Episode 3 - The Gospels and the End of the Age - Opening Up the Gospels

In the past couple of episodes I’ve talked about what it fundamentally means to be a Christian and why getting to know the right version of Jesus is critical to our faith and our joy. The life of Jesus is so glorious and should be a deep well of pleasure and wonder for us through the highs and lows of our own lives. Our marginalization of Jesus’ life has left us looking in all the wrong places for the version of Him that most pleases us, addresses society’s problems, or gives us lots of peace and prosperity. I believe our greatest problem is not that we don’t have enough of God in our society or that we don’t know who we are in Christ, it’s that the Jesus we believe in often bears little resemblance to the Jesus that the apostles knew. In this episode I want to continue this introduction and talk about the third reason why the Gospels and Jesus’ life are of utmost importance for us as Christians. That reason has to do with eschatology. Don’t be thrown off by that word if you’ve never heard it before – it just means “the study of the last things”. Most people, when they hear talk about “the end times” first think of crazy apocalyptic events. Movies like “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow” and even Christian book series like “left behind” have dramatically shaped our culture’s understanding of “the end”. But I believe all of those things miss the biggest point that the Bible makes about the end of this age. Eschatology not primarily about apocalyptic events and time charts but about a person named Jesus and how God is going to cause every single human being to reckon with who He really is. Scriptures like Isaiah 45, Philippians 2, and Revelation 5 tell us that all of history is moving towards one definitive point, when every tongue will worship and confess that Jesus is the one true living God. Everyone will make that confession, whether it’s to their salvation or to their judgment. This is the purpose for all of the disruption that God is going to bring to pass before this present evil age is over. The most misunderstood man who has ever lived will be vindicated in the eyes of everyone as the living God. If this is where history is going, don’t you think it’s important to know Him for who He really is? In 2 Thessalonians 2, the Apostle Paul says that many will fall away from the faith before Jesus returns. The main reason why this is going to happen is because God is going to use pressure to expose how we really feel about Jesus. If we do not build the foundation of our lives on His words, if we do not have a real friendship with Him based on relational knowledge, and if we don’t have a tender heart of love towards Him, we will be shaken in that hour. And as I’ve said in the past couple episodes, I believe the place where this type of relationship must begin with Jesus is in the Gospels. The fruit of true friendship with Jesus is to have what Paul in Colossians chapter 2 verse 2 and 3 calls “the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2–3) I don’t even feel close to having a full assurance of understanding, which is one of the personal reasons why I’m doing this series even for my own friendship with Jesus. But there’s more to this than just knowing Him so we won’t be led astray or shaken. Just look at those who knew Jesus the best during His life. In the late Spring of 29AD, a small group of men who had spent a little over two years with Him saw Him ascend into the heavens – and for almost 2000 years, the church has watched the skies in hope of that same Jesus of Nazareth to descend again in power. The four Gospels are trustworthy eyewitness testimony of His compassion, His jealous love, His wisdom, His patience, and His power. These men not only understood Jesus as their Messiah and the one true God, but they considered Him their friend. Throughout the New Testament we see how the heart of those who had been with Him or those who had heard about Him eagerly longed for His return. And Just as the life, words, and truth of the identity of Jesus did for them, the Gospels were written to help US eagerly anticipate and patiently wait for the day that He comes back to the earth to stay here forever. In Titus 2:12, Paul calls Jesus’ return to reign in Jerusalem our “blessed hope”. Passage after passage in the New Testament talks about eagerness and patience related to that Day, but my favorite is in Hebrews 9:28: “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” So Jesus’ first coming was about bearing our sins so that at His second coming He could be save and be with the ones who are eagerly longing for Him. Are we eager for that day to come? Are we fine with being forgiven and Jesus being at a distance from us? Now I’ll take the same example I used in the first episode to help you feel this a bit more. The more you know your best friend or spouse, the more you overflow with love for them. What happens when they’re gone? You MISS them. If you knew your spouse or your best friend of many years had to be away from you from a long period, you would mourn in their absence and want them to be back with you. That’s true fruit of any deep relationship with someone, right? You miss them when they’re gone. And if we find that eagerness is waning and it seems like it’s been forever since we’ve seen them, what do we do? We go back to our memories like our photos, letters and emails to remind us of how much we want them to come back. The same thing goes with Jesus. The more we actually know Him, the more we love Him, and the more we miss Him and want Him to be here with us. When our hearts are wounded by who He is, what He promised, and what He did the first time He walked the earth, we begin to yearn for Him to come again and never leave. For those in the early church, their heart burned for his coming not only because of personal longing to be with Him again but also for Him to do everything the Scriptures promised that He would do. The four Gospels beautifully link both of these things together. Do we realize that in prayer we can actually have conversation with the guy from Nazareth who made everything and who is actively causing the hearts of almost 7 billion people to beat right now? He’s the guy that’s going to come back and rule all the nations! What an indescribable privilege to get to know Him before we see Him! The Apostle Peter said this in his first letter about those who were eagerly waiting for His second coming: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” (1 Peter 1:8 ESV) Now you may say “wait a minute, we have Christ in us, He IS with us by His spirit, what more do we need?” Well the Bible numerous times call the Spirit just a “down payment” of what is to come. And there’s a big difference between a down payment and the full inheritance. The indwelling Spirit or “Christ in you” is glorious but not even close to the fulfillment of everything that we hope for as Christians. Jesus Himself said that the Spirit would glorify Him and remind us of Him. Having the Spirit in us shouldn’t alleviate the ache of His absence, it should actually increase it. That’s what happened for the early church, and that’s why Peter also said: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13 NAS95) Don’t be content with another version of Jesus or the gospel that leaves you happy with Him away in heaven forever. So much eschatology and doctrine today either minimizes or is just utterly disconnected from actually knowing Jesus to the point where we truly miss Him. In Jesus’ prayer in John 17:24, He makes it clear that the apex of our salvation is to be with Him where He is, to see His glory, and to be utterly astounded and lost in His greatness. Just as real as this moment is right now where you’re taking in breath, hearing my voice, and looking at a screen, you will see God in the flesh with your own eyes and hear Him with your own ears. You know all the worship songs where we sing words like “I want to see your face, God”? Well, we really will and we have the Spirit as the guarantee. So let’s live like that Day is a real day in our future. Let’s get to know the Jesus of the Gospels so we actually miss Him and long to see Him loved and praised for who He really is. Looking at Jesus’ life in the Gospels has been one of the primary ways my heart has grown in longing for His return, so I hope this series along with your own personal meditation and study aided by the Holy Spirit will help you to do that too. In the next episode, I’ll talk about one final reason for the importance of understanding the Gospels rightly, and it all has to do with who it is we’re really seeing walk the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem – none other than God Himself.