What the Bible says about
Redeeming the Time
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Pentecost is unique among the holy days because it is the only annual feast determined by counting. All the other festivals God commands us to keep on certain dates on the Hebrew calendar, but we must count for Pentecost. Whether we count fifty days or seven weeks or seven Sabbaths from the day of the wavesheaf offering, we must still go through the exercise of measuring the time to keep the feast properly. Why?
God does nothing without a purpose, and His purposes always include giving His people additional instruction for their ultimately eternal benefit. Counting to Pentecost is no exception. Even a cursory examination will expose several fascinating avenues of study.
First, God commands us to count. Counting is a means of calculating sequential items, events, and measurements. The Bible equates counting to numbering and measuring, and it becomes a metaphor for judging and evaluating. When we understand what the period from the wavesheaf offering to Pentecost represents, the extended meanings come into play.
Passover symbolizes our redemption from this world and the forgiveness of our sins. Unleavened Bread typifies our lifelong task of coming out of sin and putting on the new man in sincerity and truth. We begin to count on wavesheaf day, which occurs during this period, and the fifty days extend to Pentecost, a festival that prefigures the harvest of God's firstfruits. The fifty days, then, represent the period of a Christian's conversion, the time between his calling and his resurrection to eternal life.
Thus, God wants us to count, number, or measure the time of our conversion. This should bring several well-known verses to mind. For instance, Paul considers us wise if we are "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). He cautions the Romans, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). In both instances, he is advising Christians to measure and make use of our time carefully.
A few Old Testament verses may be even more on point. David writes in Psalm 39:4, "LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am." If we understand just how short our time is, we also realize how weak and insignificant we are next to God and eternity. It forces us to rely upon Him and strive to improve. This is the kind of attitude that God desires in us and will enhance our growth in character.
Moses, too, makes use of this imagery in Psalm 90:12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Properly evaluating our lifetimes builds wisdom in us, and wisdom—the godly use of knowledge and understanding—will make our behavior pleasing to God. Wisdom will help us to prioritize our time properly so we can devote ourselves to what is truly important.
Second, God has us count fifty days. What is significant about the number fifty? Fifty is the round number of years human beings live in a normal adult life (compare Numbers 1:3; Psalm 90:10). Fifty years, then, represents the period during which we live, grow, overcome, bear fruit, and prove our devotion to God through trials, tests, blessings, curses, and life's other varied experiences. Fifty years corresponds to the span of our conversion.
Biblically, the number fifty has its closest association with two things: the Tabernacle/Temple (in some of its measurements) and the Jubilee. The apostles describe God's church as a temple, and Christians are individual "living stones" within it (I Corinthians 3:9, 16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:5). The fifty days thus symbolize the time it takes to complete the work of building a habitation for God.
Every fiftieth year in ancient Israel, the Jubilee was decreed on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:8-9), which, among other things, represents unity, being at one, with God. The Jubilee was a year of liberty, when all debts were cancelled and inheritances reverted to their original families (verse 10), foreshadowing "the restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21). It was also a year of rest (Leviticus 25:11), when no crops were sown or reaped, a foretaste of God's rest (Hebrews 4:4-10). Under this type, the fiftieth day of the count, Pentecost, represents the harvest of Christians into God's Kingdom by the resurrection.
Overall, then, we count to Pentecost for two major reasons:
1. God commands it, and
2. It teaches us to realize and use carefully the ever-shrinking time we have to come "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
In His wisdom, God has us annually take stock of our procession through time so that we will devote ourselves to making the most of it. In doing so, we can gauge our progress toward God's Kingdom.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf Offering
Solomon is teaching us that now is the time to work with care, energy, and purpose to get the most and the best from life and to prepare for the hereafter. His basic reason is that the clock is ticking. Time is running out.
We let our requests for what we think we need from God be made known to Him with ease. In other words, they are at the forefront of our minds, and it is very likely that before we actually get down on our knees—or however or wherever we pray—we have been thinking about what we are going to request of God for a long time. We have many reasons to give to God why we want or need what we are asking Him for.
Thanksgiving in prayer requires prior preparation too. It is not something most of us tend to work at with all of our might. This is because of the human proclivity to merely accept things—especially things that we might consider as blessings—as due us. In other words, in some cases we go to God with the thought that we deserve it. This attitude is there, and this is what makes so many of our prayers nothing more than "the gimmes." Other vital elements that are needed to make an effective prayer before God are often overlooked, forgotten, and neglected, and sometimes never used, or maybe they are just brushed over in the rush to get to whatever we want to ask Him for. Nevertheless, true thanksgiving—an expression of sincere gratitude for what we have been given undeserved—needs to be a part of every prayer.
John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part Three)
In Christ's description of His second coming in verses 29-31, He depicts it as a unique occurrence. His return will be so astounding and powerful that the people of this world will quail in fear, thinking that they are all doomed to destruction. His return will not be in secret or done in a corner. It will be wonderful, glorious, frightening, and decisive. And it certainly has not happened yet.
Isaiah 66:14-16 is a parallel passage:
When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD shall be known to His servants, and His indignation to His enemies. For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh; and the slain of the LORD shall be many.
After building His church, the Bride, to the point that she is complete and ready for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, Jesus Christ will return in wrath and power as the great Judge to slay His enemies and set up His Kingdom. It will not be a good or fun time. The Day of the Lord is a time of death and destruction. As Amos 5:18 says, “It will be darkness, and not light,” and not an event in God's Plan that we should desire. While it is necessary for God's justice to be satisfied, it will be a time of appalling loss of life and devastation. In Malachi's words, it will be a “great and dreadful day” (Malachi 4:5).
In one way, we can be thankful that that Day has not yet come. Would we have been ready if it had? As the days darken toward the return of the King of kings, true Christians need to heed the warnings embedded in these latest disasters and repent of their sins and move even closer to God. Christ is preparing His Bride, and she will make herself ready for His glorious appearing (Revelation 19:7). If we desire to be part of that Bride, we should do as the apostle Paul advises in Ephesians 5:15-16: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The End Is Not Yet
2 Corinthians 6:1-2
The church developed, under the inspiration of Jesus Christ, an overall concept of time management unique to church members. It has its roots in the Old Testament: Isaiah 55:6 urges us to "seek the LORD while He may be found."
Why should we seek Him? Because He has the power and the willingness, if we will trust Him, to give us a completely new nature, breaking the vain, frustrating, repetitious cycle. Isaiah 61:1-2 adds helpful understanding:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God.
This is a prophecy that Jesus partially quoted as He began His ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth where He grew up (Luke 4:18-19). These passages suggest an element of movement toward something soon to happen. Isaiah 55:6 suggests we seek Him urgently because the Lord is moving on, and if we do not seek Him now, it will be too late. Time and events within it are moving. Isaiah 61:1-2 is similar: Now is an acceptable day for those called of God. If we wait, the acceptable day will pass, and the day of vengeance, even now moving toward us, will be here. It will be too late to avoid its destructive powers!
In Solomon's complaint about time (Ecclesiastes 1:3-11), God was nowhere mentioned. Events just go around and around endlessly, effectively describing Solomon's frustration. However, in the prophet Isaiah's description, God is involved in the movement of events that impact directly on His people's lives.
II Corinthians 5:20-21; 6:1-2 from the Revised English Bible helps us to see the sense of urgency in a New Testament setting:
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors. It is as if God were appealing to you through us: we implore you in Christ's name, be reconciled to God! Christ was innocent of sin, and yet for our sake God made him one with human sinfulness, so that in him we might be made one with the righteousness of God. Sharing in God's work, we make this appeal: you have received the grace of God; do not let it come to nothing. He has said: "In the hour of my favor I answered you; on the day of deliverance I came to your aid." This is the hour of favor, this the day of deliverance.
These admonitions to "seek God now," "now is an acceptable time," and "do not let it come to nothing," all indicate a passing opportunity. The Christian is dealing with a specific period during which events are working toward the culmination of some process, and if he does not take advantage of the present opportunity, it will never come again. The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25:6-13 illustrates our need to make the most of this opportunity now. This parable's major lesson is that both life and time are moving. The precise time of Christ's return is unknown, so He urges us to take advantage of the knowledge and time we already have in hand. Those who reject His advice will find their way into the Kingdom blocked.
Recall that II Corinthians is written to Christians. Paul's message is a call to strike while the iron is hot! Both Jesus and Paul remind us that our calling is rife with possibilities, so much so that we can consider each moment as big as eternity. That is how important this "day of salvation" is to us! The New Testament's instruction to Christians is, "Now is the time!" Everything is in readiness for success. It is as though the New Testament writers are saying, "Don't be like the slave who refuses when presented with freedom, or the diseased person who rejects help when offered healing. God's door is open to us! Charge through it by cooperating with Him!"
John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation
Notice the encouraging reason Paul gives to wake up and carefully mind how we live: "Christ will give you light." This is an outright promise that He will give us the help to do what we must do. Backed by this promise, we are to redeem the time "because the days are evil." If his days were evil, what would Paul think of ours?
This passage reveals how the early church regarded time as it applies to a Christian. For us, all days - every period in which God's people have had to live their lives by their God-given understanding, thus by faith - are evil. God's truth has always run counter to the course of this world. Thus, the truth adds a peculiar, stressful difficulty to life regardless of when it is lived. Moreover, since each called-out individual has only one opportunity to lay hold on eternal life, and must overcome, grow, and prove his loyalty to God during that time, he must make use of every experience.
Galatians 1:3-4 confirms this perspective: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." In terms of growing and overcoming, living in a particular period in history gives a Christian no advantage. Every era, every age, is against him, and within it, he must make the most of his calling. The times have always been evil.
To the church, then, because it must operate responsibly toward God within a highly specialized understanding of life and its purpose, every age is full of the cyclical, frustrating, repetitious events that Solomon called futile vanities. Such events lead nowhere and produce a discouraging fatalism.
However, a Christian also knows that God is directing time and events to His desired end. Thus, the church's view of time is an elegant combination of both realities, realizing that it has a work to accomplish as an organization and that each individual Christian must grow and overcome within it. So, as Christians, we must face the evil of repetitious vanity produced by sin, which history clearly records, with faith in the hope of a glorious victory for God's called-out ones, which God's Word prophesies.
Thus, Paul advises in Ephesians 5:17, "Therefore . . . understand what the will of the Lord is." As we live our lives each day, we should never let what God says slip from our minds. His point is that we need to make the most of every opportunity because time is inexorably moving toward God's desired end, and it will not stop and wait for us. We do not want to be left behind! No occasion is too insignificant to do the right thing. Time is precious! We, like God, must take it very seriously.
We must not make the mistake of relegating Christian living to a mere couple of hours on the Sabbath. Christianity involves every aspect of life. Personal study and prayer are times of clarifying God's will. But we must not neglect the doing of His will as occasions arise - and they will arise every day. Woe to us if we disregard them, for they comprise the very circumstances that challenge us to overcome and grow in our seeking of God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation
Redeem means "to buy up for oneself" or "buy up an opportunity." When connected to "time," it means "to buy or take advantage of an opportunity." Since we are dealing with time, and it inexorably passes on, we must make the most of each opportunity. If an opportunity is missed, it cannot be recalled.
Paul might as well be saying, "God's way is not just for a few hours on a Sabbath, but the will of the Lord applies in every situation in life." He is urging us to take advantage of every situation to imitate God. Every second of our lives is precious in the building of godly character.
This has nothing to do with literally gaining time. It may be illustrated, though, with the example of the savvy merchant who takes advantage of every opportunity to make a profit. Businessmen often say, "Strike while the iron is hot." Or, in our consumer culture, we watch the advertisements to take advantage of a sale.
How can we determine how to take advantage of time? In much the same way we take advantage of a sale. We decide what we want and then we watch carefully. If we want to buy a product, we will generally survey the market and then decide which particular brand and model we want to buy. Then we keep a careful watch until the sale of our choice occurs.
Likewise, we must survey what is controlling our time and we must decide what is important to us. Is it our relationship with God, family, job, socializing, recreation, or entertainments? In what order of priority would we put these and other interests? Next, we must survey each of the major categories more specifically and insert particular activities into them. This is very important because the "small" activities drain most of our time away almost unnoticed.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!
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