This article warns of being caught up with the temporal “things” of this life. It warns of a day coming which will catch some unawares. They had a knowledge of Christ’s advent yet allowed the present to obscure the reality and imminence of that Divine intervention. But the present is so temporal. How great will be the folly of those who perish with the possessions they preferred!

Preoccupation with things present

What are the realities of our life? One of the great impediments to the Jews accepting Christ at his first advent was their predominant focus on things which were physical. They had great interest in acquiring status in the eyes of men and physical goods. Their worship was centred on external activities and they expected their Messiah, when he appeared, to be principally involved with re-establishing the national kingdom of Israel and dispossessing the Roman occupiers. To them these things were the “realities” of life.

As a result they badly neglected the elements which would have commended them to God – justice, mercy and faith. These are inward qualities and not external or physical. The result was an absence in their lives of the two elements which would lead them to life eternal – a knowledge of God and His character and a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ whom God had sent. These would have related them to a life of eternal reality.

While we can deplore this wrong emphasis by the Jews of the first century, we must remember it is a very human trait and we have many temptations to do the same. The experiences of the Jews have always been a warning to believers to “take heed lest we fall”. Yet we seem to be fully involved in providing for the various needs of life – our homes, our families, our ecclesias, and even service to others. Everything appears to be needed for the standard of living and the form of life which is normal to our circumstances – but are they? We may not consider ourselves to be rich, but our lives can become dominated by our concerns with the physical and present day issues. It is therefore necessary to regularly review and reorder our priorities to bring a better balance to our lives.

It is hard to appreciate the force or the importance of the words of our Master when he said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you” (John 6: 27). We need to pause and seriously consider how we are following this order of priorities. Can we show by our use of time that we take his guidance seriously? It is very challenging to refrain from being fully engrossed in day to day living.

When writing to his fellow disciples, the apostle Peter emphasized the need for them to keep focused on Divine things. Both Jerusalem and the Temple which they loved would be destroyed within a very few years. Peter wrote: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness”? (2 Pet 3:11). Like all material things, the Temple and Jerusalem were not as durable as they might appear. But the Kingdom of God will be eternal and they needed to concentrate more on their relationship with God and order their lives accordingly. The words are equally relevant for us today, as our gentile world is soon to be overthrown as the Jewish world was in ad70.

If we’re honest, we know those words are very easy to read but they are not so easy to implement effectively, are they? The temptation is always present to leave our consideration of spiritual things and get caught up with problems and interests of the present. It is only our knowledge of God’s long range intentions, which we get from the Scriptures, that encourages us to seek the glories of the Kingdom. The reality is that they are no further away than our remaining short life-spans.

Looking afar off

When Abraham, the father of the faithful, went with Isaac to that act of worship on Mount Moriah which God had asked of him, it is recorded that he “lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off’ (Gen 22:4). We also must raise our vision to the future and contemplate the Kingdom which is the reward of our worship and which we will only enjoy as a result of a true and enduring relationship with our Heavenly Father.

In Matthew’s gospel we are told that when the Lord was tempted by the adversary he rebuffed the temptation by recalling the teaching of Moses, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt 4:10). The word “worship” is interesting. We use it to describe what we do for our God and our spiritual exercises. It is a contraction of ‘worth-ship’ and ascribes worth or value to the object of our devotion. Our worship of God shows how much we value Him and how much we esteem the worth of our Heavenly Father. The depth of our relationship and our love for Him is revealed in our attention to His past actions and our faith in the fulfilment of His promises for the future. It is demonstrated by our obedience to His commands. Jesus says, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). In these last days it is vital that we take notice of those words. We need to reduce the importance of present things, whatever they may be, in order to spend time and thought on the eternal things of God – reading and meditating on Scripture and being involved in building up each other in our precious faith.

Sometimes it is felt that we spend so much time on ecclesial activities that our time for reading and meditation is very restricted. When we feel that way we may need to redress the balance in our lives. All things must be done in harmony and no one aspect of service should be allowed to squeeze out other necessary requirements for true godliness. Christ spent much time in meditation and prayer as well as healing diseases and spreading the gospel to the people. He also debated the teaching of God with the many adversaries who opposed him and he encouraged the disciples to prepare to carry on the work after his departure. Our lives should show some involvement in these types of activities, even though we will be unlikely to be involved as intensively as our Lord.

I find it helpful to question how each of the activities we are engaged in will prepare us and others for life in the Kingdom. We pray regularly, “Thy kingdom come”, and confidently expect that one day soon it will come. How sincere are our prayers for the Kingdom to come? It can be an awkward question but we each need to ask it of ourselves. Our mortal lives have to be a preparation for the Kingdom and we need to devote time for that purpose. The extent of our preparations will be an index to the strength of our faith and the quality and fervency of our prayers for its fulfilment.

The elements of this world will be ground to powder

All the signs in the world about us indicate that the time of Christ’s return draws near. His coming will bring catastrophic judgment on a godless and antagonistic world. As with the plagues of Egypt, God’s intervention through the return of His Son will bring a revolution in the whole order of things. It is likened in the book of Revelation to a great earthquake. The values of the world will be turned completely upside down. Righteousness and virtue will take the place of selfishness and evil. Materialistic values will be replaced by the spiritual values of God. This is what we have to prepare for by ensuring our values now reflect those of the Kingdom. Our thought processes and hence our actions should be identified with the reign of Christ – “the stone cut out of the mountain without hands” – as the elements of the world will be ground to powder and blown away.

Two events in the Old Testament are very illustrative of what will happen when Christ comes to transform the kingdoms of the world into the Kingdom of our God. The first is when the angels came to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, ungodly places in the world of Abraham’s day. The angels had been sent to destroy those places and their evil inhabitants. Lot and his family, who were related to the living God through the faith of Abraham, were called upon to come out of them and avoid the calamity. Lot somewhat reluctantly obeyed and, being led by the Divine messenger, left Sodom. But Lot’s wife looked back. Her affections were with the relationships and material possessions of Sodom and she perished with the things which she loved. It is a salutary warning to later disciples and Christ warned us to “remember Lot’s wife”.

The other event is when Joshua led the people of Israel out of the wilderness into an inheritance in the Promised Land. God was to give them a home in a new land and eliminate the then occupying evil society with its polluting practices. When God decreed that the city of Jericho was to be destroyed the Israelites were instructed that everything pertaining to that city was to be destroyed, or purified by fire and devoted to God’s special use. But Achan and his family disobeyed, taking some of the things which should have been devoted to God. They lusted after the gold and silver, worldly possessions and wealth and were tempted by the Babylonish garment, a symbol of an apostate system, and as a result they perished.

These would have been fearful events to those who were spectators. It was an awesome rejection of the ungodly and the disobedient from God’s salvation and from God’s family. Yet those individuals were only representative of all men and women who choose to focus their desires and invest time and effort in the things of this world which will soon be swept away in God’s coming judgments. We are told that there will be many in that day who see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of God and will themselves be shut out. They will perish with the possessions which they preferred. It is imperative that we should learn from these fearful examples so that we will not be amongst those who are found to have loved the things of the world more than the things of God.

Longing for the change to perfection

The nations of the world seem to roll on from day to day, often lurching from one crisis to another, but with no appreciation of the approaching changes which we know will be instituted at Christ’s return. We are not in ignorance of these coming events but have been enlightened so that we may be fully prepared for them and sympathetic to the changes.

Paul wrote: “The things which are seen are temporal; but the things that are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:18). The temporal “things” are going to be taken away and dissolved, but we seek the perfection and permanence of the Kingdom of God. In an age where much imperfection is tolerated, and where everything is undergoing constant change, it is not easy to appreciate the permanence and perfection of the Divine. Human life is very finite, whereas God is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, and He has called us to be associated with Him. To prepare for this is contrary to our inclinations and the practices that surround us. Yet it is necessary. The more we are able to fill our minds with the things of God from the Scriptures and be always conscious of His plan for a world filled with righteousness and peace, the less our thoughts will be involved with things temporal and perishing.

Much has been given to encourage us. We have the record of many who have gone before and run a successful race. Faith and trust in God enabled them to keep their eyes fixed firmly on the goal of the Kingdom. They did not trust in the uncertain riches of the world but trusted in the Living God. He is the source of all power and authority and will be pleased to grant a place in His glorious Kingdom to all who maintain their faith and hope in Him to the end of their days.