Today's study is not on the general theme of eschatology. There is far too much involved in that subject to fit into a one-session study. And the subject—while vital—has many controversial aspects. Furthermore, much of such a general study would be irrelevant to our theme: "Immanuel: 'God with Us' in the Old and New Testaments." Instead, we will focus on a few central aspects.
I see a pattern in God's plan for human history that involves Eden, then the loss of Eden, and finally the restoration of a better Eden. This idea is actually a very old one, even antedating the New Testament. It is suggested in many passages of the prophets, but I would like to suggest another unlikely place.
Example of Job
I like to think that God's overall plan for the redemption of believers is shown in microcosm in his story of Job. Job was once very rich and happy, with possessions, servants and family. Then God allowed Satan to take away everything, leaving Job with no possessions, no servants, no friends, and a decimated family. At his lowest point even Job's wife gave up hope and told him to "curse God and die"! But although tested by ultimate adversity in his life and seeing others around him losing faith in God and urging him to curse him, through his unwavering faith in God, Job received in the end not just a restoring of his earlier fortunes, but much more. Notice that Job's vindication and consolation was not in Heaven, but right where his humiliation occurred. Ours will not be "pie in the sky" - but "pie on the new earth", right where the problem now exists!
Tracing the History
I believe this can be a key to understanding God's overall plan for the redemption of his creation. Whatever was lost in the fall of Adam and the stumbling of the first Israel by failing to accept their Messiah at his first advent will be reclaimed. The first Adam's fall had consequences for all humans descended from him. The stumbling of Israel also had sad consequences for most Jews descended from them. But instead of abandoning, destroying, or replacing Adam's descendants with a different race, God redeemed those among his kind who believed. So also instead of abandoning, destroying, or replacing Israel, he began his reclamation by redeeming the first wave—Jewish believers such as Peter, John, James, Stephen, Philip and Paul—all but one of the authors of the New Testament were Jews. That first wave was huge: a significant component of the church in the first century was ethnically Jewish. Yet in comparison to the total number of Jews at that time it was small. That Jewish component of the church has continued through history: persons descended from Jewish ancestors who believe in the Messiah. And later this morning we will see how that will culminate.
AND IN THE FACE OF ULTIMATE EVIL
The New Testament writers used many of the conventional terms of contemporary Judaism to describe the course of history under God's sovereign control. One of these conventional oppositions was "this (or: the present) age" (Hebrew hā-ôlam hā-zeh) and "the age to come" (hā-ôlam hā-bāʾ). With this pair, ancient Jews saw history divided into two eras: the present one under the control of evil forces, and the future one under the absolute and complete control of God. You have heard how the earliest Christians thought of their present condition as living in "the last days", even though they acknowledged that the real and full sense of "last days" would be realized only at the second coming of Jesus. As a result, the earliest Christians held in tension two equally correct terms for their present age: (1) as the first phase of the "last days," when the powers of the age to come might be experienced in Christian living, and (2) as "the present evil age". Paul in Galatians 1:4 resolved the tension by saying that Jesus by dying on the cross "set us free from the present evil age."
The two ages run contemporaneously. Outside of the circle of believers, in "the present evil age," evil increases and hatred of God and his Word grows, while within the life of true believers, in the initial phase of "the last days," holiness and righteousness increase, and love for God and his Word grow. The second process allows for a witness to Immanuel "God in us" no matter how intense and vicious evil grows on the outside.
This brings us to what could be called "The Dark Side" of eschatology: the culmination of the "present evil age." The Bible teaches clearly that in the end of history a person will arise who is the Devil's best imitation of Jesus, but with opposite goals from Jesus. He is called in Greek Antichrist, which (contrary to popular belief) doesn't mean "against Christ", but "substitute for Christ." Greek anti means "instead of." The Antichrist will come impersonating Jesus, or in the name of Jesus, deceiving the world and almost deceiving the very elect of God.
The Beast and the False Prophet
In his Apocalypse, John has a central role for two figures called "the Beast" and "the False Prophet" (ch. 13). These two figures seem to correspond functionally to the one Paul called "the man of lawlessness" (2 Thess. 2:1-4) and "the Antichrist". His activity takes place in the phase that precedes the appearance of Christ in Revelation 19 as the "Word of God" (v. 13), and "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (v. 16), who destroys the Beast and the False Prophet (Revelation 19:20-21). Only after they are defeated and destroyed can the earthly kingdom of God ruled over by the one called "the Word of God" and "King of Kings" begin (ch. 20).
The Course of Evil and the Antichrist
Paul develops teaching on the Antichrist rather fully in 2 Thessalonians 2, which you should turn to now. This is a lot of material, and each verse needs careful interpretation. So we will not be able to do it justice today.
Verses 1 and 2 give the reason for Paul's teaching. A false rumor had spread in Thessalonica to the effect that the "Day of the Lord," when Jesus would return, judge the evil powers in the world, and gather his saints to himself, had already come. It is difficult to see how people seeing Roman power all around them could think this had happened, but who knows how cleverly the facts were "interpreted away."
Paul's reply to their claim is that this is impossible, since something very easily recognized would need to happen first: the apostasy and the revealing of the "man of lawlessness" (v. 3). The latter is the Antichrist.
Verse 4 describes what his agenda will be: he presents himself as God, demands worship and forbids worship of any other. Unlike some modern interpreters, Paul doesn't identify the Antichrist with the Roman emperor in power at that time.
In v. 6 Paul explains that something restrains the appearance of the Antichrist until the time God has appointed. Scholars disagree as to what this restraining force is. But it is clear from v. 7 that God controls it and will remove it when his time is right.
The characterization "man of lawlessness" (Greek anthrōpos tou anomias) doesn't mean the Antichrist will impose chaos on society. He is called "lawless" because he will reject God's law. As a world ruler he will have very strict laws, just as the Persian king Darius for a brief time outlawed prayer and threatened Daniel and his friends with death for praying (Daniel 6).
Verses 9-12 tell us that he will have enormous popular appeal among the masses, for God will allow them—since they have rejected his Truth in the scriptures and in Jesus—to believe anything this man wishes them to believe.
Our purpose today is to explore how God's plan for the end of this age and the final state will continue the theme of Immanuel "God with Us". In this light, the warning that there will arise in the last days a "man of lawlessness" who will be a substitute Christ, shows that Satan will use a perversion of God's own Immanuel theme as one last attempt to bring eternal misery where God intends eternal joy.
Just what form that perversion will take is left unstated. Perhaps the biblical teaching that God became human in Jesus to redeem us all will be perverted into something like the popular belief among New Age adherents today that all humans should simply realize their own divinity. In any event, the Antichrist will present himself as Immanuel "God with Us." But he is a false god, who will be gladly welcomed by a false world. And his destiny is to be destroyed by Christ (v. 8) at his second coming: "The Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth," the text says. One thinks of a kind of reversal of Cod's creative command in Genesis 1 "let there be …" into "let there not be …"
The Rapture and the Coming to Earth
If "track two," the present evil age, will culminate in the Antichrist and his destruction by Jesus at his coming to earth, "track one," the "last days" phase of the Kingdom of God (in the Church) will end in coming of Jesus for his saints.
The coming of Jesus for his saints is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. In this coming, the Lord Jesus appears in the sky, and living believers are caught up "to meet the Lord in the air," and "then" (v. 17, Greek houtōs, which is temporal, just like in Romans 11:26) says Paul "we shall ever be with the Lord."
The coming with his saints is described in Revelation 19 and in the Olivet Discourse of Jesus— which involves the destruction of the evil world system and the Antichrist and the establishing of his physical rule over the earth.
What is important for our course theme about both of these comings, is that Jesus promised not to leave us "orphans"—"I will come to you" he said. And in John 14:1-3 he promised "Let not your hearts be troubled: I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go … I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, you may be also". That is definitely our Immanuel theme.
The Old Testament Prophets
The prophets of the 8th through the 6th centuries B.C.—Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah—all predicted a glorious culmination and fulfillment of the promises to Abraham and to David, a worldwide kingdom of peace and justice, including humans and animal life. This harmony within the various parts of creation, and their restored harmony with God who created them, is expressed in terms of the first Eden.
Clearly implied is a reversal of the effects of the curses God imposed upon humans and the earth following Adam and Eve's sin. Those curses affected more than just human beings. Humans dragged the rest of creation into what Paul in Romans chapter 8 calls "futility," meaning that the earth with all its creatures no longer functions in the way God originally made it and cannot now achieve the goals for which God created it. Those goals are a perfect life for all creatures, peace between prey and predator, as Isaiah expressed it in Isaiah 11:6-9:
"The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea,"a beautiful picture of harmony, peace, and full knowledge of God. The restoration of Eden, but on an even grander scale, will take place with the Second Adam, the victorious Redeemer Christ present to rule over the creation in person.
Romans 8 and the Renewal of Creation
The crucial passage on the renewal of the earth is Romans 8:19-23. First, in v. 20 Paul states what is evident already in Genesis 3, that the entire creation (not just humans) was "subjected to futility." Genesis 3 tells us that, while Eve and Adam by their disobedience were the proximal causes of the disaster, it was actually God himself who pronounced the curses on Satan (in the serpent), on humans (Eve in childbirth, Adam in toil), and on the ground (representing the rest of creation). God subjected everything to futility, to the inability of what he had created as "good" to any longer completely fulfill the purposes for which it was created.
Hence, the creation—now unable to fulfill what it was made for—"groans and suffers the pains of childbirth" together with fallen humans until this day (Romans 8:22). In part, this futility is expressed by the warring of the various living species, animal and human. When Genesis 3:15 is seen on the surface instead of in its ultimate allusion to the warring of Satan against God, it portrays this very conflict between animals (namely snakes) and humans. And this typifies the broader picture of killing among the animal species.
Ever since the Fall, there has been a remnant—a minority of the human race—that has believed God and obeyed him in faith. With the advent of Christ, his death and resurrection, that minority people of God has experienced the New Birth, and has become already a New Creation. But that new creation is merely the "firstfruits" (Rom. 8:23), the down payment of the completion of that new creation that awaits both us and all creation at the return of Christ. If it were already complete in us now, there would be no talk of our "groaning within ourselves" and "waiting eagerly for … the redemption of our bodies" (v. 23). By "the redemption of our bodies" Paul means the bodily resurrection that was predicted in the Old Testament, is pre-figured in Jesus' own bodily resurrection, and is discussed in detail by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Significantly, it is called the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23). Redemption is the act of "buying back," or restoring to a previous owner. There is an unmistakable element of recovering what once was. Yet other scriptures make it clear that the new bodies will be glorified (1 Corinthians 15). We will not just get back what we have now, bodies which are fallen and mortal. In v. 21 Paul states it clearly and concisely: "the creation itself will also be set free from bondage to corruption/decay, into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God." And although Jesus possesses a body in heaven today, the souls of believers there now do not. For glorified bodies are intended to life on a new earth, which still awaits us.
The Future of Israel
In the end God will not leave any loose ends in his redemptive program. Every wrong will be righted, every promise kept. In three crucial chapters in the middle of his letter to the church in Rome, Paul explains God's plan to keep his promises to Israel in spite of the unbelief of the majority of Jews at the time of Paul's writing. Paul explains this in order to show that God is faithful to what he promised to Israel in the Old Testament, and it was important to Paul personally because of his enormous love and compassion for his own people, as expressed in his willingness to be "cursed from Christ," if that might allow them to be accepted (Romans 9:1-5; 10:1). The influential British evangelical theologian N. T. Wright, in his commentary on Romans, dismissed Paul's words as window dressing and a mere formal gesture. But anyone who knew Paul would never take his words in any but the most serious way possible.
According to Paul, God still had a remnant of his ancient people in a large part of the believers in Jesus in Paul's day. But he also intends to bring to a glorious completion the process of winning Jews to their Messiah. As Paul wrote in Romans 11:11-12,
"So I ask, have they [i.e., the majority of Jews in Paul's day] stumbled so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!”God gave Paul a vision of a future national repentance and salvation of Israel, probably based on passages in the prophets such as Zechariah 12:10-14. And this is what he means by "their full inclusion" in verse 12. The argument is that Israel's rejection of the Messiah brought a greater focus upon the Gentiles, bringing them the "riches" of God's salvation.
But now Paul surprises his Gentile audience in Rome, by promising that the future full inclusion of God's old people in the Messianic community will bring even greater riches than these! He also puts it another way in v. 15: "For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" Here he draws on Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones of Israel reconstructed and given life again (Ezekiel 37).
There is no way of telling how Paul himself thought this would happen, or when it would happen. Like the Old Testament prophets, he spoke an inspired prophecy, the details of which were not disclosed to him as the messenger. But the meaning is quite clear. God has not abandoned the people whom he originally chose, nor redefined his promises to them. His Old Testament promises were not some shell game—"now you see it, now you don't"—that allowed him to mislead his Old Testament people and then surprise them in the end. Could we trust such a God not to change the meaning of promises made by Jesus or Paul to you and me?
Are we saying that God has two chosen peoples? Certainly not. Paul himself makes that clear in his image of the olive tree (Romans 11:17-24). The root and trunk of the olive tree is Abraham, the genetic father of Israel. The natural branches of the tree represent Israel. God looked for fruit (i.e., righteousness by faith) from those olive branches. In Old Testament times there was much fruit—in Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and Daniel. But when no fruit appeared in the accepting of the Messiah, God had to do a drastic pruning of the tree. "Some" of the branches (v. 17) were lopped off, and to compensate, new branches from a wild olive tree (Gentiles) were grafted in.
Is there a second olive tree? No, it is the same olive tree, whose roots are Abraham and his faith. The Church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus the Messiah, shares the faith of Abraham and forms a single tree. The Church is not a replacement for Israel, but shares the root (Abraham and his faith) with the remaining branches of believing Israel. The tree is still the same, and there are branches in it that are natural branches, not grafts. Paul reminds his Gentile hearers that as branches they do not support the root (i.e., the tree trunk), but the root supports them (v. 18)! That root is Abrahamic faith.
And then Paul adds the master stroke: there is a possibility that God will remove Gentile branches and re-graft in natural ones! He doesn't say that God will plant a new tree to replace the one with Gentile branches: he says that some in-grafted branches will be removed and natural ones put in their place. In other words, the tree will always be the same, but God will eventually re-incorporate Israel.
How this will happen he describes in vv. 25-33.
Rom. 11:25-31 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, [my Gentile] brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And then all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. 27 And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” 28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.If you were following in your favorite English translation, you probably noticed that I omitted the word "now" in the second half of v. 31 ("that they too may now receive mercy"). That is because that word is not in the earliest manuscripts of Romans, and is probably a mistaken addition by a scribe. That verse therefore promises mercy on Israel in the future, not "now."
The only hint Paul's words give as to the time of this event is the words "until the full number of Gentiles has come in" (v. 25). So long as the world mission to Gentiles continues and Gentiles are being saved, the "hardening" of the larger part of Israel continues also. "Hardening" in Paul's language means unwillingness to repent and believe (this term is used of the Egyptian pharaoh whom God "hardened" (made stubbornly resistant) so that he would not let the Israelite slaves go free). With the hardening also went a blindness imposed by God according to the prophecy in Isaiah 6 (Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:15; John 12:40).
The qualification "in part" acknowledges that, even though the larger part of Israel is presently refusing to believe, a smaller part (Paul's term is "a remnant") of the Jewish people are not experiencing that blindness and hardening, but are repenting and believing in their Messiah. The word "until" implies that the hardening—even hardening of only a part of Israel—will someday cease. In v. 26 Paul uses the Greek adverb houtōs, which usually is translated "so"—"and so all Israel will be saved.". One could take it this way, and it would fit our interpretation: "It is in this way—by a temporary and partial hardening to permit the inclusion of the Gentiles, followed by a lifting of the hardening at the end—that all Israel (not just the partial group that today is not hardened, the whole tree with all its branches—will be saved." But scholars have pointed out that in at least three other places in the Greek New Testament houtōs must be translated "then" or "next," and this fits much better: "and then—after the full number of Gentiles are saved—all Israel will be saved."
This conversion of "all Israel" is how Paul understands Isaiah 59:20, which uses the term "Deliverer/Redeemer" to refer to God, but which the Talmud already understood to refer to the Messiah. Jesus the Messiah would "come from Zion" and "remove ungodliness from Israel." Israel in the end time will be the prodigal son returning to his father. In the last few days before the Crucifixion, Jesus looked upon Jerusalem and uttered these painful words:
““O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’’”” (Matthew 23:37-39 NIV)He was not teasing Jerusalem with these words—he meant every word. A future generation of the people of Jerusalem would see him again when they corporately said "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," the same words that the crowds used to welcome him into Jerusalem, and the very words of Psalm 118, which I believe are to be the libretto of end-time Israel's contrite plea for forgiveness and statement of faith.
The New Jerusalem
In chapters 21 and 22 John uses an image for the eternal dwelling place of the redeemed that is not used by any other New Testament writer. He calls it "the New Jerusalem" (21:2). It descends from the New Heaven upon the New Earth, as a "holy city" made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
In Revelation 21:3 we have the culmination of all the Immanuel themes in the Bible: "“Now the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." The original Tabernacle, which was a tent, was designed to move about always with the moving people of God. In his gospel, John used a verb based on this noun to describe how God the Son "tabernacled with us" during his earthly life. This has suggested to some that the Greek word denotes a temporary location. But John uses it here for God's permanent dwelling, his "home." God is with us forever — forever Immanuel.
What results from this permanent and perfected Immanuel? Verse 4 gives samples of the changes in the condition of redeemed humanity, and everything is portrayed in terms of Eden and the reversal of the curses resulting from the Fall: no more tears, mourning, crying, pain or death. These conditions, which sin brought into existence, are part of what John calls "the first/former things" which at this point have "passed away." The completion of the long series of Immanuels in Old Testament and New Testament has now been reached. Verse 6 tells us: "It is done: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end."
In the rest of Revelation chapter 21 and the first verses of chapter 22 John describes the New Jerusalem in symbolic terms, symbolic not because anything is impossible with God but because it is clear that John has to find a way through impossible language to convey realities that transcend language.
But with Revelation 22:3 he reaches a summary statement of the eternal state of the redeemed which is significant. The curse referred to his the curse on humanity and on the entire creation that resulted from the first sin. That curse is gone, and with its disappearance there appears the ultimate good: God himself will dwell among his redeemed creatures, and we shall serve him. With the words "serve him" a whole universe of possibilities are contained: worship, fellowship, care for one another and for the rest of the new creation. Singing praises may be the mental modality of the redeemed through all ages, but it need not exclude other activities in God's service. In verse 5 the redeemed will "reign forever and ever." Elsewhere in the New Testament believers are promised to reign with Christ (2 Tim. 2:12). How is this conceived?
Frist, if we keep in mind that Adam and Eve were intended to rule over the animals and fish and birds (Gen. 1:26, 28), it is possible that in part this is what is meant. Tame birds and animals will respond to redeemed humans. But there are other possibilities. Jesus promised the Twelve that they would judge the 12 tribes (Matt. 19:28).
Matt. 19:28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.What the ESV translates here as "the new world", which the NIV and NRSV render as "the renewal of all things," is the Greek word palingenesia παλιγγενεσίᾳ which means literally "rebirth" or "regeneration." This refers to the New Heavens and New Earth spoken of by John in Rev. 21-22. and if the Twelve have such roles, there will be similar tasks for others of the redeemed. It is clear that a rich array of activities await us in the eternal kingdom of Christ.
Jesus always accompanied his predictions of his own return to earth to judge and reign with warnings to his disciples to "watch." But the parables of the talents and other similar parables show that what is entailed in being "watchful" is holy living and productive service, investing our every hour and our every dollar in activities that extend the gospel and promote righteousness in the earth. Peter describes our obligation now in anticipation of the destruction of the world we now know and its transformation into a new earth in these words:
“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. … in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2Peter 3:11-14 NIV)The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews expresses our duty as we "see the Day drawing near" this way:
Heb 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.It is not ours to "bring in the kingdom" with our own efforts as the Church. But neither is it our right to cease from the work of the Kingdom, described by Peter as making "every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him" and in Hebrews as "love and good works."
Our "hope" that we confess and hold fast to is not the creation of a totally righteous world by our own efforts. As we have seen, the Bible portrays a world government at the time of Jesus' return that is the very opposite of holiness. No, our task is the infiltration of the enemy's camp and the liberating of Satan's subjects.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV)The "strongholds" Paul envisages, are his counterparts to the walls of Jericho. And like the spies who infiltrated Jericho and saved Rahab and her family, we infiltrate the Jerichos of our world, bringing the news of the coming overthrow of its citadels, and rescuing those who will believe. Then we walk around the strongholds, trumpeting God's truth and warning of God's judgment, until in God's time he (not we) brings down the walls.
The extent of our social involvement is described by our Lord's words "you are the salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13) and "you are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14).
Salt only deters corruption, it does not prevent it altogether. Furthermore, believers are to "salt" their verbal witness to non-believers, as Paul says in Colossians:
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6 NIV)As for the figure of light, the blaze of sunlight at dawn disperses all darkness, but the individual lights in the night of this dark age only disperse the darkness in their immediate vicinity. When Jesus returns, he will be the Sun of righteousness rising (Malachi 4:2), and the whole world will be ablaze with the light of that great Sunrise. Meanwhile, as Luke puts it, the sunrise has arisen in our hearts (Lk 1:78), and we can share that on an individual basis with individuals we meet and know who are in darkness. This is our mission, and it is a joyous and exhilarating one. Let us be about it.