First I was thinking about when He first left. Remember the scene? He was standing on the Mount of Olives and talking to His followers. It's covered in several different places so we have a couple of different views, but here are two different things that He said to them just before He left:
Matthew 28:19–20 (NIV) — Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Acts 1:6–11 (NIV) — So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Can you imagine what was going on in their minds at that time? We know from the Gospels that the disciples assumed that Jesus would be starting His Kingdom very soon. As of this time, they had no idea that another whole age would pass before that would happen. I've tried to put myself in their shoes and can only imagine what they must have been feeling then. Here they've walked with the Lord for 3 years learning from Him; and what they learned in 3 years takes many of us a lifetime! Then He dies and they're crushed, but then He rises from the dead and they're thrilled! He again walks with them for another 40 days, though not constantly apparently....popping in to teach them or encourage them when they needed it, and finally toward the end (though they don't know it) He tells them to meet Him on the Mount of Olives. So they all gather there...none knowing what He's going to do or say this time. I'm sure that at least some of them thought THIS would be the momentous day that the Lord would begin His Kingdom and they were probably more excited then we can imagine thinking of it. When He didn't, and the meeting seemed to be winding to a close, they couldn't stand it anymore and asked Him about it.
Instead of telling them when it will happen, He tells them basically that it's none of their business and that they should instead concentrate of the job He's given them. He also gives them a tiny hint, that He will be with them always, even to the end of the Age. I bet they all thought about every word He said, many times over the years, trying to figure out when He'd return and when the Kingdom would start. I know I would have been! And then He was gone again, only this time to Heaven! What a roller coaster their emotions were on for those last couple of months!
Bek has read the books in the Mark of the Lion trilogy that starts with A Voice in The Wind so I know she's aware of how the early Christians, including the apostles, thought that the Lord would return for them literally any time, any day. One of the many things I liked about those books was that they showed what it would look like if Christians lived as though they really thought He might return at any moment. That was very revealing and convicting! Remember, these people had seen Jesus die, come back to life and then pop in and out of their lives at the drop of a hat, through locked doors even, for the next 40 days, so it wasn't a stretch at all for them to think He'd return yet again for them at any moment. As Bek can attest, I'm quite sure that the Christians of that time, lived quite differently then we do, and one of the big reasons they did was because they thought He'd be coming back at any moment.
I remember at first when reading that book and realizing the ramifications of it all, I felt like it was kind of mean of Jesus to lead them on that way and not let them know that it wouldn't be in their life time. But the more I read of the book, and of course the more I read His Word at the same time, I realized that instead of being mean, He was actually being loving.
It reminds me of when I was a child and would do something wrong... I'd immediately look around quickly to see if my Mom or especially if my Dad was around cause if they were, I knew I was really gonna get it, and I'd immediately apologize; and when I knew they were home and could walk in my room at any moment, I was careful not to do do or say anything that they'd disapprove of. If another child started to do something we weren't supposed to, I'd quickly tell them not to because my Mom or Dad would catch us. I guess because I was obviously so sure that we'd be caught, they'd believe me and stop.
This is how the early Christians lived. They didn't "believe" He was coming back soon. They KNEW He was coming back soon! That complete and total assurance they had that He would be back any time, colored everything they said and did. They figured that they might have days at most to clean up their lives and live the way He told them too and to learn all they needed to learn, so they didn't put anything off. When they sinned, they dealt with it. When someone told them they'd sinned, they blessed that person and rejoiced because now they could confess it and repent of it before the Lord returned! When they were tempted to sin, within seconds they'd remember that He'd be returning any moment and what if they were sinning when He did??? They were horrified at that thought so temptation didn't have the pull it does on those who don't know He could be here at any moment. When they were horribly persecuted, and when they went through severe trials, they could sincerely rejoice because they KNEW it wouldn't be long and Jesus would return and everything they went through till then would be repaid to them 100 times over when He did! So they knew exactly what Paul and Peter meant when they said to "Rejoice in the Lord always" Philippians 4:4 and that they should "rejoice even though "for now" they're going through trials and suffering".
1 Peter 1:6–9 (NIV) — In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Everything they did and said was colored by their knowledge that their Lord would be returning shortly and that got them through the good times and the horrible times of being martyred even. It helped them overcome temptation, it increased their faith and helped them be obedient to the Lord's commands. It helped them to discipline themselves for godliness because they knew that time was short and it helped them tell others, warn others, because again, they knew there wasn't much time. So the Lord wasn't mean to let them think that, He was being kind and loving and because they thought that, they lived their lives in such a way that their lives were testimonies to Him and a guide for us as to how we should live. (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17;)
I honestly believe that this is the main reason the Lord doesn't want us to know exactly when the rapture will happen. I don't think He's pleased when we try and figure it out and say things like "it can't happen for another 20 years" or whatever. When someone really believes that, they're not going to live as though it could happen today and that's the problem. He wants us to KNOW that it will happen, to see the signs and KNOW it will happen SOON, and so live our lives in such a way that reflects that knowledge. Interestingly, in many ways the Church has come full circle and we are now back in very much the same situation that the early Christians were in, and this is yet another way we've come full circle. I know that I constantly feel the pressure of knowing that the Lord will return soon and that it could be any moment, and I'm quite sure that at least some others do as well. That's why I'm always begging people to study their bibles, to admit their sins, to reconcile, to love, to help others, etc, because there really isn't much time left. I honestly don't just believe that. I feel that deep in my soul and Know that with my entire being. It's like I can hear that clock ticking and I'm just waiting to hear His call.
I heard a song the other day that said exactly what I feel. It said the signs were happening all around us all the time but that they weren't looking for signs anymore; instead, because they knew the Lord would be returning soon, they were listening for His call. That's what I'm doing too. There really isn't much time left and I desperately want everyone I know, and myself too, to not just be ready, but to be at their best when He returns! Honestly, everything I say is colored by that, so if you ever wonder why I've posted something, that's the reason.
Heavenly Father, I pray that the truth & power of the scriptures will be revealed in each of our lives, & that Your Word will penetrate deeply into each of our lives, making us each ready & fit for the coming of our Lord Jesus. I pray that we will be continually controlled by the life-transforming knowledge of Your will, which the Holy Spirit imparts as we prayerfully study and reflect on Your Word. I pray also that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which You have called us and live lives worthy of Your calling. In the Name of our great Savior, Jesus, I pray. Amen
(originally written a couple of years ago)