Knowing the Hour

The signs of the times are telling us plainly that the return of the Lord is close at hand and our traditional understanding of the prophetic word has been correct. In the interval between now and his coming we are a afforded time to prepare for that inevitable day and, if necessary, re-assess our lives and address any issues which may impede our progress toward his Kingdom while there is still time.

If we consider the Lord’s warnings in Matt 24 and 25, which are part of the Olivet prophecy, we see that they are given against the background of AD70 and we can begin to appreciate how it would have impacted upon his immediate disciples and ultimately upon the whole nation. However, it is equally clear that he is also referring to the need for us to be ready for his second coming and this becomes very relevant to us because we may well be the generation that witnesses this. He warns five times in these two chapters that, “…of that day and hour knoweth no man” or, “ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” or, “in such an hour when ye think not the Son of man cometh” (see Matt 24:36,42,44,50; Matt 25:13).

“We were once blind but have had our eyes opened to the Truth. One thing we know for sure is that the Lord will come and his Kingdom will soon be established on this earth.”

The Lord refers to the time of Noah, when life and carefree living went on until the flood came and “took them all away.” That generation “knew not” but Jesus says to us, “know this that if the goodman of the house had known” he would not have allowed the thief to rob his house.

The exhortation for us is that we need to be ready as faithful and wise servants. Hence, Jesus expanded these thoughts by speaking further parables in Matthew 25. The wise virgins were “those who were ready [and] went in with him to the marriage” (Matt 25:10). is is the language used of the bride herself in Rev 19:7 where we read that “the marriage of the Lamb is come and the bride hath made herself ready”.

In the same parable, the foolish and unprepared found that “the door was shut” (Matt 25:10). It would be a devastating feeling to be shut out of the Kingdom! It is interesting that Jesus used the examples of Lot and Noah, recorded in Luke 17:26-30, to illustrate the sudden and unexpected overthrow of a wicked generation, and in both cases Yahweh shut the door (Gen 19:10; Gen 7:16). The world and its wickedness were shut out and the righteous were shut in. e lesson is clear. We must be able to comprehend the clear line of demarcation which exists between us and the world around us. It is part of our getting “ready” to keep the world out of our lives, out of our families and out of our ecclesias. We don’t want to find the door “shut” when the Lord comes!

The Lord spoke of wise and faithful servants who are busily engaged in the work of the Truth and active in ecclesial work. He also spoke of wicked servants, who say in their heart, “my Lord delayeth his coming”. The word “delayeth” has the same root word as “tarried” in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. This seeming delay in the Lord’s coming has caused some to go to sleep spiritually. Jesus described the result of this thinking when he said that the wicked servant, “began to smite his fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunken” (Matt 24:49). In everyday terms this equates to ecclesial strife and discord and indulgence in worldly activities. We have unfortunately seen the truth of the Lord’s words from time to time.

Priorities

Clearly we need to focus on what is important and necessary so that we are ready to meet the Lord. His words to Martha are so pertinent: “One thing is needful!” Martha was a wonderful and faithful sister as we learn from John 11 but in the incident recorded in Luke 10:42 her priorities were wrong. Certainly there was a time for housework but her sister, Mary, was seizing the opportunity of sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to his word. Did this conversation reveal Mary’s understanding of the Lord’s coming sacri ce, something which she revealed six days later when she anointed him before his death (John 12:1-8)? We don’t know. However, we do know that the Lord commended her action as a gesture related to his “burial”, so it was a deliberate act based on an appreciation of the Lord’s sacrificial work.

Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Martha shows us that we also need to learn the lesson about priorities. Martha, it says, was “cumbered about”, the Greek word meaning to “drag about”. Jesus said that she was “anxious” and “disturbed” about many things. Many of us can relate to that, especially in this modern, frenetic age where our lives can become encumbered with distracting things. Many sisters would be burdened with housework, attending to children, meals, husbands with work obligations, schooling, and shopping. In all of this, however, they need to establish priorities and choose above all else that “good part” that will never be taken from them. The “good part” was Mary’s deliberate choice. In the original, the word “part” refers to something shared; an assigned portion. She realized that the Lord could give her life, eternal life in fact, and that she could share that portion with him in the Kingdom.

We need that focus today as never before! So if it is a choice between getting to the meeting or Bible Class and a menial task, then our choice has to be like that of Mary who chose to “hear his word”!

One Thing is Needful

We find the expression “one thing” often occurring in Scripture. In each case, it illustrates com- mitment to a goal or an expression of unshakable faith in achieving an objective and sometimes even to highlight a particular fault. For example David wrote: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple” (Psa 27:4). Do we have a vision of being in the house of Yahweh like David? We need to have one if we are to overcome the distractions and attractions of this life.

Or we can take Paul’s sense of commitment, “but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). Here is the man who was the enemy of Christ, the persecutor of the ecclesia, who harassed and arrested men, women and children and had Stephen stoned to death. If he had remained paralysed by the consciousness of his past, he would never have performed the work the Lord called him to do. He understood the great mercy that had been extended to him and the power of forgiveness as he explained to Timothy in his first epistle (1 Tim 1:15,16). There may be some of us who bear burdens from our past life or things we would prefer to forget where we have failed in some way. Then let us take Paul’s advice and focus on the “one thing that is needful” and press on toward the prize of life in the Kingdom of God!

We can also look at the unshakable faith of the man born blind. Jesus had anointed his eyes with his spittle and clay and sent him to the pool of Siloam (John 9:6-7,25). All he knew of Jesus at the time was his name but he went in faith and received his sight. e Pharisees tried every guise to get him to discredit Jesus by repeatedly questioning him as to how the miracle was done. They intimidated his parents and at last accused Jesus of being a sinner (v24). His response was clear: “whether he be a sinner or no I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see”. A demonstration indeed of an unshakable faith based on clear evidence!

We were once blind but have had our eyes opened to the Truth. The evidence is there in the fulfilment of prophecy with Israel in the land and the signs of his coming being so clear. Let us stick to the evidence with unshakeable faith. One thing we know for sure is that the Lord will come and his Kingdom will soon be established on this earth.

To Attain unto Eternal Life

We must be prepared to sacrifice those things which would impede our progress to the Kingdom. In Mark 10:17-22 we meet a rich young man who wanted eternal life. When Jesus recited the part of the law which pertains to relationships with our fellow man the young man confidently responded, proclaiming that he had done all those things.

To which Jesus replied, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me”. Jesus does not require us to sell up everything we have and give it all away but he saw a weakness in this young man that could not be overcome easily and this highlights a hindrance that also may be ours. He was unable to give up his preoccupation with riches; this he could not sacrifice. It prevented him from taking up “the cross”. The record says that Jesus “loved” him. The word is agape and refers to a sacrificial, selfless love. It is the same kind of love which Jesus was willing to give, and did give, for those who were prepared to “follow in his steps”. His advice was an expression of that love and, although Jesus loved him, that young man was still faced with a life-changing challenge.

This is the challenge we all face. We must be prepared to sacrifice to attain unto eternal life and that means sacrificing anything which is contrary to the will of God and the Lord’s commandments. We may have the “one thing”which we lack but we still have time to identify what that weakness is and resolve it while the Lord is not yet here.

As we reflect upon the significance of the emblems, we are reminded of the greatness of the Lord’s sacrifice whereby we have access to the grace of God and forgiveness of our sins. We wonder in admiration at the Lord’s resolute and total commitment to the “one thing” he came to achieve, that men might have life and have it more abundantly. Let us follow his example! Let us also give priority to the one thing that will lead us unto eternal life!