Sunday Sermon: ‘The Nearness of Christ’s Return’

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Are we living in the last days? Are we in that season of time when the Lord will return and bring an end to the sin of this world? In many ways we are just like the disciples who asked two thousand years ago – “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” The Bible tells us that no one knows the exact day or the hour, but we can know when we are living in that season.

I. A Day of Uncertainty and Excitement

A. Day of Uncertainty

Today is a day of great uncertainty. Look at a newspaper almost any day and you will see articles about ISIS and Christians being arrested and beheaded, and the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and financial instability not only in America but around the world, and homegrown acts of violence.

B. Day of Excitement

Although there is great uncertainty, there is also great excitement. Why do I say this? It’s exciting time to live because we know Who is in control and where it is all headed. The Bible says:

Isaiah 46:9… I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

God is in control. As someone has said – ‘History is His story.” Our Lord is going to return again to this earth someday and when He does, several important things are going to be accomplished:

1. His church will be delivered from the hour of judgment

The Bible says – “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the Day of Judgment.” (2 Peter 2:9 CSB)

2. This world will be taken back under His control

The Bible says – “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.’ (Revelation 11:15)

3. The nation of Israel will find salvation

The Bible says – “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced…” (Zechariah 12:10)

Although it is a time of great uncertainty, it is also a time of great excitement. God is in control and He has a perfect plan.

II. Signs of the Time

Years ago a college professor of mine explained that the interpretation of prophecy is like a man standing on a mountain top and looking out over the horizon. As the man looks out, he sees not just one, but several mountain ranges. The farther he looks, the more difficult it becomes to determine which mountain goes with which mountain range. And so I say that to say this – I don’t have all the answers on End Time Events and I would be foolish to say that I did. Not even an angel from heaven could come and preach a series of messages on End Time events with exact precision. Only God the Father knows for sure what will happen and when. God is the One who is in control. 

However, although we may not know the exact day or hour, we can know the season.

Matthew 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

What are some of the signs of the season?

A. The Development of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Some might argue that this is not a major sign, yet I believe it is. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:

I know that some skeptics will say: “There have been wars since the beginning of time.” They’re right. There have been many wars and no doubt there will continue to be many wars, even if the Lord’s return is not for another 1,000 years. However, it has only been in the last 100 years or less that mankind has developed weapons of mass destruction. Why is that important?

For centuries countries have been at war with each other, yet for the most part, the effect of their warfare was centralized to their particular country or location. Who can explain to me the War of the Roses? Probably most of us know more about Star Wars than the War of 1812.

Yet, if you know anything about some of the events of the Tribulation Period, you know that the threat of global warfare plays a major role in what is going happen. There are at least two major wars during the Tribulation Period; the last one being called ‘Armageddon’ which is equivalent to World War III.

Therefore, when you read and hear of military aggression throughout the world, know that it is all a part of the plan.

B. Globalization

A second major sign is what we sometimes call – ‘globalization.’ What is globalization? Globalization is a term used to describe the nations of the world coming together. Never in the history of mankind has there been the capability for the world to become so globally unified as it is today.

In his book, The Coming Economic Armageddon by Dr. Jeremiah, he notes that on at least three major occasions, then president – George H. Bush, referred to something that he called – ‘The New World Order.” (pg 29-30). Jeremiah also cites Dr. Henry Kissinger as stating that the turmoil in the world is a ‘great opportunity’ when ‘a new world order can be created.’ (pg 30). For the last several decades, many of our major political leaders (President Obama, Prime Minister Gordon Brown,…etc) have been focusing on a new world order.

They are not the only ones. In the early 70’s a songwriter published a song called – ‘Imagine’.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Living for today…

 Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
(John Lennon)

That song is considered by many in the pop music industry to be one of the greatest songs of all time. Rolling Stones Magazine ranks it #3 on the 500 greatest songs of all time. Without a doubt it  played a major role in forming the world philosophy of many who were being raised during that time period. (i.e. – Baby-boomers)

Today there is a great push for globalization on almost every front. First of all, there is a push for economic globalization. Annually, representatives from the world’s top twenty economies come together at what is called the G20 Summits to discuss the financial and economic issues of the world’s economy.  In addition to the push for economic globalization, there is also the push for political globalization and today we are even seeing the push for spiritual globalization.

This probably doesn’t mean a whole lot, but during some of my research I have noticed something that is very interesting to me. I stated a moment ago that these signs have developed in the last 100 years. During the 1940’s, just shortly after WWII, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and the World Council of Churches were all established. (Tools for Economic, Political, and Spiritual Globalization) It’s as if WWII was a major turning point in human history. Something else that is also interesting is that a generation began at that time that today we call the Baby-boomers. Perhaps no generation had ever been so radical in their thinking as the Baby-boomers. Like I said, maybe all of this means nothing.

 C. The Rebirth of the Nation of Israel

There is a third major sign and to me, it is the most important. On May 14, 1948, the nation of Israel was reborn. What is significant about the rebirth of the nation of Israel?

In the year 66 AD Jewish zealots began a rebellion against Rome. In response, the Emperor Nero dispatched his army to restore order. History teaches us that it took the Romans four years to overcome the rebellion, but in 70 AD the Roman general Titus broke through the walls of Jerusalem and destroyed the city.

Originally the orders were given to not destroy the Jewish Temple. Titus wanted to give it as a gift to his father who was the Emperor. But during the siege the Roman army began to run wild and someone set the Temple on fire. The fire was so hot that the gold inside of the Temple melted and ran into the cracks. In order to get the gold, the Temple had to be torn apart, stone by stone. Jesus said – “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2)

As a result of the Roman conquest, over one half a million Jews were killed. Many of those who survived were carried off to either be slaughtered for sport by the gladiators, or to serve in the Roman mines.

With the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, the Jewish people were scattered throughout the earth. In 135 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian dispelled the Jews from Judea. In addition, he renamed the region ‘Palestine’ which means: land of the Philistines.

The dispersion of the Jews from their homeland continued over the next 1700 years. During that time period, antisemitism was rampant throughout the earth.

During the late 1800’s, God began stirring in the heart of a man by the name of Theodor Herzl to reestablish a homeland for the Jews. Often this movement is known as Zionism. Then came the rise of Hitler and the German Holocaust. It is estimated that during the Holocaust, nearly 6 million Jews were inhumanly put to death. At the end of WWII, the Jews did not want to return home to their European homes. For the next three years there was a great debate as to where the surviving Jews would live. In November of 1947 the United Nations recommended that a strip of land be given to them along the border of the Mediterranean Sea. On May 14, 1948, Israel declared itself as an independent nation.

Why is the rebirth of Israel so important? Scripture teaches us that Israel will play a major role during the Last Days and the Tribulation Period. Many Bible scholars call Israel – ‘God’s Prophetic Calendar.’ The prophet Jeremiah called the Tribulation Period – ‘The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.’ (Jeremiah 30:7) Jacob as many of you know, is another name for Israel. In addition, Daniel 9 teaches us that God has determined 70 time periods for His people. Sixty-nine of those time periods have already happened. Only one time period of seven years is left and that time period will be the Tribulation.

For nearly two thousand years, the Tribulation could not take place because the Jews were not a nation. But now they are a nation again.  The book of Isaiah asks – “Is a country born in one day? Is a nation brought forth all at once?” (Isaiah 66:8) Yes, by the miraculous hand of God, it happened just as prophecy said.  It seems to me that by the rebirth of the nation of Israel after 1900 years of upheaval, something major is in the process of happening.

III. A Thief in the Night

A. Day of the Lord

Why does all of this matter? Consider Paul’s words to the Thessalonians-

1 Thessalonians 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

The Day of the Lord is a reference to a time period beginning with the rapture of the church and ending at the end of His Millennial Kingdom here on earth. In other words, the Day of the Lord is when Christ reclaims what has always rightfully belonged to His Father.  Paul said that the Day of the Lord will come as a ‘thief in the night.’ In other words, Christ will return and God will complete His plan for mankind in a moment when many least expect it.

3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

B. Thief in the Night

I can’t tell you when Christ will return, but I can tell you that it will catch many off guard. They will spiritually asleep and therefore destined to go into a terrible time period called the Tribulation.

The Bible tells of another time when judgment was coming to the earth. Long ago the LORD told a man to build an ark, for a world-wide flood was coming. It had never rained upon the earth, and so the thought of building this gigantic boat probably seemed a bit ridiculous.

Yet Noah believed God and so he started building the great boat. We don’t know how long it took him to build it. Some suppose it took him 120 years. (see Genesis 6:3) We don’t know how long it took him, but no doubt it took several years. Peter tells us that while he was building, he tried to share God’s truth with his friends and neighbors. Yet no one listened. No doubt many mocked him and called him a fool.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

While Noah built the ark, everyone else kept living as they pleased. And then suddenly, one day the rain began to fall. Noah and his family were safe because they heeded God’s Word. But the rest of humanity perished. “They knew not until the flood came, and took them all away.”

Conclusion

How close are we to the return of Christ and the end of the world? No one knows for sure. We can’t definitively say that it is very near, or that it is very far away. My personal belief is that the clock is ticking and about to wind down. I believe that Christ will return within the next one or two generations.

Along with this anticipation of Christ’s return, there is also a tremendous burden. The Bible teaches us that one of the signs of the end of time will be a drifting away from biblical truth. Scripture seems to teach us that the closer we come to the return of Christ, the colder the church will be. Therefore I have a great burden for my grandchildren and the those that might come after them. I pray for them often. I pray for their salvation and for their commitment to follow Jesus Christ. I pray that my descendents will be a part of that group that loves the Lord, right up until the very end.

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