For the week of September 24, 2011 / 25 Elul 5771
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 - 63:9
The Best Is Yet To Come
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11; ESV)
Last week I made the claim that the biblical perspective of history, especially regarding the centuries since Yeshua's coming, is a positive one. I contrasted the traditional Jewish view of Messiah's coming with how it plays out within the pages of the New Covenant Scriptures. In many ways the rabbinic view and the New Covenant view are similar. The major difference is that instead of the Messiah's coming immediately bringing history as we know it to an end, it is actually the beginning of a long process over time.
Also last week I corrected a popular notion among some Christians that the outplaying of the time between the Messiah's first and second coming is a fundamentally negative one, whereby history goes from bad to worse. The truth of the matter is that the messianic mission that began with Yeshua's coming has been bringing the truth and reality of the God of Israel to the whole world. In these last two thousand years, Yeshua's followers have impacted cultures for good the world over.
Some may accept that this is true, but assert that the time period we are in right now is worse than ever morally, politically, and environmentally and that this is a sign that Yeshua's return is at hand. This view is problematic for several reasons. First, it is debatable that we are in the worst time in history. Sure, there are bad things happening, but worse than ever? That would be difficult to prove. There are significant wars occurring and violent situations in the world, but more than in the days of the First and Second World Wars? There are terrible diseases affecting large populations, but worse than the Black Plague of the Dark Ages? I admit that it does seem that there is an increase of earthquakes and extreme weather in the past few years, but do we have a way of knowing that this is the worst ever?
The reason why some people look to these types of events as signs of the end of the age is due to these words of Yeshua:
What Yeshua is describing here has been going on throughout history. It is more reasonable to understand his words as meaning that his followers should not be put off by the continuation of war, famines, and earthquakes. This is simply the state of the human story in the midst of a creation that is anticipating the final redemption of God (compare with Romans 8:19-21).
Regardless of whether or not our time is worse than any other, I contend that this is beside the point. Yeshua said "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33; ESV). He clearly states here that his followers would have troubles during the time between his comings, but we are to view life, not through the lens of trouble, but with the understanding that we follow the one who has overcome the world. Yeshua's followers have been demonstrating this for two thousand years. It is through the messianic mission that God has caused, in the words of Isaiah, "righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations." Whatever negative events occur, we need to remember that we are following the Overcoming One. The age in which we live will culminate in his return to fully establish God's absolute reign over the creation. In the meantime we are called to continue the messianic mission and guard against any notion that it's hopeless to serve God since life is just going to get worse and worse (whether that will be the case or not). As we anticipate the Messiah's return we can be confident that the best is yet to come!
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