During the 40-day post-resurrection ministry of Jesus to His disciples, He progressively prepared them for what they would face after His departure. By the time of their last meeting with Jesus, they had received the Great Commission. We pick up the narrative in the Book of Acts.
“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.“
In the latter days of the private ministry of Jesus to His disciples, He told them of the Promise of the Father, which would be essential for them to fulfill their mission.
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;“
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.“
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:“
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.“
It is certainly clear that Jesus was preparing His Church to fulfill its purpose of reaching out to the whole world with the Gospel. When Jesus meets them in Jerusalem, we are told,
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?’“
Misunderstanding the Mission
You could maintain that the end-times doctrine of the disciples, during the ministry of Jesus, was a type of Jewish Dominion Theology. They seemed to firmly believe that Jesus had come to completely fulfill all of the Messianic prophecies and establish the Throne of David upon which he would rule the nations with a rod of iron. We see that even the mother of James and John got into the flow by interceding on behalf of her two sons. When she approached Jesus,
“He said unto her, ‘What wilt thou?’ She saith unto him, ‘Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.’“
At this point in the Gospel narrative, it is clear that the disciples were not on the same page as their Master. While He was preparing for His own sacrifice to save the lost, they were focused on their own position in His coming kingdom. Therefore, it is understandable that they were distracted with their own thinking and not truly hearing the word and will of Jesus.
As we examine the response of Jesus to the disciples’ last question regarding the timing of the Kingdom being restored to Israel, we read,
“And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.“
Once again, we see Jesus not answering questions that are off-target or off-topic. I believe the disciples suffered from something that I see happening today within the Church. It is a type of spiritual myopia. Myopia is the medical term for nearsightedness. People with myopia see objects clearly only when they are close to the eye, while distant objects appear blurred or fuzzy. In other words, metaphorically, you become so absorbed in the near-term events that you can lose the wider and more long-term picture.
With all that is going on in the world today, it is easy to simply pray for the sudden removal of the Church via the Rapture. Given the increasingly chaotic climate in the world today, many within the Body of Christ are finding consolation in their belief that they are witnessing the “end of days.“ Some might think, “After all, God should get on with His terrible judgment on this rebellious planet.“ I’ve even heard some say they can’t wait to see this perverted world crushed under the hand of an Almighty God.
It is true that almost every day, you will see events unfolding that have profound prophetic implications. The pace at which the world is racing to the Biblically predicted end is breathtaking. I have also been amazed by the number of “prophecy teachers“ that have attempted to provide all kinds of insights one day only to have their ideas overturned by the revelation of the next set of unexpected events. This is a white-knuckle ride for sure.
The Danger of “Rature-itis“
It is exciting, indeed, to see these things begin to take shape on our immediate horizon and to come to grips with the impending reality of Christ’s return. But there is another danger we must be aware of. I call it “rapture-itis.“ There is a tragic fatalism that can immobilize the Christian body from truly “occupying“ until He comes. We need to continue to be responsible stewards of His blessings—including our unique blessings of this country and its heritage— and also prepare for an uncertain future until He does return for us. There is a tragic and unhealthy tendency for many of us to sit back and assume that the Church will be snatched out before the real turmoil begins. The apparent exclusion of the Church from that specific period specified as “the“ tribulation does not exempt any of us from experiencing the kind of persecution that has burdened most of the body of Christ in most of the world for most of the past two thousand years! Rather, we should be doing our homework, learning all we can, dispensing with the erroneous and myopic presuppositions of the past and, motivated by the imminent horizon, be focusing on His priorities for the kingdom in the time that remains.
Power with a Purpose
It is to this end that Jesus refocused His disciples by telling them,
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.“
Herein we see the purpose of the Promise of the Father. The disciples of Jesus had a job to do. They were stewards of the life-giving truth of the Gospel. Today, if you are a born-again Christian, you are also called to “fulfill your mission.“ During the height of His teaching ministry, Jesus said to His followers,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.“
As we see the tide of darkness and the spirit of fear filling our communities, we should be standing tall as a beacon that points people to hope. We should bring the healing salve of God’s truth to those who are hurting. We can only accomplish this noble task through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is His desire to work through willing vessels to bring glory and honour to Jesus Christ.
An Apostolic Epilog
At the end of the apostle Paul’s life, he was in prison, where he was surrounded with the reality of his own impending death. Injustice, social chaos, and political corruption were everywhere. Yet in the midst of these terrible times he penned his last letter to Timothy in which he states,
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.“
2 Timothy 4:1-5
May God equip, enable, and energize you for His Kingdom’s sake,