Return of Jesus – Matthew 24:4-14

The Time Of The End Is Imminent

4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Diverse Deceivers

Since the time of Christ, there have been many who have claimed to be the Messiah.  Here is a partial list (and this only includes that last few hundred years!).  Even now, people are claiming to be the Messiah, and many are following them.  God’s word is truth, and this has come to pass…

Diverse Disasters

And while one or two signs don’t indicate anything, when all of them are occurring, it is indicative of the diagnosis:

  • Wars and rumors of wars – When are nations not at war with each other, even now?
  • Nation rising against nation – The precursor to wars
  • Kingdom against kingdom – More precursors to wars
  • Famines – Haiti, North Korea, and nations in Africa – The list goes on…
  • Earthquakes – We have better reporting on earthquakes today then ever before, so we are recording more accurately and completely than in the past.  Whether there are more earthquakes now than in the past may not be known, since we have incomplete records for even the recent past (the last century).

Religious Reversal

There is no nation in the (Biblical times) known world in which Christians are not persecuted.  We must recognize that when prophesy was given, that it was based on the knowledge of the  known world at the time that the prophesy was provided.  The hearers would have recognized that during the time of Christ, the known world was basically (in importance and distance from the epicenter, which is Israel-centric):

  • The Middle East
  • Northern Africa
  • Europe
  • Asia

With the proliferation of the “religion of peace” into all of these regions, there is now great persecution of Christians in each of these geographic areas.

Ample Apostasy

Paul indicated that the second coming of Jesus Christ would not occur until the great falling away.  In the known world at that time, there were many plantings by Paul and the early church.  In the Middle East, apart from the country of Israel, publicly declaring that you are a Christian will get you beheaded.  The Christian faith is very vibrant there, as those who chose to accept Christ know that it is only a matter of time before they will be martyred.  Elsewhere in the world, great persecution is occurring for Christians, including genocide in Africa.

But even in that, many are turning from their faith.  Churches in the once vibrant Christian nations in Europe are now being turned into Mosques as attendance dwindles and they are closed.  People are walking away from their faith in the face of post-modernism and secular humanism.  Culture is becoming the dominating change factor in people’s lives.

The moon is designed to reflect the light of the sun.  It has no light in and of itself.  In the same way, Christians reflect the light of Christ.  We are not light, but merely reflect it.  And as Christians turn from the light towards darkness, so the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.

Powerful Preaching

Darkness has arrived, and no one can work.  In the Middle East, in countries ruled by Islam, Christians are unable to reveal Christ to the population in general, because they will be beheaded if they do.  It is impossible to evangelize if you aren’t able to deliver the message of the cross due to immediate and very public death.  Because of this, Jesus has been revealing Himself to people in dreams and visions.  And this is not just in the Middle East – China is experiencing one of the greatest awakenings they have ever had.  There is a great revealing of Christ going on now in areas that traditionally have been kept in the dark about Jesus.  The final awakening is at hand.

Righteous Return

And after all of these occur, the Son of the Most High God will return.  Many have believed that they were in the end times even during the time of Paul.  We have been in the end times for almost two thousand years.  But the great falling away (rebellion) has only recently occurred.  Prophecy written over two millennia ago – predicting the gathering of the Israelites back into their own land – has come to fruition.  And it was only after this occurred that the great falling away truly began.  Prepare for His arrival, for it is nigh.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I prepared for the imminent return of my Lord and Savior?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided us, through your word, the signs of the world before You send Your Son, Jesus Christ, back to the world.  He will come as a lion this time, for He has already come as the lamb.  Remember Your people, Father, that we would be faithful to the very end.  Help us to overcome the difficulties that we encounter as people fall away from the faith.  Keep us connected to the vine that is Your Son, that we may be nourished by him even during the most severe droughts and trials that come upon us.  Fill us with hope as we endure persecution and death.   Provide for us, and strengthen us for what is to come.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Deuteronomy 6:8

When God makes promises, circumstances change.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Not Just for Joshua

The author of Hebrews took to heart that this promise was not just for Joshua, son of Nun, but reiterated it in Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”

A Promise Provided

This promise is fulfilled with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  He is a down-deposit for our inheritance.  He won’t just go away when we sin, or are in need, or feel lonely, or scared, or depressed.  He is ALWAYS there – comforting us, guiding us, leading us, empowering us, and encouraging us in our walk with God.

Light Leads through Love

Ephesians 5:18, showing us that the Holy Spirit leads us, saying:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,

The word “filled” is plErousthe in the Greek.  It means “to be controlled by.”  Just as wine controls us in drunkenness (who can honestly say that they are in their right mind and in control when they are drunk?), we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit in all that we do.  It is an imperative command – not a suggestion!  We are expected to do this!

Since God is love, everything that The Holy Spirit does is in love – even if it is to refine our character and test our hearts through trialseven when we sleep!  We can be confident that when God is leading, we are in good hands.

Provision of Power

God doesn’t just give us an empty promise.  He promises not to forsake us.  To do that, He empowers us through The Holy Spirit:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God provides us with the source of the power of the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t just dwell in us; He provides power for all that we are to do.  We can take comfort and strength knowing that He is not just accompanying us through our journey, but providing for us as well.

The Fear Factor

Satan prowls about like a roaring lion, looking for prey to devour.  Lions are not creatures that we should confront without appropriate protection or weaponry.  It is easy to be frightened when confronting a force that can easily overwhelm and destroy you.  Have you noticed that just about every time an angel visits someone in the Bible, the very first words out of their mouth is “do not fear”?  There is a very good reason for that.  When confronted with the power of angelic beings, we are immediately aware of our fragile nature.

But God has provided us with the Spiritual Armor of God.  And we have an offensive weapon as well – the Sword of the Spirit, which IS the scriptures.  And God’s Word says that there is no fear in perfect love.  Since God is love, and we are in Christ, we no longer need to fear.  Fear is predicated on consequences, and ALL of our sins – past, present and future – have been forgiven.  God has chosen not to forsake us, and even in our incapacity to live life perfectly because of our sin nature, God still provides for our future sins, having known about them from before time began.

The Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask the question:  given this wonderful promise, are we allowing the Holy Spirit of God free rein to lead and empower our lives as we walk with God to the extent that we should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have made us this wonderful promise.  Give me the strength today to let go of those things that interfere in Your guidance of my life.  Rid me of my own evil desires, and place within me the desires of Your heart.  Help me to yield myself to you completely as a living sacrifice.  Remove the dross from my heart, and help me to submit completely to the Holy Spirit.  Father, I recognize that in submission to You there is freedom.  Set me free from myself that I may be free in You.  Bless Your Holy Name, for You give Your children wonderful gifts and promises.  Knowing that I am never alone, and always in Your care comforts me through my trials.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Isaiah 54:17

17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

The Bible contains many promises of God.  This one is very encouraging.  It is comforting to know that we are being protected by God against all of the weapons of the enemy.  It is also comforting that anyone who says anything against us will be refuted, for we have been forgiven all sin.  This is our HERITAGE!  God will VINDICATE us!

There only appears to be one qualifier – “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.”  Who are the servants of the Lord?

Servants wait upon the master.  They are in His service to do His bidding whenever and wherever He directs them.  They direct their talents to complete the tasks assigned to them.  They are often given guidelines, and are expected to do the work when they see work to do.

There are many gifts given to believers once they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Here are just a few ( 1 Corinthians 12:4-11):

  • Wisdom
    • The ability to understand the difference between wise and foolish things (think: King Solomon)
  • Knowledge
    • Are you able to absorb great amounts of information and then process it so that it is understandable by others?
  • Faith
    • Do you trust God to move mountains, trusting Him to do things when other people would normally give up?
  • Healing
    • When you pray, do people get well?
  • Prophecy
    • Do you know things about what is going on and things that will go on, when you have no reason to know them?
    • Does God often let you know something that you should share with a person or people He directs you to share with, even if you don’t understand the message?
  • Distinguishing between spirits
    • Do you know who’s who?
    • Do you sense the presence of angels and demons and their activity in this world?
    • Do you know when, if someone is speaking, whether or not what they are saying is Biblical, even though you don’t know why?
  • Speaking in tongues (languages)
    • Are you able to speak in a known (already existing) language but don’t understand what you are saying?
    • Are you able to speak in an unknown language and don’t know what you are saying?
  • Interpreting tongues (languages)
    • When people speak, do you know what they are saying, even if everyone else around you doesn’t because they don’t speak the language (and you may not know the language either)?

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are many others.  Here are eight more to think about:

  • Craftsmanship
    • Can you make a masterpiece out of nothing?
    • Or, can you take a box of parts and with a few simple tools, put the item back together without any instructions?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Hospitality
    • Are you driven to constantly feed and attend to guests at your home?
    • Do you enjoy throwing parties and events?
    • Are you the first one to get up to pour drinks at an event?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Music
    • Can you play a musical instrument in a way that inspires others to greatness?
    • or, are YOU an instrument (should you audition for “Stomp“)?  You may have this gift.
  • Leadership
    • Do people have a great tendency follow what you say and where you go?  You may have this gift.
  • Teaching
    • Can you take the most difficult subject and explain it to most people so that they have a clear understanding of it?  You may have this gift.
  • Pastoring
    • Do you constantly feel the need to guide and nurture people in their faith and walk with God?  You may have this gift.
  • Service
    • Are you the one who gets great joy from doing the jobs that no one else does, and is content that the job is done and done right, even if no one else notices?  You may have this gift.
  • Prayer
    • Does God wake you up in the middle of the night to pray about something that He then places on your heart?
    • Do you struggle (wrestle) in prayer for individuals, issues, leaders, and/or nations (or other things)?
    • Do you enjoy spending hours communicating with God in prayer about anything and everything?  You may have this gift.

There are over 30 implied and delineated gifts that the Spirit of God gives to us to use to glorify God and help the body.  Are you using the gifts that were provided to you in stewardship by the Spirit of God at the direction of the Spirit of God for God’s Glory?

If not, why do you call yourself a servant?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we all fall short of perfection.  You have saved us from this, and give us the wonderful opportunity to know You, the only One True God.  You have given us great privileges and responsibilities as well.  Show us what gifts the Holy Spirit has provided to us.  Empower us to act in these gifts, and guide us in the way that these gifts should be used.  Father, do not let me be afraid of these gifts, but help me to embrace them that Your kingdom would grow.  I am your servant, Lord God.  Speak to me that I may do Your Will, in Your Way, in Your Time, for Your purposes, that You may be glorified.  This I ask in the the precious name of your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Ephesians 1:13-14

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

What a wonderful gift!  That the blessed Holy Spirit would take up residence within us!  He whose power raised our Lord Jesus Christ up from the grave abides in us.  We often can feel alone, but Christians should never say that – God is ever present within us, praying for us, comforting us, empowering us, and convicting us (among other things).

Paul indicates elsewhere that we should respond by being holy.  He exhorts us to consider that, because of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, we ought to respond in a correct way.

I Corinthians 6:12-20 states

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The word “temples” is especially interesting.  In Israel, the Solomon temple had four parts to it (from outside to inside):

In it was the Temple building itself:

  • The Holy Place.
    • This was also known as the Temple, and
  • The Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies).
    • This is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept behind the veil, which was the seat of God’s power and presence.  The only person permitted to enter here was the Jewish High Priest, and only once a year, in order to offer the sacrifice of the people to God.  God took this so seriously that if the High Priest didn’t perform the ceremony properly, God struck him dead.  It was a practice at that time for the High Priest to tie a rope around his waist, so that in the event something went wrong, they could pull his body out of the Holy of Holies.  Otherwise, they would have to wait a year for the next High Priest to remove it…

The Greek word for the Holy of Holies was naos.  This is the same word that Paul uses in this passage to refer to our bodies as temples.  We are not the entire temple, or any less-important part the the temple – we are the Holy of Holies!  Because we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, God Himself can reside within us.  Wow.

So, in light of God’s glory and grace, how are we treating our naos?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, you have done the unthinkable and prepared our bodies as Holy Temples for your presence.  You have cleansed us of all sin, and with the righteousness of Christ, provide us with the Holy Spirit.  Teach us the ways in which we should go.  Help your servants to remember not just who You are, but who we are supposed to be.  Strengthen us this day, Lord, that we would treat these bodies – our thoughts, words, and deeds – in a manner worthy of being a naos.  This we ask in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Psalm 34:17-19

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;

Not one, but three promises of God!

When we cry out, God hears our prayers and delivers us from (through) our troubles.  And look how many troubles we have today!  Cast your burdens upon the Lord; He is able to bear up under them.

Oh, toD know that God is close to us when our heart breaks!  A perfect picture of our kind, gentle, compassionate Father gathering his child into His arms comes to mind.  Only He can help us when we are crushed in spirit.

God is our rock, our refuge, our strength, our fortress.  He can move Heaven and Earth for us.  God’s promise to deliver us from ALL of our troubles should bolster our faith and solidify our hope – our sure belief – that God is not only able to do these things, but that He WILL do them.  God’s character is perfect, and He does not renege on His promises (conditional, unconditional, and implied).  Therefore, pray to God and ask Him to fulfill His promises.

A Short Prayer of Preparation

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in all your ways.  You love your children and give them good gifts.  And unlike us, You fulfill Your every promise.  Father, meet me where I am today.  Deliver me through my trials and troubles.  Stay near to me when my heart breaks.  Provide for all of my needs.  Help me through these most difficult times.  Strengthen me this day and give me confidence in what I am about to face.  You, O Lord, have seen all that is to come and know perfectly how to navigate through it.  Transform my pain into trust, and lead me in the way everlasting.  This I ask and pray in the precious name of your most beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

What a marvelous promise!  That the ones that are called by His name God has purposed in His heart to prosper.  Oh, to prosper in the Lord!   Spiritual growth is so important in our lives.  How much time every day do we allocate to that most important goal?  Do we eagerly await our next challenge, and embrace it with outstretched arms?  Do we ambivalently await its arrival, knowing it is a necessity yet planning our lives around it when it arrives?  Or do we dread its appearance, knowing that difficulties await?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a great and glorious God.  I know that you work for good all things to those that love You and are called according to Your purpose.  Grant me Your peace this day as I prepare for what is to come.  Search my heart, O God, and see if there is any wrongdoing in me.  Address my weaknesses, and be merciful to me.  Strengthen me in my struggles, and make me victorious; for when I am weak, You are strong.  May the meditations of my heart and words of my mouth be pleasing to You always.  May I be a light on the hill that glorifies Your name.  You are worthy of all glory and power and strength and honor and praise.  Great is your grace and mercy!  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?