This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Preparing for Messiah’s coming. I have actually seven successive sections in my outline. The first one that we will look at as essential for preparing for Messiah’s coming is “be aware of the promises and the purposes.” I’ll say that once more. Be aware of the promises and the purposes. We’ll look at just three passages of scripture which contain clear, specific promises of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first one is in John 14:3 where he’s speaking to his disciples about the fact that he’s about to leave them and he says:
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Those are very, very clear, specific words. I will come again and receive you to myself. I don’t think you have to be a theologian to understand the meaning of those words. If a business man goes out in the morning to work and he kisses his wife good-bye and he says, “Good-bye, I’ll be back at 6 p.m.” she knows what he means. He’ll be back at 6 p.m. The only difference here is the Lord hasn’t told us the precise time at which he’s coming back. It’s very much a love relationship. I will come again in order to receive you to myself, that we may be together forever.
Then in Acts 1 we have the affirmation of the angels. We’ve looked at the words of the Lord himself. In Acts 1:10–11 we have the affirmation of the angels. The apostles had gone out with Jesus to the Mount of Olives and there after he had blessed them they had watched him taken up into the heavens, the cloud had received him out of their sight. As they stood there still gazing upwards two angels appeared to them and gave this assurance. We’ll read just Acts 1:10–11.
“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; [I assume they’re angels. I think generally speaking that’s always been accepted.] who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.”
Again, I don’t think there’s any way language could be more explicit than that. This same Jesus who went up into heaven will come back from heaven the same way that you saw him go. I think we need to note the emphasis on “this same Jesus.” It was a real person who went, it will be a real person who comes back. No Messianic age can be a substitute for the person of the Lord Jesus.
There are two points to note, I think. He went in clouds, he’s coming back in clouds. He went from the Mount of Olives, he’s coming back to the Mount of Olives. We turn back for a moment to a prophecy in Zechariah 14 which reaffirms that. Zechariah 14:3–5. We will not dwell on this, there’s a lot to it. This describes how the Lord will intervene in person against the nations who have gathered together in battle against Jerusalem. Verse 3 and following:
“Then the Lord will go forth, and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. And in that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, [notice it’s very specific] which faces Jerusalem on its east, [all of you have seen the Mount of Olives on the east of Jerusalem] and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountains shall move toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”
There’s going to be a tremendous earthquake. There is already a saddle between the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus. The Augusta Victoria Hospital or Hospice stands there. If you’ve seen the building with the square tower? I spent my last year of military service with the British Army living in that place and it was so real to me that that was just about where the mountain would split and half of it moved south and half of it moved north. In l925 there actually was an earthquake that shook the tower and cracked it and it’s registered as unsafe, nobody is allowed to climb the tower. It is an earthquake area.
If you’ve lived there, as I did, it’s all so vivid. I mean, everything fits exactly the description of that one particular place—and there’s no other place on the surface of the earth that would answer to that description. Going on then in verse 5:
“Then you shall flee through my mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal: yes, you shall flee, as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with you.”
There again is a clear, specific promise. The Lord my God will come and his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. It’s reasonable to believe it’s the feet of the Lord touching the mountain that will produce the earthquake.
Also prophesied in Zechariah and other prophets is that living waters will go out from Jerusalem to the east, go down to the Arabah, the Dead Sea. It’s clear that the valley will produce the channel for the waters to go east. In other words, what I want to emphasize is this is in no sense a metaphorical picture. It’s a very exact description that applies to only one area on the earth’s surface and applies exactly. Let’s not spiritualize it, let’s not make it a metaphor; it’s a clear statement of what’s going to happen.
Then, we’ve looked at the words of Jesus, we’ve looked at the words of the angels. Let’s look at the words of the apostle Paul concerning this in 1Thessalonians 4:16–17.
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet of God...”
Notice again the emphasis on it being the Lord himself. The angel said “this same Jesus,” Paul says “the Lord himself.” Scripture wants to leave no opportunity for spiritualizing this or interpreting it in any other way than a visible, personal return of Jesus. There will be three exciting noises. A shout. Generally that’s believed to be the Lord’s shout because he’s the only one who can call the dead out of their tombs as he did with Lazarus. You notice when he called Lazarus out he was very careful to specify who was to come. He said, “Lazarus, come out.” If he just said “come out,” all the dead would have walked out. But, there’s a day coming when he’s going to call out the believers, those that have died in Christ. Paul goes on to say:
“...and the dead in Christ will rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
It’s a very clear description of things that are actually going to happen. The Lord is going to come, there are going to be these three dramatic noises: the voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God. Then the dead in Christ are going to rise and just about the same time, I would judge, the believers who are on earth who are ready will be suddenly, miraculously transformed and we will all be lifted up in clouds, the scripture says, to meet the Lord in the air.
There are two Greek words for air, each of which gives us an English word. One gives us the word ether, the other gives us the word air. They have a different meaning. Etheris the higher, rarer atmosphere. Air is the lower air contiguous with the earth’s surface. It’s that word that’s used here. In other words, Jesus is going to come very close to the earth. Just like pieces of metal are activated by a magnet and leap up to meet it, so those that are made of the right material will automatically be drawn to the magnet. But, if you’re not made of the right material all your efforts to leave earth will be in vain.
Notice it says “we shall be caught up.” People say to me sometimes, “Do you believe in the rapture?” I say, “It depends on what you mean.” If you mean do I believe we shall be caught up, I believe we shall be caught up because it says we shall be caught up. That word is used in various contexts. It’s used of Philip on the road to Gaza, being caught away by the Spirit of the Lord. You remember the eunuch saw him no more and he was found at Azotus. It’s used by Jesus when he says the hireling flees when the wolf comes and catches the sheep. It indicates a very sudden, rapid, almost violent action. I think this whole thing is going to happen just like that. In fact, Paul says in a moment, the twinkling of an eye.
You know, God waits millennia and then he suddenly moves. Some people conclude God has done nothing for thousands of years so we can’t expect anything to happen. That is a mistake, believe me.
There are the three, clear, specific promises—from the Lord, from the angels, from the apostle Paul—confirmed by the scriptures of the New Testament.
Now, everybody, of course, wants to know when will the rapture take place. Will it be pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, et cetera. Let me tell you immediately I’m not attempting to answer any of those questions. If that’s what you came for you may just as well get up and leave—but I hope you won’t.
What I am going to state is what I believe are the clear, revealed purposes for which the Lord is coming. I want to suggest to you five purposes which are found in scripture. Because this is complicated and elaborate I’m not going to turn to every specific passage of scripture. I will simply state these five purposes. Number one, he’s coming to receive the church to himself. He said that clearly. “I will come again and receive you to myself.”
Number two, I believe he’s coming to overthrow the antichrist, the beast and his armies as is described very vividly in Revelation 19. Some Christians, I think, feel that they would like to take on the antichrist. I have decided to leave that to the Lord! I think you’ll find it’s better left in his hands. I think it’s appropriate. It’s the true Christ that will defeat the false christ. You know that the word antichrist means two things. It means the one who is against the Christ and it means the one who takes the place of the Christ. So, the spirit of antichrist which is very powerfully at work throughout the world—and inside the Christian church—has two main thrusts. Number one, to remove Jesus. Number two, to replace him by somebody else. The naive, liberal Christians don’t realize that the final thrust is not just to get rid of Jesus, it’s to replace him by another.
I have the opinion myself there are three monotheistic religions in the world, all of which originated in this part of the world. Your guides will always tell you about the three great monotheistic religions. That is, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. They have a lot in common, they also have a great deal that causes them to differ. But, my feeling is there’s only one thing that really stands in the way of some kind of world religion built out of the three and that’s the awkward historical person Jesus of Nazareth. If you once got Jesus out of the way there really wouldn’t be much to hinder Islam, Judaism and apostate Christianity from forming a world religion which the antichrist would become the leader of. I personally think that’s the scenario but that’s an opinion.
Third purpose, to deliver Israel. I believe that the Lord himself is going to deliver Israel. I think it’s clearly described in Isaiah, in Zechariah and in other prophets.
The fourth purpose, to judge the nations. Clearly described in Joel 3 and in Matthew 25:31–46. When the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, what’s the first thing that will happen? The nations will be gathered before him and he will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, setting the sheep on the right hand and inviting them into the kingdom which he is setting up. And banishing the goats into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and the angels. There are only two options. The basis on which the nations will be judged is the way they have treated the brothers of Jesus.
You see how much that’s already lining up in world politics. Probably the most controversial continuing issue in the United Nations is Israel. At the moment, the alignment is rather heavily against. I believe one of our responsibilities is to change the alignment of some of the nations we represent.
And, the fifth purpose is to establish his kingdom on earth with Jerusalem as its capital. I’m naive, I’m simple minded, I believe the Lord is going to rule from Jerusalem.
Let me just state those five purposes again without going into details. Number one, to receive the church. Number two, to overthrow the antichrist. Number three, to deliver Israel. Number four, to judge the nations. Number five, to establish his kingdom.
I think probably that’s the order in which they will take place but I have no specific theories as to the specific moments in time at which they will take place. The Lord hasn’t shown me and I’m quite content to leave it in his hands. One thing I do know which I’ll be emphasizing for the rest of this is it’s important we are ready.
What is required of us in the light of this clear revelation of scripture? The first thing, I believe, is that we should be eagerly expectant. Eagerly expectant. I have to say at the present moment that rules out probably the majority of Christians—including Charismatics. I don’t meet many Christians who are eagerly expecting the Lord’s return—and I meet a lot of Christians. We’ve become so theological, so sophisticated, so spiritual that we’ve forgotten about the Lord’s return. I imagine that’s not true of most of you. I think one reason why most of you are here is because you have somewhere inside you something that’s telling you the Lord is coming back.
Let’s look at scriptures quickly. Mark 13, the end of this chapter. I’m going to read about four or five verses. There’s one key word I want you to pick out. See if you can find what the key word is when I get to the end. Jesus is speaking, I want you to note, to his disciples. He’s not addressing the world at large. Verse 33:
“Take heed, watch and pray: for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore: for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning. Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. What I say to you I say to all, watch.”
What’s the word? Watch. Watch means stay awake. We use it in the sense of a soldier on watch, the four watches of the night, the periods when somebody has to stay awake. Bear in mind that was addressed to the disciples of Jesus and he had to warn them, watch. Then he said, “What I say to you I say to everybody. Watch, stay awake. Don’t doze off.”
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us...”
Did you know that grace teaches? Some people don’t know that.
“...teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age...”
What’s the reason for living soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age? It’s in the next verse.
“...looking for the blessed hope, and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
All through the epistles of the New Testament the main motive always urged for holy living is the expectation of the Lord’s return. I challenge you to check the epistles. It is the number one motive for holy living.
Notice incidentally that Jesus is there called God. The great God and Savior Jesus Christ. There are various other passages in the New Testament but it’s important to see that the New Testament clearly and explicitly states the deity of Jesus.
Then just one more, perhaps the most powerful. Hebrews 9:28.
“So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many; to those who eagerly wait for him he will appear a second time apart from sin for salvation.”
To whom is he going to appear for salvation? To those who do what? Who eagerly await him. There’s no guarantee anywhere in the New Testament that he will come with salvation for any other kind of person but those who are eagerly waiting for him.
The next requirement is understand the times and seasons. I’d like to turn to 1Thessalonians 5, we’ll read the first six verses.
“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.”
Is that true of you? Are you so well informed concerning the times and the seasons that the apostle Paul wouldn’t have to write to you?
“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”
That’s emphasized many times. He’s coming as a thief. There’s just one difference. Shall I tell you what it is? A thief comes to take what is not his. The Lord is only coming to take what is his. But, he’s coming like a thief. I always think of an African teacher that I worked with when I was principal of a college for training teachers in East Africa. His name was Mr. Odawa. I always remember he had a little flock of ducks in his back yard and he was so proud of his ducks. He was resisting the gospel. One day—which is very common in Africa—somebody came and stole all his ducks. When he was pouring out his woes to me I said, “Mr. Odawa, did that thief tell you when he was coming? Did he announce his intentions? Did he let you know who he was?” He said no. I said that’s how the Lord’s coming. He’s not going to tell you. You’re not going to get advance warning.
Let’s go on.
“For when they say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman; and they shall not escape.”
They is the people of this world. What are the two things that the world is most zealously pursuing? Peace and safety, isn’t it? Security would be the modern word. Just when they think they have achieved it, sudden destruction is coming upon them. Notice the figure—those of you that were here when I spoke the other night—notice again the figure of labor pains. As labor pains are upon a pregnant woman. I didn’t have time to point out last night but this is well known to all the ladies here—and I expect the gentlemen, too. When labor pains start there really is no way to reverse the process. Furthermore, the nearer you come to the birth the more intense and the more frequent the pains become. That’s where we are, I believe. I don’t believe there’s any way to reverse the process that’s now going on in the world. It’s going to end with a birth. If you think things are going to get easier I believe you’re mistaken. The pains will become more frequent and more intense until the birth takes place.
Let’s go on reading here. Verse 4:
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as others do; but let us watch and be sober.”
You notice that word watch comes back again. Paul tells them there that they should be able to recognize the times that indicate the season of the Lord’s return.
There are two different kinds of error. One is failing to recognize the times and the seasons on the one hand. The other on the other hand is claiming to know the day or the hour. Jesus very explicitly told us no one knows the day or the hour. But, the fact that we cannot know the day or the hour is no excuse for being ignorant of the times and the seasons. We are required to recognize them.
Let’s look at the other scripture because I want to put these side by side. Mark 13:32.
“But of that day and that hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
That’s the day and the hour of the Lord’s return. It’s set in the calendar but only God knows the calendar. Only God the Father knows the calendar. Have you ever meditated on that—there’s something the Father knows that the Son doesn’t know? So, the Son, I believe, keeps his eyes on the Father’s face because he’s waiting for a little nod that says, “Son, that’s it. Now is the time.”
I believe there’s expectancy in heaven. Probably more than there is on earth.
Then in Matthew 24:44, there’s the same context. Jesus is speaking to his disciples.
“Therefore you also be ready: for the Son of man is coming at an hour when you do not expect him.”
So let me say if anybody claims to know the day or the hour, he’s a false prophet. Not even Jesus knows that. There have been many such, probably will be many more. Furthermore, if you think you’ve got it all worked out and you know when he’s coming, you’re wrong because he’s coming at a time when you don’t expect him. See? There’s no substitute for watching. There’s just no alternative. All your theology and all your charts are just not going to release you from the obligation to be watchful.
Now, the next requirement is recognize the times. I’d like to give you an example from the time of Jesus in Matthew 16. Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and rebuking them. He says in Matthew 16:2–3, they’d asked him for a sign from heaven. This is what he said:
“He answered and said unto them, When it is evening you say it will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and threatening. Hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the sky; but you cannot discern the signs of the times.”
Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his day because they could not discern the signs of the times. I think he might well speak to many church leaders in the same terms today. You cannot discern the signs of the times. I believe God requires us to discern the signs of the times. And I believe there are multiplied signs that warn us that we’re approaching the close of this age.
I’m going to quickly give you a list with scriptures. This is not the real purpose of this message but detached from this the message loses its impact. I think I’ve got here a list of about 21 different indications that we’re approaching the close of the age. I could probably have doubled the number if I had worked at it. Turn, first of all, to Luke 17:26–30.
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man.”
The days of the Son of man is one of the phrases that describe the period before the return of Jesus.
“They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.”
So Jesus there says if you want a pattern for what it will be like at the close of the age you can look at the days of Noah and the days of Lot. I think the thing that he emphasizes most there is that the judgment of God will be very sudden, very unexpected and very total. That, I think, is a feature that’s in common which he emphasizes. Let me say those words again. The judgment of God will be very sudden, very unexpected and very total. It seems to me that’s what the emphasis is.
Now, let’s just for a few moments consider what the Bible reveals about the days of Noah and the days of Lot. We’re not going to turn to the passages, they’re all in the book of Genesis. I would offer you the following little summation of what we can extract from Genesis. First of all, there was carnal corruption. The Bible says all flesh had corrupted its way. That means, I think, that there were sexual corruption and perversion and, generally, totally licentious living.
Second, it says every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually. Man’s whole thought life was corrupted, it was filthy, it was unclean. I have to say in modern contemporary culture one major factor that is tending toward this is television.
Third, it says the earth was filled with violence. I pointed out the other night the statistical increase of crimes of violence.
Fourth, particularly in the case of Lot, the blatant feature was homosexuality. It was unashamed and it was violent—which is precisely what we’re being confronted with in many areas of the earth today. When I was growing up as a boy every now and then you’d hear about someone who was homosexual. It was the kind of thing you talked about in a whisper. They hid themselves, they covered up. Today it’s totally different. They are absolutely blatant in making their professions and their claims.
Then, I think the fifth feature would be materialism. They were eating, drinking, building, planting, marrying, giving in marriage. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. What was wrong was they were so immersed in them they hadn’t any ears for the warning of God.
I think behind it all is the occult. If you read the beginning of Genesis 6 it says the sons of God went in to the daughters of men. I believe the sons of God were angels—that’s my personal opinion. I believe there was a mingling of the angelic and the human. I have come to believe that behind every radical kind of corruption in humanity you’ll always find the occult. That’s the root cause of all of it—false gods.
It seems to me also that there are certain boundaries that the Lord does not permit to be crossed for long. Like, people can live wickedly for centuries and the Lord will tolerate it. But when the boundary between the angelic and the human was crossed God said, “We’re going to have to put a stop to this pretty quickly. We’ll give them 100 years and that will be it.”
I believe there’s another boundary that God also jealously watches over. It’s the boundary between male and female. I find in our generation that boundary has been transgressed. I doubt whether God will withhold his judgment much longer.
One of the words you see everywhere—at least in the United States—outside hairdressers is “unisex.” That really says it all. You know, as you drive along the street now you think is that a man or a woman? Well, it’s got short hair but that doesn’t tell me anything. It’s wearing trousers—that doesn’t tell me anything. If it’s got a beard you probably know what you’re dealing with. I mean, it’s getting really difficult to find out. I’ve been in meetings where I’ve asked people to stand up who have certain physical problems and it’s been embarrassing because I’ve looked and I thought do I say he or she? Really, I am not exaggerating! I don’t believe God is going to tolerate that for long. That’s my personal opinion.
Now we turn to Matthew 24 and we look at a number of signs there. I want to emphasize this is by no means complete. The disciples had asked Jesus what will be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age? In verses 7 and following he gave them a list of signs but he didn’t answer their question. I’m going to leave the question unanswered till the end of my message. I’ll read quickly with you the signs. Please note he they said what will be “the” sign. He said signs but he didn’t at that point answer that question.
“For nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom...”
I interpreted that the other night as world wars.
“...there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”
Some texts leave out pestilences there but you’ll find if you compare with Luke 21 it’s there. As a matter of objective reality, pestilence almost always follows famine because when peoples’ resistance is broken down then disease becomes rampant. Earthquakes I commented on the other night, I’ll not say it again. Verse 8:
“All these are the beginnings of labor pains. They will deliver you up to tribulation, and kill you: you’ll be hated of all nations, for my name’s sake.”
A tremendous turning of the world against true Christians. Verse 10:
“Many will be offended, will betray one another and will hate one another.”
Many Christians will not stand the test. They’ll turn away from the Lord, they’ll turn away from their fellow believers and betray them. That has happened, to some extent, under various dictatorships already.
“Many false prophets will rise, and deceive many.”
I interpret that as the innumerable cults that are sweeping the world today. Every cult has a false prophet behind it.
“Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
Lawlessness abounding. I commented on that and, again, it is a very obvious feature of our society almost everywhere. The very serious words that we need to give heed to is “the love of many” and you’ll find the New International Version says “the love of most will grow cold.” The word love is agape, it’s talking about the love of Christians. The atmosphere is going to be so permeated by lawlessness that it will be difficult to stay in the love of God.
I coined the phrase once “lawlessness leads to lovelessness.” I believe we all need to guard our love. The epistle of Jude says, “Brothers, keep yourselves in the love of God praying always in the Holy Spirit.” I think that’s one key to keeping ourselves in the love of God, it’s praying in the Holy Spirit. At least, brothers and sisters, we cannot say we have not been warned. I don’t know how words could be clearer than those that I’ve just been reading to you. I don’t want to leave you depressed but I want to confront you with facts. If your faith can’t stand confrontation with facts then you better check on your faith.
Jesus said in Luke when you see these things come to pass—what? Look up for your redemption is drawing nigh. You can look at it two ways. You can say things are getting worse and worse—which is true. Or, you can say the coming of the Lord is coming closer and closer. How you react will determine how you come through.
Let’s just very briefly mention some of the signs there. World wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, world wide persecution of Christians, many Christians renege and betray their fellow believers, many false prophets or cults, an increase of lawlessness, and a decrease of love.
“For the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.”
The Old King James Version said “when the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” I believe the upbuilding of Zion is one great world-wide indication that the appearing of the Lord in his glory is close at hand.
Then, in Daniel 12:4 we have two very interesting—I call—secular signs. Daniel had had this revelation about the end times and then he was told this in verse 4.
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
See, there are two very succinct statements. There will be a great increase of travel and knowledge. The word science simply is a Latin word for knowledge. So, a world-wide increase of science and travel—which is so manifestly true. The very fact that you’re all here in Jerusalem is a simple testimony to the fact that there’s a world-wide increase of knowledge and travel. The two are related together because it’s science that has made travel in this degree possible. See how accurate the scripture is? That’s related to the time of the end.
Then Luke 21:24 which really should have gone after Psalm 102:16. How many of you know what Luke 21:24 says? The fact that you’re here is part of this. I’m only going to read the second half of the verse.
“...Jerusalem shall be trampled by Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
So, when Jerusalem—don’t misunderstand me. You are not trampling Jerusalem. You’re walking on the streets. The word trampled indicates domination and enforced government—which was true from the year 70 A.D. till the year 1948. In 1948 west Jerusalem was liberated to a considerable extent from Gentile domination. Then one of the most critical years in this century, l967, the old city, the basic Jerusalem was liberated from Gentile domination. Which, in my opinion, is one of the most important single events in this century.
The times of the Gentiles, I believe, mean the times when Gentile rulers and empires dominate the land that God allotted to Israel and the city of Jerusalem. See, one of the particular responsibilities of the Jewish people is to care for the city of Jerusalem. You find they have a passionate concern for the well-being of Jerusalem. For 19 centuries they never cease to pray every day for the restoration of Jerusalem. Historically you could say pretty well under Jewish government Jerusalem has flourished, under Gentile government it has languished. It’s a fact of history.
I have a friend here in the city who is a rabbi, a fifth generation rabbi born in Jerusalem who used to speak to our tour group when we brought them. He was talking to one group and he was explaining that the Jewish people feel this special responsibility to care for the city of Jerusalem. He was explaining how Jerusalem had been built up since Israel gained control again. He knew he was speaking to Christians and he said, “After all, when Jesus comes back he wants to find a good Jerusalem, doesn’t he?” I thought to myself, “I wonder if you really know what you said!” That’s it.
1Timothy 4:1–2. I’ve got to time this so I get to the really important part before I finish. I know from experience if you don’t take time to convince people this is real then you’re just preaching in vain. 1Timothy 4:1–2 speaks about another feature of the close of this age.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times [that’s one of the Biblical phrases for the close of the age] some will depart from the faith [the Christian faith]...”
So we’re talking here about Christians, you understand? People who’ve been in the faith and depart from it.
“Some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits, and doctrines of demons...”
We don’t really need to read any further. We are warned that at the close of this age the influence of demons and religious deception will be so strong that Christians will be enticed away from the faith. I have to say I’ve personally witnessed many examples of this. How many of you can say the same? That’s right. Well, there you are.
It’s shocking but at the same time it should strengthen your faith because the Bible says it will happen. If it didn’t happen you could say the Bible isn’t reliable.
“But know this, that in the last days [another phrase] perilous times will come [dangerous times].”
What’s the reason for the dangerous times? It’s not nuclear fission, it’s not atomic warfare; it’s the degeneration of human character. That’s the root problem. The atom bomb didn’t make itself, it won’t detonate itself. Man’s corrupt character is the root of all the problems. Paul goes on:
“Many will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God...”
You would do well to read through that list sometime. Look at the situation in your nation and say how many of those features are conspicuous in the character and conduct of the people around me? There are 18 moral blemishes listed there. In my lifetime—which is not all that long—all those have increased dramatically in Britain, in America, in Scandinavia, in Western Europe, here in the Middle East. In fact, all the places that I am familiar with there has been a dramatic increase of these moral defects.
It’s interesting to notice the first and the last. It begins with love of self and goes on immediately with love of money and ends with love of pleasure. How accurately does that depict contemporary western culture? Love of self, love of money and love of pleasure. You see, all the other hideous blemishes are contained within those.
See, corruption in the natural always increases. Once a thing becomes corrupt, once fruit begins to rot, it never gets better. Rot always increases. I sometimes think about fruit—you can preserve it for awhile. You can take that beautiful peach, you can put it in the refrigerator and you can slow up the process of decay but you cannot arrest it nor turn it back. One day even inside the refrigerator it’s going to become shriveled and yellow and unattractive. I think the refrigerator is religion. You can put people in the refrigerator of religion and it will slow up the outward process of corruption but it won’t change anything inside. Why I say that is because of the next verse. Let me point this out to you. The next verse says about all these people who have been listed:
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof...”
These are not irreligious people. Frankly, brothers and sisters, these are churchgoers. These are people with denominational labels. They still retain their labels and you still see them in church but they have rejected the transforming power of God to change them into righteous people. The Bible offers some good advice—stay away from them.
We’ll go on in that chapter, 2Timothy 3:8–9.
“Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith. But they will progress no further: for their folly will be manifest to all, as their also was.”
That’s Jannes and Jambres. Do you know who they were? They were the two magicians who resisted Moses in the court of Pharaoh. What Paul is speaking about here is the practitioners of the occult. He says just as the magicians, Jannes and Jambres, resisted Moses, so the practitioners of the occult at the close of this age will resist the truth of the gospel. Is that true? Is it happening? Believe me it is.
I am convinced that the ultimate conflict is not going to be a conflict of theology. It’s going to be a conflict of power. Moses said you’ve got rods and I’ve got a rod. Let’s throw our rods down. Mine will become a snake. It did. So did the magicians’. Have you ever pondered on that? They had occult power. But you know the exciting thing was Moses’ snake ate up the magicians’ snakes. I picture Moses going out of that encounter with a rod that was much thicker and stronger than it had been before! Whereas the magicians had no rods left. See? That’s the theme that Paul is talking about. So, brothers, if we don’t have a rod that can eat up the rods of the magicians we better get equipped. It’s not going to be spouting doctrine, it’s going to be meeting power with greater power.
Then one more, 2Thessalonians 2:3.
“Let no one deceive you by any means: for that day [the day of the Lord’s return] will not come, unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.”
The Thessalonians were being told that the day of the Lord had already come. Paul wrote to correct that error and he said I’ll tell you one thing for sure. The day of the Lord will not come until there has been the falling away. The Greek word is ?apostasia? which gives us the English word apostasy. Before the coming of the Lord there will be a great apostasy. Apostasy is the deliberate rejection of revealed religious truth. I would say we’re living in it. The recent events in Britain with the ordination of the Bishop of Durham have brought out into the open as clearly as anything could the real state of the church—which is a state of apostasy in the leadership. The Bishop of Durham stated emphatically three things. He did not believe in the virgin birth, he did not believe in the deity of Jesus, and he did not believe in his physical resurrection. He indicated other Christians need to believe it. In the light of that he was ordained bishop—the third senior bishopric of the Anglican Church in Britain. You cannot be more apostate than that, there’s nothing left to be said.
Certainly there was a reaction. Not from the other bishops but from the laity. Two thirds of the other bishops said they agreed with him. One thing is they’re all perjurers because you cannot be ordained even a clergyman in the Anglican Church without saying you believe the 39 articles. They’re liars. You know my counsel to them? Start your own religion but leave the name of Jesus out of it. Let’s not just point a finger at the Anglican Church. All the major denominations have similar problems. So, there is no one who can point a finger at anyone else.
That, I believe, never has happened before. There have been wicked clergymen down through the centuries, they were immoral, they were licentious, they used extortion and bribery. But, they did not openly deny the great cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. That is confined to the last 150 years. Do you know where it started? In Germany. The new theology. You know what its consequence was in Germany? Hitler. In simple terms. Do you know what its consequence will be wherever it goes? The same.
See, the church—let me take a little picture from the Song of Solomon for a moment. The Song of Solomon says we have a little sister, what are we going to do with her? The Song says if she is a door, enclose her with boards of cedar. But if she is a wall, build towers of silver upon her. To me that’s just a little allegory of the church. If the church is a door that lets in the flood of evil, God will enclose it with boards. But if it’s a wall that keeps evil out, God will build towers of silver upon it. See, the church either excludes evil or admits it. The church is the bulwark of a nation.
In Ezekiel 22 where God speaks of the total corruption of the nation he lists groups of people that have failed. It’s in this order. Prophets, priests, princes, people. Notice where it begins. The prophets first, then the priests, then the secular rulers and then the people. The responsibility for Adolf Hitler lies primarily at the door of German theologians. And, more widely it lies at the door of the church. The antichrist cannot be revealed till there’s been the apostasy. It’s the apostasy that opens the door for the antichrist.
I was in Munich recently. The pastor’s name is Wilfred ?Tunit?. His father was one of the leading Lutheran theologians of the previous generation. Recently—many of you Germans probably saw it. I didn’t. There was a program in which the older Pastor ?Tunit? who is over 80, and another man were speaking about what they experienced under Adolf Hitler. This other man said that he went to somebody and said, “I just want to know one thing. Is he the antichrist?” Very close to being the antichrist. Not the antichrist but a kind of sketch of the antichrist.
We don’t have time to go into that because if we do we’ll never get out of it. I’m going to list very briefly the signs that we mentioned. Carnal corruption, evil imaginations, violence, homosexuality, materialism, world wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, world-wide persecution of Christians, Christians reneging and betraying their fellow believers, many false prophets, increase of lawlessness, decrease of love, the rebuilding of Zion, Jerusalem delivered from Gentile domination, world-wide increase of knowledge and travel, Christians influenced by demons and false doctrine, general degeneration of character and ethics behind a facade of religion, opposition from the practitioners of the occult, and a great apostasy in the church.
I would say—this is my observation—at least 80 percent of those signs are conspicuously present in the age in which we live in a degree that probably they never were before.
We must go on. What are we going to do about it? We’ve got about another 10 minutes. I have three more requirements. We’re talking about preparing the way of Messiah. Really, what I’ve done now is to get you in a condition where you can begin to fulfill the requirements if you make your mind up. The next one is cultivate holiness and right relationships. We’ll look at three passages. Hebrews 12:14.
“Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
That’s a very clear statement. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. You may know he’s coming doctrinally but you will not be ready to meet him without holiness.
It says pursue peace. Try and maintain good relationships as far as you can with those around you including your fellow believers. They’re usually the most difficult.
2Peter 3. The whole of 2Peter 3 deals with this theme of the day of the Lord. We’ll only look at just a few verses. Verses 10–12.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; [notice that picture again] in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, both the earth and the works therein will be burned up. Therefore since all these things will be dissolved, [don’t put your trust in material things] what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conduct and godliness...”
Those are the answers. Holy conduct and godliness.
“...looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God...”
Notice the attitude of expectancy, looking for. Then it says hastening. Have you ever pondered on that? You can hurry up the coming of the day of God. If you can hurry it up you can also do the opposite which is to delay it. I believe—and I’ll explain why quickly in a few moments—I believe at the door of the church lies the responsibility for the delay of the return of the Lord. We haven’t done what we were told to do. If we carry that responsibility then we carry the responsibility for all the misery and sickness and war and violence that have continued century after century and will continue till the Lord returns.
One more verse, in 2Peter 3:14.
“Wherefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”
Notice the three requirements? In peace, without spot, and blameless. In peace means right relationships. Without spot means with no unconfessed sin in your life, no spot on your garments. Blameless means you’re doing all that you’re required to do. Take that home for homework.
Then 1John 3:2–3.
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be: but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Do we know that? I trust we do.
“And every one who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.”
You may say you have the hope but the evidence is what? That you’re purifying yourself. Everybody who has the hope is purified. That’s not everybody who doctrinally believes in the return of the Lord. It’s every one who truly hopes for the return of the Lord obviously is making himself pure. It’s really common sense. How could we be expecting the Lord in his glory, power, holiness—and be doing nothing about it? That’s just a false profession.
Let me just read those again. Cultivate holiness and right relationships.
The next one is the one I really like. Proclaim the kingdom gospel to all nations. 2Peter 3:12 says we are to hasten the coming of the day. How? What can we do that will hasten the coming of the day? I want to suggest to you above all other things it is by proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to all nations that we hasten the coming of the day of the Lord. By failing to do it we delay the coming of the Lord. We have two options.
Go back to Matthew 24 for a moment, I want to read some of that briefly again. Matthew 24. Notice the question of the disciples in verse 3.
“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”
I pointed out there was a specific question, “What will be the sign?” In the verses that we have looked at up to now we have seen signs but we have not seen the sign. In verse 14 we have the sign.
“This gospel of the kingdom [please note it’s this gospel of the kingdom, it’s not some watered down human version] will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”
It’s very clear. I think there’s no possibility of misunderstanding that. What does it take to precipitate the close of the age? The proclaiming of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. Who’s going to do that? The politicians? The church, that’s right. You see, we are the body of Christ. Because of that we are the decisive influence in human affairs. The issues of the world rest with the church. We are more important in that sense than the politicians or the military commanders or the scientists. That’s a responsibility that rests at our doors. What are you doing about it? Were you even aware that you had that responsibility?
Why does the gospel have to be preached to all nations? God has decreed it, that’s why. But in Revelation 5 I think you find another way of looking at it. Revelation 5:9. This is the song of the redeemed in glory. There are one or two differences of translation in the various versions but they don’t make any significant difference.
“They [the redeemed] sang a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the scroll, [that’s Jesus the Lamb of God] and to open the seals: for you were slain, and you have redeemed us to God by your blood, out of every tribe and language, and people, and nation.”
Among the redeemed there must be representatives from every tribe, people, language and nation. It has to be made up from all nations, from all language groups.
Now, God hasn’t told me why but I believe I can guess. Because God wants Jesus honored and it’s to his honor that his sacrifice will not have been in vain for any nation anywhere on earth. But only those who hear the gospel can believe and only those who believe can be part of the redeemed. Jesus says this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world for a witness to all nations, then shall the end come.
There’s one more requirement which is found in Romans 11. We’re going to make it on time. That’s a miracle! How many of you feel your head is swimming just a little? You don’t need to put your hand up. That’s why I suggested you take notes so you can go back and check for yourself. I don’t want to convince you of anything that isn’t scriptural. I like people to check on what I’ve said. I prefer it that way.
Romans 11:25–26. This chapter deals with the mystery of Israel’s blindness. We all need to study it especially in our present context. I don’t have time to go into it, I’m just going to pick out these two verses.
“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery...”
I have observed that the apostle Paul says at least half a dozen times that he doesn’t want believers ignorant of various things. Do you know what I’ve also observed? That in most cases most believers today are ignorant of those things. Nothing has changed in 19 centuries.
“For I do not desire, brethren...”
You people here are probably an exception in this respect! Let me guard myself against your wrath.
“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion...”
Those who were ignorant of this mystery just basically tend to be wise in their own opinions—which is one of the big problems with the church. This is the mystery:
“...that hardening in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
Almost everywhere in the Bible where it speaks about the setting aside of Israel you’ll find the next word is “until.” Almost anywhere you read. The Bible is so careful to emphasize it is not permanent. What’s the until here? Until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. This is the inscrutable wisdom of God he has ordained. All Gentiles must hear the message and have the opportunity to believe. All those who are ordained to faith must come in before the final restoration of Israel.
If you are really concerned about the restoration of Israel, one of the most important things you could do is proclaim this gospel to all nations. They cannot be fully restored until that’s happened. That’s a mystery but it’s stated so clearly. The whole mystery really goes back to they had to be set aside for the Gentiles to have an opportunity to come in.
You see, we owe them everything. Another publication you can get at my booth is my little pamphlet on Our Debt to Israelwhich is free for anybody who wants to take it. We owe our entire spiritual inheritance to the Jewish people without exception. Without them, no patriarchs, no prophets, no apostles, no Bible and no savior. How much do we have without that? Nothing. It was their zeal and their commitment in the face of much opposition that brought the gospel to the Gentiles. We have a debt to repay. One way we can repay it is by meeting the condition that will make it possible for them to be fully restored. Hardness in part has happened unto Israel until the full number of the Gentiles have come in. Then it goes on:
“All Israel will be saved: as it is written, the Deliverer will come out of Zion.”
This is a passion with me. The older I grow the more passionate I become about two obligations. Number one, to proclaim this gospel to all nations. Number two, to pray and labor for the restoration of Israel. Because, until those two things happen, the world is not going to see the kingdom of God. The responsibility rests on us.
Let me read now my seven point outline and close. Preparing for Messiah’s coming—and I’m only going to read the outline. Number one, be aware of the promises and the purposes. Number two, be eagerly expectant. Number three, understand the times and the seasons. Number four, recognize the signs. I gave you at least 20 signs. Number five, cultivate holiness and right relationships. Number six, proclaim the kingdom gospel to all nations. And number seven, pray and labor for the restoration of Israel. Amen.
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