Robert Jeffress - What Every Christian Should Know About The End Times
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Many Christians are woefully ignorant about the end times, not because they aren't interested, but because they fear that the Book of Revelation is too complicated to understand, or sometimes they don't realize how important prophecy is to their lives today. Well, I believe future things are both comprehensible and extremely relevant, and that's why my message is titled "What Every Christian Should Know About The End Times" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
A story this week on the CNN website immediately caught my attention, and you can understand why in a moment. The article was titled "For some Christians, ‘rapture anxiety’ can take a lifetime to heal". Now you're not going to believe this.
The story begins, "13-year-old April Ajoy had a sense something wasn't right. It was quiet in her Dallas house, too quiet. Her brothers were gone, her parents were gone. On her parents' bed, a pile of her mother's clothes signaled something terrifying. Ajoy's mind began churning, trying to remember, trying to make plans. When was the last time she had sinned? Should she refuse the Mark of the beast? At least, she thought, if she was put to the guillotine during the time of the tribulation, it would be a quick death. April Ajoy grew up in an evangelical church, surrounded by constant reminders that the rapture was just around the corner. She was taught to never sin, since it could be the very last thing she did before Jesus returned to the earth. Dramatic rapture-themed books and movies were presented as real glimpses into the end of the world. Now 34, she is one of a growing network of exvangelicals who have removed themselves from what they now view as damaging beliefs of some evangelical churches. She runs a popular TikTok account discussing faith and, among other things, the effects of traumatic religious experiences that can last for years, even a lifetime. Rapture anxiety, as it's often called, is recognized by some faith experts and mental health professionals as a type of religious trauma. Darren Slade, the president of global research, has been studying religious traumas across several faiths and denominations for years. He says, 'this is a real thing, it's a chronic problem. This is a new area of study, but in general our research has revealed that religious trauma leads to an increase of anxiety, depression, paranoia and even some OCD-like behaviors. I need to say this prayer of salvation so many times, I need to confess my sins so often. Now imagine,' he continues, 'you are taught that at any minute, you could be left on earth. What does that do to the teenager who just had premarital sex, or even simply took the Lord's name in vain'"?
The article says, "Experience like this young woman's, a latent fear of an impending, inevitable end, are very common among communities of religious trauma survivors". And on and on it goes.
I've just got one question. If simply hearing about the rapture can be traumatic, what do you think it's going to be like for these people when they actually live through the rapture and find out they've been left behind? I mean, that's the ultimate trauma, isn't it? And yet that article highlights a basic truth, and that is differing people have differing reactions to the end times. For those who do know Jesus as their Savior, the end time events are nothing to worry about. They represent simply a prelude to an eternity of eternal blessing. But for those who don't believe in Jesus as their Savior, they're obviously frightened by the end time, because if these events are true, they are a prelude to an eternity of suffering.
Today, as we come to the end of our series "What every Christian should know," I thought it was appropriate that we look at the 10th historic pillar of the Christian faith, and that is what every Christian should know about the end times. I put on your outline the familiar chart of the end time events. Now, for some of you this is going to be brand new material, for many of you it's review. So even if you've heard this a thousand times, think about, would you be able to explain this to your children or grandchildren or a friend who asked you about the end times? Listen to this with a mind of how to explain this truth to others. Right now, we are living in a period of time we call the church age.
Here's the definition. The church age is that period of time between Pentecost until the rapture during which gentiles are invited to participate in the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. God has hit the pause button in his dealing with Israel and their rejection means you and I, who are gentiles, have an opportunity to be saved. But God will finish his dealings with Israel, he will give them one last opportunity to trust in Christ during a period in time we'll talk about in a moment. But that's the age that we're living in right now, the church age, when gentiles are invited to participate in the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant.
Now, when the last gentile has been saved who is going to be saved, that Marks the end of the church age and points to the next event, the rapture of the church. The end of the church age will be the rapture of the church. What is the rapture? It's the snatching away to heaven of all Christians before the beginning of the tribulation. It's the snatching away of all Christians to heaven before the beginning of the tribulation. After the rapture will come the next event, the third event, the tribulation. Here is a definition. The tribulation is the seven-year period that begins with the antichrist when he signs a peace covenant with Israel and ends with Armageddon and the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Bible defines it as a seven-year period of time. What is the purpose of the tribulation? It's twofold.
First of all, the salvation of both Jews and gentiles. Even though those who become Christians will pay a great price to do so, there's going to be a worldwide revival, and it's described in revelation 7. John says he saw people from all nations coming to faith in Christ, Jews and gentiles alike. Verse nine says, "They will come from every nation". But it will also be a time of the condemnation of unbelievers. God will pour out his wrath in a series of judgments, the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments. God will pour out his judgment on unbelievers. And by the way, that's why I'm absolutely convinced Christians will not live during the tribulation, we will not be here for that period of time.
Revelation 19:11, "I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat upon it is called faithful and true. And the armies which are in heaven," verse 14, "Clothed in fine linen, were following him on white horses". That's you and me. "And from his mouth comes a sharp sword". Verse 16, "And on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written. King of kings and Lord of lords". This is the return of the Jesus Christ to the earth. That's the second coming. The second coming of Christ is the visible return of Jesus Christ to establish his kingdom.
Now, as I said earlier, there are some similarities between this and the rapture, but there are some key differences. The rapture happens in secret, the only people who'll see the Lord in the air will be believers who are snatched up to meet him there. At the second coming, every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess, everybody will see Jesus returning. During the rapture, we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. But at the second coming, Jesus doesn't just come in the air, he comes to earth again. Zechariah tells us, "His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives and it will be split in two". I'm telling you, when I go to Israel, next to the empty tomb where Christ conquered death forever, to me, the most exciting place to stand, as we will do, is that Mount of Olives, to realize this is ground zero, this is where the Lord has promised to return one day.
And why is he coming? To establish his kingdom, the millennium. Here's a definition for the millennium. It is the thousand-year period of time during which Christ will reign on the earth, fulfilling God's promises to Abraham and his believing descendants. During the millennium, Jesus will be on the throne, reigning from Jerusalem, Satan will be bound, and because of that, there will be a partial lifting of the curse on the world. This isn't the recreated earth, that's still future. This is a renovated earth. And it's the period Isaiah had in mind when he said people will live longer now that Satan has been removed. Death will be rarer. It won't be nonexistent, but it will be more rare. The world will enjoy a time of blessing. Isaiah 11 talks about it as a time that he will judge the poor and decide with fairness the afflicted of the earth.
Verse six, "The wolf will lay down with the lamb and the leopard will lay down with the kid". And verse nine, "They will not destroy or hurt in my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord". This is the millennium. At the end of the millennium comes that sixth event known as the Great White Throne judgment. It is God's final judgment against all unbelievers who have ever lived. And that leads to the final period of time in Bible prophecy, eternity future. That is the permanent state of believers inhabiting the New Heaven and earth and of unbelievers inhabiting the lake of fire. Once you die, it is too late to make any changes in your eternal destiny. It is a fixed destiny for both believers and unbelievers.
Peter talks about it in 2 Peter 3:7-10, about after this Great White Throne judgment, the present heaven and earth will be destroyed. And John says in revelation 21:1, "It was at that point I saw a New Heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband". John says, "I saw a new city, the new Jerusalem". Right now, Jesus is in heaven building that new city. I call it the ultimate in prefab housing, it's being built up there. But John says he saw it come, where? Down out of heaven to earth. The new Jerusalem is going to be our primary dwelling place for all eternity. It's not the only place, we'll zip around to other places, but it's going to be our main place.
Now if somebody said, "Well, how is a city going to be big enough to include everybody"? John saw the measurements of the city. In fact, he said in revelation 21, the size of this city is 1,500 miles long and 1,500 miles wide. Now, that would be over two million square miles. Tuesday I'm going up to New York city to tape a special on prayer up there. We think New York is so big, eight plus million people. It's only 305 square miles, the whole island of Manhattan, and yet it fits 8 to 10 million people. This is going to be over two million square miles on a plain. But it's not length and width, it's length, width, and height. This is a cube. It goes 1,500 miles high, these two million square miles. That is 660,000 stories high this city is going to be. People say, "Oh, he's speaking symbolically". John says in revelation 21:17, "These are human measurements".
Ain't that interesting? He knew some people would say that just can't be. He said, "These are human measurements". It's going to be spectacular what God has planned for us. But you know what to me is even more exciting than what's going to be in the New Heaven and new earth? It's what's not going to be there. You may have seen me Friday night on fox talking about the hurricane, and the anchor said, "Pastor, do you have any word of encouragement for people"? I said, "Well, one thing I know for sure. Hurricanes, death and destruction were never a part of God's original plan for this world. And thank God they won't be a part of the next world he has planned for us".
Isn't that what John said in revelation 21:4? "And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall no longer be any death or mourning or crying or pain, for the first things, the first world, will have passed away". That's the New Heaven, that's the new earth God has planned for us. How do we respond to all of that? What should be our response? Three quick admonitions that come from scripture. Number one, stay alert. Stay alert, it could happen at any moment. 1 Corinthians 15:52, "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound and the dead in Christ will be raised imperishable". When Roman soldiers were about to break camp to go to another location, there were three blasts of the trumpet. The first blast was strike your tents, fold your tents up, get ready. The second blast of the trumpet? Fall in line. And the last trumpet meant march away.
The first trumpet has already sounded for us. God has said fold up your tents, live as aliens, don't put down roots too deeply, you're just passing through. The second trumpet has sounded. Be alert, be sober. We're awaiting that final blast of the trumpet when we march away into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be alert, stay alert. Secondly, stay focused. You know, the great puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards when he was 19 composed a list of resolves that would guide his life. One of those was this. "Resolve not to do anything I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life". Now that's wisdom. But there's an even more powerful corollary, and that is, "Resolve that we should be doing whatever we would do if it were the last hour of our life".
What should we be doing since time is short? In 1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul says, "Therefore be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain". Stay focused. And finally, stay encouraged. For those of us who are believers, we have every reason to be encouraged and no reason to be fearful of the future. Do you remember Charles dickens' work "A Christmas carol"? Ebenezer Scrooge was such a miserable human being, he led a miserable life and he made everybody around him miserable. And remember when the ghost of Christmas future came, he showed Ebenezer Scrooge what the future looked like for everybody's life he had impacted in a negative way, and then he took him to the cemetery and showed him what his own future was.
And Scrooge was devastated by what he saw and he said, "Are these shadows of things that will be, or simply shadows of things that might be"? The end time events we just looked at are not shadows of what might be. They're shadows of what will be. These are set in stone, these things are going to happen according to the authority of God's word. But God is giving you and me the ability right now to make changes in our life that can change how those solid, set-in-concrete end time events affect us. Right now we can examine whether or not we are truly saved or not. We can examine whether we're focused on the things of God or not. And how we change right now will impact our eternity forever.
Again, the end time events are set, we're not going to change that. But how we respond right now will determine whether these events are a prelude to an eternity of blessing or a prelude to an eternity, a nightmare like we've never known. As we come to the end of this study today, I thought Jesus' words in John 16:33 are a great capstone for this message. Jesus said to his disciples, "In this world, you will have tribulation. But take courage, I have overcome the world". And so will everyone who belongs to Jesus Christ. In the end, that's what every Christian should know about the end times.