Robert Jeffress - The Beginning Of The End
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". When we read the latest headlines or watch the evening news, it appears as if the world is spinning out of control. While our country continues down a path of moral compromise, terrorist groups in the Middle East are poised to attack our citizens. Well, we're starting a new series called "Countdown to the Apocalypse" and in the coming days we'll examine how current events signal that we are living in what the Bible calls the last days. My message is titled "The Beginning of the End"? On today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
"There is a sense, possibly, that the world is spinning so fast and no one is able to control it". Wanna guess who spoke those words? President Barack Obama in October of 2014 at a fundraiser in New York city. It's easy to see why president Obama feels like many of us feel. That the world is spinning out of control. We all see problems in the world. We all sense that something has gone badly wrong. We all wait to see what's going to happen next. In my lifetime, I have never sensed so much unrest in the air. It seems that every day brings a new set of terrifying headlines. Everywhere I go people are sensing that something big is about to happen.
Will there be another 9/11-style attack on America? Will ISIS succeed in creating a muslim caliphate in the Middle East? Will Ebola or some other super virus spread across America and the world? Will Christians be jailed for their faith not just in other countries but here as well? Will we ever trust our own government again? Is the world itself unraveling before our eyes?
Our friend David Jeremiah frames the question this way. "The events unfolding in today's world are ominously threatening to unsettle institutions, reorder national political alignments, change the balance of world power, and destabilize the equitable distribution of resources. People everywhere are beginning to live in a state of fear and anxiety. Serious people are asking: if these things are happening today, what will be the future for my children and grandchildren? Do current headlines give us any signs about what is coming next"?
Two well-known Christian leaders recently addressed these questions. After recounting the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, psychologist Dr. James Dobson explained the connection of that story to biblical events. Dr. Dobson wrote, "Why have I chosen to recount the biblical story from so long ago? Because I am convinced that America and other western nations are sliding in the same direction. We have not yet reached the depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah, but that appears to be exactly where we're headed. Judge Robert Bork, the brilliant jurist who was shamefully denied a seat on the supreme court, wrote a book about this danger 18 years ago. It was titled, 'Slouching Toward Gomorrah'. I think he had it right".
In looking at the world today, Dr. Billy Graham used words very similar to what president Obama said. Dr. Graham wrote, "Today the world is being carried on a rushing torrent of history that is sweeping out of control. There is but one power available to redeem the course of events, and that power is the power of prayer by God-fearing, Christ-believing people". And then he added this word. "Even though America is just as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah ever was, and is deserving of the judgment of God, God would spare us if we were earnestly praying with hearts that had been cleansed and washed by the blood of Christ". If Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone as the Bible says they were, what can we in America expect?
I believe president Obama was correct. The world does seem to be spinning out of control. Dr. Dobson is correct. We are experiencing a level of moral and spiritual bankruptcy like never before. And Billy Graham is right. As a nation, we must desperately turn to God. And that is why today I'm beginning a brand new series I've titled "Countdown to the apocalypse". We're going to look at what is happening in the world today through the lens of Bible prophecy. We're going to discover how the rise of ISIS and radical Islam, how the increasing persecution of Christians around the world and America today how the increasing moral disorder, the attempts to redefine marriage, how all of these things are actually the fulfillment of prophecies in the Bible written thousands of years ago.
I don't pretend to know where we are on God's clock, but I do believe with all of my heart that the countdown to the apocalypse has begun. I know whenever we address the subject of Bible prophecy, some people approach this subject with a raised eyebrow. With skepticism. They object to the study of Bible prophecy. Some people object because they think it has absolutely no relevance to their everyday life. And most people feel like they're too busy trying to keep their jobs or pay the bills or keep their children in line, much too busy with that to be worried about the mark of the beast in Revelations 16. Other people say, "Well, if the world is going to end anyway, if God has it fixed on his calendar when Christ is going to return, why should I bother about that? I'll just sit and wait until the end".
Let me give two responses to those objections. First of all, we need to understand how important warnings are. Last night, if you had the television turned on, on every station there was a warning about an approaching storm here in the Metroplex. Why are those warnings sounded? To warn us of an imminent storm. To warn us that danger is approaching and we need to make the appropriate preparation. Those who ignore those warnings, do so at their own peril. It's the same thing with the second coming of Jesus. The Bible says there are signs that are going to precede his coming. We need to be aware of them so that we can prepare for his return. And those who aren't prepared face very real danger.
A second reason for looking at prophecy is because of the significance of prophecy in the Bible. You know, in Bible study, we have what we call the law of proportion. It simply says you can tell how important a subject is to God by how much space is devoted to that subject in the Bible. If it's an important subject, it gets a lot of space. If it's not an important subject, not much space is devoted to it at all. Well, when we come to the subject of Bible prophecy, does the Bible speak about it very much? You know the answer, of course it does. In fact, 25% of the Bible is given to predictive prophecy.
Did you know that in the Old Testament there are over 1.800 references to the second coming of Jesus Christ? In the New Testament, of the 260 chapters in the New Testament, there are more than 300 references to the return of Christ. That is one out of every 30 verses. 23 of the 27 books of the New Testament feature the return of Jesus as its prominent theme. For every prophecy in the Bible about the first coming of Jesus, there are eight about the second coming of Jesus. It is the primary theme of scripture. The subject of Christ's return is the focus of the New Testament. Jesus is coming back again. And over and over and over again you see that refrain coming, "Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming, get ready". It is a major theme in the Bible.
Let me just show you that in two passages of the New Testament. Look at Luke 21:7-12. "And then they questioned him, saying, 'teacher, when therefore will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?' and he said, 'see to it that you not be misled: for many will come in my name, saying, "I am he, the time is at hand". Don't go after them. And when you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified: for these things must take place, but the end does not follow immediately'". That's a key verse there. These things happen, the end doesn't come immediately.
People wonder, "Well, there've been wars for 2.000 years. Why hasn't he come back"? He won't come back immediately when these things begin but he's going to come back ultimately. "Then he continued", verse 10, "by saying to them, 'nation will rise against nation and 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. But before all of these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name's sake'". "And then", verse 27, "They will see the son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up, lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near".
The only way you're gonna straighten up and lift up your head is if you are attuned to what is happening in the world. Jesus said, "I want you to be aware of the world in which you live. When you see these things begin to happen, know that I'm about to return". God wants us to be alert to what is happening in the world today.
Now, I wanna sound a warning as we begin this study today about this whole discussion of Christ's return. Let me say very clearly, I have no idea the date that the Lord is coming back again, nor does anyone else. In fact, in Matthew 24, verse 36, Jesus said, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels nor the son, but the father alone". This verse states that not even Jesus himself knows the date of his return. You say, "Well, he's God. How can he not know that"? That's a whole other sermon, okay? But just look at what Jesus said. The angels don't know, the son doesn't know. And if God hasn't informed the son, he hasn't informed you or me or anyone else either. Nobody knows the date, but that doesn't mean we're not to be aware of the times in which we live.
Listen, if anybody tells you, any Christian teacher you listen to or watch on television, that he knows the date that the Lord is going to return, you write him off as a screwball. Don't listen to him. I'm amazed at how many well-taught Christians will say, "I know the Bible says we're not supposed to set dates, but", and then they begin to do just the very same thing that the Bible says not to do. The reason we're not supposed to pin dates for the second coming and the end of the world is because those predictions will become discredited, and we'll be like the boy who cried wolf. So many times that the villagers hardened themselves. They failed to listen to any more warnings and when the wolf actually did come, the villagers were unprepared for it.
The danger of trying to pinpoint the date of Christ's return is it hardens people, unbelievers, to the truth that Jesus is coming back again. The apostle Peter prophesied of that. In 2 Peter 3, verses three to four, he said, "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation'". "People have been saying for 2.000 years Jesus is coming back. He hasn't come back yet and he's not coming back", the mockers will say.
Peter said, "Don't let this fact escape your notice. The Lord is not slow about his coming, for the Lord a day is like a 1.000 years and a 1.000 years is just like a day". Jesus is coming back. 1.800 prophecies in the Old Testament say he is coming back again. 23 of the 27 books of the New Testament say, 300 references in the New Testament, all testify to the same thing. Jesus is coming again.
Well, pastor, if we can't pinpoint the day, why even talk about prophecy? Now listen to this. Although we can't know the time, God wants us to understand the times in which we live so that we can be prepared as the people of God for his return. In 1 Thessalonians 5:6 again, Paul said, "Be sober, be alert to what is happening in the world today". You know, I love what Dr. Billy Graham said. He said when he looks at world events, he does so with a newspaper in one hand and with his Bible in the other hand. The newspaper tells me what is happening in the world. The Bible tells me what it means. And so in these next six weeks we're going to do both. We're going to look at today's headlines, what is happening in the world, but we're going to look at God's word to determine what it means.
Now I want to take your Bibles out because in these final few moments that we have I'm going to give you a roadmap of exactly where we're going in this series. Next time we're going to look at what Jesus had to say about the end times. Turn to Matthew chapter 24. Matthew chapter 24. Did Jesus have anything to say about his return to earth, or was that some myth that was added on after he was dead? Let's see what Jesus said about the end times. Matthew 24, verse three. Jesus and his disciples were gathered together on the Mount of Olives, where many of us have been before.
Notice what Matthew records. "And as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, 'tell us, when will these things be and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age? Jesus, we want to know when are these things you're talking about gonna happen. When will be your coming, what will be the sign of the end of the age?' and Jesus said to them, 'mind your own business'".
Is that what your text says? He could have told them that, couldn't he? He could have said, "Hey, this isn't important for you to know about. You leave that up to me, you just concentrate on having a better relationship with me and your walk with God". Is that what he said? No, instead he answered their question, not with a date, but with a detailed explanation of the events that would lead to his return. And next time we're going to look at what Jesus had to say in that passage about his return. He gave five signs that will precede his return. We're gonna talk about each of those five signs next week. And then in the final message we're gonna answer the question, so what? What are we supposed to do if we're living in the last days?
The title of the message is "How should we now live"? What are we to do as Christians? Do we just build a bunker and go and hide and wait for the end to come? Other people say, "No, no, we shouldn't do that. We need to have mass prayer meetings and times of fasting. We need to pray and fast that God will turn America and this world around".
I'm all for prayer and fasting. That's a good thing to do. But there's something more we need to do. We need to be like the sons of Issachar. 1 Chronicles 12:32 described this group of men and it said about them, "The sons of Issachar were men who understood their times and knew what Israel should do". D-O, DO. Not sit, but DO. And I believe as God's people in this generation God wants us to be men and women who understand the times in which we live, not to have our heads buried in the sand. We're to understand the times in which we live so that we can known what we should be doing.
When we talk about the apocalypse, we're talking about the revealing, the unveiling, the second coming of Jesus Christ. And yes, there are some scary things that will precede that, but if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, that will be the greatest event in human history, when Jesus Christ returns and is revealed in all of his glory. And all of these things we're talking about simply lead up to that great event. In Luke 21:28, Jesus said, "When you see these things begin to take place, straighten up, look up, for your redemption is drawing near". I believe we are beginning to see the things take place Jesus talked about. The countdown to the apocalypse has begun.