Embracing the Last Days Messianic Expectation

Today’s selected reading continues in the third chapter of the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Peter unto those who obtained like precious faith. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the final two verses of both the third chapter and the epistle as a whole. When you come to this particular portion of the second epistle written by the apostle Peter you will find him concluding his remarks—not only concerning the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ, but also how we should conduct ourselves in light of such a reality. As the chapter opens, it does so with the apostle Peter seeking to stir up the hearts, the minds, the souls, and the spirits of those to whom he is writing concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before I even delve into what is contained within this chapter, I can’t help but wonder how many of us are able to be stirred by the reality that Jesus Christ is returning in the same manner in which the disciples and His followers saw Him ascend into heaven. There is a tremendous part of me that can’t help but wonder how many of us have the capacity to be stirred up by the reality that we are living in days when Jesus could come back at any moment. How many of us truly have the ability and capacity to allow our hearts to be stirred by such news that Jesus is indeed and is in fact coming again? One of the greatest realities found within the Old Testament that has so often gripped and stirred me is the Messianic expectation and hope that was found within the hearts and spirits of countless men and women who lived during those times. From the time the Lord spoke unto Adam, Eve and the serpent in the garden of Eden and pronounced the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed, but the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head, there was a tremendous expectation and anticipation as men and women patiently waited for the coming of the Messiah. One cannot, must not, and even dare not read the Old Testament without coming face to face with the fact that those who lived during those days lived with a profound sense that the Messiah could come at any point in time. During those days, men and women were not living in an anticipation and expectation that the Messiah would return, but that the Messiah would come for the very first time. One of the most profound realities found within the entire canon of Scripture is that there were generations who lived with a wonderful and profound expectation for the coming of the Messiah, while there were other generations who have lived—and still do live—for the imminent return of the Messiah.

As I sit here and consider the imminent return of the Messiah, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica in the final portion of the fourth chapter of the first epistle, as well as within the fifth chapter of the same epistle. When writing unto the Thessalonians—the first church and the first congregation he wrote an epistle to—the apostle Paul sought to encourage their hearts, their souls and their spirits with the wonderful sense of expectation and anticipation for the coming and return of the Messiah. In fact, beginning with the thirteenth verse of the fourth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Thessalonian congregation we find the following words which were written concerning the imminent return of the Lord Jesus:

“But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (! Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Notice in the eighteenth and final verse of the fourth chapter how the apostle Paul instructs the Thessalonian congregation to comfort one another with the words which were just presented. What were the words which they were to comfort one another with? In the fourteenth verse of this particular chapter the apostle Paul emphatically declares that if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). What the apostle Paul was seeking to convey to the hearts and minds of the Thessalonian congregation was that if we believed that Jesus died and rose again from the grave, then we must also believe that there will be a resurrection that will take place for the saints of God. What I so absolutely love about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is that although He was the firstfruits of the resurrection from the grave, He didn’t experience that reality by Himself. In fact, even before Jesus Himself rose from the grave, He first raised Lazarus from death to life, as He caused Lazarus to come forth from the grave after being buried for four days. I am convinced that we must recognize and understand this, for in and through the account of Lazarus’ story we see firsthand how it was the desire, the intention and the purpose of the Lord to resurrect and raise up men and women from the grave. Through the account of Lazarus we find Jesus ready, willing and able to raise up men and women from death to love—especially those whom He loves and is affectionate toward. What I so love and appreciate about the account of Jesus and Lazarus is that Jesus allowed Lazarus’ sickness to eventually and ultimately consume his body, thus resulting in his physical death. What’s more, is that Jesus even allowed Lazarus to be buried in the tomb—and not only buried in the tomb, but also buried within the tomb for four days. Jesus didn’t come when he first received and heard the report of Lazarus’ being sick, and he didn’t even come when He first heard the report that Lazarus was dead. What Jesus did was deliberately and intentionally wait to allow Lazarus to die, and even waited until Lazarus had been buried in the grave for four days before He called him forth from the tomb. On the fourth day Jesus shows up outside of Lazarus’ tomb, and not only calls him forth from the grave by name, but first commands the stone to be rolled away and removed from the entrance of the tomb. First comes the removal of the stone, then comes the voice of the Messiah, and then comes the removal of the grave clothes. True and authentic. Resurrection begins with that which was meant to keep you in the grave being removed, followed by the voice of the Messiah calling you forth from the grave. Resurrection would culminate with an emergence from the grave, and the removal of the grave clothes which kept you bound.

When we consider the reality of Jesus returning again for a church and body that is without spot or wrinkle, we must understand it in light of resurrection—and not only a physical resurrection from the grave, but also a spiritual resurrection that precedes that resurrection. I have long been fascinated with and by the fact that while we are waiting to be resurrected we are to be resurrected, and raised from death to life. While we are waiting for that final transformation when that which mortal puts on that which is immortal, and that which is corruptible puts on the incorruptible, we are to be transformed from the inside out. I have long believed that we are to be transformed while we wait to be transformed, and we are to be resurrected while we wait to be resurrected. Upon writing his first epistle unto the Corinthian congregation, the apostle wrote a considerable amount concerning the resurrection from the grave, and how we as the saints of God have been called to experience resurrection from the grave when Jesus who is the Christ and Lord returns with the voice of the archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet. As the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints opens, it opens with the apostle Paul writing unto these saints concerning Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead—His own emergence from the grave, and how His resurrection is the gateway and the door that leads to our own resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection from death to life makes possible—not only a physical and natural resurrection from death to life, but also a spiritual and supernatural resurrection from death to life. Consider if you will the words which are found in the first eleven verses of the fifteenth chapter of this epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation:

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of all the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

Within the first eleven verses of this chapter we find the apostle Paul beginning a wonderful and powerful discussion concerning the resurrection of the saints of God by first writing concerning Jesus’ own resurrection from the grave. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that we cannot write and even speak about our own resurrection from death to life without first speaking of Christ’s own resurrection from the grave. In fact, it is only because Jesus Christ Himself rose from the grave on the third day that we ourselves are able to rise again from death to life. It is only because Jesus who is both Christ and Lord rose from the grave that we are able to not only experience a physical and natural resurrection of our bodies, but also a spiritual and supernatural resurrection. I am utterly and completely convinced that in order for us to anticipate and expects the resurrection of our physical and natural bodies we must first experience a spiritual and supernatural resurrection within our lives. It is Jesus’ own resurrection which makes possible the spiritual and supernatural resurrection we have all been called to experience, and it is this spiritual and supernatural resurrection we have been called to experience that makes possible a physical and natural resurrection from the grave. I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the sixth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Rome. Beginning with the third verse of that chapter the apostle Paul writes the following words unto these dearly beloved saints:

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:3-14).

What we find in this passage of Scripture within the epistle which Paul wrote unto the Romans is a powerful declaration of Christ’s resurrection which makes possible a spiritual and supernatural resurrection which we as the saints of God have been called to experience. When writing unto the Roman congregation the apostle Paul not only declared that if we are buried with Christ by baptism into death, so also like as Christ was raised up from death to life by the glory of the Father, so also we can, and so also we shall be raised up from death to life. The apostle Paul wrote and declared that if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing that our old man is crucified with Christ. As you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints in this particular passage of Scripture, you will be confronted with the reality that Christ’s death is the gateway and door of our own death and crucifixion, and Christ’s resurrection from the grave is the gate and doorway to our own resurrection. What the apostle Paul writes of within this passage of Scripture is not a physical and natural resurrection alone, but a spiritual and supernatural resurrection which we as the saints of God shall experience if we have first experienced being baptized and buried with Jesus Christ in death. What we must understand is that resurrection is and can only be made possible by death, for death is the gate by which we are able to walk in newness of life through the power of resurrection from the grave. In all reality I can’t help but see Israel’s exodus from the land of Egypt as the first of two resurrections which are witnessed within the Old Testament. I am convinced there was essentially two resurrections of the nation and people of Israel within Scripture, and a third resurrection outside of Scripture which took place seventy years ago this year. If there is one thing I absolutely love about the history of the children of Israel, it’s that they are perhaps the only people on the face of the earth, and within the history of mankind who have experienced resurrection on multiple levels, and on multiple different fronts. In fact, I can’t help but consider—not only the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the Old Testament book of Exodus, but also the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel. Consider if you will the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Exodus concerning the resurrection of the children of Israel from the death, the bondage, the oppression, and the slavery of the land of Egypt:

“And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians. And the children of Israel journeyed from Ramses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they were brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any virtual. Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel” (Exodus 12:29-42).

“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: but God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had strategy sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you. And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Ethan, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pill of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:17-22).

Beginning with the first verse of the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel we find the prophet prophesying unto the children of Israel concerning the children of Israel who had by now been living as captives in the land of the Chaldeans. What is so absolutely incredible about this particular chapter within the prophetic book of Ezekiel is that it is a chapter that deals specifically with resurrection from death to life, and the opening of graves. The words which we find in this passage of Scripture point to the wonderful and incredible reality that not only can God open up the graves of His saints and people, but He can also cause His people to come forth from those graves as a triumphant and victorious people. Consider if you will the words which are found in the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel beginning with the first verse:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Against he said unto me, Prophesy unto these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones: behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breath upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the. Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

Pay attention to the final words found within this particular chapter, for the language that is found within the entire first portion of this chapter is about resurrection. This chapter begins and opens up with the prophet Ezekiel being brought into a valley that was full of bones which were very dry, and then asked if the bones all around him could live again. I am convinced we must pay close attention to that particular chapter, for it is a question that centers upon the reality of resurrection. The question which the Lord asked the prophet Ezekiel is one that completely and utterly Centris upon resurrection, and whether or not that which was dead can in fact live again. One of the greatest realities found within all of Scripture is that that which was dead can in fact live again. In this passage of Scripture, not only do we find the bones coming back together bone to his bone, but we also find sinews and flesh coming upon the bones. Still—despite the fact that the bones had come together, and flesh and sinews had formed upon the bones, the work was not yet complete. Just as Adam who was formed from the dust of the earth could not become a living soul without and apart form the breath of life, so also could the children of Israel not become the exceeding great army they were called to be without and apart from the breath of the living God. The final words of the eighth verse are words which bring us face to face with the incredible need we have for the breath of the living God, for Ezekiel writes: “but there was no breath in them” (Ezekiel 37:8). Without any breath in them, it didn’t matter that the bones had come together, or that flesh and sinews had formed upon the bones. It was only the breath of the living God that could take that which was once dead and cause it to come alive again. I am convinced this is absolutely critical for our understanding the reality and concept of resurrection, for true resurrection cannot and will not take place without and apart from the breath of the living God causing that which was once dead to live again. Before the breath of the living God which was breathed into the nostrils of Adam he was nothing more than a form and shadow of dust which was formed from the earth. Once the Lord breathed into his nostrils he was able to become a living soul for the first time. This is actually quite interesting, for not only is the breath of God necessary to bring forth and conceive life, but so also is the breath of God needed for the process of resurrection and bringing that which was dead to life once more. Perhaps this is why in Scripture the apostle Paul writes and speaks of the Holy Spirit which raised Christ from the dead. It was the breath of the living God—the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit—that brought about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and that which brings us forth from our graves, and from death to life.

The apostle Paul had a considerable amount of words to say when speaking concerning the resurrection of the dead, and the bringing forth of that which was dead from its graves. The entire fifteenth chapter of the first New Testament epistle written unto the Corinthian congregation centered upon the incredible reality of the resurrection of the saints of God, and how when Jesus Christ returns with the voice of the archangel, and with the sound of the trump, the dead in Christ will rise to life once more, and those who are alive and remain will be caught up together to meet them in the clouds where they will all meet Jesus Christ. Pause for a moment and consider what a great and glorious sight and experience that will be—to be joined together in the clouds with all those who are dead in Christ, and in one giant triumphant procession being gathered together to meet with Jesus in the air. With all His holy saints gathered before and around Him, Jesus will lead them all into the presence of His Father, and into the presence of the holy angels which worship and serve round about the throne night and day for all eternity. When writing this second epistle, the apostle Peter sought to stir the hearts, the minds, the souls and the spirits of those he was writing to concerning the awesome reality of Jesus Christ coming back in like manner as he saw Him ascend. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for the apostle Peter to write concerning the return of Jesus Christ, knowing that he was there on the mount of Olives when Jesus ascended into heaven, and was removed from their sight by a cloud. The apostle Peter not only witnessed Jesus Christ be transfigured in the glory He had with the Father atop the mountain, but the apostle Peter also witnessed Jesus Christ ascend unto into heaven. Here within this epistle the apostle Peter sought to bring his readers and audience into the place where they lived their lives with an eager anticipation and expectation for the coming return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter sought to silence the voices of the scoffers who asked where and when the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ would be. The apostle Peter—when writing in this third and final chapter of this epistle—wrote how in the last days there would come scoffers, who walking in their own lusts, will ask where the promise of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is. These scoffers will see how long it has been since Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father in heaven, and will doubt that He will even return and come again for His saints and body. These scoffers will sho absolutely no regard for the events which took place in the days of the book of Genesis—days when the Lord destroyed the earth and every living thing on it with the waters of the great flood and deluge. Only Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives, as well as two of every living kind of being—both male and female—were spared from the destruction of the flood. Also within the Old Testament book of Genesis we find the days of Lot—days in which the Lord utterly and completely destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain with fire and brimstone. How incredibly interesting it is that within such a book that describes beginnings, there were two cataclysmic and catastrophic events which took place—one which destroyed the whole earth with a flood, and one which destroyed five cities in a plain by fire and brimstone. When we read the words which the apostle Peter writes in this second epistle written in the New Testament we must not only confront our own expectation and anticipation for the coming and return of the Messiah, but we must also confront the hope that is found within our hearts concerning a joyful and triumphant union with the saints of Christ together with Christ in the sky before we will be ushered into the glorious presence of the living God. The question I leave you with is whether or not you are stirred within the depths of your heart and soul concerning the Messianic expectation of His return, and whether or not you are living with an anticipation and expectation for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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