The Cross and the End Times: Part 2

René Malgo

When He was on earth, Jesus healed many sick people, drove out demons, and even raised the dead. But first and foremost, it was about the forgiveness of sins. There is nothing greater and more beautiful than being able to stand before the most holy God without sin. Through belief in Jesus Christ, this is now possible.

For example, a paralytic was brought to Christ. Before the Lord healed him, He forgave him his sins. The Lord Jesus found that much more important. And then, as a public sign of forgiveness, Jesus made the paralytic walk.

There is so much filth that can pile up in our lives. We can burden ourselves with everything possible and can enter a dense, terrible labyrinth of enslavement under the devil and sin. The cross proclaims: you can get rid of these fetters of death. You can be freed forever. You can get a clear conscience and an abundantly fulfilling life. How? By believing in Jesus Christ, who took all your sins on the cross and thus took power over you from the devil.

And yet, many believers don’t feel free. Many believers still struggle with bondage, with their passions, with their past, with their sins. That is a bit normal. The Christian life of faith is a struggle. Anyone who becomes a Christian and believes in Jesus doesn’t immediately experience an easier and better life, externally. But, he gets a lighter and better foundation. He gets Jesus. He is bound to Christ by faith. He is liberated from all sins and all guilt. And now he is called to live in this freedom.

Our Lord tells the believers, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). We should become followers of Jesus and imitators of God; follow in His footsteps, and live as He has lived (Eph 5:1-2; 1 Pet 2:21; 1 John 2:6). We should take the liberation from our sins as a basis for following Jesus. This is not a cosmetic change. Christ says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). There are two masters in this world: God or the devil. When we sin, we make the devil our lord. We bind ourselves to him. When we obey Jesus and follow Him, we make Him our Lord. We bind ourselves to Him. Which of them gives us true fulfillment? Which binding means true freedom?

Christ alone is the answer. It is a lie of the devil when he whispers to us that a holy life for and with Jesus is just a trick. It is good and wholesome for us to live sacredly for Christ, to be driven by His love and gentleness, to seek His peace with all people, and to put Him first. Because that’s how we taste the healing life of freedom in practice. That is how we see in practice how the Son really frees us from all burdens of darkness.

Jesus Christ was completely free when He was on earth. Nobody could harm Him. He was balanced and rested in Himself, because He was connected to the Father in heaven. He never seemed rushed or stressed, although He suffered from the same limitations as all other people. But He lived in accordance with God the Father, and therefore His life was a full and free one—even though He was materially poor; even though He faced hostility; even though He was slandered; even though He experienced great internal struggles; even though He suffered terribly; and even though He died in the end. He led a life of spiritual fullness.

Of course, we are not Jesus. We will sin again and again. That’s why He carried away our sins on the cross. But He has also left us an example; namely, how God’s power and glory on earth really work. He has shown us what life in abundance looks like in a fallen world, where sin rules and the devil rages. He has shown us how to very practically “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8). And that is a life for and with God, even when all are against us. The cross shows us: God proves His power in the darkest hour, in the deepest sorrow and in the greatest pain. It is a surprising expression of the end times, that God works just where the darkness seems to be greatest (cf. Rev 7:9, 13-14).

Paul says that “the sufferings of Christ abound in us” (2 Cor 1:5). Because we are now connected to Christ through faith, we will also “suffer with him” (Rom 8:17). As the devil hated and attacked Christ, he also hates and attacks us. But God’s strength becomes perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). God’s Son came in weakness, born as a baby and placed in a manger. He died in weakness, wounded and beaten on the cross. And He conquered this way.

Likewise, the believers will also conquer (Rev 12:11). Yes, we are weak; we are suffering, and we are fighting. We received freedom as a gift, but the devil, furious as he is, still attacks us. That’s why in this end time, we must absolutely stay with Jesus in order to survive the fight and be able to remain free. Then we will conquer as Christ has conquered. Yet God does not show His power with pomp and splendor, but in weakness and in supposed defeat.

What does all this have to do with the end times and the return of our Lord? It shows us that God is different. God surprised those who were waiting for Him in the time of Christ. We shouldn’t be taken aback if He surprises us, too. We shouldn’t be surprised if things are a little different in the end times than some prophetic and end-times experts may imagine.

Some preachers, when speaking of our Lord’s return, seemingly do nothing but enumerate what dreadful things God will do to the wicked. They calculate how many thirds and fourths will perish and describe in detail how terrible the plagues described in Revelation will be. But, as true as God’s Word is, it is also true that He is more merciful, more patient, and more gracious than we humans. At the beginning of this article, I quoted Isaiah 55:9, where God says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I put those words in the context of the glory and holiness of God. But do you know in what context God really says those words? In connection with His incomprehensibly great mercy and forgiveness:

“Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:6-9).

God is different. In Isaiah 45, the Lord emphasizes time and again that no one is God but He alone (v. 5, 18, 21-22). He says this in connection with the fact that He is the “Savior” (Redeemer), combined with the invitation, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” (v. 22).

As terrible and real as the threats of judgment in the Word of God are, our God is a Savior God (Tit 2:10; 3:4). For example, in the midst of the announcements of judgment in Revelation, the redeemed sing, “...for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest” (Rev 15:4).

Although the Bible makes it clear that those who reject the living God will be lost, God’s long wait until today proves that He is different from us humans. He wants to save, not condemn. He wants to practice mercy, not judgment. Therefore, we should not be shocked if, in this end time, some surprise still occurs. Our God is driven by love of man, not hatred of man (Tit 3:4). The many neatly recorded chronologies, end times charts, sketches, and prophecy diagrams can be helpful, but we should never close our eyes to the fact that we can’t really know much, and that our God is (as the cross so impressively demonstrates) a God of surprises. It is simply not granted to us “to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7; cf. Matt 24:42). That is why we should rightfully always be ready for the return of our Lord: because God is different.

That is the encouragement, and also for our personal life: Jesus didn’t come for the strong, but for the sick and the weak (Mark 2:17). He came to lift the lowly and the humble from the dust. He came to save the godless and to grant forgiveness.

He came to redeem you. If you doubt whether God really loves you, look to Christ. To the manger. To the miracle of the Incarnation. To the weak little child as it lies in the arms of its mother. See how Jesus eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners. How He approaches prostitutes and adulteresses. How He washes His disciples’ feet. How He is arrested at Gethsemane. How He is spit on and beaten. How He is taunted and tortured. See how He allows the crown of thorns to be put on. How He carries His cross. How He gets nailed to the wood. See how He hangs there and suffers—for you, to save you.

Yes, God loves you. In Jesus Christ, He reveals Himself as the God who wants to be close to man; as the God who seeks sinners, who seeks the despised, who seeks the prisoners, the spiritually blind, and the broken. He offers you liberation. He offers you His glory. He wants to share His power with you. Grab His outstretched hand and live with Him. Because the day is coming soon when the crucified and risen King of kings and Lord of lords will return to this earth. He will bring the glory that the prophets of Israel’s Old Covenant promised (Isa 65:17ff.) He will make everything new and beautiful. He will rule from eternity to eternity, and His kingdom will never end.

But until that happens, God shows His power in supposed weakness. Until that happens, God does not care about the “wise men after the flesh,” not the powerful and the righteous, but He wants “the foolish things of the world.” He wants the “weak things of the world.” He wants the “base things of the world, and things which are despised.” He wants the “things which are not” [considered nothing by the world]. He wants you. He wants to show His power in your weakness, just as He showed it on the cross. For He will “confound” the wise men of this world, He will confound them with what is strong, and destroy “things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor 1:26-29).

God chooses and wants the humble, the low, the despised. He is different from people. His thoughts and ways are higher than those of man. For He is love (1 John 4:16). The cross trumpets this truth loud and clear. And the cross confirms what Psalm 113:5-9 already expresses:

“Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high, Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth! He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people. He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.”

God wants to do that, figuratively speaking, for you. Let Him do it! Maranatha—Amen; come, Lord Jesus!

Midnight Call - 04/2019

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