- Sermon Notes
Is This a Sign of the Times?
This is a question on a lot of people’s minds right now. How does this pandemic crisis relate to latter-day events? Is this a sign of the times? I was invited as a guest on the Georgene Rice show this last week to speak on this very topic.
Near the end of the ministry of Jesus, he was in Jerusalem. He confronted the Jewish leaders and then spoke a word of prophecy over the entire city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted 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!”
He was referring to the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. This prophecy would have a double fulfillment. He was speaking of the fall of Israel in 70 A.D. when Israel rebelled against Rome, but also in the latter days when armies will come against Israel in the battle of Armageddon, Jerusalem will be under attack, the newly rebuilt temple will be seized by the Antichrist and literally all hell will break loose.
After Jesus declared that prophetic word, the disciples came to Him, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
The discourse of His answer is filled with insight into the signs of the times of the latter days. I think most people sense in their spirit that events in the world over the course of the last number of years lead many to be on the alert for the signs of the times Jesus spoke of.
Is it possible that this coronavirus is part of the signs of the times? That’s what I want us to discover in this message.
I. Understand the Signs of the Times
- Jesus gives warnings of the condition of things leading up to the last days’ events. These are given so that we know when “the time is near.”
- Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders because they could not discern the signs of the times. In other words, God expects us to have discernment.
- Notice the similarity. In God’s Word the Jewish people had been told in advance how to recognize the coming of God’s Messiah. They were even given the exact number of years from a specific point in history to the coming of the Messiah.
- But here’s the point, all these signs of the times were right before their eyes, yet they refused to see. They refused, they would not; they chose to make their eyes blind to what was right before their very eyes.
- In a similar way, we have been given God’s Word in advance so that we might discern the signs of the times.
- God is not giving us these things to make us afraid or fill our lives with stress and worry; we have enough of that already.
Illus – a man husband was overcome with stress and went to see the doctor…
- He’s giving these signs in advance so we can prepare our lives and strengthen our faith.
A. There will be signs seen in the world
- When you look at the signs of the times of the latter days Jesus spoke of, noticed that some of the signs of the times to discern our global or worldwide in impact.
“Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and in various places there will be plagues and famines and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.”
- Notice, that here in Luke 21, plagues, or pestilence, is mentioned as a sign of the latter days. Is this Covid-19 virus one of those signs of the latter days Jesus is speaking of?
- Notice also that Jesus says in verse 8 – – “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”
- I believe this plague is part of a growing list of plagues. There was bird flu, Ebola, Zika, MERS, SARS, and of course the Spanish flu of 1918 and now Covid-19. I see these as further birth pangs, and as any woman who’s ever had a child knows, birth pangs grow greater in intensity and closer together as the moment draws near.
- I do see this recent coronavirus is different than others in the sense that it has impacted the entire world. Except for North Korea, of course. Apparently, they have not seen any cases of the coronavirus of all. That’s probably the place where you’re safest from getting the virus.
- All kidding aside, this virus has drastically impacted the world economically and has caused the nations to have to coordinate their efforts.
- I believe in many ways this sets the stage for the Antichrist. More on that later.
- When you look for signs of the times, look for those global advance Jesus mentioned, but also keep your eyes on Israel. Here’s why…
B. Jerusalem will be the epicenter
- Jerusalem is the city of God’s possession. He placed his name there. The temple, which represented the very presence of God was to be there in the midst of Jerusalem.
- Jesus said the city of Jerusalem and the famous Temple of marble and gold would be destroyed. The reason is seen in several places in the scriptures.
- First, because God sent His Son to His chosen people and to the city where He had placed His name, but they did not receive Him.
2 Chronicles 6:6, I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.
Luke 19:41-44, When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
- The prophecies of Jesus regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple were fulfilled in 70 A.D., yet many of the prophecies yet to be fulfilled require Jerusalem and the Temple to be rebuilt.
- Therefore, May 14, 1948, the day Israel was re-established as a nation is so significant. Then the Six Day War broke out on June 5, 1967 and Jerusalem was once again in the hands of the Jews.
- Jerusalem is so significant to the Lord that after all the events of the last days have been completed and God establishes a New Heaven and a New Earth, He will also bring forth a New Jerusalem.
Revelation 21:1-7, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there were no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; for the first things have passed away.”
B. Antichrist will arise in the last days
- Jesus began His answer by warning them, “See to it that you be not mislead. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is at hand,’ do not go after them.”
- In other words, there will be many who falsely claim to be the Messiah or a prophet and will even show signs and wonders so as to deceive.
Matthew 24:24-25, “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance.”
- There have been many modern examples of those who claim to be Messiah or a prophet of God. There was Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, Yahweh Ben Yahweh, David Koresh, and many others, of course not counting those in institutions.
- But in the last days, one will arise who will become a world leader, respected even by the nation of Israel and who will establish a covenant of peace with the nations of the world with Israel.
Daniel 9:27, He will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (of years), but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, Let no one in any way deceive you, for he will not come unless 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.
- It’s also interesting that there are many in Islam today who believe in what is called the 12th Imam, an anointed leader or ruler who is to come and will be a great spiritual savior who will rule over the world from Jerusalem for seven years.
- There are many other similarities to the antichrist that would be a fascinating study all unto itself.
- I see also that in many ways this pandemic from the virus is setting the stage for the Antichrist. You can now easily see that it’s quite possible to bring economic disaster upon the whole world quite quickly.
- The Antichrist arises as a leader who can solve the unsolvable. And when many are hungry and out of work, they will look for whatever answer they can find. We also know that the Antichrist will control the buying and selling.
- This will be necessary because of the economic disaster in the world and to control panic buying such as we have seen with toilet paper.
Illus – I mentioned in one of my earlier pastor’s notes about flying back from Africa and a flight attendant joking with me about whether I had stuffed my pockets with toilet paper from the restroom.
C. There will be a Great Tribulation
- Jesus also said that at that time there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall again.
- This tribulation will be so great that unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved, but for the sake of Israel, those days will be cut short.
- This great Tribulation was prophesied in the book of Daniel to be seven years in duration.
- This is the time period in which the Lord’s wrath is poured out on the Earth. Some suggest that this was fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, but the world has seen much worse days than that. No, the great Tribulation, also known as the Day of the Lord, will be something the world has never seen.
- Much of the book of Revelation describes the various aspects of God’s wrath as it is being poured out on the world in those days.
- Some have wondered whether this coronavirus could possibly be that which is represented by the 4th horseman of the apocalypse in Revelation 6. No, I do not see that at all. More on that later.
II. Be Encouraged and Be Ready
- First, Jesus wants you to understand and discern which is why He warns us in advance.
- When you read about how terrible those days will be and what tragic events God has in store for this world, and then see the condition of the world today, it would be easy to be discouraged.
- But Jesus said not to let your heart be troubled and don’t allow fear to rule your hearts.
- But we are also given the events beyond these tragedies to see that our God sits on the throne above all the earth and that His plan for us is to overcome and be strengthened in our faith.
- But He also wants you to be ready. That’s why He tells you the signs of the times in advance. But it’s also encouraging to understand this…
A. We are not destined for wrath
- The Great Tribulation which is to come upon the world is called “the wrath of God” and is not intended for the church, the bride of Christ.
- In verse 21 Jesus tells those who are in Judea to flee to the mountains during the time of tribulation. In other words, there will be some things specific to Israel at that time.
- There will be two things happening at the same time. One, the Antichrist will bring the nations under his power to attack Israel. Secondly, natural cataclysmic events of the tribulation will occur at the same time.
- But the church, the bride of Christ, is not destined for the wrath of God, since the wrath we deserved fell upon Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 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 4:13-17, We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and that 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. Be ready – be alive in Christ
- Jesus told them to be on the alert; and there are many other scriptures that say the same, God wants us to be ready.
- How? First, by understanding that in the last days, most people’s love will grow cold.
2 Timothy 3:1-4, 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.
- When John the Baptist made people ready; prepared for the Lord, he called them to renew their relationship to the Lord, he called them to repentance.
- One of the things we’ve seen over and over in scripture that God wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
- Secondly, God wants us to discern the signs of the times. Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders who had seen the signs right before their eyes yet refused to believe them; they refused to see the signs of the time.
Matthew 16:3, “Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”
Luke 21:7-36 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
7 They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the [a]sign when these things are about to take place?” 8 And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. 9 When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.”
10 Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great [b]signs from heaven.
12 “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, [c]bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13 It will lead to [d]an opportunity for your testimony. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you [e]utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. 16 But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your [f]lives.
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then [g]recognize that her desolation is near. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of [h]the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter [i]the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the [j]land and wrath to this people; 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
25 “There will be [k]signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the [l]world; for the powers of [m]the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29 Then He told them a parable: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, [n]recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I say to you, this [o]generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
34 “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”