Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. (Hebrews 1:1–2)
The last days begin with the coming of the Son into the world. We have been living in the last days since the days of Christ — that is, the last days of history as we know it before the final and full establishment of the kingdom of God.
The point for the writer of Hebrews is this: The Word that God spoke by his Son is the decisive Word. It will not be followed in this age by any greater word or replacement word. This is the Word of God — the person of Jesus, the teaching of Jesus, and the work of Jesus.
When I complain that I don’t hear the Word of God, when I feel a desire to hear the voice of God, and get frustrated that he does not speak in ways that I may crave, what am I really saying? Am I really saying that I have exhausted this final decisive Word revealed to me so fully in the New Testament? Have I really exhausted this Word? Has it become so much a part of me that it has shaped my very being and given me life and guidance?
Or have I treated it lightly — skimmed it like a newspaper, dipped in like a taste-tester — and then decided I wanted something different, something more? This is what I fear I am guilty of more than I wish to admit.
God is calling us to hear his final, decisive Word — to meditate on it and study it and memorize it and linger over it and soak in it until it saturates us to the center of our being.
In Hebrew thought “knowledge” means more than information. “Knowledge is seen in fundamentally relational terms. … To know God is to be in a right relationship with him, with characteristics of love, trust, respect, and open communication.” (Fretheim)
Security cannot be found in buildings, locks, or security systems. Security is found in dependence on God.
The Final Chapter
The devil, who deceived [the nations], was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
1 John 5:19
Two researchers in the University of California, San Diego’s psychology department wanted to know: Do people enjoy reading fiction more or less if they know how the story ends? That is, does it help to read the last chapter before starting the newest crime fiction novel? As it turns out, the subjects in the study reported enjoying the story more when they knew up front how the story would end.
That’s good news for Bible readers! We have been given a lengthy story to read with lots of plot twists and surprises along the way. It’s the story of good versus evil and we want to know who wins in the end (1 John 3:8; 5:19). Fortunately, the final chapters—Revelation 19-22—could not be more clear. Christ returns to earth with the armies of heaven and defeats Satan and his legions. He then rules the earth for 1,000 years, banishes Satan forever, and ushers us into everlasting peace and righteousness in the New Jerusalem.
Go ahead—read those four final chapters! They will shine the light of hopeful certainty when the days are dark.
Let’s keep our chins up and our knees down—we’re on the victory side!
The Letter J
But we see Jesus…
Randy Alcorn wrote of the first physician to die of AIDS in the United Kingdom. He was a young Christian who contracted the disease conducting medical research in Zimbabwe. “In the last days of his life he struggled to express himself to his wife. Near the end, he couldn’t talk, and had only enough strength to write the letter J. She ran through her mental dictionary, saying various words beginning with J. None was right. Finally she said, ‘Jesus?’ He nodded. Yes, Jesus. Jesus filled his thoughts. That’s all he wanted to say. That’s all his wife needed to hear.”1
We don’t have all the answers to life, but we have Jesus. Jesus, who existed before the creation of the world. Jesus, who entered human history. Jesus, who died for us. Jesus, who rose from the dead. Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for us. Jesus, who is coming again in power and glory.
Even when we don’t understand the world around us, we have the letter J.
We have Jesus.
(God) offers us profound, moving, and surprising insights that can feed our minds, warm our hearts, and give us the strength to face a world that is not what it once was, or what it one day will be.
1Randy Alcorn, If God Is Good (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2009), 2, 5.
Mark 15 – 16
He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.
The Institute for Economics and Peace released its 2016 Global Peace Index, ranking the nations in terms of safety. Iceland is the most peaceful nation on earth, but 79 countries in the world are less peaceful now than a year ago, with Syria being the most dangerous. Overall, said the report, global levels of peace continue to deteriorate. Deaths from terrorism increased by 80 percent from last year. “Terrorism is also at an all-time high, battle deaths from conflict are at a 25-year high and the number of refugees and displaced people are at a level not seen in sixty years.”1
The course of events is moving toward the Rapture of the church, the Great Tribulation, and the return of Jesus, who will come on His appointed day to judge the world in righteousness. Things will grow worse, but then things will get better. As Hebrews 2:8-9 says: “We do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus….”
Evil purposes cannot overpower God’s goodness, and evil forces cannot escape His judgment. Let’s be strong and await His return.
For the past there is forgiveness; for the present there is divine companionship; for the future there is absolute assurance.
L. Nelson Bell
No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.(Ephesians 5:29–30)
The union between Christ and his bride is so close (“one flesh”) that any good done to her is a good done to himself. The blatant assertion of this text is that this fact motivates the Lord to nourish, cherish, sanctify, and cleanse his bride.
By some definitions, this cannot be love. Love, they say, must be free of self-interest — especially Christlike love, especially Calvary love. I have never seen such a view of love made to square with this passage of Scripture.
Yet what Christ does for his bride, this text plainly calls love: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church . . . ” (Ephesians 5:25). Why not let the text define love for us, instead of bringing our definition from ethics or philosophy? According to this text, love is the pursuit of our joy in the holy joy of the beloved.
There is no way to exclude self-interest from love, for self-interest is not the same as selfishness. Selfishness seeks its own private happiness at the expense of others.
Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved. It will even suffer and die for the beloved in order that its joy might be full in the life and purity of the beloved.
This is how Christ loved us, and this is how he calls us to love one another.
Hoping Versus Knowing
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
1 Thessalonians 5:24
A young girl finishes swim practice at 8:00 p.m. on a dark, winter’s night. Standing in front of the swim club building, she waits for her father who has promised to pick her up by 8:15. By the time all other parents, children, and cars have departed, she stands alone, still waiting. An hour later, she sees her father’s car approaching. After explaining he had to change a flat tire, she says, “That’s okay; I knew you’d come.”
That young girl waited without wavering. There is a difference between waiting while hoping a promise will be kept and waiting while knowing a promise will be kept. Waiting while knowing leads to waiting without wavering. A child learns by experience that a parent is trustworthy. And Christians learn about God’s faithfulness the same way. The difference is thousands of years of experience versus a few years. The Bible is a record of God’s faithfulness to His people over millennia.
If you are waiting on God, wait without wavering. He is never late; He always keeps His promises; He is always true to His Word.
The promises of God are nothing more than God’s covenant to be faithful to His people. It is His character that makes these promises valid.
Mark 12 – 13
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
The reason there is so much misery in marriage is not that husbands and wives seek their own pleasure, but that they do not seek it in the pleasure of their spouses. The biblical mandate to husbands and wives is to seek your own joy in the joy of your spouse.
There is scarcely a more hedonistic passage in the Bible than the one on marriage in Ephesians 5:25–30. Husbands are told to love their wives the way Christ loved the church.
How did he love the church? He “gave himself up for her.” But why? “That he might sanctify” and cleanse her. But why did he want to do that? “That he might present the church to himself in splendor”!
Ah! There it is! “For the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). What joy? The joy of marriage to his bride, the church.
Jesus does not want a dirty and unholy wife. Therefore, he was willing to die to “sanctify and cleanse” his betrothed so he could present to himself a wife “in splendor.” He gained the desire of his heart by giving himself up for the good of his bride.
There are three levels of how to live with things: (1) you can steal to get; (2) or you can work to get; (3) or you can work to get in order to give. (John Piper)
Thus says the LORD: “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done,” says the LORD.
Astronomers estimate the universe to be at least 93 billion light years in diameter—and a light year is six trillion miles. But the universe is expanding. As for the depths of the earth, the deepest part of the ocean is 6.85 miles—and it is nearly 3,959 miles to the center of the earth. So we have barely scratched the surface.
The prophets knew nothing of these numbers. They used the immensity of the universe and the size of the earth as measures of impossibility. When it came to the probability of God going back on His promises to Abraham, Jeremiah said (paraphrasing), “You could measure the universe and depths of the earth before God would go back on His Word. And we know the heavens and the earth cannot be measured.” It turns out that Jeremiah’s pre-scientific analogy was very accurate. Just as there is no end to the universe, so there is no end to God’s loyalty to Israel.
As a follower of Jesus, you are a spiritual child of Abraham. God’s promises of spiritual blessing to Abraham are promises to you as well.
God promises to keep His people, and He will keep His promises.
Charles H. Spurgeon
Mark 10 – 11
There is nothing like hope in the truth to clarify perspective and keep you going. Enduring a painful journey can be done a lot more easily if you embrace truth as your traveling companion. Not only will it give you hope, it will clarify your perspective. Truth reminds us that God is alive and just and good. I say again, wrong will ultimately be judged. Today may seem dark and terribly long, but there will be a bright tomorrow.
There is nothing like a lack of assurance to haunt your steps and make you afraid. Let me put it to you straight: If you are without the Lord Jesus Christ in your life, your steps are marked by uncertainty. And deep into the night when the lights are out and your head is sunk into the pillow, thoughts of your ultimate future will haunt you. Few thoughts are more frightening than not knowing where you will be when you die. If you die without Christ, you're facing a fearful judgment. "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). To have inner peace you need to know without a doubt where you're going.
My wife and I have a commitment regarding giving our money while we're alive. I like the old saying, "Do your givin' while you're livin', then you're knowin' where it's goin'." With that in mind, be sure you're believing right while you're living, then you'll be knowing where you're going. It's scary not knowing where you're going.
Do you really know where you're going? Is your eternal destination guaranteed? Amazingly, Bildad talked to the wrong man and with the wrong motive. He had a strong message, but it was for some other person. Could that person be you? If so, there is reason to be concerned.
To have inner peace you need to know without doubt where you're going after death.
— Charles R. Swindoll