his appearing? Is this my deepest desire, my most fervent wish, that I should see the Lord Jesus at his return? It is good to reflect on why, in our busy lives, we do not focus on the return as perhaps we should.
When we do consider the return, it may be that we do so with fear and apprehension of the judgement and cannot truly say that we “love” his appearing.
The return will certainly be a traumatic and tremendous day. Not only shall “every eye shall see him and they also which pierced him” as this flash of “lightning comes out of the east and shines to the west” when the “Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father and with his angels” and “sit on the throne of his glory”; but the dead shall be raised, our loved ones brought back to life.
And so will begin the process of recreation so that there is a “new heaven and new earth wherein dwells righteousness”, in which there is no sin or corruption.
But do we now truly love his appearing? How does the thought of being met by an angel and taken through the air to meet the Lord make us feel?
John reminds us “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2. We shall see our Lord and Saviour, the one who “is our life”, have the opportunity to met and fall down before the one who laid down his life for us. Even more wonderful than this, we shall know him and we shall be like him. He shall “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body”
When writing to Titus, Paul encourages him to be “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ”, Titus 2:13.
The English here or in the AV “looking for” does not do the sense justice. In the Greek it is literally “towards receiving”; not a normal expression but one we readily understand. We are to receive something and we are moving towards this point when we shall receive it. We are making progress. It is more than a casual glance every now and again but not a constant looking up into the heavens that prevents us from going about our life; neither is it sitting down to wait.
Paul is conveying a sense of anticipation, expectation and excitement; one in which we shall “look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” in expectant anticipation.
Last year, if the 2.4 million people in Burma had anticipated the cyclone, they would have been able to prepare, move in land and stockpile food and water. If the parents in Sichuan province of China had anticipated the earthquake and foreseen the consequences of collapsed buildings, would they have sent their children to school?
We know that the return will be preceded by and accompanied with terrifying events.
Luke 21:11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. Micah 1:4 And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. 2 Peter 3:10 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.
We are towards receiving the return of the Lord Jesus, but does it frame the way we live our lives? Paul writing in Romans says: “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed”. Romans 13:11.
There is very clearly a passing of time and the event of receiving is growing closer not moving away, becoming more likely not less. So wake up, do not lose sight of your hope for your salvation is nearer. The time is not open ended, there is only a limited opportunity to serve the Lord, and the time of our probation will come to an end.
As the Israelites lived before the first Passover, so should we. Eating with belts on waists, sandals on feet, staffs in hand, clothed and packed. The blood had already been dabbed over the door and they were ready and waiting for midnight, anticipating the great cry that would go up over the whole land.
But it is difficult to maintain a sense of anticipation and excitement. It is not like the Passover when they knew it was midnight. Every generation since has wondered “when?” as they looked for their redemption, be it for the Israelites at Passover year in year out, or us remembering week by week the One you gave himself for us.
The Lord allows earthquakes in divers places, famines, disease, and anniversaries of the seminal return of Israel to the land to come and go. We rekindle our hope, remind ourselves of his grace and know that we are “towards receiving”. So we go from anticipation to excitement to disappointment to waiting again.
Such is the life of a disciple in Christ. But it is better to be disappointed than lethargic and lukewarm.
The gospels record some who were towards receiving (looking for) the first coming of Jesus “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared”. Simeon was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and knew that he would see the Lord Jesus before he died. He was certain and confident in his waiting. Anna did not depart from the temple, fasted and prayed night and day, saw the Lord and spoke to all those who were towards receiving redemption. Joseph of Arimathea was waiting for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Do you see what anticipation can drive us to do? Just and devout, night and day in prayer, giving up everything for your Lord. It is good for our hopes to be disappointed from time to time so that we may rediscover our excitement later.
So this exhortation is really asking you to let the anticipation of the return bring a balance to your life, make your long term decisions, but always be ready for the day when they will become meaningless.
Paul continues to Titus: “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
We remember now the Lord Jesus, indeed our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice has already dabbed blood on the doors to our house, who has already purified us for his possession so that we can zealously serve him as we live towards receiving the greatest day of our lives. A day when we shall meet him, be changed to be like him and shall fully be to the praise of his glory.
Giving preference to the Word of God instead of the word of people and traditions.