March 26, 2012
By: John Barnett
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Jesus enclosed a snapshot of what life on earth was like--just before He touched down on the Mt. of Olives, the Ground Zero of His Second Coming .
Those snapshots are in Matthew. So please open with me to the greatest sermon on the end of the world ever preached—Matthew 24. Jesus is mapping out the future. He is walking His disciples through a long and complex answer to their simple question in v. 3:
Matthew 24:3 Now as He sat 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?”
As Jesus proceeds through this answer He gets to an amazing sight, He sees a future Temple rebuilt in Jerusalem. And He sees a future antichrist defiling that temple. Look at that section with me in Matthew 24:15-16.
Matthew 24:15-16 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."
Now, stop for a moment and think with me. What use would this section of the Bible be for us? We are not Jews, we aren’t in the Tribulation, nor do we expect to be. Is it even profitable to study, or we could go further and ask:
Is Prophecy Profitable?
That is a great way to start this time in God's Word—answering that vital question. Here is the reason—Paul actually taught this very passage to a group of new believers on his missionary journeys. Did you know that?
Turn there with me to II Thessalonians 2:1-5.
"2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?"
Wow, what a line. Paul included the teaching of Biblical prophecy in the core of doctrine he presented to new believers! Wow, that is so encouraging to us today. Paul told them about those things way back then? What was the context? What good would teaching about the antichrist and the end of Jerusalem and a temple rebuilt and defiled do for anyone?
The answer lies in the letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonians believers after he taught them all these things in Matthew 24. He was teaching them the value of thinking about Christ's return. In fact, one of the clearest passages of God's Word about Christ's Coming for His Church is in First Thessalonians 4, please turn there with me, and stand as we listen to God speak through His Word:
First Thessalonians 4:13-18" But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words." (NKJV)
Remember that the first law of interpreting the Bible is that there is only one interpretation that is right for each passage. It is the message that God was giving by His Spirit through His Word to those that got that letter. There is one interpretation, but many applications of a given passage.
That interpretation is often easy to understand as we see what the reaction was among those early believers who got the letter in the first place.
What did the teachings of Paul do for the early believers? How did they respond to him? What did those who received the message of God through Paul think that he meant? There is no doubt that they believed that Jesus could come at any moment. And because they believed in Christ's any-moment-coming, they LIVED differently.
Thessalonian Believers Century One
The ancient city of Thessalonica was an honored city in the Roman Empire. So, archaeologists at the turn of the century wanted to find the Thessalonica of Paul’s day.
Today all that’s left of the city of Paul’s day is one archway. That’s the only reminder of the ancient world that Paul preached. So the archaeologists started their mapping and exploration of the ancient boundaries of the city. A group of French archaeologists actually took the Thessalonica dig and staked out the area. They mapped out their plan and started digging.
Archaeologists never know what they’re going to bump into so they dig cautiously and carefully. The first thing they found was a cemetery. As they were digging down and their picks and shovels poked on some thing. They started brushing away the dust and soon came up with a marble head stone of a grave. They thought it was very interesting. They recorded it and picked it up and they put it under the tent and as they brushed it off they looked closely and there was one word on the headstone and it was the word amemptos.
So the archaeologists said that’s interesting, Amemptos used to live here. They kept excavating and a few days later they hit another gravestone. They brushed it off and looked and it said amemptos. They said wow, two people in this town have the same name. So they went back and they dug and as they worked for months they found every single headstone in that cemetery had one word engraved in the marble—amemptos.
You say who was it? To find out, open with me to 1 Thessalonians 3:13.
This verse contains the central message that the Apostle Paul proclaimed to those people. There was one thing Paul wants them to remember. He says it 3 times in this book and it was the center of the Gospel presentation he gave to these people that were so immersed in sin as all of us are. Here is what he wrote— 13 so that He may establish your hearts unblameable [amemptos- unashamed life before God] in holiness.
• I am ready, and my heart is hot—not cold or lukewarm.
• I am hot and ready for Christ's coming!
• I will never have to answer to God for my sins if I am in Jesus.
• I will never be judged for my sins if I am in Jesus.
• I will never be condemned for my sins if I am in Jesus.
• I will never have to pay for my sins if I am in Jesus.
“Hot and Ready”
There is a pizza chain that has an offer that anytime you stop in they will always have pizza that is hot and ready. That means they are ready for your visit at any time. Did you know those people listened to what the Apostle Paul said? And they heard that Gospel message so clearly that when they came to know Jesus Christ there’s one thing they couldn’t forget and that is that they could stand before God amemptos--unashamed of their sinful lives that they had lived before Christ. What kind of lives did they live?
You see the Apostle Paul’s writing back to them—he ministered here probably 6 weeks. 3 weeks in the synagogue and 3 weeks out—then he’s driven out of town and he goes to Athens and he goes on and after a few weeks he writes a letter back to them but when he writes back to them he said did you know people from Thessalonica have come to me and told me about our ministry we had there? And this is what they said. Look at I Thessalonians 1:9-10:
For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. Do you know what that says? The people in Thessalonica were formerly idolatrous people— 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
You know what these people learned? That their former lives to their idols, false gods that were dead and weren’t living and weren’t true. They could turn from those past sins and never look back. They could look to Christ and be amemptos--unashamed of their sinful lives. Now you say I don’t have a wicked, sordid, depraved, debauched, life in the past. But you know what? All of us are sinners. So what ever we have done, we can know it is forgiven, and it is gone!
Jesus paid it all, I will live for Him. I will neither be ashamed of my past nor waste my present and future—but live it for Him.
Now look back at 1 Thessalonians 3:13 again:
“so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness”. My past is paid for, and my present is consecrated.
Don’t ever come before God and think God I’m ashamed of who I was, I’m ashamed of what I was. Now the Apostle Paul said that the things that I did were shameful things. But Paul never was afraid to come into the presence of a holy God because he knew my sins are gone and shall not be remembered. God in mercy lovingly forgave me.
What did he teach these people that helped them come to this conclusion?
What did he teach them in that city that caused them to have in their cemetery every single grave stone from the first century era—around the time of Paul’s ministry—all inscribed with that word that he preached to them?
What was it that constituted this life that could be called blameless?
• They weren’t ashamed of their past because they knew it was covered by the blood of Christ.
• They weren’t ashamed of their present conduct because they knew that the way they lived their life was unblameable in the sight of God.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 Paul said you have A NEW GOAL—living each day for Christ's coming. Forgetting the past, trusting that it is forgiven, cleansed and gone.
Your former goal was living for yourself, accumulating, having pleasure-what every your life’s goal was before it’s changed now. It’s not trying to see how much you can promote yourself. It’s not trying to see how much you can gain power in life. It’s not to see what kind of new and exciting things you can experience – to travel or see or do. Here’s your new goal- Wait for His Son. That’s a new goal in life.
But as we wait, we must beware of:
Our New CONDUCT
Expected by God
Because they were taught by Paul that Christ's any-moment-return should keep them on their spiritual toes, Paul distilled the Christian life down to some bite sized pieces. These saints had no tapes. There were no bookstores to catch the latest titles. They had no Christian radio. There was no study Bible to use and carry around.
In reality it was only what they heard and could remember!
So Paul reduced the entire life down to some neat little mottos to hold onto easily!
Because of Christ's Any-Moment-Coming, I have:
First Thessalonians 1:10
A NEW GOAL: I am Waiting for Jesus
First Thessalonians 2:12
A NEW PLAN: I want to walk worthy of God
First Thessalonians 2:13
A NEW AUTHORITY: I take God at His Word
First Thessalonians 2:14-20
A NEW STANDARD: I will measure each choice in my life by Christ's coming
First Thessalonians 3:3,4
A NEW PERSPECTIVE: I accept suffering from God
First Thessalonians 3:12
A NEW RESOURCE: I can abound in love
First Thessalonians 4:3
A NEW APPETITE: I want to stay pure
First Thessalonians 4:11
A NEW LIFESTYLE: I want to be quiet, mind own business, and work
First Thessalonians 4:18
A NEW MINISTRY: I want to comfort others
First Thessalonians 5:11
A NEW FOCUS: I want to edify others
First Thessalonians 5:16
A NEW HABIT: I will choose to rejoice always
First Thessalonians 5:17
A NEW CONTACT: I know I need to pray always
First Thessalonians 5:18
A NEW AWARENESS: I am going to be thankful