The Signs of the End
Jesus gives his followers some signs to look for in discerning when the end will come.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let me start with a question: What were you doing on December 31st, 1999?
I can tell you what I was doing: I was at my friend Jake Pearson’s New Year’s Eve bash…my senior year of high school.
I remember it well.
Lindsey, my future wife was there…she was what I like to affectionately call “missionary dating” me at the time, as I wasn’t a Christian yet.
We were doing what pretty much everyone does on New Year’s Eve: Watching a New Year’s Eve television special that nobody really likes, but everybody watches.
All to watch the grand spectacle of watching a ball drop from the sky
And I think I remember this New Year’s Eve better than most, not because it was my first New Year’s Eve with Lindsey (sorry Lindsey)…but because of Y2K.
Of the last generation, it really was the most widespread talk we’ve had of the possible end of the world…until now anyway.
People were stockpiling water…and partying like it was 1999 J
At the time, I didn’t really think the world was going to end. I wasn’t a Christian at the time, so I had never read the Bible…let alone the book of Revelation or Jesus’ teachings on it. So I didn’t know much about the end of the world.
I di think, however, that maybe at least our computers would maybe go berserk w/ a Y2K bug or something ..
And I remember watching, oh I think Carson Daly at the time, who probably was at the height of his TRL days…and thinking, the TV might just shut off at midnight…which didn’t happen.
Didn’t happen at midnight Eastern time, or when they reply it for you at midnight central time J
And now, just 13 years later…we come to the next widespread talk of the end of the world.
December 21st, 2012…the end of the Mayan calendar.
And, kind of like Y2K, I don’t think many people actually believe the world is going to end…but they’re talking about it.
Thinking about it.
And yeah…they might watch with a little intrigue when the calendar actually hits December 21st.
So we figured…what better time than this…to actually get in…and study…what does the Bible ACTUALLY say about the end of the world??
But first, how did we even get here? Why are people even interested in this right now? Who cares about a Mayan calendar?
A brief background on it:
The Mayans did a form of long calendaring, and one of their calendars ends a 5,125 year cycle on December 21st, 2012.
To the Mayans…there wasn’t much to this. It was just the end of the calendar.
Much like your calendar ends every dec, and you go buy a new one w/ cute puppies on it
Many think, it was just an end of a cycle too…and then another one would begin.
Much, like our calendar, in a sense, cycles every 100 years…we have the 60’s of the 1860’s and the 1960’s…etc.
The Mayans didn’t even really have a traditional of a cataclysmic end-of-the-world apocalypse in their theology anyway.
Many have confused that with the Aztecs…who thrived a good 500 years after the Mayans.
But…I suppose, it is kind of interesting that an ancient civilization had one of their calendars end on a date this year.
But that’s about it. It’s interesting.
Like…the fact that Ricky Rubio is going to be playing for the Timberwolves in a week…interesting.
But that’s about it.
And unfortunately…people have just run with it and given it all sorts of significance that it doesn’t have.
And it’s only going to get crazier as we get closer to Dec. 21st.
In fact, I don’t know if you know this or not, but there are not 1, but TWO reality shows on TV about this
Doomsday Preppers – on the National Geographic Channel – chronicles people who are stockpiling, arming, and otherwise preparing for the apocalypse
And earlier this year, Discovery Channel had Doomsday Bunkers - a show about a company that builds underground getaways for people afraid of the end of the world.
But what does the Bible say about all this? What does the end of the World really look like?
In the weeks to come, we’re going to study a lot of what will actually happen when the End Times come…And it’s going to be fascinating to look at
But today…I really want to cover the question of WHEN:
When will it happen?? And what will the signs be that it’s about to happen?
So, let’s look to the words of Jesus in Matthew 24. If you want to follow along, there is a Bible under every chair. Page 805.
Or, YouVersion App.
(Matthew 24:1-3) – NIV
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
So it begins with Jesus telling his disciples that the temple would be destroyed one day.
Which literally happened at the hand of the Romans in AD 70
Then the disciples ask him…speaking of destruction…what will be the sign of you coming back? And the end of the world?
Because as the Bible tells us: He has come (at Christmas)…and he is coming again.
The world will end. But what will the signs be first? Will he know it’s coming near?
And because Jesus doesn’t want his followers to be deceived, he begins to list some signs…
(Matthew 24:4-16) – NIV
4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
So Jesus begins to list signs we can look for to know that the end is near.
He goes on to say, in the following verses, how dreadful it will be and that many false prophets will appear as well…pretending to be the messiah or leading people astray
He then gives one more sign and says his return will be, not in an inner room, but seen by all
(Matthew 24:29-31) - NIV
29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
So, in this chapter alone, Jesus gives a number of signs that will happen before HE comes back at the end of the world.
The Bible gives a few other signs in other places as well.
Let me just list them off, and then we’ll go back over some of them.
By the way, I know many of you like to take notes…if you’re not normally a note taker, there is indeed a place to take notes on the back of your bulletin, and a pen under your chair.
Okay…Here are some of the signs:
It appears that there will be an amazing conjunction of wars, famines, and earthquakes (vv. 5-8)
Humanity’s faith will grow colder (vv. 9-13)
The Gospel (Good News) must 1st be preached to ALL Nations (v. 14)
The “Abomination who causes desolation” (the antichrist – an evil figure who will lead the world astray) will stand in the Holy Place (v. 15) more on that in week 3
False prophets will rise up (vv. 23-28)
There will be fearful signs in the sun, moon, and stars (v. 29)
And yes, Jesus himself will be back (vv. 30-31)
There are also a few other signs in the Bible:
The book of Mark describes many of these things happening during the last days called “The Great Tribulation”
Romans 11 also tells us that in the last days, a massive number of Jews will convert to Christianity as well.
The first sign that we’re given is that there will be an amazing conjunction of wars, famines and earthquakes at the end.
Often people will say…wow…a lot of earthquakes lately…we must be nearing the end.
But actually, we are simply living in an age where our awareness level is extremely high thanks to 24/7 media and scientific developments simply allow us to detect more earthquakes!
As far as wars, compared to the beginning and middle of the 20th century, we are living in incredible peaceful times.
But back in WWII, you couldn’t fault some people for thinking that, I don’t know…maybe Hitler is the anti-Christ.
Didn’t turn out that way…but man…at the height of Germany’s power…
The Bible also says…that humanity’s faith in Christ will grow cold first.
But here’s the thing…Christians should never pray for that to happen. You should never look at the decaying faith in America…and go…”Oh goodie…that means Jesus is coming back sooner.”
We should pray for revival that people would be saved and get in an amazing relationship w/ God
One of the mistakes people often make when weighing this out is they just judge the faith of humanity by America alone…and they say, “Well, look at how bad things are going here spiritually…the end is near.”
But here’s the thing: There are 315 million people in the US, but 7 billion in the world.
We make up only 4.5% of earth’s population.
What would Christians in China think about this question…or in South America?
They might be thinking…”Wow…we are far away from the end…because revival is happening here!”
And by the way…there are a lot more people in China than in the US.
I think one of the most interesting things Jesus tells us is that the Gospel (The Good News) must be preached to all nations before the end comes
Now, there is some flexibility in this. What does all nations mean? Just one person in the country? Everyone?
There is a TON of great research on the reach of Christianity into all people groups.
If you’re interested in this, I highly recommend checking out the website: joshuaproject.net
We can safely guess though that it’s probably needs to be more than just 1 person in each nation hearing the gospel before the end comes.
Rev 5:9 tells us that there will be people in heaven from EVERY tribe, language, nation, and people group!
Which begs the question: “How many people groups don’t know about Jesus yet?”
Well, I have some stats for you J
634 million people do not have a Bible in their language (there isn’t one written).
That makes up a total of 4,400 languages w/o a Bible.
1,600 of those are currently underway in writing the Bible. Over 2,500 still need someone to start the Bible for them. Amazing!
Now…these are mostly small people groups…although some are moderately sized. Most people on earth…do have access to a Bible. (91% of people could read a Bible in their language…97% of people could at least hear someone reading one of the Gospels on tape)
But there are still groups that no nothing of Jesus.
Like people groups in Papua New Guinea.
There are over 830 languages/dialects spoken in Papua New Guinea alone!
So…if Jesus isn’t going to come back until the Gospel is preached to all nations…then…we’ve got a little work to do still.
Another sign that Jesus mentions is that the “Antichrist” will be on earth during the Great Tribulation…Jesus calls him the abomination that causes desolation…
And one of the questions is: Will Christians be on earth for that?
Or will they, as some say, be raptured into heaven before that time starts?
If you want to know more on that…you’ll have to come back next week J
WE CAN’T KNOW THE HOUR
So there are a lot of things that need to happen still before the end of the world would start happening
We’ve got some work to go in getting the Gospel to all nations….we’re in relative peace right now…there hasn’t been a great conversion of the Jews yet, etc.
But if it’s not now…in other words…it’s probably NOT going to happen on Dec. 21st…when is it going to happen??
Thankfully, Jesus gives us some insight on this:
(Matthew 24:36-41) – NIV
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Jesus says…multiple times in the Bible actually…that NO ONE knows the day or the hour except God the Father.
In fact…Jesus doesn’t even know when he’s on earth.
Which seems weird…cuz isn’t he God?
And yes, he’s fully God and fully man…but on earth…he has given up some of the rights to his divinity…
For example…we believe God is what we call “omnipresent”…meaning he’s everywhere..
He’s hear right now…and in Poland…and in Ghana…and even in Green Bay :/
But Jesus wasn’t omnipresent on earth. He was in one place.
So, while on earth, Jesus doesn’t even know the final day.
So…you can’t know the hour. You can’t know the day.
But yet…people have been trying to predict it since the dawn of time
The Romans thought the world would end in 634 BC!!
Many thought the world would end in 1000 AD
In 1524, astronomers noticed 6 known planets would be in conjunction in the constellation of Pisces, which is a fish, so they told everyone the world was going to end in a massive flood!
People evacuated coastlines, and in London where it was apparently supposed to start, they built a fortress around a church, and tens of thousands abandoned the city!
In 1843, William Miller got the attention and following of thousands and thousands by predicting from calculations in the book of Daniel that Jesus was coming back in 1843 or 1844.
Jehovah’s Witnesses: 1874, 1914, AND 1975!
In 1988, Nasa Engineer and Fundamentalist Edgar Whisenant wrote the book “88 reasons for 1988.” 88 reasons why Jesus was coming back…
And many people bought into it
Of course we have 2000 AD
Harold Camping said Jesus was coming back on Sep. 6th, 1994. Then, Sep 29, 1994, whoops Oct. 2…I mean Mar 31st, 1995.
And after he was run out of town, he waited a generation, and then captured the media’s attention again last year by saying it was May 21st, 2011….whoops, he ACTUALLY meant Oct. 21st.
And of course now we have Dec. 21st, 2012.
And what you see in History…esp from about the 1500’s on…is about every 15-25 years, the world gets captivated again by this.
And a lot of it simply has to do with there is another younger generation who hasn’t gone through this yet…and is intrigued and maybe even slightly a little fearful about what might happen…
YET, HIS RETURN IS IMMINENT
But thankfully…Jesus tells us that we simply will not know an exact date. We can only look at the signs…
But while he doesn’t want us to just go sell our houses and quit our jobs based on some date someone threw out…we are still told to be ready
After Jesus tells us that we can’t know the day or the hour, he tells us this:
(Matthew 24:42-44) – NIV
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
So in a real sense, we are to be ready. To keep watch.
It’s like driving a car. When I get in my car to drive to a meeting at culver’s or to Target or to church…I always wear my seat belt.
Now…I don’t think I’m going to get in an accident…I’m not even thinking about getting in an accident…but if it were to happen…I’m ready.
So..we are to be ready.
Jesus didn’t give us these signs, so we could say, “Oh, he won’t come for a few years…let’s relax.”
No…He gives us the signs because, as He says, He doesn’t want us to be fooled by False Christs and False prophets.
And so we know when it happens, that God had planned it out long in advance.
But…at the same time…many of the signs we talked about today haven’t occurred.
So is the world going to end on Dec. 21st, 2012. Probably not.
But could the world end 5 years from now? 15 years from now?
Sure. Those signs COULD happen in 15 years.
Could it still be another 1,000 years from now?? You bet!
Interestingly enough though, it IS AFTER Jesus lists all the signs, that he tells us to be watchful and ready!
In a sense, we are to believe that his return is IMMINENT
We have to remember that prophecy doesn’t always turn out how we think it will.
So many of the Jews, at the time of Jesus, were WELL AWARE of the prophecy about God sending a messiah, but they missed it when Jesus was on earth because he didn’t look exactly like they thought the prophecy should happen.
So…for instance……does the gospel being preached to all nations mean, just one person in the nation hears? Or everyone??
There is leeway there…and with some of the other signs as well….
How many wars…what kinds of signs in the sky…how MANY Jews will come back to the faith….and on and on…and because of that…we are to be ready.
And the Bible speaks of this often.
(James 5:8) – NIV
You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1-2) - NIV
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
And so….even though we will never know the time and date…we are supposed to be prepared…
The Bible twice gives an example of being prepared like a homeowner would be prepared for a thief coming in the night.
And so…we should be prepared…however, I think preparedness of many Christians reminds me of cats.
For instance…you ever watch a cat when it’s owners are gone?
I had a few different cats growing up…and many of them would sit in the window all day…just watching.
But that’s all they did…watched.
And if a thief really did come…they’d run. Like a scaredy cat.
They’re not PREPARED. They’re just watching!
And sometimes…with this subject of the end of the world…many Christians look like cats.
They’re watching. They’re reading all the prophecies…They’re looking at the signs…looking out the window at all times…but they’re not doing anything but LOOKING!
See, God has decided to NOT give us the day and hour…not to scare us…but so we would live a life of urgency.
That yes…not even our own deaths might come unexpectedly…but even the end of the world could come unexpectedly.
And our job, as Christians, as people who know that truth…is not just sit in the window like a cat and watch for it…
But to be out there…spreading the love of God.
Not by weirding people out with a doomsday sign on a street corner…
But by simply sharing with the people God has put around us…that Jesus came to earth…died on a cross for us…for our sins…to completely forgive us.
Of EVERYTHING we’ve ever done. He loves us so much…that he died for us…and wants to have a relationship with us and changed our lives!
And so many of us in this room and have been so moved by God…that he has literally changed our lives for the better.
And God’s challenge from the BIble…is that we would do whatever it takes to urgently spread that love to other people…before one day…when we least expect it…the end comes.
And whether that comes in our lifetime, or a THOUSAND years from now…we pray that we would LIVE and SHARE love…like there’s no tomorrow.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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