By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sabbath Sermon, 21st July, 2012)
Judgment is Long Overdue
At the end of a long tirade against the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, Christ virtually lets out that judgment is long overdue. He charged at them:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
"And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
"Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
"Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
"Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
"That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
"Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation" (Matt. 23:29-36).
There is an unmistakable finality to the Lord’s denunciation of the hypocritical and wicked Pharisees and scribes: ‘After ye fill up the measure of your fathers by persecuting My ministers, "All these things shall come upon this generation".
Here, He speaks primarily of the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (Matt. 23:37-38), but His tone is clearly eschatological. This eschatological undertone of a looming worldwide judgment is more pronounced in Matt. 24: Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, to be triggered by the coming of "the abomination of desolation" (Matt. 24:15) in the wake of its siege by invading troops (Luke 21:20), is bound up with the eventual destruction of the world.
It’s obvious then that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD could well have been the time of the final judgment of humanity. But God deferred it for a special reason: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14).
What this clearly means is that all humanity is now living on borrowed time for the sake of the worldwide dissemination of the Gospel. JUDGMENT IS LONG OVERDUE! But for the grace of God: "We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:1-2).
"The day of salvation" will, however, not be forever. Summer will soon arrive, but will you be harvested into salvation?
"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved".
"And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
"And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
"And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
"And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
"And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
"And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God".
Dread it or not, the sign of the approach of summer, when the whole world will be judged, has appeared:
"And He spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
"When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
"So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
"Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away" (Luke 21:29-33).
The "fig tree", Israel (Hos. 9:10), has since budded and shot forth leaves. The first buds appeared in 1948 when Israel became a nation again after having remained stateless for nearly 2000 years following the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And "all the [other] trees" too (i.e. other previously subjugated nations) have since regained statehood in the period following Israel’s own restoration in 1948.
"This generation"–the generation which witnesses the momentous re-emergence of nation states–"shall not pass away till all be fulfilled".
Meanwhile, the signs of the end continue to define our times with greater intensity.
The big the question staring you and me in the face is, how prepared are we?
"Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel".
Put your Time to the Best Possible Use
One scripture particularly speaks to our present-day situation:
"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
"Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:16-19).
Another is 1 Pet. 4:7: "But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer".
The emphasis ought to be on the spiritual–prayer, the will of God, the singing of spiritual songs. That’s the way we get "filled with the Spirit". The "days are evil". So make the best use of your time. Indeed, the days are such that there will be much occasion for excesses–gluttony, binge drinking, and sexual immorality–but don’t be foolish. Be wise by understanding what the will of the Lord is.
Yet this is the time most people are misusing most for evil deeds, but don’t be so. "… gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13).
In Luke 21:34-36 Christ shows us a practical way to stay sober:
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
“For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man”.
Now, how many times do you pray? How often do you fast or study your Bible?
Don’t make a habit of staring at the TV ad infinitum drinking in the explicit scenes and salacious musicals. You will store unworthy material in your heart; and you–and especially the children–will end up internalizing values which will only gladden the devil.
Discern the times, and order your life accordingly. Don’t be like the Jews of Jesus’ day who saw Him but didn’t see the Messiah in Him. YET HE IS THE MESSIAH, THE ANOINTED OF THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL. The problem was the goggles they were wearing– goggles which caused them to misread scripture and mix up prophetic timelines. They expected a knight in shining armour, a conqueror, a deliverer, who will free them from the Romans. But God gave them not one portrait but two prophetic portraits of the promised Messiah. He will come as a suffering Servant first before a conquering King in the spirit of King David of old! The Jews conveniently overlooked the former. So they didn’t see Jesus as the prophesied Messiah who had come as the ‘grace of God for the suffering of death that He might "bring many sons to glory" (Heb. 2:9-10). Don’t make the same mistake and thereby miss the time of your visitation:
"If thou hadst known", Jesus said to residents of Jerusalem, "even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
"For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
"And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (Luke 9:42-44).
The days are evil, but the day of salvation is not over yet. Summer approaches but has not yet arrived. Make good use of your time; devote yourself to the will of the Lord before His judgment breaks out on the earth. Stay blessed!