Bible prophecy states that cataclysmic events will occur before God’s direct intervention in human affairs.
[Gary Petty] We must live in anticipation of the return of Jesus Christ. It must be a daily anticipation.
People thought it was the end of the world. Tens of thousands believed that Jesus was about to return. Across New England farmers gave up their land. People actually threw away their money, thousands gathered in churches and homes. They camped out in meadows anticipating the most dramatic event in history.
As night fell the excitement and anxiety was so intense. Believers sang hymns. They prayed, they talked with each other about what is it going to be like in heaven. As midnight approached the feeling of expectation, well you can imagine, it was almost unbearable.
Then midnight passed. Confused and stunned people waited through the early morning until dawn revealed that Jesus hadn’t returned.
The date, October 22, 1844. The event is known as the Great Disappointment and it contains lessons for those today who are waiting for the return of Jesus Christ.
Are you anticipating the return of Jesus Christ? Are you looking forward to that? How do we not make the same mistakes in anticipating the future that they made?
We can learn much from the Great Disappointment. Especially from their misunderstanding of biblical prophecy about the events that lead up to Christ’s second coming.
Today we’re going to talk about some prophetic signs of Christ’s return and how to anticipate those events in your life right now today.
Our topic today is “Are We Living in the Time of the End?” Now to answer that question we have to actually answer another question. The end of what? Are we living in the time of the end? The end of what?
You know today we’re not going to talk about doomsday. I’m not going to talk about the end of the world. We’ve seen the movies where the earth is destroyed and people are just eeking out a living in the darkness. That’s not what we’re going to talk about although we are going to talk about a few bad events the Bible predicts. But this is a message of hope. This is a message about the only hope we really really have. And we are going to begin with the words of Jesus Christ in what is known as the Olivet prophecy.
Jesus was with his disciples on the Mount of Olives and they asked him a very important question. We’re picking this up in Matthew 24. He says, He’s gathered them together and they said to Him tell us, what will be the sign of Your coming? The end of the age. Now Jesus’ disciples wanted to know about His coming. Now he was already there. That’s a strange question except that you realize they knew the Old Testament, what we call the Old Testament, the Bible and they knew that God had predicted that He was going to send His anointed one the Messiah to set up God’s Kingdom on this earth. So their question is, when is the end of this age? They didn’t ask when will the world be destroyed? In 1844 those people thought the earth was going to be destroyed by fire. They thought Jesus was going to come, take them away, and remember this was tens of thousands of people all across the eastern seaboard and it didn’t happen. They thought the earth was going to be destroyed. They asked when is the end of this age?
What age? You know to answer that question we have to go clear back to the beginning. We have to go clear back to the beginning of Genesis. Adam and Eve were created by God and lived in the perfect world. A perfect relationship with God and a perfect relationship with each other. They had the only time in history for a short period of time where there was the perfect marriage. That’s what they experienced. And then Satan was allowed to come into the Garden. Now I said Satan was allowed. Understand Satan didn’t sneak in. God didn’t somehow turn His back, was looking at something else and suddenly Satan sneaks in. That’s not what happens. God allows him to come in because all they’d ever known was good and God was literally going to say there is another way and you are going to have to choose which way you want. And he came in and he convinced them of a different way and Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and they entered a new age. They entered a new time.
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul says that Satan is the “god of this age.” That’s actually a surprise for a lot of people. What do you mean Satan is the god of this age? There’s God, God rules everything and that’s true. God is still on His throne. God hasn’t lost control. God still has total power. God is God. That’s not the issue. The issue is that when Adam and Eve chose Satan’s way God says okay you can live under his rule for a while and then I’m going to fix it, and this is the part we are going to talk about today. How God fixes that.
You and I were born, you and I were born into that evil age. It’s where we showed up. This isn’t what God expected. It’s not what God wanted. In God’s age there’s no war. The way God designed humanity there’s no hatred. There’s no prejudice, there’s no poverty, there’s no deceit. You and I are living in that age and when those disciples came to Jesus what they were asking was, when does this end? When does a better time come? They lived in a bad world where they were under the rule of the Roman Empire.
God has allowed Satan to rule but there is coming a time when He says it’s enough and that was the plan from the beginning. When they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden God didn’t say well I really messed this up. Now I’ve got to think this through. I’ve got to somehow fix this. No, no. Satan’s going to have it for a while and then I’m taking it back and you all are going to learn there’s two ways. One way works and one way doesn’t. And that’s why this isn’t about doomsday. This isn’t about, oh no, the destruction of humanity as the people in 1844 thought.
This is the only hope we have and as we go through here the Olivet Prophecy what we’re going to see is that Jesus Christ said in fact that if He doesn’t come back it is going to be the end of humanity. He doesn’t cause doomsday. He saves us from it. This is the core of the Christian vision of life, our world view, and our hope.
Now all of you received when you came in a Study Guide. I want you to pick up your Study Guide and turn to page 23. Now at home if you would like a free copy of this Study Guide all you have to do is call the number on your screen. Call it right now or you can go to beyondtoday.tv and you can download it, order your free copy, and you can follow along too.
So you have your Study Guide. Now I’m going to show you on page 23 you see the heading of this section Jesus Christ’s Olivet Prophecy, Where Are We Now? Now when you go through this part of the Study Guide what you are going to see is that there are lists of things that Jesus said these things have to happen before I return. Before I come back.
I’m going to go back to Matthew 24 because here’s where Jesus begins that list. It’s a rather long list and it goes on for many verses. We’re going to look at just the beginning of the list.
Jesus answers the question about the sign of His coming and the end of the age. He says, “Take heed that no one would deceive you.” He starts with be careful because people are going to tell you things different than what I’m telling you. “For many will come in my name saying I am the Christ and will deceive many and you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you’re not troubled for all of these things must come to pass but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdoms against kingdom and there will be famine and pestilences and earthquakes in various places. And these are the beginning of sorrows.” And this is actually the beginning of His list. It actually gets worse.
The list He gives is a very important list. Just think about it. We can go through this list and say well it’s always been like that. There’s always been religious deception. Well let’s stop a minute because what Jesus is talking about here isn’t just what’s always happened. When we go through the Olivet Prophecy, and we’re going to read a verse in a minute that really brings this into focus, what He says is this is going to be worse than any time in history and the religious deception here has to do with people understanding Christ. This is going to be false Christianity. It isn’t Islam, it’s not Hinduism. It is a Christianity that basically does not recognize and follow the true Jesus Christ. There’s going to be unprecedented wars. There’s always been wars. You think about the horror of World War 1 and World War 2. Hundreds of millions of people dead, homeless, lost, sick, injured. What He says, this is going to be worse than those wars. He talks about famines, there’s always been famines but this is going to be global in scale. Disease epidemics and of course the great fear today is things can be passed through air travel so quickly. Something like Ebola and it gets out of control and becomes airborne could kill tens of millions. Massive earthquakes. Well you say these things have always happened. I thought this was going to be a message of hope and it’s just all this gloom and doom and bad things and Jesus said before I come you’re going to have to see these things happen.
You know in 1844 if they really would have understood the Olivet Prophecy they would have never made the mistake of thinking that Jesus was going to come back. That was called the Adventist movement. It wasn’t just one church there were churches or people from all different kind of churches and denominations thinking Jesus is coming back. But He wasn’t and I can tell you when we look at these things right now at the level and scale that He’s talking about, it’s not going to happen tomorrow either. But it could happen quickly. It could happen quickly.
Remember Jesus is predicting is a time when these things happen on a massive scale. Now that’s a little frightening I admit. But you know being frightened doesn’t keep it from happening. What we have to do is zero in on what happens afterwards.
Back in Matthew 24 if we go on in just a few more verses because He goes on and the list gets pretty long of things that are going to happen and then He says this in Matthew 24. He says after these things get worse and worse and worse and worse. For then there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time no nor ever shall be. So no matter what we can come up with that’s happened in history, the Bubonic Plague, the great wars of time that wiped out entire populations. He says that’s not what this is. This is worse than that. Then He makes this incredibly profound statement. ”And unless those days should be shortened no flesh should be saved but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
He predicts a time of such global collapse that if He doesn’t come back when He does nobody survives. There’s the hope. He doesn’t bring doomsday, He stops it. He stops it from happening. Remember those once again in 1844.
They anticipated so much that Jesus Christ was coming back. They wanted Him to come back so much. But they missed all this. Now we have this. We have this. So we have to continue to anticipate the return of Jesus Christ even though we’re waiting.
Now remember the disciples asked when is the new age. When is the end of this age?
Jesus Christ isn’t coming to destroy the earth or humanity. He’s coming back to save it.
The believers in the Great Disappointment once again thought that He was coming back to absolutely destroy this earth with fire and that wasn’t the plan at all. It’s not the plan now. When Jesus Christ returns He comes to bring a new age and this is where we can go to the Old Testament. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about the Messiah. That God is going to send His anointed One, His appointed One, His Messiah, His Christ, the One that we know in the New Testament as the Son of God Jesus, is coming to establish the new age.
It’s amazing when you go through the Old Testament and you read all those verses what it is predicted to be like. I’m going to read just one. I’m going to read just one simple passage. This is in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah actually contains many prophecies about this time when the Messiah rules. When Christ rules on earth. When He comes back and what does He do? In Isaiah 2 it says “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.” In the imagery of Hebrew poetry a mountain can represent a kingdom. A little hill is the smaller nations. He will come to the kingdom that is being ruled on earth by God’s Messiah, by God’s Christ. “And many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.’”
The earth won’t be depopulated as some people believe. They will come from all over into this new age. This time of great hope for all humanity.
Then the next verse is one that is one of the most quoted verses from the book of Isaiah. “He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.”
In the New Testament the Apostle John gives us the revelations that was given to him in the book we call Revelation and he tells us how this is going to last 1000 years. Jesus Christ is coming back and he is going to fulfill what He told His disciples of His coming of the end of the age to initiate this new age. This is the hope! This is the hope of Christians. This is our dream. This is to be our focal point. This is to be our purpose.
But how do we not make the same mistake they did? How do we not make the same mistake where we get so caught up in our dream, that we get so caught up in that, that in this world we just make up a date and we wait and then we’re disappointed?
Pick up your Study Aids again because on page 44 this section here is something that we’re going to cover a little bit here but I want all of you to make sure that you go home and read this.
Once again for those who are watching the program if you want your free copy of this Study Aid just call the number on your screen right now, just give a call right now, or go to beyondtoday.tv and you can download it and you can order it. We want you to have a copy of this too.
But you’ll notice on page 44 the title Preparing For The End Time. This doesn’t mean go become preppers, you know save up gold and ammunition and food. By the way none of that’s going to help you in the tribulation. A time so horrible that only Christ can save us. This is about spiritually preparing for that time so that we are prepared for the time afterwards. We must live in anticipation of the return of Jesus Christ. It must be a daily anticipation.
There is a beautiful story in the New Testament about Simeon. It’s one of the bridges between the Old and New Testament. Simeon was a man who God had revealed to that he was going to be able to see the Messiah. That’s quite a promise, isn’t it? Now Simeon it says was devout. This was a man of great faith. This was a man of great obedience to God. This was a man who lived every day of his life in service to God and the reason why we know from the story is because I am waiting for the Messiah. I’m waiting for Him. Now he lived his everyday life, he had friends, he had family. In other words he didn’t become a hermit. He lived a very fruitful happy life. But what was his anticipation? That there is something greater than me that I’m part of and the story is just fascinating because there is this point where he walks into the temple and there is Mary and Joseph walking into the temple bringing Jesus in as a baby and he runs up and takes Jesus out of their hands and says this is it, this is it! He tells everybody this is the Messiah, all my life I’ve waited. Then he says, I can die in peace now. Because I know what God’s going to do now. I know how everything works out. I know the story because I’ve anticipated this moment. That is how he lived his life. That’s how we are to live our lives. We’re anticipating a moment where God says I have an appointment with you. We have an appointment with Jesus Christ. When He returns we are to be there for Him.
He told His disciples about that. You’ll read about this in your Study Aid. It’s in Mark. Jesus says, He tells this to His disciples. This message is just as important to us because we are His disciples being prepared for Him just like Simeon was and anticipating that moment when we are prepared for Him.
We know about Jesus first coming to die for our sins and without that really this doesn’t mean anything. But God says I want you to be prepared for His second coming, for Him. To serve Him.
Jesus said, “But of that day and hour,” He’s talking about His return, “no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” People in 1844 didn’t read this. “It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.” Of course we know here that He is talking about Himself. I’m leaving, I’m coming back and you have to do the work I’ve given you to do and the work He has given all of us is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, be prepared and when He returns to serve Him.
That’s what this life is all about and you have to anticipate that, you have to want it. You have to want it with the same intensity that Simeon wanted it. That’s how he lived every day. Jesus finishes with, “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” Watch.
Christians who are anticipating Christ’s return will live in daily preparation for His return. They will be living by His standards, His values, His teachings, His laws, the laws of the age to come. And what this means is, and let’s face it, Christians who are anticipating Christ’s return will be out of step with the values and standards of the present age and there’s where we have to understand we will never fit in. You can never fit it. If you fit in you won’t be part of the new age. In fact listen to this very carefully. When we find ourselves in comfortable compliance with society then there is something wrong with our Christianity. I’m going to repeat that. When we find ourselves in comfortable compliance with society, we just fit in, there’s something wrong with our Christianity. I’m not saying that we don’t enjoy life. We do. I’m not saying that somehow we have to be unhappy. That’s not what I’m talking about. But when our values and standards are just like everybody else around us? This is what? The evil age. You and I live in the dark ages. So if we are just like the dark ages we won’t understand the age of light when it comes.
Today’s message is very simple. The age we live in is evil, transitory and it will end. Understand that. It’s evil, it’s transitory and it will end.
Jesus Christ is returning to establish a new age. He’s coming back though and He has people who are to anticipate that and live for it. Christians must resist fitting into this present age by anticipating Christ’s coming because we want to be part of it.
It’s who we are because that’s who God says we are. This all comes down to who are we? Who are you? Are we who we are, we think we are, a self made people or do we become who God says we are. The children of God.
If nothing else I hope you will get on your knees after this program and ask God to fill your life with the anticipation of Jesus Christ. Not just the knowledge but the anticipation. The motivation, the reality of it. So that you live it.
I also hope that you will get your free copy of our Study Aid and I truly hope that you get out your Bible and discover God’s vision of Christ’s reign on this earth.
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