Reflections: The Beginning and End of Sorrows

Earthquakes in New Zealand, Japan and Burma have gotten a lot of attention recently.  And so they should.  Events like this should make people wake up and take notice.  Some will turn to Mt 24 at a time like this and wonder if the tribulation has started.  The answer is, “No, it has not.”

 8All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:8, King James Version)

Yes, things must get worse before they will get better.  But why “must”?

It isn’t like mankind doesn’t have a choice.  Adam and Eve had a choice.  However, the carnal nature of human beings tends toward doing your own thing and disregarding the consequences.  It must get worse because, unfortunately, mankind in general must be confronted with incontrovertible evidence that the way of rebellion against God simply does not work.

Mankind must come to the point where everyone realizes that God’s way is the only way.  Human beings must come to the place where the need for repentance is obvious.  It must be so obvious that it permeates all of human history; it must shake the collective human psyche to its foundation.

So, why are these events written in the Bible?  To make people afraid?  To a point, perhaps.  In the end, though, those who will not choose to believe will not choose to be afraid either.  Those who do choose to believe will repent if it is a real fear.  That fear must be replaced by faith, however, or it will not last.

Faith in what?  Faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, faith in the ability of Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for your sins and faith in a love so powerful that it will overcome evil in all forms.  In other words, faith in the good news that God has a plan to rid the world of evil permanently and that Jesus has the ability to carry it out.

Yes, it must get worse.  However, then it must get better.  God will not allow evil to continue in His presence forever.

 14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14, King James Version)

“This Gospel”, “The Good News”, “The Glad Message”, whatever you might call it in English, is the core of our faith.  What God has done, what God is doing now and what God will do, forms our faith and trust in Him.  Part of that is the sacrifice that Jesus gave for us – for all of humanity.

Until we understand that Jesus gave His life freely, that it is a gift to us, that He didn’t wait for you and I to repent until He died for us, then we will never understand the extent of the value of this free gift.

And no, I will not back down from that phrase.  It is a free gift.  Keeping God’s Law is just expected – for everyone.  It is required whether or not we accept His gift.  Those who do not accept the gift will receive the ultimate punishment.  Those who do accept the gift are not exempt from the Law just because they accepted the gift.  If we are brought into a courtroom and set free on some technicality, we are not free to go break the law again.  We didn’t earn our freedom, so it would behoove us to cherish that freedom.

If at some point we devalue and reject the gift of salvation, it is like throwing away a winning lottery ticket.  The earnings from the lottery were not earned, as it was just plain dumb luck.  However, we have to get off the couch and go claim that gift.  There is a required action to receive it.  It is just expected.

We cannot pay for our sins, however.  Even if there was one perfect man, the value of his life is that one life, and so he could only die for one other man.  However, since Jesus was God in the flesh, His life is of infinite value, and He can die for everyone.

So, some will keep the Law from fear.  They will fear punishment, not going to the Place of Safety or even God Himself.  Ancient Israel feared God as well.  Read the account of the giving of the Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus.  Were they not afraid?  How did that work out for them?

No, it didn’t work for them because they had no faith.  They chided with Moses and even with God because they did not believe in His power.  Even when they saw demonstrations of His power, they did not understand His goodness.  They did not understand the meaning of the Passover lamb.  They did not understand the One Who was leading them would eventually become the Passover Lamb for everyone who was, is or will be in bondage.

Mostly, they did not understand the love behind such actions.

There are some things we should ask ourselves every Passover.  Do I understand the sacrifice Jesus made for me?  Do I understand how much the Creator of the universe had to humble Himself in order for soldiers to beat and mock Him and not retaliate?  Do I understand that every sin I’ve ever committed or will commit is another blow of the hammer that nailed His hands and feet onto the tree?  Do I really grasp the depth of my sin and am willing to give it up to and for Him?  Will I ever be able to comprehend such a love as this?

Do I understand that no matter how bad things get in this age, it cannot compare to what He went through?  Do I understand that these things must occur so that a much better age without evil can begin?  Do I understand that He endured these things so that the end of sorrows can begin?

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