Acts is a book about what Jesus continued to do and to teach by His Spirit, through His word, in and with His Church throughout this world.
Within 50 days of Passover, after Jesus was crucified, buried and raised, seven days after Jesus ascended, all heaven broke loose. The the Holy Spirit was poured out. There was the sound of rushing mighty wind, tongues of fire, unschooled ordinary men who had been with Jesus suddenly speaking in foreign languages to huge crowds of people. There was a message proclaimed that brought 3000 people to their knees before God and a baptism service like none ever seen before or possibly since! It was Pentecost, the celebration of the first fruits! What a perfect fulfillment of this great Jewish feast! But it would not all always be celebration. God’s good news has enemies. These enemies do not simply sit back and watch. Instead the serpent raises his ugly head and seeks to thwart the very purposes of God. He will ultimately fail, but not without a fight.
Welcome to the last days! That’s where we live today. From the empty tomb to the glorious return of Christ, we are living in those final days before God destroys all rebellion and brings all things under His total control forever. He is coming. The kingdom of God and His righteousness in their absolute, eternal glory will come. This will happen, ready or not.
The kingdom of God in Christ invaded this planet and a war for the souls of sinners all over this world began in earnest, starting in Jerusalem, the very place where the King, Jesus Christ, the Son of God was crucified, buried and raised. The spiritual armor and weapons of warfare were imparted to God’s people and the conflict before them would not take long to begin. By the end of Acts 3 the battle is clearly engaged.
There are two tracks within the kingdom that we must be aware of. There is the track of joy. Joy inexpressible, over salvation and ultimate glory in eternal life, this is what we anticipate and long for and pray will come. “Thy kingdom come” is the church’s prayer for God to fully rescue us and bring us into our eternal inheritance. The Bible concludes with the words: Come, Lord Jesus! We both have a taste of, and yet a longing for this ultimate joy. This kingdom track of joy keeps us going as we endure the other kingdom track: that is the suffering of trials and tribulations, living as foreigners here in this fallen world, groaning as we wait for the redemption of our bodies and as we endure the sadness of seeing many in rebellion against God’s authority as Creator and Christ’s authority as rightful Lord and King.
The duration of these two tracks of the kingdom are not equal, praise God! The track of sorrow endures for the night, but everlasting joy comes in the morning. In this world we will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, Jesus Christ has overcome the world! Our faith in Jesus Christ will protect us and His word will guide us safely through the night of trial into the morn of eternal glory and joy in His presence. We are called to persevere, keep the faith, stand firm, endure patiently, never, never give up. We may stumble, but we get back up. We may suffer, but we remain true. We are soldiers of the cross of Christ in a lost and dying world. We are the body of Christ in a world in rebellion against God. Jesus has warned us that the way to life is through the narrow gate that only a few enter. Let us not be surprised at the resistance we face as we live for Jesus Christ in this world. Jesus said, “I send you out as sheep among wolves therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” So we face two opposing truths. There is reason to rejoice in the Lord always, and yet, there is reason to weep in the world too. Two Kingdom tracks: joy and sorrow. Jesus faced both and so will you and I if we walk with Him.
Keep these in mind as you read through the rest of the New Testament over the next five weeks. Consider how the kingdom of God and His righteousness are worthy of our suffering and struggling. In fact, the earliest disciples rejoiced when they were beaten because of their testimony rejoicing to be considered worthy of suffering for the name of Jesus Christ! Where do we see THAT going on today?
Paul reminds us that we will share in Christ’s glory if indeed we share in His sufferings. Then he says that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that we will receive. James tells us to rejoice when we encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance, and that endurance results in maturity and completeness in Christ. Peter refers to our suffering as refining us like gold until all the dross is burned off and the pure gold remains, and he promises us a rich welcome into eternal glory. Jesus tells us to rejoice and be glad when we are persecuted on account of Him, because, Jesus said, “Great is your reward in heaven! And that this is how the prophets before us were treated.”
It this true? Can hardships and trials actually make us better Christians? Is there really a great reward for faithfully enduring persecution as a Christian, and is it really worth it? Paul puts it this way, 2 Cor. 4:13-6:2. Let me read this, and I invite you to listen carefully and follow along.
Do you see it here? These two tracks of the kingdom are like living in two worlds. We have our hopes set on glory and eternal life and yet we live in the midst of death and decay. So what are some struggles of the kingdom that are to be endured? Look at what follows, 2 Cor. 6:3-10. Is it worth it?
These two tracks of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness call us to joy and thankfulness and anticipation of the consummation of our eternal redemption in Christ. And, this calls us to suffer well. To see Jesus as our complete model of life. The man of sorrows is our King, just as the exalted, risen victorious Lord is our King. We who are seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness must fully accept both the cross and the crown. Our hope of glory is real, just as our struggles in this world are real. Our King is coming back. We are commissioned to His service. This is for real.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in a spiritual war. The stakes are high. This is not simply about having a hard time keeping awake in church or staying up with our Bible readings. God’s word makes it clear that seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness is an eternal glory or eternal punishment matter. When the final trumpet sounds, the game of life is over.
These are the last days. Whether there are 3 more minutes or 3 more million years. The coming of Christ is the end of everything temporal and the beginning of our entry into the eternal. It may not look like it to you, but Jesus’ team has already won. We’re just waiting on the final call. And IT IS COMING.
Do you know anyone who needs to repent and follow Jesus before it’s too late?
What are you going to do about that?