September 12, 2010

How Will The World End? - Part Four

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Matthew Scripture: Matthew 24:1–31


How Will The World End?-Part Four

Matthew 24:1-31
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Pastor Randy Smith

For the past three weeks we have studied Matthew 24, verses 1-31. Thank you for your patience with me, unwillingness to divide on the minutia of details and overall participation with us.

I am encouraged by your response. As far as I can remember, I do not believe any series has generated more discussion, questions and biblical investigation on your part. This answers my prayer for the pulpit ministry. I hope these sermons have a life well beyond Sunday mornings, not only in your life individually, but also in your conversations with each other. I am excited by your excitement to understand and apply the Word of God.

While the primary purpose of eschatology is to produce in the believer holy living, hopeful expectation and encouragement while suffering, many of you have expressed a desire to better understand how all these future events fit together. So what I thought we'd do this week is take a break and review the material we have studied thus far. Let's see if we can better understand the timeline and how all the biblical verses on this subject harmonize with tremendous unity.

At this time I'd like for all of you to take out the insert that I have placed in your bulletin. [Download EschatologyTimeline (PDF)]

Please understand as we discuss this timeline that I will not cover everything I've listed on the chart this morning. Furthermore, as the box in the upper left denotes, there are several other key events in the study of eschatology that are important but beyond the scope of our study at this time. Finally, this message is unique. It will be more like a Sunday school class filled with the presentation of countless Bible verses (all of the verses will be presented on the PowerPoint slides and included on your handout). If you are visiting this morning, this is not how I normally preach on Sunday mornings.

Again, our purpose is to review, understand how the puzzle fits together and appreciate the harmony and consistency of the various biblical passages.

Across the top of the timeline you can see the title: "Daniel's Seventieth Week." According to Daniel 9:27, the Seventieth Week will be the time frame before the end of the world as we know it. A prophetic week is seven years so we are talking about the final seven years that will climax with our Lord's return. As you can see on the far left, the final seven years will commence when the Jewish nation makes a covenant with the antichrist (Dan. 9:27).

During the first half of Daniel's Seventieth Week (or 3½ years) there will be turmoil throughout the world. Jesus in Matthew 24:8 called this "birth pangs." Though we experience all these events now, they will come during this time with greater frequency and intensity no different than a mother who experiences "birth pangs" before the delivery of a child. These "birth pangs" will come in a similar way just before Christ is "delivered" back into the world.

The book of Revelation calls them "seals" You can see four of them listed on your chart on the middle left. Let's examine some of these verses. The First Seal - False Christs: Revelation 6:1-2, "Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, 'Come.' I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow [no arrows - bloodless victory]; and a crown was given to him [admired by the people], and he went out conquering and to conquer [to bring false peace]." The Second Seal - Wars: Revelation 6:3-4, "When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, 'Come.' And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him." The Third Seal - Famine: Revelation 6:5-6, "When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, 'Come.' I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, 'A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.'" The Fourth Seal - Death (some believe this seal happens after the midpoint and is in connection with antichrist's persecution): Revelation 6:7-8, "When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, 'Come.' I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth."

Now, let me show you how these are consistent, even in the same sequence, with what we have already covered in Matthew: The First Seal - False Christs: Matthew 24:5 and 11, "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many." "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many." The Second Seal - Wars: Matthew 24:6-7, "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, and kingdom against kingdom." The Third Seal - Famine: Matthew 24:7, "In various places there will be famines and earthquakes."

As you can see there is harmony between the accounts in Revelation and Matthew as to what will precede the arrival of antichrist. And speaking of antichrist's arrival, the Bible says it will come at the midpoint of Daniel's Seventieth Week. We spent a whole sermon talking about his "Abomination of Desolation" spoken of in Matthew 24:15.

Listen to Daniel 9:27, "And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week [7 years], but in the middle of the week [3½ years] he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." What is the abomination? 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the return of Jesus Christ] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God."

Antichrist will turn of the Jewish nation he promised to defend, desecrate the temple that will be rebuilt by that time by demanding the worship of himself and cause an all-out persecution on Israel and the church. How long with this last? Revelation 13:5, "There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him." Forty-two months (3½ years), the final half of Daniel's Seventieth Week.

As I said, during these final 3½ years there will be great pressure on the church (we go from "birth pangs" to "hard labor"). We call this time "The Great Tribulation." John in Revelation 6 refers to it as the "fifth seal." Revelation 6:9-11, "When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also." Revelation 12:17 describes this event, "So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus." The battle will be intense. Revelation 13:7-8, "It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." Jesus said in Matthew 24:9, "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name." In Matthew 24:21 we read, "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will."

That takes us to Matthew 24:22. "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." I believe God in His mercy will cut short this Great Tribulation by the very return of Jesus Christ. And His return will be ushered in by cataclysmic events in the cosmos.

Again we have tremendous consistency in the Scripture when it speaks of altering these heavenly bodies (listen to the repeated references to the sun and moon and stars). In Isaiah 13:10 we read, "For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light." Joel 2:31 says, "The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes." In Matthew 24:29 it says, "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken." And in Revelation 6:12-13 we read (calling this event the "sixth seal"), "I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind."

The Bible is also very consistent as to the components that will accompany our Savior's returns, when He returns in bodily form for the entire world to see. All this is on your chart as well in the large square box near the bottom.

Attending His return will be the angels. Matthew 16:27, "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels." Matthew 24:31, "And He will send forth His angels." Matthew 25:31, "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him." 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel." 2 Thessalonians 1:7, "When the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire."

We also read about a trumpet. Matthew 24:31, "And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet." 1 Corinthians 15:52, "At the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven…with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first."

Also consistent with all Second Coming passages is the fact that Jesus will come on the clouds. Daniel 7:13, "I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming." Matthew 24:30, "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky…they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." Revelation 1:7 says, "Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him." And lastly we read in Revelation 14:14, "Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand."

It is at this point when our Lord returns that there will be a clear distinction between believers and unbelievers. Those truly in Christ Jesus will receive their deliverance and comfort and glory. They will be taken by the Lord to be with Him forever. Listen to a few Bible verses: Matthew 24:31, "And He will send forth His angels…and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." John 14:3, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." Colossians 3:4, "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord." 2 Thessalonians 1:7, "To give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire."

Unfortunately the fate for unbelievers is quite the opposite. Again, listen to what the Scripture says: Matthew 24:30, "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn." 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, "For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, 'Peace and safety' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape." 2 Thessalonians 1:8, "Dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." Revelation 6:15-17, "Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'"

After the Christians are removed by our Lord, God will pour out His judgment on the earth. You can see I placed that on your chart in the box on the far right hand side of the timeline. Specifically, the judgment will consist of the trumpets and the bowls spoken of in the book of Revelation.

Before we close this morning I'd like to hit a subject that no doubt is on your mind. "Why are there so many beliefs as to when the church will be raptured and who is correct?" This is what we call and "in-house" dispute. No Christians denies the Second Coming, but there has been debate among believers as to when the Lord will receive us to Himself. As you can see on the timeline, I have noted the four primary positions by a box with an arrow pointing upward just above the dark black timeline.

Position one (Pretribulation) believes we will be taken just before Daniel's Seventieth Week kicks off. I hope they are right, but I don't believe that to be the case. Position two (Midtribulation) believes we are taken just before antichrist reveals himself and starts his persecution. Position three (Prewrath) believes we are taken when the Lord returns at the Second Coming just before He dispenses His judgment on the earth. And position four (Posttribulation) sees the Second Coming after the judgment and believes we are taken at the time when Daniel's Seventieth Week is officially concluded.

Would I die for my position? Probably not, but I do believe it (number 3 or the Prewrath) is the best for the following reasons I've listed in the box on the lower left corner of your handout.

Number one, I see this position most agreeable with all the Second Coming passages when taken at face value which seem to speak with consistency of the same event (OT = "Day of the Lord," NT = "Parousia". Number two, I see this position most in line with Matthew 24:22 which says, "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." As you can see, the number three on the timeline shows a shortened tribulation. Number three, the Bible says we as Christians are not destined for wrath (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9) so I see us being removed before God pours out His judgment on the world. Number four, the Prewrath position best accounts for our Lord's teaching in Matthew 24. Frequently we are told to know, based on the events Jesus predicted in this section, when the time of His coming is near. Matthew 24:32-33, "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; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door" (cf. Mt. 24:25). This eliminates position number one. Then we are also told by Jesus, Matthew 24:36, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." Milestones will allow us to know the season of His coming, but we will be unaware of the timing to the day and the hour. In other words, we will know when His return is near, but we will not know the exact day or hour when He chooses to cut the tribulation short. This eliminates position number four. And finally number five, I can't find a single verse spoken by Jesus (or any other biblical author for that matter) that speaks of an early rapture of the church. Wouldn't Jesus have something to say in Matthew 24 about a topic this big? Of all the signs He provided to His disciples so that believers would know when the end is near, wouldn't He tell them that a bunch of people would suddenly disappear? Wouldn't He say somewhere along the line: "Don't worry too much about all of this because all of you will be gone before any of it ever happens."

Please study this out for yourself, but let's remember the ultimate goal of learning this material. I've seen too many discussions around this subject further pride of intellect often leading to division within the church. In the context of the "last things" we read quite the opposite: 1 Thessalonians 4:18, "Therefore comfort one another with these words." 2 Peter 3:11, "Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness." God has given us this instruction to promote our spiritual growth and comfort us with hope. May we learn this material and with love and humility extend those graces to others.

other sermons in this series

May 1


The Great Conclusion

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 28:16–20 Series: Matthew

Apr 24


Resurrecting Hope (2)

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 28:1–15 Series: Matthew

Apr 17


The First Prerequisite To Resurrection

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Matthew 27:57–66 Series: Matthew