Robert Jeffress - History's Most Important Event
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. For two thousand years, Christians have wondered when will Jesus return to consummate his kingdom on earth? No one knows the day or the hour. But the Bible contains hundreds of prophecies that give details surrounding his glorious return, details that highlight what Christ's mission will be, and how each one of us can prepare while we wait. Our series is titled perfect ending. And today we are looking at, history's most important event, on this edition of Pathway to Victory!
In 1961 just a few days before president elect John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as president of our country, he invited evangelist Billy Graham to join him in Key Biscayne, Florida for a few days of relaxation and golf. Now the invitation to Graham surprised people for two reasons. First of all, because of Kennedy's well known disinterest in spiritual matters, but also because of his equally well known dislike of evangelist Billy Graham.
Nevertheless they spent a couple of days together, and one day after they finished playing golf they were riding back to the hotel and Kennedy still had his driving privileges - he was driving a white Lincoln with Graham in the front seat - and suddenly president Kennedy pulled the car over to the side of the road. He stopped the engine: he looked at Billy Graham, and said: Billy, do you believe Jesus Christ is coming back to earth one day? Graham said: I certainly do Mr. President. Then Kennedy asked: why do I hear so little about it today?
The fact that Jesus Christ is coming back to earth is one of the best-kept secrets in the world, and yet as you look at scripture, the constant refrain of both the old and the New Testament is: Christ is coming back again to reclaim this broken world that has been lost. It is that event, what I call history's most important event that we have come to in our study of Bible prophecy. Now I want you to notice on your outline there are three significant events that are taking place during this gap, the interval between the first and the second coming of Christ. First of all is what we call the church age. Remember that chart on Bible prophecy at several pages later in your notes. We've looked at it almost every week.
Notice after the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, there is a pause called the church age. It is a time when God has temporarily turned away from Israel so that gentiles, like you and I, have an opportunity to be saved. The end of the church age will be that event we've talked about - the rapture of the church - when God snatches away the church, that is you and I, to be with him in glory. And once that occurs that stop watch starts for the final seven years of earth's history. What's going to happen in those final seven years? It's the period of time called the Great Tribulation.
Now remember the last several weeks we said the first three and a half years of this tribulation time will be relatively peaceful, but halfway through it the antichrist turns against believers - both Jewish and gentile. This will also be the time when the bulk of God's judgments against the world will be poured out during this last three and a half years in the form of those seal judgments, the trumpet judgments, and the bowl judgments. Now what is going to be the reaction of the world to these judgments? Have you all heard the maxim before: he who calls the shots takes the shots? The fact is if you're in management, you understand that truth. If you're in charge and something goes wrong people hold you accountable for it. He who calls the shots takes the shots.
Well the same thing is going to be true of antichrist. He's the great world dictator. He has subjugated all the nations of the earth to follow after him. But imagine what these three and a half years are going to be like when there's going to be not only political turmoil and persecution of people, but all of these natural disasters: the world forces are going to start to blame antichrist for these devastating judgments against the world. He's going to be seen as weakened in his power. And so the Bible says the forces of the world, the kings of the earth are going to mount a challenge to antichrist's power. And that challenge is the thing that precipitates this War of Armageddon.
But here you got the world forces, they are tired of the tyranny of the antichrist, and they are ready to try to topple him. And that's where we've come to in Revelation 16, the battle or the war of Armageddon. Look at Revelation 16:13-14. John says, "And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon", now that's the satan, the power behind the antichrist, "I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast", that's the antichrist, "And out of the mouth of the false prophet", antichrist's assistant, "I saw coming out of their mouths three unclean spirits". Did you realize that just like there is a holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: there is a satanic trinity? The dragon, that is satan: the beast, the antichrist: and the false prophet. John says: I saw coming out of the mouths of the satanic trinity, "Three unclean spirits like frogs: for they are the spirit 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 so they gathered them together to the place in Hebrew which is called har-magedon".
The satanic trinity: satan, the dragon, the beast (that is antichrist), the false prophet they are going to try to lure all the kings of the earth to this one spot in Israel for the great battle. From the antichrist's perspective, he is the one who is enticing all of the world forces to come to this plain of Megiddo so that he can destroy them. But from God's point of view, he is the one gathering together in one spot so that he might smite the nations of the earth. Wait a minute Robert, the text says it is the evil spirits that lure the kings of the earth there, and yet you're saying God leads them there. Which is it? The answer is both.
See, many times God even uses demons to accomplish his purpose. While the world forces are gathering themselves together at the plain of Megiddo, look at Revelation 16:17, "Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, 'it is done'". This is the final bowl judgment, the final of God's judgments against the world. And notice this judgment, this bowl is poured out not on the earth, it is poured out in the air. I believe that John is describing what we would call a nuclear explosion, a nuclear exchange: something that happens in the air, and has great destructive force. But regardless of the source of this judgment, this judgment against the entire world is just a prelude to the main event. And that main event is the return of Jesus Christ.
Turn over to Revelation 19. As the world forces are battling at the plain of Megiddo, as the world is trying to recover from this nuclear judgment, suddenly the heavens are going to open, the Bible says. And look at Revelation 19:11-13, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it is called faithful and true, and in righteousness he judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems (crowns): and he has a name written upon him which no one knows except himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God".
As the world forces are doing battle, suddenly they are startled when they see the clouds part, and they see the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. And when they see Christ, they see he's not alone because in addition to the appearance of Christ, notice secondly, there is the appearance of the church of Jesus Christ. Look at verse 14, "And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following him on white horses". Who is that army that is following Christ from heaven to earth? It is you, it is I. We are the armies that are following with Christ. You say: now pastor, how do you know that? It's very clear from Revelation 19. Go back up to verse 8 for a moment. John is describing what happens in heaven immediately before the second coming of Christ. Look at verse 8, "It was given to her", that is the church, "to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints".
The Bible says we're going to dress in our finest clothes. Now he's not talking about Chanel dresses, or Brioni suits: he's talking about, what he says very clearly in verse 8, our linen, our clothing are our righteous acts. That's what we will be putting on for the wedding supper of the Lamb. You say: now wait a minute pastor, wait a minute. Good works? Haven't you taught us over and over again that good works are meaningless? No, no, not at all. Good works are meaningless when it comes to earning our salvation. No, we have to have the garment that Christ offers us free of charge, his righteousness we put on when we trust in Christ as our Savior. That's why we sing, "When he shall come with trumpet sound: oh may I then in him be found: dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne".
When we become a Christian, when you trust in Christ as your Savior, God takes the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and he wraps it around you so that when God sees you he doesn't see your sin, he sees the perfection of his Son. That righteousness that God puts over us - think of it as our inner garment. You see, in Jesus' day, in Roman times, people wore two garments: there was the inner garment, and there was the outer garment. Once we have Christ's righteousness around us then we put on the righteous acts, that is obedience to Christ. And the good works we do after we are saved are very, very important. In fact we'll see in a few weeks, our obedience to Christ after we're saved determines the kind of heaven we're going to experience. And that's what he's talking about here. He says when we come back with Christ: we will be dressing in those righteous acts that we have performed out of obedience to Christ. There'll be the appearance of Christ: there's the appearance of the church: and notice, thirdly, at Christ's second coming there is the defeat of Christ's enemies.
Look at verse 19, "And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against him who sat upon the horse and against his army". Here are all the world forces prepared to do battle against antichrist, when suddenly they see Christ and us with him: suddenly those enemies become friends. They unite together, all the world forces and antichrist, to do battle against Jesus Christ and his army. They are going to make war against us. How are the enemies going to be slain? "And from his mouth (Christ's mouth) comes a sharp sword, so that with it he might smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And the rest were killed with the sword that came from the mouth of him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh".
Just as God killed 183,000 Assyrians with a breath of his word, so God with a single word will destroy his enemies on that day. That's what happens at the second coming of Christ: the appearance of Christ, the appearance of the church, and the defeat of Christ's enemies. Now many people, as you know, believe that the second coming of Christ is the same as the rapture. Those who don't believe that there is a rapture that occurs seven years before the second coming believe that they are the same event. And one reason they believe that they're the same event is they say: well, the same words are used in the Bible to describe what you think of as the rapture, but is also the second coming. And that's true.
There are three key Greek words that are used to describe both the rapture and the second coming. One word is "parousia". It means "the coming" or "arrival". It's found in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 about the rapture. It's also found about the second coming in Matthew 24. "Apokalypsis" - it's a word that means "unveiling", "the apocalypse" or "the revelation". That's again used to describe both the rapture and the second coming. Or "epiphaneia" - means "manifestation". It applies to both the rapture and the second coming. But let me remind you that just because two things are similar doesn't mean they're the same thing. Yes, there are some common elements in both. Both involve a coming of the Lord. Both involve and unveiling of Christ's glory. Both unveil a manifestation, an appearance of Christ, but they are two different events. Let me share with you eight ways that the rapture and the second coming are different.
Number one, no prophecies are necessary for the rapture. But there are many prophecies necessary for the second coming to occur. The re-gathering of Israel in the Promised Land - that has already occurred. The rebuilding of the temple - that has not yet occurred. There are many prophecies for the second coming, no prophecies for the rapture.
Number two, Christ appears in the air at the rapture. First Thessalonians 4:17 says: we'll be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, but Christ's returns to earth at the second coming. Zachariah 14:4 says "And in that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives".
Number three, Jesus returns to heaven with believers at the rapture. Christ returns to earth with believers at the second coming. At the rapture we're caught up together to meet him. At the second coming, as we saw, we're the armies that return with him to earth to set up his kingdom.
Number four, the rapture is a mystery. But the second coming is prophesied both in the old and the New Testament: hundreds and hundreds of prophecies are about the second coming.
Number five, after the rapture only believers are judged. - but at the second coming, Israel and gentile unbelievers are going to be judged.
Number six, after the rapture there is no physical change of the earth. The earth continues as is, but after the second coming - as we'll see next week - there'll be a partial renovation of the earth.
Number seven, after the rapture satan continues to work. In fact, he continues to work more feverishly than ever before once believers are gone. After the second coming satan will be bound for 1,000 years.
And finally number eight, at the rapture only believers will see Christ, but at the second coming everyone will see Christ - both believers and unbelievers. It's prophesied in Zachariah 12:10. It's prophesied in Philippians 2:10-11. Everyone, believers and unbelievers, will see the manifestation of Jesus at the second coming.
Well pastor, why is all of this important? The only reason Christ hasn't come yet is because he's giving you an opportunity to repent, but he is coming one day - make no mistake about it. Why is it important to believe in a literal, visible, physical return of Jesus Christ? Let me mention three reasons why is Christ coming back to this world again one day.
First of all, Christ is coming back to fulfill the prophecies of the Bible. There are over 1,800 prophecies in the Old Testament about the second coming of Jesus Christ. You can't turn a page of the New Testament without reading over and over again: Christ is coming! Christ is coming! Christ is coming! Jesus is coming back again to first of all, fulfill the prophecies of the Bibles.
Secondly, he is coming back to judge unbelievers, and to judge this sinful world. Christ is coming back to judge this fallen world. In Isaiah 11:4 the prophet said, "But with righteousness he will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth: and he will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked".
Why is Christ coming back again? To fulfill the prophecies of the Bible: to judge unbelievers: but thirdly, and most importantly, Christ is coming back again to reclaim the earth. In Genesis 3 we read the story about how sin came into this world, and the paradise God created was lost. But it was only temporarily lost.
Now listen to me, if there is no second coming, if there is only a rapture in which God snatches away believers to live with him in heaven, and leaves the earth as it is that would be like God saying to satan: ok satan, you won. I'll take believers up here with me in heaven, and you can stay here on earth. I'll stay in my corner of the universe if you stay down there in your corner of the world. Now do you think God's going to let that happen? Of course not. God created this world perfectly, and the Bible says one day he's coming back to reclaim what is rightfully his. That's why the second coming is important. It is a time for Christ to reclaim and recreate this sin-filled world.
One day Jesus is going to win, but let's be honest, as we look at the world today it doesn't look like Jesus is winning, does it? We see in the world around us, or perhaps just in our own world, a world that's filled with sadness, with disease, with broken relationships, and with death. What we feel and what we see is very, very real, but it's also very, very temporary. The Bible says one day Jesus is going to win. One day Jesus is coming back again to reclaim and recreate that which has been lost. The apostle John looked forward to that day. He saw it before him in Revelation 11:15. He said, "Then the seventh angel sounded: and there arose a loud chorus of voices saying, 'the kingdom of this world has now become the Kingdom of God and of his Christ: and he shall reign forever and ever'". Amen. Amen.