September 19, 2010

How Will The World End? - Part Five

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Matthew Scripture: Matthew 24:32–41


How Will The World End?-Part Five

Matthew 24:32-41
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Pastor Randy Smith

We look forward to all types of favorable returns. A movie sequel - Rocky returns part 7. A lost wallet that was returned to us. A large refund on an unwanted birthday present. A repeat visit to a favorite vacation destination. A loss in weight that returns us back to the glory days. Yet no return can be more important than the return of Jesus Christ. The Bible is clear that Jesus Christ will come back for His own and one day set up His kingdom where righteousness will reign. This is the eager supernatural longing of every true child of God.

First Corinthians 1:7, "You are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Hebrews 9:28, "So Christ…will appear a second time…to those who eagerly await Him."

Often there is very little attention paid to the Second Coming, but this is obviously a subject that God expects we will take very seriously every day in which we live. Keeping His return on the forefront of our minds will transform the way we live here and now. It will produce confidence, endurance, hope and godly living - attitudes that are so desperately needed in the modern church.

Jesus had a lot to say about His return. From verses 4-31 of Matthew chapter 24, He spelled out the details. We learned over the last four weeks that the final years preceding His return would start off with all kinds of "birth pangs" (Mt. 24:8). These "birth pangs" which range from earthquakes to wars to false prophets (Mt. 24:6-7, 11) will culminate with the arrival of antichrist. Antichrist will desecrate the temple (Mt. 24:15) and demand total allegiance from the world. At this time, a time known as "The Great Tribulation," he will orchestrate an all-out persecution on Israel and Christians (Mt. 24:21). In His mercy God will cut these days short by the Second Coming (Mt. 24:22). Our Lord will come in absolute glory (Mt. 24:29-31) and while unbelievers will "mourn" (Mt. 24:30), He will send His angels to gather together His people to Himself from the four corners of the earth (Mt. 24:31). Judgment for the lost. Deliverance for the saved.

This parallels what Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 1: "For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and 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" (2 Thes. 1:6-7).

Now for the remainder of His sermon (the Olivet Discourse) in chapters 24 and 25, Jesus will provide the application of what He just shared for our lives. He will now tell us as His professing people how we should live in the light of His return. This morning we will cover two lessons as we examine two of the four short parables that finish up chapter 24. See if you can detect the theme that runs through each of them.

1. A LESSON FROM A TREE (verses 32-36)

We begin with a lesson from a tree. Verse 32, "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."

Obviously there is something about a fig tree that gives us instruction as to our Lord's return. In this case, the focus is on the predictive nature of the tree's cycle. Summer can be determined by examining the tree. When the branches become tender, the tree is about to produce its leaves. And when these clear events are witnessed, the one observing can conclude that summer is right around the corner.

I don't necessarily watch the fig tree, but I know that summer is right around the corner when the daffodils start blooming and the birds start chirping. For me this is the time to start pulling out the shorts and waxing down the surf board and (call it vanity) hitting the workouts a little harder. We all love summer, and certain events will indicate when the time is near.

In the same way, we all long for our Lord's appearing, and certain events will indicate when that time is near as well, specifically all the events He just spoke about in the 31 preceding verses. "So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door." There is no talk about a secret rapture, but rather a sequential timeline, like the predictable fig tree, that our Lord presented to the specific question asked by the disciples in verse 3: birth pangs, tribulation and verse 29 "immediately after the tribulation," verse 30, (summer!) "the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory" to rapture the church. Even in Luke's Gospel written to the Gentiles we read the same thing: "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Lk. 21:28).

As I told you earlier, the timeline that ushers in our Lord's return will be seven years (Dan. 9:27). Things will happen rather quickly. That is why Jesus said in verse 34, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." While this verse trips some people up, it really is not that difficult to interpret when we stay within the context. "These things," all the things He has been talking about on the timeline, will last for seven years. So the generation that sees the beginning of "these things" will also see the end of "these things." That is why Jesus sounds the warning. When the signs start unfolding, "recognize that He is near, right at the door" (Mt. 24:33).

At that time, according to verse 35, "Heaven and earth will pass away" (cf. Rev. 21:1). Peter in his epistle gives us more detail. "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (2 Pet. 3:10). Sounds devastating, but that is how God will recreate this world that has fallen into sin. Creation groans for this redemption (Rom. 8:22) as do we as well. 2 Peter 3:13, "But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwell." Done away with the old and in with the new that will far surpass the beauty of Eden.

Jesus also adds in verse 35 that while this present creation will pass away (of course Jesus will rapture true believers before this), "My words will not pass away" (Mt. 24:35). Indirectly Jesus is declaring Himself as God with these comments because we know the Words of God will remain the authoritative voice throughout eternity. Psalm 119:89, "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven." Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever."

This verse has always been very meaningful to me. Second to God, only two things will last forever: people who all have eternal souls, and as we learned in verse 35, the words of God. God has given us much to enjoy in this world, but investing in these forms of pleasure is the epitome of foolishness. Hot tubs, football games, kids' athletics, money, shopping, television, iPods and computer games are only temporary. If we are wise we will make our greatest investment in that which is eternal: people, which means witnessing to the lost and building up the faith of the saved and devoting ourselves to the Word of God. We will also model this for our kids.

So what does that say for professing Christians who are involved in a million activities and find no time to share their faith, no time to be serving fellow believers and no time to learn their Bibles? Remember what Jesus said in verses 10 and 12? "At that time many will fall away [from the faith]" (ignoring the Word) and "most people's love will grow cold" (not loving people). Do you see why we need to live in light of Jesus' return? So we can stop following the world and begin living for the things that are really important, the things that are eternal!

And lest we think we can drift through life and then predict the specific time of our Lord's return, we are deceived. Verse 36, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

Our Lord will give us "signs" that His return is near. No different than signs on a road that alert us that we are approaching our desired destination. But the specific time of His return to the day and hour will always remain a mystery (see Mt. 24:44, 50; 25:13). The angels who we learned will accompany His return (Mt. 24:31) are unaware of the specific date. Even Jesus says He at the time had not received that information from the Father (cf. Jn. 15:15). This is another indication of the full humanity that Jesus possessed along with His full deity. The Son in His humiliation was living every day in complete dependence on the Father. In a mysterious way, He restructured the use of His eternal omniscience while He conducted His short ministry on earth.

So if anyone claims, as they have done throughout history, to have predicted the exact day that Jesus will return, they are false prophets and should be rejected. So we know the world can end at any time when the seventieth week of Daniel is completed, but no one has the ability to say with confidence that the world will end in 2012 as many are doing these days.

2. A LESSON FROM A BUILDER (verses 37-41)

Let's go to a second lesson about Jesus' return. From a fig tree we go to a builder. And the specific builder I have in mind in Noah. As Jesus says in verse 37, "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah."

Since Jesus connected His coming to Noah, let's refresh our memories about this legendary Bible hero so we can make the comparison.

First, Genesis 6:6 describes humanity at the time of Noah: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Didn't we already learn that prior to our Lord's return that "many will fall away from [the faith] and will…hate one another" (Mt. 24:10). "Lawlessness [will be] increased [and] most people's love will grow cold" (Mt. 24:12). Godlessness and depravity just like it was in the days of Noah. As a matter of fact, Matthew 24:38 says, "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark." People will be simply living life as if God didn't exist just before Jesus comes back, again just like in the days of Noah.

William Barclay illustrates this with an interesting story of three apprentice demons that came before Satan and were then sent to the earth to do their apprenticeship. "The first apprentice demon said, 'I will tell people there is no God.' And Satan said it won't work, they know better. And the second apprentice demon said, 'I will tell people there is no hell.' And Satan said it won't work, they know better. And the third demon said, 'I will tell people there is no hurry.' And Satan said you will gain many souls" (Taken from John MacArthur's sermon on this passage).

Second, in Genesis 6:7 we read the Lord saying, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them" (cf. Gen. 6:13). In the same way as Noah's time we read about massive judgment upon the earth as a consequence of the idols they have set up in their hearts that rival their devotion to Jesus Christ. The Lord used water then. He promised never to destroy the earth with water (Gen 9:15). This time it will be fire. 2 Peter 3:7, "But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men." If you want some more references, all you have to do is look in your concordance and cite every time the word "fire" is used in the book of Revelation. Mass destruction.

Third in Genesis 6:8, "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD." Why? Genesis 7:1, "Then the Lord said to Noah… 'I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.'" Noah was a righteous man and would be spared from the upcoming judgment. In the same way, God has promised to spare His children from the upcoming judgment as well. The righteous (or as they are called by Jesus in 24:31, "the elect") will be gathered "from one end of the sky to the other" before God pours forth His wrath.

And we must state that the only reason we are righteous and not swept away into condemnation with the unrighteous is because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. By giving Him our lives in faith we receive the forgiveness of all our sins. Jesus died on the cross to put away sin to declare us righteous. We receive that gift by believing and repenting from our sin. I beg you my friend, if you have not done so, would you submit to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to be delivered from the judgment to come? Either at death or the Second Coming, whichever comes first, you will stand before the righteousness of the living God. Will you have your sins washed away through the blood of Jesus Christ? Will you be wrapped in the righteousness of Christ? Like Noah, God's children will find favor on that day when He will, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, "[Deal] out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus."

Fourth, Noah was persecuted. A hundred years of building a boat in the desert is enough to make anyone question your sanity. Peter called Noah a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Pet. 2:5). He was declaring God's greatness. For all those years he was mocked and ridiculed. That is until the rain came for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:4). We have learned that God's children will also face a great tribulation that will precede their coming deliverance. Jesus said in 24:21, "Then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will" (cf. 24:9).

Fifth, the world was destroyed. Genesis 6:17-18, "Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish." The unrighteous in all their love for the world will totally miss the signs, or they will just explain them away through their scientific formulas without looking to the Word of God. Noah preached about the coming judgment. People were warned. They mocked him for over a hundred years. Then came the rain. In the same way Peter speaks of the attitudes of those preceding the return of Christ: "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation'" (2 Pet. 3:3-4). They will have ignored the warning. They will miss it without any further chances to repent. Jesus makes the comparison in verse 39, "And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be" (cf. Lk. 17:26-27). Game over.

Sixth, Genesis 6:14, Noah was rescued. "Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood." Genesis 6:22, "Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did" (cf. Gen. 7:5). Noah obeyed the Lord, which gave evidence to the reality of his faith, and along with his family was preserved from the coming judgment. As the water rose, Genesis 7:16, "[Noah] entered as God had commanded him; and the Lord closed [the door] behind him" (cf. Mt. 25:10). Protection for the righteous. As God told Noah, He tells us as well what will happen. In the same way, all of God's children will be delivered before the wrath of God sweeps away the wicked. Look at verses 40 and 41, "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken [paralambano - "to receive to oneself" - Jn. 14:3, "I will come again and receive you to Myself."] and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left." Do you see the parallel with Noah? Christians will be rescued at the Second Coming while the unbelievers will be left behind to face God's wrath.

The comparison to Noah further validates the eschatology timeline I presented to you last week and the face value teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ungodliness in the world. Warning signs. Tribulation to Christians. God's removal of His people at the Second Coming. Unbelievers left behind to face His judgment.

But more than getting our timelines correct are we gripped by the reality of the Second Coming? Are we following the Word of God? Are we prepared to face the living God? Are our lives different from the world? Is there a desire and ability to demonstrate obedience? Are we submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord? Do we love that which is eternal - both people and the Word of God? Are we leading our children in this direction?

Which side will you be on if you happen to be alive when our Lord returns? We are talking about your eternal destination! Are you ready? Do you fear that Day? Are you ignoring that Day? Or are you awaiting eagerly the return of your Lord and Savior?

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