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So now we’ll come to our proclamation. This one is taken from the last two verses of the epistle of Jude, very familiar words to many because it’s often used in church services.
“Now unto Him who is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”
Just think, that He’s able to present us faultless before the presence of His glory. What a wonderful God we serve!
Now, I have dealt in the previous sessions with the first four of the foundation doctrines. Let me see if I can recapitulate them. Repentance from dead works, faith toward God, the doctrine of baptism and the laying on of hands.
Now, my message this morning was entitled “Transmitting God’s Power,” and it dealt with that specific issue of laying on of hands. I’m sure to some of you it was quite a surprise to discover what an important part laying on of hands plays in the work and life of the church.
We have two remaining doctrines, very exciting ones, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. But before I do those, I plan to do them in the next two sessions, I want to do this one on a theme that I’ve called “At The End of Time.” Because you have to understand that when we come to these final two doctrines, they take us out of time and into eternity. That is one of their important functions, that we should not focus only on this life. I find so many Christians today only think in terms of what God will do for them in this life. That’s just a tiny fraction of all that God has for us.
I want to read a Scripture from Revelation 10. I have to be very careful because with my background in philosophy I can sometimes get taken over by certain thoughts. This speaks in Revelation 10:5–6 of an angel:
“...who lifted up his hand. And swore by Him who lives forever and ever [that’s God], who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, the sea and the things that are in it, there should be time no longer.”
Now, all your versions will say “there will be no more delay,” which may be the correct meaning but what the Scripture actually says is “there shall be no more time.” And we are coming to a point, sooner or later, in every one of our lives when there will be no more time. Somebody has said the clock behind all clocks is the human heart and, when the human heart ceases to beat all clocks cease to tick. Each of us individually passes out of time into a new realm, an eternal realm.
Remember, eternity is not just a very long period of time, it’s a total different realm of being, one that we can scarcely understand.
I really appreciate the statement “the mystery that God has created,” because time is a mystery. This is something that I was deeply involved in as a philosopher more than fifty years ago but it appeals to me because the Bible says it so clearly. Time is a mystery. Physicists tell us that if some scientists could get on board a spaceship that travels maybe at half the speed of light and visit a distant planet or star, and come back, by their time they would have been two weeks on the journey but by earth’s time it would have been two generations. When they come back they’d meet their great-grandchildren. That boggles our minds, doesn’t it? You see, time is a mystery.
Let me say something else about the measurement of time. As we understand it, it depends on a human observer. For instance, a scientist might say, “Well, because of the accumulation of a certain deposit on a certain stone or in a certain valley, or whatever it might be, or the accumulation of atomic dust, we believe that one million years have passed.” I could say I believe that, too, but I believe it happened one million times faster than you say. So, only one year passed. There would be no difference whatever in the evidence. In other words, it’s the input of a personal observer that makes time what it is. I’m content to say it’s a mystery. But bear in mind, one day we’re going to pass out of time into eternity.
Second Corinthians 4:17–18 speak about the difference between the eternal and the temporary. 2 Corinthians 4:17–18. Paul says:
“For our light affliction which is but for a moment...”
And when you think of all that Paul went through, when he speaks about a light affliction, my dear brother and sister, what are you worrying about? What have you got to compare with that? Don’t tell us about your deep afflictions until you’ve measured yourself by Paul. Or, don’t let me speak about my afflictions.
For our light affliction which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Always bear that in mind when you’re under pressure, it’s doing something for you. It’s working for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Now, in the Hebrew language the word for weight and the word for glory are essentially the same. So Paul is thinking as a Jew in Hebrew, he’s speaking about a weight of glory which God is preparing for us.
And then he says:
“While we do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen...”
Now bear that in mind, affliction only works good in your life while you keep your eyes on the eternal. If you take your eyes off the eternal and just focus on your problems and start to feel sorry for yourself, your affliction is not doing you any good. It only works for you, for us:
“...while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporary but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
So, Paul puts before us two different realms: the realm of what is visible, what is physical and material, and what is temporary—the realm of what invisible, what is spiritual and what is eternal. And remember, everything that we encounter in this life in the stream of time is temporary. We are headed for something that’s eternal.
It’s very important to bear that in mind. I read just recently in a little devotional book that Ruth and I share a very simple statement. It says we live in a fallen world. I said to myself that is true. If we are objectively honest, in the world as we know it today there’s much more misery than there is happiness, there’s much more strife than there is peace, there’s much more sickness than there is health. Don’t let’s be painting a pretty picture of the world because it’s not like that. We live in a fallen world, a world that has been marred through and through, corrupted, tainted by sin. That’s where we are. Thank God our final destiny is not in this world.
Paul said something which has really impacted me in 1 Corinthians 15:19. I’ve thought about so many of the Christians I meet.
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men the most to be pitied.”
Ponder that for a moment. If all you’re expecting from Christ is in this life you are of all the most pitiable. And yet, I meet so many Christians who seem to be totally preoccupied with what happens in this life. Their concept of Christianity is getting something from God in this world that is absolutely alien to the picture of the New Testament. It’s very, very healthy for us to be pressured by the Holy Spirit into considering the end of time and the beginning of eternity in the life of each one of us.
In Hebrews 13:14 the writer says:
“We have no continuing city here but we look for the one which is to come.”
Now, is that true of you? Where is your permanent life? Is it in this world or do you realize that this is only temporary. We’re just, as they say, passing through. Our permanent destination is in eternity. If you only can see the things of time and eternity you will be an unhappy person, you will be a frustrated person. You will always be complaining, “Things aren’t going the way I want. God isn’t answering my prayers.” The reason is you have the wrong perspective. You have to look at the point of view of eternity.
I’ve come to this conclusion, that God will not sacrifice the tiniest portion of eternity for the greatest length of time, because time is not permanent, eternity is. I would ask you, how much are you building in your own life for eternity? Scripture says that God has given us, through wisdom, in the book of Proverbs, enduring riches. I’ve spent a lot of time saying to myself what are enduring riches? They’re not money in a bank, they’re not stocks and shares, they’re not the fancy car we drive, the home we live in or the swimming pool. None of those are enduring riches. What are enduring riches? Jesus said:
“Sell what you have and give to the poor and you’ll have treasure in heaven.”
That’s enduring riches. Jesus said:
“Whatever you give to the cause of the gospel, God will give it back a hundredfold in eternity.”
That’s ten thousand percent. How many businessmen would turn down the opportunity of ten thousand percent?
And then one more thing which to me is very important. Our gifts will cease when life ends. All our spiritual gifts, our prophecy, our miracles, our words of knowledge, they’ll come to an end. We will not take them with us; they’re only for this world, only for time. But one thing we will take with us, do you know what that is? Our character. Character is permanent. What we are in our character will determine what we will be throughout eternity. That’s lasting, enduring riches, the building of a pure, strong, godly, Christian character.
Now we’ve got to come back to this theme. I next want to point out to you that it’s very important that we have a basic understanding of biblical prophecy. Unfortunately, so many people have been turned off by false, flashy, shallow interpretations of prophecy and they’ve really lost confidence. Well, don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let the misuse of something good turn you away from something good. For instance, in my lifetime, which has been quite lengthy, I’ve seen all the gifts of the Spirit misused at one time or another. But that has not caused me to despise the gifts of the Spirit, it just makes me more careful as to how I use them. The same is true of biblical prophecy. We need it. Without it, I’ll show you, we’re stumbling in the dark. We need to be careful how we apply it.
I’m going to turn to 2 Peter 1:19, 20, 21:
“We also have the prophetic word made more sure...”
The “prophetic word” is the prophecies of the Bible, the written prophecies. We’re not talking about the gift of prophesying now, although that’s got its place in our lives, but I’m talking about the written prophecies of the Bible, the written Word made more sure:
“...which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place.”
Notice that. You cannot afford to despise the prophetic Scriptures because Peter says you do well to give heed to pay attention to them because they’re a light shining in a dark place. The world in which we live today is undoubtedly a dark place. Furthermore, it’s getting darker. We need a light that will guide us through the darkness. The light that God’s provided is the prophetic revelation of Scripture.
Now, you can be wonderfully saved and a good Christian but be walking in the dark because you haven’t used and availed yourself of the light of prophecy. If you walk in the dark you’ll stumble over things you needn’t run into and you won’t really know where you’re going, you won’t really understand what’s happening all around you. That’s through failure to apprehend the truth of the prophetic word. It is extremely important.
And then Peter says we need to give heed to it:
“...until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
That’s not the coming of Jesus. This is an inner, subjective, personal experience where the morning star that immediately precedes the rise of the sun shines in our hearts. And you know what it does? It tells us Jesus is coming back. And we get excited.
Dear brothers and sisters, if you’ve never been excited about the return of the Lord it hasn’t meant much to you. It’s the only hope for humanity. Nothing else can ever meet all the desperate needs of the human race. People talk about this as pie in the sky. I don’t believe it. I believe it’s totally realistic. In fact, I believe it’s utterly unrealistic to expect politicians to solve the problems of humanity. They’ve been trying a long time and it seems to me the mess is worse than it used to be. I think it’s unrealistic to expect a human solution to the problems of humanity. That is the teaching of humanism but humanism is an anti-Christian force which is at work in most world governments today.
So we need prophecy. All right? Have I convinced you of that? Peter goes on to say it doesn’t originate with men but it comes from God.
Now let me quickly give you two keys to understanding biblical prophecy. The problem with me in this is if I get into it I find it hard to get out of it. But in Deuteronomy 29:29 Moses said to the children of Israel:
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
So Moses said there are two kinds of things, the secret things and the things that are revealed. He says the secret things belong to God, nobody can understand them. The things that are revealed are for us to act on. I think the main reason why people mess up the study of prophecy is they’re trying to understand the secret things and at the same time they’re not obeying the things that are revealed.
When I speak on prophecy almost always somebody comes up to me afterwards and says, “Pre-, mid- or post-?” Do you know what that means? Pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, post-. Do you know what I answer? I don’t know. I’m not ashamed. Furthermore, I don’t believe anybody knows. I don’t believe even Jesus knows because it says that day and that hour no one knows, not even the Son, only the Father. So if I don’t know something that Jesus doesn’t know it doesn’t embarrass me. See? The problem is people wanting to know things that can’t be known. And do you know what the motivation behind that is? Pride. That’s the most dangerous of all motivations. If we have revealed truth and obey it, God will give us more. If we don’t obey it He won’t give us any more. You say, “God, please show me next.” He says, “You haven’t acted on what I’ve already shown you. Why should I show you any more?”
So that’s the key to the effective use of biblical prophecy. Get to know the things that God wants us to understand and don’t bother God about the things that He doesn’t want us to understand.
And secondly, whatever God reveals to you, obey it, act on it. In my opinion, one clear revelation of biblical prophecy is contained in Matthew 24:14:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
So when will the end come? When this gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations. Whose job is that? Ours. I’m glad you said that. If we’re not working on that, if we’re not obeying that revelation, why should God tell us any more? But you begin to work on that revelation, you begin to devote yourself in whatever way is appropriate to getting the gospel of the kingdom out to all nations, you’d be surprised what God will show you next. But if you haven’t acted on that why should He show you any more? He won’t.
We’re going to come back to a picture of the close of this age. I’m going to make certain general statements about the kind of things that will be going on as this age comes to a close. I believe we’re very near the close of the age, that’s my personal opinion. I don’t want to set dates but I could believe that within the next fifty years everything that’s written in the book will have happened. I’m not saying it will, I’m saying I could believe it could.
I want to take certain features of the close of the age. I’ll give you three significant Scriptures. Isaiah 60:1–2. Isaiah 60. What I want to say is as the age comes to a close, righteousness and wickedness will both be on the increase. Righteousness will flourish and so will wickedness. Light will shine and there will be great darkness. We’ve got to get adjusted to this antithesis between these two things of light and darkness, righteousness and wickedness. In Isaiah 60:1–3 the Lord is speaking to His people and He says:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples, but the Lord will arise over you and His glory will be seen upon you. The nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
That’s a promise for God’s people at the close of the age. The glory of God will shine upon us and in the midst of the dense darkness that is surrounding us on all sides that is covering all nations; those who have a heart for truth will come out of the darkness to the people of God to seek the light. But don’t expect the darkness to end. It will continue and it will grow deeper. But, the light will get brighter.
There’s one wonderful fact about light and darkness which goes right back to the creation. Wherever light meets darkness, who wins? Light, that’s right. Just bear that in mind. We win if we’re the light.
Then the parable of the wheat and the tares. I won’t go into that reading from it because time is running out but the parable is about a farmer who sowed good seed in his field and then in the night an enemy came and sowed tares, weeds, that apparently looked like wheat but there’s just one thing, they don’t have any fruit, they don’t produce anything that’s worth having. The workers in the field said, “Shall we go and pull up the tares?” The farmer said, “No, because when you try to pull up the tares you may pull up some of the wheat. Let them both grow together to harvest.” And then in interpreting the Scripture Jesus says the harvest is the end of the age. He says at the end of the age the angels will come forth and sever the wicked from among the righteous. The wicked will be bound up in bundles and cast into the fire, the righteous will shine as sons in the kingdom of their Father. But bear in mind that right up to the close of the age the wheat and the tares will be growing up side by side.
That’s not speaking about the pagan world, this is speaking about professing Christendom because that’s what it’s talking about. In that situation both wheat and tares will grow side by side. If you want to be sure you’re wheat and not tares, check on the fruit that you’re producing because that’s the difference.
The church is not going to be fully purified until the end of the age. And then we’re not going to do it. I’m glad I don’t have to do it. The angels are going to do that.
And then in Revelation 22, right near the end of the Scripture, a word from Jesus Himself. Revelation 22:10–12:
“He [the angel that brought the revelation] said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unrighteous, let him be unrighteous still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.’”
That’s a remarkable statement since it comes from God. God is saying, in effect, if you want to be unrighteous, go on, you don’t have long, live it up. If you want to be filthy, be still more filthy. But if you’re righteous be still more righteous, if you’re holy be still more holy. Because this is the parting of the ways.
And then Jesus says in the next breath:
“Behold, I am coming quickly. My reward is with me to give it to everyone according to his work.”
So this is immediately before the return of the Lord. The wicked and the righteous are side by side, the wicked getting more wicked; the righteous getting more righteous.
Let me say in the spiritual light there is no standing still. You cannot remain static. You have to be either going forward or backward. The book of Proverbs says the pathway of the righteous is like the shining light which shines more and more unto the perfect day. Righteousness is not a standstill, it’s a pathway. It’s something you move in. If you’re moving in that the light is getting brighter every day. If you’re living today by yesterday’s light you’re beginning to be a backslider, you’re not in the pathway of righteousness.
All right. So those are two things.
Then in the midst of all this Jesus offers us some beautiful words of comfort in Luke 21:25–28. Luke 21:25–28, speaking about the close of the age:
“There will be signs in the sun, in the moon and the stars, on the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring. Men’s hearts failing them for fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.”
The whole globe is going to be shaken.
“Then they will see the Son of man coming on a cloud with power and great glory.”
That’s the coming of Jesus. This is what He says; He’s speaking to His disciples:
“When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.”
So how do you react to all the turmoil and the conflict? Do you get depressed and discouraged or do you say, “Praise God, our redemption is very near?” You see, your reaction tells you where your heart is.
Jesus spoke about birth pangs of a new age and He described them in Matthew 24. We may look there a little later. They’re very unpleasant. I’ve never given birth to a baby but I understand it’s never an easy experience. Birth pangs are associated with it. The question is do you want the baby? If you want the baby, you’ll put up with the birth pangs. No birth pangs, no baby. So again you can check your own attitude by how you respond. If you say things are getting worse and worse, “Oh, this is so depressing, I feel so miserable. Where is God? I don’t see Him doing anything?” you’re rejecting the birth pangs. What it really means is you’re not waiting for the baby. What is the baby? It’s the birth of the kingdom of God on earth. It won’t come without birth pangs. The birth pangs are guaranteed. What we have to determine is how we will respond to them.
Meanwhile, as I’ve said, in all of this the church has a task to complete. What is that? I didn’t hear you. Proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. Let’s look at the picture of the birth pangs in Matthew 24, beginning at verse 7:
“For nation will rise against nation...”
That’s ethnos against ethnos, ethnic conflicts.
“...kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pangs.”
You see? So, you want the baby? You have to endure the birth pangs. There’s no alternative.
And then Jesus says, and there’s a series of thens.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”
Who’s you? I didn’t hear you. That’s right, you is us. That’s not good grammar, but it’s the truth. They will deliver you—is you and me, Christians. We will be hated by all nations for the sake of Jesus’ name. Verse 10:
“Then many will be offended and will betray one another and will hate one another.”
Many who? Many Christians. The pressure will be too great, they’ll give up. To save their own skins they’ll betray their fellow believers. This has been happening in China and the Soviet Union for a generation or two. It’s not confined there, believe me. Verse 11:
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”
And believe me, the world is full of false prophets and a lot of them are inside the church. We won’t go into that, I’ll just make that statement for you to ponder on.
“And because lawlessness will abound the love of many will grow cold.”
Do we see lawlessness increasing in the world today? Yes or no? I don’t think anybody would say no. That’s what Jesus said. Lawlessness will abound and He said what will be the result? The love of many Christians will grow cold. The word for love there is agape, the word used specifically for Christian love. So, under the pressure of the lawlessness in the world some of us will let our love grow cold.
The next verse is very significant, verse 13:
“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Actually the Greek is more specific, it says “He who has endured to the end shall be saved.” So how do you stay saved? You have to endure, that’s right. You’re saved now but to remain saved you have to endure. And I tell people, and nobody really blesses me for saying this, there’s only one way to learn to endure and that is enduring, that’s right. So if you’re in the midst of enduring right now, bear in mind God is training you to live it through to the end of the age. You see?
And then it says:
“This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations...”
You say, “Well, when times get easier we’ll go out and preach the gospel.” No, no, no! Times are going to get harder and harder and harder. It’s going to take guts to go out and preach the gospel. Do you like that rather vulgar word guts? It’s very American. Do you know the American translation of that? Intestinal fortitude. That’s what we need: Christians with guts. The situation is not going to get any easier; it’s going to get harder. You think it’s too hard now, well move in quickly before it gets harder.
You see, the church that Jesus wants is not going to be deterred by opposition or persecution; it’s committed to Him and His purposes and to His tasks.
Now, let’s go on to the events that are associated with the return of Jesus, and I’ll give you a little list of events, not necessarily in the correct order. Do you know why? Because I don’t really know what the correct order is. I’ve met some Bible scholars that believe that they did know the correct order. The trouble is they didn’t agree with one another so they couldn’t both be right. I’m prepared to leave it with the Lord. See? I’m not a busybody; I don’t badger God for answers. David said at one point, “My soul is like a weaned child within me. Let Israel hope in the Lord.” He said other things I can’t solve.
This is so vivid to me; I hope you won’t think I’m vulgar. But years ago I used to preach regularly to large audiences of Africans. The front two rows would be occupied by nursing mothers and whenever the baby started to squawk the mother would begin to nurse it right there in front of me. So I learned to look over the first two or three rows. But you know what I noticed? An unweaned child just makes a fuss when it wants food but a weaned child waits for the mother to prepare it. David said, “My soul is like a weaned child. I don’t badger God with my problems. I just let Him show me the things He wants to show me.” The key to understanding biblical prophecy is to let the Holy Spirit focus your attention on the things He wants to show you at any given time. Don’t be an unweaned child.
All right. Now here are some of the events. The resurrection and judgment of true Christians. First of all, the rapture. How do you feel about the rapture? 1 Thessalonians 4. Some Christian scholars will tell you the word rapture isn’t found in the New Testament. That’s rather a naive statement because it depends on what translation you use. I could use a translation that contains the word rapture; it would be a perfectly accurate translation. This is what the Lord says through the apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 4:15:
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep...”
Those who have died. In other words, the fact that we’re alive when the Lord comes will not mean that we get there sooner than the ones who’ve died. On the contrary, Paul says:
“...for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God...”
I don’t know how people believe in a secret rapture. To me there’s nothing that could be more public than something that’s announced from heaven with a shout, the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God. I mean, what secrecy is left at the end of that?
“...and the dead in Christ will rise first...”
Before we who are alive are changed.
“...then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them...”
Now “caught up” could perfectly well be translated “raptured.” The word rapture comes from a Latin word which means “to seize something forcibly.” And in the Greek it’s used of a thief entering a house and stealing something. It’s used of a wolf coming amongst sheep and taking a sheep from the flock. It basically indicates a sudden, forceful grab. That’s what the rapture will be like. Jesus will grab us; He’ll reach down and take us suddenly, forcefully. There’s just one difference between Jesus and the thief, do you know what that is? The thief takes what doesn’t belong to him; Jesus will only take those who belong to Him, those who are His at His coming.
“...then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up.”
And Paul says elsewhere we’ll be changed in a moment, in the blink of an eye. This is very exciting to me. If you don’t get excited, well, that’s your problem. Here we are, we’re sitting in this meeting, looking at one another. Warren is looking at my wife and he blinks. Suddenly she’s totally changed; she’s a glorious, gorgeous, shining creature. He’s changed, too. She looks at him in amazement. It doesn’t take a long time. In a moment, the twinkling of an eye, we shall be totally transformed. Do you believe God can do that? I do. I think it’s exciting. If you don’t get excited I don’t really know what’s wrong with you.
The rapture is followed by the judgment of Christians. Some Christians don’t realize it but we will be the first to be judged. Peter said judgment must begin at the house of God. What is the house of God? The church. 2 Corinthians 5:10. Now, we’ll probably come back to this when we speak about eternal judgment but let’s look here for a moment. 2 Corinthians 5:10:
“For we [Christians] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ...”
The word translated appear means actually “to be made manifest.” I think it’s a very frightening word. Everything about us will be totally known, there’ll be no secrets. We’ll all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ. The judgment seat in Greek is bema; it’s what a Roman official sat on when he conducted judgment. That’s what Pontius Pilate sat on when he judged Jesus. There’s a different scene, there’s a great white throne for the judgment of the remainders. This is the judgment of Christians. And please bear in mind, Romans 8:1:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
It is not a judgment of condemnation; it is a judgment to assess the quality of our service and to give the appropriate rewards. Paul says we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ:
“...that each one may receive the things done in the body according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
And notice there are only two categories, good or bad. John says in the first epistle all unrighteousness is sin. Anything that is not righteous is sinful. It’s like if somebody asked you to illustrate the word crooked. The way I would do it is this; I’d show them a straight line and say anything that deviates from that line is crooked. It may deviate by one degree or it may deviate by ninety degrees but it’s crooked.
And that’s how it is it with righteousness. Anything that is unrighteous is sinful. Anything that is not good is bad. There’s no middle ground. This is a deception of the enemy which he has foisted upon the church, “Well, I’m not doing what’s right but I’m not really doing what’s bad.” That’s not possible. It’s one or the other.
This is the judgment seat of Christ. Then we come to the overthrow of the antichrist and his forces. Now, in 1 John 4 John speaks about antichrist in three ways: the spirit of antichrist, many antichrists and the antichrist.
The spirit of antichrist is the spirit that operates through every antichrist.
The many antichrists have been here since the second century A.D. One of the most significant was Bar Kochba who claimed to be the messiah and led the Jewish people in the final revolt against Rome which was utterly suppressed and the whole nation was either killed or taken into captivity. There was another one called Shabbatide Spee (phonetic) in the 17th century who claimed to be the messiah and said he would take the Jewish people back to the Middle East and plant them in their land. He went to the Middle East, was arrested by the Turks and converted to Islam. So that was a disappointment. The Jewish encyclopedia records about forty false messiahs that have come to the Jewish people since the time of Jesus. Jesus said, “Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the messiah,’ and will deceive many.” So there have been many antichrists and a lot of antichrists in the church, we don’t need to be too specific about that.
But the antichrist has not yet come. I personally believe his shadow has fallen across the stage of human history but he has not emerged. He will be the final embodiment of all that is evil and satanic. When he rules humanity, which he will for about three and a half years, that will be the worst period in human history. God will permit this because He says to the human race, “Well, you’ve made your choice. See what you’ve chosen. You’ve rejected me, you’ve rejected my Son, this is the alternative. Help yourself.”
Have you ever discovered that God doesn’t teach just in theory? No. You can say, “God, I really learned that principle.” “That’s fine,” God says, “now let’s see it worked out in your life.” That’s going to be true of humanity. Humanity is going to get the most terrible lesson that humanity has ever had. You see, Pontius Pilate brought before the Jewish people two men, Jesus and Barabbas. Barabbas was a criminal, a violent man, an agitator. He said, “Which of these will I release?” And they said, “Give us Barabbas and crucify Jesus.” At the end of this age the human race will do something similar. They’ll say, “We don’t want this Christ, give us the leader of our choice. This brilliant, talented, supernaturally empowered man, we want him.” And you know what happened, the Jewish people got him. They also said to Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar.” It’s an amazing thing for Jewish people to say, and for nineteen centuries they’ve been ruled by the Caesars and the Barabbases have been turned loose on them. That’s really the essence of Jewish history. The same thing is going to happen to the human race. We’re going to get what we choose. Those of us who choose Jesus will be under His government. Those of us who reject Jesus will be under the government of the antichrist.
I have to go on. The overthrow of the antichrist, Revelation 19:19–21. This is where Jesus appears from heaven riding on a white horse. Do you believe there are horses in heaven? I do. Whether you do or not, that makes no difference to me!
“The One who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.”
Notice, Jesus makes war.
“His eyes were like a flame of fire and on his head were many diadems [royal crowns].”
And then it says in verse 15:
“Out of his mouth goes a sharp sword that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule the nations with a scepter of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of God. He has on His robe and on His thigh written: King of kings and Lord of lords.”
This is Jesus coming forth as God’s appointed ruler to deal with the wicked.
And then it says a little further on in that chapter, verses 19–21:
“I saw the beast [the name of the antichrist]...”
It’s quite interesting, Revelation, the final book of the Bible, has two characters that are set in opposition to one another. One is the Lamb, the other is the beast. The Lamb is Jesus, the beast is the antichrist. The word “the Lamb” occurs twenty-eight times in the book of Revelation. The beast occurs thirty-three times in reference to the antichrist. This is the end time conflict—between the beast and the Lamb. And you know who wins? The Lamb, that’s right. And that’s a lesson for us because we don’t win by violence, we don’t win by hatred, we don’t win by being tough, we win by laying our lives down like Jesus. You remember in the fifth chapter of Revelation John was weeping because no one was there to open the scroll? One of the elders said, “Don’t weep, it’s all right. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed.” Bear in mind, dearly beloved, that Jesus still is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. You know what name we get from Judah? Jew. So He’s still a Jew. He didn’t become a Jew just for thirty-three years, He identified with the tribe of Judah for time and eternity. Bear in mind when you get mixed up with the Jews you’re getting mixed up with the brothers and sisters of Jesus. You’d better be careful.
“So the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire, burning with brimstone. And the rest of their followers were killed with the sword which preceded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
That’s God’s garbage collection system. It’s the birds. They’ll clean up everything. All they’ll leave is clean bones. You find in Ezekiel they’ll have a system of burying those bones, we won’t go into that. But all that is ahead.
Now, in the midst of all this Israel, the Jewish people who’ve been displaced from the center of history for nineteen centuries, are coming back into the center of history. I don’t know whether you’ve ever noticed, Israel today is a very small land. It’s smaller than Wales, smaller than the state of New Hampshire, has about four million Jews and about one million others. And yet, it’s almost in the news every day, even here in New Zealand. Ruth and I have noticed scarcely a day passes without a report from Israel. Do you know why? Because Israel is coming back into center stage for the climax of the age. That’s where they’ll be when the climax comes.
Now, Romans 11 contains a very important revelation. Romans 11:25–26. These words are addressed by Paul to Christians from a Gentile background; that is, non-Jewish. How many of you know that most of you are Gentiles. I’m a Gentile, Warren is a Gentile. Ruth is a Jewess, see. But she’s in a minority. The people who are not Christians are pagans but the people who are not Jews are Gentiles. This is difficult for some people to apprehend. Paul is writing to Christians from a Gentile background and this is what he says. Romans 11:25:
“I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery [this secret that God has been keeping], lest you should be wise in your own opinion...”
Don’t get conceited. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. What is the mystery?
“...that hardening in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”
Notice it’s hardening in part. The whole Jewish people has never been totally hardened, there’s always been Jews in every generation who believed in Jesus. Sometimes they were a very small minority. But hardening in part has happened to Israel not forever but until. Until what? The full number of the Gentiles has come in. Until the church has done its job and proclaimed this gospel of the kingdom to all nations. And meanwhile the Lord has begun to gather in the Gentile harvest. I believe myself the greatest harvest the church has ever seen is still ahead of us. I believe millions of people are going to come into the kingdom of God. But bear in mind that’s preparatory to the restoration of Israel.
And then Paul goes on to say in verse 26:
“...so all Israel will be saved.”
Israel is the only nation of which the Bible predicts that all the nation will be saved. It doesn’t say all New Zealand, it doesn’t say all Britain, it doesn’t say all America, all Russia, but all Israel will be saved.
On the other hand, you have to bear in mind that all Israel is not all the Israel that’s alive now for in Romans 9:27 Paul quotes Isaiah. He says:
“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.”
The remnant is the remnant God has foreknown and chosen for Himself. So it’s not all the Jewish people that are presently alive in the land of Israel but it’s the remnant that God will bring through great tribulation, testing and suffering to make them His.
Then will come Jesus judging the Gentile nations. This is pictured in Joel 3:1–2. This is very, very important for us who are not Jewish to understand. Joel 3:–12:
“For behold, in those days and at that time [God is speaking] when I bring back the captives [or exiles] of Judah and Jerusalem...”
In other words, in the days in which we are living when God is bringing back Jewish exiles from more than one hundred nations to their own land, God says:
“...I will also gather all nations [Gentile nations] and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat...”
And Jehoshaphat means in Hebrew “the Lord judges.”
“...and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations. They have also divided up My land...”
That is something extremely important we need to understand. God is going to judge the nations on the basis of how they’ve treated the Jewish people. And particularly He’s going to judge them for one thing; they’ve divided up His land. What’s the modern political word for dividing up? Partition. That’s precisely what the nations have done and are busy trying to do right now. God is angry with them. We who love our nation need to be in urgent prayer that our nation will not be aligned against God’s purposes for Israel.
It doesn’t say there will be any Jews judged there. My personal opinion is because the Jews will have already passed through their own judgment, the great tribulation. Somebody said years ago something worth considering. “God blesses the Jews direct; He blesses the Gentiles through the Jews. God judges the Gentiles direct, He judges the Jews through the Gentiles.” I think this has been worked out in history time and time again.
So, Israel will pass through their judgment in the great tribulation. They will have been judged but then the nations that persecuted them will be judged. In Matthew 25 Jesus says—I think I better read those words because it’s so clear that this is Joel 3 in the New Testament. Matthew 25, the last part of the chapter, verse 31:
“When the Son of man comes in His glory and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory...”
This is the same scene as in Joel 3:1.
“...all the nations [the Gentiles] will be gathered before Him and He will separate them from one another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.”
And if you’ve studied that chapter you’ll find the basis of the division is how they’ve treated the brothers of Jesus. So, the nations need to know. We need to keep our nation informed. We need to speak out and warn our nation, “You’re going to be judged by the way you have dealt with God’s people and God’s land Israel.”
Now, following that, Christ’s kingdom on earth will be established. Whenever you pray the Lord’s Prayer, which you probably do quite often, what you may not realize is you’re praying for the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth. The first petition is “thy kingdom come.” That takes precedence over all other petitions. When you’re praying that you’re praying for the return of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom on the earth, whether you know it or not. Now this is described in Isaiah 24:19. You see how important it is to have a knowledge of biblical prophecy? Isaiah 24:19, this is, in a sense, the climax of the age. It’s reduplicated many times in Revelation. This is the picture:
“The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly, the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut. Its transgression shall be heavy upon it and it will fall and not rise again.”
That’s the earth, the planet on which we live.
“It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth.”
The Lord will deal with two kingdoms: Satan’s kingdom in the heavenlies and the kingdom of man on earth. He will punish all those who refuse His righteous government in the person of Jesus.
“They will be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit [or the prison] and will be shut up in the prison. After many days they will be punished.”
Now I like this verse, this is the climax:
“Then the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed, for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before His elders gloriously.”
The Lord’s kingdom will have been re-established in its capital which is Jerusalem. Why should the sun be ashamed and the moon disgraced? This is something that I believe I have the answer to. In Luke 9:26 is a description of the return of Jesus. Luke 9:26, Jesus said:
“For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, in His Father’s glory and the glory of the holy angels.”
Just think of that. Jesus is coming in His own glory, the glory of the Father and the glory of the holy angels. The brilliance of that glory is something that we cannot even begin to imagine and yet it will not hurt our eyes. But then the sun and the moon will have to take a back seat and say, “The light we offer is nothing compared with what comes with Jesus.” That’s why they’ll be ashamed.
I’ve got to go quickly and I’ll just give you the references, I don’t have time to turn to them.
The next thing that will happen is Jesus will establish His kingdom for one thousand years. A thousand years, the Bible says, is as a day. So, it’s one day in the Lord’s reckoning.
Then Satan will be released from his prison briefly and go out and stir up rebellion in the nations, which is his job. The Lord will intervene and bring final judgment on the nations and Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire together with the antichrist and the false prophet, who are already there. The present heaven and the present earth will pass away and a new heaven and a new earth will come forth. All the remaining dead will stand before the great white throne of God for judgment.
Now tomorrow, God helping me, if God wills and we live, we’ll deal with the eternal judgment of God. The Lord bless you.