Tag Archives: Apologetics

An Expected End

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)[1]

Christians often quote the verse above without understanding the context in which it was given. It is one of those feel-good verses that makes us feel special believing that God is looking out for us and only has good things in store for us. While that is certainly true to a great extent – God does care and provide for His own, and I can certainly testify to that in my own life. However, deeper thought should be given to the circumstances surrounding this passage.

The ten northern tribes of Israel were conquered and expatriated by Assyria around 722 B.C., and a short 136 years later, the southern kingdom, comprised of the two remaining tribes, Judah and Benjamin, was taken captive by Babylon. It was during this time that Jeremiah prophesied. Indeed, before the Babylonian conquest, Jeremiah urged Judah to repent of its idolatry and avoid what God determined to bring upon them. So deep had they fallen into sin that God actually instructed Jeremiah to stop praying on their behalf.[2]

God finally had it with His people and He summoned “His servant,” Nebuchadnezzar,[3] to conquer them and take them away captive, which he did in 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel, the prophet, and his friends,[4] captive in this first of three rounds of deportations.

Early in their captivity there arose false prophets telling the captives that their captivity would not be long and that God soon liberate them. That was not God’s plan, and He instructed Jeremiah to send a letter “unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon” (Jeremiah 29:1). In short, the letter instructed the people to settle down and prepare for a long stay – build houses, plant gardens, have children and grandchildren. Their stay would not be permanent, but it would be long – 70 years[5] to be exact. God encouraged them to “seek the peace of the city … and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).

Surely these were not ideal conditions for God’s people. Psalm 137 records how they felt. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4).

Under these circumstances, God promised, “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:10-11, emphasis mine). God’s “good plan” for them was not immediate. Not until a generation away would God’s plan be realized. In the meantime, they had to endure the captivity, pray for their captors and get by in the best way they could. There was no easy way out.

The phrase, “to give you an expected end,” gives pause for thought. When we consider the rest of Israel’s history, we learn that their relationship with God did not improve that much. Yes, they finally gave up their overt idolatry, but they exchanged it for the idolatry of “religion” and “legalism.” After they returned to their homeland and after they rebuilt their Temple, God stopped talking to them for 400 years until Jesus came. So steeped were they in the practice of their religion and legalism, that they completely missed their promised Messiah. Their rejection of their Savior led to the dissolution of their nation and the dispersing of their people among the nations of the world.

Yet, when the prophets speak of the “expected end” – the Day of the Lord – Israel once again becomes a nation, and they finally recognize their Messiah whom they missed at His first coming. God says, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10). This, I believe, is their “expected end” to which God referred in Jeremiah 29:11.

Now, with all this in mind, how does this verse apply to us? In many respects, we as Christians, are living in a kind of Babylon. The world grows continually more wicked every day. As Jesus warned, we live “as in the days of Noah.”[6] He said that we “are not of the world,”[7] yet we are “in the world.”[8] Our citizenship is in heaven.[9] Therefore, we need to conduct our lives in a manner befitting our true Kingdom. We should be good citizens in our current state and pray for our leaders and the welfare of our nation. We may not change the world (indeed, the Bible tells us that we won’t), but we do have an influence on people around us. And, God does know the thoughts and plans He has for us – thoughts of “peace” – the peace that only comes from His Holy Spirit in us. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). We also have an “expected end” with Him in heaven for all eternity, whether we meet Him in death or in the air.[10]

So, next time you hear Jeremiah 29:11 quoted out of context, think on these things. If you do not know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

 

Notes:

[1]  Many modern translations read, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (ESV) or “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (NASB). The Hebrew word that they translate as “welfare” and “prosperity” is “shâlôm,” which the KJV accurately translates as “peace.” It is no wonder that Christians often misapply this verse.

[2]  Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14; 14:11

[3]  Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6

[4]  Daniel 1:3-6

[5]  Jeremiah 29:10

[6]  Matthew 24:37

[7]  John 17:14

[8]  John 17:15

[9]  Philippians 3:20

[10]  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

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What’s Special About Sunday?

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week ... (Matthew 28:1)

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week … (Matthew 28:1)

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. (Mark 16:2)

Why should Christians worship on Sunday instead of Saturday as do the Jews and certain other “Christian” denominations? After all, in fourth of the Ten Commandments, God specifically says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). So, are we in violation of God’s commandment by worshiping on Sunday?

First of all, let me say that setting aside one day of the week for rest and worship is right and proper whether that day be Friday, Saturday, or Sunday or any day of the week for that matter.  “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

Much of the confusion comes with the interpretation of the word “Sabbath” in the Bible.  The word in the Hebrew does not mean “seventh” (shebəiʽi), but rather “rest” or “to rest” (shebbot).  Genesis 2:2 tells us that “on the shebəiʽi day God ended his work which he had made; and he shebbot on the shebəiʽi day from all his work which he had made.”  Translating that seventh day to mean Saturday “assumes” that God began His creative acts on Sunday, and we really have no textual basis for that conclusion other than what has been handed down to us by Jewish tradition – that, however, is not to say that this tradition is in error.  Furthermore, as you study the “Feasts of the Lord” given in Exodus and Leviticus, you find that each of those days is considered a shebbot (Sabbath) regardless of what day of the week it falls on.  So, we need to be careful not to become dogmatic over things on which the Bible is unclear.  However, it is clear that we need to “sanctify” – set aside – one day a week for the Lord.

Today, on Resurrection Day, we celebrate our Lord’s victory over death. (See “Risen Indeed,” where I cover the facts of the Resurrection.) The Resurrection is significant for us who believe because we have the promise that because Christ conquered death, we too can be assured of a resurrection to eternal life. “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain … But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 20). Today we rejoice in Christ’s resurrection and look forward to our own resurrection to be with Him eternally.

In the New Testament, the first Jewish Christians went to the temple or synagogue on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14; 17:2; 18:4) for the sake of the Jews, but they also met on the First Day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) because this was “the Lord’s Day” and also for the sake of the Gentiles which were not obligated to follow Jewish custom (Colossians 2:16). The reason for this change is because this is when Christ was raised from the dead (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).

The First Day of the week was also the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples gathered in the upper room (Acts 2:1). Scripture does not specify the day of the week, but when you consider that Jesus arose on the first day of the week and count forward 50 days (the Day of Pentecost) you will find that day to be Sunday also. The day that Jesus arose was the “First Omer” (Nisan 16) and the Day of Pentecost was the “50th Omer (Sivan 6). Not only were these days important on the Jewish calendar, but they have even greater significance in the Christian calendar. For this reason, it is proper that Christians should meet on the First Day of the week to celebrate the Risen Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 So, as you celebrate this Resurrection Lord’s Day, remember why it is so special. He is risen indeed!

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