End Times Prophecy Sermon: Part One
Here is part one of the four-part series:
Please turn to Acts 1: 6-10
6So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Who here believes that Jesus Christ is coming again? (wait for a show of hands)
Who here is 100% certain that what the Bible says about Jesus’s return is true? And who here believes that what the Bible says regarding the season of His coming as outlined in Matthew 24 is a blueprint as to what we, those of us on Earth, can expect to see around the time of His coming? (wait for a show of hands again)
Ladies and Gentlemen, Jesus Christ is coming back and though He Himself said He didn’t know the day or the hour, He was very clear when telling us about the season of His return. In fact, He dropped a real big clue as to when abouts He’d be coming back in Matthew 24. We’ll get into that later, but before we do, pay attention to the words in Matthew 24:42-44 and what we’ve just heard in that video.
42“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
The word “watch” in that last passage comes from the Greek word “Gray-gor-yoo-o,” which means to “keep awake,” or “to be vigilant” or “watchful.” The English word “vigilant” means, according to Dictionary.com, to be “ever awake and alert; sleeplessly watchful.” In other words, we’re commanded by Jesus Himself to keep our eyes wide open and watch for His coming. It is a command, not an option. If we don’t watch and keep alert, we are directly disobeying the Lord and, as is promised in the book of Romans, all our actions and choices will be called into account. Do you want non-watchfulness as one of things you’ll be called into account for? I don’t.
Listen to what Apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:1. He echoes Jesus’s words about coming like a thief in the night. He says:
1Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
And then in verse 4 he says:
4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
Now, you might be thinking, “Okay, I get it. I’m supposed to be awake. But, um, how do I do that? What should I be looking for or watching for?”
Everything that we’re to be looking for has already been told to us by God in His Word. God uses prophecy to foretell future events. Now, you mention the word “prophecy” to some and either they roll their eyes and dismiss it, or though they know that there is such a thing as prophecy, the chalk it up to stuff like fortune telling or something like that. Or, there are others who believe for what it says, but the fulfillment of those prophecies, in their minds, is reserved for someone else, some other generation, some other time. (And the truth is, it’s going to happen to someone and there’s strong, strong evidence that we are those someones. But we’ll talk about that later.) And then there are others who understand what prophecy really is and truly appreciate what God has done for us by telling us what’s going to happen before it happens and accept the possibility that it might happen to them.
However, Bible prophecy is no easy subject, which is why churches don’t often preach on it. Unless one knows how to read prophecy and interpret it, it won’t make any sense.
So, how do we do that? Is there some secret way to do it? Do we need a Legion of Superheroes decoder ring to get us on the right track?
The answer is no.
But before we get into how to read prophecy and what we’re supposed to be looking for in regards to the events leading up to Jesus’s Second Coming, let’s go over four quick points as to what prophecy is, what it isn’t, and how we read it.
What prophecy isn’t:
It is not fortune telling. The Gospel writers and the apostles didn’t go to some gypsy or crystalball-looker to find out what will come. They heard it from God Himself. Even the prophets from the Old Testament got their words straight from God. They did not seek any outside source, and what you need to know about the field of fortune telling is a few things:
Fortune tellers consult, whether knowingly or not, demonic spirits to create the illusion they are telling the future. In fact, fortune tellers are people God is very much against because they’re seeking a power other than Him.
Fortune tellers often get you to reveal a bunch of information about yourself first before they tell you “the future” or a piece of information you think nobody knows (even though you just told them without realizing it), so as to fool you into thinking they know things no “regular” person knows.
Fortune tellers are usually wrong in their predictions, so are not reliable.
And God’s Word is bang on all the time, every time. He can’t lie. All the prophetic events that have occurred have been 100% accurate to what was prophesied. God has never missed nor will He ever miss.
Prophecy isn’t a subject to be ignored. Did you know that the Bible is nearly 30% prophetic in nature? That’s almost 1/3 of the entire Bible! One third! (hold up Bible clutching about 1/3 of the pages between your fingers).
There are roughly 775,000 words in the Bible. That means that out of those 775,000, 258, 333 of those word are about telling us the future. 258,000! Your average novel off the shelf in any bookstore is only about 80,000 words. That means, using that comparison, there are three full novels worth of words devoted to prophecy. Three full novels.
This tells us one thing very plainly: prophecy carries huge weight with God. It is important to Him. If it wasn’t, He wouldn’t have devoted 1/3 of everything He wanted to tell us to informing us about future events.
Prophecy isn’t complicated. People make it out to be so much more complex than what it really is. Yes, it takes some study and, yes, knowing your Bible history and about the cultures at the time it wasn’t written to understand certain words used and style does help, but nearly all of prophecy is crystal clear.
It is a trick of the devil to make you think that you can’t look into these things because you’ve heard others say that it’s hard to understand. The devil wants you to ignore prophecy, and do you know what? If you let him stop you from reading it and believing it, he’s just stopped you from reading and believing 1/3 of your Bible.
Think about that.
Lastly, prophecy isn’t about doom and gloom, mayhem and destruction. It is about hope. The Bible’s prophecies can be basically broken down into two kinds: those dealing with Christ’s First Coming, and those dealing with His Second Coming. And, friends, those two things are messages of hope.
Remember, Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
The coming of the Lord, both first and second, are messages of hope, not of fear.
What prophecy is:
Prophecy is God telling us what will happen, how it will happen, before it happens.
Look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:25 after He talks about some of things that will happen before this world is burned away in the fire of God. He says, “See, I have told you ahead of time.”
Jesus is plainly stating that He told us these things for a reason (and we’ll get into those signs later).
Prophecy serves as a warning.
According to Dictionary.com, the word “warn” means, “To make aware in advance of actual or potential harm, danger, or evil.” “To admonish as to action or manners.” “To notify (a person) to go or stay away.” “To notify or apprise in advance.” All these four types of warnings are found in the Bible’s prophecies.
They warn us of what to look for so we’re aware of what’s going on around us in regards to Jesus’s coming and, to us in the year 2007, His Second Coming. And these warnings carry great weight with Jesus because, remember, He had stern words for the Jews when He first came to Earth because they didn’t pay clear attention to the prophecies and so missed Him the first time.
They warn us so we can get ready for Jesus.
“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
It doesn’t say you can “choose” to be ready or you “don’t have to be” ready. It says you must. It is a command. It’s not an option.
To be in a state of readiness encourages us to live holy lives. Ask yourself, if you knew Jesus was going to come to you this afternoon to take you Home, you would be sure to be ready, right? Then how much more so should we be ready because we don’t know when He’s coming.
Here’s a quick analogy:
Suppose you have a friend who lives out of town and he or she says they’ll be flying into Winnipeg sometime this week but aren’t sure what day they’ll get there. They tell you that you don’t need to worry about picking them up at the airport but that they’ll take a cab to your house and just show up. The only clue they give you as to when they’re coming is sometime between Wednesday and Friday.
Most of us here would be a) excited our friend is coming, b) would make sure our houses are clean and the cookies and coffee are made for when our friend shows up, c) we’d be checking our front room windows every now and then to see if our friend has pulled up in that cab. We’d be watching for them.
Folks, we should be the same about Jesus’s return. He can show up at any time, just like you saw in that video. He gave us the season, which we’ll go into next week, but like in our analogy, our friend gave us a season, too, right? They said between Wednesday and Friday.
We should be doing everything to ensure our house—in other words, ourselves—are clean before He comes.
Jesus gives a warning to the servant who He finds not watching and giving into sinful behavior in Matthew 24: 48-51. He says, “48But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Serious stuff, but true stuff.
Are you ready?
Prophecy is about hope.
Every single prophecy concerning the Person of Jesus Christ is about hope. Every single one of the First Coming prophecies found their fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah, the One who saved an entire world throughout all of history, both past, present and future from their sins and hell for any who would believe in Him.
If that’s not hope, I don’t know what is.
God told us the end from the beginning so we know where we’re headed and how this will all play out. The end of human history as we know it doesn’t end on a bad note, but on a good one. It ends when Jesus returns and rules over the earth for 1000 years before Eternity starts.
In the end, we win.
Prophecy is Jesus Himself. As mentioned, Bible prophecy can be broken down into two halves and both are about Him.
Revelation 19:10 says “...For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
To reject or not pay attention to prophecy is the same as rejecting or not paying attention to the very spirit of Jesus Christ, the One whom we proclaim as our Savior.
When a person confesses Jesus as their Savior, they get the whole package. They don’t get just a piece of Him or some small part. They get the whole deal. Our walk with Him falls under the same category: we can’t pick and choose things about Jesus we like and dislike. We accept Him for who He is and live a life that is “Jesus or nothing.” He hates lukewarm Christians and promises to one day spit them out of His mouth.
Lastly, how do we read and interpret prophecy?
Let me ask you: when you pick up a book, any old book, how do you read it? Plainly and simply, right? You read what’s on the page and you take it at face value. Same when you read the newspaper. You read it for what it says and don’t interpret it any differently. It says what it means and that’s all there is to it.
Same with the Bible. We read the other 2/3 of the Bible that is not prophetic literally so why would we alter or change how we read the 1/3 that is? That doesn’t make any sense. We’re told time and again by God not to take away from His Word or add to it. Therefore, to do so when it comes to prophecy would be a huge mistake, especially when dealing with the end times because doesn’t the last verse of Revelation read:
18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Bible prophecy is to be read literally unless plainly stated otherwise, as in when a prophet or apostle or disciple says, “I saw, or I dreamed or...”
All of the prophecies that detailed Christ’s First Coming were fulfilled literally (i.e. He will be born of a virgin, He will come from Bethlehem, He will be hated, He will be an atonement for sin, He will be murdered, He will rise again, etc.) so there is no reason Biblically to think His Second Coming will be any different.
Watch this video to see what I mean:
But what about those passages that deal with symbols and images? How do we read those? The answer is literally, using the Bible to interpret itself. Whatever symbols are used in Bible prophecy are either a) explained to the reader what they are right away or, b) were explained somewhere in a previous book or verse. God didn’t write the Bible so we had to guess. He kept it plain as day. Straight forward and simple.
In short, the general rule for reading Bible prophecy, the same one used by theologians and scholars is this (and it’s the same rule you and I use when reading any book no matter what it is): When the plain sense makes the most sense use commonsense.
Prophecy is not:
- fortune telling
- isn’t a subject to be ignored
- isn’t complicated
- isn’t about doom and gloom
- God telling us what will happen, how it will happen, before it happens
- serves as a warning
- prophecy is about hope
- is Jesus Himself
How do we read it:
- Plainly and literally
How do we know when Jesus will come back? There is a clock we can watch. And will we be here on Earth to witness His coming?
Next week: The Rapture and the Clock of God.