The Framework of History (6)
“…the harvest is the end of the age…” Matthew 13.39
The great advantage of living within a Christian framework of history is that we know the end from the beginning. Our Lord has revealed to us not only what the outcome of history will be, but what comes after that, and what we can expect of the course of history toward that “end of the age.”
And He counsels us to understand the times and where they’re heading, and to conduct our lives in the present as people who are already living as if that new epoch is already coming on earth as it is in heaven. As Peter put it, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation…”
The day is coming when the Lord will return to gather His Kingdom harvest and take it to be with Him forever in glory. Then the weeds of unbelief, rebellion, small thinking, sinfulness, and all forms of under-the-sun living will be trampled underfoot; and every unrepentant sinner, will, first, bow and acknowledge the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2.5-11), but then be cast into the eternal fires and torment of separation from God.
And the truly tragic part of that end of the age scenario, is that they will go into eternal separation from God, not pleading for mercy, but cursing God, insisting on their rights, and receiving only what they have all their lives desired, and therefore justly deserve.
The Lord looking ahead
What does the Lord expect to find when He comes? A weed field, populated here and there by pockets of trembling wheat, sheltering against the onslaught of evil and pleading for the Lord’s return? Hardly.
The field of the world is to be sown throughout with the good seed of the Kingdom, and the Lord of the harvest expects that field to be radiant with fruitful stalks, overcomers in the struggle against evil who have reached their maturity, are producing much fruit, and who bow in the Spirit’s refreshing breezes, in joyous expectation of the coming of their King. Jesus commands us to lift up our eyes, and see that the harvest is plentiful, though the laborers are few (Jn. 4.35; Matt. 9.36-38).
The Christian movement has grown steadily and increasingly, like a growing stone, for 2,000 years (Dan. 2.44, 45). Even today, as in the days of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD), the Gospel is advancing in astonishing measure in the most unlikely of places, a phenomenon to which most American Christians are willfully ignorant.
For example, a friend of mine leads a ministry of church planting in the Muslim and Hindu world. Over the past several years, more than 75,000 seedlings for Christ have emerged from the sowing of the Word, and 3,000 house churches have sprung up to nurture them to maturity.
In China, the Church has multiplied by nearly 500% since the Marxist government of Chairman Mao drove the missionaries from the land a generation ago. Today, another 20,000 Chinese will come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Revival is occurring in many places in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Cuba, Latin America, and the former Soviet states. Even in the face of violent persecution, the wheat of the Kingdom is standing firm and growing.
Meanwhile, here in America, the Church cordially allows itself to be sidled more and more to the margins of culture and society. The number of believers in Jesus Christ is declining in relation to the population as a whole – a recent phenomenon – and the culture and communities of the land show the ugly presence of tares throughout.
And yet, millions of Christians huddle in their churches and fellowship groups, praying they won’t be “left behind,” and longing for a specious idea of “rapture” from this God-forsaken age. Celebrated pastors pander to the self-interests of their people, promoting a “Jesus-and-me” gospel that the martyrs of the early Church would not recognize. Respected theologians counsel believers to withdraw from worldly entanglements – contrary to Jesus’ example and Paul’s advice – to concentrate on building safe spaces against the coming storm of judgment.
Thought of revival hardly enters the consciousness of most Christians, for we are comfortable and content with our personalized faith. What more is there to want?
Comfort or risk?
Well, what about seeking the Kingdom of God? Pursuing holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7.1)? Penetrating all our culture and society with the salt, light, and leaven of God’s grace and truth? Turning our fearful and confused nation upside-down for Jesus Christ? Renewing the work of personal evangelism and living witness for Jesus Christ? Working for greater true Christian unity and ministry?
Ah, but these involve risk. We would have to see our settled occupations and diversions in a new light, as platforms not merely for self-enrichment and wellbeing, but as arenas for seeking the Kingdom and righteousness of God. That requires growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And that requires tears of repentance for our complacency and disobedience, and seeking the Lord to renew this part of His field, that we might resume growing and sowing in Him, despite the presence of the devil’s weeds.
But knowing where history is going, and what the Lord is expecting of us, how can we not do what we know He calls us to while yet we have the time?
1. Does it matter what the Lord expects us to understand and do in this time before His coming? Explain.
2. Can we afford to continue our “risk-averse” approach to Christian living? Why not?
3. What does it mean for the Kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven?
Next steps – Preparation: Meditate on Psalm 90.12, 16, 17. Use this prayer for the next week as you prepare to seek the Kingdom of God each day.
T. M. Moore
Our Mission Partners Outreach program can equip you to identify and work your Personal Mission Field. Watch this brief video (click here), then find a friend and begin working your part of the Lord’s field more consistently and with greater effects.
For a more developed view of the Kingdom, and of the Gospel of the Kingdom, order a copy of our book The Kingdom Turn (click here) or The Gospel of the Kingdom (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.