The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a pivotal moment in human history. And for those of us who are in Christ, who have our hope because He was resurrected, there are many good things that we can know because our Lord is risen from the dead.
Friday, September 22, was officially the first day of Fall (or Autumn, if you prefer). Whatever you call it, it will still be about 90 degrees in South Carolina (where I live) for a while. But as I look outside, I do notice unmistakable signs that the Fall season is upon, namely, the leaves are beginning to change color.
You can usually recognize what time of the year it is by just looking at the leaves. As Autumn begins, the leaves begin to change and fall from the trees. In Winter, the leaves of many trees are gone. In Spring, different colored blossoms begin to appear, and as the Summer approaches, those different colors give way vibrant green.
Jesus used the changes of the seasons perceived in trees as an illustration in Mark 13:28:
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. (Mar 13:28-29)
In the context, Jesus was using this illustration to teach his followers to recognize the signs of the destruction of Jerusalem which would come in A.D. 70. According to uninspired tradition, Christians did recognize the signs and got out of the city when the Romans came.
Some, however, have taken Jesus words in those surrounding passages (and others throughout Scripture) to be signs of the end of time. You may have heard about one who predicted Saturday September 23 as the end of the world, due to the positions of certain constellations and their supposed correlation with passages out of Revelation. These predictions have come and gone over the years, and none has been right so far (“No man knows the day or hour” – Mk. 13:32).
But we would do well to remember that every day is the last day for someone. Scores of people draw their last breath every day. For them, it’s as if the end has come. They’re judgment is fixed; it cannot be changed at this point.
The Scripture tells us that any day could be the last for any of us, (James 4:14, 2 Pet. 3:10) and so we must be ready. Jesus’ illustration of the fig tree was to emphasize to his followers the importance of recognizing the signs and being ready. For us, however, there may be no signs that the end has drawn near, and so, today is the day to be ready. Are you ready?
Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Mat 24:44)
Are you ready to give up everything you have? Are you ready to be mocked, ridiculed, shunned, and outcast? Are you ready to possibly be imprisoned? Are you ready to be tortured? Are you ready to die?
I guess if I were making a sales pitch for Christianity, I probably just lost a lot of buyers. But the fact of the matter is this, in the roughly 2000 years since the Church was established, Christians have endured every single one of those things because of their belief in the Savior. I have two prayers today. My first prayer is that anyone who reads this will never have to do any of those things, especially being imprisoned, tortured, or die for the cause of Christ. But my second prayer is that all who read this will be ready to stand for the Lord no matter what happens, even if it means imprisonment, torture, or death.
As I was reading in the book of Acts, I came across this passage in chapter 21:
Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:13-14 ESV)
In the verses leading up to this, it was prophesied that if Paul went up to Jerusalem, as he was planning to do, he would be bound and imprisoned. Upon hearing this, Paul’s companions urged him not to go to Jerusalem. This prompted Paul’s statement in verse 13. He was ready to die for the cause of Christ. He would later write to the Philippians from prison in Rome:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 ESV)
Paul knew that if he were to die, it was to his benefit, because to die meant he would finally be with the Lord. Eventually Paul would die for the preaching of the Gospel, as would all of the apostles, save John. Many thousands of Christians have suffered and died because of Christ. They have received their great reward. Thousands, maybe even millions, of our brothers and sisters made the ultimate decision that they were going to continue serving God no matter what. Are we ready to do the same? As Paul’s companions said in verse 14 after he had rebuked them,
Let the will of the Lord be done!