Preparing the Church for the Return of Jesus
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But keep on the alert at all times Luke 21:36
On September 11, 2001 the economic center of the United States was attacked when two fully loaded commercial jet airliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A short time later the military center of the United States was attacked when another airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. Yet a fourth airliner was flown into the ground in rural Pennsylvania as the crew and passengers overwhelmed the agents who had hijacked the airplane. That airplane was apparently targeted to attack the White House, the political center of the United States. That day millions of stunned Americans stared at their television screens, listened to their radios or logged into the internet, mesmerized and shocked by what they saw and heard.
The impact of those singular attacks have been more far reaching that the simple magnitude of the attacks would warrant. Fewer than 3,000 people were killed, which is less than 10% of those killed in automobile accidents each year. The site of the Twin Towers has been cleaned up and the damage to the Pentagon has been repaired. Yet the United States remains a shaken nation.
For over 10 years, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has arguably been the only super power left among the nations of the world. It has also identified by most as one of the most Christianized nations of the world. How could such a thing happen?
The United States was totally unprepared for the events of that day. The military and government at all levels were caught sleeping. Even the powerful secret intelligence agencies responsible for warning of such events were clueless. Given that situation, it is quite understandable that the citizenry was so shaken.
Were there no clues? Of course there were. Were there no signs? Of course there were, but for years those in responsible positions were either unable to read them and discern what they meant or they ignored them.
Is it possible that God is using such an event to alert the church to her present situation? Would God be so cruel as to know that the horrific events of the tribulation were going to occur and yet not provide a warning for His people? God is merciful, and He gives us instructions on how we can be prepared for the events to come.
When Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the Lord, he used the illustration that we are like soldiers of Jesus. (II Timothy 2:3-4) When soldiers go through boot camp and training they go through a process of intense training in two major areas.
First, they are taught the principles and skills they need as individuals. They learn how to use and care for their weapons; they become physically fit and strong; they learn how to do battle.
Then, they are taught how to function together as a unit. If an army is going to be effective in battle the soldiers must learn how to function together and have a cohesion. They learn the chain of command so they know who to obey. Individuals are put together in small groups that soon function as a unit. Each one is assigned a specific job and learn the skills to accomplish that job effectively.
It is the same way in the church. We must both learn what to do individually and corporately. The rest of the book is divided into two main sections to reflect these needs.
After Jesus had finished answering the disciples questions on the sign of His return He went on to give them some instruction. As was His usual method of teaching, He told them a series of parables. These parables take up about 2/3 of the Olivet Discourse and can be approached from many perspectives. The context in which Jesus told these parables, however, is prophetic and were given for the benefit of believers facing the times and trials that Jesus had just spoken about.
These parables are:
The Days of Noah
The Parable of the Thief
The Parable of the Wise and Evil Slaves
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
The Parable of the Talents
The Parable of the Sheep and Goats
The next section will look at each of these six parables.
Getting the Church Ready
It is not sufficient for believers to be equipped unless they are also joined together with other believers. Jesus would not be so inconsiderate so as to leave the church without solutions in the coming crisis.
In the first chapter of Revelation Jesus appears to John and tells him to write down letters for seven churches in the Roman province of Asia (present day western Turkey). Jesus then proceeds to dictate these letters to John, who wrote them down.
To understand these letters it is important to note that the entire book of Revelation is addressed to the seven churches that are in Asia. Since the rest of the book is clearly prophetic, outlining in great detail the events to come, it is fair to consider that these letters, written to actual churches in that day, are also prophetic.
In these letters Jesus is giving instruction to the end-time church. The situations with the seven churches in Asia are the same as the situations that are being faced by churches all over the world as we approach the end times.