Be Ready

Be Ready

15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Matthew 24:14

It’s not just Adventists it seems who read the book of Daniel. Jesus seems to have known the book as well. He gives the disciples, and us in turn, a warning found in that book. When you see the ‘abomination of desolation’ standing in the holy place, it’s time to run.

Prophecy and looking ahead is something Jesus believed in. Several times in the gospels he predicts future events and compares them to natural events like the weather. That is because God made a promise to us:

Surely the Lord God does nothing,
Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.

Amos 3:7

God loves us and doesn’t want us to be caught unawares. He has laid out the future of our world in his Bible so that we can prepare and be ready. Although details might be scarce sometimes and we’d like to know more, God gives us enough to be ready.

17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

Matthew 24:17-18

Here we see a warning about being ready. It’s not that we can stop it or change it. That’s not why Jesus gives us glimpses of the future. He shows us things so that we can prepare.

If you know things are coming soon, you won’t have to go back and rush try and get things done. A person who prepares doesn’t need to go back but can confidently move forward.

19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

Matthew 24:19

Many people take this as a message to not have kids. That is not the point. What is being said here is, if you see the ‘abomination of desolation’ and know the end is very close and that it’s time to run, it’s not a good idea to ignore it and try and live as nothing is changing. That too is part or being prepared.

Are we preparing ourselves? Are we ready for the Second Coming of Jesus?

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

To The World

To The World

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Matthew 24:14

This is the most important verse in Matthew 24. Even with all the other prophetic signs and events, this is the only verse that truly tells us what needs to happen before Jesus comes back.

Many people, being in the church for so many years and witnessing so many things, feel as if God is delaying his coming. It has been two thousand years since Matthew was written. The world has gone through two world wars. The Berlin wall fell. Y2K passed by without much hassle. There have been wars, disasters and of course pandemics but Jesus has still not returned.

Some think the problem is the church or more importantly the message. People think that if we only preached the right messages or put more emphasis on certain points that God would come. Some think we have to refine our diets better or change our music. Some think we have to go backwards to the old ways while others think we have to go forward and be progressive.

That, by and large, is nonsense. The problem is neither the church, nor the message, the diet or the focus. The problem is that verse 14 still hasn’t been accomplished. We keep looking down at ourselves instead of looking at those who still need to learn and hear about Christ. There are still millions of people who need to learn about God in a serious and loving way. People still need to make a choice for or against God.

If we spent half the time and effort in our judging, condemning and fighting within churches to actually go out and share the truth with the world, God would already be in the sky.

The truth must be preached to all nations and people. We seem satisfied preaching to the same people who already know and have the Bible. It’s not that this work is not important. Yes, there are many Christians out there who still need to hear the unique message that we have. The problem is that we have made that our primary and sole work.

In many cases, the people that we’re supposed to be reaching are the same ones we put down, cast out and condemn. How is the work going to be finished with this kind of attitude?

The job has been simply shown to us. We just need to get it done.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Birth Of Christ

Birth Of Christ

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:4-7

We don’t know the day that this event happened, the day that Jesus was born, but we do know that it did happen. There was a day when the Son of God, perfect and holy, gave up the perfection of heaven and came down to this sinful planet. He left light and came into darkness. The actual day becomes less important as the event itself. I know there are many who refuse to celebrate, focussing on all the pagan backgrounds of many traditions and also how Christmas is constantly pushing away from Christ and towards Santa. That is understandable when you look at how commercial and artificial many of the parts of Christmas has become.

But I hope that doesn’t prevent you from taking time at some point in the year to focus on this beautiful gift from God. Just like the cross, so much can be learned from the nativity story. Most of all is the character and love of God towards us.

I will be keeping this blog much shorter than usual as I know that many will be busy joining with family but I just hope that you all can take some time to think and meditate on the wonderful love of God.

Peace and joy to you all.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Offended and Betrayed

Offended and Betrayed

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.

Matthew 24:6

In verse 9 we see a double prophecy at work. When Christianity was first born, they were hated by both the Jews, as blasphemers, and Romans as troublemakers. Both groups brought Christians before the courts as seen several times in the book of Acts.

The same will be true as we reach the end of world’s story. In truth, Christians and believers have been brought before courts throughout its history. It will be intensified however towards the end, in the same way natural disasters have always been but have steadily grown in these last years.

10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

Matthew 24:10-11

Verses 10 and 11 show just how bad things will get. People will be betrayed which means that before these same people were those who were trusted. It won’t be strangers or people outside of your circle of trust that will betray you but your very friends and family. This will be a very painful time for God’s people. They will have to choose God over their loved ones who failed to create a real relationship with Jesus.

People will begin following the words and teachings of false prophets and teachers. The Bible will be put away as obsolete and outdated. People will follow the teachings that please their own beliefs. That is why our own personal study of the Bible is so important. With prayer and the Holy Spirit, we all can learn and know the will of God in our lives.

12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Matthew 24:12-13

Love will slowly become cold. It’s important to realise that this love is godly love and not the false, fleeting love that the world offers. People will claim that the world is joining in love but it’s important to know which love they are speaking of.

The key word at the end here is ‘endures’. This word makes it very clear that it will not be an easy time for God’s people. They will have to endure and struggle during these times. May we all set our minds and lives for this coming trouble.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Rumors of Wars

Rumors of Wars

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Matthew 24:6

As we continue to read through Matthew 24 and the prophecies of the end we come across the telling of wars. What is very interesting with v.6 is that it speaks of ‘hearing’ of wars and ‘rumors’. This might sound perfectly fine with us today but is very strange for ancient times.

We must remember that there were no cars, planes or trains in Jesus’ day. Wars and battles were slow tiresome things. Troops would have to walk on foot for days or weeks to reach the enemy. That is why watchmen were so important. People were needed to see armies and soldiers coming to plan their defenses and get their own troops ready.

It was very obvious when a war was starting. Hundreds of thousands of men wasn’t something you could easily hide. That is why rumors and hearing of wars is so interesting. That is very much a modern thing in warfare. With quick deployment and technology, wars truly can be heard about and rumored without actually seeing anything.

The Cold War is probably the best example of a rumored war. Spying, talking and plans were constantly in the air but nothing ever really developed. The Bible, and Jesus, knew very well what the future would be like.

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Matthew 24:7-8

But real wars would also appear in the future. In fact there has scarcely been a time, if ever, when there wasn’t a war raging somewhere in the world. With them, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes would also come. All these are common things in our days but v.8 is a reminder that much more still needs to happen before we are truly within the days of the end.

May we all be ready and prepared for those days.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Not One Stone Upon Another

Not One Stone Upon Another

1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.

Matthew 24:1

Matthew 24 is very important to Adventists. It is a chapter in Matthew that is focused on prophecy and the End Times. Before all that however, Jesus talks directly about the temple. Verse 1 is strange because it says that the disciples went to show Jesus the different buildings of the temple. Did they think that Jesus had never seen them before? No. Any good jew would be very acquainted with the temple. What this suggests instead is that the disciples went to show Jesus the temple to gloat about how marvellous Judaism was. They wanted to uplift themselves and their religion to Jesus. What Jesus sees is very different.

And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Matthew 24:2

While the disciples see the current beauty Jesus sees the soon destruction and ruins of the temple. Their gloating is quickly turned to shock. How could this be? How could God allow the temple to be destroyed yet again?

Unfortunately, the Jews of those days were more preoccupied with the physical buildings, and their own physicalness (their riches, power and prestige) that they never took time to deal with the inside. Daniel had made it very clear that the Jews were on a timeline of grace before Jesus would no longer protect them as he once did. Just as the temple would be destroyed, so would the people and the country.

It’s interesting to note that what Jesus said about ‘not one stone shall be left here upon another’ came very true. When the Romans threw fire to destroy the temple, all the gold that filled the rooms were melted and molded in-between the stones. Because of this, the romans pulled apart the temple, stone by stone, to be able to get all the gold out for themselves.

Jesus could very clearly see the temple’s future just as saw our future which we’ll see in the next few weeks as we read through Matthew 24.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

One Father

One Father

They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’

Matthew 23:6-7

We usually think of Jesus as a kind, loving soft-spoken man on earth but in chapters like this we can see that he wasn’t just a pushover. He knew when to speak up and say the harsh truths. He saw the sins of the religious leaders, knew that they knew the truths but chose this way of life and so dug his words deep into their hearts.

The Leaders cared more about what they gained from their ministry than what they offered. They didn’t care about the people below them but simply used them as stepping stones to get higher. They loved to be called Rabbi.

But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

Matthew 23:8-9

Many people get confused by these words. Jesus wasn’t saying that you can’t call your earthly father as father or dad. He was not saying that you can’t call the teacher at school teacher. This was much deeper. The word Rabbi had very strong connections with God. It was a spiritual teacher and father which slowly grew to be an essential part of your salvation. It was never meant to get to this extreme.

Yes, the priests were vital in the ceremonies of the Jews when it came to the temple but they were vital, not in of themselves, but in the task that God had chosen to give to them. Yes you needed the priest to partake of the sacrifice, but not because he was a better human being. The priests themselves had to do the same sacrifices for themselves.

Unfortunately, because of that specialty that God chose to give to the Levites, the leaders let that get to their heads. They began to believe they truly were better and more important. That is what Jesus is against here. That is why he says, ‘you are all brethren’. We are all the same. We are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God and therefore need Jesus and his salvation.

We are all equal in God’s eyes. Let us treat each other in the same way and with the same eyes.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Not As They Do

Not As They Do

41 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.

Matthew 23:1-3

Something was wrong with the church. The leaders were in the seat of Moses and taught but did not follow their own words. We must always remember that the church is made of sinful and fallen people. Leaders will make mistakes and anyone who puts their salvation or hope on any man, even a religious leader, is doomed to be disappointed. Our faith must be on Christ alone.

For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.

Matthew 23:4-5

It’s easy to make laws, traditions and beliefs. It’s easy to tell others how to live. It’s harder to live by those same rules, but know this, you will be judged by the rules and laws you put on others. Even with verses like these, it’s easy to point a finger up to the leaders but don’t forget your own sins. The sinless fallen nature is in all, leaders and not.

Here Jesus points towards a very specific sin, that of doing or working not for the true good but to be seen. Pride is the original sin and one that pervades the world and the church. It can take something good and poison it. It is like taking something precious, like a pearl, and throwing it to the swine. This is especially true now in our world where everything is recorded and selfied. If you won’t do something unless there’s an eye or a camera on you, be very careful. A once perfect angel fell from heaven with the same mind.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

My Lord

My Lord

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

They said to Him, “The Son of David.”

Matthew 22:41-42

Jesus loved to ask questions. Here he seems to ask a very simple one that every Jew from child to elderly could answer. They give the right answer, the Son of David, but then Jesus puts them in a bind with his second question.

43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’?

Matthew 22:43-44

The problem here is again something that every Jew would understand. A father would never can a son or heir Lord. The oldest is the one that should always get that title. Jesus doesn’t even let them get confused but says so himself.

45 If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

Matthew 22:45-46

It’s amazing how simply and yet powerfully Jesus can explain himself. It is His word after all. It was He who was with Israel in the wilderness and past and told the prophets what to say. It’s also amazing how, because of their preconceived ideas about what the Messiah would be, that they could miss such an obvious and powerful statement.

We cannot be like the Jews here. Yes we as Adventists know much of the Bible, especially the prophecies, but let’s not become blind ourselves as to thinking we know it all. The Jews were surprised with the first coming of Jesus and if history teaching us anything, odds are we will be as well.

Let us hold to the Spirit and be guided by him in all things. Let us not be stubborn or stiff-necked that we cannot at least look at possible new ideas.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

The Greatest Commandment

The Greatest Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Matthew 22:34-36

Leave it up to the Jews to ask what the greatest commandment is. Jews loved laws. The made hundreds if not thousands of them, on top of what God had already given. They believed that it was through the laws that they could achieve perfection and salvation. The answer that Jesus gives changes the direction of what they were asking.

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

The first thing to realize is that Jesus wasn’t saying something new. He was actually quoting the bible with his answers. The bible already taught that love is at the center of the law but somehow the Jews failed to grasp or learn this. We as Adventists can do the same today sometimes.

Love is the heart of the law. Loving God, loving your neighbor and loving yourself. These three ideals wrap up the laws of God and in fact give the laws life and power. Without love, the laws are meaningless and powerless.

How do you see the law? Is it a ‘do’ and ‘do not’ for you? Or is there a deeper meaning. Is there love in the laws when you see and follow them? The answer to these questions will change your life forever.

Once you see the laws in the lenses of love, you also find the true heart of God in the laws, you find his character.

If the Jews had only done this, they wouldn’t have missed Jesus as the messiah. They would have seen the same love of God in the laws in Jesus as well.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto