“For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works” (Titus 2:11-14, HCSB).
In 1976 theologian Francis A. Schaeffer published How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. The book (and subsequent documentary film series) traced the history of Western civilization from Ancient Rome until the time of writing (1976). Schaeffer’s central premise was that when a social order is based on the Bible and on a personal knowledge of the infinite God, it provides an absolute standard by which people can conduct their lives.
These four verses from Paul’s letter to his protege Titus not only declare the gospel but also explain how Christians should live as redeemed human beings, but a little more concisely than Schaeffer’s treatise.
“And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30, NASB).
Jesus was once asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come. Jesus replied that the Kingdom of God was imminent–it was so near to them that it was within their grasp because the coming of Jesus was the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus then explained to His disciples that a day will come when this present, invisible Kingdom which He was inaugurating on Earth culminates with a future, visible Kingdom at His Second Coming at the end of the age. The Kingdom’s future coming will render judgment on Earth and will receive redeemed people into eternal life.
We live in the time between the first and second comings of Jesus. It’s a time when we are joined to Jesus by His Spirit but awaiting his final coming. At His coming we will dwell in His personal presence. When Christ appears for the second time, those in Christ who are dead will be raised and along with those who are living in Christ will be transformed to share in the reality of the new heavens and earth where God personally dwells.
To live effectively and productively in this present age, Christians should be focused on eternity while making the most of the life they have in this present world.
“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:7-8, ESV).
To prepare for a modern wedding, the bride-to-be starts weeks or maybe even months in advance to select a wedding dress, shoes, jewelry and other attire to wear at the wedding ceremony. Before the ceremony the bride-to-be will go to the beauty salon to have her hair done and have a facial and manicure so she can look especially beautiful for the groom at the wedding ceremony.
“An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25, ESV).
Since Jesus came to this world the first time and inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth, the time has come when many “dead” people hear the voice of the Son of God and He grants them eternal life.
“Those who are left will be the lowly and humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.” (Zephaniah 3:12, NLT).
Zephaniah’s prophecy graphically describes the future day of God’s judgment.
On “the day of the Lord” God’s terrible judgment will be carried out against the rebellious people of Israel and all nations of the earth.
“Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.”
In my book, The Kingdom Order: Living for the Future in the Present, I contend that Christians today face a dilemma they have faced for the last two thousand years since the first generation of Christians died—that of living in an age in which an anticipated future has erupted into the present reality.