Seasons of Salvation
Old Testament Reading- Daniel 7:9-14
New Testament Reading- Acts 1:1-11
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -May 21, 2023
This week marks forty days after the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday and the day He ascended back into heaven. Some may say, “That sounds all well and good, but I am not sure what that has to do with me. Of course, Jesus went to heaven, but that doesn’t mean I am. Jesus was perfect, without sin, I am full of sin and even though I know it is wrong, I still cannot seem to quit sinning, so again, I am not sure what this has to do with me?”
This is a common question and concern that many of us have or have had during our lives. In fact, it is often the main reason for us to seek out God in the first place. It is a good question and should be a concern for each of us, but I can tell you that the reasons we seek for God in the beginning of our faith journey will not look the same as we mature in our faith.
For everything there is a season, and no one knows this better than our Creator. Let’s face it, it is God who created seasons for our benefit. He gave us seasons of the year for us to know when to plant and harvest our crops, when to gather from wild food stores, when to expect new life from our animals, and when to expect the best rain. God also uses this same idea to show us His plan for our salvation.
...the reasons we seek for God in the beginning of our faith journey will not look the same as we mature in our faith...
When God deemed Abraham as righteous in His eyes, He also formed a covenant with him to make him the father of many nations, and not only that, but that a chosen people would come from him. God furthered this covenant through Abraham’s son Isaac, and grandson Jacob. Jacob was also called Israel by God, and he had twelve sons, the twelve sons, or tribes of Israel. God tempered this people during their slavery in Egypt and chose Moses to lead them out of bondage and bring them back to the Promised Land. God created this new nation of Israel, to be a chosen people, a people that would be different than the other nations. This nation was chosen to be the people that would bring forth the coming Messiah, the Savior of all mankind.
The season of preparation and prophecy was now over, the season of salvation was nigh. The people, over generations upon generations, were being prepared by God to receive the Messiah. They were prepared without knowing it, for God, like a master chess player, moves each piece precisely when and how it needs moved to be perfect for the next stage. Jesus’ birth, life, mission, death, and resurrection were perfectly choreographed by the Almighty to achieve the best results for His ultimate plan. John 16:1-28 relates this discussion Jesus had with the disciples before His death,
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
This brings us to today’s topic, God’s next move. The followers of Jesus were scattered, hopeless, and afraid after Jesus’ crucifixion, but their tears indeed turned to joy when Jesus was resurrected after three days. Luke records this in Acts 1:3-6,
“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Now don’t blame His disciples for missing the mark; they still were caught up in what they had been taught their whole lives. The Messiah would come and restore Israel to its former glory. They thought this meant to put down the Romans and restore Israel’s splendor, a prophecy somewhat misread. Israel’s glory would be restored, but not how they thought, or when they thought, Israel’s glory will be seen through its contributions as the nation chosen to produce the Christ and His first followers, a glory not to be taken lightly, and with more ramifications than the ones seen in this world.
Luke in Acts1:7-11,
“He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Is Jesus being cryptic again? No, just direct, God does not give out His whole plan at once, and let’s face it, we wouldn’t be able to grasp it all anyway. Remember, God is preparing us for each season of His plan as we are ready for it. What they had just witnessed though was no small part of the plan, they actually witnessed Jesus’ return to His Father in heaven. Can you imagine how that must have been? They were also given instructions for the next part of the plan, but you will have to listen next week for that story.
When I look at an area that is to be landscaped, I am looking upon a blank canvas. Yes, there may be things already there like trees, buildings, patios, or ponds, but I am looking
beyond those things. I am looking at something that
only I can see in my mind. I have been doing this for a long time so I see things in my mind with form, color, texture, and movement all at one time and know what plants will work based on the conditions existing at the sight. I can do all this without a drawing, in fact, the drawing is for others to see, I already know what it looks like. Not everyone is given this gift. Artists are the same way, they can see something that is not there to most other people, but to them, it is almost as plain as a picture on a wall. With faith it is the same way.
As I said before, we have been talking about seasons in God’s plan for salvation.
First, He prepares people to become a chosen nation.
Second, God brings forth the Messiah into this prepared environment.
Next, the Messiah fulfills His mission and is received back into heaven.
Now, God must prepare the Messiah’s followers for the next leg of the plan, but how does He do this with people who were not present to see all these events themselves?
The answer is found in what Jesus told His followers before His death. He must go back to heaven so that the Holy Spirit will be equipped to carry out the next part of the plan.
Up to this point, we have heard about people in the Bible that have had the Spirit of God come upon them, but the Holy Spirit is going to do something for people that it hasn’t done before, it will dwell within those who believe in Jesus and who He is.
"God has given us the ability to see and to believe things that others cannot. That is a great responsibility, and a gift that we shouldn’t keep to ourselves, nor should we weaponize it and use it to turn people away from God," ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
Like I have told you before, faith in God is not gained, but given by God. We all know people in this world who do not believe in God or in Jesus’ role as the Savior, and sometimes we marvel at why they cannot believe when we can. It is like what I was telling you about me seeing a landscape that doesn’t exist yet. I can see it, almost as plain as day, but you cannot. Does that make me better than you? Does that make me crazy and you normal? Or does that just prove to you that those of us who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, is a gift of God that we cannot keep hidden. God has given us the ability to see and to believe things that others cannot. That is a great responsibility, and a gift that we shouldn’t keep to ourselves, nor should we weaponize it and use it to turn people away from God. This is the next season that God has revealed to us, the season of His Church.
The Ascension of Jesus Christ is not just a supernatural event, but a sign that the next step is now in motion. Daniel 7:13-14 shows us wonderful imagery of this next step,
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Be a part of the next step, the one that knows no national boundaries, no race, no gender, no political or monetary status, but is lit as a fire as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God prepares to make His presence known in this next, important season of salvation. Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen.