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Sunday, February 27, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus and the End of the World"

“Jesus and the End of the World”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
February 27, 2011
Luke 21:5-38

This is the part of Matthew, Mark, and Luke when Jesus gives His fullest teaching about the End of the World.

It’s a longer passage and very complex, but it is woven together in one piece, so we’re going to take it all together in one message.

Jesus and the End of the World.

We have already heard Jesus talk about the end of the world in the Gospel of Luke.

In Luke, Jesus has already taught about the coming judgment, about the coming Kingdom, and about His own return.

But, now in this fatal last week of His earthly ministry before His crucifixion, Jesus teaches again about the end of the world.

And when Jesus talks about the end of the world, we need to listen.

Now, you need to know that, like most prophetic portions of the Scriptures about prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled, there are some differences in interpretation between earnest Bible-believing Christians on some of the details of Luke 21.  

I will point out a few of those different interpretations as we go along.  And I don’t claim to have the final word on all of those points of interpretation, but I do think some things are very clear in this passage and especially the application of those things is very clear.

So, we’re actually going to organize this message around three points of application. And they are going to be three “Don’ts.”  Three things to avoid, to not do, as we consider the end of the world.  And, conversely, three things to do instead.

And that, I think, as I’ve said before, is the most important role of biblical prophecy–application.  Prophecy exists so that we live differently in light of its truth.
               
[scripture reading, prayer]

What, in your life, is so big, and strong and certain that if it fell apart, it would feel like the end of the world?

Let me ask you that question again.

What, in your life, is so big, and strong and certain that if it fell apart, it would feel like the end of the world?

Have you ever had somebody say to you, “Well, it’s not the end of the world.”

And sometimes you agree.

And sometimes it feels like it.

Sometimes things feel like the end of the world.

Where were you when you heard that President Kennedy had been shot?
Where were you when you heard that the Space Shuttle had exploded?
Where were you when you heard about the towers falling on September 11, 2001?

How did you feel at those moments?

Some of you are too young to remember any of them.

Some of you remember all of them.

On September 11, 2001, I felt like it was the end of the world.

I was in Mercer at a pastors gathering, and I was scared to drive back, had to fight back my fears as I drove back on 80 to get home to my family and church family.

It seemed, at least a bit, like the end of the world.

In this passage, Jesus teaches about the true end of the world.  The one that is coming.

World History is not eternal.  It had a beginning and it will have an end.

It all started in verse 5.  Jesus’ disciples are amazed at the temple.  V.5

“Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’”

You can’t blame the disciples for being impressed with the temple.

Remember, we just learned about the temple a few weeks ago?

King Herod had started the rebuilding of the temple and was making it huge.  He had more than doubled the size of the temple complex.

At this point, it took up one sixth of the land mass of old Jerusalem.  It was a wonder of the ancient world.  The outer dimensions would cover twelve football fields.

Remember that some scholars estimate that up to 75,000 people could be accommodated in just the court of the Gentiles!  That’s 5 times the size of the Bryce Jordan Center just in this front court.

But even more amazing than the size was the quality of the building materials. 

The Jewish historian, Josephus, describes it this way:
“The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye.  For, being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays. To approaching strangers it appeared from a distance like snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was [stone] of the purest white. From its summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling and polluting the roof.  Some of the stones in the building were forty-five cubits in length, five in height and six in breadth.”  (Quoted in Hughes, pg. 296).
That’s 67 feet long, twelve feet high and eighteen feet wide. 

Stones that big.  Bigger than a boxcar!

And gold everywhere.

Most of these disciples were from the Galilee in the North.  They had never seen anything like it.

They were Gomer Pyle in New York City.

“Shazam.  Well...gollly!”

The temple must have seemed absolutely solid and beautiful and certain and glorious.

And they knew that Jesus loved the temple.  He had called it His Father’s house.  And He had worked so hard to cleanse it earlier this fateful week.

They would have assumed that He would agree.

But instead, Jesus says, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

No!  Not really?  Total destruction?  Of our temple?

That must have been so shocking to hear.

Like if I said when you wake up tomorrow there will be no United States of America.

Route 80 will be closed for good.

And both the phone lines and the Internet will be shutting down.

Or, fill in the blank, with whatever seems certain and sure and solid for you.

Maybe, as of tomorrow you will have no more living family.  Whatever.

Being told that the temple would topple must have felt like the end of the world to these guys.

So, they ask.  V.7 Probably in total shock.  It’s amazing anyone ever got this down on paper.

“‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’”

That’s sounds like the end of the world, Jesus!  And when will it happen and how will we know that’s come?

Well, in typical Jesus fashion, He doesn’t answer their question directly.

He tells them what they need to know, and not necessarily what they want to know.

Which would you rather get if you had to choose.

I’m sure that we all would like to be told what we want to know and what we need to know, but what if you had to choose?

I’d want to be told what I need to know and deal with the rest.

Of course, Jesus doesn’t ask.  He just tells us what He thinks best.

And what He says emphasizes how to live in light of the end of the world. 

#1. DON’T BE DECEIVED OR MISLED.  V.8

“He replied: ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and, 'The time is near.' Do not follow them.”

There is a lot of confusion about the end times.

I’m thankful for John Forcey to spend a few weeks teaching our teens about what the Bible teaches about the end of the world.  Thanks, John!

Jesus said that there would be deceptive false teachers who would come “in his name” and even claim to be Him.  Claim to be the Messiah.

And say, “Here it, folks!  Step right up, I’m the Messiah.  Get your ticket here.”

This happened in the first century, and it has happened in every century since then.

They have names like Sun Yung Moon and David Koresh and Jim Jones. And they are sneaky and don’t always look like bad people.

There is a man right now named José Luis de Jesús Miranda who lives in Miami that claims that He is Jesus Christ returned to Earth. He calls himself "Jesucristo Hombre" -- "The Man Christ Jesus.” And he has followers in 35 countries with a radio program that reaches 287 stations. People listen to this guy.

And catch this! He has a tattoo with the number 666 on his arm.

Why doesn’t that surprise me?

Don’t be deceived and misled.  Jesus says, “Don’t follow them.”

Instead, BE FOREWARNED AND FOREARMED.

Jesus has told us ahead of time what to expect.

And being forewarned is being forearmed.

And when you are, then you won’t need to be afraid.

#2.  DON’T BE WORRIED AND AFRAID.  V.9

“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’”

Now, the most important words in that verse is “do not be frightened.”

That’s not easy, but it’s what He says to do.

“Do not be frightened.”

When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’

Catch that.  When we hear about wars and revolutions, we start to think about the End Times.  Oooh.  I wonder if World War II means that the end is here.

Or the Iraq war.  There are all of these books that tie in current events like wars and revolutions to the End of the World.

But Jesus says those things must happen, but the end will not come right away (KJV: “by and by” which used to mean “immediately” back when James was King).

And there is more, verse 10.

“Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.”

And that sounds like the End of the World, but I think He’s saying, “No, that’s life in this chaotic world we live in.  That’s life between the comings of Christ, first and second.”

So, we aren’t supposed to get all worked up about national rivalry, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful events and even signs from heaven (which I think means comets and strange alignments of stars and that sort of thing).

Those things are normal.  It’s not the end of the world.  They don’t mean that the end is here.

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus calls them “birth pangs,” which means that they do point to something big coming and they are painful, but they aren’t the end.

But Jesus’ applicationary point here is to not be afraid.  “Do not be frightened.”

Christians live a life without fear.  Or, at least, we’re supposed to.

I think a lot of Christians ignore Jesus here.

We are more focused in our Christian books, at least, on signs of the end times, (see  most of those funky people on Christian television or check the aisles in any Christian bookstore–more focused on the signs of the end times) than we are on being fearless no matter what is going on.

But Jesus wants us to BE BOLD AND HOPEFUL.

That’s what he told His disciples to do.  Look at verse 12.

“‘But before all this (so I think that this next part is describing what will happen to the apostles and the early church in the first century), they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. [Doesn’t sound like much of a party.  Maybe a few reasons here to get scared?  No. V.13]  This will result in your being witnesses to them. [Be bold!]  But make up your mind not to worry [Don’t worry!] beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”

Now, Jesus is not saying that pastors should not prepare their sermons.

That would save me a lot of time each week!

He’s saying when you are dragged to prison and then the next day have to defend what you believe to possibly spare your life, don’t worry about what you’re going to say.  You don’t have to prepare.  God will give you the words.

And that’s what He did for the apostles. Read the book of Acts!

But it’s no Sunday School picnic.  V.16

“You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  All men will hate you because of me.  But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.”

Now, what?

Some of you will be put to death but not a hair of your head will perish?

The second one there is a figure of speech.

He’s saying that God will take ultimate care of you.

Spiritually, resurrectionly, in every way that really counts you will be safe.

Not a hair on your head will perish.

So, don’t be afraid.
Don’t be worried.
Don’t be terrified.
Don’t be apprehensive.

Live bold.  Live hopeful.

Witness!  Talk to people about Jesus.

What are they going to do to you?  Kill ya?

So what?  You’ve got a resurrection body on order.

Go ahead.  Kill me.  You can’t hurt me.

That should be our perspective.

Do you need to hear that?

Are you afraid to talk about Jesus to someone?
Afraid to invite them to the Wild Game Dinner?
Afraid to invite them to church?
Afraid to share the gospel with them on a little piece of paper?

What are you afraid they are going to do?

Not a hair on your head will perish.

Be bold!

Now, Jesus gets down to brass tacks.  He comes back to the subject of the temple and the end of the world.  And He tells His disciples about the coming destruction of Jerusalem.  V.20

“‘When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.  Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.  For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people [the Jews]. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

This was fulfilled in less than 40 years from when Jesus predicted it.

Now, this might also point to a future day of great tribulation.

But I think that Jesus is, here in verses 21-24, describing what will happen to Jerusalem and the temple in the year 70 AD.

The Jews revolted against Rome in 66 AD.  And they failed and failed and failed in their revolt.

And where do you think that all of the refugees and retreating fighters tried to hide?

Jerusalem.  The walled city on the hill.

But the Christians, of which there were thousands in Jerusalem, got out of town.

And I believe it’s because they were following Jesus’ counsel here.

Many Christians went to the town of Pella across the Jordan river.

So when Jerusalem fell, and fell it did, most of the Christians escaped.

But it hadn’t happened yet when Jesus predicted it.

Jesus says that it would be a great distress in the land and wrath against the people and that they would fall by the sword and be taken as prisoners to all the nations.  Trampled on by the Gentiles.

That’s exactly what happened.

Josephus estimates that 1 million Jews were killed in 70 AD in Jerusalem.

And 97,000 prisoners were drug away in chains.

That must have felt like the end of the world.

And that temple?  It came down.

The Roman soldiers under their commander, Titus, pulled it down stone upon stone.

Especially to get at all that gold!

And it was left desolate.  The Jews were trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

I think that means until Romans 11 kicks in and there is a massive turning to Christ among, not just Gentiles like us, but ethnic Jews as well!  “All Israel will be saved.”

And that leads Jesus to actually talk about the end of the world.  V.25

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

I don’t think that Jesus tells us when that will be.

He says elsewhere that no one knows the day or the hour, not even Himself while He was on Earth.

But He tells us what it will be like.

It will be like nothing else.

Everything will be shaken.  Everything will be turned upside.  Everything!

Nothing will be certain.  Nothing will be solid.  Everything will be chaos.

And then we will see Him.  “Riding on the Clouds!”

The Son of Man.  Daniel 7.  The Messiah.  The Son of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ returning.  Coming a second time to reign and rule and bring redemption!

Notice again, it doesn’t say to get frightened about the end of the world.

Men will faint from terror and apprehension of what is coming on the world.

But not us.  V.28

“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Full redemption.

Not just salvation from the penalty and power of sin but the redemption of our bodies and the redemption of the whole world!

The world is not just going to end.  A new world is going to begin!

Hold up your head!  Hope!  Rejoice.  Take courage!  Be bold and celebrate.

Because the end of the world is a good thing for Christians!

Our redemption is drawing near.

Oh, we need to be reminded of that.  Every day.  Say, “Come, Lord Jesus!  Come!  Bring our redemption. We are not afraid!  We are glad.”

Lift up your heads.

Now, the most debated verses are verses 29-33.  And I just don’t want to get too deep into the debate.

There are several good possibilities of how to take them.  V.29

“He told them this parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees.  When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.  ‘I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Now, I think that Jesus took a break from talking about Jerusalem and 70 AD in verses 25-28 and comes back to it now.

And He’s saying that just like when you see the leaves sprout (oh, we’re ready for that, aren’t we?) then we know that Summer is on the way, so when we see the Destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation made of the temple, we know that we’re in the End Times and we have been now for almost 2000 years.

And the generation that didn’t pass away was the generation of the apostles and the earliest church.  They lived to see the destruction of 70 AD.

Other earnest Bible believing Christians think that the fig tree should be closely identified with Israel and that if you see Israel sprout again then the end is near.

And they are encouraged by the existence of the state of Israel.  And that’s possible.

I’m not convinced, but it’s certainly possible.

In that case, the generation that is not passing might be ours.

Which means we should lift up our heads. 

Other scholars that I highly respect think that verses 29-32 are closely connected to  verses 25-28 and are saying that when the major upheavals predicted there start happening then the fig tree is sprouting, and all the rest will happen quickly.

The generation not passing in that case is the generation that is alive when the end times begin.

Or perhaps generation should be translated “race” as the NIV footnote says and it would mean the Jews will survive until the end of the world.  Which is true, too.

Whatever interpretation makes the most sense to you (and let us all be convinced in our own minds), there is no mistaking Jesus’ main point in verses 33.

“Heaven and earth will pass away.”  We will have the end of the world.

“But my words (these predictions and all of His promises) will never pass away.”

And then Jesus gets (if possible!) even more practical on us.

#3.  DON’T BE WEIGHED DOWN AND TRAPPED.  V.33

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day [the end of the world] will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.  For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth [ready or not!.]  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Here’s where the rubber meets the road.

Jesus says don’t let your heart get weighed down with dissipation (that means wild living), drunkenness (that means drunkeness, drowning your sorrows and losing control to substances) and “the anxieties of life” I’m willing to be that that’s a bigger problem for many of us here than the other two.

Don’t let them weigh you down or you will not be ready and the end of the world will spring on you.

Instead, BE WATCHFUL AND PRAYERFUL.

Be spiritually awake.

Take note of you heart and make sure that it is right with the Lord.

And talk to Him.  Pour out your heart to Him.

Ask Him to be your Savior if you have not yet.

Declare your allegiance to Him as Lord if you have not yet and then do it again!

You want to be ready for Jesus to come back and to make all things new.

You want to escape the temptations of this world and stand in righteousness and purity and joy before the Son of Man, clothed in His righteousness and treasuring Him as your greatest joy.

Be watchful and prayerful.

Not deceived, not misled.
Not worried, not afraid.  Not terrified.
Not weighed down.

But watchful and hopeful and expectant and longing and prayerful and joyful.

Because of Jesus.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...
Thanking Jesus
Jesus and the Coming Kingdom
Jesus Says, "Keep Praying"
The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus
Jesus Does the Impossible
Why Did Jesus Come?
Investing for Jesus in 2011
King Jesus
Jesus and the Temple 
The Authority of Jesus
Jesus and Caesar
Jesus and the Sadducees
Jesus' Turn

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