We study through books of the Bible here at the Village Chapel. We do have extra copies. If you didn’t bring one and you would like one to follow along, this is a good Sunday to have one to follow along on. Trust me, it is indeed. I think you’ll enjoy that quite a bit.
Let’s see if I can make this work here. Oh, there we go. Good. You can see up on the screen there if you prefer to use the Bible on the device, you have that option with the network here in the building and I think you can use that QR code that’s up on the screen, those of you that are used to such things. I’m just learning about these things myself, but evidently if you put your camera on that and click on it, it takes you to the sermon notes and the quotes and all that stuff so you can download all of that and you’ll have it in front of you if you prefer to jump ahead of where this slow speaking preacher might be in the sermon.
Matthew 24 is where we’ll be today. I’m calling this “The Beginning of the End.” I like that. Kim and I are annoying to go to the movies with. Kim and I are very annoying to watch television shows with because we are competitive about guessing what’s going to happen. We have both been known 30 seconds into an episode or a movie to lean over and go, “She’s going to die.” So, you don’t want to go anywhere with us like that.
Matthew 24 is an amazing chapter. It offers us the beginnings of what Bible scholars have come to call the Mount Olivet discourse. There are five large discourse sections in Matthew, and this is the second longest one of them. And here we read of the disciples literally gawking at the magnificent structure of the Jewish temple as they’re walking out of that area with Jesus.
This is the week of the Passover. Jesus has been going in and out of Jerusalem, back likely to Bethany. And as they’re going out this one particular time, the disciples make this remark. We’ll read that in just a second and he has a response that is quite surprising and puzzling to them. They ask some questions, which are really helpful for us because a lot of us have those same questions. When will this happen? What will be the signs of this happening and of your return? And so, for Christians now 2,000 years later, we want to ask those same questions. We want to be ready, we want to be watching, we want to be waiting and preparing. It’s helpful to ask questions like that.
Jesus doesn’t scold them at all. He actually spends a good deal of time talking with them. What we are about to read sounds like yesterday’s news feed, literally. You’re going to hear some things here you go, “Well, that happened last week. Well, that happened yesterday. Well, that…” And that’s fine, and people have been doing that for 2000 years, for a long time. And reading out of our context, what happens is we identify with the disciple’s question. We also identify with some of the things that Jesus says here. Now that in no way is meant to demythologize or “de-supernaturalize” what’s happening here. I think that has happened in a lot of cases when people start talking about the end times, the return of Christ, and the eschatological sequence of events leading up to the consummation of God’s kingdom. And yes, I used a big word, and I will define it in a little bit! Let’s pray first, okay?
Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning, grant us now to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest these scriptures and what is said here, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which You have given us in our savior Jesus, who lives and reigns with You forever and ever. Amen and amen.
Matthew 24. Okay, I kind of set it up, I think you know. Let’s just read this. We’re going to blitz through this thing because it’s 51 verses. Really helpful for you to set your eyes on the page or on your screen of your device and to read it as I read. Some of you have different translations, I understand that, but you’ll still be able to track with me.
“Jesus came out from the temple, was going away when his disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him like a bunch of tourists. Look at that. He answered and said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.’ And as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately saying, ‘Tell us when these things will be and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in my name saying I’m the Christ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened. For those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.’” The Greek word is seismos. It’s where we get seismology from. Same thing, earthquakes.
“‘But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.’” That’s a process that leads to the end and there’s an end result with birth pangs. That’s the delivery of a baby. “‘They will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you and you will be hated by all nations on account of my name.’” That’s a very sobering verse, isn’t it? This is not where anybody sings “Ain’t it grand to be a Christian, ain’t it grand?” This is a sobering verse, isn’t it? Especially in light of some of the things that we read here. “‘At that time, many will fall away. Many will betray one another and hate one another.’” I’ve never seen such an acrimonious world. “‘Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.’”
“‘But the one who endures to the end, it is he who shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations and then the end shall come. Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet.’” That’s Daniel chapter nine, if those of you want to go check that out later. “‘Standing in the holy place, (let the reader understand). Then let those who are in Judea, that’s the southern third of Israel, flee to the mountains. Let Him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Let Him who is in the field not turn back to get his coat, but woe to those who are with child and those who nurse babes in those days. But pray that your flight may not be in the winter or on a sabbath for then there will be a great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.
“‘And unless those days had been cut short, no life would’ve been saved. But for the sake of the elect, those days shall be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, behold, here’s the Christ or there he is, do not believe Him for false Christ and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders so as to mislead if possible, even the elect. Behold, I’ve told you in advance. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, he’s in the wilderness!’ do not go forth. If ‘Behold, he’s in the inner rooms!’ do not believe them for just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the son of man be. Wherever the corpses, there the vultures will gather.’” Some of translations might say there the eagle will gather. It could be either, but it’s likely the vultures. I’ll tell you why later.
“‘Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be dark and the moon will not give its light and the stars will fall from the sky. The powers of the heavens will be shaken and then the sign of the son of man will appear in the sky and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the son of man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory and he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four wins from one end of the sky to the other.’”
“‘Now, learn the parable from the fig tree when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves. You know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that he is near right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’”
35, man. Verse 35, I’ve got to stop there. That’s worth putting a star and an asterisk, a hallelujah, an exclamation mark. Go home and embroider it on a cloth and hang it on the wall. That’s an amazing promise right there. “‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’”
“‘But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the son, but the father alone for the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah for as in those days which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, they were marrying, giving a marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. So shall be the coming of the Son of Man. Then there will be two men in the field. One will be taken, one will be left, two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken and the other will be left. Therefore, and you always ask the question, what is it? Be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. Be sure of this that if the head of the house had known at what time the night the thief was coming, he would’ve been on the alert. He would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason, you be ready too, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think he will, who then is the faithful, sensible servant whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time.’”
“‘Blessed is that servant whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put Him in charge of all his possessions. And if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and shall begin to beat his fellow servants and eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect Him and at an hour which he does not know and he will cut Him in pieces and assign Him a place with the hypocrites. Weeping shall be there and the gnashing of teeth.’”
This is the word of the Lord. Yeah. Wow. That’s the kind of passage… I mean, I’ve been marinating in this all week long thinking about what in the world am I supposed to say?
I’m going to begin with a quote from a Texas gal. I think that’s a good way to start. She said exactly this:
“I don’t care if you’re pre-millennial, amillennial, post-millennial, a yard perennial, a bicentennial, a fan-of-Benny-Hill, a left behind or a right behind, you can’t recite these words without your pulse pumping.”–Beth Moore
Beth is a Texan, she’s a straight shooter and she says it just exactly like she means it. And I love the study of eschatology. It’s the study for those of you that wonder, ‘Did he just sneeze?’ No, eschatology is the study of the end times, the times of the end. The sequence of events is sometimes discussed, which events are going to come together. All that’s discussed. I love eschatology because it combines the best elements of story.
It’s a multi-layered plot line: rich character development, edge of the seat tension, mind-blowing mystery, unpredictable surprise, imagination-stretching outcomes. That’s why I loved our study of the book of Revelation during COVID. That was one of my faves. And then going right into Genesis like we did, and all of that’s up online. Whether you’re watching online right now or whether you’re in this room right now, if you haven’t studied Revelation, if you haven’t studied Genesis, jump back online and go through those books in your own personal Bible study. It’s really, really not only inspiring but hope-filling. In that respect, the unfolding story of biblical eschatology can properly be said to be foreshadowed in some ways all the way back to Genesis and we have Genesis and all the way to Revelation, those two bookends of the catalog of what God is up to and what He’s doing and the way that He has been searching for people He can call his own.
Well, what do we have here? At the beginning we have Jesus and his disciples coming out of the temple. This is a model of the temple in Jerusalem. We’re getting ready to go. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but at the time that we’re recording this particular worship service in this particular Bible study, next month a bunch of us will actually be there again and I’m so excited to see, to be able to go there and see this. The disciples were walking on their way out and they probably sounded like tourists at fanfare. ‘Wow, look at that. Wow. Oh man, cool. Let’s go by that again.’ I mean, these guys were simple fishermen, a lot of them from above the north and the rural Galilee and now they’re in the big city and it’s not just a big city, it’s the holy city.
And so, there’s just so much about it that would overwhelm them as they looked at it. And Jerusalem was special in so many ways. Herod the Great, the fountain head of the Herodian dynasty, he was a master architect and builder and he had started rebuilding the Jerusalem temple around 20 BC and by this time it was quite grand and glorious. However, in 70 AD, much like what Jesus describes right here in Matthew chapter 24, Jerusalem is destroyed as is the temple, depicted here in this painting. It was quite violent. The Jews had begun a revolt led by the zealots in 66 AD. This was the climax of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple’s the climax of the whole thing. Although, there was a remnant of Jews that escaped down south to Masada and they hold out for another two or three years. We’ll visit there on our trip to the holy land as well.
But Titus General, a Roman general of the time, was sent to squash this Jewish revolt and during the course of this, he is successful, but his soldiers become quite violent in their destruction of the temple area. Flavius Josephus, one of the most widely read of the first century historians who is Jewish but also writing for the Romans, described how many were being starved to death in Jerusalem. The city had been surrounded, dead bodies were everywhere and they were desperate, so desperate, the Jewish people. Some of them had resorted to cannibalism, sadly. Finally, at one point some of the Jews climbed up on top of the side chambers of the temple and began pulling up the bird preventer spikes to throw them down at the Roman soldiers. While Titus did not plan on destroying the temple, one of his soldiers got overly aggressive and threw a firebrand into the courts. This action was then followed by the other soldiers doing the same and the fire got so hot. According to Josephus, it melted the massive amounts of gold built into the temple doorways, porticos and other ornamentation. There’s lots of cloth, lots of wood caught on fire. The fire got so hot, the gold melted and ran down in between the huge stones of the temple floor, and Titus, wanting to return with some plunder and some bounty, had the soldiers begin to separate the stones, some of which were quite large, and to dump them over the side of the temple mount and the ruins of them can be seen even today. There’s your local friendly neighborhood pastor leaning up against a few of the stones just off to one side down and below. Here’s a look at one of the streets, and where I was standing is actually that pile of stones you see in the distance there, the Mount of Olives where Jesus and his disciples sit down and he has this Mount Olive discourse. We’ll see that on our trip as well.
Now, of course, there are some buildings that weren’t there then. You have the Catholic Church of All Nations there. The Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene is also in view and the garden of Gethsemane is at the bottom. I simply present those photos to you not to say anything other than your Bible is set in space time history. This is not merely a fable, a myth. It’s not another Tolkien or Lewis story. I love Tolkien and Lewis. I’m not disparaging them at all. But this is history. This happened. You can corroborate what the Bible says and what Jesus predicted with historians that aren’t even in the Bible. They aren’t Christians themselves, like Josephus. And so, I want everyone to be reminded of that. Here’s the three questions really that the disciples ask, and we see those questions, don’t we in verse three.
“‘When will these things be?’” ‘When is this destruction of the temple, as you say, Jesus? If you’re saying that all of this that we’ve just been gawking at is going to be torn down, when is that going to happen? “What will be the sign of your coming?” Your arrival, your parousia, in the Greek, your appearing, if you will, as not just appearing again, but as king? What will be the sign that you now have come to turn things over to get rid of the oppressive Roman government to bring justice to our land?’
See, they’re looking for more than just an appearance. They’re looking for a turnover, a turnaround, a reversal of their condition. “‘What will be the signs of the end of the age?’” For first century Jews, the hope for them was that God who had promised over and over and over again that Messiah would come and deliver God’s people. And so many of them sadly were thinking in terms of politics and economic deliverance, and yet Jesus comes first, lays down his life.
He’s a messiah all the way through, but he’s a spiritual messiah who’s coming to reconcile sinners like us and like them, to reconcile sinners to a holy and righteous God. He came first to bring peace. That’s why he rode in on a donkey when He rode in on the triumphal entry day. And secondly, when He comes the second time, He’ll come on a white horse, and it’ll be a completely different kind of coming and appearing and arriving to wrap things up. It will be this, as we read right here with the advent of Jesus, the first advent of Jesus is the beginning of the end. This is the fulcrum, this is the pivot point of all of history because now the king has come and when the king comes back, He’s coming to set all things right.
What will be the signs of His coming?
1. Destruction of the Jewish Temple. Remember what we just read in Matthew 24. That hasn’t happened yet. It’s going to be another 40 years roughly, but we have the benefit of looking in our rear-view mirrors because we’re well past that and we can see, we connect those dots and see that what Jesus predicts in Matthew 24 actually happens to the temple in 70 AD.
2. Spiritual deception. many false Messiah prophets. So, he says, ‘Be watchful. Don’t be misled.’ If it’s not Jesus, if it’s not the gospel, that’s one of the reasons the Apostle Paul in all of his letters is seeking to not only instruct but to correct bad doctrine, to refute false gospels. You see, we don’t just believe in the existence of God. We believe in some rather specific things about this God who has revealed Himself to us and has given us these amazing promises about setting the world to rights one day and being able to restore and renew and save, redeem his people. And I, for one, say “Hallelujah!” Jesus is our hope in life and death. And we do sing, “Hallelujah, praise His name!” Every now and then I sing “happylujah” because it inspires joy, doesn’t it? Yeah. Spiritual deception. Don’t be misled.
3. Political unrest. Does anybody see that anywhere? I’m missing that one, right? That’s just… Okay. Wars and rumors of wars, it has happened and it is continuing to happen.
4. Natural disasters. Listen, the National Earthquake Information Center now locates about 20,000 earthquakes around the globe each year. Does that mean that they’re on the increase? No. It just means our ability to detect them and then to communicate about them has become keener and swifter. Are they increasing? I don’t know. They’re sure in the news, and rightly so. How horrible what has just happened? Thank you for caring about that. These people aren’t our near neighbors, but these people are human beings created the image of God, whether they recognize God as we recognize God or not, and they are our “planet neighbors” and so we’re to love them and thank you for giving here at the church. This is not a pitch for more money but thank you for giving because we were able to respond immediately with a significant gift to help in some of the affected areas. It’s significant for us. It’s a drop in the bucket for what’s needed, not even a drop in the bucket. Natural disasters, about 55 of those a day are earthquakes. And again, don’t know if that’s an increase or not because we just have so much better equipment these days.
5. Persecution of Christians. That was a problem back then with Saul running down a bunch of Christians Himself, Saul who later became Paul, so the persecutor became the pastor, the apostle. It’s just amazing what God can do. The persecution of Christians, the 20th – 21st centuries have been the worst according to the Voice of the Martyrs and according to Opendoors.org, both organizations that we’re well acquainted with here at this church. If you are curious about where all that might be happening, I don’t even have time to read these. This is where Christians are persecuted the most right now on the planet. Both websites of those organizations will actually rank them in terms of the most amount of persecution within their countries. [on screen: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Laos, Maldives, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen.]
6. Lawlessness. I mean, again, it’s so obvious. Lawlessness is not just beating students up in the hallway, which it is, and I just cannot believe we’ve gotten there, but it’s also this total disregard for another, a total disregard for any… It’s anarchy, is what it is. And if you don’t think that’s on the rise, you’ve got your head buried in the sand. Lawlessness.
7. Apostacy. Apostacy is a falling away from the faith. The popular term is deconstruction, okay? It’s letting go. And when you begin to let go, it snowballs, is what happens. Why? Because our hearts are drawn toward becoming our own gods. We love that naturally. What we need is a supernatural move of God on our hearts to redirect our affections back to the Lord. And so, when you come in here, you’re going to hear about that wake-up call, yes, but also the call to respond to Him, the only One that can really change your heart toward God and the disposition of your heart. You want lawlessness naturally. Supernaturally though He can change your heart to where you love God and not just afraid of Him and therefore obey Him or try to just get your balance out the moral scale. No, you you are so overwhelmed that He loved you when you were a sinner and when you were His enemy that you go, ‘Oh my goodness, I just have to in some way respond to Him that lets Him know I thank Him and love Him.’ So, the motivation is completely different for holiness when you become a Christian because you love God and you’re grateful to God.
8. Gospel preached to all nations. And then the gospel has to be preached to all nations. Let’s get busy. ‘I just like to let people watch my life and they’ll pick it up.’ If you think you’re that holy, I’ve got news for you. Nobody’s going to pick it up watching you. This is not going to happen. You’re beautiful people, I love you, but it’s not going to happen. I know Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” It’s necessary. Use words.
These are the kinds of words to communicate to others: I know now more and more increasingly day after day how much I need grace. I don’t need law, I need grace. I’m desperate for grace because grace is for the guilty and undeserving and that is me, and that is you. Whether or not you admit it or acknowledge it, but I’m telling you it is and it’s life changing. It’ll set you free.
How do you think we’re doing on all these predictions of Jesus here unfolding in these categories? Do you ever think the true beautiful things of this world are unraveling before your eyes? Do you see people falling away from the love of God? Do you see people who used to desire to live holy lives now living unholy lives? Do you find that there is a lust for autonomy in this world? I don’t have time to stop and read all of it, but listen to 2 Timothy 3:1-4:
“Realize this, that in the last days, difficult times will come. Men will be,” get this, “lovers of self.” Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! “Lovers of money, boastful, arrogant.” Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. “Revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” And then Paul, running to the young pastor named Timothy, says, “Avoid these people.”
I’m like, ‘Thanks for permission to do that!’ And then I’m thinking, ‘Why are you all moving away from me?’ Some of that’s in me too. So yeah, beginning of the end, Jesus says.
All right, so I know some of you wanted me to tell you when Jesus is coming back this Sunday. A lot of people down through history of the church have put together systems, schemes, if you will, where they want to pull together all the data from all of the books of the Bible and assemble what they would call their “end times system” or scheme, if you will.
- Preterist view
- Futurist view
- Historical view
- Idealist view
So, when they interpret biblical prophecy, there are those who will take on the preterist view. Preterist is Latin for “past.” It means that from the standpoint of Matthew’s writing in the ’60s somewhere, most of these people would say most of this has already taken place. Their view of interpreting events in the preterist view is that all of it really, if you take the Gospel of John and look back, which was the last of the New Testament books, then all of it has been accomplished because John wrote after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, he wrote in around 90 AD. The futurist view is to say all this biblical prophecy is yet to be completely fulfilled in the future.
It includes the pre- and post-millennial views. Inaugurated eschatology as it is also sometimes called, partially realized eschatology. And listen, I know some of you’re going, ‘I just need to go to lunch right now.’ But and I’m not standing up here doing this just so you know that I “read the books.” I just want you to know a lot of people have spent a lot of time and spilled a lot of ink on all of this. The historical view is that all of these things will be fulfilled during the church age. The idealist view is it interprets these as non-literal events. This is all symbolic, which is the view. Listen, you can come here to the village chapel and hold to any of those views. Why? Because we don’t make this a matter of where we split fellowship over this or that view. All of these views view biblical prophecy as God through the scriptures speaking to us and saying He’s in charge.
So, in that grand 100,000-foot view, that’s where we are at as well. He’s a sovereign God. When it comes to the details, I agree with Adrian Rogers who used to be a pastor down in Memphis there, “When it comes to the exact timing of Christ second coming, I’m on the welcoming committee, I’m not on the planning committee.” Somebody say amen to that!
So, I’m not really comfortable saying that those four views, preterist, futurist, that sort of thing, I don’t think all biblical prophecy fits into one of those views, I guess is what I’m saying. So, we have to take the analogy of Scripture. We have to use all of Scripture to interpret any little bit of Scripture. And even then, here’s where I stand right next to Jesus who said, “No man knows the day or the hour, not even the Son.” So, if you think you know the day or the hour, and if you wrote that book, you should probably repent, because you’re telling us that Jesus is wrong about no one knowing the day or the hour and that only the father knows that. I’m really happy to stand with Jesus on this whole thing and stand as close as I can too.
And there are four elements of most end time sequences: 1) the return of Christ, 2) the nature and duration of the millennium, 3) the nature, timing and extent of the tribulation, 4) the role of national Israel. You can explore all of those by reading books on this subject. I don’t have time, nor am I myself an eschatology maniac. I’m just not that way. There are churches that get into this big time and maybe they’re supposed to. I have nothing to say other than I don’t have anything to say about it.
So, the four major views of the sequence: historic pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, amillennialism, dispensationalism. And if you want to know what’s differently, historic pre-millennium, listen fast.
1. Historic pre-millennialism. Ascension to Christ’s church age, tribulation just for the second coming, Christ resurrection of dead believers, then the living believers, meet Christ the heir, then immediately returned to literal earth’s millennium, final resurrection, last judgment, hell, new heavens and new earth.
2. Post-millennialism. Ascension to Christ, church age, heavenly millennium, tribulations, second coming, Christ resurrects dead believers, then the living believers, meet Christ the heir, then immediately return to earth, final resurrection, last judgment, hell and new heavens and earth.
3. Amillennialism. Most of us that went to seminary here at the Village Chapel, went to a seminary that would probably espouse amillennialism. Ascension to Christ, heavenly millennium, a thousand years, figurative, tribulation right before Christ returns, resurrection of the dead believers, rising of living believers, final resurrection, last judgment, hell, new heavens and new earth.
4. Dispensationalism. Many of you, I think probably raised in the Southern Baptist Church if you were, I was raised in a Baptist church, and I would like for this to be the view. This is the one I want. Okay? I just can’t prove any of these four views. I think that you can find scriptures to support your view if you embrace one of these packaged views. Pre-tribulation rapture, two stage, return of Christ, ascension of Christ, church age rapture, event, dead end Christ resurrect all living and dead believers removed for the seven years of the great tribulation except 144,000 Jewish evangelists. 12, representing each tribe of Israel. Second coming, return to Christ with believers, a thousand-year earthly reign, final resurrection of all, last judgment, hell, new heavens and new earth. Within this camp, there are differences on the rapture, whether it’s pre-, post- or mid-tribulation.
Which are we here at the Village Chapel? We’re just pedestrians trying to walk with Jesus in all of this. And you can embrace any of those ideas. I really have to go because the end is drawing near of my sermon time. Few are curious and want to study this further, here are the Bible books. These slides will be online. You could have downloaded them with that QR code or you can do it right now if you would like to. Here are the Bible books that tend toward this kind of prophetic literature. [Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Amos, Zecheriah, Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Acts 1, 2 Thessalonians 2, Revelation.]
I also would recommend a couple of reference books, Contemporary Options in Eschatology by Millard Erickson and The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema. There are other books to be sure as well, but these will be up on our resource page I believe, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
What timeless truths are we reminded of here?
1. God is sovereign over His creation, including human history. Somebody say, “Amen!” Now, that’s good stuff right there. That means I can get out of bed tomorrow morning and actually have mission and purpose in mind, not meaninglessness. Why? Because this is all going somewhere, people. And a good God and a powerful God, a sovereign God has the reins in His hand. So, no matter what it looks like, I can rest in Him and you can rest in Him too. He is the anchor of hope for our soul. We sang it earlier. God’s judgment is certain, imminent, righteous and ultimate. Why am I putting that up there? I want to draw the connection for you. If you love justice at all, then you want the righteous judgment of God, okay? Because when God comes to judge the living and the dead, He will judge all of those who have been at war with God and God’s purposes.
And if you are outside of Christ in this, because I have in my heart been at war with God and at times struggle against God, but I’m in Christ, you see? And so when he returns, I say “Come, Lord Jesus” eagerly because I’m standing in the righteousness that is His and not mine, you see. If you’re outside of that, this ought to be a very sobering message for you, and I would invite you to come inside of that. How you do that? You turn to Christ. You trust in Christ. You believe in Jesus and His offer of salvation as a free gift, not that you earn it at all, but that you receive what you can’t achieve because He did everything necessary for you to become reconciled to a holy and righteous God.
2. God’s judgment is certain, imminent, righteous and ultimate. And again, I rejoice in this because all of what’s wrong with this world is going to be set right. That’s what the promise is of Him coming back and setting things right. He’s going to do away with evil all of its forms.
3. Whatever the precise sequence of the end times, Christ will return (according to this and according to the book of Acts, you can read that as well) personally, visibly, gloriously, and we should all stand fast, keep watchful, get busy, remain hopeful! Could we do that? I think that’s the fire that got lit at Asbury. There’s something going on up there. I don’t know what it is. I think they’re actually into the 70 or 80th hour now if that thing’s still going up there. And I read a review, it is not just emotionalism. It’s not just a whirlwind of emotionalism. There’s something pretty amazing going on there. It’s because God is doing something and I want Him to do something here. It might not look like what it looks like up there, but it might look like all of us starting to get a little more excited about God’s plan for history as well as our stories as well. He wants to change radically our stories.
4. Jesus is going to set all things right again, restoring truth, justice, order, and God’s shalom/peace to all of His creation.
I am now out of time. I don’t hear a trumpet. I would love to hear a trumpet. I would love Him to come before I finish this sentence. Hence, I got to finish the sentence, didn’t I? But I’m one who is very positive and looking forward to the return of Christ is actually referred to over 200 times. Why do we talk about it so little? Wouldn’t it change our demeanor in this depressing world if we actually had our eyes fixed on Jesus, hoping for, eager for his return, like the servants in that little parable he gives at the end of the chapter? Which I know some of you said, ‘Wow, that was pretty harsh there in verse 51, wasn’t it?’ Well, don’t be in verse 51, be one of the ones that’s ready, watching, eager. Why would you want to be in verse 51? The call is get out of 51. Come on in.
Verse 45, “‘Who is faithful, sensible servant whom his master put in charge of the household to give them their food at the proper time. Blessed is that servant whom his master finds so doing when he comes.’” Let’s be the blessed ones. Let’s do that together. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Wouldn’t that be beautiful? Two quotes:
“The Christian view of judgment means a history moves to a goal… Judgment means that evil will be disposed of authoritatively, decisively, finally. Judgment means that in the end, God’s will be perfectly done.”–Leon Morris, The Biblical Doctrine of Judgment
Thank you, Dr. Morris. I so appreciate that. It’s very succinct. It’s why I can smile when I think about the righteous judgment of God. It is coming.
It is coming, and it will be a great day when he comes. John Stott, very pastoral in his writing here:
“History is not a random series of meaningless events. It is rather a succession of periods and happenings, which are under his sovereign rule of God, who is the God of history.”–John Stott
Here’s what Matthew makes very clear. Jesus desires that we be discerning, that we not be misled, that we not be afraid. If you’re here today and you’re afraid, I haven’t done a good job. I failed if you’re afraid. Jesus says, “You don’t need to be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) Jesus says, “Come to me, all your labor who are heavy laden.” (Matthew 11:28-30) And He’s gentle and lowly and He’s offering you rest for your souls. You need look no further. He really is the One. And that’s what we want to keep driving home, that you can stand firm in your faith, that you can persevere and remain no matter what the circumstances are around us.
No matter how many earthquakes, no matter how much persecution is going on and all of that’s going on, I get it. And in your world, and in my world, we all have some difficulty, some battles we’re fighting. It’s very important that when we come together, we encourage one another to look to Him, the One who is going to return and can set the world to rights. Don’t look anywhere else. He’s the one and He wants to remind us of all of that in this chapter. Trust you are among those who have trusted Him. If you are not, why not? Please come to Him. Please come to Him today. Why wait?
If you’re not sure that you’re a Christian, and you would like to become a Christian, if you’re watching online, drop somebody a note on the prayer team. If you’re here in this room, our prayer team gathers at the back corner right back there. After each and every service, drop in there and say, “I want to become a Christian.” It’s as simple as that. Somebody back there, a loving, kind person will help walk you through what that means, or you can come up here and talk to me afterwards. Happy to do that. For now, let’s pray that God would move on all of our hearts in ways that would stir the hope of heaven and the hope of the glory of Christ’s return. Amen.
Lord, thank you. I can’t even imagine what it was like, Lord, as I tried to imagine you walking out of Jerusalem, those big buildings. We’ve all been in big cities. We’ll all visit another big city soon. But if some Bible teacher said, look, downtown Nashville, not one of those buildings is going to be left stand, it would blow our minds. And so, I imagine that these disciples of yours, Lord, were scratching their heads as they walked down into the valley and then back up through the garden of Gethsemane to the Mount of Olives, sat down where they could see the city itself, and you said these kinds of things. That’s mind-blowing and it’s mind-blowing for us to imagine what it would look like for you to come and just totally turn things around and set the world to rights. But I’m really eager for it.
I don’t have a death wish, Lord, I have a life wish. I have an eternal life wish. I have a wish for justice. I have a wish for righteousness. I have a wish for peace. And in reading all of this, I can see that You really are the only One that can bring those things about. So, we turn to You. We place our faith, hope and confidence in You, and we pray that Your Holy Spirit will move in our hearts as we respond in this song. And as we go through this day, the hope of Your return, the hope of the new heavens, of new earth would all just be flooding our hearts and minds all week. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Edited for reading)