Sermon title:  WATCH, AND WATCH OUT!

 

Matthew 24:3-14, 23-28

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, October 20, 2019

 

 

 

 

A public opinion poll of United States adults

indicated that 41% believe

we are now living in the “end times”

described in the Bible.

 

That 41% was for the adult population as a whole.

 

Among Protestants 54% believe

we are now living in the “end times.”

 

And among Evangelicals,

77% believe that these are the “end times”

predicted in the New Testament.

 

Notice that the ones who do the most Bible reading

are the ones most convinced

that these are the “end times.”

 

The first and strongest piece of evidence

is found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 24.

 

We saw last week

that the disciples asked our Lord Jesus

a multi-part question

relating to when Jerusalem’s Temple would be torn down

and when Christ would return

and the world would come to an end.

 

And so, last week we looked at the parts of Jesus’ answer

that dealt with the First Century desolation

of Jerusalem and its Temple.

 

And this week, we’ll look at how Jesus answered

the second part of the disciples’ question,

where they asked at Matthew 24:3,

 

3 “...what will be the sign of your coming

and of the end of the age?”—or “the end of the world”

in many Bible translations.

 

But, first, we should notice

that even what our Lord said

about that First Century desolation

of Jerusalem and its Temple by the Roman Empire

and what he said about

the Jewish people being carried off captive

into all the nations—

even that gives us clues as to when we will see

the return of Christ and the end of this world.

 

In the very last words of Matthew Chapter 23,

just before his disciples asked him for the sign,

Jesus had concluded his final public address

to the crowds at Jerusalem’s temple

by saying at Matthew 23:37,

 

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, . . .

 

and then in Verse 39,

 

. . . you will not see me again

until you say,

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

So, that implies that a Jewish Jerusalem would be there

to welcome Christ when he returns.

 

Jerusalem would not see Jesus again,

“until” they say,

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

Well, as we saw, the Roman armies desolated Jerusalem

carried the Jews off captive into all the nations.

 

And there was no longer any Jewish Jerusalem

until the Six Day War of 1967

when modern Israel re-took the old city.

 

So, now there is a Jewish Jerusalem,

which opens the way for Christ to return

to a Jewish city

that will welcome him with those words:

 

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

Luke’s Gospel reinforces the significance of Jerusalem

in relation to the end of this world.

 

In Luke 21:24, when our Lord spoke of

the desolation of Jerusalem by the Roman armies,

he said,

 

24 And they shall fall

by the edge of the sword,

and shall be led away captive

into all nations:

 

and Jerusalem shall be trodden down

by the Gentiles,

until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.

 

The facts of history tell us

that the Lord’s words came true.

 

For almost 2,000 years

the Gentiles controlled Jerusalem.

 

But that situation came to an end in 1967,

when the restored nation of Israel

took back the Old City from the Gentile Arabs.

 

So, Jesus’ answer to his disciples

about the desolation of ancient Jerusalem

also pointed forward

to our modern times

when Israel and Jerusalem

would be restored—

so that, at his Second Coming,

Christ could return to a Jewish Jerusalem

that would welcome him.

 

And serious students of the Bible

knew ahead of time

that this would happen.

 

The most famous Baptist preacher of all time

was Charles Haddon Spurgeon,

who pastored the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England.

 

And, preaching in 1864 on what he read in Bible prophecy,

he said confidently,

 

“there shall be a political restoration

of the Jews

to their own land.”

 

Spurgeon was speaking around 100 years before that happened,

but he knew it would happen,

and it did happen,

because our God is a God of prophecy

who has a timetable

for world events

related to the return of Christ.

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But there are also false prophets

who claim to represent Christ,

and who deceive many people.

 

So, going back to Matthew Chapter 24,

we see that our Lord warns us of that, in Verse 4,

 

4 Jesus answered: "Watch out!”

 

"Watch out that no one deceives you.

 

5 For many will come in my name,

claiming, 'I am the Christ,'

and will deceive many.

 

The founder of the Bahai religion in the 1800’s

claimed to be the return of Christ.

 

And that group has 8 million followers today.

 

This false Christ has deceived many.

 

Restafarians—the Afro-Jamaican religion

characterized by men who wear dreadlocks,

and who gave the world their popular reggae music—

They believe that Christ returned in 1930

in the person of Haile Selassie,

when he became Emperor of Ethiopia.

 

Well over a million people

have been deceived by that false Christ.

 

Rev. Sun Moon,

who founded the Unification Church,

better known as “the Moonies”

claimed to be Christ returned,

and he has misled millions of people.

 

Rev. Jim Jones

      founded the People’s Temple movement in Indianapolis in 1978,

and he claimed to be the reincarnation of Christ.

 

He misled tens of thousands of people,

and led almost a thousand of them

to commit suicide

by drinking poison in Jonestown in 1978.

 

On the Internet you can find dozens more

who claimed to be Christ.

 

Our Lord warned us not to be deceived.

--------------------------------------

 

He also went on to say, in Verse 6,

 

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.

 

Over the past century,

we have seen wars like never before in human history.

 

The First World War was called “First”

because there had never been one like it before.

 

Almost 20 million people were killed by that war.

 

Some manuscripts, and the parallel passage in Luke

show that Jesus also said there would be pestilences or plagues.

 

As the First World War was coming to an end,

the deadliest flu pandemic in human history struck.

 

About a third of the world’s population was infected,

and somewhere between 20 and 50 million people died.

 

After that, the 2nd World War killed between 75 and 80 million.

 

Our Lord said that such things would be

“the beginning of birth pains.”

 

In Matthew 24:9, he continued,

 

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.

 

Muslim and Hindu lands are notorious

for persecuting Christians

and even putting thousands to death.

 

But, in recent years, we are beginning to hear of

persecution of Christians in traditionally Christian lands.

 

The Attorney General of the United States

pointed out the increasing hatred of Christians

here in this country

when he spoke at the Univ. of Notre Dame law school

a few days ago.

 

Bill Barr, the Attorney General, said that we now see

the law used aggressively

to force religious people and entities

to subscribe to practices and policies

that are antithetical to their faith . . .

 

He added,

“This reminds me of how some Roman emperors

could not leave their loyal Christian subjects in peace

but would mandate

that they violate their conscience

by offering religious sacrifice to the emperor as a god . . .

 

The Attorney General then gave examples

of this new religious persecution of Christians in America.

 

He said,

“Militant secularists today do not have a live-and-let-live spirit—

they are not content to leave religious people alone

to practice their faith.

Instead they seem to take a delight

in compelling people to violate their conscience . . .

 

“Thus, for example, New Jersey

recently passed a law

requiring public schools to adopt an LGBT curriculum

that many feel is inconsistent

with traditional Christian teaching. . . .

 

“And the Orange County board of Education in California

issued an opinion that

parents who disagree with the instructional materials

related to gender, gender identity,

gender expression and sexual orientation

may not excuse their children from this instruction.’”

 

That new wave of persecution of Christians in America

is because of a huge cultural shift.

 

People are leaving the churches in droves,

and are embracing atheism, paganism

or other philosophies hostile to Christianity.

 

Our Lord Jesus predicted this,

when he said, beginning in Verse 10,

 

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.

 

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reported Thursday

on a Pew Research Center study,

under the headline proclaiming

that church attendance has fallen sharply.

 

The article noted that, over the past 10 years,

 those who attend church even once a month

has dropped from 52% to 45% of adults.

 

It reported that 10 years ago

Christians made up 77% of the U.S. adult population.

 

But now only 65% profess to be Christian.

 

At the same time,

those who say they have no religion

grew from 17% of the population to more than 25%.

 

An indication of how fast people are ‘turning away from the faith’

is what the study found about faith disappearing

 among younger adults.

 

While 84% of older Americans still profess Christianity,

less than half of younger Americans do.

------------------------------------------------

 

To see that ‘many have turned away from the faith’

and that people are ‘hating one another,’ as Jesus said,

all we need to do is turn on the television

or look at the Internet.

 

False prophets abound there, too,

turning the Gospel of Christ

into a means to enrich themselves

by teaching a false “health & wealth” ‘gospel’

and preaching a Jesus

different from the Jesus of the Bible.

 

They fill mega-churches and stadiums,

along with huge TV audiences,

deceiving many with their false ‘gospel.’

 

Our Lord went on to say,

 

12 Because of the increase of wickedness,

the love of most will grow cold,

13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

 

Wickedness has increased

beyond what most of us could have imagined

just a few years ago.

 

Homosexuals and lesbians

who, a few years ago, would have been ashamed

to admit in public what they are doing

now boast openly of their behavior,

and they hold seats in Congress,

and are mayors of large cities.

 

They speak in public

and denounce Bible-believing Christians

as bigots and homophobes.

 

Police officers who used to arrest drug-pushers

are now protecting marijuana dispensaries

and working as crossing guards

to stop traffic

so drug users can cross the street

to pick up their intoxicating drugs.

 

For decades now,

an average of a million unborn children

have been killed each year in the U.S. alone,

by legalized abortion.

 

The “increase of wickedness

has caused many people’s love to grow cold—

their love for God and for one another.

 

Churches that stick to the Bible’s message

are emptying out and closing,

but our Lord encouraged us to hang in there.

 

He said,

“but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

 

And then, in the next verse, Matthew 24:14, he said,

 

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.

 

The end of this world will come

after “this gospel of the kingdom”

has been “preached in the whole world

as a testimony to all nations.”

 

A few years ago, it was inconceivable

how the Gospel of Christ

would ever penetrate behind the Iron Curtain

to reach the billion people in China.

 

But recent surveys reveal

there are now more than 30 million in China

who believe in Jesus,

and the number is growing so fast

that observers are saying

if this trend goes on for 10 years,

there would be more Christians in China

than in America.

 

And, even in strict Muslim lands

where it is illegal to preach the Gospel of Christ,

satellite TV is bringing the message to many,

and we hear of more and more Muslims

seeing Jesus in their dreams

and giving their hearts to him.

-------------------------------------------------

 

How will we know when Christ returns?

 

It won’t be a secret.

 

It won’t be like the Rastafarians’ Hailie Selassie

or the Moonies’ Rev. Moon

with followers claiming

Christ is in Ethiopia or in South Korea.

 

No, at Matthew 24:23, our Lord made clear

that everyone will see it, worldwide.

He said,

 

23 At that time if anyone says to you,

'Look, here is the Christ!'

or, 'There he is!' do not believe it.

 

24 For false Christs and false prophets

will appear and perform great signs and miracles

to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.

 

25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

 

26 "So if anyone tells you,

'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out;

or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,'

do not believe it.

 

27 For as lightning

that comes from the east

is visible even in the west,

so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

 

It will be a dramatic event

visible to everyone on earth

and getting everyone’s attention

like thunder and lightening

that no one can miss.

---------------------------

 

Matthew 24:28 tells us that our Lord next said,

 

28 Wherever there is a carcass,

there the vultures will gather.

 

That seems hard to understand,

        but comparison with Luke’s Gospel

               explains it.

 

Beginning at Luke 17:34, our Lord spoke of his return

         to rapture us to heaven.

 

He said,

        

34 I tell you, on that night

two people will be in one bed;

one will be taken and the other left.

 

35 Two women will be grinding grain together;

one will be taken and the other left.”

 

...37 “Where, Lord?” they asked, in Verse 37.

 

He replied, “Where there is a dead body,

there the vultures will gather.”

 

Next week, we’ll look more closely

        at that aspect of Christ’s return,

                 and at other parts of “the sign”

                          showing that “the end” is getting closer.

 

Are you ready for Christ to return?

 

You don’t want that to be

the day you meet Jesus for the first time.

 

The time to meet Jesus is right now,

when he’s still welcoming people with open arms

to forgive our sins

and to give us new life as his adopted children.

 

Now is the time to turn to Jesus in prayer,

and to receive him as your Lord and Savior.

 

Tell Jesus that you’re sorry for your sins,

and that you want to live the new life that he calls you to live.

 

Give yourself to Christ,

and ask him to save you.

 

Your prayer can be silent,

between you and Christ alone.

 

And your prayer can be as simple as,

“Lord Jesus, I’m yours.  Save me!”

 

“Lord Jesus, I’m yours.  Save me!”

 

Don’t put it off, because the time is near.

 

And your own time may be nearer than you think.

 

You could leave the parking lot today, and be hit by a truck.

 

Don’t put off your decision for Christ.

 

Just tell him, right now,

“Lord Jesus, I’m yours.  Save me!”

 

And, when you’ve done that,

tell me, or tell one of the deacons,

so that you can be baptized

as a public expression of your faith,

and so that we can help you grow

in your walk with Christ.