Allen Jackson - Is Jesus Returning? - Part 1
We started a new study in a previous session, really answering the question that I'm asked most frequently in the congregation here in Middle Tennessee, and then when I travel beyond here, I find the same question is repeated 100:1 over any other. People will approach me, those I know, and I've done a lot of life with and people I've never met, "Pastor, what are we supposed to do? What do we do? How do we respond"? Usually, it's preceded by some snippet or snapshot of what's happening in our world or their world, and the challenges they see, and they follow it immediately with, "What can we do? What should we do? How do we respond to this"?
And so, I wanna take a few sessions, I don't know exactly how many, more than today and see if we can understand that a little bit. The topic for this particular session is a little more specific: Is Jesus returning? And I'll get to that in a moment, but it's just the introduction to this, and a bit of a recapitulation of the earlier session. If I had to give you in a sentence my best estimation of where we are right now, in this nation, I would submit to you that we're experiencing the beginning of God's judgment. I don't know another way to explain or to understand what's happening to us. I don't think we can say it's the end of the age, that it's the end of time, just yet. But I think we can say that God's judgment has begun on our nation.
Now, I don't know that has to be a fearsome thing. Hebrews chapter 12 says that God disciplines all those he loves, and if he doesn't discipline you, you're illegitimate. And he said we should understand hardship is discipline. And I think we have to have clarity on the fact that God doesn't just bring blessings to us, God disciplines us. And I don't think there would really be much debate that we're a nation in need of discipline. We cannot continue on the trajectory we're on and imagine that God's blessings are going to fill the lives of our children and our grandchildren; it's impossible.
I can tell you both biblically and from the story of the church through the centuries, you should not imagine that without sweeping significant change from the body of Christ, from the people of God, that our children and grandchildren would know freedom, I don't believe that's possible because those things come from God. And that is really the domain of the church and our assignment. And we have been a bit something, distracted, disinterested, ambivalent, you can choose your word, but we haven't been engaged because, well, they've swept us out of corporate settings and public schools and universities and government buildings, and the public square. We have rather placidly gone along with that. And I think we did so incorrectly.
So now we're kind of awakening to this new circumstance and where we are and the question on the table is what should we do? How should we respond? Well, God's judgment, I believe, is the best way, how else can you explain what's happening to us? We have people in the most powerful positions in our nation, and I'm not talking about a single person, there's multiples in this, but we have people in the most powerful positions in our nation, that I don't believe have the ability to put together two complex sentences. Where we choose our leaders, that's not a pointing a finger at them, that's looking in the mirror and going, "This is what we have wrought".
So how do you explain that other than we're just addled? Our borders are open. No sovereign nation can survive with an open border. I promise you, our enemies are clever enough to take advantage of that opportunity, and those borders have been open now for years, not days or weeks or months. I understand what you're told and what the media likes to report, but I have enough personal experience with people who have been present. Our borders are open, makes us incredibly, incredibly vulnerable. Our military has abandoned not only our commitments in the world on a very public stage, showing cowardice and a lack of commitment to our allies. But on that same public stage, we have focused on social concerns more than winning wars and defeating our enemies.
That too is a recipe for disaster. The trust in the integrity of our systems in our nation, things we've relied upon, things like the CDC or the FBI, I mean the list goes on and on. The trust in those systems that we have venerated and held in the highest esteems, is collapsing, it's not just deteriorating. Fair elections. It seems unlikely, if not completely improbable without God's help. Our children are being preyed upon by evil, with the tacit approval of both government and corporate power structures. Now the list could go on and on and on. What I'm suggesting to you, it isn't political, I'm suggesting to you the only way to understand it is the judgment of God.
Now, there's good news in that because the church is the difference maker. If we choose to stand up and yield to the Lord and if we will make changes, God will move heaven and earth in response to his people. We're not powerless, we're not without hope. Those who stand in opposition to the purposes of God, discount our boss, that never works out well. But we have to recognize that the first group of people to discount the Lord was us and we've chosen other things. We've imagined we could secure our own futures, with our financial planning, our hard work, our education, our resources, or our generational wealth or whatever. We've imagined that freedom and liberties came from governments. They do not, they never have, it's a fundamental rule of political science that governments accumulate power, and they'll use every crisis and every excuse to accumulate more power, and they never relinquish what they accumulate.
Only God and the Spirit of God and the people of God stand in opposition to that, and we have been addled. So what are we to do? It's a relevant question. It's an important question for the church and because it gets confused with the end of the age. You know, it would not surprise me to see the empire that has defined our nation for a long time to collapse. And in the midst of that, it's easy to imagine that's the end of the world. I suspect if you lived in Rwanda when a million citizens were murdered in a very brief period of time, it would have felt like the end of the world. I suspect if you'd have been in Europe in one of the world wars when you saw the cities being bombed to oblivion, it would be easy to imagine the end of the world.
If you'd have been in China in many points and places. But I I think it's too easy of a solution. I think it's too neatly wrapped up and I would rather maintain our awareness at a different level. But for this session, I do want to pick up this topic, is Jesus returning? And if it is, how are we to understand that? And I'll give you the short answer, yes. Okay? The last physical picture we had of him here was on the Mount of Olives. It was with his friends and he lifted off. And his friends stood there rather wide-eyed, it's in Acts chapter one if you wanna check me. "And an Angel," the Angels, "appeared to them and said, 'Why are you staring up into the heavens?'" "Dumb question, our friend just went there. We haven't had lots of friends do that before".
And the angels said that he would return in the same way they had seen him go. So he's coming back to the Mount of Olives. I have been there many, many, many times. I never visit that mountain without just a quick check. You'd hate to miss the moment. Jesus is returning and you need to have that in your heart and in your portfolio. He hasn't left us, he's coming back. The ultimate destination for which we're headed is not Heaven, our ultimate destination is the kingdom of God, with Jesus ruling and reigning on this earth. We'll talk about that in some more detail, but the question is when is the timing of all of that? And on this point, Christians have lost our minds. I mean it is the stuff of so much discussion and we will do battle with one another over this.
And I'm gonna pick it up this morning. I don't know if we'll finish your outline this morning, but we will finish it. I'll start with the sovereignty of God, I think it's an important beginning point for this conversation, with a verse that was actually in your Bible reading for today. If you're not doing the Daily Bible reading, you're backing up, you are forfeiting strength. You can't afford that. You don't have to use our Bible reading plan, but you need a daily systematic reading of the Bible to ground you in an age where the truth is not held in high esteem. And I'm being kind. You need the grounding that comes from the Word of God in your life on a daily basis. But today's portion was from Deuteronomy 29 and verse 29 says, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God. But the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law".
Moses is introducing this idea of really two categories. Secret things, things which God has not made known. God has not told us everything. The Bible is not a full revelation of everything. The Bible is a revelation to Adam and his descendants to understand how we can know there's a Creator God and have a relationship with him. That's the point of the book. It's not really a science book or a history book. It's a book to help you if you choose, and you have a choice, to have a relationship with the creator of all things. It's sufficient to help you establish that. And in establishing that it will change your life for time and for all eternity. I don't believe you'll be able to sustain your relationship with the Lord without it.
So, there are some things God simply has not told us, they're secrets. And I don't believe it's a fruitful exercise to try to figure out things God said he won't tell you. I'm of the opinion you won't outsmart God. You can disagree with me, good luck with that. On the other hand, there are things that God has made known to us. And I have found in my life at least, it's a full-time job trying to implement that things God has made clear to me. Loving your neighbor as yourself. That's a list. I moved out in the country, so I can lessen my neighbors. And then the Bible introduces this question, who's your neighbor? And I'm back to square one again, so.
So, there's some things we don't know. Look in Acts chapter one, some of you prefer New Testament, this was Jesus again. It's not for you, he's talking to the disciples. He's mentored them for three years. He's just finished a 40-day seminar with them post-resurrection. Can you imagine a 40-day seminar with somebody that's been resurrected from the dead? I'm thinking they listened. This is his parting shot, he said, "It's not for you to know the times and the dates the Father has set by his own authority". They've asked a question about timing and he said, "It's none of your business". He doesn't apologize, he doesn't offer them any sympathy, he said, "Look, that's just none of your business, move on". In Matthew 24, this is before his resurrection, before his crucifixion, he said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, only the Father".
Then he says, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man". He goes on to give you some dialogue around the days of Noah and the days of Lot. Noah knew something was coming, he was getting a big boat ready in the middle of the field, and then the animals started showing up. So, I mean, Noah knew it wasn't business as usual, but I think it's a very safe assumption from the text, Noah did not understand the full context of what was about to happen. Then Jesus said there's some things we don't know, even the angels don't know them. And he said, "It's gonna be a lot like it was in the days of Noah. You'll know God's up to something, but you're not gonna understand fully what God's up to".
Now with that bit of a preamble, I would suggest if you meet somebody who tells you they know the when, and the why and the how, with absolute certainty. Here's my suggestion. You just smile, I wouldn't argue, and then I would turn around and sprint in the other direction. Because the things that God has said we can't know, I don't believe we will know. But he will give us more than enough, in order for us to flourish in whatever's coming.
So, I'm gonna take the balance of this session and I wanna walk through some events associated with the return of Jesus, things that I believe will take place on the earth, or in God's creation, before, during and after immediately, the return of Jesus. And the real benefit of having some imagination of what is before us, is it enables us to prepare and thereby be able to participate in the most meaningful way possible. You know, if you've never been on an airplane and you had no one to help you, and nobody to explain anything, it would be likely to think you were gonna lose your hearing, cause as the pressures begin to change in the plane, your ears start to pop, and it can be painful and uncomfortable.
And if you hadn't had somebody to help you a little bit with that, give you a little knowledge, you'd think, "Oh I'm gonna be deaf when this is over". Or you hit an air pocket and you would lose the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ. But if you've flown a little bit, you go, "Oh, no, that's just what this is about, it'll be okay". And you help the people that are around you. And so I think the advantage, the opportunity in the presentation is that we can walk through some turbulence and we can walk through some pressure changes and understand that it's not devastating, we knew it was coming.
So here we go. All right, the Bible tells us that there will be a resurrection from the dead. The death is not final, hallelujah. You and I have an earth suit, it's on a countdown clock, folks. If you didn't know, I just had a birthday; these suckers wear out. Spoiler alert, you can get all the junk you want to pumped into you and you can fill all the spots, you can get all the DAP you can afford, you can use bondo and you can get some really, people good with body work, but it's gonna wear out. Everybody's looking straight ahead. "I have no idea what he's talking about. It hasn't affected me yet". I'm happy for you. The Bible says we all have two appointments: death and after that judgment and evaluation. But the Bible also tells us there'll be a resurrection from the dead. You're going to get an updated version.
Now that's pretty good news. It's not subject to aging, they will not time out, and the Bible gives us some events that surround that. One is the rapture, it's a word that's discussed. People will say it's not in the New Testament, that's really insincere because the words that can be easily translated into what rapture means are a part of the New Testament. Look in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 and verse 15. It says, according to the Lord's own Word, Paul's writing to a church but he's quoting. He said, "The Lord himself said this, that we tell you that we who are still alive, we who are left till the coming of the Lord will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first".
So those that have already died in the Lord will be resurrected first. "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we'll be with the Lord forever". Therefore, be terrified. "Therefore, encourage one another with these words". You see, timing is important because if you build a system that you're so certain of and and you build your whole worldview around the system and you missed the timing, it can bring some real devastation. I have interacted with people, I have talked with people, for instance, who have ministered in China and they said, "The people who brought us the Gospel, told us that the rapture would take place before the trouble would come". And they said, "The trouble came," and they said, "It devastated us. We couldn't believe it, we thought our faith had failed".
So, timing really does matter. So before you get too invested in your sequence being perfect, I want to invite you to begin to make room for what we know the Lord's going to do. Now clearly this is not a secret rapture. It says there's a loud command and the voice of an archangel and a trumpet call of God. That'd be hard to do that in secret. And linguistically, the rapture is not in that passage, but it says we'll be caught up. The Latin word for that means to seize something forcibly. The Greek word for that, which is the language of the New Testament, means a sudden forceful grab. So, what's being described, Jesus is going to reach down into time and grab his people forcefully. That doesn't seem secretive to me.
Now the thief doesn't take what belongs to him. Jesus will only take what belongs to him. So, the Rapture is something that we anticipate as Christ followers, not churched people, not as generic Christians. You know you're a Christian by default, you don't declare yourself Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or atheist, so, "I guess I'm a Christian". You know, I appreciate that nod towards the validity, historical validity of Christianity, but that doesn't make you a Christ follower. Now you could sit in church your whole life and never make a decision to honor Jesus as Lord. But Jesus is coming for those people who have committed to him as Lord of their lives.
Now, I believe we ignore this discussion and it is widely ignored. We think, well, it's not relevant, I can't do anything about it, you know, why should I be concerned with it? I'm not one of those prophecy people, Pastor of the end times, everybody's got a different opinion, I don't think about it much. I would submit to you we ignore it because we don't really believe in God's power. And we've had so much freedom and so much liberty and so much affluence and so many resources that we didn't really have to believe in God's power. We had schools for our kids and doctors and medicines and opportunities and travel. But folks, if those things continue to diminish and be depleted and be less and less available, your faith's gonna have to include the power of God.
And it's too late to figure out whether God is a deliverer after you hear Goliath bellow his challenge. You've got to know that the God you serve is greater than the enemies you face, before you face the enemies, so you start to build that confidence and that trust in God in the midst of the seasons where you recognize his goodness and his grace and his mercy. Look at Matthew 27. This isn't a subtle theme of Scripture. "At that moment", this is the point of Jesus's death on the cross, when he said, "It's finished". "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom". The holiest place in the temple was between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies and the High Priest can only go in that innermost space. And he can only go once a year with the blood of the Passover lamb.
There was a thick curtain that separated the two. And when Jesus said, "It is finished," that curtain was torn into the way into the Holy of Holies was opened for all. And it was torn in two from the top to the bottom. But that wasn't all that happened. The curtain of the temple was torn into from top to bottom, the earth shook and the rocks split and the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. Wow. And they came out of the tombs, and after Jesus's resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. That's one of those places where it says the secret things are the Lord's. I got some questions 'cause we don't have a lot of textual information. What did they do?
It says, "The tombs broke open and the bodies went in... they were raised to life". It says, they didn't go into the city until Jesus was... what they do for the interim time? They played bunko in the cemetery? Did they all go get online and check their e-mail because they had a backlog? A little catching up on social media? We don't know, but it's a foreshadowing. It gives us a little window into the power of God in the earth. You see, we have these crazy battles in our minds, and we imagine we're the people of God. Our Bible says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth". I have talked to hundreds and hundreds of people say, "Pastor, that's really hard for me, you know, with my education".
Well, bless your pointed head. I'm a fan of education and learning, I love to learn and to study, I'm an advocate, but folks, what's the alternative to God created the heavens and the earth? Something came from nothing? Well, that's a pathway to cleverness. You see, we have denied the power of God because we haven't wanted to imagine that we would have to live at any place where we were dependent upon him. There's no better place to live. There's no better way to be, than depend on the power of God. I am so grateful God is wiser than I am, more powerful than I am, has greater resources than I have, and all of them are at our disposal. We're his kids.
Look in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul said, "Listen, I tell you a mystery, we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. We won't all die, but we will all be changed. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable". That's that 2.0 version. Woohoo. "And we will all be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality". We will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. In the time it takes you to bat your eyes, God will do something that seems completely impossible to us. Now to me, that is an incredibly exciting thought. I intend to participate, I will do anything in my power, with my choices and my days under the sun to qualify for that lineup. What about you?
Hey, before we close the program today, I wanna give you an invitation. In fact, I wanna ask you to take a step of faith with me. Let's begin to live our lives as if the power of God were a greater reality than we've ever lived before. It makes no sense to me to trust God with our eternity and not trust him that his power can change my life today. See, we start to talk about the end of the age and the Rapture and the judgment and all of those things that are in front of us, they're demonstrations of the power of God. But in order to walk faithfully with the Lord now, we have to believe his power can make a difference today. That's my prayer for you. Let's pray:
Father, I thank you for your Word and the window it gives us into what's before us. But Lord, I ask you that you would stir our hearts, that we might believe in you with a greater capacity than ever before. In Jesus's name, amen.