In 1969, Larry Norman released his first solo Christian music album, Upon This Rock. The back side of the album–pressed in vinyl!–featured a song that became the rallying cry of the burgeoning hippie-driven Jesus Movement.
I Wish We’d All Been Ready (you can watch it in the video above) foretold the day when the world comes to an end and Jesus escorts his people home. Across the country, hippies raised their index fingers in the air and proclaimed, “There’s only one way, to Jesus,” and “Jesus is coming soon.”
So what happened? Did Jesus return? And what does the Bible say about Jesus’ coming back?
Join me as we explore this subject in today’s reading.
Note: An acquaintance of mine, David Di Sabatino, recently released a documentary on Larry Norman’s life entitled “Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman.” For more information go to http://www.fallenangeldoc.com/
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Exodus 20:20. I know this goes back to yesterday’s reading, but it really speaks to me: “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Taking God seriously can keep us from sin.
Exodus 22:2-3. This seems like a precarious law: If a person robs you at night, you can kill the person. But if it happens after sunrise and you kill the person, you’re guilty of bloodshed. What’s the difference? The Bible Background Dictionary explains, “When a burglar enters a house at night and is killed by the homeowner, this is considered a case of self-defense…That changes, however, if the break-in occurs during the day, because the homeowner could more clearly see the degree of threat and could call for help.”
Exodus 22:21-24; 23:6,9-11. Of the litany of laws in today’s reading, the command to be kind to the alien, widow, and orphan speak to me the loudest. Roman Catholic theologians espouse the “preferential option” which means that all things being equal, God sides with the poor. Because of this, we must side with the poor.
Exodus 22:28. The command “Do not…curse the ruler of your people” is selectively obeyed today. Seems to me that most people obey it when their candidate is in office and invalidate it when the candidate they opposed in the last election is in office.
Matthew 23. In the chapter, Jesus gives the religious leaders of his day a whuppin’, which pretty much sealed his fate. His message? Appearance means nothing. Motives mean everything. And what motives is God looking for? Justice, mercy, and faithfulness (sounds reminiscent the comments made from Exodus 22). It’s important to remember that Jesus wasn’t against the Law (see Matthew 5:19). This is a good lesson for churches that get caught in the business of ministry–or stuck following the rules and then neglect the true intention of our faith: loving God and loving our neighbors.
Matthew 24:15. A great deal of conjecture exists regarding the meaning of the “abomination that causes desolation.” First, it’s a reference to Daniel 11:31 and 12:11. Some historians believe it occurred in 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes placed a pagan statue in the Temple. Josephus, the first-century historian believed it was fulfilled when the Jewish temple was destroyed in 66 AD.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
In my childhood, I listened to sermons on Matthew 24 nearly every week for two years (at least that’s how it felt). Line-by-line, we were shown parallels between Matthew 24 and the present: rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, famines and earthquakes, people turning away from the faith, an increase in wickedness.
And I drank the Kool-Aid. In Sunday School I told my friends they needed to repent because Jesus was coming soon. I pored over books about the last days. Surely, I thought, I’ll never get my drivers’ license or get married.
But Jesus never came back—at least not in the way that I expected. In my seminary studies, I discovered that for two thousand years, preachers have pointed to sections of this chapter as evidence that they were living in the last generation. And up to this point, all of them have been wrong.
Nevertheless, people still flock to Bible prophecy conferences and feed on novels like Left Behind.
True confession: sometime, I’d like to attend one of those prophecy conferences and stand up in the middle of one of their general sessions and yell, “If you really believe it, run up your credit cards as high as you can so that after Jesus comes back, you’ll bankrupt the Anti-Christ!”
So how are we to respond to passages like Matthew 24?
We read them closely and take them seriously. Jesus could return any day now. Of course, he could return much differently than any of us expect. We also live as if we’re ready to go: keep our accounts short in our relationships and in our walk with God.
But beyond that, we keep on living.
Isn’t that how Jesus wants us to live anyway?
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- Read Exodus 21:23-25 and then Matthew 5:38-40. The first passage instructs people to live by the rule of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But in the second passage, Jesus directly contradicts it. How do you reconcile the two passages? Should one overrule the other? Why or why not?
- What would your life look like if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow? What prevents you from living that way right now?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now? In light of Psalm 29, what do you think God is saying to you in response to it?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.