I know you could use some spiritual refreshing. We all live in an emotionally, physically and spiritually parched and exhausting world.
But don't despair! God has a plan for quenching your spiritual thirst. The apostle Peter summed up God's plan this way: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come . . . that He may send Jesus Christ . . . whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things . . ." (Acts 3:19-21).
Peter said that these "times of refreshing" and "times of restoration" are descriptions of when God sends Jesus Christ back to the earth. Most Christians anticipate the time when Christ returns, but have you ever wondered what it will be like after He actually stands on the Mount of Olives and takes charge of human affairs? What kind of world will He create?
It will help our understanding if we visualize what it will be like when He returns. You've probably read or heard descriptions of prophecies in the book of Revelation concerning massive destruction caused by war, diseases and natural disasters that precede Christ's return. Let's bring these descriptions down to a personal level by taking an imaginary trip through time with a family that experiences what various Bible prophecies indicate lies ahead—transitioning from the great suffering at the end of this age to the peaceful times of refreshing to follow.
The darkness before the dawn
Visualize a family of four—father, mother and two daughters. They live in an affluent nation—perhaps on a farm in the American Midwest, along the coast of Australia, or in a small town on the Canadian plains. It could be your family. We'll call the parents Tom and Judy. They own a nice home and work hard. Life is hectic, but it's the price you pay for success, right?
They weren't prepared for when times got difficult. They began to notice the price of meat, bread and vegetables going up, but they still could afford their smartphones and car payments. When Tom lost his job it felt like he'd lost his legs. He started to slip into depression. Judy had to pull double shifts to keep up. In spite of the difficulties, their children still made it to soccer practice, and Tom and Judy still hoped the government would find ways to stop the economic slide.
They ignored the decaying morals of the society around them and the distant conflicts that were now unraveling the rest of the world. As long as they had heat and air conditioning, a supermarket filled with food and could watch the latest reality shows, things weren't really that bad.
And then it started. The nation was strained to the breaking point and fears mounted in the face of increasing natural disasters and growing domestic and international instability. Diseases long thought conquered reemerged, and an epidemic caused by a viral mutation took their first child. They saw their home value and their retirement wiped out when the economy collapsed, and food riots broke out.
A new attempt at a world government seemed to stem the tide for a while, but it failed. Nations revolted, and a new world war brought with it nuclear destruction on major cities and a breakdown of society in outlying areas. There was no basic medical care, no electricity, and even drinkable water was hard to come by. Tom was killed by thugs who stole their last can of gasoline.
In the next stage of the nightmare foreign troops appeared. Moving from town to town, they rounded people up to take them to "safe" areas. Judy held on to her remaining little girl as she and others were transported to holding facilities—actually concentration and slave labor camps.
But the nightmare wasn't over. Terrifying blasts and cataclysmic events literally shook the earth as large meteors struck the planet. Order disintegrated as all who were able to scattered into the countryside, taking shelter in ruins. In the chaos Judy's daughter died of malnutrition and dehydration when the sun's heat became so intense that it scorched the vegetation. Judy looked out from her shelter, waiting for death and wondering, "Is there a God?"
Then soon after the greatest blaring yet heard, Judy saw it—a great light, brighter than the sun, moving across the face of the sky and descending to the earth far over the horizon. Shortly afterward the ground beneath her was rocked as never before—this earthquake being bigger than any of those accompanying previous calamities. Had another meteor struck the planet? Or could this be what some in the camps had said was coming—the return of Jesus Christ to the earth?
Several days later Judy heard about amazing events happening in Jerusalem. Just when it seemed that humanity was going to destroy itself, a Being shining like the sun, accompanied by a vast force that was also blazing brilliantly, touched down on the Mount of Olives, which split in two. That is when the earthquake had happened.
Some people thought the planet was being invaded by aliens from outer space. Others said it was the Antichrist. Converging military forces marched on Jerusalem to battle Him, but they were utterly vanquished. Yet this woman remembered that Jesus Christ had promised to return—and she realized that the day had now come!
This is the world Jesus will come back to save and refresh.
Restoration and peace under Christ's reign
What a momentous challenge Jesus will face—an environment that will no longer support life and people who are numbed or driven mad by the horrific and terrifying events of the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord. Our fictional Judy represents just one of untold millions of violated, starving people still living without hope.
Amid this burned-out environment, and mass of hopeless people, Jesus Christ will start bringing great change to the world with the help of His saints—His followers from this age resurrected at His return to assist in His reign over the nations. How will Jesus and the saints begin to create the "times of refreshing"?
The prophet Isaiah wrote one of the most enduring descriptions of Christ's reign on earth in Isaiah 2: "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains . . . And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' . . .
"He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2: 2-4).
One of the first things Christ must do is heal the environment that has been ruined by natural disasters, nuclear war and meteor impacts. And of course He must begin leading people into the way of peace.
World peace will not come instantly, but it will come. Even the nature of animals will be transformed as an aspect of the world becoming a secure and peaceful realm. Isaiah 11 is one of the great prophecies about the "times of refreshing":
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them . . . The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:6-9).
These prophecies give us a wonderful glimpse into what the "times of refreshing" will be like.
But what of people like Judy who will have already lost loved ones before Christ's return. How will they regain hope? They will learn the wonderful truth that their loved ones will live again—that they can be reunited with them still. In the meantime, Christ and His saints will give them comfort, teach them God's plan and purpose, help them in the right way to live and bless them with joyful lives.
The peace and joy of Christ's reign can be your future. It can also be part of your present daily life. To realize this future time of restoration, you will have to take action now. You must discard the worn-out, empty platitudes that pass for religion and become a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Future news and the Feast of Tabernacles
Can you imagine turning on your computer and reading headlines like these?
• "New Government Program: All Military Armored Vehicles to Be Turned Into Farm Machinery and Road Graders"
• "God Heals the Earth: Food Shortages Disappear on All Continents as Crop Growth Outstrips Ability to Harvest"
• "Peace Talks Between Israelis and Arabs Reach Final Peaceful Solutions Under the Direction of Jesus the King"
These made-up headlines actually portray events foretold in biblical prophecies about the times of refreshing.
Zechariah 14 is another of the great prophecies of Christ's return. The prophet describes how after Jesus touches down on the Mount of Olives and a great earthquake occurs, a river of living water will flow from Jerusalem to begin healing the earth.
Then Zechariah adds this curious statement: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16).
You might be surprised, but one of the first religious requirements Jesus establishes for all humanity under His reign is the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles. This might be something completely new to you. The biblical Feast of Tabernacles is centered on the late summer and autumn harvest season in the Middle East. Also known as the Feast of Ingathering, it is a celebration of the abundant blessings of God.
Zechariah continues: "And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:17-19).
Do you grasp what this prophecy actually foretells?
Not just Israel and the Jews, but all nations, even the Egyptians, will be required to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This isn't a historical account. This has never happened. This is a prophesied future event concerning the establishment of the Kingdom of God over all nations!
Christ will not only require the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, but He will punish people who refuse to obey for their own good. One aspect of Christ's spiritual refreshing of humanity will be the universal celebration of all the annual biblical festivals of God, which reveal God's plan of salvation for all mankind. As usual, some people will stubbornly resist the goodness of God.
Observing the Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering is one of the keys to understanding the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. For Christians who anticipate Christ's return, it's a celebration of the coming spiritual harvest when Jesus Christ gathers all people to Himself and to His Father.
Living the future today
Let's look at another of Isaiah's prophecies about the messianic Kingdom: "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles [that is, to all the nations]
. . . He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands [the far reaches of the world] shall wait for His law" (Isaiah 42:1-4).
As with other passages we've seen, this looks forward to Christ's coming reign. Yet to take part in it then, we must submit to His reign in our lives today.
Do you desire to make a positive impact on the world? Do you want to change things and help people have better lives?
That is exactly what Jesus Christ is doing now and is going to do when He returns. He will restore the wastelands. He will have the power to stop war and violence. He will establish one true religion centered on the worship of the one true God. He will set up a new government based on laws of fairness and justice. He will develop an economic system that eradicates poverty. He will produce educational programs and promote and enable well-being for everyone.
This isn't a fairy tale. This is what will happen in the future times of refreshing that are coming to your life!
I know that in the face of today's problems, this wonderful future can seem far away. How can you begin to experience these times of refreshing right now? God wants to bring spiritual refreshing to your life, but it's going to take some action on your part.
Let's go back to what Peter said: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come . . . and that He may send Jesus Christ . . . whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things" (Acts 3:19-21).
You must take the action of crying out to God to convict you of your need for this refreshing. All too many people are unaware of their own spiritual thirst.
Jesus Christ reigning on earth is the future. Do you want to be part of His future? If your answer is "Yes," then Jesus Christ must reign in your life today!