At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth, an encounter that took place was when He entered a temple and read from a scroll, the Scripture portion as recorded in Isa 61. Jesus read the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
After reading, He returned the scroll, sat and said to inquisitive eyes, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” This was significant because while He read from the scroll from Isaiah, He stopped short at the words, ‘To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,’ omitting the immediate next phrase, ‘and the day of vengeance.’
What is recorded is prophetic according to chronological events, without the prophet himself realising how the future will take shape, which will involve a whole span of time. What Jesus came to do was to fulfil the first part of things to come, which remains to the very present. As for the day of vengeance, it will come at the end of times. In other words, when Jesus came, it was to inaugurate the favourable year of the Lord, which will be so until He comes again at the end of times. Although the two phrases are recorded next to each other, there is a huge time gap between the two events.
During this favourable year of the Lord, our tasks as Christians are to continue what Jesus came to do – ‘to proclaim good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who are oppressed.’
The world may be advancing forward in many areas. But it remains to be so that many are living spiritually impoverished lives. Many today continue to live under the grip of Satan’s hold, held as captives in their lost state of being outside the kingdom of God. While we Christians can sing with gratefulness the words, ‘I once was lost, but now I see’ , many today continue to live in spiritual blindness, oppressed by the god of this world.
Going about doing what we ought to be doing in this ‘favourable year of the Lord,’ before the ‘day of vengeance’ creeps in, is all the more dire when we consider what our world has been trying to address today – Covid 19.
Time and again during our pandemic (endemic) affected world, we hear of warnings that this is one sign of the end of the world. Some go into speculation. For many, there is an awakening interest as to what the Bible says concerning the End Times. Why not? While we may not be sure if we are living at the very last days of the end times, what we are certain from Scripture is that such a time will take place – eventually. It is only a matter of time. It is prudent therefore that we go into studies pertaining to the end times. We don’t want to be caught off-guard.
Sadly however, while the Bible says no one knows the day or hour of His coming, speculations keep surfacing, with not a few offering definite dates. But of course, not surprisingly, none of these has materialized.
While we ought to increase our knowledge on the end times, we shouldn’t be simply ‘waiting on rooftops’. We are to occupy ourselves till He comes. After his lengthy piece on future realities in 1 Cor 15 – death, resurrection, kingdom of God and what we can anticipate, Paul’s teaching was not for us to sit and wait. Instead, He concluded with the admonishment, ‘Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.’
The day of vengeance will come by in God’s own time. Meanwhile, may we find ourselves doing the work of the Lord, during this favourable year of the Lord.
Elder Richard Lai