The Promises of Christ for Apocalyptic Times

Jesus preaching on the Mount

The Promises of Christ for Apocalyptic Times

By a Carmelite brother

One day, I counted how many times we pray or chant the following invocation in our monastic day: “Pray for us, Holy Mother of God—that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.” It totaled fourteen times a day. Then, as I rang the angelus bell one morning, I wondered, “What exactly are the promises of Christ?” Could they even be numbered or codified? 

This article is an attempt to highlight the main promises of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Why is it important to frequently meditate on these promises? Because, they form the very foundation of one’s faith life. At the moment of death, they will be our consolation and support. 

Whether or not you consider that we are living at the close of an age, or ‘apocalyptic times,’ as it were, yet, the signs of the times forebode a coming storm. The chasm between good and evil grows more pronounced each day. It is simply a matter of time before the storm breaks out.  Like the wise builder who built his house on rock, it is essential to have our house firmly established before the rains come. Let us therefore prepare ahead of time by deepening our faith in Christ’s promises. 

10 Promises of Christ:

1. The Vision of God

2. Eternal Life 

3. Answered Prayers

4. God Is With Us

5. God's Mercy

6. The Holy Spirit

7. Detachment Receives a Reward

8. Our Deeds Are Recompensed

9. The Church Will Prevail

10. He Will Come Again in Glory

1. The Vision of God.

Many people stand in line for hours to see a musical performance or sit on cold bleachers to see a football game. They pay the price in order to see. These sights are exciting, for sure, yet, they pass like a summer cloud. By contrast, the ecstatic vision of God's face endures unto the ages of ages. This vision surpasses any conceivable beauty on earth and fulfills every desire. 

The thought of seeing God both attracted and frightened the ancient Israelites: "No one may see me and live,” said God to Moses (Exodus 33:18). The example of Manoah, the father of Samson, conveys the Israelites sense of awe. After encountering the angel of the Lord, Manoah told his wife, “We are doomed to die! We have seen God!” (Judges 13:22) 

Yet, God now opens the door for souls to soak-in His happiness in a face-to-face vision. It is the ultimate gift that comes through the merits of Jesus Christ. With his own Blood, Jesus paid the price of our ‘ticket,’ so to speak. But, this marvelous promise comes conditioned on the purity of the beholder: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." (Mt 5:8) 

St. John expands on this promise: "We will be like Him for we shall see Him as he is.  And all who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure." (1 Jn 3:2-3) Purity, then, is a prerequisite for seeing, because "nothing unclean can enter heaven." (Rev 21:27)

Is this a cause for discouragement? After, who feels himself to be pure enough to see God? The good news is that there are great throngs of sinners in heaven who became spotless through the Blood of the Lamb.  Through grace and the active works of prayer, penance, and almsgiving, they became pure as light and now happily behold...forever and ever.

2. Eternal Life 

Suppose someone gives you an exquisite houseplant. It's in your power to either care for it or neglect it. In like manner, the gift of eternal life comes through faith, which in turn, must be cultivated. Jesus says in many and various ways, "Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life." (Jn 6:47) 

Once again, we find a promise based on a condition, that of faith: "God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that all who believe in Him may have eternal life." (Jn 3:16) 

How is faith cultivated?

Jesus tells us plainly: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (Jn 6:54) Plants need food—the soul needs food. Jesus provides his Body and Blood in the Eucharist that the soul may grow unto eternal life.

Additional means of cultivating the plant of eternal life come through prayer, the sacraments, and meditation on Sacred Scripture: "If you abide in my word, you will truly be my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free." (Jn 8:31-31) 

3. Answered Prayers

Some people think that God's line is busy because their prayers are not immediately (or never) answered. However, God’s ear is always open and listening. He always answers our prayers, but perhaps not according to our plans.  

‘No’ is an answer but it must not be understood as parsimony on God's part. As a father, He knows what is best for us. Consider a parent who denies the unhealthy whim of her child. The parent sees the bigger picture and so it's an act of mercy if she says ‘no.’ 

Again, think of the great St. Paul who begged three times that he might be delivered from his bodily affliction. Jesus told him, "My grace is sufficient for you; for power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:7-10) Paul accepted God's purpose even though he couldn't see the full meaning of it.

Nonetheless, a negative answer to prayer may also be due to a deficiency on our part. Jesus says, "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done to you." (Jn 15:7)  To abide in Christ means to stay connected with Him (cf Jn 15:1-8). An electric lamp turns on because it's connected to the socket.  If one disconnects from God by disobedience or laziness, it's not his fault.   Jesus explains how to abide: "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love." (Jn 15:2)

Other factors may be a lack of fervor or persistence. I know of persons whose prayer was granted only after much knocking. Perhaps God simply wants to draw out faith, as when He told the Syro-Phoenician woman, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." (Mark 7:27) As it happened so many times, Jesus granted the request only after an exercise of faith.

4. God Is With Us

Countless saints have endured solitary confinement in spidery dungeons. Others chose a life of reclusion. What prevented them from going crazy or even feeling alone? Because their soul was settled on the firm rock of God's promise: "I am with you always, even to the close of the age." (Mt 28:20) 

God dwells in every soul, even sinners, as St. John of the Cross explains: "God sustains every soul and dwells in it substantially, even though it may be that of the greatest sinner in the world. This union between God and creatures always exists." (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Bk. 2, ch. 5:3) However, there is a yet more intimate presence.

The supernatural presence of God in believers comes through love and grace.  In these souls, God dwells as in a temple (2 Cor. 6:16), as a Bridegroom in his spouse, and as a lover in his beloved: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (Jn 14:23)

5. God Is Merciful

God's mercy is like the life-giving sun but He needs an open door to operate.  As St. Faustina explains, "Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person's sins were as dark as night, God's mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing is necessary: that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God's merciful grace, then God will do the rest." (Diary 1507)

The door opens through trust and repentance. God is always ready to forgive, like the father of the prodigal son, but He requires humility, trust, and love on our part.

The mercy of God is powerless, as it were, when He meets with obduracy:

"If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Mt 6:14-15)

Once again, God's promise is effective on condition that the soul co-operates.

6. The Holy Spirit

Jesus was patient as He endured his Apostle's small-mindedness. How often they quarreled over who was number one. Again, they cowered behind closed doors when confronted with threats from the authorities. So often, their minds seemed dull to understand Jesus' words.  

He assured them that they would not be left as orphans—He would be with them and clothe them with power from on high. 

This promise was marvelously fulfilled at Pentecost as His Apostles became entirely new men. They perceived the meaning of Jesus' words; they became intrepid preachers in the face of serious threats; mutual support replaced competition. 

Jesus extends this promise to all who are baptized and believe in Him: "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'"  Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified." (Jn 7:37-39)

Finally, the believer's body as a temple is a key element of St. Paul's theology: "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." (1Cor 3:16-17) The foundation of this temple rests on faith and keeping the commandments: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I shall ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete, to be with you forever.” (Jn 14:15-16)

7. Detachment Receives a Reward

Someone may ask, "Why Jesus insists so much on freedom from earthly ties?"  The answer is simple: the soul can't fly to the heart of God otherwise. We are meant to be free birds.

St. John of the Cross puts it in these terms: "It makes little difference whether a bird is tied by a thin thread or by a cord.  Even if it is tied by a thread, the bird will be held bound just as surely as if it were tied by a cord; that is, it will be impeded from flying as long as it does not break the thread." (Ascent, Bk I, Ch. 11:4)

'Breaking the thread' requires trust in the promise that future blessings surpass present benefits: "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30)

By leaving all, we gain all. Earthly treasures pass but heavenly goods remain.

Trust in the Lord

8. Our Deeds Are Recompensed

Scripture indicates in various ways that a person’s good or bad actions are recompensed. In other words, rewards or punishments are merited according to our deeds. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body." (2 Cor 5:10) "Behold, I am coming soon bringing my recompense, to repay everyone according to the deeds of each." (Rev 22:12)

Hence, if we discreetly give alms, fast, or pray, there is a reward: "Your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Mt 6:1-18) Moreover, the charity or cruelty that one extends to his neighbor has Jesus as the recipient: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me." (Mt 25:40)

Therefore, our smallest good is not forgotten: "Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward. (Mt 10:42)

Conversely, evil deeds and even careless words will be recompensed: "But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. (Mt 5:22)

The Church continues across the thunderous ocean of time.

9. The Church Will Prevail

Jesus uses two implicit metaphors to describe the Church and both involve the Apostle Peter, whose name in Aramaic means rock: Kepha (Cephas in Latin.) 

First, Jesus indicates that his Church will be like a house, built on the rock of St. Peter's faith: "I tell you, you are Peter (Kepha), and on this rock (kepha) I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." (Mt 16:18) 

Secondly, the Church is a boat, figuratively known as the "barque of Peter." Several of the Apostles were fishermen by trade, including St. Peter. Jesus tells them that they will henceforth be "fishers of men."  Thus, while the Church is divine in origin it has human beings as the crew and passengers. 

One look at Church history reveals this dynamic of strength and vulnerability. On the one hand, her human element reveals itself in the struggle against heresy, imperial persecution, division, scandals, and war.  On the other hand, her divine strength guides the Church across the tumultuous waves of time.

In the end, the Church will descend from heaven as the Bride of Christ, clothed anew and made perfect. (Rev 21:9-11)

10. He Will Come Again in Glory

The Jewish people of Jesus' day were in expectation of a Messiah whose advent would break the strong arm of Roman oppression. Hence, when Jesus was born in obscurity in Bethlehem, only a tiny portion of Israel recognized Him as the Chosen One. As  He commenced his public ministry, Jesus did not fit the Messianic paradigm of a political hero.

However, if his first coming was marked by humiliation, Jesus indicated that his return would be majestic. "I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven”  (Mt 26:64)  Again, "when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him." (Mt 25:31-32)

Rather than  a small segment who recognized Him at his birth,  His return will be observed by all and will be resplendent: "Just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” (Luke 17:24)

The Wise Builder

Jesus was a village carpenter until his thirtieth year. He built and repaired houses with his earthly father, Joseph. He knows from experience how important it is to build on rock rather than sand. To build our house on Jesus' promises is to have no fear of the coming rains:

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." (Mt 7:24-25)

Let us then strengthen our foundation stones by frequent meditation on Christ’s promises. This will ensure our serene passage through any downpour, hail, or howling winds.

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