Day 9: Jesus’ Return

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ

With the Ten Days of Awe drawing to a close, we turn our attention to the future. We look to a time when everything that went wrong in Genesis 3 will be made right to Revelation 21. The fall’s effects will no longer hold its influence over us. God’s plan of salvation will finally see it’s full realization. The current heavens and earth will give way to complete and permanent restoration. We will participate in the greatest party this universe has ever seen – the wedding supper of the Lamb!

But first, something has to happen. An event must occur that has been anticipated for hundreds and hundreds of years. Jesus must return.

The details of this event have been fiercely debated throughout church history. What has not been debated, however, are three basic facts surrounding Jesus’ return.

  1. Jesus will return suddenly
  2. His sudden return should be eagerly anticipated
  3. We do not know when his return will be

Today, we’ll examine each of these points to build a small picture of what it means to live in an age between Jesus’ first and second coming.

SUDDEN RETURN

Jesus spoke frequently about his return. “You also must be ready,” he warned his disciples, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Mt 24:44).” In Acts 1:11, we are told that Jesus will return in the same way that he ascended – in a spectacular event that will be obvious to all who witness it.

It will be, as Paul describes, “like a thief in the night (1Th 5:2).” This is not to say that Jesus will sneak to earth through a cosmic window and quietly steal people away; rather, Jesus’ return will be sudden and when we least expect it like a thief who comes after midnight. Also, like a thief who physically appears, so will Jesus’ return be personal and bodily in the same way that the disciples saw him go to heaven.

His sudden return will mark the beginning of the end of sin’s power. Jesus is coming a second time with a different mission. The first was to deal with sin, but the second is “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hb 9:28).” For this reason, we should eagerly ancitipate his return!

EAGER ANTICIPATION

James wrote, “the coming of the Lord is at hand (Jm 5:8).” We should always be anticipating that day. In fact, as we are living lives that are striving to become more and more Christ-like, we should also be “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Ts 2:12–13).”

In a part of the world where we enjoy great securities, health, and wealth, awaiting his return can sometime fade into the background. The more we are engaged in enjoying this life, we often forget about the life to come. Of course, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the gifts God gives us in this life, but they pale in comparison to the gifts we will receive in the next life.

Perhaps it is actually easier for Christians who experience suffering and persecution to eagerly anticipate his return. To them this life is filled with troubles, worries, and evil. They cry aloud with suffering brothers and sisters,  “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”

In some way, then, the degree to which we anticipate his return may help us gauge our attachment to this world. We are sojourners and aliens in a foreign land, but do we view ourselves as such? Do we look forward to the day when we will go home to where we really belong? Or do we see this world and this life as our home?

NO MAN KNOWS THE DAY OR THE HOUR

So, when will his sudden return occur? Well, no one knows. In fact, Jesus tells us that the “day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only (Mt 24:36).” So, not even the Son is privy to the hour of his own return!

What this tells us is that anyone who claims to know specifically when Jesus will return should automatically be considered wrong. Time and time again, people come forward to claim they have unique insight into Jesus’ return, insight that Jesus himself is not aware of according to Mt 24:36. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have officially predicted Jesus’ return five times only to be disappointed over and again.

The most recent famous example is Harold Camping, a Christian radio broadcaster, who claimed Jesus would return on May 21, 2011. When this failed to pan out, Camping pushed the date to October 21, 2011. He later apologized for his false teaching. Regardless of false prophecies, Jesus will return at any moment.

This fact leads some people to ask whether or not it is wise to invest in any long-term projects, plans, or careers. After all, Jesus could arrive at any moment and we don’t know when! This misses the point of precisely why God has opted not to tell us Jesus’ actual time of return. If we knew when Jesus would return, we’d disengage from imaging him to the world through relationships and community. Jesus wants us engaged in following him, no matter where we are in the grand timeline, right up until he returns.

REFLECTION

Take time to reflect on the coming event of Jesus’ second coming. Since Jesus could return at any hour, how does that affect your life? Do you now eagerly anticipate Jesus’ return? Are you ready for his return today?

Closing out the Ten Days of Awe with today’s celebration of Yom Kippur, we say with John in Revelation 22:20, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Yom Kippur Family Guide

atonement***NOTE: This is intended to be a devotional guide. There is a significant amount of information regarding Yom Kippur that will be left out of this guide, as our purpose here is worship and devotion, rather than teaching. If you are interested in learning more about the overall background and the details of how most Jewish people would celebrate Yom Kippur, we would recommend you visit a website such as hebrew4christians.com, as they do a great job giving the information and tying it back in with Jesus as the fulfillment of the biblical feasts.

We would challenge the fathers in our church to take this guide, read it through, and then work this with your families. Sit at the dinner table during Yom Kippur and discuss the spiritual truths of Yom Kippur, and partake of the reflections, scripture readings, and prayers together, as a family.

INTRODUCTION
Recently, we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, or the Biblical New Year. During this celebration, we learned that this was the first festival of the 7 major biblical festivals. After Rosh Hashanah, we have the 10 Days of Awe, during which we spend time in prayer, reflection, self-examination, and repentance.

The culmination of the 10 Days of Awe is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is the pinnacle of Jewish Holy Days, and is actually the only day where there is a biblical command to fast. All adults were to fast from just before sundown on the eve of Yom Kippur, and the fast didn’t end until after sunset on the next day—approximately 25 hours. Most of the day would be spent in the synagogue. There are actually 5 services that Jewish tradition dictated for Yom Kippur!

Shabbat Shabbaton
Yom Kippur is not just the only biblically commanded fast day, it is also one of only 7 days commanded for Shabbat shabbaton—rest from all “profane” work. Fasting and Sabbath have a few things in common that are important for us to remember.

First, fasting reminds us that we are not self-sufficient. This seems like a no-brainer, but we need food. We forget that, especially in a time and place where food is so easily accessible for most of us. But as we fast, we are reminded that we have a need for sustenance. Spiritually, this applies as well. We have a spiritual need for the Bread of Life, and as our stomach and body yearn for food, we desire for our soul to yearn for Christ just as strongly (and loudly!).

Second, Sabbath reminds us that we are not the sum of what we do. Our jobs and responsibilities do not define us as people. One reason that God desires us to rest is to see that He is the one who keeps the universe moving. As we Sabbath on a day like Yom Kippur, we see that the world does not stop, and life goes on. This is a great and humbling reminder in a society where staying busy is seen as something sacred.

Lastly, both of these spiritual disciplines associated with Yom Kippur are a way God uses to give us time to focus on Him. When we fast, we do not simply avoid food. We want to fill that gap and time with a focus on prayer and repentance. When we Sabbath, we don’t want to simply avoid activity, but we want to focus on worship and finding our rest in Christ. On Yom Kippur, as God’s people were commanded to spend more than a day fasting and resting, we are given a tremendous amount of time to focus on prayer, worship, and repentance.

REFLECTION
There is a challenge for the fathers here—take the first step, and lead your family by example. If you are an adult and in good health, we want to challenge you to fast, take a day off from your many responsibilities, and spend time in communion with our Heavenly Father. During this time, pray about how you are leading your family, and how God would have you lead them better. Then, find a time with your family, and discuss with them these ideas of fasting and resting. Lead them in prayer and worship around the table—maybe as you end your fast.

Scripture: Nehemiah 9:1-3

Prayer: Pray for grace to depend on God for our needs and our strength. Pray for our children to grow up understanding these powerful truths of fasting and Sabbath.

Holy of Holies
For Yom Kippur, the High Priest would perform a special ceremony, and offer special sacrifices. One of those sacrifices involved bringing in two goats. The first goat was designated “to the Lord,” and this goat would be sacrificed as a sin offering on behalf of the people. The High Priest would then sprinkle the blood of this goat on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. The second goat was then designated “for Azazel,” The High Priest would lay hands on this goat, and  confess all the sins of the people. This goat was then run out into the wilderness. The picture here is that the sins of the people were placed on the scapegoat, and then driven out of the midst of God’s people.

Since Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, we must remember that the major theme here is atoning for sins. It is interesting that many Jewish commentators struggle to reconcile the idea of the scapegoat taking the sins of the people out of the land, with the idea that we are morally responsible for our own actions.

Yet, as Christians, we understand this quite well. We must remember that we are powerless to fix our own sin problem. But Jesus came and died and our sins were placed on Him. Jesus is our Great High Priest who made atonement once and for all by making Himself the sacrifice, and being driven outside the camp.

REFLECTION
Take a small mirror (a make-up mirror will work well), and pass it around the table. Have each member of the family look at themselves in the mirror. For a minute, reflect on how you see yourself spiritually. Reflect on the reality of our finite nature, and our sins against God—thoughts, action, sins of commission and omission. Then, take another minute and close your eyes. Picture the face of Jesus, and reflect on the fact that He is the one who took our sins away. Before you open your eyes, remember this—God no longer sees you and your sins, but He sees Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf. Our sins have been driven as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12).

Scripture: Hebrews 9:11-14; 2 Corinthians 5:21

Prayer: Pray in thankfulness to Christ for His sacrifice and His grace. Pray that this truth will take deeper root in our hearts, and that we can grow in our understanding of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, that He took our sins on Himself, for us and our salvation.

Repentance
The last major theme we want to focus on is the need for repentance. During the 10 Days of Awe, repentance was an important focus. Jewish people came to believe that on Yom Kippur, the Book of Life and the Book of Death were closed. If you repented during the 10 Days, then your name was in the Book of Life. If you failed to repent, then your name was in the Book of Death. On Yom Kippur, these books were closed and sealed.

Since the Messiah has come, we now know that the Book of Life is the Lamb’s Book of Life. For those of us who have placed our trust in His Righteousness, we no longer have to fret over the Book being sealed without our name in it. As we just talked about, Christ was our sacrifice and paid the price for our name to be written in His Book of Life.

Yet, repentance is an important aspect of our lives as Christians. When most of us think of repentance, we think of the initial act that initiates salvation. This is not untrue, but repentance is much more than that. Repentance is about a change of mind, and a turning of our lives. As long as we are on this earth, we are in constant need of repentance. We are in constant need of our lives being turned more on the course that God has designed, and our minds being set more and more on Heavenly things.

This is why Martin Luther said, in the first of his 95 Theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Repentance is not a one time action for a non-believer to enter the faith. Rather, repentance is a repetitive action that characterizes the life of the believer.

REFLECTION
Have everyone take a pen a piece of paper. As a family, take 5 minutes to write down specific areas of repentance. There will certainly be areas in our lives where we have sinned against God, and we need His grace to repent and have our hearts and minds moved into a better path. There are also places where we need to seek forgiveness from other people—maybe even the people we are gathered with around the table. Write these things down. (Note: After the prayer, we will take the sheets of paper, tear them into pieces, and throw them away—maybe even burn them in the fireplace for a stronger visual—to represent the forgiveness of our sins, and the fact that our sins have been driven away, as we discussed in the last point.)

Scripture: Matthew 4:17; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10; Luke 17: 3-4

Prayer: Pray in thankfulness that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Pray that God would give us grace and mercy to repent each and every day, and continually have our hearts and minds turned toward the way of Jesus. Thank God that the sins on our list have been laid on Christ on the cross, and are forgiven. (Now, ask for forgiveness from anyone you wrote on the list, then destroy the papers and discard them, and celebrate with your family.)

Day 8: What Does Jesus Do Now?

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ

 

Have you every wondered what Jesus is doing? Literally, right now? What is he doing?

Many will jump immediately to his return. We would say, “Jesus is currently awaiting his second coming.” While that’s true (and we’ll explore that very topic tomorrow), I think we sometimes let his second coming overshadow his present ministry. We imagine Jesus waiting around in heaven until he receives the command from the Father to return. Until then, he sits… waits… daydreams…

But that’s not true at all! Today, even as you read this article, Jesus is acting on our behalf as our great high priest. He brings us near to God and continually prays for us.

He does this out of love for us and obedience to the Father. When you think about it, he’s the only one that could bring us near to God and continually pray for us.

Why? Because he is uniquely qualified to do so. Better yet, Jesus is the only person in the entire universe for all eternity who can be our great high priest because only he is truly God and truly man, exalted forever above the heavens.

Think about it – God could simply care for all of our needs through his powerful observation, but he chose instead to relate to us through experience in the man Jesus. Yet, human nature alone does not allow for the high priest Jesus to relate to us all. How could he hear all of our petitions, our needs, or our requests? Thus, the perfect high priest must also be God as well as man.

This makes Jesus uniquely qualified to bring us near to God and continually intercede on our behalf. But it hasn’t always been this way. Jesus’ role as our great high priest was actually foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

NEAR TO GOD & CONTINUAL PRAYER

If you lived during the Old Testament period, you would be very familiar with the temple sacrificial system. It was the vehicle by which your sins would be atoned for. It also drew you nearer to God through a representative priest.

Once a year, the priest would enter the holy of holies, an inner chamber within the temple, to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat and make an atonement for the sins of the people.

Today, there is no longer any need for the temple sacrificial system. The cross and resurrection made the whole process obsolete as Jesus perfectly and finally fulfilled its meaning and purpose. As our perfect high priest, Jesus continually leads us into God’s presence. This means that we no longer need a temple or a special priesthood to mediate between us and God. Instead, Jesus is our one mediator (1Ti 2:5)!

Likewise, Jesus does not go into the holy of holies of the earthly temple in Jerusalem, but he has entered into the heavenly equivalent to the holy of holies, the very presence of God himself in heaven. Hebrews 9:24 declares, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

This means that Jesus has made available the way of access to God so that we can continually “draw near” into God’s very presence without fear but with “confidence” and in “full assurance of faith (Hb 10:19–22).”

Not only this, but Jesus acts as our great high priest by continually praying for us. “Who is to condemn?” Paul rhetorically asks in Romans. “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Rm 8:34).”

What an amazing thought! Jesus is praying for us, even when we ourselves neglect prayer. He is constantly interceding on our behalf to the Father. With the Holy Spirit, he brings our spiritual needs before the Father, some of which we may not even know we have. He prays for our own protection against unseen dangers we may not even be aware of. He prays against the enemy’s work in our life, even if we do not notice it. He prays that our faith would not cease, so we would one day see his glorious final victory over Satan, sin and death.

REFLECTION

Consider what it means that Jesus is our perfect and great high priest. He continually intercedes on our behalf. How does Jesus’ role of high priest affect your life? How could your awareness of this unique and important role be developed in your life?