The Blessed Hope (Part 4)

   by Rayola Kelley

     We have been considering the Blessed Hope from the premise of doctrine, the resurrection of the dead, and from attitude. Our  attitude must be upright to ensure honorable conduct. This attitude must come from a lowly disposition, and express itself in meekness in order to properly occupy until Jesus comes for His Church. Such an attitude will ensure that we, as saints, will live in expectation of His coming. Whether we meet Jesus through the door of physical death or in the clouds, we must always live in expectation of being raised up in the complete likeness of Him in His life, resurrection, and glory.          

      As I stated last month, we do not know what this will entail. There are still mysteries attached to the resurrection. However, our hope is not based on the mysteries, but on the Word of God. The promise is that if we are truly planted in Jesus’ death, we also will be planted in His resurrection to be brought forth in His likeness.

         We can meditate on the concept of what it means to be brought forth in His likeness, but the Bible is clear as to how this likeness will manifest itself. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, “likeness” means to resemble, make like, shape, and similitude. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). In other words, we are being formed in such a way that we will clearly resemble Him. To be conformed, we must let the mind of Christ be in us (Philippians 2:5). This means we will be made like Him in our way of thinking. We are told that we must be planted in His death in order to be shaped like Him in a new way of life (Romans 6:3-5). Jesus instructs us to learn of His disposition of humility and His attitude of meekness (Matthew 11:29). This points to us having the same similitude or uniformity as Christ in the way we handle matters and conduct our lives.

        The likeness of Christ also implies that His life is being worked within us. In fact, the inner man is being renewed daily by His life (2 Corinthians 4:16). This is why the Apostle Paul stated that the life he lived in his fleshly body was not his life, but the very life of Christ (Galatians 2:20). As you realize that we are being made like Jesus in the barren wilderness of the grave of the world, you will begin to understand more of what the Apostle Paul meant when he made this statement: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

       Unlike Moses who veiled God’s glory, Christians are to serve as a mirror or open reflection of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:13-14). As the Holy Spirit works Jesus’ life in us, we begin to reflect His image more and more. In other words, Jesus’ glory is being reflected through us. As we are conformed to His likeness, His glory will come forth in greater measure. One of the reasons for being left in the grave of the world is so Jesus’ glory can be uncovered in us as our self-life and personal identity succumbs to death. It is His glory shining forth through us that becomes that attractive light to those who are seeking real hope. This is why Jesus reminded us that we do not put a light under a basket, but we let it shine forth in the darkness (Matthew 5:14-16).

        There are different glories that are being reflected. There is the false glory of the world, the fading glory of man, and the counterfeit glory of religion and Satan. Depending on who or what we serve will determine the glory that is being reflected from our lives. What glory are you reflecting?

        This brings us to what it means to maintain a life that will reflect Jesus’ glory in this present age. It is vital that as Christians we come to terms with this matter. We already know that we must have a right attitude towards Jesus. Attitude will determine emphasis and focus. Focus will influence the direction of our affections. Affections must be disciplined so that they enable us to see a matter to the end.

        We now know that our attitude must be disciplined by expectation of one day being completely identified to Jesus. Such an expectation realizes that when we are raised up in His likeness, that all the promises of God given to us will be fully completed. In light of this expectation, we can discipline our focus heavenward. For centuries God’s people have been looking heavenward. These individuals did not worry about whether Jesus was coming at that particular time, for they expected Him at any moment. However, the benefit of looking heavenward in light of hope caused their affections to go heavenward towards the One they were expecting (Colossians 3:2). As their affections were set upon Jesus, the influences and activities of the world became less and less important, as their priorities and preferences clearly changed.

         As the attitude is aligned and the affections of love and devotion set you upon the right source, then the preparation can begin. We must be prepared to meet Jesus at all times. Receiving Christ is the initial part of being delivered from the influence of the death of sin upon our lives, but now we must be delivered from sin’s workings in our life, and be delivered through the activities of sin that abound around us. Salvation is an ongoing work that addresses the past, and confronts the present as it prepares us for our future meeting with our precious Lord.

         To ensure preparation, we must live in expectation of His coming. This is why we are told that we do not know the day or hour when it will happen (Matthew 24:36, 50). Clearly, we will not know exactly when Jesus is coming back. However, we are aware of the parable of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-35). The fig tree represents Israel becoming a nation.

        We can speculate at this point that Israel becoming a nation in 1948 signals the starting of a season in God’s plan. Since we are told that this generation shall not pass until all of these things are fulfilled, we can somehow mark the last generation based on what is happening in Israel. A generation is considered from 40 to 50 years. Obviously, the last generation did not start when Israel became a nation. Some believe since Israel failed to secure the temple mount in the six-day war in 1967 that this event possibly marked the last generation. Last year marked the forty years of this generation. Does this mean that, at the most, we have ten more years left?

         Jesus made a very important statement in Acts 1:7after He was asked when the kingdom would be restored back to Israel. Here is His answer: “It is not for you to know the times or the season, which the Father hath put in his own power.” Remember, there is a difference between knowing a matter is true and having an opinion. Jesus said that people would not know the beginning or ending of the times or the season.

          Strong’s Concordance gives us insight into the meanings or implications of these two words. “Times” implies a fixed, designated or particular period. Season points to the proper time in which the right opportunity will present itself. When you consider that a thousand years to us is but a day to God, you must acknowledge that He does not operate according to a timeframe or a particular space of time. To us seasons last for four months, but to God there is no time limit to His seasons. We might be able to say that the season that leads to His coming started when Israel became a nation, but we have no concept as to how long the season will last or whether a particular event in history that surrounds Israel truly marked the last generation. To try to figure it out is nothing more than speculation.

        Once again we are reminded that our expectation is not according to times or seasons, but it is based on Jesus coming back. We prepare in light of this expectation, not according to speculations. In other words, some ancient calendars mark the year 2012 as a year of great change. How many people who live in light of speculation would see such knowledge as an opportunity to live as unfaithful, irresponsible servants towards God for a few more years? Jesus made reference to those who possess such an attitude as being subject to wrath (Matthew 24:48-51).

        Since it is established that we cannot be sure of the times, seasons, day, or hour that Jesus is coming, we must be constantly in the mode of preparation for that great day. The point of preparation must begin from the premise of love. We love Jesus; therefore, we are in love with His appearing. Whether, we are the bride or the Body, we are ever aware of Him coming back. This is not only a desired event, but it is an event that brings hope to our very souls. To operate from and in this love, we must choose to love the Lord with everything in us. If we love Jesus, we will also love His truth.

      The major warning concerning Jesus’ return is to beware of the great deception that will be prevalent (Matthew 24:4-5, 23-25). If we love the truth, and strive to maintain its integrity in our own lives, we will not be as prone to be caught up with the various waves of deception that roll through Christendom.

        If our heart is with Jesus, and our affections directed at Him, we will be watchful as to what we expose ourselves to, what we embrace as truth, and what we walk according to. We will be aware of the times, seasons, day, and hour we are living in to ensure our own spiritual well-being (Matthew 24:42). Sadly, there are people who want to remain ignorant about such matters. But, how can the Spirit lead us into all truth, prepare us to live victoriously in this present age, and warn us of future events if we are not walking in truth about our personal lives, as well as the environment around us (John 16:13)?

        Preparation is a discipline of the soul. It enables us to learn how to possess our souls in patience as we give way to the work of the Spirit, and the life of our dear Lord (Luke 21:19). Daniel warns us that in the end days the saints will be worn out (Daniel 7:25). I don’t know about you, but as I contend with the times we live in, I am becoming weary with the indifference, selfishness, lawlessness, and the utter foolishness that is often abounding around us. Such attitudes and practices can suck the very life out of you if you do not keep your eyes heavenward. Clearly, as believers, we must possess the character of our own souls by disciplining our focus and source of hope.

     Preparation will also ensure that I will live in a state of readiness. In other words, I will be ready to meet Jesus (Matthew 24:44-46). Depending on my spiritual maturity, I will possess to some measure the lowly disposition of His life, the meekness of His attitude, the wisdom of His mind, the character of His ways, and the oil of the Holy Spirit. Such a character will ensure my readiness to meet with Him.

      Preparation also entails praying. In Luke 21:36, we are told to watch and always pray that we may be accounted worthy to escape the things that are coming on the face of this earth so we can truly stand before Jesus. Notice how the emphasis is on standing before Jesus. We all must be counted or reckoned worthy to escape the judgment and wrath that will come upon this present world. Clearly, this means we must be seeking our Lord’s will in all matters. We must be watchful over what is true in our spiritual lives, ready to do what is obedient and honorable, and in prayer that we will not bring shame or dishonor to our Lord no matter what is happening around us.

       Every age has its tribulation. Each period has caused those who knew Jesus to look upward knowing that whether it be through the door of death or in the sky that His redemption was always drawing near to those who would draw near to Him in sincere faith.

        I have had a real sense for the past eight years that 2008 would bring some major changes to the world we know. Sadly, I do not sense these changes will be pleasant. But as believers, the one aspect of our lives that will never change is Jesus. He is the Rock we can cling to, He is the Bread that nourishes us, He is the One who can uncap the rivers of Living Water in our soul, and He is the One who not only redeemed us, but will come back for us. Let us rejoice in such hope. Let us live in confident expectation of this glorious promise. Let us learn how to rest, knowing that one day all of God’s promises will be fulfilled in our lives when we are raised up to meet Him in the air. Let us be part of that group who, with such assurance, will be able to declare: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20c).