Matthew 24 Cranford September 16 2012.
Read Psalm 24
314 Rejoice, the Lord is King
315 Day of judgement
586 My hope is built
Note - We have a congregation of various nationalities & native languages, so the readings are from the NIV. Preparation is done primarily using the KJV.
We often hear Christians say, “Look at the state of the world. All the signs indicate that the Lord Jesus will come in the very near future.” They quote 2 Tim. 3, where Paul writes:
They say, “We must be in the last days.
Notice that Paul tells Timothy, ”Have nothing to do with them.” That instruction certainly applies to us, we should live godly lives & keep away from evil. We should live our lives in the light of our Lord's return for resurrection & judgment. But we should not interpret Scripture by what we read in the newspapers or see on TV. What do the Bible writers mean by the last days?
Scripture says that the last days followed Jesus death & resurrection. At Pentecost Peter preached:
Notice again - these last days. The Apostles were living in the last days. We will turn to Matthew 24 & see that specifically the last days are the final days of the Old Covenant. Mark 13 & Luke 21 record the same prophecy. In one sermon we cannot look at all the details, but I will try to give an outline.
We need to note that Jesus is prophesying the destruction of the temple & giving warning signs so that Christians can leave the city before the destruction. Jesus declares:
The generation that rejected its Messiah will suffer the prophesied destruction. That took place when the Romans destroyed the city in the year 70. Jesus is given warnings for his Apostles, the people listening to him, AND for those who refused to take his warnings.
Jesus announces the total destruction of the temple & the judgement on the generation that rejected him. That destruction took place in the year 70, exactly as Jesus had prophesied.
The destruction of the temple will bring to an end the Old Covenant age, with its temple & sacrificial worship. There will be one last sacrifice, of Christ himself. The blood of the New Covenant will be shed for the salvation of all believers.
We have to be careful with the disciples' questions. They may indicate a wrong understanding of the true situation. In Acts 1 they ask:
He now teaches about the signs of the end of the age. The warning signs he gives are signs that they should flee from Jerusalem to the mountains. Those who stay will suffer great distress – great tribulation.
Christ will NOT be coming to lead the Jewish armies to victory against the Romans. The Romans will destroy the city & temple. There will be great slaughter, or slavery for the defenders. The Jewish historian, Josephus, writes about that dreadful time.
History records that the Jerusalem Christians saw the signs when the Roman armies attacled Jerusalem & withdrew. They all fled the city. It is reported that no Christians remained in the city to suffer & die in that dreadful tribulation.
I'll ask one question of those who think today's events are signs that Christ will come in the next few years - “when will YOU flee to the mountains?” There is nowhere on earth where you will be safe from the wrath of God. And if you are trusting Jesus Christ as Lord & Saviour then neither the wrath of man, nor any other event can separate you from the love of God. Wherever you are, you are as safe in Jesus as Noah was in the ark.
By his death & resurrection, Jesus triumphed over Satan & all the powers of Hell. By the Gospel, we declare “freedom” to Satan's captives. The gates of Hell cannot hold back a saved sinner. But there is a spiritual war between Heaven & Hell. When Jesus warned about persecutions, it was because of that war. At first the Jewish leaders, who demanded the death of Jesus led the persecutions. When Paul & Barnabas took the Gospel into other areas, those Jews who rejected the Gospel were the first to stir up persecution against them. Jesus was the rejected King of the Jews but Scripture records his ascension to his heavenly kingdom.
His words in v. 30 refer to his ascension to his Father, NOT to his second coming. I'll read it in a better translation:
Jesus was condemned for blasphemy for using the same words:
John repeated those words in Revelation 1 (again a better translation):
Those words are a quote from Daniel 7.
Earthly Jerusalem is no longer of any significance. We have a heavenly hope, & we are citizens of a heavenly city. The promises to Abraham are for all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus has gained the victory of Satan & the powers of Hell. He has been vindicated by the fulfillment of his prophetic words against the generation of Jews that rejected him. The war against evil goes on as, by the Gospel we seek to call to Jesus those he died to save, while those who reject the message of salvation persecute those who do turn from false religions to the living God, by repentance & faith in Jesus.
This study is very important for us all. God is gracious to sinners & has made a way for sinners to be saved; for enemies to become friends – Children of God, brothers & sisters in Christ.
He is patient & long-suffering. He sent the Gospel of free & full salvation to the generation of Jews who rejected Jesus, & despite them rejecting & persecuting the Gospel preachers, he allowed them 40 years before their final judgement.
For nearly 2,000 years the Gospel has been proclaimed around the world. Sinners from many nations have been saved & added to the church of Jesus Christ. Sadly also sinners have rejected the Gospel, & persecuted those who receive it & follow Jesus. They are now suffering the wrath of God. God's patience & long-suffering runs out. We all face death, & after death the judgement. Jesus will come again, for resurrection & judgement, so no-one can escape the judgement of God. There will be no “rapture” & no-one “left behind” to turn to Jesus during a future tribulation or millennium dispensation. Now is the day of salvation.
Our message is simple – we are all guilty sinners deserving God's punishment; Jesus died on the cross to bear God's wrath in our place; we must repent, turn from our sin & commit our lives to Jesus as our Lord & Saviour. Repentance is an active turning away from sin, & a commitment to living a godly life. God gives us his Holy Spirit to give us life, & strength to live for him. Baptism is a sign of that new life – of the cleansing blood of Jesus & our commitment to live for him.
Don't let false prophets & teachers turn you aside – our commitment is to watch & pray, to live as those who will delight to see the glory of Jesus when he comes for resurrection & judgement, & not turn away in terror of a dreadful judgement.
May we all know this blessing.