Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Does Jesus Return?

But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
Jude 1:17-19 NKJV

Now I admit this must seem like a strange question to ask, but as usual, if you follow along for awhile you will understand where I am going with this. As you know if you read my last study, I took a week off to visit my daughter and her husband in North Carolina. Having never been farther east than Colorado, suffice it to say I was introduced to a very different pace of life than I am used to. One of the things I enjoyed, and could certainly get used to, is the notion you should spend a good part of your day sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair watching the world go by. (I'm also now a fan of SEC football but we will save that for another time) So every morning I would get up early, as is my usual habit, and sit on the porch and read my Bible.

Now most of us by now are familiar with the rule of thumb that if you want to make a point, you keep repeating it until it is firmly embedded in someone's mind to the point they couldn't forget it if they wanted to. It sort of seems that the Holy Spirit has been doing that to me lately, for no matter where I go in my study, I end up in the same place; the state of the Church at the end of the age. Last week I even tried to deliberately do something different by choosing a book I am ashamed to admit I knew very little about, and that was the book of Jude.

Now maybe some of you are in the same boat I was in. I knew it was only one chapter long, and found just before the book of Revelation, but that was about it. So imagine my surprise when I sat down and began to read only to find out it was a warning to believers in the last days about those in the church who profess to be Christians yet live according to the standards of the world. Now as you can see, this is not a new subject, but one that I have been writing about for some time. So as I sat on the porch and thought about why the Spirit kept returning to this subject, the question I will pose to you occurred. Since Jesus Himself raised the comparison between our times and the Days of Noah, and we know the flood occurred because only Noah and his family were left untouched by the evil around them, what if God sees the same circumstances evolving as He looks at the Church today? That is, because those who profess to be Christians corrupt the witness of His Church, does God decide to send His Son to take the Church away before it becomes completely ineffective to accomplish the purpose for which it was created?

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 1:3 NKJV

The Greek word for “contend” in this verse is epag┼Źnizomai, a mouthfull I agree, yet why do I bring it up? Mainly because this word only occurs once in the entire New Testament, and if it only occurs once, I strongly believe it is one we need to look especially close at. It comes from the root word ag┼Źnizomai, which means to “strive, fight, and labor fervently”. So Jude is not describing a simple discussion of theological differences, but a serious conflict where believers are admonished to “strive, fight, and labor” for our faith. The feeling I get from reading this is one of a fight for our very survival, which, if compared to the day in which Noah lived and the fact he and his family were the only "uncorrupted" ones left, seems to make perfect sense.

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:15-16 NKJV

So my question for you to consider this week is this; is one of the reasons Jesus returns for the Church the fact that we are slowly losing this fight? I think the passage in Revelation addressed to the Laodician church might well answer that. Can you imagine God being so disappointed with His Church that all He can do is “spit” them out of His mouth? If so, does that mean that the majority of us are not “contending” for the faith as God intended? Are we leaning more towards “tolerance” rather than accountability?

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4 NKJV

as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
Jude 1:7,8 NKJV

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.
Jude 1:16 NKJV

Let's not forget that Jude is describing “believers” in the local church, not the unbelievers outside the church. Can you believe that Jude tells us these people would even dare to "mock" the Gospel? It certainly doesn't take a lot of imagination to see why the witness of the Church could become ineffective by the presence of these people. When unbelievers see no difference between how they live and how those who claim to be believers live, why believe? If you then consider the law of diminishing returns, doesn't it make some sort of sense that God might consider this one of the reasons He decides to send His Son to take away His bride?

Of course, I am not suggesting this is the only possible reason God chooses to act, rather that it may be one of many. Many suggest the rapture is a "number specific" event or something else, and it may well be. Yet I certainly feel more comfortable considering the possibility it is a result of many different reasons and not just one. Our God is a God of infinite patience, yet the time will come when even He says enough is enough and calls us home. The question I am asking myself is will I be able to stand before God and say I fought for the faith, or be embarrassed because I know I could have fought harder?

As always, this is not intended to be an exhaustive study of this subject, but rather to stimulate you to study more on your own. I pose these questions to you for your own personal consideration in the hope that you will listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you about it, and then share what you learn with others in the body. By doing so may we “contend earnestly for the faith” which was presented to us in His Word, even more so as we see the day approaching. Never be afraid to fight for the gospel of Christ.

Keep watching.