As we continue our series on heaven, we pose the question: What will the end of the world as we know it be like? We look at 1 Thesslonians 4.13-18 and Revelation 20 to get some answers. You can watch the whole worship gathering below, or just the message below that.
In every generation, there have been self-proclaimed prophets of the end times. In the time of Jesus and even before, people have thought they had the end of the world figured out.
So far, it seems, they didn’t. We’re all still here. Jesus has not returned.
Some people have dismissed the notion that Jesus will one day come back, that the world will be consummated. But other still look for clues.
Most who look for clues comb through the pages of the final book of the Bible: the Revelation. They think they can find answers there. And often, they create their own formulas to force upon the text.
In the end, though, they are frustrated.
Revelation is a hard book to understand, in no small part because of its genre. Apocalyptic literature is hard to understand for those who are not living in the time in which it was written. Revelation, having been written near the end of the first century, when Christians were experiencing severe persecution from the Romans, would have made perfect sense to its first hearers and readers.
It makes less sense to us.
But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to figure it out, or even imposing their own approaches to make it say what they want it to say.
When we think about the end times, the one thing we can know for certain is that we don’t know much about it. There are not fewer than five ways of interpreting the book of Revelation held by sincere, Bible-believing followers of Jesus today. (I talked briefly about these last Sunday.)
Commonly, in any given generation, one view will gain the upper hand among believers. (This is less true with scholars.) The predominant view in popular Christian culture today, despite its popularity, is somewhat confusing and is based on a very small portion of Scripture.
When will Jesus come back? We can’t know for sure.
In what order will the events of the end times take place? Some think they know for certain, others are unsure.
But this much we can know: if you have confessed Jesus as Saviour and Lord, and sought to live for him, and are ready for his return, nothing in the book of the Revelation should scare you.
Take comfort in that, if you’re a follower of Christ.
This Sunday, I will be tackling the question of what will happen at the end of time as we know it. I’ll look at some of the alternatives, and why I think the predominant view among many followers of Jesus is definitely not the only one, and might not even be the right one, from a biblical perspective.
Feel free to join us at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning if you don’t have another church to go to in person, and we’ll learn together. (If you are too far away to come, join us live online at 10, or watch the whole gathering or just the message, which will be posted to our YouTube channel later that afternoon.)
We know the end will come. We know Jesus will return. We know followers of Jesus will be safe for eternity. Beyond that? Let’s explore some options together.
“I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!” (Mark 13.37, NLT).
The western pull-out from Afghanistan has been heart-wrenching to watch on television. As I mentioned last week, the resurgence of the Taliban has placed many people at risk, especially women and Christians. For the Americans, the way this is playing out is very reminiscent of their time in Vietnam.
Canadian forces are saying that they wish they could have stayed. But the Big Fish in the Pond has decided that the multinational effort is over. It’s like they have given up, in some ways, though I’m certain this is an oversimplification.
Have you ever put effort into something – say, a friendship – and found it an uphill battle? It’s common for us to give up when we’re not making any progress.
This is especially true when we are seeking to encourage someone to embrace faith in Christ.
We might find ourselves getting blocked every time we try to “go there” in terms of spiritual conversation. But let me encourage you not to give up.
To use another battle image, consider the speech given by Prime Minister Churchill to the British Parliament in 1940, in the midst of the ugliness of World War 2. It is one of the most inspiring speeches ever given! Quite near the end, Churchill tells his fellow parliamentarians, and the world: “…we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”.
When you’re sharing your faith, like on the battle fields, it’s a matter of life and death. Don’t give up. Never surrender. Even when you get pushback, be loving and respectful, but continue to witness to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ at work in your life.
For your friend, eternity is in the balance.
“But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, ‘I believed in God, so I spoke.’ We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4.13-18, NLT).
This weekend, the church celebrates Pentecost, the occasion recorded in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit fell upon the gathered followers of Jesus, made manifest in tongues of fire and languages heretofore unknown.
The Holy Spirit was given to equip disciples to minister in the power and authority of Jesus after he ascended into heaven. Those first disciples had come to rely on Jesus during his ministry for the ability and the blessing to minister in his name. When he ascended into heaven, he promised them the Holy Spirit, so that they would not be left alone.
To this day, all who follow Jesus are given the Holy Spirit to enable us to undertake God’s mission in the world. And the first task of all disciples of Jesus is to make more disciples. The Great Commission, given at a resurrection appearance before Jesus ascended, promised that in his authority, Jesus’ followers would be given power to make disciples of all nations.
Pentecost reminds us that this is our primary aim as the church: making disciples.
If we are pouring our primary efforts into other things, no matter how noble they be, those efforts are misdirected.
Yes, the Holy Spirit came and still comes and sometimes manifests himself in signs and wonders, as well as in less flashy ways. But the principal purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming is to empower for making disciples.
And that starts with us, with our own formation in Christ, our own spiritual maturity.
If you want to celebrate Pentecost well, spend personal time with the Lord, and tell a friend about what Jesus has done for you. Be a disciple, and make a disciple.
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.18-20, NLT).
Encouragement From the Word returns on June 4.
The traditional Gospel story for the Sunday after Easter is the walk to Emmaus, told in the middle verses of Luke 24. In that story, a couple of people who had placed their hope in Jesus for the rescue of Jerusalem were walking home from that city, not having heard of the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus appears, walking beside them, though they don’t recognize him. They’re talking about the events of the weekend, and Jesus acts as though he doesn’t know what they’re talking about. But as time goes on, he explains how the Bible predicted that the Messiah would rise from the dead.
He makes like he’s going beyond Emmaus, but his fellow travellers, upon reaching home, invite him to stay. He sits at table with them, and all at once, the guest becomes the Host, because he breaks the bread – and in that moment, they recognized Jesus! And he disappeared from their sight.
With that, they abandoned their supper and high-tailed it back to Jerusalem to find out about the resurrection of Jesus. And one remarked to the other:
“… ‘Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24.32, NLT).
Have you ever experienced that kind of heartburn? Have you felt that passion for God and his Word as you read the Scriptures, or hear them explained?
The Lord invites that passion to erupt within you. It’s part of how we become mature followers of Christ.
(By the way, I’m preaching a series right now called “Epidemic in the Church”, that deals with the characteristics of Jesus that we can emulate in order to become spiritually mature. You’re welcome to join us live, in person or online, any Sunday morning at 10, or catch up on past messages via our YouTube channel.)
Here’s hoping you’ll get that heartburn that no antacid can quell!