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Sunday, November 10, 2019

“Birth Pains” [Matt's Messages]

“Birth Pains”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
November 10, 2019 :: Matthew 24:1-14

We have followed Jesus all the way through the Gospel of Matthew to that last Crucial Week in Jerusalem.

We have followed Jesus as He rode into town on Sunday hailed as the Messiah.

We have followed Jesus as He tossed the tables in the temple.

We have followed Jesus as He tussled with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the scribes and anybody else who wanted to challenge His authority.

Jesus was left standing, and they were left speechless.

But Jesus was not speechless.

In chapter 23, Jesus denounced the seemingly upright teachers of the Law and the Pharisees for really being fake and wrong and evil. “Hypocrites, blind guides, and snakes.”

“Woe” to them He said.

Jesus has pronounced woe upon them and upon Jerusalem. The exact opposite of flourishing.

In fact, He has pronounced judgment.

At the very end of chapter 23, Jesus said, “Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Right there, Jesus predicted both judgment upon Israel, Jerusalem, and their temple, as well as, His own return.

And that’s exactly what chapters 24 and 25 are all about.

Judgment upon Israel and the return of Jesus Christ.

Now whenever you get to talking about the return of Christ, things get both exciting and confusing.

Prophecy is very exciting because you are studying very important things that are still to come.

But it’s also very complex. There are a lot of details in prophecy that can be difficult to organize and harmonize.

And Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, have disagreed with each other throughout the history of the church on exactly how those details work together.

The main outline is clear. Jesus is coming back. He is really coming back! He is coming back personally, the same Jesus. And bodily, in His new resurrected body. And gloriously, as Judge and King.

But the timing of that return?

And the timing of the events around that return have been hotly debated by faithful, Bible-believing Christians for the last 2,000 years.

I must tell you that I do not plan to solve those debates this Sunday or any Sunday in the next few weeks!

But I do plan to lead us through Jesus’ longest teaching on eschatology, on the end times, in Matthew chapters 24 and 25.

I don’t have the last word on these words, but I believe every last word of them, and they are some of the most important last words on last things.

This is Jesus’ own teaching on Jesus’ own return!

We have studied this teaching before when we did the Gospel of Mark back in 2006 [and a re-visit on 2009] and when we did the Gospel of Luke back in 2011, but this is the first time for me to take you all the way straight through Matthew 24 and 25.

I think it’s going to take us up to Christmastime, at least. We’ll take a break when we get up close to Christmas to celebrate the holiday.

I’m no expert on prophecy, but I’ve been studying really hard to prepare for this part of the Gospel of Matthew. I’ve read several books this year to get my mind and heart set to lead you through this.

And this week, I’ve holed myself up with books from faithful pastors and great Bible scholars with names like D.A. Carson, Warren Wiersbe, David Jeremiah, Paul Feinberg, Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord, George Ladd, Michael Wilkins, Grant Osborne, Craig Keener, F.F. Bruce, Robert Gundry, Lou Barbieri, Douglas Moo, Gleason Archer, Charles Quarles, R.T. France, Douglas O’Donnell, and Andreas Kostenberger.

You might have heard of some of them, and others not.

It’s amazing to me how much they disagree.

Again, they all believe the Bible. They all believe in the return of Christ. They all believe in Matthew 24 and 25.

But they don’t put all of the details together in the same way.

On one side, a number of people think that almost all of Matthew 24 has already happened in the past. It’s already been fulfilled.

And over on the other side, a whole bunch of people think that almost all of Matthew 24 is still to happen in the future.

And my take is that the truth is somewhere in the messy middle.

Jesus is teaching about things that have happened, are happening, and will happen.

As we go through it, I’ll try to show you what I mean.

Today, I just want to read and study the first 14 verses. Matthew 24:1-14. We’re just going to dip our toes into the water today.

But before we read it, I want to tell give you the two most important principles that will focus our time together over the next few weeks.

Neither should be very surprising, but they are still easily missed.

First, we will keep our eyes on the ball.

This is still the Gospel of Matthew. This is not just a teaching on the return of Christ. This is a teaching by Christ about Christ.

“Who is Jesus?”

Keep asking that question as we read.

And the second key principle is that when Jesus teaches on the end times, He is primarily interested in application.

Jesus does not tell us everything we want Him to tell us.

Jesus tells us everything we need Him to tell us, and He is focused on our hearts and lives.

Eschatology exists to change us.

Jesus’ teaching on His return is always meant to get our hearts in a certain place, to transform our hearts, and have to lives that flow out of those changed hearts.

He is not just interested in giving us information.

He interested in our transformation.

He doesn’t just want us to know what’s going to happen.

He’s going to tell us how to live because it’s going to happen!

So even if we get confused over some of the details (And we probably will! We definitely will!), the application of this teaching can still change our hearts and lives.

Matthew 24, verse 1.

“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘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.’”

It seems that Jesus is leaving the temple in judgment.

He has said that their house will be left desolate, and you won’t see Him again until His blessed return.

He has turned His back on the temple and is walking away.

But His disciples don’t want Him to walk away.

They are in awe of the temple. They come up to Him and point out the buildings.

And they were pretty amazing buildings!

Remember, this is the temple that was rebuilt by Herod the Great. Took him like 40 years. And it was pretty amazing.

The Jewish historian Josephus described the temple like this:

“The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could be 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 solar rays. To approaching strangers, it appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white. From its summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling upon 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 Jesus and the Future by Kosteberger et all, pg. 34).

I'm not good at math, but I think that’s sixty-seven 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 Galilee in the North. They had never seen anything like it.

They were Gomer Pyle in New York City.

“Shazam. Well, golly!”

And Jesus is walking away from it all.

“Jesus, are you sure you want to walk away from this glorious building?”

“You were just cleansing it a few days ago and saying how it should be used!”

“And now you’re turning your back on it?”

And Jesus says, “Do you see all these things?” Yeah. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Total destruction.

The temple took up one sixty of the land mass of old Jerusalem.

It was a wonder of the ancient world. The outer dimensions would cover twelve football fields.

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 the front court.

And Jesus says that it’s all coming down.

You know the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall? That was part of a retaining wall on the outskirts of Herod’s temple. It wasn’t really part of the temple proper.

It was all coming down according to Jesus.

Now, that’s a prediction of the future.

At least, it was future when Jesus said it.

He is a prophet. And a prophet like no other.

He is the prophet foretold in Deuteronomy 18.

He knows the future, and when He says that something is going to happen, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Like the fig tree withering.

And like the temple being torn down.

So, His disciples want to know more.

They are probably devastated by this prediction. They wanted the Messiah to protect the temple and to kick out the Romans.

But here this Person Whom they believe is the Messiah is now predicting the destruction of their beloved temple.

This probably seems like the end of the world to them.

Like just about nothing worse could ever happen.

So they are looking for more details. V.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?’”

Now, we don’t know what they understood and what they didn’t.

They probably thought that all of that was the same thing.

The destruction of the temple, the coming of Christ, and the end of the age.

We know now that they are related things but not the same.

And Jesus knew that then, of course, as well.

And, like I said, Jesus doesn’t always tell us what we want to know.

He tells us what we need to know.

And He tells us what a difference that should make in our life.

So, I haven’t told you the title of today’s message yet.

Here it is: “Birth Pains.”

I get it from verse 8 where Jesus says, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Labor pains.

Anybody here ever experienced labor pains?

I have not.

But I’ve seen people have them.

Jesus is going to list several things that are going to happen in the world and to the disciples.

And He’s going to call them “birth pains.”

What’s the deal with birth pains?

Birth pains tell you that something big is happening.

Something big is coming.

And they hurt. They are painful.

They are not happy pleasant things. They are travail.

The King James calls them "sorrows."

But you know that they are sorrows that lead to joys, right?

When all goes well, after all of that pain, you get to hold a little baby.

Birth pains tell you that something big is happening. It’s definitely happening.

They are painful, but after the pain, you have incredible joy.

But one more thing. They don’t tell you when the baby is actually going to come.

They tell you that it’s going to come. It’s inevitable.

But not when.

Anybody here have false labor?

Anybody here have labor pains one day, and you think, “Here we go,” but then the next day there were almost none?

What’s the record in here? Anybody have in labor here for 24 hours?

The presence of birth pains tells you that you’re in the last days of your pregnancy, but not much more when it comes to timing.

And Jesus says, that’s what these things in verses 4 through 14 are like.

Birth pains.

And He also tells us how we should live while we’re living in the time of labor.

I’ve got three. Here’s the first one.

#1. DON’T BE FOOLED.  V.4

“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ, 'and will deceive many.”

They asked Him about timing and signs, and He says, “Don’t be deceived. Don’t be misled. Don’t be led astray.”

For many people come claiming to be authorized by Jesus or even to be Jesus Himself and will deceive many.

Has that happened?

Yes, that happened in the first century.

And it has happened every century since.

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.

This week I read a National Geographic article from 2017 about 5 people who believe that they are in some way Jesus Christ Himself.

And they have followers!

People believe that.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that blatant.

There are plenty of false teacher out there who speak in the name of the Lord, but are really leading people astray.

The word for “deceive” here in verse 4 and verse 5 is “planao” from which we get our word planets. Wandering stars so to speak.

They go off of the track.

Jesus is warning His followers to not let anyone get them off track.

Are you in danger of getting off track?

We all are if we don’t watch out. You see that warning in verse 4, “Watch out!”

Are you watching out?

I think a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to what they are being taught.

And that’s even by me.

Don’t just swallow everything I say. I’m just a man.

Read your Bible. Check what I say against that.

Remember the Bereans? They were noble because they fact-checked the Apostle Paul!

If you have to fact-check Paul, you better fact-check Pastor Matt!

Christians need to develop discernment because there is a lot of false teaching out there.

Is that sign of the end times?

Yes! It’s a birth pain.

It doesn’t tell us that the end is here, but it does say that the end is coming. V.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.”

#2. DON’T BE SCARED.

Don’t be fooled, and don’t be scared.

You’re going to hear about wars and rumors of wars, but don’t be alarmed.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the exact opposite of what I would do if I heard about war or a rumor of a war.

I would get scared.

But Jesus says, “Don’t be scared.”

And specifically, “Don’t be scared that this war means that the return of Christ is here.”

No, it’s just a birth pain.

It means that return is coming, but what does verse 6 say, “but the end is still to come.”

I think that we get that wrong. We hear about these kind of things, and we say, “Well, Jesus must be returning real soon. Those are signs of His soon return.”

But Jesus is saying the exact opposite. He’s saying, “When you hear about these things, don’t get upset. It doesn’t mean it’s the end.”

King James, “The end is not yet.”

I almost titled this message, “The end is not yet.” v.7

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

All of those things happened in the first century.

And they have all been happening every century since.

Does that mean that Jesus is coming back soon?

Everything means that Jesus is coming back soon!

{Depends on what you mean by “soon.”}

Yes, He’s coming back. And soon. There are labor pains going on.

But you can’t tell from the labor pains exactly how close we are.

Ever since Jesus came back from the dead, the last days have begun. But we don’t know if we are living in the last of the last days.

“All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

So don’t be scared.

I think that’s the opposite of what we normally think when we think about the End Times.

Do the End Times scare you?

Jesus says, “See to it that you are not alarmed.”

They shouldn’t scare us.

Jesus provides this teaching, not to scare us, but to encourage us!

The End Times should bring us hope.
Prophecy should produce in us peace.
Eschatology should give us joy.

Because Jesus wins!

And because we win with Jesus!

Don’t be scared.

It’s so easy to look out on this world and be scared.

There is a lot of trouble in this world. Yes.

Jesus said it would be so.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We have nothing to fear!

At the end of all these birth pains is a glorious joy!

That far outweighs all of the trouble.

Verse 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.”

Yes, it’s going to be hard.

There will be trouble. Persecution. Tribulation. Trials. Executions. Hatred.

We just last week prayed for the persecuted church.

That could be us.

Jesus says to be ready for it.

Why?

Don’t miss this. Eyes on the ball.

Why would we be hated by all the nations?

Why would Christians be hated by different people groups?

What’s he say in verse 9?

“Because of me.”

Remember that Jesus is worth any persecution we might suffer.

“Because of me.”

V.10 “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

What does this sound like?

This sounds like the New Testament to me.

And it also sounds like today.

These the birth pains. They were true in the first century, and they have been true every century since.

Josephus here chronicles all of them.

And so does our social media feeds today.

Many are turning away from the faith.

This Summer, a former pastor named Joshua Harris announced that he no longer is a follower of Jesus Christ.

I loved his books and have put them in our library and put them in the hands of many of our graduates on Graduation Sunday.

But no longer. He has turned away from the faith. Hopefully, he’ll come back. Let's pray for that.

But we shouldn’t be surprised that people apostasize. Jesus said it would happen right here in Matthew 24.

And professing Christians at each other’s throats.

And false prophets, false teachers in churches, on the radio, in books, on TV, on the internet.

But this is not reason to be scared. It’s a reason to be wary, to watch out, to be discerning, but not to run away.

Instead, run to Jesus.  V.12

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Number three and last:

#3. DON’T GROW COLD.

The answer to all of this apostasy and false teaching is to run towards Jesus, run towards good teaching, run in faith, and keep loving Him.

The answer to all of this falling away is to stand firm.

Do you see how Jesus is focused our hearts?

Has He answered their question?

I don’t think so.

Not yet, anyway.

He hasn’t told them when or what signs.

Instead, He’s told them how to live during the labor pains of the whole world.

Don’t Be Fooled.
Don’t Be Scared.

And don’t let your heart get cold.

Keep your heart warm towards the Lord.

Keep pursuing Him.

Keep praying. Keep meeting with Him. Keep focusing on Him. Keep trusting in Him.

That’s what genuine believers do.

“[H]e who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Not because He earned His salvation, but because He had real faith and real faith keeps trusting in the Lord.

Stand firm to the end.

Either to the end of your life or to the return of Christ whichever comes first!

Because Jesus wins!

V.14 “And this gospel [this good news] of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Not yet!

But someday when the Lord decides that the preaching of the gospel has been heard in the whole world, then the end will come.

But for now, it’s birth pains.

Someday the Great Commission will be fulfilled.

There’s a promise here that the Great Commission to go to all the nations–all those nations that hate us because of Jesus–all the nations will hear that Jesus Christ is King and then end will come.

Now, I think a case can be made that this also happened in the first century with the preaching of Paul. And that it’s been happening every century since.

But Jesus says that one day it will all be over.

So we need to hang on for that day.

Stand firm.

Preach the gospel!  Take that good news to this needy world.

This week!

Stand firm and stay warm.

In Christ.

While we wait for His return.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes

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