HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, December 19, 2021
Youtube link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zxJfkyKknc
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “The Return of the Messiah”
Texts – Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Matthew 16:21, John 14:1-3
Many people turn to the book of Revelation when times get scary. They want to know how things will end. But there’s a problem with that. John used a literary genre, apocalyptic literature, that no longer exists. Though popular and well understood in his day, it is a writing style that is very difficult to sift through and ascertain what is metaphorical and what is to be understood literally. Added to this difficulty is the instruction to John to write about, “things that are happening and things that will happen” (Revelation 1:19). The book of Revelation isn’t just about ‘end times.’ It covers from John’s stay on the Island of Patmos to Jesus’ return; but knowing what events apply to what time period has proven difficult for many biblical scholars and disagreements are never-ending.
So, today, rather than trying to delve into the book of Revelation in our brief time together, I want us to focus on what Jesus tells us about His return and I believe we will leave with greater clarity. But even with Jesus’ clear teaching, we may still walk away somewhat in the dark. Take for example, Jesus’ words to his early disciples.
Matthew 16:21 – “21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.”
Jesus told his first disciples all about the crucifixion and resurrection long before they were a reality, but they still didn’t understand. The first disciples thought they knew what the Messiah’s work would entail—freedom from worldly oppressors for the Jewish people; but they were wrong.
He has also told us about his second coming...
John 14:1-3 – “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”
Pretty straightforward, but still we are sometimes left confused. Is some of our struggle to understand the future events of Jesus’ second coming just as muddied because of wrong expectations? For instance, I have heard it wrongly said that believers will each receive a mansion in heaven; but that’s not what Jesus said. His Father has one home in which there are many rooms. That means that we’re all going to share!
Jesus told his disciples clearly what to expect, but they were still surprised and confused when it happened. Their presuppositions prevented them from comprehending Jesus’ very clear words…and from our vantage point we wonder how they could be so dense. Easy for us looking backward, but we may be just as ‘dense’ however when it comes to fully understanding what the Bible tells us about Jesus’ second coming. Today, we’re going to examine Matthew 24 in an attempt to better understand what to expect at the Messiah’s return.
It is good to note right from the onset that Jesus is describing a continuum of events that will take place between his ascension, when he returned to heaven, and his second coming when he will return to claim Lordship and judge the righteous and the disobedient.
“JESUS’ TELLS US WHAT TO EXPECT”
Matthew 24:1-2 – “As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. 2 But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
Which is exactly what happened in 70AD when Rome, lead by Titus the son of the emperor Vespasian, destroyed the city of Jerusalem after it had revolted from Roman rule. The Temple was indeed magnificent, only just having been fully restored eight years earlier; when it was burned, it is said that the gold which had been used to cover the building melted and ran between the stones of the structure, which is why it was entirely dismantled, stone by stone—to collect all the gold.
Matthew 24:3-8 - 3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”
4 Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 5 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. 7 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. 8 But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
First there will be ‘birth pangs’ which are… [false Messiahs, wars and threats of wars, famines and earthquakes]. No baby yet, just the early stages of labour…but what’s next?
Matthew 24:9-14 - 9 “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. 10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. 11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. 12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.
The end will be preceded by… [persecution, apostasy—believers rejecting their faith in Jesus, traitors to the faith, all nations will hear the Gospel]. If we were completing a checklist at this point, we could see that all of these things have happened during the time since Jesus went back to heaven; his return could happen, quite literally, any day. But the same could have been said many years ago as well!
But Jesus isn’t done and the next section is one in which we may find ourselves confused…
Matthew 24:15-22 - 15 “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) 16 “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. 17 A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. 18 A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. 19 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. 20 And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. 22 In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.
There is disagreement about the ‘sacrilegious object that causes desecration in the Holy Place’ and what Jesus meant. Some scholars believe this is a reference to Rome’s sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. Others believe it is a future event and refers to a new Temple built in Jerusalem. But either interpretation of Jesus’ words isn’t clear. Remember it is not Jesus’ teaching that is unclear, but our ability to comprehend. There may still be events that need to take place for us to be able to clearly understand what Jesus was telling his followers…or we may have blinders on and are unable to know the truth because of the things we already think are true, but in fact may not be.
Whether this event refers to the devastation of Jerusalem by Rome or a future event, one thing that may help guide our understanding is the fact that God’s Temple is no longer a building, but is us, his chosen ones, so it wouldn’t make sense that the ‘holy place’ is a rebuilt earthly temple made of stone as some have supposed. Just something to think about as we attempt to make clear what is, for now, unclear.
Matthew 24:23-28 - 23 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 25 See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.
26 “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! 27 For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. 28 Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.
Jesus warns us that there are powers accessible to those wanting to deceive others…‘even God’s chosen ones!’ However, none of us should be that easily duped. Aside from the fact that some pretty convincing cons—fake Messiahs and false prophets—will be able to use counterfeit power to perform signs and wonders, Jesus’ return will not be an event anyone will miss out on. ‘As lightning flashes in the east and shines in the west,’ the Messiah’s return will be unmistakable. You won’t need anyone to tell you…you’ll already know!
Matthew 24:29-41 - 29 “Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
32 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”
36 However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.”
After a set of cataclysmic celestial events, Jesus will arrive. The peoples of the world will experience deep mourning. And then a trumpet blast will cause the angels to go out and collect Jesus’ followers. This is no scene from the once popular ‘Left Behind’ books and television series. No one is going to wake up someday scratching their heads and wondering where all the good Christians have gone. There are not going to be unmanned cars colliding or airplanes falling from the sky as drivers and pilots mysteriously vanish. When Jesus calls for his chosen ones, all will witness the events that follow.
However, no one knows when any of this will take place…not the angels, not even Jesus. So, how foolish for us to try and ‘calculate’ the end of the world. It will end, but only God the Father knows the day and time when the Messiah will return. And when he does, it will be a surprise like the flood. The people had been warned by Noah, but were completely unprepared! Like an avalanche that buries an entire mountainside, a tornado that wreaks destruction for miles or a tsunami that grows from a fast-moving wave to a wall of water that swallows whole islands…that is the kind of intensity we can expect to come with Jesus’ arrival.
Some Bible teachers have taught that believers will be raptured out of a time of terrible calamity—the great tribulation—before the end; but from Jesus’ own teaching, it appears that he will return after things have become horrible for all people and especially his followers; He is in fact coming to rescue them! He will rescue us when he brings an end to this sinful world as we know it and we will join him in this process.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 – “15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.”
We will ‘meet’ him in the air, ἀπάντησιν (apantasin). The Greek word used here is not about our departure, but rather our joining the bridegroom on his way to his appointed destination. We will ‘join’ Jesus in his coming to earth to bring about judgement and reward, not fly away to safety in a heavenly safehouse. From Jesus’ teaching (and Paul’s), there is no evidence that believers possess a ‘get out of tribulation free’ card.
And finally, Jesus makes it clear that we should be ‘caught doing good’ when he returns.
Matthew 24:42-51 – “42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Seeing that Jesus could return at any time, we would each be wise to examine ourselves and answer the question concerning our own readiness. Are we doing all we can to love the people around us into God’s Kingdom?
So, on this fourth Advent Sunday of joy, what are some of our takeaways?
· Though we may not know when, Jesus’ return is certain. No matter how awful life on this planet becomes, we know that sin will not have the final say. We can have hope and a peace that passes all understanding in the most difficult of circumstances because Jesus is coming back.
· We must be cautious in assuming we know all there is to know—we can know what has been revealed to us by God, nothing more. If another believer disagrees with us, we would be wise to engage in further discussion and study, not simply allow disagreements to divide us. Jesus has told us that we are to live in the unity of the Spirit.
· Trying to guess when Jesus will return is a waste of precious time and energy—when we live in never-ending readiness, it won’t matter. Find ways to use your God-given gifts to encourage and grow the Church.
· Our confusion concerning Jesus’ words is more an indicator of our need to study and wait, then of any lack of clarity on his part. So study and ask the Holy Spirit to make the truths contained in the Bible clear.
· As we wait for Jesus to return, stay busy serving him…better to be caught in acts of obedience when the king arrives, then risk being banished from his kingdom altogether!
For further study…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UkAQOi3QPg (Desiring God - What is the Rapture?)
https://biblehub.com/greek/apante_sin_529.htm (Bible Hub - Concordance – ‘apantasin’)
Friday, December 24, 2021 @7pm – Christmas Eve Service – In-person and Online
Sunday, December 26, 2021 - Speaker: Donald Peck - In-person and Online
Friday, December 31, 2021 @7pm – New Year’s Eve Service at Faith EMC in Wasaga – In person only
Sunday, January 2, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Growing Up Into Jesus” (Colossians 2:17) – In-person and Online
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!