Rescue from the Coming Wrath

Isaiah 23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 1

As editor of SeekGrowLove, last December I created the Bible reading plan we are using this year. Each day we are generally reading two Old Testament chapters and one New Testament chapter. But, to fit it all into 365 days we’ve included Psalms and Proverbs in chunks throughout the year, taking the place of the New Testament reading. I didn’t pay much attention to what Old Testament and New Testament chapters were lining up together for each day. But, I have been amazed throughout the year at how often the two readings have complimented each other. It just goes to show how God’s scriptures are all connected, forever pointing us to the One Almighty God, His Son Jesus, and His plan of salvation and hope for the future. And, it’s been that way for all the generations who went before us, even for those who were reading His words as they were originally written by their writers.

Isaiah had been writing and preaching to the Jews around 740 BC. He was sharing many prophecies he’d received from God of what destruction was to come if the Jewish people and their neighbors did not repent and turn to God. Many of the things Isaiah wrote about did indeed come true within the next few generations. Some of the prophecies Isaiah wrote about (such as we find in Isaiah 24) were telling of a coming judgment further down the timeline – a time still in our future as well. We have not seen it all take place yet, but we can be sure that God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.

In Isaiah 24 we read that God’s judgments will reach across the earth and affect everyone: priest and people, master and servant, borrower and lender, rich and poor. There are none who will be able to escape it because of their wealth or power or position. “The exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.” (Isaiah 24:4b-6a NIV). This will be the fate of the majority, those stuck in their sins without a Savior.

Isaiah also gives hope. To the Jews of his time he spoke of a remnant who would survive the destruction from the conquering armies and return to Jerusalem. This too, has already happened. And, regarding the judgment that is yet to come, Isaiah also has a word of hope and restoration for those who do trust in God in a world that doesn’t – the “very few” that are left after the harvest has taken place. (verse 6 and 13). We have not seen it take place yet, but we can be sure God’s words are true and just and will happen as He told Isaiah they would – perhaps in our generation or the next few.

Those who are left are shouting for joy, giving God praise and singing, “Glory to the Righteous One” (vs. 14-16). Isaiah warns it won’t be easy. This group will be targeted by the evil who tries to trap them. But, God is coming with power and justice. “In that day, the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon…for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously.” Satan, his demons, and all sin and evil and those who have turned their backs on God will face God’s judgment. And God will reign.

Truly, there are so many passages that line up so well with Isaiah 24 (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Daniel 12, and Revelation just to name a few). For this is indeed a huge part of God’s story for the ages. It is what God wanted Isaiah to tell the nations nearly 3,000 years ago. And, it is what God wanted Paul to remind the church in Thessalonica less than 2,000 years ago. 1st & 2nd Thessalonians are often called the eschatological letters of Paul because of the many references to the end times (or, the end of this age and the beginning of the next). It was not enough for Paul to tell them how they ought to love and serve at the present, without preparing them for what was to come in the future, even if it wasn’t during their lifetime.

As we read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians this week and next, look for how many times Paul teaches, reminds, warns, and encourages the church with God’s perfect plans for our future. How does each chapter in 1st Thessalonians end? For a clue, let’s look at the end of chapter 1? “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV). It is especially exciting reading of a part of the future that Isaiah was only able to allude to – the second coming of Christ Jesus, since Jesus had not come for the first time at the time of Isaiah’s writing.

May we read and heed the warnings of Isaiah and Paul as sent by God. May we be encouraged by God’s plan for the ages as displayed throughout His scriptures. And may we too turn, “to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 NIV).

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here Isaiah 23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 1

The Summer Is Near

summer is near

Matthew 24

We are in the middle of the winter right now. I live in Minnesota and we are supposed to see the coldest air temperatures since the year that I was born. We have a predicted high of -13F and a low of -29F. I think I’m just going to throw away all of my shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I’m going to get rid of my swimsuits and sunglasses, too. It will probably be winter for the rest of my life, after all.

Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be for me to do that? Of course, summer is coming, and I’m ready for it. The second coming of Jesus is the same.

Prophecy

“Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another.” Jesus tells this to his disciples when they point out the buildings to him. They were probably trying to say how beautiful the architecture is with its gates, porticos and cupolas. Jesus had just said in Chapter 23 that Jerusalem is abandoned and desolate, so his disciples were trying to prove him wrong. Imagine that. Jesus had just gone through the tests and traps of the pharisees. He proceeded to tear them apart and use their behavior as a lesson for everyone else. And then His disciples decided to question Him too. He had to set them straight. He said “I tell you the truth.” He knew that Jerusalem was beautiful but he also knew that it would be destroyed. About 40 years later, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and that city was razed in the process. Josephus, a first-century Jewish scholar, said that over 1 million Jews were killed in that siege. Jerusalem truly did become abandoned and desolate. After this, Jesus’ disciples make another error; they assume that the temple will be destroyed at the end of the world and the return of Jesus. Jesus didn’t go back to the discussion of Jerusalem, but rather discussed the signs of the end of the age, as his disciples asked rather than as they intended.

Signs

There will be many false messiahs. There will be wars, famines and earthquakes. This is the beginning. We can see all of these things already. Just google “man claims to be Jesus.” You’ll find countless examples. There have been many wars, famines and earthquakes even in my short lifetime, but Jesus said that this is just the beginning of birth pains.

Christians will be persecuted, arrested, killed and hated all over the world. Sin will be rampant. We are starting to see this too. In some places more than others, Christians are being persecuted. According to Open Door USA, the worst countries to live in for Christians are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan. In North Korea, if it is discovered that you are a Christian, you can be deported to a labor camp or even killed on the spot. In China, if churches become too large, the government will raid the church and arrest member and leaders alike. In December 2018, a house church was raided by the Chinese police and pastor Wang Yi was arrested. He is a well-known pastor of the Early Rain Convent Church. Thank God that the United States is still largely free of Christian persecution.

But certainly, we are not in the worst of it yet. Jesus says that the anguish seen at the end will be greater than any the world has ever seen. We can think of many times when the world was in anguish greater than now. In the previous century there were multiple wars covering the surface of the Earth, causing widespread anguish.

The final sign will signify Jesus return. People all over the world will be able to see it and then Jesus will gather his people.

Exhortation

This final sign will be so obvious that you don’t need to believe in any of the false prophets coming before Jesus. It will be seen in the east and the west. But you must not be caught off Guard. Jesus uses multiple examples here to try to get that point across. No one expected the sky to open up and to flood the world. Neither will most expect the coming of Jesus. Live righteous lives. Love your neighbor. Repent. Await his return.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Still Giving – and Standing Firm

Luke 21

Luke 21_28

Yesterday our devotion centered on the Christmas story – as presented in Luke chapter 20.  Today takes us into Luke 21 which begins with a few verses concerning giving gifts. How fitting.  But here it is a slightly different type of gift which Jesus is referring to.   “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4).   Giving to God’s work is indeed a great place to give your gifts – whether you are blessed with a lot to give or very little to give.  God sees the heart and is delighted in the heart that joyfully gives all to Him.

The rest of this chapter is devoted to the future – including some rather troubling events: earthquakes, wars, famine, and hatred, prison and persecution as a result of believing and  testifying about Jesus.  But hope is given.  Jesus says he is telling us these things so that we will know what must take place before the end will come.  A hard day of dirty work is always made easier by knowing it will not continue forever.  At the end there will be a time to enjoy the rewards of working hard.   So too, those who are faithful through the end times can look forward to reaping the reward when the Son of Man comes again.

Jesus says do not be afraid; rather, “Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 21:19).  Even while our neighbors are fainting from terror at the surrounding events, Jesus tells us to stand tall.  He says, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27,28). 

Keep Giving – and Stand Firm!

Marcia Railton