5 July 2022

“Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times….”(1 Chronicles 12:32)

What is happening in the world and in the church today – are we, as believers, among those who have understanding of the times? Do we know what is important among the happenings and events of our world -do we discern the trends, ideologies and morality of peoples and nations – do we, as believers, appreciate what is happening in the church and the state the church is in as we face the challenges in this age?

The Lord Jesus reveals that no one knows when His second coming will ensue, except the Father. In the book of Revelation, however, it is revealed that victory comes to the saints through suffering and death. What counts in the end is not just simply believing in Jesus in a superficial sense, but being faithful and loyal to Him in the path of discipleship, suffering and death.

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matt. 21-27)

In Matthew 24, the Lord Jesus was referring to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, as well as His second coming, in reply to the questions posed by His disciples. But in verse 21-27, He was specifically relating events and happenings before His second coming (‘end times’). Although we are living in the last days (between the first and second coming of Christ), we are still not in the end times. In this passage, the Lord speaks of great tribulation, the prominence of false christs, false prophets (even those among them who can perform signs and wonders), false teachings (many referring to His second coming as occuring), the Lord warns believers beforehand not to be deceived but to endure and persevere until He comes.

In the face of great tribulation, false teachings, the onslaught of the evil one and his minions, persecutions and temptations to give up our faith in the light of the moral and spiritual deterioration in this world, how can believers and the Church ensure that there would be endurance, perseverance and faithfulness in our faith?

There is a need to ground thoughtful Christians more firmly and clearheadedly in their faith; there should be stirring of believers out of the sluggishness into which theological and spiritual undernourishment has brought so many of us; there ought for believers to take to heart the marching orders given by our Lord Jesus and His apostles – who charge us first to be and then to make disciples everywhere, startlng from where we are.

The book of Revelation reveals that the greatest threats facing the hearers and readers are connected with not being prepared to encounter God at the second coming of Jesus; the real crisis is facing God’s judgement or being written out of the book of life (Revelations 3:5). The crises of persecution, deprivation, suffering and death are relatively less threatening when compared to the threat of the second death (Revelations 2:11) and they are temporary when compared with eternal damnation. Revelations calls upon believers to be ready to encounter Christ at His second coming and to be faithful to Him in the midst of current pressures and spiritual opposition seeking to cause them to compromise their faith and loyalty to God.
In Luke 14:25-33, we read of the many references to ‘situations’ and ‘realities’ by the Lord Jesus regarding genuine discipleship of believers:
The Lord turned to the crowds and told them that if anyone comes to Him and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be His disciple.

He further added that whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Him cannot be His disciple.
He also said that that if anyone does not renounce all that he has cannot be His disciple.

Note ‘cannot be!’. In other words, if you are not a disciple…you are not a Christian.

But if you are a Christian, you must be a disciple.

What is clear is that loyalty to the Lord Jesus and love for Him must be supreme – no other love can take its place; a disciple must be willing to follow Him and die to his own plans and submit to God’s purposes whatever it will cost! If we seek to be loyal and faithful to Him in these times – this is our calling and this is the quality of discipleship needed.

Are we among those who can read the signs of the times?