It is important to approach the scriptures regarding the return of Jesus Christ to this earth from a pragmatic view. Oftentimes Christians focus their time and attention to details of eschatology that are superfluous. The excess presented by men and women who write and speak of the “signs” of the Lord’s coming are nonessential to everyday Christian living. Far too much emphasis has been given to predictions, and to the ambiguous scripture verses from the Book of Revelation regarding prophetic events, and not enough to simply being ready.
The devil is very devious, and one of his favorite tactics is shift our attention away from the legitimate work of God’s kingdom, and direct it to finding out the so-called “knowledge” stemming from the interpretation of the allegorical and symbolic language used in the apocalypse.
For example, the most written about subject by eschatologists and Christian authors is the “beast” mentioned in Revelation chapters 11, 13-17 and 19. Nearly all writers interpret this beast to be the “antichrist” or an end-time one-world government ruled by a Satan-possessed despot who is the Antichrist.
An equal amount of prominence in Christian prophetic literature has been devoted to the “mark of the beast” which, according to most, is the number “666.” Since it is written in Revelation 13:16-18 that, at a particular point in time in the future, mankind will be unable to buy or sell anything without the mark of the beast, Christians feel they must prepare themselves by becoming well-informed about the specific and ongoing details played out in politics, banking and usury, military action and wars, strife in Israel and the Middle-east, and so forth.
Herein lies the most basic problem with the Christian approach to preparation: People seek to become intellectually adept and informed with respect to prophetic events, instead of simply obeying their Lord and Master Jesus Christ. This study will take you through the fundamental teachings of Jesus, and redirect your focus to the ONLY true readiness spelled out in the scripture… to love your neighbor as yourself.
Many readers will reject this approach to this topic, and will say something along this line of thought, “God put these prophecies in the Bible for a REASON! If we ignore them, and are unwilling or unable to understand them we miss the key elements of preparation for the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, and the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
To deny the prophecies given to and penned under inspiration of God and deem them as non-essential is not what the intent here, nor is it problematic to the approach of pragmatic preparation. Yes, we have prophecies, and they are there by design of the Creator. However, if our focus is not on the most important commandments, then our interpretation of prophecy will be skewed, warped, twisted, and over-emphasized.
John 7:17 is a passage of scripture in the gospels that spells out God’s requirement for discerning a man’s teachings, and distinguishing whether it is inspired and conveyed by human deliberation alone, or whether the doctrine has its’ origin and inspiration from God.
· John 7:17 If any man desires to do His will (God's pleasure), he will know (have the needed illumination to recognize, and can tell for himself) whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking from myself and of my own accord and on my own authority. Amplified Bible
The desire for and the implementation of God’s will is indispensable to those seeking to personally identify with and understand the meaning of prophecy. Prophecy is more than the prediction of end-time events; it is more than the musings of best-selling Christian authors. Prophecy comes from a word origin in the Greek meaning, “to reveal through divine illumination what is most relevant, first in rank or order.”
What is most important in the kingdom of heaven? Is it to know the identity of the beast? Is it to discern when the Lord’s coming is near? What difference does it make when Christ comes if we are doing and seeking His will every day?
Generations of people have come and generations have gone since Jesus ascended, and John wrote his message of the apocalypse (unveiling) of Jesus Christ. It is certain many of those in days gone by believed theirs’ was the era in which Jesus would return. Imagine the prophetic musings of Christians in Nazi Germany during the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich; do you suppose the Christians believed Hitler was the antichrist? Did they ever wonder if WWII was the Battle of Armageddon?
Literally hundreds of historical examples portray intense persecution and martyrdom of believers for the gospel. Certain names live infamously for the magnitude of sheer brutality and domination they wielded over humanity…names like Caesar Augustus, Tiberius I, Caligula (Gaius Caesar), Claudius I, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Maximinus, Valerian, Aurelian, Diocletian (one of the worst), Maximianus, and other Roman emperors who slaughtered millions.
Isn’t is plausible the Christian church in each age that witnessed such overt manifestations of evil believed this to be the unfolding of eschatological events written in the Book of Revelation and elsewhere in the New Testament?
The same could be said for the Papal cruelty during the bloody reign of popes in what is known as The Great Inquisition. The Roman Catholic Church must surely have been labeled as the “beast” for its viciousness, and the broad application of anathemas for heresy against it. Men, women, children, and even entire towns, villages, and in some cases entire cities were destroyed, and the inhabitants murdered and tortured for speaking contrary to Rome.
Would Christians in that era be any less justified in their belief this was the Great Tribulation? Christian book authors today crank out a new publication every month, laying claim to new revelation and insight regarding the fulfillment of isolated portions of scripture. The greater majority of these writers have no clue whatsoever what REAL tribulation is, and are even more clueless in their personal relationship with God.
Bumper stickers, T-shirts, Bible study correspondence, full-length feature films, audio tapes, CD’s, doormats, prayer cloths, and a plethora of Christian gimmicks promote a doctrine of the Rapture wherein every born-again believer in Jesus Christ will be instantly whisked away from the impending catastrophes. They are immediately rescued from a world consumed with plagues, droughts, persecutions and famine. Theirs’ is a feel good doctrine that has little or no room at all for suffering, pain, insults, oppression, opposition, and whatever else may result from preaching and teaching the truth of scripture.
Westerners pride themselves on knowing they have the inside scoop on the one-world government, and the Internet has exploded into a super-cyber highway current event information and a gathering place to exchange ideas, and keep ‘posted’ on events as they unfold.
Meanwhile, as lukewarm American Christians are seeking to read and know the signs of the Lord’s coming on an Internet message board, or in a chat room, Christians in Red China, Russia and other persecuted countries care less about prophetic events, and stay dressed in readiness by simply obeying what Jesus told them to do. Their memory is permanently etched with the ruthless persecution they experienced under notorious tyrants like Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin (Uganda), Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia), Saddam Hussein, and Fidel Castro. They are preoccupied sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ at great risk to their lives, and caring for each other by feeding the hungry, taking in the stranger, caring for the widow and orphan, clothing the naked and visiting those in prison.
For the past several years Western Christians keep predicting a monumental prophetic event, saying “Boy, something BIG is going to happen SOON! You JUST WATCH AND SEE! I’m telling you, the Lord’s coming is really near brother… blah, blah, blah, blah blah.”
Lately, there’s more hype about the conflict in Iraq, as U.S. and Coalition forces wage war against Saddam Hussein’s regime, centered in and around the capital city of Baghdad, which is the site of ancient Babylon. Some say this is significant because the first war in Iraq, led by General Norman H. Schwarzkopf, Jr., under then Commander In Chief President George Bush, correlates with the fulfillment of prophecies; many believe this to be the case because his son, President George W. Bush, is now embarking upon a second military coalition action.
Many Christians are watching these events unfold with great scrutiny, paying particular attention to the Palestinian/Israel conflict as well. They feel certain this is the beginning of Armageddon, and soon we will see the antichrist arise, speaking blasphemy over the airwaves. I have even heard some say that George w. is the antichrist (of course, these folks are usually the same ones that claim the King James Bible is the ONLY inspired version, and they are also those that find a conspiracy under every political stone they turn over!).
While the greater percentage of western Christendom has its frenzied and self-serving eyes trained upon the front page of the newspaper, or FOX News, or CNN, or MSNBC, or the latest best-selling novel or expose, a small remnant of God’s faithful are too busy doing the work of their Father in heaven to fret about such things. These are a group of disciples scattered across the face of the earth, whose earnest desire is to do the will of God from the heart and they are not the least bit concerned when Jesus is coming back, because they are clothed with the garment of readiness.
This concludes our introduction, because it strikes at the heart of thought here, which is… it doesn’t matter when Jesus is coming back, it only matters if you are ready!
13 And someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me."
14 But he said to him, "Man, who appointed me a judge or arbiter over you?"
15 And he said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
If you are convinced it is not as important WHEN Jesus returns, and it is always being ready for Him, then the foremost question is… what must you do every day to be dressed in readiness? This question is irrelevant to those clothed in the righteous deeds of the saints.
· Revelation 19:8 She has been permitted to dress in fine (radiant) linen, dazzling and white--for the fine linen is (signifies, represents) the righteousness (the upright, just, and godly living, deeds, and conduct, and right standing with God) of the saints (God's holy people). AMP
The text in Luke chapter twelve provides a solid base of understanding in this regard.
The man that approached Jesus, asking him to settle a dispute with his kin, and to act as a mediator in their dispute over an inheritance, is not unlike the way many Christians use Jesus today. Jesus rebuked the man for trying to place him in a position and role that he did not belong; Jesus did not come to mankind to settle petty quibbles over material possessions
Does this mean Jesus is not our mediator? Of course not! In 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Jesus is called, “the mediator between God and man…” He is NOT referred to as, “the mediator between mammon and man.” The selfish, self-serving and self-oriented Christian in these last days wants an advocate that will increase his or her bank account, or provide him or her with a newer car, or a nicer home, or better furniture, or the latest computer gadgets, or a wide-screen 48” television set, or a nicer cell phone, or perfect health, or this or that.
Jesus did not come to be an earthly mediator, but a heavenly one. His message is tempered by the next statement, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed…” Ironically, even though America is hands-down the most affluent country in the entire world, our insatiable appetite for more is NEVER satisfied.
A dear brother in the Lord, his wife, and beloved daughter recently visited my wife and me. This 66 year-old man had been born anew through immersing himself in the scriptures daily. God pulled him out of a slew of apathy, lukewarm service and disillusionment through a desire for and willingness to feed upon the bread of heaven. When he wasn’t reading or studying God’s inspired word, he listened to it on audiocassette or CD player. He, his wife, his family and his church had become transformed by the renewing of their mind as they ate, lived, breathed, drank and slept with the scriptures.
· John 6:48, 51, 63-64 "I am the bread of life… I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh… It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life, but there are some of you who do not believe." NAS
This nation of believers must turn from their backslidden state of greed. Rather than try to predict which current event will trigger the Lord’s return, they need to return to their FIRST LOVE…God. This cannot be achieved asking Jesus to increase one’s wealth and material possessions, but only by asking him to advocate on behalf of their repentant heart, mind and soul.
Material possessions and improvements in the physical quality of life will NEVER bring a person true happiness; hence Jesus’ words ring loud and strong, “…for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
Calamity can dramatically alter you perspective, particularly if the ability to work or generate financial income is taken away from you. It has been said that a vast percentage of Americans are just one paycheck away from bankruptcy and homelessness. Not withstanding, we are a people that ignores the warning signs, carelessly spending whenever, wherever and on whatever we want.
We have lost the meaning of hard work, saving and delayed gratification. We are like the man that appears later in this chapter of Luke that says, “I will eat, drink and be merry…” WE don’t use that kind of language however; we say, “Well, I’d rather die being happy and doing what I want to do!”
In the Book of Revelation, a prophetic glimpse of two different kinds of Christian is seen; one believer holds fast to the words of Jesus, while the other is lukewarm, and pursues the Lord for material possessions. The contrast is not hazy or ambiguous; the church of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) speaks of the true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ; the church of Laodicea speaks of the lukewarm disciple who imagines he or she has everything they need, and whose assumption equates material blessing with God’s favor.
· Revelation 3:17 For you say, “I am rich; I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing,” and you do not realize and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Amplified Bible
Seeking the LORD for materialistic benefit and with self-indulgence as the motive is nothing new. Israel’s prophets addressed the nation with the same warnings as those given by Jesus to Laodicea.
· Hosea 12:8, 14 Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I have become rich; I have gained for myself wealth. All my profits shall bring on me no iniquity that would be sin. But all his profits will never offset nor suffice to expiate the guilt, which he has incurred… Ephraim has provoked most bitter anger; therefore shall his bloodguilt be left upon him, and his disgrace and reproach shall his Lord return upon him. Amplified Bible
Laodicea is likened to someone who is blind; this is a spiritual blindness. Jesus calls them “poor” and “naked.” This invokes an image of someone dressed in tattered rags, bony and unkempt, but imaging himself or herself to be blessed, and parading around like the fable of the emperor with no clothes. Christians have evolved into the over-indulging, pompous, overweight child in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. They have gorged themselves on wealth, and justified their sin of selfishness.
The Lord’s wrath is provoked in “bitter anger” because, like Ephraim, Laodicea hordes what they have; they refuse to share with the widow and orphan.
16 And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a certain rich man was very productive.
17 "And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?'
18 "And he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
19 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."'
"The land of a certain rich man was very productive.” What picture does this generate in your mind? I picture amber waves of grain, fully matured stalks of wheat, like the golden shimmer of the ocean’s surface as the sunlight glistens on its billions of peaks and valleys.
But this is not reality for most Americans; their idea of being, “productive,” is a young businessman neatly dressed in his Nordstrom work threads, weaving in and out of downtown traffic, gritting his teeth, and tightly clenching the steering wheel, maneuvering to make a last minute appointment with a new sales executive, driving in his newly leased SUV with a sport sunroof and an mp3 music system pumping sound waves at a decibel level that would shatter eggshells (let alone ear drums).
Or perhaps “productive’ is the young Christian housewife, a stay-at-home mom devoted to her three young children. The phone is ringing, the dishes scream over and over, “Wash me, wash me,” the laundry basket is a never-ending heap of whites and colors, and the, ‘Thump, thump, thump,’ of a lopsided load in the spin cycle of the washing machine creates a sort of rhythmic sound to run the vacuum cleaner back and forth. The phone rings and rings, and the caller I.D. never fully discloses which calls are telemarketers, and which calls are ‘friend or foe.’ Dinner must be made, the kids need to take their nap, but not before lunch, she’s got to get Bobby ready for his doctor’s appointment tomorrow, and she needs to shop for groceries, especially milk and bread.
Does any of this sound familiar? If your busy life is not listed here, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with God. Our “productive” lives are crowding out time in the scriptures. Our philosophy is to include God, the study of the scriptures, and reaching out to help others in our day, “Whenever I can fit it in.” And because we don’t take time in His word, we miss most of the ways God and His son Jesus want to shepherd us, counsel us, guide us, lead us, forgive us, convict us, and love us throughout our jammed-packed days.
38 Now while they were on their way, it occurred that Jesus entered a certain village, and a woman named Martha received and welcomed Him into her house.
39 And she had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord's feet and was listening to His teaching.
40 But Martha [overly occupied and too busy] was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, Lord, is it nothing to you that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me [to lend a hand and do her part along with me]!
41 But the Lord replied to her by saying, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
42 There is need of only one or but a few things. Mary has chosen the good portion [that which is to her advantage], which shall not be taken away from her.
Focusing on how “productive” we are, on how much we can get done in one single day, and avoiding contact with the wisdom of God leaves us vulnerable to the wiles of the devil. Perhaps your commitment to God is so unwavering in areas like not drinking alcohol, or not cussing, or avoiding movies with sacrilegious content, or a host of other overt sins that Satan comes in the back door with musings and thoughts like, “'What shall I do?” and “This is what I will do…” (Refer to Luke 12:17a & 18a above)
The rich man began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' Do you notice the emphasis on “I” and “my?” We cannot dismiss this as a mere parable, and glibly say it has no application to our lives in the 21st century. We could just as easily reason to ourselves, saying something like, “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my new equipment.” (Luke 12:17-18 above)
· Proverbs 23:4-8 Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, "Eat and drink!" But his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments. NASU
The housewife might say, “I have everything I need as far as storage, but I think I’ll go shopping, and buy some more fancy plates, and then I’ll go to the Bon Marche` and buy a beautiful walnut cabinet with beveled glass to display my new china.” Her greed progresses in a flurry of self-serving madness, “I know, I’ll redecorate the entire living and dining room areas! Yes, I’ll but new carpet, have a decorator come in, and redo the drapery; then we can shop for a nicer and more formal dining room table and matching chairs, with custom upholstery to match the window dressings and carpet; then I’ll have a wall designer help me to select a soft floral print wallpaper sconce; and yes, I’ll have an electrician come in, and install a new crystal chandelier, and…on and on and on!”
Is it wrong to redecorate your home? Not at all. Is it wrong to want a newer car, or truck? No, of course not. Then WHY give such examples? If it’s not sinful to want an improvement in your life, what IS the issue here? Notice in Luke 12:18 what the rich man said, “…I will tear down my barns and build larger ones.”
WHY did he want to tear down his barns, and build a larger storage facility? Farmers are always in need of more capacity, especially when their harvests have been consistently productive. Jesus is not addressing the farmer’s needs, but exposing his discontent, which is tantamount to greed.
· James 3:16-18 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. NASU
Jesus said earlier in Luke 12:15, “…be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." Two things stand out here: First, greed takes a variety of forms, and subtlety masks its’ ugly head in a neatly wrapped package with a bow on top, calling it, “I NEED this…” Second, the breeding ground for greed is discontentment; the farmer was never satisfied with what he owned; it always needed improvement, expansion, and greater quality.
Have you made your want into a “need?” This is a process called greed. An easy way to remind yourself, particularly the next time you consider buying something, is the fact the last 3 letters of ‘gr-EED’ are the same as the last 3 letters in ‘n-EED.’ The difference between ‘need’ and ‘greed’ is the ‘gr’; the letters ‘GR’ can be an acronym for ‘Getting Rich.’ or ‘Growing Restless.’
The letter ‘N’ can be an acronym for ‘No’ and this should be used for anything that isn’t a real need. This exhortation is not intended to make people act legalistic and deprive themselves of fun little splurges now and again. God doesn’t want us to micromanage every little aspect of our lives and get to where buying a pack of gum or an extra can of hair spray is a major decision. We do, however, need to temper our thoughts and behavior, and line them up with the scripture. Our American way of life is saturated with discontent, and we are pumped with media signals that encourage and promote dissatisfaction.
John the Baptist told the Roman soldiers, “…be content with your wages." (Luke 3:14) The Amplified Bible elaborates on the meaning of these words saying, “…and always be satisfied with your rations (supplies) and with your allowance (wages).” While John’s exhortation included a warning to them not to extort money by using their position in the Roman military, the principles can be applied today.
6:3-5 But if anyone teaches otherwise and does not assent to the sound and wholesome messages of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and the teaching, which is in agreement with godliness (piety toward God), he is puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit, [although he is] woefully ignorant. He has a morbid fondness for controversy and disputes and strife about words, which result in (produce) envy and jealousy, quarrels and dissension, abuse and insults and slander, and base suspicions, and protracted wrangling and wearing discussion and perpetual friction among men who are corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, who imagine that godliness or righteousness is a source of profit a moneymaking business, a means of livelihood. From such withdraw.
6:6 And it is, indeed, a source of immense profit, for godliness accompanied with contentment, (that contentment which is a sense of inward sufficiency), is great and abundant gain.
6:7-8 For we brought nothing into the world, and obviously we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content (satisfied).
6:9-10 But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing. For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute mental pangs.
6:11-12 But as for you, O man of God, flee from all these things; aim at and pursue righteousness (right standing with God and true goodness), godliness (which is the loving fear of God and being Christ like), faith, love, steadfastness (patience), and gentleness of heart. Fight the good fight of the faith; lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summoned and [for which] you confessed the good confession of faith before many witnesses. Amplified Bible
Businesses and sales people, particularly Christians, should always toe the line and carry the distinguishing mark of integrity, and should always be upright in their commerce and personal transactions. They should never take advantage of someone’s conscientiousness, and wrangle a few extra bucks out of them. Sometimes this is done without hesitation merely because the client or customer is wealthy, and selling them something extra, or allowing superfluous charges on their account wouldn’t faze them or be scrutinized. This doesn’t make it any less wrong; it is still a form of greed and stealing.
The wealthy customer you ding with extra charges to line your greedy little wallet may never know or feel the effect of your dishonesty, but you are setting yourself up for a progressive pattern of sinful behavior that can easily cost you your eternal soul!
· Proverbs 22:1 A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold. AMP
There is another kind of greed that expresses itself through men and women in the churches; it is the worst kind, because it uses the blessed name of Jesus for profit and filthy lucre. The text of 1 Timothy 6:3-12 reveals the character flaws of those who are ensnared by the pursuit of financial and material gain.
Below are the negatives found in 1 Timothy 6:3-12 and contrasted with the positive qualities in the lives of believers who follow God’s path of contentment. The good qualities are distinguished with bold highlighting:
· They are puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit/ pursue righteousness (right standing with God and true goodness)
· They are woefully ignorant/ godliness (which is the loving fear of God and being Christ like)
· They have a morbid fondness for controversy and disputes and strife about words/faith
· They are full of envy and jealousy/ love
· They love quarrels and dissension/ lay hold of the eternal life
· They abuse with insults and slander/ steadfastness (patience)
· They are full of base suspicions; they trust no one but themselves/ gentleness of heart
· They revel in protracted wrangling and wearing discussion and perpetual friction/ Fight the good fight of the faith
· They are corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth/ lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summoned
· They imagine that godliness or righteousness is a source of profit a moneymaking business, a means of livelihood/ you confessed the good confession
· They crave to be rich & fall into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires/ demonstrate faith before many witnesses
20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?'
21 "So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
It is easy to read this parable of Jesus and say to one’s self, “Boy, I’m sure glad that I’m not that guy! I’m going to MAKE SURE I’m ready when the Lord comes!” How can you know for sure? How can you be certain you are prepared?
Remember, the rich farmer wasn’t doing a lot of ‘evil’ sins; he isn’t portrayed as anything other than a “good old boy” out in the sticks that had a few good harvest years, and thought he’d prepare to expand by enlarging his facility. All he wanted was to tear down his old barn and build a new and bigger one.
Any one of us could easily be the farmer; the most impoverished American is still living at a standard a great deal higher than many third world countries. A vast majority of Christians in the U.S. have never experienced want, or even hunger pains that go unsatisfied. Is it a matter of splitting hairs between our “wants” and our “needs” or, is Jesus speaking to an entirely different motive altogether? What does it mean to be “rich toward God?”
Being “on guard” against “every form” of greed has been mentioned a few times, but who really wants to admit they are greedy? We can acknowledge we are sinners, but greedy? Who me?
If you think you’re immune from an attitude of greed and discontent, evaluate what your reaction might be there’s a ding in the side of your brand new car fender. You find out it was made by one of your careless children, whom you warned to be careful, and not play next to the car.
Was your response kind and merciful, and tempered with gentleness? Ouch! That hurts! How did you react? Were you able to look at the ding in proper perspective? Did you weigh the fact it is merely an earthly possession, and not an eternal one, and has no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of your salvation?
Attitude is key, but to maintain the right attitude means pursuing a daily relationship with God in His word (the scriptures). The farmer’s mistake began when he started “reasoning” within himself. If he had prayed, and asked God how or in what way he could best spend his surplus, what would the Lord have spoken to him? Perhaps all God wanted was the farmer’s heart, surrendered, obedient and yielded to Him; He may have even OK’d the farmer’s idea to build bigger barns, in order to provide food for the needy in times of famine. Or… God may have required the farmer to share his surplus with his neighbors.
The rich farmer will never know God’s will, because he never asked God. This farmer is also typical of many Christians today; in this case, however, he asks God for a bigger barn, but his motives stem from greed and self-aggrandizement.
· James 4:2-3 You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask. [1 John 3:15.] Or you do ask God for them, and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is when you get what you desire to spend it in sensual pleasures. Amplified Bible
The text above from the Book of James chronicles some hidden reefs in the dangerous waters of greed…they are…jealousy, coveting, unfulfilled desires, burning with envy, not asking God, or asking with a wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Sadly, many Christians have never truly learned what it is like to sacrifice to meet the needs of others; they rob themselves of the joy of giving. They worry about their own selfish desires instead of focusing attention on ways to bless others.
James warns that even Christians can have intentions to only obtain what THEY want, and then spend it on their OWN sensual pleasures. When their Lord and Master Jesus returns, these folks will not be ready; they will not be dressed in readiness, but will be clothed with the soiled and stench-ridden garments of self-indulgence.
· Revelation 3:17 For you say, I am rich; I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing; and you do not realize and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. AMP
It has been said, “Plan like Jesus is not coming for another 50 years, but act like He’s coming today.” It’s a nifty saying, and contains some truth, but it misses the mark. In reality, any day, including this very moment, could be your last.
No one will live forever, though in this country, we have come to associate longevity as part of “The American Dream.” What escapes the discernment of the vast majority of Americans is that the “dream” is just what it implies…a dream…a pie-in-the-sky goal achieved by very few, and futile in its eternal direction. Today the percentage of working class citizens will never own a mortgage-free home of their own.
If the Almighty came for you this very moment, can you HONESTLY say you are ready? What kind of feelings do you experience when reading the words, “This very night your soul is required of you…?” Do you respond with, “Even so Lord Jesus, come!” or are you afraid, and cowardly? Are you apathetic, and discount the application of this sobering exhortation, or do you say, “Search me Lord, and test me, and see if there is any wicked way within me?” (Revelation 22:20 with Psalms 139:23)
Being dressed in readiness and preparing for the hour of your death, or being ready for the hour of the Lord’s return, (there’s no intrinsic difference for the eternal outcome), involves more than repentance from a life of satiation and avarice. To overcome evil you must do so by overcoming it with good.
· Romans 12:21 Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good. AMP
Jesus provides an antithesis and a solution to greed in his comment, "So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
The contrast is between laying up treasure for “him-SELF” (emphasis on self) and being, “rich toward God.” Of course, the first scripture that comes to your mind is the passage where Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-23) However, if one reads the context of verses preceding Matthew 6:19-23, laying up eternal treasures is contrasted with self-righteous behavior of religious leaders.
In other words, the context of Matthew chapter six varies slightly from Luke chapter twelve, in that Matthew’s account focuses on another aspect of eternal treasures. Notwithstanding, Matthew 6:24 DOES agree in content with Luke; the Amplified Bible lends us an excellent version to illustrate what is being said:
· Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in). AMP
Some legalistic and self-righteous Christian churches teach that the believer must hate money to be a true disciple of Jesus. They use Matthew 6:24 as their “proof” text when, in fact, Jesus never tells us to hate money. Rather, the Lord tells us that we cannot serve two masters. In other words, you cannot have God as your master, and have a life devoted to the pursuit of material wealth as your master. You will either love one or the other; that is, you will love and be devoted to a life that seeks God’s interests, or a life that pursues and seeks the interests of SELF (including greed).
Like the warning to the rich farmer, we must take heed to this admonition; there is NO middle ground in our relationship with God; either we are devoted to, standing by and trusting in Him, OR we are finding security and dependence in our possessions, or perceived lack thereof.
If we are depending on ‘things’ we will not be a person who shares freely and obediently from the heart. We may give in a structured way (e.g. – tithing to a church or ministry), but will, as a result, find it difficult or impossible to be led of God in our giving freely to the needy over and above the tithe. Our mind will make excuses subconsciously saying, “I gave to my own church or ministry.” The passage from Timothy (below) shows that no one is exempt from being obedient to God in their giving to those in need:
· 1 Timothy 6:17-19 As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment. Charge them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share with others. In this way laying up for themselves the riches that endure forever as a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed. AMP
Had the rich farmer obeyed the apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy, he would never have built bigger and better barns before first sharing liberally with those who were poor and needy. Or he may have built his new barns by hiring and using the well-paid labor of his impoverished neighbors. This option would have given the farmer’s neighbors the satisfaction of earning what they eat, and would have blessed him with more storage at the same time, plus it would have built a strong foundation for personal relationships.
The point being, the selfish farmer should have asked his heavenly Father what he was do to bless others, thus fulfilling his part in the first commandment (Mark 12:28-30).
Being dressed in readiness is not difficult; it is not attaining great knowledge, or spending hours on your knees trying to “find” God. God can be loved by extending your hands to His children. He is loved when we care for one ANOTHER. Moses left the riches of this life to share in the lives of God’s people; how few would follow in his footsteps?
· Hebrews 11:24-25 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. NAS
A great multitude of Christians in America and the “free” world are trying to find God through ethereal so-called “worship” and a cosmic “bridal” relationship with Jesus. They use their Christian mysticism as an excuse for being lazy and useless and unproductive members of the body of Christ. God doesn’t want us finding approval and validation from others through what we do, but He DOES WANT US TO DO SOMETHING FOR HIM!
22 And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.
23 "For life is more than food, and the body than clothing.
24 "Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; and they have no storeroom nor barn; and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
25 "And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?
26 "If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why are you anxious about other matters?
27 "Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.
28 "But if God so arrays the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O men of little faith!
29 "And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying.
30 "For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.
31 "But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you.
In the days of Jesus, in the region of Palestine, and throughout the Roman Empire, people were destitute, poor, struggling to find food to eat each day. We cannot truly identify with Jesus’ statement, “…do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.” Today this verse of scripture is often times used out of context. Ignorant western Christians haven’t got a clue what it means to worry and be anxious over where their daily food will come from, or how they will feed their children, or clothe them when they feel the chill of winter air and see the rain clouds gather.
Nevertheless, we Americans DO worry, and we certainly have our fill of anxiety. We don’t worry about having enough food in our tummy, or having clothes on our back. No, we worry about meeting our monthly payment to the bank, or Credit Card Company. We worry that if our cable company bill isn’t pain, because we might lose our DSL connection, and then we’d have to use a standard modem hook-up! God forbid such an inconvenience should ever interrupt the flow of our self-indulgence.
We worry that our daughter won’t be able to get that new outfit she wanted for the prom. We worry that our dental insurance won’t cover the cost of paying for a porcelain crown, and we may have to settle for gold. We worry we won’t have enough money to buy new ski boots, or fancy jewelry for our wife’s birthday…or a million other frivolous non-essentials of life.
Of course, our worries also extend to necessities as well, and even the basics can weigh a person down. It is SO easy to allow the “cares of this life” to consume us. A big part of the worry and anxiety we encounter or self-perpetuate is originates from watching too much of television. We worry about the war in Iraq, or the stock market’s activity, or the price of gasoline, or crime, or we worry that our washing machine might soon break and need to be replaced…or whatever.
Then there’s the “legitimate” worries…a leaky roof, a blown car engine, a layoff at work, a sudden catastrophic diagnosis of cancer…little stuff like that…just kidding. So many things compete for our thoughts and meditations. How can God and His son Jesus ever compete with the cares of life, and the anxiety that arises from contemplating solutions to problems we simply cannot fix or solve?
Then there is another extreme that creates needless anxiety, and it comes from living with the guilt of being overly blessed. How many of us remember our parents scolding us for not finishing the peas or green beans on our plates, as they bellowed out, “Do you realize THERE ARE STARVING CHILDREN IN CHINA?? So you children just sit down and clean off your plates!” Our poor ignorant parents…did they really think if we cleaned off our plates it would actually solve world-hunger? Did they think it would somehow instill in us a sense of gratitude if we tried to force those nasty tasting green beans down our throat?
You didn’t ask to be born in the wealth of America…you just were. Let’s not beat ourselves up because we own lots of stuff…the principles still apply, and the problem with worry and anxiety is that it derails us from seeking first the kingdom of God!
· Matthew 6:25 Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? AMP
To acknowledge that worry and anxiety are counterproductive and a hindrance to our spiritual life is not sufficient to alleviate and/or adequately minimize it. The scripture never promises a one-time solution to permanently solve or eliminate the worries of life altogether. But there is some forward progress to be made in substantially shrinking the overall effects of worry and anxiety.
First, we need to REALLY know God loves us, and He cares about our needs. We need to understand that He may not fix everything, and He doesn’t always take away all the bad things in life, but He is still a good and kind and caring Father who watches over us individually.
Do you believe that God loves YOU? Do you think you can TRUST Him, even when He doesn’t heal you, or seemingly provide what’s needed to fix a problem? Will you make the decision, each and every day, and in each and every circumstance, to confidently rely upon Him to furnish your needs? It won’t be easy, but if you practice reacting to adversity with the reliance of a child to his or her father, the worry won’t cloud your vision, and you will find God’s solutions, and see His way of escape.
· 1 Corinthians 10:13-15 For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently. Therefore, my dearly beloved, shun (keep clear away from, avoid by flight if need be) any sort of idolatry (of loving or venerating anything more than God). I am speaking as to intelligent (sensible) men. Think over and make up your minds [for yourselves] about what I say. [I appeal to your reason and your discernment in these matters.] Amplified Bible
There was a Christian man who, after being diagnosed time, and time, and time again, and again, and again with diseases, painful symptoms, incurable maladies, began to question God’s love. He began to doubt divine intervention in his life. Why? Because it SEEMED to him that God wasn’t fixing him, and that God He wasn’t making him better, no matter how much he prayed and believed, or how much other people prayed and believed, his pain and misery continued unabated.
One day, this man read a passage of scripture that truly changed his life and his concept of God. This man came to understand God’s ways in a new light; to comprehend what God does, and what He doesn’t do. Below is the scripture passage that forever altered this sick man’s life, even though he did not get healed:
· Job 2:10 “…Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. NASU
The sick man learned to accept adversity as being, as it were, from the very hand of God. Many Christians do not like this statement. It goes against their heavenly Santa Claus theology. They want God to fix all of their “owies” like a little kid wants mom to fix every little scrape or cut. They want God to pay their bills, and heal every disease or physical impairment. They don’t like adversity. They have no problem accepting good things from God, but hey, who wants to believe their Father in heaven handed them a platter full of trials and tribulations?
Just because adversity is from the hand of God in no way infers that God is not good…far be it to say such a thing! It is vital to a healthy relationship with God to acknowledge His dealings with man amount to a lot more than just bailing him out of troublesome situations. An old saying among mature believers is:
If you can ACCEPT ADVERSITY as from the hand of God (so to speak), even if God did not actually create the negative circumstances, you will be more than halfway home to ridding yourself of worry and anxiety. You will begin to CONFIDENTLY say, along with the psalmist, “GOD IS our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains be shaken into the midst of the seas, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling and tumult. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!” (Psalms 46:1-3; AMP)
The farmer in Luke chapter twelve was discontent; he was always striving to build bigger and better material things. His lack of contentment is what cost him his soul, because his heart treasured material possessions and the temporal security more than his relationship with God. Unlike Job, who refused to sin with his lips when stripped of all worldly possessions, the farmer carried on in his greed as though there was no tomorrow. Godliness WITH CONTENTMENT is actually the greatest gain possible in this life.
Peter’s epistle admonishes us to cast our cares upon the Lord. However, he prefaces doing this by requiring that we humble ourselves FIRST, and then cast the anxieties upon the Lord:
· 1 Peter 5:6-10 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. NAS
Note that even after we cast our anxiety upon the Lord, we can expect to have, “suffered for a little while.” When we are willing to accept and embrace adversity, it brings to us a sense of peace and a resolve that helps to reduce the level of, or sometimes eliminate altogether, the anxieties of life that arise from tribulation. In addition, prayer that makes our request known to God will bring about a peace from Him that eclipses our human understanding, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus:
· Philippians 4:6-7 Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace], which transcends all understanding, shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMP
32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
33 "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys.
34 "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
35 "Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight.
36 "And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.
37 "Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.
38 "Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39 "And be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
This parable in Luke 12:36 refers to all who are followers and disciples of the Lord Jesus. The metaphor is of servants who are waiting for the master to return home from a wedding feast, so they will be ready for him, whether he comes at the second or third watch of the night.
Many pastors and ministers mistakenly interpret this passage as a reference to the church being symbolically married to Christ; this is simply untrue. It doesn’t mention the master (Jesus) as having gotten married, but simply having returned from a wedding feast.
In Luke 12:36-40 when Jesus is seen in the parable returning from the wedding. The Oriental groom, after a supper with his friends, went to the house of the bride to claim her. Since the return procession took place late at night, the groom expected his servants to be dressed for work and to have their lamps lighted. The traditional wedding preparation was a symbol of readiness for his return.
Jesus tells his disciples that the Father has given to them His kingdom. It is a heavenly kingdom, but it is played out on earth, according to God’s will in heaven. Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” is a part of this kingdom of God. It is only for those whose “treasure” is a heart seeking to do His will at all times. This is the essence of God’s kingdom…always has been…always will be.
In preparation for the pursuit of God’s kingdom, Jesus commands his disciples to sell the earthly possessions, and give to charity. The Amplified says,“…Sell what you possess and give donations to the poor…” (Luke 12:33)
Some naïve Christians who are not called to be apostles, take this verse and others like it to mean they should not own any earthly possessions, and should live in abject poverty to properly serve Christ. This is simply not true. In fact, many scriptures teach us to use our wealth and material possessions as a blessing to others. How could you bless the poor with material gifts if you owned nothing? What happens to those gifted in “giving” if there is nothing to give?
· Romans 12:6-8 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (From New International Version)
The point Jesus is making is this: Always maintain the attitude that whatever you own in this life, as a servant of God, should be willingly shared with others as He directs you. This keeps things in proper eternal perspective. Most Christians in a democratic society and a free economical world are so carnal and selfish they would rarely (if ever) share the endowment they have with others in need.
Sadly, that which God intended to be bountifully shared with others is squandered and hoarded and sometimes worshipped to their own destruction. Their hearts follow the worthless treasure of materialism. Selfish people have to purchase automobile and home security alarm systems to buy peace of mind and protect their crumbling and unstable earthly empire.
On the other hand, there are those that have ears to hear what Jesus is saying, and these are “dressed in readiness” by keeping their “lamps alight.” What does this mean? It seems to be the pinnacle of Jesus’ teaching. Another passage in Matthew’s gospel sheds light on the Lord’s words:
· Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven. AMP
Do you want to be ready when the Lord comes for you, either at death, or at his coming? If so, you must keep you lamps lit, a metaphor explaining the kind of lifestyle required to be dressed in readiness. The self-serving Christian will not be ready; because he or she cares only for their earthly treasures, for their own needs, and they think little of the needs of others… they care little for the needs of their Master Jesus.
However, the ones dressed in readiness are like servants looking for their master to return from a wedding feast. The doctrines of Christianity falsely present Jesus returning for a cosmic “perfect” bride, to whisk her away from the imminent tribulation and an antichrist world government, by rapturing her into an eternal wedding feast with him. This teaching does not come from our Lord Jesus Christ; it is nothing more than the romantic musings and doctrines of men.
It is important to make a conscious distinction between the various parables of the “wedding feast” and the “marriage supper of the Lamb” mentioned in Revelation 19:6-9.
The wedding feast that Jesus mentions in his teaching is symbolic of the kingdom of God on the earth, and he uses this analogy to demonstrate various aspects of the believer’s role in the body of Christ.
The marriage supper of the Lamb is mentioned once in Revelation 19:6-9, and this is symbolic of the time when those faithful, who are dressed in fine linen (their righteous DEEDS) will share in the eternal rewards of the righteous.
There are two different Greek words used to speak of the “feast” (dinner or luncheon) or the “supper” (or evening meal). The afternoon meal, called in the Greek “ariston,” was often considered the best meal, only because it was taken at a time when those working in the fields needed nourishment to rejuvenate their strength, and was looked forward to by laborers as a time to rest. As such, this meal is used to symbolize our work for God here upon the earth, and we are as His servants, bidding others to come to come and join us in this breaking of bread (so to speak).
· “Feast” = NT: 712 ariston (ar'-is-ton); apparently neuter of a superlative from the same as NT: 730; the best meal [or breakfast; perhaps from eri ("early")], i.e. luncheon (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
How can you be certain that, as an individual Christian, you are an active participant in the wedding feast of the Lord Jesus? There are three places that ariston appears: Matthew 22:4; Luke 11:38; 14:12. In the context of these three passages we see certain characteristics pointed out, and these characteristics are helpful in teaching us how to be “dressed in readiness” as servants of Jesus.
READ Luke 11:37-42: In Luke 11:38 The Pharisee noticed and was astonished to see that Jesus did not first wash before dinner (ariston). The Lord uses this as an opportunity to teach the difference between having one’s heart clean on the inside and having a self-righteous religious exterior (an outward façade for the sake of appearances alone).
Like so many in the Christian churches today, the Pharisees were big on the outward, but inwardly were full of greed and robbery and extortion and malice and wickedness (11:39).
The Lord Jesus summarized his instruction saying in 11:41-42, “But dedicate your inner self and give as donations to the poor of those things which are within, of inward righteousness and behold, everything is purified and clean for you. But woe to you, Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every [little] herb, but disregard and neglect justice and the love of God.” (Amplified Bible)
READ Matthew 22:2-14: In Matthew 22: 2 Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a king, who gave a wedding feast (ariston) for his son. The “king” would refer to God the Father, and the “son” would refer to Jesus, the Christ of God. In Matthew 22:3-8 the parable of the wedding feast mentions servants who came once, then came again to invite, and then announce the feast to those unwilling to attend.
This aspect of the parable refers to the rejection by God of Israel and its religious capital of Jerusalem because it rejected Jesus as the Messiah. The reason we know this is because in 22:7 the king (God) was enraged and sent his armies (Rome), and destroyed those murderers, and set their city (Jerusalem) on fire. Another reason we can be certain that this is the referring to the Jewish rejection of Jesus as Messiah is because 22:4 the parable speaks of how the king had prepared his “dinner” (a different Greek word for the evening supper = deipnon) including the sacrificed livestock, which is representative of the sacrifice of His only begotten son Jesus.
The last part of the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:9-14 shows the king’s servants going out into the highways and the byways and compelling both good and evil to come to the feast; this typifies the opening of the gospel to both Jew and Gentile:
· Matthew 22:9-14 “’Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him,' Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." NAS
Note the man whom the king addressed, and who had not dressed in wedding clothes; he was speechless with no excuse, and was bound and cast into outer darkness. In Revelation 19:6-9 these special linens, the wedding clothes that allow one to sit and partake of the “marriage supper” of the Lamb (Jesus), are called “the righteous acts of the saints.” Faith without works is useless. Being “dressed in readiness” means DOING the will of God, not sitting around waiting for Jesus to return. The speechless man is like many Christians who will have no excuse for their laziness and apathy when they stand before the son of man.
Understanding the cultural significance of the wedding feast, and the customs of the day, helps identify the significance of these types of parables:
The usual time for holding the banquet was toward evening, corresponding to the dinners of modern times. To begin early was a mark of excess (Isaiah 5:11; Ecclesiastes 10:16). These festivals were often continued for seven days, especially wedding banquets (Judges 14:12); but if the bride was a widow, three days formed the limit.
Invitations were sent out through servants (Proverbs 9:2-3; Matthew 22:3-4,8-9) some time previous to the banquet; and a later announcement informed the expected guests that the arrangements were complete and their presence was looked for (22:4; 14:7). This after-summons was sent only to those who had accepted the previous invitation, and to violate that acceptance for trivial reasons could only be viewed as a gross insult.
At a small entrance door a servant received the tablets or cards of the guests, who were then conducted into the receiving room. After the whole company had arrived, the master of the house shut the door with his own hands, a signal that no others were to be admitted (Luke 13:25; Matthew 25:10). The guests were kissed upon their arrival (Tobit 7:6; Luke 7:45); their feet washed (7:44), a custom common in ancient Greece and still found in Palestine; the hair and beard anointed (Psalms 23:5; Amos 6:6); and their places assigned them according to rank (1 Samuel 9:22; Luke 14:8; Mark 12:39). In some cases each guest was furnished with a magnificent garment of a light and showy color and richly embroidered, to be worn during the banquet (Ecclesiastes 9:8; Revelation 3:4-5). The refusal of such a mark of respect implied contempt for the host and his entertainment that could not fail to provoke resentment (Matt 22:11).
In general the feasts of the Israelites were simple; but, no doubt, under the kings, with growing prosperity and luxury, riotous banquets were not unknown. Particularly choice dishes were set before the guest intended to be specially honored (1 Samuel 9:24), sometimes a double (1:5) and even fivefold portion (Gen 43:34).
(From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)
READ Luke 14:7-9 And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table; saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast (ariston), do not take the place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both shall come and say to you,' Give place to this man,' and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.
God requires us to be humble, and our humility must be genuine. We must not seek the places of honor and recognition in the Christian church, as so many have done in the past. Instead, if we seek God’s kingdom FIRST we will be able to recognize those worthy of double-honor (i.e. – the elders that labor in the word and teaching), and take our place in the body of Christ without the fanfare of religious pride.
Luke 14:10-11 "But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."
The wedding feast is symbolic; it represents our coming together as the body of believers, all having been invited by him, who is the Head, even Christ. We must live our lives in such a way that the praises of men mean nothing to us, and in order that we serve God in whatever capacity He requires of us. God raises up, and God tears down; He exalts, and He humbles the self-exalted.
Luke 14:12-15 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a luncheon (mid-day meal; ariston) or a dinner (evening meal; deipnon), do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!"
These verses above epitomize the message of our Lord and master Jesus Christ. He is using the wedding feast to show us our duties as servants; we are to reach out, always ready to do good to those that are spiritually or physically poor, crippled, blind or lame. In so doing, we will partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb, also known as the resurrection of the righteous In doing so, we take the fine linen garment offered to us by the One who gives the wedding feast, and this fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints done in his name. Those who enter the wedding feast do so through the narrow portal, and this represents the way as being narrow, and only a few find entrance to God’s kingdom through it.
When you think of being “dressed in readiness” what comes to mind? To be “dressed” means to be “covered” and “readiness” means to be “ready” to do God’s will at all times. Another parable of Jesus is perhaps his most famous and misunderstood:
25:1 "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2 "And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.
3 "For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,
4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.
5 "Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.
6 "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'
7 "Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps.
8 "And the foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'
9 "But the prudent answered, saying, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.'
10 "And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.
11 "And later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.'
12 "But he answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.'
13 "Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
Understanding the cultural significance of the wedding feast, we now know the ten virgins were sent out like servants to announce the wedding to those who had accepted the invitation. All ten servants went out with their lamps to meet the groom, who alone could shut the door and determine who would, or would not attend the wedding feast. However, half of the servants foolishly went out at evening, before it had become completely dark, not taking enough oil with them to make it back in time to the wedding feast.
The wise half of the groom’s servants was obviously properly prepared, revealing their experience and ability. These five wise are like those Christians who have worked in the Father’s vineyard, and they know how to count the costs, and prepare for delays, and things that happen outside of normal expectations. The five foolish are like so many Christians who think they will be able to simply wait until the Lord returns to go out and do his bidding; how shocked they will be when they are shut out of the marriage supper of the Lamb!
14 "For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them.
15 "And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
16 "Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.
17 "In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.
18 "But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master's money.
19 "Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
20 "And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.'
21 "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.'
22 "The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.'
23 "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'
24 "And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed.
25'And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.'
26 "But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed.
27’then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
28'Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.'
29 "For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
30 "And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Again, the parable of the talents is a continuation of the same theme…to be dressed in readiness…to be doing God’s will, and have faith that is demonstrated by works…that is active, and living. Those who squander what God has given them will surely perish.
31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
32 "And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;
33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'
37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink?
38'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
39'And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
40 "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'
41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'
44 "Then they themselves also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'
45 "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'
46 "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
The ONLY difference between the sheep and the goats is what the DID AND DIDN’T DO! These are two groups of Christians, not the “saved” verses the “unsaved” as it has been supposed and taught with Christendom. We can be certain of this interpretation, because it is consistent with the previous context, and both sheep and goats referred to the son of man as “Lord.”
Many charismatic Christians teach that Jesus is coming for a “bride” and that the “bride” is his church made perfect. By “perfect” they mean a body of believers, usually them, made “complete” through a mystic experience, worship, kneeling in prayer closets, always hidden away with Christ. It sounds “right” but it misses the mark altogether. They are like the parable of the talents, and the man who hid his lone talent by burying it in the earth. These churches adhere to what has been coined as “Latter Rain” eschatology (end-time doctrine). This is not only fallacious, but presents an unrealistic picture of what being a believer is all about.
Revelation 19:6-9 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he said to me, "These are true words of God." NAS
· “supper” = NT:1173 deipnon (dipe'-non); from the same as NT:1160; dinner, i.e. the chief meal (usually in the evening): (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
The marriage supper is the evening meal; it is the final meal of the day. This word deipnon is different than the word used for the “feast” (ariston), and signifies what only the few and the faithful will experience in eternity with their Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
Luke 14:16-24 Parable of the Dinner But He said to him, "A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' Another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.' Another one said, ' I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.' And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner (deipnon).'" NASU
This parable emphasizes the importance of being dressed in readiness. Notice how many of the servants made excuses. Again, the cultural significance of this parable is that it proves it is speaking of CHRISTIANS WHO MAKE EXCUSES. Why? Because they had already accepted the initial invitation to attend the wedding supper, but when the final announcement was made, they began making excuses, and these excuses were generally related to the cares of life! Consider once again what Unger’s says about this excuse-making by the servants:
Invitations were sent out through servants (Proverbs 9:2-3; Matthew 22:3-4,8-9) some time previous to the banquet; and a later announcement informed the expected guests that the arrangements were complete and their presence was looked for (22:4; 14:7). This after-summons was sent only to those who had accepted the previous invitation, and to violate that acceptance for trivial reasons could only be viewed as a gross insult.
You see now how it is an insult for God’s servants to make excuses and justify why they are unable to participate in the work of the kingdom. Notice the excuses are not sins of gross immorality, but rather, they are the cares of this life:
· But they all alike began to make excuses.
· The first one said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.'
· Another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.'
· Another one said, ' I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.'
Too many Christians today are like those inside the Corinthian church who were selfish, and who, when they came to break bread together, ate first, instead of waiting upon their brother. The Corinthians were like the servants who made excuses, and were basically self-serving and self-indulgent. It is for THIS REASON the church falls under the judgment of God.
· 1 Corinthians 11:20-21, 33 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk…So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. NASU
The Lord’s supper, as it has been called, is all about being a servant, and caring for others. Jesus washed the feet of his own disciples, leaving an example for his disciples to follow:
· John 13:3-5 12-17 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper (deipnon), and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded…So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” NASU
The only other place that this Greek word for “supper” (deipnon) is used is when Jesus warns against the Pharisees, so typical of folks who love the security of being a part of a religious group
· Mark 12:38-40 In His teaching He was saying: "Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets (deipnon), who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation." NASU
· Matthew 23:6-8 "They love the place of honor at banquets (deipnon) and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.” NASU
If Jesus, the head of God’s spiritual house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house (church) to be broken into. Jesus told his disciples on more than one occasion the he had no clue as to the time of his return:
· Matthew 24:36-37 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.” NAS
· Mark 13:32-37 "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is. It is like a man, away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert-- for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrowing, or in the morning-- lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all, 'Be on the alert!'" NAS
Since Jesus is unaware of the time of his return, he warns us repeatedly by admonishing us to be faithful and sensible stewards of his Father’s kingdom and God’s work on earth. This is the ONLY way a believer can walk securely in the knowledge of his or her sharing in the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is what it means to be “dressed in readiness.”
In Luke 12:39 we see what hour the thief would come. The change of figure from the bridegroom to the thief emphasizes the element of unexpected appearance. Paul applied the same figure of speech to the in 1 Thessalonians 5:2:
· 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. NAS
40 "You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."
41 And Peter said, "Lord, are you addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?"
42 And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?
43 "Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
44 "Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
45 "But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk;
46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
47 "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes,
48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
49 "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!
50 "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!
51 "Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division;
52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three.
53 "They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
How can you be ready? It is simple…be faithful to use what God has given to you. Don’t make excuses. Don’t let the cares of life and anxiety distract you. Seek out those in need, and share the love of God with the poor, the lame, the sick, the prisoner, the stranger, the hungry, and the naked. When you practice these things, the love of God is perfected in you, and you shall walk in confidence.
12 No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
14 And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
16 And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
17 By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
19 We love, because He first loved us.
20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. NAS