I teach an adult Sunday school class in a small country church. I try to use it to tie scripture to the modern world and show how the Lord's guidance is so important to solving today's problems. The Bible tells us everything that God expects of us and it is usually quite easy to see why we are having so many problems. As a society we often just don't seem to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Recently we've been talking about Billy Graham and his final public address scheduled for next month and the question arose about his planned subject. Mr. Graham plans to talk about what America and Americans need to do to get themselves "right" with Jesus, for he surmises that the period of strife and tribulation which is forecast in the Bible must be near at hand. And it is important that we Christians get "right" with Jesus because since we don't know the date and time of His return waiting until then will be too late.
Mr. Graham wants each of us to be a Matthew, who before being saved was a tax collector, a category of people that was hated and despised by many. Even back then, nobody liked a tax collector. But after committing to Jesus, Matthew opened his home to Jesus and used it as a place for gathering many of his old friends and associates and expose them to the Word of God, the love of The Son and the forgiveness of their sins. And this is what Mr. Graham wants us to do as part of his final public ministry to us on his ninety-fifth birthday. He wants us to bring people together, especially those who don't know Him and present His message in an informal and friendly atmosphere.
As I thought about the mission of Matthew and his relationship with Jesus, I turned to the Gospel carrying his name and re-read the chapters covering the final week of Christ's life on earth as a mortal man. Following his triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his teaching in the Temple, as he left the ornate facility accompanied by the Disciples he uttered the words in the opening scripture above. These words puzzled the Disciples and they wanted to know when the destruction of the Temple would happen and what would be the sign of His impending return after His death.
The result was a teaching session with the Disciples which is frequently called the Olivet Discourse. Jesus led his Followers to the Mount of Olives where he responded to their question. His words told of the Tribulation, a period of hardship, pain and suffering that would precede his return and during which those who remained loyal to Him would be severely tested. He told a number of parables to highlight what was expected of believers awaiting Him and indicated there would also be many false prophets claiming to be the One. Jesus' believers would have to be firm in their faith and not give in to the temptation of finding an easy way out of an agonizing period. Many would die, many would be tortured, but for those who remained true to and loving for Him to the end the Kingdom of God was alive for them.
And there was one other thing he made clear and left no doubt about. He said that when he did return, all would realize that He was the True Messiah. He would come quickly, unannounced ahead of time, and even the non-believers would realize that they had been wrong. For those who remained true, Heaven awaited. For the others, eternal damnation would be in order.
As I read the Scripture it certainly brought our current world events to the forefront of my thought. Continual strife and unbelievable torture and terrorism are ever increasing around the world. Christianity seems to be under dramatic assault, not only around the world but increasingly so here in America. Israel, the land of God's chosen people, is constantly threatened with annihilation by her fanatical neighbors, and governance seems to be beset with constant chaos and anger and meanness with the result being an inability to reach reasonable decisions, thereby causing great harm to social order and the citizenry. And I think that it is time for each of us to get our houses in order, to get our heart tuned in to God, for while this may or may not be the lead up to the Tribulation, we must always be ready. Keep your faith strong, keep your heart open always to God and His son, and allow the Holy Spirit to infect your soul and keep you true.
God bless each of you. Take care out there and never forget to pray for peace, comfort and salvation. This is an individual issue but by associating with believers of like mind and working to change others to see the Light, the final outcome will be a glorious victory in Christ. And it's all because of the pain, suffering and death that he endured just for us. Hallelujah!