Thursday, May 28, 2015

Understanding the Times

Jesus said, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as the twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.”  (Mk 13:28).  We need to develop a similar ability to understand the times by what we see, hear, and sense in our spirit.

We must not be like the religious leaders of Jesus' day, who could not discern the signs of the times (Mt 16:2-3). Instead, we must be like the sons of Issachar spoken of in the Bible, who understood the signs of the times, and knew what their nation should do (1 Chr 12:32).

There are various times and seasons that occur on God's timeline.  Some people don't believe there is any such thing as dispensations, but it is right in the Bible. For example, there is "the times of the Gentiles."  Jesus said, "They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Lk 21:24, NIV).  The times of the Gentiles began with the salvation of Cornelius and his household in Acts 10, and it continues until it is fulfilled at a future date that is soon approaching.

There is "the time of Jacob's trouble." Jeremiah said, "How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it." (Je 30:7, NIV).  This is also called the time of punishment.  "For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written." (Luk 21:22, NIV). This period runs concurrent with the time of great distress, known as the Great Tribulation. "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again." (Mt 24:21). This period will last for a time, times, and a half time, during which the antichrist will reign on earth.

"He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time." (Dan 7:25, NIV).

"The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, 'It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.'” (Dan 12:7, NIV).

"When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus." (Rev 12:14-17, NIV)

The Time of His Return
Jesus said regarding the timing of His future return, “Be on guard.  Be alert.  You do not know when that time will come.” (Mk 13:33). Jesus said that in these last days, there will be “days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” (Luk 21:22b).

Just as there were the days of Moses, the days of Noah, and the days of Elijah, there will be the days of the Son of Man, when Jesus returns.  And He said to the disciples, "The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. "They will say to you, 'Look there! Look here!' Do not go away, and do not run after them. "For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man." (Luk 17:22-26)

The Millenium
Another time period mentioned in the Scriptures, which is yet future and takes place on earth is called "the thousand years."  Since the word millenium means a thousand years, many people refer to this period as "The Millenium."  It is spoken of in the prophets, as well as the book of Revelation.

"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Rev 20:1-10)

As the Scripture says, Christ will reign during "the thousand years" period, and so shall the one who has part in the first resurrection.  The Scripture speaks of "the thousand years" eventually being completed.

Opportunities to Serve and the Judgment Day
The Good Samaritan
We all face the tyranny of the urgent in our lives each day.  It could be a phone call or an errand.  We are often distracted and detoured to the right or the left by the seemingly urgent, and skip what’s important to God.  When we do so, we miss the Lord’s timing.  Instead we need to avoid those distractions and give priority to what God is doing.

When do we do these things that are important to God?  The righteous will ask this same question on the judgment day, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and cloth you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”  They wanted to know the times when they had obeyed.  Jesus replies, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Mt 25:37-40).

Likewise, the wicked will ask Him when they had failed to do these things.  He will tell them that whatever they did not do for the least of these brothers of His, they did not do for Him. 

During our lives on earth, the Lord gives us opportunities to repent and opportunities to obey.  There are times of refreshing that come from the Lord’s presence when we repent and turn to the Lord.  (Acts 3:19).

We as servants of the Lord must perform our duties at the proper time. And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?" (Luk 12:42)

God's Set Schedule
Both dates and times are on God’s set schedule. Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostles asked Him if He was at that time going to restore the kingdom to Israel. “Then they gathered around him and 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.’” (Acts 1:6-7, NIV). In this verse, the word “times” is “kairos,” and the word “dates” is “chronos” meaning “a fixed or special occasion; or interval; an individual opportunity; season, space, time, while.”

We don’t usually get advance notice of when these things will happen. Yet in both our actions and our postponements, we may either obey or compromise. While it is not for us to know the times or dates the Father has set, we are still supposed to operate in the timing of the Lord, in step with the Lord, and in the peace of God. (Galatians 5:25).

The Age to Come
I have already mentioned that there are biblical references to various dispensations on God's timeline.  One of them that I did not yet mention specifically is a future period, called "the renewal of all things" or "the regeneration." In the account of the incident when His disciples asked what their reward would be, since they had left everything to follow Him, Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." (Mt 19:28-29, NIV).

The Greek word for "the renewal of all things" is "paliggenesia", meaning "Rebirth (the state or the act), that is, (figuratively) spiritual renovation; specifically Messianic restoration: - regeneration." (Strongs). The New American Standard Bible and some other versions translate this as "regeneration" in the verse above. The Lord said this regeneration would occur "when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne." Luke's gospel records this same exchange between Jesus and His disciples as follows:

And He said to them, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life."  (Luk 18:29-30).

Here in Luke's account, Jesus referred to "the renewal of all things" as "the age to come".  The word for “age” in this verse is “aion,” meaning “perpetuity (also past); age, course, eternal, (for) ever, ever.” (Strongs). In that "age to come", all things will be renewed for the righteous, and we will inherit eternal life. As the Scripture says:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.' And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'" (Rev 21:1-5)

Therefore, this renewal of all things is an age yet to come, when Jesus Christ sits on His glorious throne. Our Lord and His Christ will reign forever and ever, and His kingdom will have no end (Lk 1:33; Rev. 11:15; Exo. 15:18; Psa. 146:10; Mic. 4:7).  How can we begin to grasp eternity or measure it? In heaven there is no time, but rather ages.  One age follows another as God’s program unfolds and His kingdom is advanced, and it goes on for eternity.

Every day that we are given to remain alive on this earth is God's grace to us. It's another opportunity to serve, another opportunity to repent, and another opportunity to obey.  Let's make the most of every opportunity with the Lord's help, practicing righteousness, holiness, and truth, so that we may dwell with Him throughout eternity. Jesus Christ is the one and only Way to heaven.  There isn't any other way that will lead anyone to the Kingdom of God. There is no other way but through Him.

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®.  "Time is At Hand" and "All Hail King Jesus" paintings © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend Times and Epochs the Father has Determined, The Times of the GentilesThe Kingdom of God as Revealed to James Agboola, Michael Shigaba's End Time Message for Mankind, Sequence of Signs Preceding the Coming of Christ, Synching Up the Seven Seals with the Gospels Rapture Revelation to Angelica Zambrano, A Time for Everything, and The Judgment Seat of Christ. Other related articles are available on the Home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.