- Sermon Notes
The Signs of the Times
There are so many things happening in the world right now that I wanted us to step back and see current events against the backdrop of the prophecies of the Bible.
At the end of Ezekiel 28, God told Israel that He would gather them from the nations where they were scattered and that they will live in their land securely because He would judge all those who scorn them around about them.
That scripture is partially fulfilled because they are certainly now living in their land, but they are not yet living there securely. Ezekiel said they will be surrounded by those who scorn. Why is that?
To understand, we go back to God’s promise to Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s seed; but his wife Sarah was barren. So Sarah offered her handmaiden Hagar to Abraham to have a child by her. The result was Ishmael. This was not the son God promised, however, and when Sarah did bear a child to Abraham in her old age, there was enmity and strife between the two boys. In fact, the scripture says in regard to the descendants of Ishmael that his hand will be against every man and every man’s hand against him. The descendants of Ishmael are the Arab nations today.
In Matthew 24 Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives and answering two specific questions from His disciples. The very fact that Jesus is giving this message there, on the Mount of Olives, is significant because the scriptures tell us that this is the very location where Jesus Himself will return in the last days.
Jesus had confronted the Jewish leaders for their religious hypocrisy and then prophesied over the city of Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem how I’ve longed to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling. Behold, your house is left to you desolate!”
Jesus prophesied that the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed and the magnificent Jewish Temple in Jerusalem made of marble and gold would be destroyed, literally no stone would be left upon another.
After Jesus gave that ominous prophecy against Jerusalem, the disciples came to Him privately and asked, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
We are living closer to the last days than the disciples and these verses are more relevant to us than it was to them.
I. Watch for the Signs of the Times
- Jesus warns of the condition of things leading up to the last days events so we will know when “the time is near.” He expects us to be able to discern the signs when they appear.
- Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders because they would not discern the signs of the times.
- The Jews were told in advance how to recognize the coming of God’s Messiah. They were even given the number of years from a point in history to the coming of the Messiah.
- The signs of the times were before their eyes, yet they refused to see. They chose to make their eyes blind to what was right before their very eyes.
- In a similar way, God gives these signs in advance so we can discern the signs of the times.
- God did not give us these warnings to make us afraid or fill our lives with stress and worry; we have enough of that already.
Illus – A husband had a lot of stress so he and his wife went to see the doctor.
- He’s giving us these things in advance to prepare our lives and to strengthen our faith.
A. Prophecy strengthens faith
- When Jesus says, “Behold, I told you in advance,” He wants us to prepare our lives, by strengthening our faith and drawing near to the Lord.
- When God tells us the end of things before they occur, our faith is strengthened because we see the greatness of His power and sovereignty over all things. Jesus said, “See to it that you are not frightened.”
Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”
Illus – I took a philosophy class at OSU and was asked to write a paper on the question, “Are we not just a set of chemical reactions?” My answer; prophecy of scripture declares the greatness of God.
B. There will be birth pangs
- Jesus listed several conditions of the last days that are to be considered as birth pangs. In other words, the closer we are to the events of the last days, the greater in intensity and the closer together these things will occur.
- There will be wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened.
- There will be famines and earthquakes of greater intensity and closer together. If you looked at the charts and graphs from the last 35 years, even the last 150 years; it’s amazing.
- If we just looked at the number of earthquakes magnitude 7.0 and higher just from the last decade, there is a marked increase.
- There was a 2014 article on NBC Science News stating that the number of “great” earthquakes nearly tripled over the last decade and an increase of 265% over the average rate of the previous century.
C. Unrighteousness will increase
- Lawlessness and unrighteousness will increase and most people’s love will grow cold in the last days.
2 Timothy 3:1-4, But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…
- Yet the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a witness against the nations. What’s interesting is that when the world enters into the time of the great Tribulation, the gospel will continue to be given.
Revelation 14:6, And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
II. Be Ready for the Latter Days
- We are given these signs of the times so that we might make ready our lives.
- But there are several aspects of the last days that we need to understand so we are not misled or confused.
- In the verses we’re studying today, Jesus speaks of his glorious return to the world of which he will rule and reign for 1000 years. And the scriptures say that we will actually return with Him. We need a deeper understanding of the events of the last days that we are entering into.
A. The church will be raptured
- Revelation describes the terrible conditions on the earth when the wrath of God is poured out upon it as we’ll see in a few moments, but the church will be taken up to meet the Lord in the air, for God has made it clear that we are not destined for wrath.
1 Thessalonians 5:9, For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
- How will we be saved from the wrath of God in those days? Answer: by the rapture of the church. The rapture is when the church is “taken up” or “caught up” with the Lord in the air.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
B. The Antichrist will arise first
- The Antichrist will be a world leader who will be seen as an extraordinary diplomatic genius and will finally be able to bring peace to the Middle East, or at least it will seem that way.
2 Corinthians 11:14-15, No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
- The Antichrist will arise in times of great political and economic turmoil and the enemies of Israel will be rising in power.
- Consider the changes that are happening on the world scene today. Russia is becoming a darker nation. The Arab world is being transformed before our very eyes. China just destroyed the largest megachurch in China that had more than 50,000 members. They see Christianity as a threat to their authority.
- The Palestinian problem is impossible to solve. Palestine was controlled by the Turks, the Ottoman Empire, for more than 600 years. Turks and not Arabs controlled that area, but WWI changed the world and the British then ruled over Palestine.
- Both the Arabs and Jews living in the Palestinian area had hopes of building a nation there and the conflict and tension began as the Arabs objected to the waves of Jews immigrating from around the world. But Jews were being killed and persecuted in Germany and Russia, where would they go? The conflict will continue until the Prince of Peace Himself rules the nations.
- When Israel became a nation in 1948, it was immediately attacked by the Arab nations on its borders. But in anticipation of the war, Arab nations and Palestinian authorities instructed the Palestinian Arabs living in the war zone to remove themselves so as to minimize Arab casualties.
- More than 700,000 Arabs fled and settled into refugee camps, expecting to return in just a few weeks as soon as the war was over. The Jews also expelled Arabs that fought against them.
- This has led to the “modern Palestinian problem.” There is no apparent solution, though the Antichrist will present the solution…
- The Antichrist will bring a covenant of peace, or a treaty with the nations of the world to have peace with Israel.
Illus – Islamic teaching also suggests that a great Muslim leader, the Twelve Imam, will arise who will lead the world from Jerusalem for seven years.
- Verse 15 – But the Antichrist will betray this covenant of peace and will set himself up in the newly rebuilt Temple to create a new religion with him at the center.
2 Thessalonians 2:3, The apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
C. There will be a great tribulation
- Verse 21 – there shall be a great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world nor shall ever occur again.
- There will be two major things happening during this terrible day of Tribulation:
1. The wrath of God will be poured out upon the earth which will be seen as terrible cataclysmic events.
2. The antichrist will betray his covenant of peace 3 ½ years later, at that point, all hell will break loose against Israel as all of Israel’s enemies attack. This will lead to the great battle of Armageddon.
- The battle of Armageddon will culminate in the return of the Lord Himself.
D. Jesus will return in great glory
- The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn…
- He will enter into Jerusalem through the Eastern gate. Though today it has been shut up and a cemetery placed in front of it to prevent the Messiah from entering in.
- When He returns the Mount of Olives will be split in two and the people of Israel will mourn as one mourns for an only son.
- From Jerusalem He will reign for 1000 years.
Matthew 24:3-44 NASB
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.
29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the son of man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.