“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun,” Ecclesiastes 1:9.
This is the final part of a three-part study in which we are seeking to discover the parallels between what it was the Saviour encountered during His ministry on earth and how those events mirrored what it is the child of God may expect to face in this age that has followed His ascension.
IN THE MIDST OF THE EVIL AND TREACHEROUS ATMOSPHERE THERE WAS A FAITHFUL REMNANT
1. The Lord warned His servants many times of what was going to happen. I have already quoted Matthew 16:21. In Mark 8:31 we read: “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” That warning brought forth the outrageously arrogant response of Peter. “And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him,”verse 32. What Peter said was of the devil for the Lord referred to him as Satan in those infamous words: “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”
Despite this most foolish reluctance to believe the warnings of Christ about how things would end for Him, He repeated the warning again in chapter 17, verses 22-23 and again in chapter 20, verses 18-19. On the eve of His betrayal He still warned of the coming treachery. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified,” Matthew 26:1-2.
So almost from the beginning of His ministry until almost the last days of it, the Saviour clearly foretold of the danger ahead but a dreadful spirit of ignorance and blindness and unbelief stopped the disciples from benefitting from His warnings.
Is that not mirrored in the very same spirit found amongst God’s people today?
The words of warning from the Lord regarding the last days abound in the New testament. We have those of Paul in I Timothy 4:1-2. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” And also in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
Peter and John and Jude also spoke of the evils of the last days as did all the prophets of old. As Peter said in Acts 3:20-24, where he clearly states that the prophets of old all referred to various aspects of the final days of this age.
“And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.”
But sad to say, the spirit that was upon Peter when he rebuked the Lord is abroad to day and any preaching of those warnings is greeted with sneering and despising, chiefly by ministers. This I have found though I must say, that as it was with the Lord Jesus when “the common people heard him gladly (Mark 12:37)”, so I have found that such still have an ear for the truth of God, irrespective of the many failings of the pulpits.
The warnings of Christ regarding His crucifixion proved true and so to will the warnings regarding the trials and tribulations of ‘the last days’ be true!
2. The remnant was characterised by both cowardly and also brave actions. I need not repeat the sad history of how “they all forsook him, and fled,” (Mark 14:50). But need I draw the parallel to what is happening today? Is there not a like forsaking and fleeing? Uncomfortable as this observation is for many, it is true.
“Few there are that seem to care,
And fewer still to pray!”
But we must not forget about the woman folk who remained at the cross and who followed to where His sepulchre. We salute their love, their devotion and their courage.
And then again, what about Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus (John 19:35, 39), both of whom had beed silent and secret disciples, but now had come out boldly, despite the great danger they thus placed themselves in, “took . . . the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid,” verses 40-41.
Even in this dark time, there are those who openly, boldly devotedly own Christ as their Saviour and seek to render such aid and support to His cause as they can, without thought of what may be the consequences.
May the Lord raise up many such as these women and men.
3. At the end, a clear view of how things would all end was given and a promise of the sustaining grace of the Holy Spirit granted. We all recall the story of the two on the road to Emmaus. The Saviour had risen victorious from the grave and that news added further confusion amongst the feeble-faithed disciples. It was only after the Saviour most sternly admonished them that they entered in to the joy of believing. “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself,” Luke 24:25-27. Their testimony of joy that sprang from His instruction has become a phrase of joy amongst God’s people. “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”, verse 32.
I believe we have here more than a suggestion that it will not be until we see the glorious and returned Saviour, and receive enlightenment from Him, that we come to a full understanding of all the things which have yet to come to pass.
4. The Saviour left this world in a fashion which gave us a preview of His return. That is made clear to us in Acts 1:10-11. “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
The prophet Zechariah was granted a view of that very event, and that some 2500 years ago. “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south,” Zechariah 14:3-4.
Dear Christian the reading of those words and like prophecies of the Saviour’s return in triumph, should work in our hearts the same emotions that were wrought within the disciples by the words of the angels at the Saviour ascension.
“And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,” Luke 24:52. “Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren,” Acts 1:12-14.
The spirit of the disciples, as suggested by these verses could well be summed up in the words of the old hymn of Fanny Crosby:
To the work! to the work! we are servants of God,
Let us follow the path that our Master has trod;
With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew,
Let us do with our might what our hands find to do.
Toiling on, toiling on,
Toiling on, toiling on:
Let us hope, let us watch,
And labor till the Master comes.
To the work! to the work! let the hungry be fed;
To the fountain of life let the weary be led;
In the cross and its banner our glory shall be,
While we herald the tidings, “Salvation is free!”
To the work! to the work! there is labor for all;
For the kingdom of darkness and error shall fall;
And the name of Jehovah exalted shall be,
In the loud-swelling chorus, “Salvation is free!”
To the work! to the work! in the strength of the Lord,
And a robe and a crown shall our labor reward;
When the home of the faithful our dwelling shall be,
And we shout with the ransomed, “Salvation is free!”
May it be so.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)