This is post #18 of a series entitled RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 27 podcasts and blogs that focuses a bit deeper on the first five days of what we now call Holy Week. Using the Gospel text found in Matthew 21 through 25, we explore the major differences between organized religion and true relationship with Christ. Practical sessions that give us Jesus’ view of spirituality as compared to the religiousness found in so many people today. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: Jesus then left the Temple. As He walked away, His disciples pointed out how very impressive the Temple architecture was. Jesus said, “You’re not impressed by all this sheer size, are you? The truth of the matter is that there’s not a stone in that building that is not going to end up in a pile of rubble.” Later as He was sitting on Mount Olives, His disciples approached and asked Him, “Tell us, when are these things going to happen? What will be the sign of Your coming, that the time’s up?” Jesus said, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities, claiming, ‘I am Christ, the Messiah.’ They will deceive a lot of people. When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. This is nothing compared to what is coming.” Matthew 24: 1-8 (MsgB)
Back in the day, when I managed a Logos Christian bookstore in Evanston, IL, I recall a book that caught everyone’s attention.
88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. Edgar C. Whisenant
300,000 copies of this book were mailed free of charge to pastors across America, and then it went on to sell 4.5 million copies. Admittedly, our bookstore was one of the few Christian franchises that failed to make a dime on this big-seller, simply because I just couldn’t pull the trigger on Whisenant’s premise…
“Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town.”
Or, how about this quote…
If there were a king in this country and I could gamble with my life, I would stake my life on Rosh Hashana (Sept 11-Sept 13) 1988.”
You see, Jesus made it pretty clear when talking about the End of Days with His first-century disciples that those trying to predict exact dates and details of Jesus’ return to Earth just might be charlatans…doomsday deceivers, Jesus calls them here in today’s passage…causing more confusion within the Body of Christ than anything else.
Yet sadly, folks like Whisenant don’t give up easy. When Rosh Hashana 1988 came and went without incident, rather than riding off into the sunset with his riches, Whisenant and his publisher quickly came out with…
The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989.
And when that one didn’t fly, it was…
Twenty-Three Reasons Why a Pre-Tribulation Rapture Looks Like It Will Occur on Rosh-Hashana 1993.
Followed, finally, by Whisenant’s last attempt to explain himself, released in 1994…
And Now the Earth’s Destruction by Fire, Nuclear Bomb Fire.
Too bad, Whisenant didn’t pull out Matthew’s Gospel back in 1987 and save himself a lot of writing…and public embarrassment. Yet over my 60+ years of walking with Jesus here in America, I’ve seen my share of goofiness when it comes to how gullible we Christians can be when falling for “end-time prophecies” spawned by those who believe they can make a fast buck by capitalizing on people’s fears.
You see, reading the 24th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel can be a scary thing indeed. And please, don’t misunderstand. I believe every word that the Master speaks here will find fulfillment on planet Earth.
But here’s the truth.
This fallen world, from the very beginning of time until the very end of the age, will be filled with warning signs. Routine history is what Jesus calls it. Wars and rumors of wars. Nation fighting nation. Ruler fighting ruler. Earthquakes and famines in numerous locations.
All of it a sign. Yes, a sign that all of creation is indeed fallen. This beautiful blue marble, made by the hand of God, has befallen hard times…an age where evil has been given permission by men and women, made in the image of God, to meddle with human affairs.
You see, it’s all spelled out for us in the first couple of chapters in the Book of Genesis.
Our ancestors were given a great gift when God breathed life into our lungs. And with that life came a unique commission to go, prosper and steward this God-planted garden, watching over it just as God, our Creator, watches over us.
But if you recall, with the help of some outside interference, our Dad and Mom decided that they could handle this thing called life on their own, without the loving companionship of a nurturing Parent. And so, it began. A fallen world being stewarded by fallen humans. And if God hadn’t intervened when He did, sending His Son to redeem us from ourselves, we’d probably have bombed the whole place into oblivion centuries ago.
But now, the Son has come, bringing the in-breaking goodness of God’s Kingdom. And with that upward lift of redemption, which came through the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all flesh, who knows where this whole thing might have gone without His intervention?
So, here we are. Nearly 2,000 years after Jesus told His disciples to “keep your head and don’t panic.”
As we’ll see next time as we continue our trek in Matthew 24, there’s a very specific job you and I have in these troubled times.
And, BTW, (hint hint) it doesn’t include writing and selling books, or putting up gawdy billboards that predict the dates and details of Jesus’ return!
My Prayer: Father God, it’s human nature to want to know the future. For if we can know the details, we can certainly control it! But Jesus, You were very clear with us that spending our time, energy, and resources on trying to predict the future would not only be fruitless but could very well put us in the category of becoming charlatans, making a fast buck on the back of people’s fears. Forgive us, Lord, for doing what You told us not to do. Instead, Holy Spirit, still my heart and mind, so I might do what Jesus said…”Keep your head and don’t panic.” For Your Name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions to Ponder: Where am I buying into the panic, the fear, the confusion being peddled by well-meaning Christians today who are actually making all this about keeping our eyes on them instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus? What will “keep your head and don’t panic” look like in a world which seems to thrive on fear and confusion?
So, what are you hearing from Jesus as we take this journey into the first 5 Days of Holy Week?
Religion or Relationship: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ.
A 27-session Lenten blog series from Matthew’s Holy Week Gospel.
Throughout the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday), you and I will take a deeper look at Matthew 21-25. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!