Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The End Is Near - Don't Be Alarmed
There's an attitude that exists, certainly among scientists, the educational elite - and surprisingly even among Christian professors - that the Bible is not historically accurate. "It is an account that was crafted by men who had a point to make, so the details don't necessarily match up with what really happened," they say.
Now, I'm not here to get into a philosophical debate about the veracity of the Scriptures - we can have that discussion at another time -
That being said - did you all pick up the latest edition of Biblical Archeology Review? Well, if you didn't, perhaps you read about this on the front page of the Oregonian newspaper. Scholars are now saying that an ossuary, which is a box containing human bones - contains an inscription that is the earliest known reference to Jesus Christ outside of the Bible.
The box contains these words: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The box and the inscription date to the first century AD, and the unusual nature of the inscription lends to its authenticity. One scientist said this is "the first ever archaeological discovery to corroborate Biblical references to Jesus."
Although it is significant, it is not surprising. You see, scientists have scoffed at many passages in the Bible, until evidence of their truth is unearthed in some dig in the Middle East.
But I want to point out something - the Bible doesn't hinge upon whether or not we can prove its historical accuracy by extra Biblical evidence. That is where faith comes in. Paul wrote in the book of Romans the gospel is the power of God. His Word is true, and it is powerful - and it doesn't need a scientist to lend authenticity to it.
But His Word can be trusted - and should be relied upon not only to guide our present, but to tell our future. That's where we are today in our journey through Matthew - the drama of Jesus' earthly ministry is almost over, and His disciples - always the inquiring mind - want to know "is this it - are You going to restore Israel now?"
So Jesus, always patient with His people, gives a glimpse into the future - "you want to know when the end is near - here's how you can know - follow the signs."
Now even before we begin I want you to notice something - the audience is made up of Jews. They will be Christians, but Jesus is speaking prophetically to the Jews - this is important because the signs He talks about will tell the Jews remaining on the earth during the Great Tribulation what to expect and what to do.
Anyway - the conversation starts as the group walks away from the Temple area, after a very heated rebuke from Jesus on the Pharisees.
24:1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.
In Mark's gospel we read the disciples were actually quite taken with the Temple. And beautiful it was - this was Herod's Temple - a huge expansion on the one built by Ezra in the sixth century BC. Herod didn't believe in Yahweh, but he wanted to impress his subjects and leave a massive monument to himself.
The Temple covered about 1/6th of the land area of ancient Jerusalem. It wasn't one building but a series of porches and colonnades. The foundation stones were so massive that some believe the footings still exist to this day.
But calling attention to the buildings only gave an opportunity for Jesus to point out that anything that impresses us, but leaves out God is a waste.
2 "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
This came true, of course, only a few years after Herod finished his construction project - in 70AD when the Romans destroyed the Temple. But it was also true spiritually - as Jesus dismantled the empty religion that had rejected Him - the true sacrifice.
You see - this Temple was only supposed to be a reminder - a model if you will - of a greater reality in heaven.
The book of Hebrews in Hebrews 9:24 says: "24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence."
Jesus telling His disciples that the Temple was to be destroyed would have been a shocker - but in their minds the idea of a suffering Messiah was still foreign - they were looking for an earthly king to restore their nation - so if destroying the Temple was what it took, then they went with it - probably wondering the whole way up the slope of the Mount of Olives.
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
A two part question - when will the destruction of the Temple happen - and what is the sign of Your coming? They were probably thinking that these two events would happen one right after the other. They wanted to know what sign to look for that the Messiah was going to set up His kingdom.
They were, of course, mistaken as to the timing. But it's been described like being on a mountain and seeing the peaks off in the distance. They all look so close - but in fact are very far away. So the timing was off, but I want you to notice something. This place where this discussion takes place is the exact spot where the prophet Zechariah says the Messiah will return. Imagine what Jesus must have been thinking - knowing through the Spirit what would happen - to Jerusalem, to the nation, to the world. So His next words take on a lot of meaning.
4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you.
Let know one deceive you. After the crucifixion, resurrection and power that would come - the thing that is on the Savior's mind is deception. And what is the deception?
5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.
Think of all the false doctrine that has come about - leading so many people who thought they were serving Christ but murdered and persecuted and led astray. Paul the Apostle would later write: Galatians 1:8 "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"
The key is the Word of Christ - the gospel - the revelation of Jesus. We must always watch out for those who say "Oh Paul and the Apostles had good words but now there is a new and clearer revelation." The Mormons say it, the Qu'ran says it - and it's the deception Jesus spoke of.
One of the best words of advice I can give you is to stick to the plain revealed Word of God.
So - now we come to the exciting part - Jesus parting the curtains of the future a little bit for us - giving us a dim but important picture of what leads up to the end.
6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
A couple of things to point out here.
1. A lot is going to happen - the Temple destroyed, Jerusalem destroyed - lots of wars and killing and stuff - also lots of natural disasters and people dying from plagues and famines. But it doesn't mean the end is here. All these things, Jesus said, are the "beginning of birth pains."
It might be fair to say they are like "Braxton-Hicks" contractions. These occur before real labor and are reminders that labor is near, but not here yet. When we see horrible things happening around us we think "the end must be here." But Jesus doesn't want us to focus on those things - but on Him.
2. Look at what Jesus said - despite all the horrors - "don't be alarmed." It comes from a word that means "to wail." We read the news or watch it on TV and we become alarmed, don't we? In fact, despite having worked in TV news for over 20 years I don't watch it anymore. Why? Because constantly hearing of death and murder and death and war puts us in a constant state of alarm. It increases stress. It makes the world around us seem so much worse than it really is.
Now, I'm not saying for us to put our heads in the sand - but what we're doing is putting our heads in a hornets nest and wondering why we go around swatting away hornets all day.
"These things must happen," Jesus said. Bad stuff happens - but it doesn't mean we have to be alarmed about it. Protect ourselves when necessary, yet - but not alarmed. Remember what Jesus said to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee? "Take courage, It is I, don't be afraid."
If you have Jesus in your heart - then He's with you in your boat as you toss about on the sea of life - and where Jesus is, no boat can sink. In other words - God's plans for us cannot be frustrated by circumstances. Trust Him - what's the worst that could happen? You die. Okay - what then? We get to be with Jesus face to face forever - is that bad?
So bad stuff happens around us - but bad stuff can also happen to us.
9 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
This came true - of course. Not very long after Jesus spoke these words - the disciples were handed over to local Jewish councils, some were killed. Today in some nations it is illegal to be a Christian - and sharing the gospel will land you in prison or worse.
Listen to part of this story from Persecution.org: Yaqoob Masih, a 15-year-old Pakistani Christian, died on June 27, 2002 following torture inflicted by police during interrogations. Yaqoob Masih was a resident of Christian Kachi Abadi, a small Christian community. He was the only son of Anayat Masih. The youth had just started his job as a sweeper for the Customs Department of the government of Pakistan.
Yaqoob Masih was a witness to an act of bribery between customs officers and the owner of a vehicle who was evading paying taxes. Yaqoob was warned not to tell senior customs officials about what had happened, but Yaqoob said that he, as a Christian, would have to tell the truth if asked. Fearing that Yaqoob might talk, the owner of the van lodged a false case against Yaqoob, resulting in his arrest by the local police.
On the influence of the vehicle owner, the police tortured Yaqoob, breaking several ribs. He received other serious injuries on his body as a result of the cruel acts of torture by the police, including pulling out his finger nails with a pair of pliers. Yaqoob later died from his injuries.
The point is not to cause you alarm - but in some places persecution is life and death - but it is also real for you and I.
The point is - if we think we can give our lives to Jesus, then never have any conflict over that faith with a family member or someone else we are fooling ourselves. But again - don't be alarmed - Jesus told us it would happen and we really should be willing to go where He went - suffering from rejection but knowing the truth.
For some - any conflict means giving up. Know that conflict happens - but it's all part of the winnowing process. Here's more:
10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
I believe we are seeing this today - a recent survey found that Oregon is the least churched state in the union. Christianity is under attack from all quarters. We take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, we take prayer out of schools, the Boy Scouts get roasted because they believe in God and won't allow homosexuals to be leaders.
Interestingly, the verb used for "turn away" is the same word used in Matthew 13:21 to describe someone who has received the gospel but doesn't take it in - it doesn't become real, so when trouble springs up, they throw it away like a hot potato.
How deeply have you let Jesus Christ seep into your life? The Mormon church likes to prey on newly converted Christians - before they get roots in Jesus, they can more easily be swayed. That's one of the reasons why we need to come alongside and disciple new believers.
11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
It's happened ever since Jesus walked the earth - but even more now - with Jim Jones, David Karesh - men claiming to be speaking for God, but weren't. How do we know? Always judge the truth of a so-called prophet by the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.
The Apostle John in his 1st epistle says that the way we know the truth from falsehood is the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ. That's why coming to Bible studies is so important and why reading and studying the Word on your own is vital.
12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Haven't you noticed the increase in wickedness? It's all around us. Sexual immorality, demon worship, greed, attacks against Jesus Christ and His church - it's all around us.
The idea of standing firm doesn't mean that endurance earns you salvation - but the idea is that true believers won't just give up on Jesus when the going gets tough. We need perseverance as the world around us dissolves into wickedness. How do we get that perseverance? Remember James 1?
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Trials and testing leads to perseverance - which comes from the word "to say under." Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about how to have fruit in your life? The answer from Jesus was to "remain" in Him. Stick by Jesus side and you'll bear fruit - stay under His care and you'll persevere and endure. You won't have to be superman - just relate to Jesus and He'll take care of you.
Finally this thought:
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
You see - as things go south Jesus doesn't want our focus to turn away from our primary mission.
We see the terror in the world and we become alarmed. We see the coldness and increase in wickedness and the hate others display to us as Christians and we become timid and fearful.
But our job is to bring this gospel - this good news of escape from wickedness through the blood of Jesus to the world. Nothing should dissuade us from that mission.
It doesn't mean that every single last tribe must hear the gospel - Jesus said the kingdom will be preached "in" the whole world. So every language group must be reached - and the work is going on - but that's the real sign that the end is here - that the gospel has gone out to all - and once that last person accepts Him - BOOM - we're out of here.
o Don't look for signs - look to the Savior
o Don't let the bad news alarm you, concentrate on the good news
o Don't be turned away by trials or persecution from your primary mission - live for Jesus, and tell everyone else!