Robert Jeffress - What Does The Bible Mean By The End Times?
Hi, I am Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Back on October 7th, our world changed forever. Militant thugs swooped into an Israeli neighborhood on foot and in the air and committed unspeakable crimes. The images coming to our television screens looked apocalyptic. So today I've cleared our broadcast schedule to present a brand new and highly relevant series called "Are we living in the end times"? We'll start by answering this pressing question, what does the Bible mean by the end times? On today's special edition of "Pathway to Victory".
It seems like the world is spinning out of control, doesn't it? Every day we're bombarded with disturbing headlines about the rising crime rate in our own country, about geopolitical tensions around the world that are increasing it seems like every day, and you add to that the growing instability in our own country as fewer and fewer Americans trust in a broken government and a biased media. It just feels like something is different this time. If you have that feeling, you're not alone. This week, one respected news source reported that us officials say this confluence of crises poses epic concern and historic danger. Even seasoned former defense secretary Bob gates recently admitted, "America is facing the most crises it has ever faced since World War II". And one respected military official said, "We are just six steps away from World War III". No wonder a recent newsweek poll indicated that nearly 40% of Americans, this is Christians and non-Christians alike, 40% of Americans believe we are living in the end times.
In Luke chapter 21, Jesus gave his disciples a sneak preview of what is going to happen in the end times. In verses 10 and 11, he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines, and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven". As we read these words and read the headlines, we can't help but wonder, are we actually living in what the Bible calls the end times? In the weeks ahead, we're going to look at what is Israel's role in the end times. We'll look at what the headlines will be that signal we are truly in the end times, and most importantly, we'll discover how we should prepare for the end times. But today as we introduce this series, we're going to answer a basic question and that is what does the Bible mean by the end times?
Now, before we begin looking at the what of the end times, we ought to answer the question why? Why should we even care about the end times? Let's face it, not that many churches address the subject of the end times anymore. Some of you're watching right now, you're in a church that rarely, if ever, talks about the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Look at our own Metroplex, how few churches are talking about the end times even right now. Many Christians erroneously believe that, well, in church we ought to be talking about more spiritual things like how to improve your prayer life or how to improve your marriage, and we ought to talk about relevant topics, but I want to submit to you that the end times ought to always be a focus of our study. There are three reasons for studying the end times.
Number one, the end times is a major theme in the Bible. You can always tell how important a subject is by how much ink it gets in the Bible, how much space did God devote to this subject, and you'll find there's a lot of space devoted to the end times. For example, did you know that for every one prophecy in the Old Testament about Christ first coming to Bethlehem, for every one prophecy about his first coming, there are eight about his second coming? There are 1,800 references in the Old Testament alone to the second coming of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, one out of every 30 verses deals with the second coming of Christ. 23 out of 27 books of the New Testament deal with the end times and the last book of the Bible, the most detailed document about the end times the Book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible that has a special blessing attached to those who read, understand, and obey its teachings. Now, why is that? If the end times are supposed to be a mystery that nobody can understand and have no relevance to daily life, why does God talk about it so frequently? It is a major theme of the Bible.
Secondly, understanding the end times helps us interpret and apply the Bible. I want to be real blunt about this. It is impossible to understand the Bible, much less apply the Bible unless you understand the end times. You can't understand the Old Testament, especially the prophets, without an understanding of the end times. You can't understand Jesus' teachings, especially the parables without understanding the end times and you certainly can't understand the epistles, the letters written by Paul and Peter and others without having a firm understanding of the end times.
And number three, why understand the end times, the end times motivate us to godly living. Peter illustrates this perfectly in 2 Peter 3 beginning with verse 10, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in which the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and Godliness, looking for and hastening the coming day of God"? Do you hear what Peter is saying? If all of this world is going to be burned up and everything in it, that ought to impact the way you live every day, knowing that the end is coming, that the world is going to be burned up and only that which we've done for Christ is going to last, the Bible never divorces the end times about the future with our life today. It ought to motivate us to godly living.
Now before we get into our study of the end times, we need to make sure that we avoid the one major mistake people make when they study and talk about the end times and that is trying to set a date for Christ's return. In Matthew 24 verse 36 in this Olivet discourse, listen to what Jesus said talking about his second coming. "Of that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the son, but the father alone". Jesus said there's no one except God the Father who knows when the son is coming back again. No teacher knows, no angel knows, even the Son of God himself doesn't know when he is returning, only God the Father. Anytime somebody gives you a date that they think the Lord is coming, know for sure it's not going to be that date because no man knows the hour or the day. Throughout history, there have been people who have been disgraced in their prediction that the end of the world and Christ's return was certain. No man knows the hour.
"Well, pastor, if that's true, then why even study the end times?" Listen, the fact that we don't know when Christ is coming is all the more reason to study the end times to be ready, be alert at any moment. Isn't that what Jesus said in Matthew 24 beginning with verse 42, "Therefore be on the alert for you do not know which day the Lord is coming". And he gives this illustration, "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would've been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason, you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think he will". The fact we don't know when means we ought to be ready at all times. Somebody said one time, "Live every day as if it were your last day because one day it will be".
I remember years ago I was being interviewed by a radio host at Fox News. He was Jewish, good friend of mine. He said, "Dr. Jeffress, do you think you're going to live to see the return of Jesus"? I said, "I don't know but it really doesn't make any difference". He said, "What do you mean it doesn't make any difference"? I said, "Well, I'm 58 years old at the time". I said, "I'm 58 years old and I know in the next 30 years one of two things is happening, either he's coming or I'm going. But I know the end is close for me and it's close for you as well and that's why we better be ready," and that's the theme of scripture. The end of time is coming, the end of the time of the world, and the end of our time as well and we need to be ready.
So are we living in the end times? To answer that question, we need to understand the difference between the last days and the end times. This is critical if you're going to know if we're in the end times or not, there is a difference between what the Bible calls the last days and what the Bible calls the end times. Let's look at the last days first of all. Now I'd put this prophecy chart. You're going to see it a number of times, but you see the last days over on the left-hand side that correspond to the church age. You find the phrase last days in many scriptures. Hebrews 1:2, "In these last days, God has spoken to us in his son". In 2 Timothy 3, Paul writes, "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come".
The last days are roughly that period of time between Christ ascension into heaven after his resurrection and the rapture of the church. Now, I said that period of time closely corresponds to what the Bible calls the church age or some people call it the times of the gentiles. Remember, when Christ was on earth the first time, the Jews rejected him by and large and because of Israel's rejection, even though God had made a promise to them that we'll look at next week, God temporarily, not eternally, but temporarily set aside Israel because of the hardness of their hearts and he opened up the gospel to gentiles, people like you and me, he invited us to come and be joint heirs with the Jews in the promises made to Abraham.
Now we are not the replacement for Israel. Don't make that mistake. God's going to fulfill his promise to Israel. He's going to fulfill it. Romans 11:2-5 says, "God cannot reject his people". He has temporarily set aside Israel right now for salvation. He's got seven more years to deal with Israel, but right now we're in the time of the gentiles. How will we know when that time of the gentiles, the church age, the last days are over? When the last gentile has been saved who's going to be saved, there will occur the rapture of the church. That's the next event on God's prophetic timetable and that will usher in the period of time known as the end times. We're in the last days right now obviously, we're living after the time that Christ descended into heaven. We're in the last days right now, but the last days will end with the rapture of the church and the end times will begin according to Daniel 9 when a very specific event takes place, the antichrist, who has assumed world power, will sign a peace covenant with Israel.
So right now we're clearly in the last days, we've been in the last days for 2,000 years. We're not in the end times technically because the rapture hasn't occurred and the antichrist has not appeared. But I would make an argument today that not only are we living in the last days, but we are living in the last of the last days. I would argue that we are on the brink of the beginning of the end times. Why would I say such a thing? Well, remember this about the end times what Jesus said. Write these two things down. Some signs of the end times are present in every generation. I mean let's face it, for thousands of years there's always been wars and there's been earthquakes and there've been famines. Some signs of the end times are present in every generation, we live in a fallen world and we're going to experience those things, but secondly, the signs of the end times will accelerate in frequency and intensity when we get close to the end.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:4-8, "See to it that no one misleads you, for many will come in my name saying 'i am the Christ' and will mislead any. You'll be hearing of wars and rumors of war. See to it that you're not frightened for those things must take place, but it is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes, but all these things are merely the beginning of birth pains". Jesus and other rabbis used the image of labor pains to explain the end time. Jesus said when we're close to the end, close to the birth of the kingdom, the millennial kingdom, when we get closer, those events are going to happen more frequently. You're going to see more earthquakes, more wars, more famines, more plagues or pestilences, epidemics. You're going to see that more and more and more and they're going to be more intense than they've ever been before.
And ladies and gentlemen, that's what we're witnessing right now. I believe these signs are increasing not only in frequency but in intensity. I've had several interviewers ask me recently, "Pastor, why do you want to tie all this to the end times? Don't you know they've been fighting over there in the Middle East for thousands of years? What makes this time different"? Nuclear weapons is what makes this different. Israel has had enemies for thousands of years, but think about this, the first atomic bomb, two of them were developed in 1945 and dropped on Japan.
Today there are 13,000 of them, 13,000 nuclear weapons that we know about right now and Israel's enemies by and large are armed or almost ready to be armed with those nuclear weapons. It presents a whole different level of threat into the world today. And what the Bible predicts, we can easily see how it's going to happen. The reason I'm convinced that we are at the last of the last days is we can look past the last days into the future and see how things are being set up for that great final world battle known as Armageddon. Do you realize for years, critics of the Bible laughed and even Bible scholars wondered, "Why would all of the world superpowers descend on a little nation like Israel that's no bigger than the state of New Jersey? It doesn't make any sense".
Until you read the Bible. God is going to bring them there for the final conflict and they're all going to be armed with nuclear weapons. Listen to Revelation 16:13-14. John says, "I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon that is Satan, out of the mouth of the beast, the antichrist, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs, for they are spirits of demons performing signs which go out to the kings of the whole world to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty, and they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called har-magedon".
Ladies and gentlemen, things are falling into place for this great world battle fought by the superpowers of the world, the Bible says, who will be armed with nuclear weapons. Although we're not technically in the end times right now, we are at the verge, I believe, of the beginning of the end times. What should be our response to that reality? Paul gives us the right response in Romans 13. Listen to this very carefully. Verses 11 and 12, "Do this knowing the time that it is already an hour for you to awaken from your sleep, for now, salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone and the day is near. Therefore, lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light".
What was Paul saying? He was saying to those Roman Christians back in 60 ad, he said, "Wake up. Your salvation, that is your deliverance, your promise from God of a New Heaven and earth and a new body, your ultimate deliverance is nearer today in 60 ad than it was when you believed 25 years ago and became Christians. It's nearer today than it was then". Paul said that nearly 2000 years ago. If Paul were standing here today, what would he say to us? He would've said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I thought 2000 years ago it was close and it was on God's calendar, but think how much closer it is today for you. It's time to wake up," Paul said, "It's time to wipe the sleep from your eyes. It's time to get ready and get prepared because the nighttime, the darkness of this world is about to be eclipsed by the bright light of the return of Jesus Christ". Are you ready?