Michael Youssef - Six Signs
As rapid change in our society picks up speed, more and more believers are really asking, "Are we there yet"? And by that, of course, they mean, "Is this the end of time"? But the believer's question is this: "Are we experiencing some of the prophetic announcements regarding the end of times"? Their question is, "Are we seeing the signs of the nearness of the return of Christ"? In the past, these questions have often been asked by older generations. That question is now being asked by some of the younger generation, as well as the older generation. And as we see the Christian faith being maligned globally, not just in some corners of the globe, globally being maligned.
As we see Christians being persecuted, many are asking this legitimate question: "Is this it? Is this it"? Believe it or not, the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ asked that same question back then. They were very curious about the signs of the end of times, and they asked Jesus that same question. So, we're not alone. And since I am totally incapable of answering the question or come close to answering the question, I want to go to the Lord himself and let him answer the question. I want you to turn with me to Matthew 24. Verse 3 of Matthew 24, the disciples ask Jesus the question: "What will be the sign," or the signs in the plural, "of the coming of the end of the age"?
Jesus and his disciples were sitting on top of the Mount of Olives. You've gotta get that. That's why it's called "The Olivet Discourse," because the conversation was taking place on the Mount of Olives. And the questions the disciples were asking Jesus was a very short question. The question was short enough, but Jesus ends up giving them the longest answer he's ever given. And because it is the longest answer Jesus had ever given, I want to take my time with it. I'm gonna be the next few messages going through this chapter. But before I even get to Jesus's answer to the question, I want to remind you that all of the disciples, all of Jesus's disciples were Jewish.
You say, "Well, you haven't enlightened me. I know that". Okay. But Jews were trained in different traditions, different traditions. The traditions in which these particular disciples were trained, it was this: they believed that the Messiah is coming; and when he comes to Earth, he's gonna come, and he's gonna declare his lordship, and he's going to reign and rule all at the same time. So, they understood from the Bible, from the Old Testament, that their thinking was that when the Messiah comes, he's going to come, at some point, declare his lordship over the universe, at some point. And so, that's their understanding. You've got to put yourself in their place in order to understand their question and why, and the reason behind the question.
They understood that Jesus is from the line of David. That much they understood. They, of course, know that he was supernaturally conceived in a virgin's womb. They know that he is a virgin born, supernaturally, not of the will of man. And so they knew he is their Messiah. They saw Jesus perform supernatural miracles like never before, nobody ever before him has ever done it. So, then they saw these signs with their own eyes. At that point, he had not been risen from the dead, but he promised them that he will rise from the dead. And so they thought, "Surely, at some point, surely by now, at some point, he's going to announce his rule over the globe, eternal rule".
Don't miss this. Most Jews, including the disciples, believed that the coming of the Messiah is only once, and so it was natural for them to say, "Are we there yet? When are you going to do it? When are you gonna make the announcement? When is it gonna happen"? Assuming that this is all going to happen during his lifetime. They were certain now, it's any moment now. Any moment, Jesus is going to make his move and going to announce his rule over the world. And, oh, don't forget, because we see the evidence of that. They thought they're, of course, going to share in the power and the prestige and the wealth of the group. Got it? If you really want to understand the meaning of the disciples' question, let me rephrase them. I'm not doing injustice to the Scripture. I really, I wouldn't do that, but just understand what I'm saying here.
What will be the signs of your revealing yourself in your full authority as the Messiah came? Or when is your eternal rule in righteousness and in truth going to take place or going to be pronounced? Beginning at verse 4, as I said, Jesus begins his long answer, and he gives them several things that indicates, indicates that his actual visible rule is in the distant future. It's not immediately. And he said, "It will be like labor pains," like labor pains. There will be false alarms, false messiahs. There will be international warfare. There'll be famines. There'll be earthquakes. Ah, but that's just the beginning of the labor pains. The baby's arrival still far off. I want to tell you a few things about labor pains, just in case you don't know. Listen, I have not personally experienced labor pains, and I am going to appeal to all men, all men, all men. Never, never, never, never think even aloud that you have ever experienced anything remotely resemble labor pain. Nothing compares to labor pains for women.
Now, men, one last word. If you value your life, do not ever compare labor pain to anything you've been through. But we all know the following, okay? Labor pains do not occur at conception. Well, at least we know that. Or even throughout the pregnancies. But just prior to the birth. Labor pains do not begin until shortly before delivery time. And they occur in increasing frequency until the baby is born. In the same way, the events associated with the return of Christ, they will not begin until just before the actual return of Christ. And then they will occur with increasing repeatedly, building up to that great event.
Now, with that brief introduction, I want to show you six signs of the labor pains that our Lord Jesus is talking about. The very first sign of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ is a wide spread of falsehood and deception. Look at verses 4 and 5. "See to it that no one misleads you". Underline that, please. "For many", how many? "...will come in my name and will mislead", how many? Many. At the end of time, the influence of these deceivers is going to be widespread. It will be widespread. Please listen to me. We always have had deceivers, but the number toward the end will be vastly increasing. The deception of those days is going to be so escalated like never before.
Forty years ago, maybe even 30 years ago, I would not have believed it. I would not have believed it. Now I do. And that is why Jesus is warning us. He said, "Keep your eyes wide open. Be careful, beware, see to it that you don't get deceived like others". Beloved, here's what causes me to shed some tears, and I really mean that. Ask my wife, she'll tell you. As the number of deceivers grow and increase, so does the number of the vulnerable people who get deceived. These vulnerable people are desperately seeking an answer for the calamities, and the pandemics, and the sufferings that torments them. As these unparalleled wickedness and immorality invade the church, as we see people take pride in their evil, as we see good called evil and evil called good, as you see all of that, you stand firm. You stand what?
The second birth pain, sign of birth pain, will be unparalleled global disputes and warfare. Think about this with me. Think about what's going on in the world today and what's going to happen when that takes place. Question, what does the genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ do? Take heart, take heart. Remember, Jesus said these things will take place. Verse 6, say it with me. Verse 6, "See that you are not afraid". And Jesus is saying that these things are the harbingers of the end, but they are not the end. Question, what are these nations and kingdoms all about? Good question. I believe that's talking about countries that have democratic governments and countries that have dictatorships, varieties of them.
What's the point? The point is that these troubles are going to impact the entire globe, regardless of what political systems they may have. All of them, regardless of their political system, will be global upheaval. No group of people will be exempted from this global conflict. These global conflicts will be so intensified, they're going to be so vast, no one will escape it, no one, no one will escape it. But I must go back to the words of Jesus, that his genuine believers, he said that to us... what? "Do not let that frighten you". Amen.
Why he said don't let it frighten you? Listen to me, please listen to me, because we are engraved on the palms of his hands. We are carried on his shoulders. He who touches us touches the apple of his eye. And you've heard me say this, and you're going to hear me say it more, and more, and more, and more, that I am indestructible until he says so. And so are you, if you only believe it, if you only believe it. Listen to me. Fear is killing you, at least some of you. Don't live in fear. Jesus repeatedly, "Don't be afraid". If you're afraid, the chance is you're not saved, and you need to come to know Jesus. And when you know Jesus, you know he's got you, he's got you. And when he's got you, nobody can touch you. Amen, amen? Give him glory, give him glory.
The third birth pain, verses 7 and 8, and I'm gonna move quickly. The Lord mentioned famine and earthquake. These are natural catastrophes, but they'll be in staggering proportions. They've always been there. In fact, Luke, in a similar passage, Luke 21, verse 11, he adds plagues, terror, and great signs in the heavens. This is an equivalent passage. But when the Lord said, verse 7, verse 7, it will be I various places, it means simultaneously. It's going to be global. It's going to be everywhere. When John the Revelator talks about the breaking of the seals of the scroll, he said when the sixth seal was broken, there were stars falling from heaven. Then when the seventh seal was broken, the vegetation was devastated.
The fourth birth pain, labor pain, verse 9, the believers will be hated on the account of their naming of the name of Jesus. Always remember this. Please don't forget it, don't forget it, don't forget it. I want you to always remember this. The persecution that the righteous believers are experiencing right now, wherever they may be, and we are watched around the world right now in to 120 countries, and I want those persecuted, in persecuted countries, particular suffering, really, really, really suffering right now, to listen to me. This is important, my beloved friends. Listen to me. This persecution is not directed against you. It is directed against God. When the resurrected Jesus was manifested himself on the road to Damascus and knocked Saul of Tarsus off his high horses, he did not say to him, "Why are you persecuting my people"? He did not say, "Why are you persecuting my church"? He said to him, "Why are you persecuting me"? Always remind yourself, always remind yourself, if you're persecuted for your faith, they're not hating you because of who you are, but they're hating you because whose you are. Can I get an amen?
The fifth birth pain, verses 10 to 13, and actually the fifth one is a consequence of the fourth one. The fifth one is a consequence of the fourth one. As the persecution heats up, some will forsake Christ and join the nonbelievers. And their defection from the faith is really for three reasons, three reasons. Write them down if you want to. First, because the price is too high, and they don't want to pay the cost of discipleship.
And secondly, because the false teachers and the false teaching by those slick deceivers is so convincing. It's so convincing. They're clever. They're great communicators. And so the person would say to themselves after listening to them, they'll say, "Well, who knows? Jesus may have whispered about immorality and might not be against it like they're telling us. Who knows? God might accept everybody in the end, even those who take pride in their sin. Who knows, who knows if the gospel writers really said what Jesus said. Who knows"? I heard it all, I heard it all. And on, and on, and on, and on. Beloved, that's the oldest lie in the book. It's really the oldest lie in the garden of Eden. "Did God really say? And you can be God. You can be like God".
The third, the most obvious reason for defection is sin is very attractive. It's very easy on the flesh. It's easy to kick back and just take it easy. Don't believe anybody who tells you that sin is not attractive. And the Bible said it. Jesus said, "Wide is the gate, easy is the way". Those people who do fall away are what I call hangers on. They were just really hangers on. They were not born again. They were not believers. They were not really converted to Christ. They were hangers on the Christians. They were members of the visible church, but they were never members of the invisible church, the elect of God, the church of Jesus Christ, the bride of Christ.
Look at verse 13 again. "But the one who endures to the end, he, she shall be saved". Finally, I come to the sixth birth pain, finally, verse 14, the sixth and the last one. To every nation, every dark corner of the globe, they will hear the gospel, and then the end will come. God is gathering his elect. I really believe that with every ounce of my being, and that is why this final sign of the birth pain for today is that the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a witness to all nation, and then the end will come. Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus.