About the time Columbus was going to sail around the world, prevailing knowledge said that once he reached the end of the earth, he would fall off the edge. Were time itself to be portrayed as a table, what happens when you come to the end of it? Do you fall off the edge? Or is there a there when you get there?
People have long wondered what would happen when time winds down. What will it be like at the end of the age? Will our technological progress have culminated in a utopian society or will we have imploded upon ourselves?
While the first coming of Christ was critically important to effecting the salvation of mankind, the Bible actually spends more time talking about the 2nd coming of Christ. In fact, 1 in 25 verses in the New Testament is about the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. Christians in the early church were waiting with diligent hope for the return of Christ. In fact, many of them were asking the tough question, Why is it taking so long?
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:8-9)
C. S Lewis believed this to be an essential doctrine of the faith: “It seems to me impossible to retain in any recognizable form our belief in the divinity of Christ and the truth of the Christian revelation while abandoning or deducting the promised and threatened return of Jesus Christ”(quoted in Billy Graham article from 6/53). This morning, I’d like to give you some basic parameters regarding the 2nd coming of Christ. What are the key issues? What will it look like? How will time wind down? How does this doctrine(teaching) affect the way we live?
There are four major events in the end times. I have provided an additional reference tool, a summary of Revelation that I wrote about 10 years ago, in the back of the auditorium that you may pick up when you leave today.
The Tribulation: A Time of Retribution
The Bible describes the Tribulation as a seven-year period of time where the judgement of God gets played out on earth. Whereas up until that point, God’s wrath has been restrained, this will be a period of unparalleled ecological and other disasters, which are judgements from God. Virtually all see this time as becoming increasingly bad over the course of the 7 years.
“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” (Daniel 9:25-27)
Because of its inclusion in this prophecy of Daniel regarding the end of time, and the antichrist, a central figure in the endtimes, the Tribulation is many times referred to as the 70th week of Daniel. There were 69 periods of 7 years (483 years) from the decree to rebuild the temple until Jesus came in the streets of Jerusalem..one of the most amazing prophetic aspects of the Biblical story. Then, there has come a “prophetic” rest. Until the “after” becomes now, we will not enter into the 70th week.
The Rapture: A Time of Rescue
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)
There has been much controversy about the timing of the rapture, but not the occurrence of it. The promise of Scripture is that there will come a time when all the believers in the world will be caught up in the air with the Lord. The promise of this event is to be of encouragement to us.
The Millennium: A Time of Reign
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:1-6)
Jesus’ first coming was as a suffering servant, but he will return as king. The millenial reign is a period of “peace on earth” where the earthly kingdom established is where believers are with Christ here on earth.
The Judgement: A Time of Righteousness
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.(Revelation 20:11-15)
Why does God ever put anything in the Scriptures? It is not simply for our head knowledge. It is for our growth and nurture as His followers. What is the purpose of the End Times literature? It certainly is not for our speculation, for our charting, for our endless pontificating. It is for our growth in spiritual maturity. It helps us to be prepared and understand what God is doing in the world. Here are four “Be Ready” Statements:
1) Be Watching..(Matthew 24:42-44)
2) Be Faithful: (Mt. 24:45-51)
3) Be Prepared: (John 14:2-3, I Thessalonians 4:16-17, Matthew 24:11-12)
4) Be Fruitful: (Matthew 25:21-23,25-27)
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-15)