Robert Jeffress - Last Days Living
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again, to Pathway to Victory. Well, it's clear to most of us that we are living in the last days as hostility towards Christians is on the rise and our country's moral standards sink even lower. The signs clearly indicate that Christ's return could be coming soon. So how should we be living now in light of that reality? Well, today I want to show you that our final days on earth can still be our best days. In fact, the knowledge of Christ's second coming should fill us with hope. My message is titled, "Last Days Living" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
From the very beginning of this series, I have shared with you my conviction, that we are truly living in the last days. From an eschatological standpoint, the world is certainly closer at least by 2000 years to the end of time than when Jesus and the New Testament writers first started teaching about the end of the ages. And there are no outstanding prophecies that have to be fulfilled before the rapture of the church can occur. The Bible says it could happen anytime, even before we conclude the message tonight. And yet, even if Jesus' return is still thousands of years away, you and I are certainly living in our last days.
Think about this in 30, 40, 50 years, most of you here tonight, most of you watching this broadcast will have died. All you have to do is do the math. I mean, after all, if you live to be an extra age of let's say age 80 far beyond the normal lifespan of 70 plus years. If you live to age 80, just subtract your present age right now, and think about how many years you have left. What if those remaining years passes quickly as this past year? Perhaps you can understand now my assertion that we are certainly living in our last days. And the question is as Francis Shaffer once said, how should we then live in light of our coming end?
You know, many of Paul's letters think about 1&2 Thessalonians, for example, dealt with the theme of last days. Living. Now, some of the apostle Paul's detractors criticized Paul, they said Paul was mistaken. He thought he was living in the last days and that Christ was going to return during his lifetime. And yet a closer examination of Paul's writings reveal that Paul never set a date for the Lord's return. He realized that the mere ticking of the clock was moving us closer to that climactic event in history. In Romans 13:11-12. Paul says this, do this, knowing the time that is already the hour for you to awaken from the sleep. And now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is almost gone and the day is near.
Paul had done the math. If there was a fixed date on God's calendar for his Son's return, then he said our ultimate deliverance, that is our salvation, is closer today than it was when we first believed. That makes sense, doesn't it? And if Paul were alive today, he would say, it's even closer now than it was 2000 years ago when I wrote that verse. He said, wake up, wipe the sleep from your eyes the end is near. Well, how should we live in light of the coming end? If you have your Bibles tonight, I want you to turn to 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Corinthians 15. We usually only read that chapter at Easter time. It's a chapter about the great resurrection that awaits all those who belong to Christ Jesus. And after describing all of the wonders of the new body and the resurrection that await believers, Paul closes his discussion with this dose of practical application.
Look at verse 58 of 1 Corinthians 15. Paul writes, therefore my beloved brethren be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. As we watch the last glimmer of twilight fade into darkness in our culture, this single verse provides us with three admonitions for how to live in the last days. I want you to write them down on your outline. First of all, Paul says that in light of the last days, we need to be hopeful. Be hopeful. It was the billionaire investor, Warren Buffet, who said, "I have never seen Americans more fearful". It takes five minutes to become fearful, much more time to regain confidence.
Certainly there's enough to be fearful about today, isn't there? There are a lot of things to be fearful about in our culture. But instead of being overwhelmed by the negative possibilities, Paul said, I want you to be steadfast. That word steadfast means to be seated, firmly situated, settled in your emotions. The Hebrew equivalent is the word security. It's a word that means to be at leisure. Eugene Peterson describes that kind of security that God offers us as being the relaxed stance of one who knows that everything is all right, because God is over us with us and for us in Jesus Christ. It is the security of being at home in a history that has a cross at its center. It is the leisure of the person who knows that every moment of our existence is at the disposal of God and lived under the mercy of God.
Now don't misunderstand what Paul is saying when he is saying be steadfast. He's not telling us that we're to be lackadaisical in our attitude about life. Elsewhere in Paul's writings he reminds us that we're in a death struggle against evil, against the forces of evil. And therefore he says in Ephesians 5:15-17, live your life then with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life, but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all of the evil days. Don't be vague, but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of God for your life. When Paul is talking about being relaxed or settled, he's talking about having your inner emotions under control.
In spite of the inevitable and increasing the opposition, we can be settled in our spirits knowing that Jesus Christ is coming for us. The Bible calls that knowledge of Christ return the blessed hope for Christians. In Titus 2:13, the Bible says we are looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The only hope we have that keeps us from being overwhelmed by the difficulties of this world is the knowledge that one day Christ is going to deliver us to a better destination.
Let me illustrate why that fills us with hope in this world filled with oppression. Let's suppose you happen to be somebody who absolutely hates the cold weather. The frigid temperatures coupled with the lack of sunshine makes you dread the winter. However, you have an employer who appreciates your productivity, and so he wants to reward you and encourage you. And so one day in October, your employer calls you in and says, I know how much you hate the winter. So here's the deal I'm going to make with you. As soon as the temperature drops to 32 degrees and stays there for seven days in a row, I'm going to send you on a two week, all expense paid trip to Hawaii.
Now, what would be your attitude when January rolled around? I mean, I imagine you would be checking your smartphone constantly, maybe hourly to see if the temperature had yet dropped to freezing. And you might find yourself cursing the sun every time it appeared from behind the clouds. I mean your hatred of the heat wouldn't be because of a sudden new affection you had for cold weather. You still dislike snow and ice and gray skies, but you understand now, as soon as that temperature drops and stays there, the closer you are to your deliverance, to the shores of Waikiki.
Now, listen to me, Jesus said, I am going to prepare a place for you. And as soon as it's ready, I'm going to come and pick you up. However, the destination that Jesus has in mind is far more glorious than Hawaii. And your length of stay will be much longer than two weeks. It is a forever destination. But how do you know when departure time is coming? Jesus says, just watch the temperature. The temperature isn't going to start dropping. The temperature of world events is going to start heating up. Just watch for wars and famines and persecutions. When you see world events starting to heat up, don't get discouraged. Know in fact that your day of deliverance is near. Jesus said it this way in Luke 21:28. He said, when you see these things, all of these terrible things begin to take place, straighten up, lift up your heads, because your redemption, that is your deliverance, is drawing near.
My friend and mentor for so many years, Howard Hendricks, used to say that the dejected expressions on most believers faces would make them a perfect cover for the Book of Lamentations. You know, pessimism really is a poor advertisement for Christianity, isn't it? And yet negativity is in vogue today for believers. Pessimism is something that is a regular byproduct of believers. You know, there's not a day that passes and I imagine it's true for you, that I don't get a half a dozen emails that have been forwarded to me. People saying that the exploding deficits are going to mean we're going to be standing in bread lines soon. Or they say that illegal immigrants are going to rape and pillage our country if we're not careful. Or they say soon, the president's going to have us bowing down and worshiping Allah. All of these negative things that are going to happen.
Let me ask you, are you naturally drawn toward people who are pessimistic? I don't know about you, but when I see a person like that coming, I want to run for cover. Non-Christians feel that same way. Pessimism is a poor advertisement for the Gospel. What did Peter say? He said, be ready to give an account to everyone who asks you for the dreariness that is in you? No, he said, be ready to give an account to everyone who asks you for the hope that is within you. Christians are to be hopeful. We have the hope, the assurance that deliverance is coming. Paul said, I want you to be steadfast. That is be hopeful. Secondly, he says, be courageous. He uses the word here, immovable. I want you to be immovable.
We live in an age where compromise is celebrated. I mean, after all, if they're not in the absolute truths, why shouldn't we be willing to engage in a little give and take with our beliefs? Well, that's okay in the political world. In the political world compromise is usually necessary, but compromise is lethal in the spiritual world. The Bible says we are not to compromise our core convictions. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, he said, I want you to be steadfast and immovable. That is remain firm in your convictions.
I want you to consider, for example, the conviction, the steadfastness of the character, Daniel, when he was living under the reign of king Darius in Babylon. You remember the story. God had granted him favor and he had risen to a place of great power. Under Darius the king there were three presidents and Daniel was one of those presidents and they presided over 120 regions that were governed by a group of men called the satraps. And the satraps were very jealous of Daniel. They were jealous of his meteoric rise to power. Here's an immigrant who's coming to our nation and suddenly he's become one of the presidents.
And so the satraps set a trap for Daniel. Remember what they did. They went to king Darius, and they said, king, we urge you for national security purposes to sign this edict that says anyone who worships another God other than you, king Darius, he shall become food, dinner for the lions basically. And Darius signed it immediately within 30 seconds, and so the message was taken to Daniel about what the king had ordered. How did Daniel react to the news about this new law that would forbid him from worshiping Jehovah God? Listen to Daniel 6:10. Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.
Now, had Daniel been like most people, if Daniel had been like me, perhaps, I know what I would have done if I'd been given that message. I would have wanted to know exactly what was the king's attitude when he said that? What was his demeanor? What was his facial expression? Did he make any exceptions for me in that edict, one of his presidents? I would have quizzed the messenger, not Daniel. He went up on his rooftop in front of an open window, as he always had done and he began to pray, not because he was trying to tout his spirituality. He prayed three times a day in front of an open window because that's what he always had done. Why would he stop now? Because of some edict from some king? No Daniel knew from firsthand experience that kings come and go.
When he had first arrived in Babylon, remember Nebuchadnezzar was on the throne and Nebuchadnezzar had a sleepless night. He had a disturbing dream and Daniel was given the power to interpret that dream. And remember what Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar? He said, Nebuchadnezzar, one day, your kingdom Babylon is coming to an end and it will be overtaken by another power and then another power and then another power until the final everlasting monarch begins to reign. In Daniel 2:44 he concluded his interpretation to the king with these words. In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed. And that kingdom will not be left for another people. It will crush and put into an end all of these kingdoms, but it itself will endure forever.
Daniel lived long enough to see that prophecy begin to unfold. He saw Nebuchadnezzar dethroned. He saw Babylon and defeated by the Medo-Persian empire led by king Darius, but Daniel also knew that Darius's days were numbered just like those of Nebuchadnezzar. And so instead of compromising his beliefs to fit in with some king who was transitory, Daniel chose to serve a sovereign king whose kingdom was forever. And that insight about the future gave Daniel the courage to be immovable in his convictions.
Now, I believe it's only a matter of time until believers begin to suffer persecution for their faith in our country. I'm not saying overnight Christians are going to start being executed in America. History reveals that persecution comes much more gradually in cultures. First of all, Christians will begin to be ostracized by others socially. Public ridicule of Christianity is accepted today. Haven't you noticed how acceptable it is to make fun of Christians on television, but you would never do that about other religions like Islam. But it's okay to make fun of Christians on television. When is the last time you ever saw an evangelical Christian portrayed in a positive way in television or film?
Once the public has developed a genuine distaste for Christianity, government is free to begin limiting the rights of Christians. And then once that has happened, when Christians are socially ostracized and the rights are marginalized, it will become much easier for Christians to become the target of blatant persecution. And you say, but Robert, you don't understand. We've got a guarantee against that happening in our country. It's called the United States Constitution. The first amendment guarantees the right of religious freedom.
Are you sure about that? It was just a few months ago when Egypt was in turmoil, people were riding in the streets that Egypt announced that it was suspending its constitution to preserve peace in the country. Do you remember in our own country, there was a time when we suspended our constitution? When we curtailed, abrogated the rights of Japanese Americans during World War II in the interest of national security? What makes you think such a thing will not happen again in the future?
Well, Daniel lived to experience that. The Bible tells us that the final form of government in the last seven years of earth's history will be a dictatorship under Antichrist. There will be a 10 nation confederacy, all national distinctions will be abolished, which means all national constitutions will be abolished and every hour that passes moves us closer to that day when Christians living in the United States will lose all of their freedom to worship freely. They will be forced to worship the Antichrist or to die.
However, we don't have to wait till those final seven years for the wholesale persecutor of Christians to begin. I believe a continuing re-interpretation of the first amendment of the constitution will give our government sufficient authority to attack believers who defend the rights of the unborn, who oppose same sex marriages, who exhibit their faith in the public square, and who insists that Jesus Christ provides the only way of salvation. Such persecution will take the form, I believe of fines, threats of losing tax exempt status, the incarceration of other people will be just some ways that American Christians will be tempted to renounce their faith.
Do you remember it was just several months ago here in the Dallas Fort Worth area that a middle school student was suspended for a day from school because he politely in a class said he believed that homosexuality was wrong according to his religion. Now it is only a matter of time until political correctness, the multiculturalism, whatever name you want to give to it causes the rights of Christians to be abrogated. How should we respond not IF that happens, but WHEN that happens?
I want you to turn it over to Acts 5 for just a moment. Acts 5 tells us how to respond in times of persecution. You remember the apostle Peter and the apostles were brought before the Jewish high priest and they were condemned because they had refused to quit preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And in Acts 5:28-29, Luke records this account. He said, the high priest said, we gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, that is the name of Jesus, and yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. But Peter and the apostles answered and said, we must obey God rather than men. Peter's response to these governing officials I think gives us three important insights about how we need to react when we are threatened with persecution for our convictions.
Number one, pick your battles carefully. Now, Peter didn't have to call a prayer meeting when the high priest said this to say now fellow disciples, let's decide whether or not we're going to keep preaching the Gospel. Jesus had already giving the orders. And in Acts 1:8 he said, you shall be my witnesses. He didn't have any choice, but to obey Christ. Similarly, when were ordered to keep silent about our faith in Jesus Christ, we have no choice but to disobey governing authorities. Teenagers, that means school authorities. Employees, that means work authorities. Citizens that means the government authorities. We must be prepared to disobey government.
But there are some times that we do have a choice. Not every government law that carries religious overtones should be disobeyed. For example, Christians who refuse to pay their income taxes, because they don't like the way the money's being used to support abortions. Shouldn't claim that they're being persecuted for righteousness sake. Instead they're being punished for failing to render unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar's. And that's why I say when you decide to engage in civil disobedience, make sure if you're going to defy human authority, that you base your decision on clear biblical commands or principles.
So pick your battles carefully. In these last days, I think Christians are going to be challenged to courageously stand against those who deliberately and sometimes just innocently attempt to aggregate our constitutional rights. But in doing so in pushing back against these people, for trying to curtail our rights, it's important that we not act like jerks in the process.