Wednesday, November 30, 2016
“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
Parables, or stories, were told by Jesus to teach one central truth. They are like signposts, pointing to something much greater than their own reality. When I want to go somewhere I check the road signs against my GPS. The sign that says Thomasville 19 miles out on Interstate 85 is just a bit of metal. The reality comes later.
Teaching the reality of the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Jesus uses the fig tree’s flowering to tell us to stay alert, look at the signs, and be prepared. There’s a somewhat confusing, but specific reference to the generation that would still be alive. But that is the way people of Jesus' day measured segments of time; a generation consisting of 40 years. The coming event was only a generation away. But the later event, His Second Advent (v.36) would be sudden and unexpected by many.
Jesus illustrates with the example of Noah. Noah took the abuse of his neighbors as he built an ark in the sunshine for 120 years. But one day, when God was ready, the ark door closed...the laughing subsided...Don't misunderstand the parable that tells you God will someday take care of business.
The lesson from this bit of practical advice is simply to accept the fact that God has set the time; and Jesus will be back when He is back! You will know about it. As a believer, He has promised to come back for you. The event will be very open, with Jesus coming in clouds and glory. It will be a little like the elephants at the circus; you never have to ask, have the elephants come in? You KNOW when they've arrived! What you do while waiting for His coming is prepare to meet the Lord at His arrival.
Martha Snell Nicholson was a poet who spoke from her invalid’s bed of pain in the 1950’s. Listen to her beautiful words as she spoke words of truth we should all heed:
The best part is the blessed hope of his soon coming. How I ever lived before I grasped that wonderful truth, I do not know. How anyone lives without it these trying days I cannot imagine.
Each morning I think, with a leap of the heart, He may come today.
And each evening, When I awake I may be in glory.
Each day must be lived as though it were to be my last, and there is so much to be done to purify myself and to set my house in order.
I am on tiptoe with expectancy.
There are no more grey days – for they're all touched with color;
no more dark days – for the radiance of His coming is on the horizon;
no more dull days, with glory just around the corner;
and no more lonely days, with His footsteps coming ever nearer, and the thought that soon, soon, I shall see His blessed face and be forever through with pain and tears is the joy that awaits.[ii]
Whatever you do today, keep the house of your relationship with God…in order!
[ii] From a poem by Martha Snell Nicholson