Unwrapping The Earth: Matthew 24:26-35

Focus Passage: Matthew 24:26-35 (NIV)

26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Read Matthew 24:26-35 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Sometimes when reading passages in the Bible, my imagination takes over, wondering what the scene or event that is being described will be like. Often times, I imagine myself living at the time of this event, but in today’s passage, Jesus describes an event that has not taken place yet – at least in the way that He seems to describe it.

Four things will happen immediately after the distress of those days (days that included the persecution of God’s church):

  1. The sun will be darkened.

  2. The moon will stop shining.

  3. The stars will fall from the sky.

  4. The heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Then to conclude this traumatic, earth-shattering event, Jesus appears in the clouds, and angels gather all of His people together to be with Him.

Some scholars point to some specific days in history when the sun stopped shining, when the moon was covered up, and spectacular nights filled with falling stars. They say these events may be fulfillments of what Jesus is describing here.

However, in my probably overactive imagination, I see a different event described here. I see the setup for the climactic conclusion of earth’s history.

Currently, the earth is a round sphere floating in space. Jesus tells us that when He returns, every eye will see the event, but unless you use a series of mirrors, you cannot see all parts of a sphere, and from the sphere itself, there is not ever one stationary point in space that is visible to everyone at a single point in time. To explain it another way, if we imagine the sun as our stationary point in space, it is not visible to the half the earth that is experiencing night at this point in time, while it is visible to the half of the earth that is experiencing daylight.

So when Jesus returns, for every eye to literally and physically see Him come back, the earth’s round structure may have to change. God might have to set the stage by “unwrapping” and flattening out the surface of the world. If this is the case, what would it be like from our perspective?

  1. The sun would be darkened – if the earth unwraps with everyone facing in a direction opposite to where the sun is;

  2. The moon would stop shining – if it no longer has access to the sunlight to reflect off of (or if it too is behind the direction the flat earth is facing);

  3. Stars would fall from the sky – when we see a “shooting star”, it is a rock, or some object in space, breaking through the outer layers of our earth’s atmosphere and burning up. If the earth itself breaks apart and flattens out, I’m sure there would be hundreds, if not thousands of objects that would collide with our atmosphere and be burned up –> which would appear like shooting stars.

  4. The heavenly bodies would be shaken – not only would there be lots of burning up debris from the earth’s structure changing, every star in the sky would move and appear to change position. However, in this case perspective matters because while it looks like they are moving, we are the ones who really are moving.

In my imagination, Jesus is describing how God will set the stage for His return by unwrapping the outer layer of the earth. A “flat” earth would allow God/Jesus to return so that every eye could see Him.

So why would Jesus tell us this? In my mind, it’s for one clear reason: Jesus wants us to know that when this event happens and when the stage is set for His return, we don’t have to be afraid. When the world feels like it is breaking apart, God is still in control – and the future of all His people is safely in His hands.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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The Judge of Humanity: John 5:16-47

Focus Passage: John 5:16-47 (NIV)

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Read John 5:16-47 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the times Jesus is confronted by the Jewish leaders over something He did, Jesus shared some amazing truth with everyone present about the final judgment – and in this truth is a powerful idea regarding who is the judge in this event.

While sharing about His role and the Father’s role, Jesus tells those present, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” (v. 22-23)

This in itself is powerful because Jesus shares that the only way to truly give honor and glory to God is by also giving honor and glory to the Son.

But before we miss seeing the other big thought in these verses, we should pay attention to the fact that Jesus also said that the Father entrusts “all judgment” to the Son. The purpose of this transfer of judgment is that the Son would receive our honor.

In case we miss this idea, Jesus continues by sharing it in a slightly different way. He continues by saying, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (v. 24-27)

Jesus shares in this statement that not only are those who believe in Him not going to be judged, but that by believing in Him, they have crossed over from death into life. This life is not just a figurative expression about living a full or satisfied life, but it is instead about receiving the assurance of life with God both today as well as following the resurrection. This isn’t because we have life in ourselves, but because God and Jesus have life in themselves.

But Jesus also touches again on the topic of judgment – and He gives us the reason that God the Father has entrusted all judgment to Him by saying, “And he [God the Father] has given him [the Son] authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (v. 27)

Jesus doesn’t say He has the authority to judge because God is His Father, but because He is the Son of Man. Jesus has received this authority because He became human. Jesus’ humanity validates Him as the only one worthy of being the judge of our race. God the Father could easily judge, but He doesn’t have the same perspective that Jesus has because God the Father is not “one of us”.

However, Jesus also shares a few verses later about how He will ultimately judge humanity. Before thinking that He pardons everyone regardless of what we have done (i.e. siding with us and against the stereotypical “angry God of the Old Testament), Jesus tells us, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (v. 30)

God gave Jesus the right to judge humanity because Jesus is human and because God the Father wants us to give His Son the honor He deserves. With this responsibility, Jesus isn’t interested in making us happy, but in pleasing God the Father who gave Him this role and responsibility. Jesus’ judgment is valid and just and the way we can receive God’s gift of eternal life is by putting our faith, trust, hope, and belief in Jesus, who is our Judge, our Juror, and our Redeemer.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — Finding Jesus Today: John 7:25-36


Read the Transcript

One of the reasons why Jesus may have caused division among those living in first century Judea is that He fit many of the descriptions that they had for who the Messiah would be, but not all of the ones they had in focus. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, there was a growing divide between those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah and those who simply thought He was a good man and a God-supported prophet.

Our passage, which comes from the gospel of John, is one of the best examples of this division among the people. To set the stage, and transition from where we were last week, Jesus had told His brothers that He wouldn’t go up to Jerusalem with them for this festival because He knew there were people in Jerusalem who wanted to kill Him, so they left him behind. But then a day or two later, Jesus does go up, secretly, and part way into the festival, He stands up and begins preaching in the temple to everyone’s amazement.

It is at a break in Jesus’ message that our passage in John picks up. We will be reading from the gospel of John, chapter 7, using the New Century Version of the Bible. Jumping in at verse 25, John tells us:

25 Then some of the people who lived in Jerusalem said, “This is the man they are trying to kill. 26 But he is teaching where everyone can see and hear him, and no one is trying to stop him. Maybe the leaders have decided he really is the Christ. 27 But we know where this man is from. Yet when the real Christ comes, no one will know where he comes from.”

Pausing briefly here in the passage, we see the crowd of people talking and discussing amongst themselves. They are trying to reconcile what they see in Jesus and what they believe to be descriptive of the Messiah.

Jesus knows this, and picking back up in verse 28, John tells us Jesus’ response:

28 Jesus, teaching in the Temple, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. But I have not come by my own authority. I was sent by the One who is true, whom you don’t know. 29 But I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”

30 When Jesus said this, they tried to seize him. But no one was able to touch him, because it was not yet the right time. 31 But many of the people believed in Jesus. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miracles than this man has done?”

Pausing again, we see the strong case for Jesus being the Messiah shared in the verse we just finished. Jesus performed so many miracles and He healed so many more people than anyone had ever done before, it would seem illogical for God to not have sent Him as the Messiah. I imagine that many of those present thought that if Jesus wasn’t the real Messiah, then His entire ministry would outshine the real Messiah when He did arrive, and that didn’t make sense for God to support or allow that to happen.

There was no question in the minds of everyone present that God’s Spirit was working powerfully through Jesus. There was no escaping this fact. What they were trying to wrestle through was how Jesus did not fit the mold that they believed the Messiah would take.

On hearing the crowd rationalize Jesus as the most likely to be the Messiah based on the sheer quantity of miracles, we pick back up in verse 32 and learn that:

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering these things about Jesus. So the leading priests and the Pharisees sent some Temple guards to arrest him.

John tells us that this was likely the final straw for the Pharisees in the crowd. Not only had Jesus just implied equality with God and that He was sent directly from God, but the crowd was starting to rationalize that He may be the Messiah after all, simply because it was unlikely that God could support anyone more than He appeared to be supporting Jesus.

Whether Jesus said what He said next while guards were standing around, or if He continued preaching before the guards arrived to arrest Him, we pick back up in verse 33 where John continues by telling us:

33 Jesus said, “I will be with you a little while longer. Then I will go back to the One who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me. And you cannot come where I am.”

35 Some people said to each other, “Where will this man go so we cannot find him? Will he go to the Greek cities where our people live and teach the Greek people there? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘You cannot come where I am’?”

We’ll stop reading here for our episode today because I want to draw out a key idea that is shared in this last portion of the passage.

Jesus has just finished describing that He won’t be around much longer, because He is getting ready to return to the One who sent Him. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus had described the One who sent Him as “the One who is true”. In the minds of the people, the only One who is 100% truth, or, using another word, we could say righteous, is God in heaven.

It is amazing to me that when Jesus said the initial statement about being sent by the One who is true, the people wanted to seize Him, likely to kill Him, but just a few verses later, when Jesus describes returning to the One who sent Him, the people completely miss the point that Jesus has just described returning to God in heaven.

Those present are stuck trying to rationalize Jesus’ words thinking He is traveling to some other part of the world, but then they confuse themselves with this train of thought because they know they can travel to every part of the world that He can.

But in Jesus’ words that confuse and challenge those present, we find a powerful spiritual truth: Jesus has told everyone that many will look for Him but won’t be able to find Him. This would be incredibly true on a physical sense, but what about spiritually?

In this statement, I see a challenge to everyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus, a disciple, or a Christian. If you are someone who claims to follow Jesus, then it would be good to be constantly looking for Him. Sure, technically Jesus is in heaven, but knowing this truth, it is extra important for us to then look for Him there.

While we cannot physically go to heaven before Jesus has returned to take us home, through prayer, we are able to spiritually enter heaven and present our needs, wants, desires, hearts, and lives before Jesus. I believe there is a spiritual angle on what Jesus told the crowd, and it has to do with the state of our hearts and our attitude.

If we choose to pray filled with sin, pride, unforgiveness, or hostility in our hearts – and we are not bringing these issues to God to ask for help with them – then I believe we will be seeking Jesus but unable to find Him. It is only when we shift our attitude and the longing of our hearts to one that desires, wants, and needs Jesus’ help that our prayers will lead us directly to Jesus. The state of our attitude and heart may keep us from finding Jesus when we seek after Him.

With this said, as we come to the close of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

Before you sit down to pray or study your Bible this next time, pause briefly and assess the state of your heart. Are you coming to your study time in a way that is pleasing to God, in a way that is humble and selfless, or in a way that is self-serving or prideful? Before picking up your Bible or continuing to seek God, be sure you have the right attitude and motives for doing so, because searching for God will be fruitless if you are not interested in being spiritually fruitful.

Next, when you do have the right motivation and attitude, be sure to study the Bible for yourself, and not simply be studying it through the lens of a pastor, writer, or podcaster’s perspective. While Bible study guides can be helpful, they can also limit what God wants to share with you because they can limit what parts of the Bible you focus on. Studying the Bible for yourself, and learning how to best do so, is the best way to grow fully into the person God created you to be.

And, as I always end each set of challenges by saying, never stop short or back away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 24: Cam discusses a time where Jesus sneaks into the temple to preach during the middle of a major festival, and what we can learn from the crowd’s reaction to what Jesus spoke about.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Balancing Backstage Living with Onstage Living: Luke 5:12-16

Focus Passage: Luke 5:12-16 (NCV)

12 When Jesus was in one of the towns, there was a man covered with a skin disease. When he saw Jesus, he bowed before him and begged him, “Lord, you can heal me if you will.”

13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man and said, “I will. Be healed!” Immediately the disease disappeared. 14 Then Jesus said, “Don’t tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest and offer a gift for your healing, as Moses commanded. This will show the people what I have done.”

15 But the news about Jesus spread even more. Many people came to hear Jesus and to be healed of their sicknesses, 16 but Jesus often slipped away to be alone so he could pray.

Read Luke 5:12-16 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Early on in Luke’s gospel, following Jesus healing a man with a skin disease, we learn a secret Jesus used to strengthen His private life. In this secret, we discover a principle Jesus used to guide the “hidden” area of His life, and it is one that we can use in our own lives as well.

After healing a man who had been suffering from a skin disease, Luke tells us that “the news about Jesus spread even more. Many people came to hear Jesus and to be healed of their sicknesses, but Jesus often slipped away to be alone so he could pray.” (v. 15-16)

Jesus had requested that the healing remain more subtle and hidden, but that seemed to accelerate the news spreading. However, Luke tells us that as the crowds got bigger, Jesus became more intentional about slipping away to places where He could be alone to pray.

Prayer away from the crowds was Jesus’ secret to remaining connected with God. While Jesus walked with the Holy Spirit throughout His ministry and while Jesus let God lead and direct His life, He knew that a living only in the spotlight is not healthy. He also knew that it was just as unwise to live entirely out of the spotlight as well.

Luke’s gospel helps us catch a glimpse of how Jesus balanced living on the stage of life with how He balanced life backstage. In many ways, Jesus’ “backstage” prayers strengthened His connection with the Father so that His “onstage” life could better glorify the Father.

Jesus’ secret for His personal life was prayer, and through prayer, Jesus remained connected with heaven. Prayer helps us be connected to God as well, and if we neglect prayer when we are alone, our lives will soon drift away from God – both backstage and onstage. Prayer helps keep our connection with God alive, strong, and healthy.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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