I could have limited this Advent message to the usual Happy Christmas greetings! It’s not that I wouldn’t want to wish you all a very happy Christmas, I do, but these are very serious times. Indeed, for believers these are critical days, as I have been at pains to emphasise in my recent Blogs.
As a child, growing up, my father would ask me exactly the same question that Jesus asked His disciples! “Have you understood?” I knew at those times that he was being very serious. He wanted to know from my own lips that I had ‘got the message’, and that I knew there would be consequences if I didn’t remember the lesson he had just taught me!
In a similar way, Jesus wanted to know that His disciples had fully understood the lessons He was teaching them through his parables. He wanted to hear the disciples’ response to his question “Have you understood all these things?” (Matthew 13:51). In Matthew’s Gospel alone, there are seven powerful parables which Jesus uses to warn his disciples about the coming judgement, and the separation of the good from the bad, at the end of our time on earth, or when He returns:
The Wheat and the Weeds (Matt 13:24-30); The Net (Matt 13:47-50); The Tenants of the Vineyard (Matt. 21:33-41); The Wedding Banquet (Matt. 22:1-14); The Wise and the Foolish Virgins (Matt 25:1-13); The Talents (Matt. 25:14-30); The Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25:31-46).
The message of all these parables is essentially the same. There is a time coming when there will be a reckoning – and none of us know when that time will be – either the moment when we die and leave this earth or when Jesus comes again to reign. For us all it will be a surprise when it actually happens. It will be too late then to get ready. We will be out of time.
A key element of both the first and second Advents of Jesus is one of surprise. The Jews had waited hundreds of years for their Messiah to come, but when He came the first time, they weren’t ready. And the people of God have now waited two thousand years for Jesus to come again. And all the parables I have mentioned above are essentially asking us the same question, “Are you ready?” for when He comes?
When dawn breaks, it is the tops of the mountains that catch the first light of a new day. Henry Burton used this fact to capture the truth of the second coming in an amazing hymn (679 in Mission Praise), written to prepare believers for the biggest surprise in the history of the world:
“There’s a light upon the mountains, and the day is at the spring,
When our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King;
Weary was our heart with waiting, and the night-watch seemed so long;
But His triumph-day is breaking, and we hail it with a song.”
In the parable of the talents Jesus commends those who had used what had been given them. The read-across is not about how much money you have made on earth, but how much treasure there is in heaven because of the investment of your lives on earth, as salt and light for the purposes of God and, most importantly, out of a love relationship with Him, a knowing of Him and walking with Him.
In the parable of the ten virgins, the question asked is whether or not there is any oil in their lamps. The foolish ones are without any oil when the Bridegroom (Jesus) comes for His bride (the Church). But then it is too late to fill the spiritual tank with Holy Spirit inspired ‘oil’. God forbid that the Bridegroom comes and tells us He does not know us.
We sit between the first and the second Advents, but very close to the second. This is where we are in history. And world events are telling us that the mountain tops are beginning to be touched by the “beauty and the glory of the King”. The dawn is rising.
I believe that, in these latter days of expectancy, God is speaking clearly to His Body, the Bride. It is a wake-up call for those who are sleeping – for this is a time when we must be ready and work. For, as Jesus said, “as long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me, Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).
There will be things that we once took for granted, which will be swept away under unprecedented moves of God’s Spirit, bringing about re-alignments in the Kingdom of God which will be strategic for His purposes in the days to come. A remnant church is rising to the call of God.
In discerning the signs of the times, amid the shakings that are taking place globally and the great distress there is in the Middle East and Israel, we must remember that Jesus said, “these things must happen” (Matt. 24:6). But there are also signs of an end-time harvest to be brought in. There is a critical need for preparing the nets and spreading them wide, and for workers to be ready and trained. For, knowingly or unknowingly, people are desperately in need of God’s intervention in their lives and the time will come when they begin to seek Him. I will share more in the New Year about some of the things God is doing and our response to them.
Yes, Fiona and I do want to wish each and everyone of you a very blessed and happy Christmas with your families, as you look back with joy and thanksgiving to the world-changing event that took place in the stable of Bethlehem. But, over this particular Christmas Season, may I urge you also to consider the question Jesus asked of His disciples, “Have you understood all of these things?”
Our eyes must now be focused on the future, as we look to the spiritual mountain tops and prepare ourselves in our hearts for the day when the skies are riven in two by the glorious revelation of the King of Kings! In the meantime, the urgency of the days presses upon us as we recognize how critical it is that when He comes we should be occupied with the work of the Kingdom, playing our part in bringing in the harvest.
Copyright Peter Horrobin 2023
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