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What Is the End of the Age?

The End of the Age  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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This morning we are starting a series on the end times. Theologically speaking, we will be looking at the doctrine of eschatology. Eschatology means the study of last things. It is the study of the events that will accompany the return of Christ.
This morning we are starting a series on the end times. Theologically speaking, we will be looking at the doctrine of eschatology. Eschatology means the study of last things. It is the study of the events that will accompany the return of Christ.
I don’t know what background you might have in this topic. Some of you may have studied it from Scripture, read many books on the topic, and have a good handle on what you believe. Others here may not really know what the Bible teaches or what they believe. And even others may not care that much and think that there are a lot more important things we could be studying.
Is this an important topic? Well, let’s see how important this topic is to God. OK? Let me ask you a few questions:
How many chapters in the Bible do you think have the end times as their main subject? 150
How many times is Jesus’ return referred to in the New Testament? 300+
There are nine authors of the New Testament. How many of them mention Christ’s Second Coming? 9
Of the 27 books of the New Testament, how many mention Christ’s return? 23
Consider these facts:
Salvation is the only doctrine given more space in the NT than that of Christ’s Second Coming.
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In the Gospels, Jesus mentions His return more frequently than He speaks of His death.
The Second Coming of Christ is referenced eight times more often in the Bible than His first coming.
If it’s important enough for God to put this much space and give this much emphasis on this topic, then shouldn’t it be important to us? Shouldn’t we seek to understand it?
The final stage in God’s plan is often called the Consummation. To consummate something means to finish it, to bring it to completion—it’s the ultimate end of something. Another word used is Restoration, which means to return something back to its original condition.
Both of these words assume that there’s something to be completed, that there’s something to be restored to. So, before we can start talking about the end of age—the consummation or the restoration in the future—we need to understand what has happened in the past, at the beginning of the age.
Christianity is a historical faith—it is based on actual events in history. It’s not just a belief system or a philosophy. The Bible, God’s Word, is the history of His interaction with people—the outworking of God’s plan for the ages.
You may have heard of the Seven C’s of History—the Creation Museum uses this framework in their walk through biblical history. Well, I’ve doubled them. I want to quickly go over the Fourteen C’s of History. Pay attention because there’ll be a test on this in a couple weeks—and I’m not kidding! First is . . .
God, who exists from eternity, outside of time, created the universe from nothing. He spoke all of creation into existence; there is nothing that exists that He did not call into existence. God created a perfect environment on earth for the crown of His creation—man and woman. After He was finished, God called His creation “very good.” Man and woman enjoyed a perfect relationship with God and with one another in a perfect environment. The world was not marred by any disease, suffering, sin, or death. But this didn’t last very long.
Satan came to Eve in the form of a serpent and tempted her to disobey God. She succumbed, and Adam & Eve sinned and rebelled against their Creator by disobeying His command. As a result, God cursed His creation. It was now in bondage to corruption and disease; suffering and death entered God’s good creation.
We see the effects of increasing sin and wickedness in the book of Genesis as Cain kills his brother Abel. As the descendants of Adam & Eve continue to multiply, we read of Lamech, in the sixth generation of Cain, who boasted of murdering others and is the first recorded polygamist in Scripture.
Evil and wickedness increased more and more. And finally, things got so bad, that we read in .
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
As judgment on man’s wickedness, God brought a watery catastrophe—a global flood upon the world, destroying every land-dwelling, air-breathing animal, and every person not on the Ark. Safe onboard the Ark were representatives of the various animal kinds, and Noah’s family: Noah and his wife, and Noah’s three sons and their wives—eight people in all.
There was a new world after the Flood, and a new start for humanity. As God had done with Adam & Eve, He commanded Noah’s family to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Noah’s sons began to have children and repopulate the earth, but again the people were disobedient to God’s command. Instead of filling the earth, they all gathered together and refused to disperse around the world.
Instead they decided to build a mighty city and a tall tower in the plains of Shinar, modern-day Iraq. They were prideful and arrogant; they wanted to make a name for themselves and be their own gods. And so God, instead of wiping them out again as He had in the Flood, in His mercy judged them bringing confusion to their common language, miraculously creating dozens of languages by family groups. And so, unable to communicate with one another, they stopped their building project and began to depart Babel, thus fulfilling God’s desire that they spread around the earth.
If you add up the genealogies in , you find that those chapters represent about 2,000 years of history—from Creation to the Tower of Babel.
And then, in , a new story begins. God calls a man named Abram, later renamed Abraham, and God makes an everlasting covenant with him.
Abraham would become the father of the Hebrew people, the Jewish nation. God promised to bless Abraham. God would give him a land; He would make of him a great nation; He would make his name great; and Abraham would have many descendants. And God promised Abraham, that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him, through his offspring—his Seed.
The rest of the Old Testament is the outworking of God’s plan, as He multiplies and blesses Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He leads Jacob and his children to Egypt during a time of famine.
There they become enslaved, and are put in chains for hundreds of years. They wondered if God had forgotten them, but He raised up Moses as their deliverer. After God judged Egypt with ten plagues, He miraculously delivered His people through the sea. Over 2 million people left Egypt and headed for the Promised Land.
In the wilderness of Sinai, God gave His people His Law through Moses—the Ten Commandments. But they continued to sin and rebel and complain, and they did not trust God. So God consigned them to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness until all that rebellious generation had died.
Following Moses’ leadership, Joshua takes the people into the Promised Land of Canaan. The Lord gives them victory, and they extend their territory by conquest. The land is divided among the twelve tribes of Israel.
Next comes the period of the judges. During this time, God’s people become ensnared by the idolatry of the nations they have conquered. Over and over, for a period of about 300 years, they repeat a cycle. They fall into idolatry, God judges them by bringing a nation to subdue them, they cry out to God for help, God raises up a judge to deliver them, and they enjoy a time of peace. And then the cycle of idolatry, judgment, repentance, and deliverance repeats.
Finally, the people demand a king as all the other nations have. And so God appoints a king for them and Saul is crowned King. But Saul sins against the Lord, so God rejects him. God places David in his place, not a perfect man, but a man after God’s own heart. David expands the kingdom and passes it on to his son, Solomon. Solomon builds a magnificent temple for God, that He might dwell among His people. Israel is meant to be a light to the nations—to display God’s glory as they live as His people.
But the story of sin and rebellion that started in Eden continues over the next 400 years as Israel is divided into north and south. The northern kingdom of Israel is ruled by a succession of evil kings who lead the people into idolatry and sin. The southern kingdom of Judah is a little bit better, with some good kings mixed in with the bad, but they, too, continue to rebel against God and worship idols.
God finally judges the northern kingdom when Assyria conquers them and takes them into captivity, never to return again. About 120 years later, God brings Babylon against the southern kingdom of Judah and takes them into captivity.
After 70 years, Judah is restored to its land. Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, and others lead the people to restore the city of Jerusalem, rebuild the temple, and reinstate the law, and then comes a period of 400 years, from Malachi to Matthew, with no word from God.
Two thousand years passed from to , and now another 2,000 years have passed from and the time of Abraham until God Himself steps into history to take care of man’s sin problem once and for all.
After 400 years of no prophetic word from God, an angel appears to a young woman named Mary in the backwater village of Nazareth and tells her that she will bear a child, Jesus, who will be the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and He will be the one to save His people from their sins.
Jesus came to reveal the Father, to redeem a people, to reverse the curse of sin and death, and ultimately to restore God’s rule—His kingdom. Jesus chose 12 men to teach and train and disciple who would become His representatives after His death, to take the good news of the gospel—how mankind can be forgiven of their sins and be restored in their relationship to their Creator—and to proclaim the message of the coming rule and reign of God.
Then Jesus was betrayed by His disciple, Judas, who had been influenced by Satan. Jesus was tried for blasphemy by the religious leaders and found guilty. His punishment was crucifixion on a Roman cross. But they didn’t take His life—He voluntarily gave it up, demonstrating the love and grace of God as He bore the world’s sin, and took the punishment that we deserve. God Himself took care of man’s sin problem; God Himself stepped into history to pay the price for our rebellion and idolatry.
And then Jesus rose from the dead. Death could not hold Him. Satan could not stop Him. Jesus, the Lord of Life, came back to life.
After His resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days with His disciples, and He commissioned them—and us—to take the good news to the ends of the earth. And then ascended to heaven, where He waits at the Father’s right hand until the day when He returns to set up His eternal kingdom.
On the day of Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension, the church was born as God sent His Holy Spirit to indwell Jesus’ followers. It has now been 2,000 years since the time of Christ. We, His people, His church, are living in days of grace, as God graciously and lovingly withholds His promised judgment as His people take the news of salvation to the ends of the earth, making disciples of all nations, proclaiming the coming rule and reign of God. Where the earthly nation of Israel failed to spread His glory among the nations, God’s new people of faith—a holy nation, citizens of a heavenly kingdom, Christ’s church—will accomplish the task as they are led by God’s Spirit and His Word.
During this age, we work and we wait. We face great opposition in our task as Satan, the dark ruler of this world, the god of this age, seeks to unseat God, and seeks to blind the eyes of men and women, boys and girls, to the glory of Christ and the gospel. Satan’s power is great; his influence is widespread; his allies are everywhere; and his captives are many.
But we serve a risen Lord. The Lord of hosts is His name—the King of kings and Lord of lords. And He must win the battle. His will build His church; the gates of hell will not prevail; and His Kingdom will come.
A day is coming, at the end of this age—at the consummation—when Christ will return. He will rescue His people; He will put down all rebellion; He will judge the living and the dead; He will cast Satan and his followers into the Lake of Fire; and He will set up an eternal kingdom. He will make a New Heaven and a New Earth, restoring His creation from the curse of sin and death. And we will live forever, worshipping and glorifying God as we enjoy His renewed creation in redeemed bodies.
That is the amazing story of God that you are a part of! This a history that all of God’s people should know. These events are the foundational to our faith.
I’ve entitled this sermon series, “The End of the Age.” This phrase comes from the mouth of Jesus Himself as He spoke of this great day that we await. I want us to look briefly at two parables of Jesus in where Jesus explains what will happen on that great day. First is the parable of the tares, or the weeds.
24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
A few verses later, Jesus gives the disciples the explanation of this parable.
37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
Then Jesus followed up with another parable with a similar message, the parable of the net.
47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The end of the age, Jesus says, is the time of harvest. It is a coming day when there will be a separation—of weeds and wheat, of bad fish and good fish, of law-breakers and the righteous.
Let me ask you a question. Are you a weed or wheat? Are you a bad fish or a good fish? Are you a sinner and a law-breaker, or are you counted as righteous because of faith in Christ? A day of separation is coming—the end of the age, the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ. Are you longing for that day, or are you in fear of that day?
I’ve been a Christian for about 38 years. When I was a fairly young believer, both the Christian and secular publishing worlds were shaken by Hal Lindsey’s runaway bestseller, The Late Great Planet Earth. Who remembers this book? It was published in 1970, and a documentary of the same name was released in 1979. Its sensational message was that current world events were fulfilling ancient prophecies and setting the stage for the return of Christ very soon. There was a sense in many Christian circles that the Jesus would return long before the turn of the millennium.
In fact, the date of the Second Coming was to be 1988. Why 1988? Well, Israel was reestablished in 1948, and the generation that saw that would also see all the things that Jesus spoke of come to pass, and a generation (so they said) is 40 years. That left 1988 as the latest possible date for the Second Coming. Of course, Hal Lindsey was wrong. But that didn’t seem to bother anyone. In fact, he has a show on Christian TV today focusing on Bible prophecy.
Another man who predicted 1988 as the date of Christ’s return was Edgar Whisenant. He wrote 88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988. And then when it didn’t happen, he wrote another book with a little later date.
When 1988 didn’t pan out, then the prophecy experts began to add 40 years—a “generation”—to 1967, the date that Israel gained control of Jerusalem. So, the next big year was 2007. Of course, nothing happened then, either.
And these books sold MILLIONS of copies. One thing these books did was to actually create a new genre of Christian literature—apocalyptic prophecy books.
Of course, after these failed prophecies, the authors got smarter. Notice this subtitle: Why Jesus Could Return by AD 2000. Now no one could tell the author that he was wrong or call him a false prophet.
And who doesn’t remember Harold Camping of Family Radio? He had calculated that the world would end on May 21, 2011, and he convinced thousands of people that he was right. Many of these people sold their possessions, cashed in their retirement, and used the money to purchase hundreds of billboards around the country, as well as T-shirts and tracts to warn people that the world was going to end on May 21, 2011. It’s now 2017; we’re still here.
Since Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, thousands of end-times prophecy books have been published; here are just a few, including some recent ones you may recognize. I checked Amazon, and 40 titles on biblical prophecy have been published in the last 90 days—that’s nearly one new book on prophecy every other day.
Here’s a new book with the latest prediction for the Jesus’ coming—September 23, 2017 (7:36 am Jerusalem time). There’s supposed to be an alignment of some stars, planets, and constellations that is the fulfillment of a vision from won’t be holding my breath. But I saved the best for last. There’s even one book coming out next year entitled, Trumpocalypse!
Now, it’s good to want to learn about these things. It’s admirable that people are studying what the Bible says about the return of Christ. But so many of these books are what has been called, “Newspaper eschatology.” They try to align current events with biblical prophecy.
What I want to do in this series is to leave all the hype and sensationalism behind, forget about date-setting, not try to align every current event with prophecy, not produce a big end times chart, but instead look carefully at a number of passages of Scripture that speak of future events.
Some of the questions I hope to answer in this series include:
· What are the different views on the end times?
· Where are we in God’s end-time plan?
· What will be the signs leading up to Christ’s return?
· Who is the Antichrist, and will the church be persecuted by him?
· What is the Day of the Lord, and when will it happen?
· What should we do if this happens in our lifetime?
· What difference should this topic make in our lives?
Besides the major coverage that the Bible gives to the end times, there are several reasons why we should study Christ’s return, and why I’m doing this series.
First, we should study the whole counsel of God’s Word (). And as we saw, this is a big part of it.
Second, the return of Christ is the blessed hope of every believer (). You should WANT to know and understand it better.
Third, we are to be prepared as the return of Christ draws near (). Many times Jesus commands His followers to be alert and watchful as the day approaches.
Fourth, a proper understanding of the future motivates us to godly living ().
And finally, we do not want to be deceived ().
As we enter this series, I want to be sure we keep something in mind—something that both Jesus and Paul reiterated to the early church. They warned against deception regarding Christ’s return.
Right before He launched into His longest discourse on the end times and His return, Jesus began with these words:
, And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many . . . Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.”
Paul wrote this to the believers in Thessalonica:
With regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him . . . Let no one in any way deceive you.
There will be great deception during the end times—false prophets and false Christs and false teachers; people performing false signs and wonders. And we can easily let ourselves be led astray, especially when we hear things we want to hear, or when we witness miraculous signs, or when someone we trust tells us something. And that is part of why I’m doing this series—to educate us, to prepare us, to equip us, to help us be ready and alert, and to not be deceived.
The book of Acts calls the believers in the city of Berea “noble-minded.” Do you know why? Because after they heard the Apostle Pauls’ teaching, they ran to the Scriptures and examined them daily to see if the things that Paul had taught them were true.
And that’s what I want you to do. I’ve studied this topic for many years, and I’ve come to some settled conclusions, though I don’t have it all figured out. I’m going to share what I’ve learned and why I believe what I do, but it’s up to you to compare what I say with the Scriptures—to be “noble-minded.” You are ultimately responsible before the Lord for what you believe—so go to God’s Word for the answers.
Let’s pray . . .
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