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What to do until the Kingdom comes

In His model prayer, Christ instructed His disciples to pray "Thy kingdom come." And so we do — at least some of us do — perhaps perfunctorily, perhaps fervently — but we pray for it.

And we hope it will come soon — or we hope it will come later so as not to preempt our plans and worldly pursuits. Or we don't hope at all.

And we speculate about it. And argue over it. When will it come? Will it come at all? What sequence of events will lead to its arrival?

But who among us is really preparing for it?

Preparing to meet our God is something most of us would consider seriously only on our deathbeds or if we believed that Christ's return were very, very imminent. Otherwise, forget it for now — we'll think about it some other day.

Such a don't-bother-me, devil-may-care (Satan takes the second coming of Christ very seriously, by the way) attitude is extremely shortsighted. In the first place, if Christ does return in your lifetime, you, of course, could be in real trouble.

But should you die before He returns, as billions have before you, the question of preparation is still important. For the Bible teaches that the dead in Christ — and you do hope to be numbered among that privileged group — will be resurrected to immortality when Christ returns, when the Kingdom comes!


Wising up

So no matter how you figure it, the coming of the Kingdom is of immediate concern to you. When you pray "Thy kingdom come," you should also pray the prayer of Moses: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Ps. 90:12). You should take to heart the exhortation of the Apostle Paul: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph: 5:1516).

How do we wise up? How do we know what Christ's will for us is in these crucial times? Fortunately, we don't have to guess. For Christ not only told us what would happen (which everybody worries about), but also what to do about it (which most people ignore). Let's take a look at His important — and often overlooked — instruction.


Future Shock

In 1970, Alvin Toffler, in his bestselling book Future Shock, proclaimed the gospel of rapid change and predicted a radically different world of the future. Toffler warned of massive future shock — bewildering anxiety, frustration and disorientation — for those who don't change their modes of thinking and living to prepare themselves for the changes to come.

Toffler is one of a new breed of thinkers called futurists. They attempt to predict the future based on past and present conditions and trends.

Over 1900 years earlier, Jesus Christ preached another gospel of change and prophesied of a different — better — world to come. You can read about it in His best-selling book, the Bible. As the first and foremost futurist, Christ predicted the coming Kingdom of God and told people to change — repent — in order to be prepared for its arrival (Mark 1:14-15). He also warned of extreme future shock — often summed up in the expression "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" — for those who didn't heed His message.

Some of Christ's strongest warnings about future shock are recorded in Matthew 24 and 25. First, He foretold the sequence of traumatic events that would culminate in His return. Then He warned: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. . . . Watch therefore: forge know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Matt. 24:36, 42).


Second-Guessing the Second Coming

In spite of these emphatic statements of Christ, there have always been some who have tried to second-guess God the Father about the return of His Son. And who wouldn't want to know? After all, the return of Christ is the focal point of all prophecy, the hope and expectation of all true believers.

But those who try to outguess God are setting themselves up for an unpleasant dose of future shock — the trauma and disillusionment of being wrong.

Prophecy is interesting and informative, but it is plain from the words of Christ that there is only so much we can know beforehand. So it's futile to try to second-guess God. Besides, there are more important things for a Christian to do than play guessing games.

Take a word of advice from Paul: ". . . Yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. . . . And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge . . . and have not charity [love], I am nothing" (I Cor. 12:31; 13:2). Concentrate on matters that really count.


Eat, Drink While the Lord Doth Tarry

At the opposite extreme of the second-guessers are those who give up hoping or believing Christ is coming. They comprise a much larger group, and their problem is far more serious. Second-guessing is foolish — but skepticism and doubt can be fatal!

The Apostle Peter predicted that as we drew closer to Christ's return, there would be, ironically, greater and greater skepticism that He would return. "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (II Pet. 3:3-4).

Peter explained that God does not view time as we mortals do and any "delay" is for our benefit. "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. . ." (verses 8-10).

The smart Christian realizes this and keeps himself busy doing what Christ says.

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods" (Matt. 24:45-47)

But the doubter or skeptic, lacking conviction and motivation, is liable to misuse the precious time afforded him. He adopts an eat-drink-while-the-Lord-doth-tarry life-style — with fatal consequences. "But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (verses 48-51).

Avoid future shock. Don't be caught off guard. If you let down in your spiritual responsibilities, you may be left out of the Kingdom.


The "Foolish" Virgins

Another group of people in danger of suffering future shock is portrayed in the parable of the wise and foolish — or "foolish," as we shall see — virgins.

Ten virgins go out to meet the bridegroom — Christ (Matt. 25:1). Half of them are well supplied with oil; half aren't. While the bridegroom is delayed, they fall asleep. At midnight the cry goes out to meet the bridegroom.

"Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not" (Matt. 25:7-12).


Spiritual Energy Crisis

Christ tells us to be lights to the world (Matt. 5:14). "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (verse 16).

Your light can shine if you have plenty of oil — if you have and use God's Holy Spirit daily, if you have a close one-on-one relationship with God, and if you are doing His will.

But if you aren't "on fire" for God, then you, like the "foolish" virgins, are suffering from a spiritual energy crisis.

The problem with them was not that they did anything particularly evil — but rather that they didn't do anything at all! They were spiritually apathetic and complacent. Maybe they didn't dive off the deep end of the cesspool of sensuality and sin — like the wicked servant in Matthew 24 — but neither were they fervent and zealous for the things of God.

The foolish virgins couldn't make up their deficiency by borrowing oil from others. This shows that you can't make it into the Kingdom — you can't be saved — on someone else's coat tails. All of your friends and good connections won't do you any good at the time of judgment.

You will be judged on your own merits — or demerits.

Christ ended the parable with this warning: "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matt. 25:13).

Watch what? Certainly world conditions. But Christ also meant we should watch our own spiritual condition. The literal Greek carries the connotation of being vigilant, awake, alert, prepared. We should post a continual watch on our own lives — what we think and what we do — and have plenty of fuel on hand through contact with God and His Word. Then we will be prepared for future salvation instead of future shock.