January 25, 2006

Our Redemption's Drawing Near

1503 page14 capertain Images Of world events have indelibly imprinted themselves in my mind: the picture of the two New York World Trade Center towers smoldering with fire and smoke as people desperately ran away in fear, covered with dust and ashes. The sight of a man in Asia standing in front of this mammoth wave, almost as if defying it, only to be covered by the massive waters of the tsunami. The sight of cars, houses, trees, debris, and people engulfed by the power of the water.

 Then there is the constant and unending news and images of suicide bombers killing and destroying lives, turning beautiful cities into piles of rubble.

 Against this tragic background, my thoughts often turn to the famous declaration of Jesus in Luke 21:25-28: ?And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the seas and the waves roaring; men?s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.?

We Live in Anxious Times 
 There is no doubt that we live in the days of the end. There is anxiety about the economy, fear of sexual offenders, and violence and rape. Visiting one of the major cities of America recently, I saw iron bars in the windows of many homes. In some countries around the world, businesspeople and CEOs drive around in armor-shielded cars for fear of kidnapping and terrorism. And many young people are afraid that there will be no financial security for them when they retire.

 1503 page14AIDS is decimating communities in many parts of the world. Television, the Internet, and the media in general are infested with pornography, violence, and sex. Cancer is still a major threat for humanity, and hurricanes and other natural disasters leave homes and families desolate and worried.

 In the past few years many words have become routinely part of our news vocabulary: pedophile, date rape, Internet pornography, road rage, same-sex marriage, kidnapping, suicide bomber--just to mention a few.

 The family structure seems to be crumbling, and it is very hard to find a home that has not been affected by divorce, infidelity, or abuse. A Reader?s Digest issue1 reveals the moral drama of teen girls in America, and how parents are raising their voices and saying, ?It is enough.? In reality, parents do not know what?s happening inside the public schools. (We praise God for Christian schools and dedicated teachers and leaders who are trying to help young people to be faithful, to make a difference, and to stand up in the world, as did Daniel and his friends in Babylon.)

Christians Should Look to Heaven 
The counsel given by our Master and Savior Jesus Christ is to look up! We do not want to be so attached to the things of this world that we forget to look to heaven. Lot and his family had a hard time letting go of the attractive life of Sodom. They?d become accustomed to the life and corruption of that wicked city.

 I?ve never forgotten the story I read about an eagle that had been raised with chickens. A scientist visiting the farm became completely flabbergasted to see the majestic bird living like a chicken. It had lost its identity. Only after a series of tests and after the eagle was taken to the mountains did it awake from its condition. The vastness and beauty of the firmament and the cerulean expanse brought life into the heart of the majestic bird. It was made to fly and not to live on the ground pecking at pieces of corn.

 Like the eagle, we were created for the heights. Paul told the Colossians: ?If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth? (Col. 3:1, 2).

 How often we react like Lot?s wife. Our affections are with the things of this world. People seem to be on a frenzy buying and buying! However, as the years go by we begin to understand that the things we have in this world are not long-lasting, but trivial and ephemeral. Those who have not are watching carefully those who have, waiting to see when they will be able to ?inherit? or steal their wealth.

Vanity destroys many lives. In January 2005 the news media reported on a couple in Florida who wanted to get rid of their wrinkles. Instead of the antiwrinkle product they thought they were getting, the osteopath injected them with a ?raw and unapproved botulinum toxin.? The botulism attacked nerve endings and paralyzed their muscles, resulting in the couple temporarily needing ventilators in order to breathe, and having to begin the slow process of learning to walk again.2 ?Oh, how I would like to have the wrinkles and my health back,? the husband told a television reporter.

Ellen G. White said: ?Christ beholds the world, full of activity in seeking for earthly treasures. He sees many eagerly trying first one thing and then another in their efforts to obtain the coveted earthly treasure, which they think will satisfy their selfish greed, while in their eager pursuit they pass by the only path that leads to the true riches.?3

 Paul said: ?But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ? (Phil. 3:7). He considered the things of this world as garbage--basura, as the Spanish would say. Our citizenship is in heaven, he also told the Philippians (verse 20). He wanted the sophisticated Philippians to understand that when we look up to heaven, the things of this world lose their glamour and beauty.

 In comparison with the New Jerusalem, today?s cities are small and insignificant. Looking up to the stars, we find that the so-called stars of the world lose their brightness. Looking up to heaven, we find that the earthly things become ephemeral and trivial. Looking up to Jesus, we find peace, joy, and happiness for our fearful hearts.

Lift Up Your Head!
The events, trials, and tribulations of this world make us feel down and depressed. How many times we see people with heads bowed--crying, sad, hurting, not understanding the shock and trauma of an event in their lives! What?s our attitude when we see someone with their head down, with no hope? ?Listen,? we might tell them, ?God will take care of you. He is in control. Do not despair! Look up. Lift up your head. I am praying for you. Jesus is on your side. He will never abandon you. Cheer up; He is coming soon.?

 When the disciples heard the words of Jesus related by Luke, they were hoping for an immediate redemption. They wanted to be free from the oppressive Romans. But Jesus had a bigger event in view. He was talking also to us, His modern disciples waiting for His coming. He wanted to focus our attention, with theirs, on our final redemption.

1503 page14Lift up your heads and contemplate Him coming in glory and majesty. Lift up your heads and look inside the heavenly sanctuary as Jesus intercedes for us as our high priest. Lift up your heads and understand that salvation and complete freedom from sin are near.

 A worker in a factory lived in misery and sadness because of a great debt. His health was threatened, his work was failing, his joy in his own home gone. Then his boss, seeing his condition, paid the debt. The man, transformed completely, walked away with a new spring in his feet, a renewed joy in his heart!

Christ paid for our redemption with His precious life. We are free! No debt. Paul says: ?Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice? (Phil. 4:4).

As Christians, who are aware of the latest events, and as people waiting for the coming of Jesus, we should never be depressed or down as we see the condition of humanity. We may cry for the loss of dear ones, but that is not the end. We may feel in our bodies the stigma of sin, but we ?look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body? (Phil. 3:20, 21).

 As we patiently wait for that great day, what should our lifestyle be in a world immersed in confusion and corruption?

? If Jesus affirms that our salvation is near, let us live a pious life and walk with Him as Enoch walked with God.
? If our redemption is near, we must study His Word as never before and familiarize ourselves with His teachings and His promises so that we will not be deceived.
? If our redemption is near, let?s pray with intensity and faith, pouring out our hearts to Him, so that we can help our families.
? If our salvation is near, we must witness for Him, illuminating suffering souls with the light of the gospel. I have seen the fireflies of Malaysia. Instead of one shining here and another there, they shine rhythmically together. We too must shine for Him, united.
? If our salvation is near, let us listen to the words of Jesus and be prepared for His coming. Ellen White says: ?Dear [brothers and sisters], the Lord is coming. Lift up your thoughts and heads and rejoice. Oh, we would think that those who hear the joyful news, who claim to love Jesus, would be filled with joy unutterable and full of glory. This is the good, the joyful news which should electrify every soul, which should be repeated in our homes, and told to those whom we meet on the street.?4

1 ?No-Strings Sex,? Reader?s Digest, February 2005, pp. 33-35.
2 http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-pkaplans05feb05,0,6487282.
3 The Upward Look, p. 355.
4 Ibid., p. 356.

Leo Ranzolin, a retired vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, lives in Estero, Florida.