The Thomas Pages homepage
Chapter 2 THE OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST'S CHURCH Chapter 2
WHEN will He come?  
In answer to His disciples' question – of when His prophecy of the Temple's destruction, the end of the age and His return, would happen – Jesus made this most significant statement:  
  "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations,
and then the end shall come."
Matthew 24:14.
This was Christ's answer to their – "when will these things be"? (Matt.24:3). In other words, the Church's completion of its gospel-responsibility is the essential precondition to His second coming. It sets the time!

 
His
Gospel's Nature
 
It is vital to remember however, that the witness of "this gospel of the kingdom" is more, much more, than simply telling about Jesus, His crucifixion, resurrection, or any theological or historical facet of the gospel story, no matter how important it may be. The "gospel" in this verse is Jesus' own ministry. It is His gospel! He is saying that the "whole world" is to receive His ministry. That is, His ministry continued by His Church. Remember, Jesus invited all His converts to become part of His ministry (e.g. Matthew 11:28-30; John 7:37-39). The Weary are called to be Yoke-bearers and the Thirsty are called to be Fountains of running water for others. It is for this very reason that at Pentecost He gave His Church the gracious Holy Spirit!

 
Punishment Deferred  
The Holy Spirit expressed this exact same holy principle for us in Paul's answer to the Corinthian complaint. They wanted him to judge the false brethren that were come among them. In answer, he writes –
 
  "we are ready to punish all disobedience, when your obedience is complete" 2 Corinthians 10:6.
This principle is directly applicable to God judging the disobedience of this world. It is the reason for the ongoing delay in that judgment. It is the key principle to understanding the whole process of events that ends this age. The obedience of those who are truly God's people must first be completed before the Merciful will bring His awesome judgment upon "those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2Thes.1:8).

 
Our Obedience Sets The Time  
Christ's statement that the obedience of His people actually affects the time of His return is also confirmed by Peter's own exhortation to believers: 
 
 
"what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
 on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!"
2 Peter 3:11, 12.
Christian obedience hastens the coming of this Day of God. Hallelujah!
 
Peace and Politics  
Now, according to Jesus' own words referred to above, His return is contingent upon completion of the gospel-task (Matthew 24:14). But remember, the effective spread of His gospel requires social peace, if not liberty of travel and speech. It was by God's providence that the Pax Romana (peace of the Empire) helped open the way for the spread of Christian mission at the beginning of this gospel era. For this very reason then, at the beginning of this age, through Paul the Spirit instructed us to pray –
 
  "for kings and all who are in authority,
in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour,
who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
1 Timothy 2:2-4.
In the light of this, it is particularly significant then that Daniel associates the time of Antichrist with special sociopolitical difficulty or breakdown; the "iron mixed with common clay" phase (Dan.2:41-44). The providence of God which permits Antichrist's expression of his true nature as the "lawless one" is thus a confirmatory sign that the mission of the Church has been completed and the end-time has come (2Thes.2:3-7).

 
Retribution
Pending
 
The book of Revelation expresses this same truth from another angle. It describes, under the Fifth Seal, the martyrs' righteous demand for God's judgment on their persecutors. They are told that punishment must wait until the persecutions of God's people, represented in these martyrs, are complete (Rev.6:9-11). Their lives are represented underneath the altar of sacrifice – like the burnt-out ash of a completed offering. But, they are told that their urgent cry for vengeance cannot be answered until the rest of those whose lives are to be offered are "completed also". This prayer for retribution is not an example for us to follow. It is a message to us that God owes it to His faithful ones to punish the world that persecuted them, but also, that this must wait for the completed obedience of His faithful.

 
The Sign
of the End
 
But the disciples asked more than "when", they also asked about a "sign". This is understandable, and even more so in the light of what Jesus had said about the timing of the "when". How would they ever know when this gospel, they were helping Jesus to spread throughout their own nation, would have reached to all the nations, to the satisfaction of their Lord? Especially if He were not with them! And so, Jesus refers them to Daniel's prophesied Temple-sacrilege by the Antichrist:
 
  "Therefore, when you see the Abomination of desolation stand in the holy place" Matthew 24:15.
This then is to be the Sign of the End!

 
Prosecutor
Unemployed (at last!)
 
Later, the book of Revelation prophetically declares that the "accuser of our brethren", Satan, is cast down from Heaven (Rev.12:10). In one sense Satan was never absent from earth, as this Prosecutor of Job tells (Job 1:7). But his right-to-accuse before the Throne, which he has so effectively used, as Peter painfully experienced after Gethsemane (Lk.22:31,32), has now forever ended! This slanderous situation has weighed against God's people through the centuries. It can now never happen again. Satan's accusations against God's people before the Throne have ended.
 
That right has necessitated the Lord's intercession as our Advocate (1 John 2:1). But now, Satan's poisonous stream of accusation against the serving Church has ended – forever!
 
But, woe to the earth - for Satan's energies will now be refocused. Woe to the human race and everything that is touched by it!
 
But, what was it that ever gave Satan the right to accuse us in the first place? Our SIN, of course! God, the supreme Judge of All, is absolutely holy. His mercy toward us has never compromised His justice. It is only through the atonement of Jesus (thanks be to God!), through faith in that atonement, that His forgiveness is ever available to anyone anywhere. By the very nature of God there can never be compromise on that issue. It is the work of God in Jesus alone that saves from the awesome judgments of a righteous condemnation.

 
Saints
Sanctified
 
Sin in the lives of Christ's people can therefore be removed from the life of the Church in only one of two ways. Either by the sinner's submission to God's mercy in an obedient faith, or the removal of the disobedient (1 Corinthians 5:5;11:30; James 5:19,20; 1 John 5:16,17). This, in essence, is the discipline of the Church in the New Testament. Significantly then, this future time is referred to as:
 
 
"Many will be purged, purified and refined;
but the wicked will act wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand,
but those who have insight will understand."
Daniel 12:10.
The equivalent New Testament passage implies a hardening of the line of moral difference at this time:  
 
"Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy;
and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.
 Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done."
Revelation 22:11,12.
The spiritual discipline of Christianity's founding revival disqualified and removed Ananias and Saphira from the playing-field of Church life for their adherence to a single lie (Acts 5:1-16). This is still the standard of the Christian Church in the same circumstance (1 Corinthians 11:30). The effect of this discipline, that "none of the rest dared to associate" with the Church (Acts 5:13), was not a hindrance to evangelism then nor will it be in this time.
 
This future time involves the obedience of the Lord's people in completing Christ's mission. For this reason the Prophet John describes the Church at this time as:  
  "His bride has made herself ready." Revelation 19:7.
She is arrayed in her "righteous acts" (19:8), the acts of faith in her Beloved. Hallelujah! These works of faith have made her ready for Him. Her work is complete (Ephesians 4:13), her Groom now comes to exalt her in His kingdom. Hallelujah!

 
Into Unlimited
Life ...
 
Oh, glorious day! When His Church shall have cast off its unbelief and found its righteousness in His bosom alone! What strength of God can now be revealed in His people and His Name vindicated in their walk! It is the Enoch-time, for those who walk in fellowship with Him (Gen.5:24).
 
This is the Elijah-walk of God's people, through their time of great trial, that allows the reward of entrance into His presence without passing through the valley of death (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Their end-time obedience is truly the completion of every act of obedience in the history of His Church. It has truly hastened the day of God (2 Peter 3:12).
 

(See also: The Core Concept)
Copyright © Lloyd Thomas 1997-2015. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Feel free to copy, as long as this full copyright notice is included!

FOR A ROUGH TRANSLATION SIMPLY CHOOSE A LANGUAGE