We need to be a genuine Christian at all times.
A termination of this present age is coming. We don’t know exactly how soon, but we anticipate that the current age in which we live is going to end. Revelations, Chapter 6 through 9 talk about end-time events; Chapters 8 and 9 talk about six trumpets that are going to be blown, prophetically, and each of those trumpets is going to bring climatic upheavals in the society, and on the earth in which we know and love. And then, in Revelation, Chapter 11 a seventh trumpet sounds. And at that time Jesus Christ returns and inserts Himself into what’s going on. That’s followed by seven judgments, seven bowls, seven last plagues which come upon mankind before Jesus repels Satan the devil as the God of this world, and He sets up His kingdom and reigns over the earth.
These events take place in a time that’s called the time of the end, the great tribulation, and the Day of the Lord. They’re huge events. You can read more about them in the booklet, Are We Living in the Time of the End?, which you can read on line at www.ucg.org/booklets . You can read right there about things that are going on in our world today that show us the jelling of some of the prophecies that indicate that the time of the end is either near, or that we are already stepping into it.
Jesus Himself gave prophecies about this period, over in Matthew the 24th Chapter - let’s go over to Matthew 24 . There is a timing that we would all be curious about, in fact the disciples asked Him in Verse 3 of Matthew 24…. tell us when will these things be and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age - the end of the age. When is that going to happen? Humans always want to know. Well, He gives us a hint down in Verse 32 and 33. He says:
Matthew 24:32 Matthew 24:32Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near:
American King James Version×; “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and it puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.
Verse 33: So you also …(not everyone)… but you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
Hmm! Now this is subject to some deduction, isn’t it? You have to sort of give some reasoning and assessment as to what’s going on in the world and how they correlate, how Daniel and Revelation and Matthew and Luke 18…how these correlate to events that we see. Even so, we don’t know exactly when it is, but we see indicators here, that the world can be annihilated finally, and no flesh could be saved alive, based on what there is. And there are prophecies about a King of the South pushing at a King of the North , and we see the roots of those two groups of nations forming. What would you think if there was a nuclear standoff today, where the great superpowers that had the nuclear weapons went all the way to DEFCON 5 and were threatening to release everything they had and launch it at each other? And it was real , and there was a hair-trigger on the button. Well that’s where the church was in 1962. And following that, Presidential assignations and riots…all kinds of things that looked like civilization could crumble, and the church was very aware that there might be leaves on the fig tree, and this all could happen very quickly. In fact somebody summarized that the end would come in 1975, and therefore backtracking, it would be January 2nd, 1972 that the church would flee to a place of safety. Great anticipation among some who knew that, built…because January 2nd was a Friday, and there was a Friday night Bible Study in Pasadena, California that Mr. Armstrong was going to take…happened to be there for that Bible Study. I didn’t realize all the excitement and anticipation of what it was about until earlier that day, and sure enough, that night everybody came in and Mr. Armstrong announced: “The Reader’s Digest will be running advertisements of our Flagship Magazine in Europe.” Every body went…hum, hum - “But we’ve been planning, we’ve been preparing; we’ve been giving stuff away; we’ve been donating; we’ve been extra righteous ; we’ve been really going overboard here. It’s taken a lot of work - for it’s going to go in the Reader’s Digest in Europe ? That’s it?”
People began to leave the church; they became disheartened. Over the next two years there were quite a few exoduses from the church. Many members have played this kind of an end- game where you see the end and you play the game, or you don’t see the end - as one member was telling me last week, a relative said “I’m not going to worship that God of yours until I see the great tribulation about to start.” Now, there’s a game…and I think everybody sort of plays games based on certain hunches and times and, you know - “Am I really prepared now… if You can sort of delay it.” Jesus talked a lot about that. People would say, “My Lord delays His coming …” and they go on living a life that’s not really preparatory for our judgment.
But it’s very important… here in Verse 36 Jesus says:
Verse 36: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
Even evidently He did not know , which tells us, it’s important that we don’t know ; not to us, but to God. It’s very important you see to God, to know that He’s getting genuine children into His family - not people who play some kind of an “end-game” - give up all when they don’t really think they’re going to need it. Will reach out then and become something that’s a little phony - they didn’t really want to be that, but “because the end is here, I really want to get something, so I’ll do things”, you know - “I’ll really push myself, doing something that I’m really not.” The genuineness of our faith needs to be known to God - it’s very important.
Now we see the buds, perhaps on the tree again, as we look at world news. The January/February Good News of 2011 says this: “We have entered the fearful end-time events that are the grand climax of human civilization.” Is it time to flee? The end-time games again? Or rather, to become “genuine Christians”, preparing to be a genuine serving bride of Christ. One that’s going to really be a blessing and a benefit to Him. In Verse 43 he says:
Verse 43 : “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would have come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
Now that’s not a clue for us to really get sharp on the timing so that we can play our end-game with the right timing …I think His point here is something completely different. Watchful is not part of His character - you notice? If he had known , he would have done this , because being watchful was not part of his daily character…watchful in a spiritual sense; watchful of being genuine. It says in the Good News magazine: “The translation of watch from the Greek means to stay awake and to be sleepless; in the spiritual sense, to be vigilant, on guard, fully awake, aware, alert and intently focused.” That’s what we need to do as we look to see, “are we genuinely in the faith?” Where we examine ourselves daily, and we look for sin and we root it out, as the lesson of Unleavened Bread teaches us for a week. But we do that every day of our life.
It says in the article: “It is spiritual watching, coupled with prayer, that gives one the strength to survive temptations and difficult situations.” So that’s a watching that is part of a character - watching of our character of resistance against Satan, and of putting out of carnality - and the individual that was playing the game wasn’t doing that, because he got the timing wrong. The whole point is, we will never know the end of our life. We will never know when the final judgment comes, and so as it says in:
I Corinthians 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin;
That’s what we need to be awake to, and watching… awake to righteousness . Not allowing ourselves to be playing some games of “How much can we cheat fate while we sin, and yet get away with it in the long run, because we’ll know to repent at the last minute.” Those are end-games, end-of-life games, or end-of-the-age games. As this end-time approaches that the Bible talks about, games with godliness seem to be appealing: “I can sin - I can get away with it and yet still be saved.” That’s what we deceive ourselves into thinking. Jesus said there are wise virgins, and foolish virgins ; there are wheat and there are tares ; there are sheep and there are goats . And He says the church is to be full of both. Now if the church stuck and fate has you stuck as one or the other - however, there are some who won’t make the choice, who won’t make the effort, who won’t say “no”. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit, which gives us the power of self-control, like God told Cain, you know, sin desires to rule over you - but you have to rule over it . We have to be fighting that good fight. We need to be genuine Christians and that’s the point of this sermon today. Genuine Christians at all times.
You may have tuned in to hear a good sermon on “End-time Prophecy” and hone up, you know, the sharp edge of being able to deduce when to start the end-game. We all would like to do that! But that is not what we’re here for. God is not deceived, and He does not allow games to be played. The title of the sermon today is “ Are You Ready for the Time of the End? And nobody wants to think about being in those times, in the wrong place, being in the great tribulation…we want to think of ourselves “Oh I’ll be, somehow, in a good place.” Or we’ll worry ourselves to death that we won’t be in a good place and we’ll have anxious thoughts about the future and feel defeated. Oh, I hope in this sermon we can be positive, encouraged , and dedicated to those principles by which God will consider us worthy to escape the bad things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of Man in a good sense.
You know, most humans have not realized that God is not the God of this world; they assume all religions point to God. On the way here today somebody had a bumper sticker and it had the church and every imaginable symbol the churches of all religions use, and somehow, God is… all those religions somehow equate or point to God. And yet, we realize that II Corinthians 4:4 tells us that Satan is the god of this world, and that humanity has been allowed to be deceived by him. Let’s go over to Ephesians, Chapter 6 and Verse 12 and see what we really wrestle against.
Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
American King James Version×; For we do not wrestle against… fill in the blank … it’s not about us and some other group of people, or some other race, or some other culture, or some other religion, or some other people…we in God’s church do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, - see, the rulers of this age are in darkness - against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
This is an evil age, the Bible tells us, and it’s certainly not one that God is leading. Adam and Eve rejected God and the knowledge that God taught them in the Garden of Eden and consequently God allowed an age of man , led by Satan, and influenced by Satan, to begin. And man got to get what he wanted; formed his own government, his own civilizations; his own laws and rules, according to the logic that man uses. The 6,000 year era that we’ve been living corresponds to six days in our week. And there is coming a new age , an age when Jesus Christ will reign for a thousand years. And so we have this seventh-day Sabbath that we’re observing today, a wonderful, beautiful and encouraging time when we come out of the week and we’re together in godliness and in family, and in thoughts of the kingdom of God and His righteousness…not just thoughts of that, but in putting it into practice. And so here we are picturing an age to come , one that really is not here yet.
Let’s look in Galatians, Chapter 1, Verses 2 through 5, at what the Apostle Paul wrote to a congregation in Galatia - Galatians, Chapter 1 and Verse 2, it writes here:
Galatians 1:2 Galatians 1:2And all the brothers which are with me, to the churches of Galatia:
American King James Version×; To the churches of Galatia: (the last part of Verse 2) - the churches of Galatia -
This Bible, by the way, was not written to humanity - yet! You’ll find almost everything, every chapter, every book written to someone, either the called ones in a certain era, or the church, or specific churches, and here we’re being talked to through the Galatian church, and he says here:
Verse 3: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,
Grace, His graciousness - it is through the sacrifice of the blood of Christ that through repentance you and I can receive God’s graciousness - and the next word is peace. Peace comes from the Greek word, eirene: means to join . Forgiveness and healing , forgiveness and joining together from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. That is what the family of God is: Love, joy, peace; stitching, joining together. Notice Verse 4:
Verse 4: who gave Himself for our sins,
You and I have to acknowledge that we sin ; not that we did sin , that we’ve sinned . That daily we need to get on our knees and ask God for forgiveness, and also awareness of those sins, so that we can repent and thus be joined with Christ in death at our repentance, and His blood then forgives us, and gives us life:
that He might deliver us from this present evil age…
That’s what you and I want; that’s what we desire. Not just for ourselves but for a purpose: delivered from this present evil age so that we can be partakers of the next age - leaders in the next age, servers, the bride of Christ; teachers, examples.
According to the will of our God and Father , who chose you before the foundation of the world to be first fruits in His kingdom. So we’re not here trying to elevate ourselves; we’re here trying to fulfill the calling that God has given - fulfill the purpose for which you were created at this time as one of the first fruits, the early crew, as it were, to assist with the coming kingdom of God. And it is to God the Father:
Verse 5: to whom be glory forever and ever .
Not any of us - only to God. Now your eyes are open on that level and we think, “Well, we’re not deceived. The world doesn’t understand that.” Well, wait a minute, you have your own deceptions; I have mine. You see, there’s not just one deception ; there’s deceptions for everybody at all levels available - Bible talks about all this. Just because you say, “Well the world is deceived” - don’t assume that you’re not, or I’m not. Because we’re going to look here, not be wanting to play any games, or you know, have our head in the sand when this god of this world and the principalities that are dark want to make us fail, want to deceive even us in some way, and make us miss out - we’ve got to be aware of that. Your eyes are open, but other deceptions exist in the church just for us.
Jesus spoke about an end of this age, which begins the next age, in Matthew 24 - let’s go back there one more time. Matthew 24 - you read earlier in Verse 3 where they asked Him, “What will be the signs of the end of this age?” And He said to them in Verse 4 - now notice what He’s saying here, saying this to those who will be the apostles: “Take heed …that means really, really be serious, and “take heed that no one deceives you.”
Oh, well that’s kind of…why would He say that? If I said to you, “Brethren, take heed that no one deceive you”…what would you say - “Oh that’s kind of dumb - how could I be deceived? I know about the Sabbath, I know about the Holy Days, I know about the laws of God, I know prophecy, I know the kingdom - I’ve been baptized - what do you mean deceive me?” It doesn’t really make sense, does it? “Who, me? Hmm - I’ll never leave the church; I’ll never leave the truth.” Well, the point here is, you don’t have to leave the truth to be deceived. You don’t have to leave the church to be deceived and fail to be in the kingdom. We can do all of that right here. Jesus Christ points that out very clearly… half, remember, of the sheep are goats; half of the virgins are foolish - right in the church. In fact the hallmark of the end of this age is deception.
He goes on here - He says “Take heed that no one deceives you.” That’s the hallmark of the end of the age, and He startsgoing through, and it’s several places in this single chapter He talks about deception, deception, deceivers, false teachers, and if possible to deceive even the very elect . It’s all about deception. And we way, “Deceive? Naw. Silly!” Even one of the disciples was totally deceived as to what he would be doing, and didn’t know it. You know, the definition of being deceived by the way, is that you don’t know it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be deceived. It’s a confidence in knowing you’re not deceived that a person has, that is deceived. Just because you don’t feel like you’re deceived doesn’t mean you are, but I mean if you are deceived, truly by definition you don’t know it, and you’re absolutely certain that you’re not.
You know, Satan easily deceived Eve - very easily. Well, we can say, “Well, she’s kind of fresh, you know - just day one.” Naïve! Eve must have been an incredibly smart woman, and yet she was deceived - it happened very easily. She fell for what I might call the “oldest trick in the book”, unfair about something, by someone: “That God of yours? He is unfair, He’s limiting you. He knows that you should be big, you should be important, you should be knowledgeable - but He is limiting us - not fair.” She said, “Oh, you’re right - I’ll leave God” - and they did. They didn’t follow God; they departed from the truth and from obedience to God. Who can be deceived? Hmm.
Well, Lucifer said, “You know, it’s unfair - I mean I’ve got these timbrels, I’ve got these pipes, I’m over all these angels, I sit on the throne of God - I mean, I’m above the throne, maybe I’m even above God” , you know - higher than. “And all I get to do is what I’m doing - and it’s not fair . I want exalted so that I should be up there in the highest .” And a third of the angels said, “You know what? That’s not fair that you’re not up there.”
And Cain said to Abel, “It’s not fair that God respects your offering, so I’ll kill you.” And so on and so forth. And where even Abraham said, “It’s not fair that you burn Sodom if there’s a hundred righteous people” …fifty, twenty, ten? Humans are all about fairness. In a recent survey from Teen , the number one issue among teens was concerns about fairness. We humans can be easily deceived and swayed when it comes to things that aren’t fair. We can jump on the band wagon with someone, or of someone, that we perceive is being treated unfairly.
Remember Korah? And two-hundred & fifty leading, prominent people in the leadership said, “Moses, you’re not treating us fairly…we should…you’re limiting us - you see, how responsible we could be, how much position we could have…you’re taking too much on yourselves - you’re not being fair to us.” And God swallowed them up. And then the Israelites saw that…said, “These were our favorite guys. God, it’s not fair that You swallowed up two-hundred & fifty really nice guys .” And God killed 14,000, a little over 14,000 of them.
See, we’re real fast on the “fairness button.” Think about sibling squabbles - children, adult siblings, that they squabble over - “ it’s not fair! You got more of the pie!” What do marriages fight over? What do families fight over? Unfairness…”it’s not fair.” What was your country’s War of Independence over? Think about that…” It’s not fair . In this country? Why, we British citizens are having to pay taxes to the British government, but we don’t have a representative in Parliament. It’s not fair to have taxation without representation.” And so, British had a violent Civil War that ripped apart lots of people - and we call it the American Revolution.
It’s an age-old game that humans play, and if we‘re not very, very careful, it can be played in the church. And we’ve seen it many times. An individual says, “It’s not fair; I’m so smart, I’m so talented and had such a dream - I just feel such a ‘power-need’…whatever, I just feel more capable, and it’s not fair that I am where I am. I’m going to have to tell people about that - how unfair it is. And then I’m going to have to take some action on that.” And the next thing you know, the church is “ churches “. And let’s not be deceived, there is one body of Christ … Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
American King James Version× says: Those who are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” We, in the body of Christ, sin at times and our sins cause fractures . And we find ourselves divided , and that is not of God…that is not right.
Let’s go over to James, Chapter 3 …I’m thinking about that… in Verse 14 says:
James 3:14 James 3:14But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
American King James Version×; If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. Don’t say “this is of God” - don’t say this self-exaltation, this self-promotion, self-appointment…don’t say this is of God. God is the opposite of that. Don’t say that “well, I have to split and divide…” that’s not about splitting and dividing. There’s another spirit that’s associated with that. He says:
Verse 15: This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic,
Verse 16: For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
We have to look at our life and say, “You know what? Events in this life aren’t fair - they simply are not fair.” And if you want to play the “fairness game”, be careful, because if you take it to the life of your Creator , you would have to say it wasn’t fair that the One who made everything, and you - came to earth as a human, that wasn’t even good-looking, and then was spat upon, cursed, ridiculed…didn‘t even have a place to lay his head - you know, foxes have holes, but the Son of Man doesn‘t even have a place to lay His head . And then they stripped Him, they shredded Him, they crucified Him, they jeered at Him, and they killed Him. Is that fair?
Fair is not something that should be in our vocabulary - I’m not being treated fairly can bring us to some rather carnal actions, of rebellion against authority, insubordination… words that are not Christian, not Godly actions that are not loving, can get us really in some hot water. You know, it’s one thing to know the truth - it’s another thing to live the truth. A lot of people say, “Oh, I know the truth”…and certainly, all the churches of God have the truth. The important thing of being prepared for the time of the end as Jesus said, there are some that are going to be living it . Are you? Am I? That is our responsibility that we need to work out with fear and trembling . The Passover is a great reminder of the unfairness of life, as it were, and there’s nothing fair that we participate in that evening. And it’s unfair that you and I get our sins forgiven, washed clean of, stitched together with the God family in heaven, and promised salvation and inheritance that we never even did anything for - an eternal inheritance that belongs to Jesus Christ that He’s going to make us co-heirs with. No, that’s not fair!
And James, Chapter 2 and Verse 22 - just backing up a little bit…well, I’m going to skip that because it’s not the correct verse. Christ’s shepherds are to be concerned about the sheep, all the sheep , everyone led by the Holy Spirit; we’re not supposed to be protective of “our little group”, or “our little…”, you know, “schism”, or whatever it is, or those with our Corporate name, but really concerned about the family of God , having new children that are going to be born into it literally. And really be concerned and care for all of them ; we all should have that mentality as well.
Paul gives us an example in II Corinthians, Chapter 11, in Verse 2 - two through four - (II Corinthians, Chapter 11 - begin in Verse 2)
II Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. (I don’t want anybody to take you; I don’t want you to miss out on the kingdom, he’s saying.) For I have betrothed you to one husband,
You know, in the ministry we have sort of a plethora of emotional duty, is emotionally-based duties that we go through. One of them is the blessing of the little children; one is anointing little children who are very, very sick, sometimes with malaria and sometimes die. We get to unite people in marriage; we get to bury people, some in very unfortunate circumstances. One thing we get to do is to be part of the process of baptism, wherein a person takes that covenant with God, and enters that covenant with Jesus Christ, that makes them part of, a begotten part of that family of God. And so Paul’s speaking here, I believe about baptism, and he’s saying:
For I betrothed you to one husband . You are married - not married - you are betrothed to a husband; in other words, engaged. Those of us who are baptized were engaged, now awaiting to be the bride…we’re getting prepared for the wedding at His return, in symbolism.
For I have betrothed you to one husband, (we should be focused on Him) that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. Not somebody who’s playing the games - playing the field: “Oh, I‘ll dabble with Christ over here; but I like that Satan thing over there - kind of feels good, you know - got the two lovers…”No”, Paul says, “No, no, no” - I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Verse 3: But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, - See, there’s that deception; here we are, in time, none of us are going to be deceived, and yet he’s saying, I’m concerned that your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Christ made things very simple. He said, you know, this all boils down to: Love God with your heart, soul and might, and love your neighbor as yourself. There’s no room in there for any self, any envy, any evil, any putting down or mentally killing, murdering others, or character assassination - things like that. The simplicity - we’ve got to stick to loving, serving, even our enemies Jesus said; we’ve got to love them too.
Verse 4: For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, - Oh we don’t have to worry about that - or do we?
Another Jesus whom we have not preached …could we, in the church, get deceived about another Jesus that the Bible hasn’t preached? A Jesus who says, “Well, keep the Sabbath and Holy Days, but rebel against authority if you see unfairness .” Hmm. Or, if you (in the church) receive a different Spirit, he goes on, that encourages despising rulers -hmm - slandering authority, not obeying; offending My little ones, if necessary. Preach the gospel, but don’t follow My humble example and My service and humility. That would be a different Jesus, wouldn’t it? And yet, right here in the church we could begin to sort of create that, couldn’t we? We could say, “Well, based on this and based on unfairness , or based on that situation, it’s okay to offend - it’s okay to slander, it’s okay to do those things that God hates.” We’d end up with a different Jesus, wouldn’t we? Right here!
You know, brethren, my heart, your heart - all of us are susceptible to deception. And sometimes that deception comes from inside our self. He says: you may well put up with it - with those things - we may well tolerate those things; we might deceive us, “Yeah, this is really the Church of God.” While we say, “Well, I’m not going to associate with that person; I’m not going to talk to those people.” You know. “They’re not in my ‘Cooperate clique’- you know, they’re cut off.” I’m better , or somehow we start thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought, and the next thing we know…that’s not the Jesus that came and humbled Himself, and gave Himself, considered Himself low, that He could serve others and God could raise Him up at another time, and make Him great some other day in the resurrection, like in His resurrection. So, He can make us great in our resurrection.
Now, we might say, “Well, I couldn’t fall for a different gospel.” You know…he goes on there saying, or a different gospel, which you have not accepted …”Well, there’s only one gospel; that’s the gospel of the kingdom.” Are you sure about that? Let’s just ask them, “Well, are you sure that there’s only one gospel?” A gospel about the kingdom of God that we teach other people, that we proclaim ….as a church culture we kind of get tight on that. Go, preach the gospel …and we do that. “Well, you know, if that’s it, got the gospel; got it preached.”
Let go over to II Thessalonians, Chapter 1, and Verse 4 just to show that we could get surprised by Jesus Christ Himself; we could deceive ourselves even about the gospel . We might think it’s one thing, or limit it to one thing, and find we miss out on the kingdom because it was actually much more . II Thessalonians 1, Verse 4, Paul again, to another church:
II Thessalonians 1:4 we ourselves boast of you among the other churches of God for your perseverance - perseverance and godliness; godly love, your persevering in that - and your faith (with works of love) in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,
Oh, I guess we don’t get to run away from things that aren’t fair, you know: You endure …
Verse 5: which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer;
That doesn’t sound fair! That we have to suffer and have tribulations and persecutions, but that’s our calling, isn’t it?
Verse 6 : since it is a righteous thing with God to repay (not you to repay)… but God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you , (when, now? No!)
Verse 7: and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, (that’s when things get solved.)
Now, what about this gospel? Jesus is coming, with His angels:
Verse 8: in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God ,
And who do not know God? Well, John’s very clear: if you don’t keep the commandments you don’t know Him. The commandments are love; active love. If you’re not loving others, you don’t know God, and there’s some punishment coming on those who are not practicing that love. Notice: in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Huh? Obey the gospel …wait a minute, I thought we preach the gospel! I thought the gospel was about the kingdom of God coming …how do you obey the gospel , unless it’s more than what we typically give it credit as being. You see, the gospel isn’t just about the coming kingdom of God - it is about obeying the God of the coming kingdom of God. It is about doing the will of the coming king of the kingdom of God. It is about doing the law of love that He commanded us to be; about being examples, and ambassadors of that kingdom, in advance, now. Fully obeying the gospel. Not just preaching it at others, but obeying it ourselves. And if we don’t obey the gospel, He says: punish with everlasting destruction.
Verse 10: when He comes, in that Day ,… now, the title of the sermon: “Are You Ready for the Time of the End?” There it is; are you obeying the gospel… when He comes in that Day ,…You and I might say, “I’m glad I have a little more time.” And that’s always a good thing…always a good thing to have the lights come on and realize there is more work to be done. And we can’t just sort of sit back and declare ourselves righteous , or the church , or we “ got the gospel ” or whatever. We need to actually be involved in preparing for this final judgment. He goes on:
to be glorified in (or by) His saints and to be admired among those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. With works, the truth has to be lived.
Verse 11: Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling , - that was not a done deal with Paul; it was a constant prayer… we pray always that God would count you worthy, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power,
Verse 12: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him,… not us be glorified now; this is not about us - that He can get the credit. It’s the opposite of self-promotion, the opposite of power, the opposite of any little games we want to play that, “Oh yeah, I can get promoted and still have my way.” Or, “I can somehow get myself advanced, and still have my way, and still then, get in the kingdom of God.”
You thought that you was going to be all fine with it…”I can call you people a bunch of names, and you people…discount you - and I can advance myself and play all these little carnal games”, you see. And think, “Well, we’ve got the gospel, we’ve got the kingdom, we’ve got the Holy Days, got the Sabbath…it works!” And it won’t work; it just won’t work.
Let’s go over to I Peter 4, 17 through 19, jumping ahead here - I Peter 4, Verse 17…you know, there’s a lot more to this gospel than just telling people that Jesus is coming - Oh, He’s coming alright, but the Bible says He’s coming and who can endure His coming - who can endure the Day of the Lord? He’s coming as a refiner’s fire and a fuller’s soap . You and I need to be ready - not just for that day, but every day/ We need to be genuine and not playing some kind of game. In Malachi, Chapter 3 and Verse 2, it says: Who can endure His coming? When is He coming? During the great tribulation, that period, during the end-time, during the Day of the Lord…we need to be ready for that time. Now:
I Peter 4:17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; -
God is judging you now; it’s not some future judgment that we have to be ready for: it’s a daily judgment. We never know how long we’re going to last - James tells us our lives are like a vapor anyway.
And if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
There it is again! Obeying the gospel! “Oh, we thought we just had to preach it - just had to get it out there.” And somehow, that was counted to us as something. No, we need to obey the gospel also, and also share it with others, so that they can obey the gospel if God is opening their mind to it.
Verse 18 : Now , ” If the righteous one is scarcely saved , -“ooh! I thought this was going to be a pretty sure-deal; I thought if you’re in the church , that the church is all going to get saved” …and yet … “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
Verse 19: Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their lives to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
You know, the games that we can play…and look in your own life as I look in mine - they’re unlimited. These little things, that we sort of can feel like God has approved us, and therefore we can just do a little “dance” on the side, or we can just be a little careless. Or because we’re God’s people, we can be carnal, and that’s okay - somehow that’s godly. Because we’re godly our carnality’s godly. So that’s approved, you know…”When I was a sinner, and I thought highly of myself…well, I was conceited…but now that I’m in the church and know that I’m important - well, that’s righteous!” See the games we play? It’s “hogwash!”
Remember, Jesus Christ is called the Prince of Peace - Prince of Peace is coming, and has come and gave His life so that we can be stitched together - healed; healed with God; healed with each other. God is the author of peace, as in all the churches, the word peace again comes from the Greek word eirene…means to join. God is the author of joining , of harmony , of stitching together , of pulling together that which is broken apart; making a people of those who were not a people. Bringing together into one body , with one Spirit , and one God , of people who are stitching themselves together through the power that the Holy Spirit works in their life, Ephesians, Chapter 4 and Verse 16. This is the God…in contrast, your and my nature will trend towards divisions, separations, compartmentalization’s. Whenever we look at our lives and see fracturing take place: that’s not of God. Now, you can’t justify it, you can’t say, “Okay, when I walk into a room, you know, these people suddenly aren’t getting along, those people are fighting, this whole thing is, you know, falling apart,” and say, “Oh, that’s God; I’m a godly person.” That’s not the way it works. You go and you start sowing seeds of discord, dividing up friends…that’s not of God. So, the fruits should be there. If you look at yourself and you see that people who aren’t together are getting together, and you’re an agent of joining, then you should be able to say, “You know what? There’s godliness present; some of God’s Spirit present here.” Again, it’s fruits , isn’t it? The fruits of the Holy Spirit trend towards joining , where the fruits of the flesh fracture and break apart.
Now, I am nobody - I really am. I am nobody but I am very serious about helping people realize we need to get ready. And I’m nobody to be saying this, but, there is a humble, fearful, crucial warning in the Bible that I’d like to share with you. Let’s turn over to Ezekiel 33, Verses 7 through 9.
Ezekiel 33:7 Ezekiel 33:7So you, O son of man, I have set you a watchman to the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
American King James Version×; “So you, son of man: (He’s speaking here to Ezekiel - Ezekiel was in Babylon - this was during the conquest of the kingdom of Judah, and He’s telling Ezekiel here ) I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.
Now the interesting thing about that, is Israel had been in captivity for some 150 years, and they would never come back from captivity, and He says, “I’ve made you a watchman for the house of Israel.” Hmm. He couldn’t really even be a watchman for the house of Jacob, because he was already a prisoner in Babylon, the capitol city, and Jeremiah was in Jerusalem with the remnant that was under siege. So, it’s fairly easy to deduce here that this is a prophecy for someone else in the future - to let Israel know.
Verse 8: “When I say to the wicked, ‘Oh wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.
Now our topic today is an end time - a time of Jacob’s trouble; of great tribulation that could annihilate, and will annihilate most of Israel, if you go strictly by the numbers in Revelation, Chapter 12, I believe it is. But He says, “you have a responsibility here.” Now, if we take this on as the church - in Verse 9:
Verse 9: Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your life.
So, the church has looked at this and said, “You know, we also need to get the warning out, the Ezekiel warning out, to let the world know that this end-time is coming, so that we’re not guilty of it happening to a people who have a covenant with God that they have not kept.” But I think it would be a little bit shallow if we limited it there. Let’s go to Isaiah, Chapter 58 and Verse 1 , because right along with this is Isaiah, the main prophet to the house of Israel, and here it says:
Isaiah 58:1 Isaiah 58:1Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
American King James Version×; “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.
Now, if we put those two together, we could get out the megaphones and we could go try to find the ancient descendants of the tribes of Israel, and say, “Look, you’re breaking your covenant with God; this time of Jacob’s trouble is coming upon you” - and we would be doing a good thing. However, who is God’s people? Who are God’s people? “Tell My people their transgression.” Remember a Scripture in the New Testament that says: “You are the people of God.” God has called you and me as His people.
There’s another group of people that is associated with Israel, spiritual Israel, spiritual Jacob - there’s another people that is called “My people”, and who sin, and another people that are also going to go into this end-time - some in tribulation; some will give their lives. Whoever has a covenant with God constitutes the people of God. And all of us coming up to that time need to repent of our sins and be told that . So, the warning to God’s people is important; it was even made by Jesus Christ Himself to the church. I’m not sure if anybody’s listening because it’s in the back : Revelation. Let’s go back there - Revelation, Chapter 2 - Revelation, Chapter 3 - Here’s Jesus Christ talking to the church; He’s warning the church; He’s crying aloud, sparing not and He keeps saying over, and over, and over again, “I’m coming quickly .” This was a warning. “You’re sinning.” But our ears tend to not be open because we say, “We’re Philadelphia - we don’t have to listen to the other six messages. And Philadelphia doesn’t really have anything to do, so..” we don’t have ears to hear.
I’m telling you, brethren, Revelation, Chapter 2 and 3 is for everyone in the church, and He keeps saying, “Those who have an ear to hear, let Him listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” Now, let’s notice here in Chapter 3, Verse 2:
Revelation 3:2 Revelation 3:2Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God.
American King James Version×; “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain,… watchful, we need to watch; we need to be spiritually aware… strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
Verse 3: Therefore, remember how you have received and heard; as we hear the word - now let’s do it. Therefore if you will not watch to yourself, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will know not what hour I come.
God said that He hates certain things - let’s not play games and say that “He likes them.” God says not to do certain things and let’s not say, “But I’m an exception because I’m…” fill in the blanks. In Galatians, Chapter 6, Verses 7 through 10, we see God talk about fairness. Now we can be happy that there is fairness coming, but we also should be fearful of that fairness. Galatians, Chapter 6 and Verse 7, from the modern King James:
Galatians 6:7 Galatians 6:7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
American King James Version×; Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he reap .
Now, that is fairness! And you can be thankful for that fairness; you can take that to the bank as you work in your own life and know that whatever you sow in your life, you’re going to reap, whether:
Verse 8: sowing to the flesh will reap corruption, or he sowing to the Spirit will reap everlasting life by the Spirit.
That is great news ! The real genuine thing that you and I do will receive the genuine reward. You know, you and I have tremendous, tremendous opportunity at this time, to not only be called, but to live the life that we are called to live. The lesson is, that if you play games with God, He sees right through you. It says in Romans, Chapter 2 , and Verse 5 - kind of a warning:
Romans 2: 5 But in accordance with the hardness of your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath… this end-time - and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Verse 6: Who “will render to each one according to his deeds”:
Not according to position, or according games played, but literally according to our deeds.
Verse 7: Eternal life to those who by patient continuance (or persevering continuance) in doing good seek for glory,
Verse 8: but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath,
And all of I Peter and even into II Peter are wonderful exposés of our human nature, and how we need to suppress it. Just going right to the first chapter, the second chapter, the third chapter, on into II Peter, he keeps showing us what we need to fight; how we need to fight it. Makes a really good Bible Study.
One conclusion: The end-time is probably here, but the 3 ½ years of great tribulation, the coming Day of the Lord, those dreadful days ahead, are things that you and I need to be prepared for all the time, simply by being genuine Christians. We don’t know when it will happen, but it will come in a way that shows our genuineness or our hypocrisy. God doesn’t want “death-bed repenters”, or last-minute “flash-in-the-pan givers”; He wants the real deal. He doesn’t want timing-specialists who can sin just as long as possible and then do the little flip at the end, when the tribulation arrives.
But, amidst all the bad events in prophecy is some really, really good news, and that is, when Jesus returns, those who are genuine, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servants; enter you into the joy of the Lord.”