Late last year I celebrated a half-century walking on this big blue marble. Admittedly some of those years were spent crawling or being carried, but you get the idea. Since turning 50 I’ve had a lot of new experiences: I had two major back surgeries (nearly died during the first one), I discovered why I’m so often tired (severe sleep apnea) and nearly every morning I’ve observed an increasingly gray beard. I point your attention to my beard as there is really nothing on top of the head to see (other than the glare of the sun). Every gaze into the mirror brings to mind memories of my father and my oldest brother–who both passed away younger than I would’ve thought they should. The gray beard, the persistent images, and a few moments in the Bible remind me of the fleeting nature of my time here. However, the Bible emphasizes something beyond brevity: urgency.
Urgency is a recurring theme in the New Testament. I remember the first time that it really struck a chord with me was during a study of Romans 13:11-13. This passage greatly emphasizes the urgency of our faith. First, Paul writes, “Besides this, you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake up from your sleep.” He then emphasizes, “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Indeed, it is. Finally: “The night is far gone; the day is at hand.“ He builds tension here that leaves the believer asking, much as thousands did on the day of Pentecost, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Paul continues: “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” He defines his terms so as to not leave any ambiguity. “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Mankind has been fallen since that fateful day in the Garden. Paul warns the first-century believers against the very same kinds of sin that plague humanity today. Western society, specifically, plunges further and further into this cesspool as it rejects the very faith that was so influential in establishing the best parts of Western society. We dare not sit idly by and watch the world burn. Why?
“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17, ESV) There will be a day of reckoning when we all must give account for what we have or have not done. Paul, Peter and even John agree that this time of judgment is at hand.
John introduces Revelation this way: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:1-3, ESV)
Kinds of Time
One might read the passages above and wonder how, after 2,000 years, anyone can say that salvation is “at hand” or that “the time is near”. A little bit of Greek might help our understanding. There are two words in Greek that are frequently translated “time”. The first word is chronos, from which we derive our English words like chronicle or chronic. It means what we typically think of as time–minutes, hours, days, etc. The second word, kairos, has a different vibe. It indicates an opportune time, decisive moment or crisis. Writes Bible scholar and commentator Robert H. Mounce in his commentary on Revelation:
“The Greek kairos (“time”) was commonly used in an eschatological [last things] sense to indicate a time of crisis or a decisive moment. The statement seems to have come from the standard Jewish messianic expectations of the day. In Mark 13 Jesus warned his disciples that many would come in his name claiming to be the promised Messiah (v. 5). A bit later in the chapter he spoke of the time of his return, telling them to be on guard because they did not know when that time (kairos) would come. The critical moment for the fulfillment of all that John had seen in his visions had drawn near. Hence the urgency of hearing and obeying the words of the prophecy.”*Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 43–44. (Emphasis mine)
In other words, the next big thing on God’s timeline is Christ’s return and we don’t have a clear idea of just when that will be. We have general information but no specifics as to the time. Henceforth, we are warned time and again by Jesus himself to live in anticipation, as if he could return any moment. As you read above, his apostles echoed his sentiments. How do we do that?
Warnings and Exhortation
Paul exhorts us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t do that by our own strength. When Jesus ascended to heaven he sent his Spirit to indwell us. It is by the Spirit that we are able to overcome the works of darkness, to cast off sin, and to walk in newness of life.
Peter warns us that our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) He encourages us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, cast all our anxieties on him, to be sober-minded and watchful.
John promises that if we read aloud the words of his prophecy and who hear and keep what is written there.
Our Decisive Moment
I suggest to you that our generation has come to a decisive moment in our time. The nations are raging against the Lord Jesus Christ. The enemies of Christ are call good evil and evil good. As followers of Jesus, we face a time not unlike what Israel faced in the time of Joshua. Joshua reminded Israel of the deliverance and bountiful material blessings God had bestowed upon them. They knew how often they had turned away from God even in the midst of his deliverance. Aware of both the blessing and the chronic disobedience, Joshua says to them, “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15, ESV)
There is an urgency in our day, in our generation, that drives us to the point of decision. What might we think or do that will most prepare us for His coming? How might we pursue the kingdom of God faithfully with complete sincerity? What would prevent us from being ready? What must we ruthlessly remove?
Who will we choose?