September 9, 2016
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
There’s a small yet potent phrase tucked into v.28 of today’s text. Did you catch it?
At the renewal of all things.
It’s another way of saying, “When the Kingdom comes in fullness,” or “When the Son of Man comes in glory,” or “at the end of the age,” or “at the resurrection of the dead.” Jesus has alluded to this all along but he is about to really focus on it as Matthew comes to a close. Jesus knows his death is imminent yet he also clearly understands that his death is being played out against the much larger backdrop of time and eternity. At the renewal of all things means at the end of the age of time and the birthing of the age to come.
In the biblical view of time there are only two ages: this present evil age and the age to come. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead signaled the beginning of the end of the present age. We now live between the two “Greatest Awakenings,” the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. We live now in the age of the Holy Spirit.
Time, contrary to popular belief, is not an endless cycle of evolving life forms and spinning planets. Time had a beginning and time will have an end. Eternity, the domain of the eternal God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit— preceded time and will succeed time. Eternity is the ultimate reality; the great cosmic backdrop against which time runs its course. Eternity is not invisible; only unseen in the present age. (It is critical for us to grasp the difference between invisible and unseen. To say God is invisible is to make a statement about God. To say God is unseen is to make a statement about ourselves and the limitation of our own perception.)
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ means to take the long view. It is to realize there are temporal comforts and ultimate rewards. To play the long game necessarily means trading temporal comforts for ultimate rewards. It does not mean to escape the world but to cease living according to the values of this present evil age. It means to live in the midst of this present evil age according to the values of the age to come. This is what is meant by the phrase, to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. This is the cost of discipleship. To suggest that one can be so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good is utterly absurd. In fact, the only way to be of ultimate good in the world is to fix our eyes on the ultimate reality. This is what is meant by the calling to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
Its time to awaken to the right now present state of ultimate reality—the Kingdom of on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven—and order our lives accordingly (the biblical meaning of “to repent”). When a nation or a people collectively lose sight of ultimate matters, they are inevitably seduced into the sleep of whatever is substituted to mean success. To give oneself in the present to the only things that will ultimately matter in the future is the definition of what it means to truly live.
Father, we live in confusing times and in a very seductive age. So many shiny things all around us beckon us to sell our birthright for a bowl of soup. Save us from wasting our lives on what doesn’t last. Fill us with the bigger vision. Engrave on our hearts the eternal markers of the way that leads to life. Awaken us, Lord. Awaken us. In Jesus name and for his sake, Amen.
1. How (if at all) does this framework of time and eternity and the present evil age and the age to come help your understanding? Does it help orient you?
2. Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good? Possible? Do you share my concern for such thinking?
3. Do you believe in this idea of “at the renewal of all things?” The return of Jesus Christ? The final coming of his Kingdom? What keeps you from moving into a more robust faith in such realities?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.