Saturday, December 18, 2010
Text - Matthew 24:3-44
Good evening, I’m so glad you could join us tonight. During this season you’d expect us to be talking about Christmas…but while Christmas is important we are only two years away from a massive event which will be one to remember. It’s not that the world is ending, but it is that people think the world is ending and because of that we should expect to see all sorts of cults form, mass suicides taking place, and all sorts of rioting and chaos and outright goofiness.
The day that more and more people are beginning to fear as the end of the world is December 21st, 2012, at 11:18AM GMT. First of all, let me, as objectively and factually as possible, give you the reasons why they think the world is ending on that day.
First of all, the thing that got it all kicked off is this big Mayan calendar stone called the “Sun Stone” which is a super-complex calendar that accurately measures astronomy, it can tell you where certain stars will be at certain times. This may not sound important, but really it is very high tech, especially for almost 1800 years ago when it was likely invented. This calendar measures vast time periods by the constellation that the sun is lined up with at the Vernal, or Spring, Equinox. This is a useful means of navigation, but the Mayan’s took it a bit farther to say that it actually influences how people live and act. Well, their calendar either ends, or resets, on the Winter Solstice, December 21st, 2012. This has caused all sorts of people to believe that something massive will happen to the sun, and hence the earth, on that day.
Besides the Mayan Calendar, this is also the highly contested day that the sun will move from being classified in one constellation, called the “Age of Capricorn” to the “Age of Aquarius.” It is debated when this change officially takes place, some people believe it happened 500 years ago, others believe it won’t happen for another 600 years, but many believe it is happening soon, and a fair number think it is happening on December 21st, 2012. Earth Ages are another way of saying “Horoscope” and they are pagan practices which the Bible utterly condemns, and so while we as Christians don’t put any stock in it, because God doesn’t put any stock in it, people who reject the truth believe they can foretell the future via means of watching the stars.
Since a dooms-day scare can’t happen on just a few crazy people’s predictions, they have also included all manner of other predictions, such as variances in the earth’s poles and claiming that the earth’s magnetic field is about to swap. This has never happened, and even if it could, we wouldn’t have the faintest idea of how to predict it. As long as the earth’s core in molten, which volcanoes and the like show us it is, then we will have an intact magnetic field. But doomsday predictors have to add terrifying events to make their conspiracy seem more realistic.
Something that is real, but we don’t expect it to wreck the solar system, is that 2012 is predicted to have greater than average sunspots. Jupiter and Saturn will line up somewhat close together in such a way as in the past has been observed to maybe mess with the sun’s gravitational field which caused more sun spots in the past; we’re not sure exactly what causes it, but it’s predictable. Sunspots may mess with your cell-phone and satellite reception, but they’re not going to wreck the world.
Nostradamus, in one of his notoriously ambiguous and usually wrong prophecies, claimed that the end of the world would come soon after the “new city” was fallen. Many claim that clearly he was talking about September 11th and so the end of the world must come soon.
There are many prophecies that start to really reach, some are utter fiction, like the asteroid Nibiru, which doesn’t exist but is supposed to hit the earth on December 21st, 2012. Beloved, the end of the world will not be happening in December 21st, 2012; all of these prophecies are so vague and ridiculous that all they serve to do is scare people and draw their affections off what they really should be on, that is the Living God. But don’t be deceived, many people have claimed that Christ will be returning on certain dates, or the end of the world was happening, and they have deceived many.
One such event was in 1844 when William Miller predicted that Christ was returning on March 21st, based on his calculations from the book of Daniel. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but the world did not end on that date! As that date passed without incident, Miller was quick to point out that his prophecy was not incorrect, but that he had made a minor error in converting Hebrew numbers to English, and announced that the world would be ending on April 18th.
People still followed him though, and along with the help of a friend he determined that the true date of Christ’s return was, using a different calendar, on October 22nd, 1844. On that day more people showed up than any other day. Many had sold or given away everything they owned. Some dug their own graves and stood in them so that their body would have a place to fall when their soul was taken to Heaven.
That day came and passed without incident. All people got out of it was a special robe that they had bought for the occasion from William Miller himself. At that point people rejected William Miller, and from this major event the cults of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Branch Davidians were born.
Throughout the last hundred and fifty years the Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently predicted the end of the world every few decades, and every time they have been wrong.
In 1993 the Branch Davidians predicted the end of the world as the FBI and ATF came to investigate child molestation and illegal weapons charges. At least 84 died in a murder/suicide.
Joseph Smith, seeking credibility in his earliest false-prophecies in the Mormon Church, claimed that the end would be in 1890.
In the year 1,000 many people believed the world was ending and sold or gave away all of their possessions. When the end did not come sects of dissenters arose against the church, and the Catholic Church executed many.
March 26th, 1997, a cult called “Heaven’s Gate” believed the world was about to be “recycled”, that a space-craft was flying with Hale-Bopp Comet, and that the only way to survive was to leave the world, and 39 left through suicide. The leader believed he was either Jesus or closely related to Jesus.
2 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.
So all of this to say that an end of the world prediction is not new, if you search on Google, “Failed End of the World Prophecies”, you’ll find a few thousand; several websites are devoted to only classifying these failed prophecies. Most pass without real public notice, but the December 21st, 2012 prophecy is different, because it has such a mystical origin in an ancient calendar, and because of its astronomy links, which much of the non-Christian world thinks very highly of.
But when we look at Christianity, the Bible says in Isaiah 46 that God is in control of all of history, and that he knows both the end and the beginning,
Isaiah 46:9-11 I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
The bird of prey here spoken of was a Persian king named Cyrus who set the Jews free from Babylon, this prophecy predated him by over a hundred years, and in chapter 45 it names him by name. God is more than capable of telling you both how the world began, created a bit over 6,000 years ago out of nothing, and he is also able to tell us how it will end.
Turn to Matthew 24, here is the Jesus Christ explaining the end of the world to us.
Matthew 24:3-8 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
They ask him a straight question, how will we know that the world is ending? He begins by warning them, telling them not to be deceived nor alarmed, knowing that he has overcome the world and he has decreed both the end and the beginning, knowing exactly how it will come to pass. He foresees that many false prophecies and false messiahs will arise to lead many astray.
Matthew 24:9-14 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
More signs are here given, that the church will be greatly persecuted, and that many so-called Christians will cease to love and will actually hate people. Beloved, in 1 John 3:15 it says that if anyone hates his brother in the church, that he is a murderer, and eternal life does not abide in him. And here is our sign for the end of the times, that the gospel will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come. There are organizations that track which people groups have heard the gospel, and we are still an estimated 171 years from being able to, at the current rate, to get missionaries to every people group. Beloved, if you want to hasten the return of Christ, as Peter says we ought, then you need to be sharing your faith, for God is not willing that even a single one of his saints should perish and so will not send his Son back until every last believer comes to repentance.
Matthew 24:15 When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place…
This prophecy is explained more in Paul’s second letter to Thessalonica, it is when the Antichrist sits himself in the Temple and declares himself to be God. Beloved, currently we have no Temple in Jerusalem, and it’s very hard to sit in a Temple and declare yourself to be God if there is no Temple, so this is our number one sign that the world is not ending anytime soon. The Jews in Jerusalem have been trying to build a temple for decades now, but the Muslims are standing in their way. It may happen in your lifetimes, it may not, but we know that Christ is not returning before this abomination of desolation takes place.
Jump forward to verse 23,
Matthew 24:23-27 Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Beloved, surely there will be very charismatic leaders who arise around this December 21st, 2012 prophecy, and even afterwards, and even if they claim to be God, you must not follow them, for the true Christ says his appearing will be unmistakable, the sky will split open, the Apostle John describes it this way:
Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
Now we get into the true end of the world:
Matthew 24:29-31 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 heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The sky will be blackened, massive heavenly bodies will be moved, the earth will quake, and Christ will appear in the sky and call his elect to himself with the help of angels. I used to be freaked out about the rapture, since I’m in the Air Force, wondering what would happen if I was inside of a hardened aircraft shelter, thinking I’d never make it out, but beloved this verse says that an angel will come to gather you, I expect he’ll rip the roof off of whichever building you’re in. No secret rapture for Christ’s church, but an amazingly clear sign of Christ’s return.
For some of us this will be a great day, but for most of the world it will be terrifying.
Luke 21:25-28 And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear (their hearts failing them, dead where they stand) and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
We have this great promise that Christ will come to save his church, we know that he will be victorious, but when will it happen?
Matthew 24:36-44 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
So beloved, the hour is veiled to us, if anyone says they know the date, then they are calling Christ a liar. William Varner puts it better than I can, he says that prophecy is not given to form a calendar, but to form a character; a character of prayerfulness, watchfulness, honesty, and holiness. I guarantee you without a doubt that the world is not ending on December 21st, 2012; but I also guarantee you that it will happen someday. It may happen before you leave this planet, or it may happen long after. Some say that Laodicea, or the luke warm democratic church, is the last church before Christ returns, that he stands at the door and knocks, but whenever it happens beloved, you must be ready, for either on the day you die, or the day Christ returns, you have an appointment to stand before his judgment seat. On that day will you face him as a friend, or as an enemy?
Turn with me to Revelation 20. There are no such things as Bible-codes, which is when you pretend that certain verses are more important or magical in telling you things. But, this is a neat memorization technique for you to remember, that Revelation 20:12 trumps the 2012 prophecies because this verse is way more important for your soul than whatever happens on December 21st, 2012. Let’s start at verse 11 for context,
Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
So check this out, your appointment with Christ, a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness. Books will be opened, the book of your conscience, the book of your deeds, recording everything you have ever done. Beloved, these books contain every sin you’ve ever committed, every thought you’ve ever had. Deeds done in darkness will be brought to the light. What sort of things will these books record?
Revelation 21:8 says that all liars will have their place in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. Beloved, how many lies do you need to tell to be counted a liar? Just as you only need to murder one person to be a murder, one rape to be a rapist, so is it that you just need to tell one lie to be a liar; and these books will record EVERY lie.
Have you ever murdered anyone? You know that no murderer has eternal life abiding him. Jesus said that if you hate someone without cause or call them an idiot or a curse work you are in danger of judgment as a murderer. Have you ever done that?
Have you ever stolen anything, regardless of value? A song on the internet, candy from a store, something from a brother or sister? The Bible is clear that no thief has any inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven.
Have you ever taken God’s name in vain? The Bible is clear when we do that we set our mouths against Heaven, we declare war on the God who made us. Jesus was clear also that we will give an account for every idle word we’ve spoken. Maybe we’ve only broken a few, but James says if we’ve broken one, we’re guilty of all.
Our judgment is assured beloved, for the soul that sins shall die, and after this comes the judgment. But there is hope, there is what is called the Lamb’s book of life. This book contains the names of every person who will repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
The reason that this matters is because God states that he will by no means clear the guilty, that we need to be declared righteous to enter into Heaven and be reconciled to our Creator. Beloved, 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ, God the Son, stepped out of Heaven, born of the virgin Mary, he lived a perfect sinless life, tempted in every way we’ve been tempted, yet without sin, then he willingly gave up his life to pay for our sins by dying on a cross. We broke the law, and Jesus Christ paid our fine. He never told a lie, but he died as a liar, he never stole anything, yet he said, what I did not steal, I have come to repay. The Bible says he bore our sins on the cross and it please his Father to crush him, the full wrath of God, which would have required an eternity in Hell for us, was poured out on Jesus Christ and he endured it for our sake. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we may become the righteousness of God in him.
They laid him in a borrowed tomb, and on the third day he defeated and lives forever more. He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to him. He always lives to make intercession for his saints, those written in the Lamb’s book of life.
So beloved, in order to ensure your name is written in that book, he commands that you repent, turn from your sin, and place your full faith in him. Then on that final judgment we will be declared innocent, not on our own merits, but because Jesus Christ paid for our guilt, and has given us his innocence. And we will be welcomed into Heaven.
Then, which ever end we and the world meet, we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So I implore you first and foremost, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God.
Then second, preach this gospel of reconciliation, that there is salvation in no other name than Jesus Christ, that he for our sake took on and defeated death, and that his perfect love drives out all fear. Don’t be alarmed by end-of-the-world prophecies, don’t follow false christs, but eagerly await the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ as he comes with ten-thousands of his holy ones. Let’s conclude with
1 John 2:28-3:3 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.