“The End is Nigh” (John MacDiarmid)

Sermon preached at Poole High School for Poole Christian Fellowship on 7 February 2016

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We are now well into Holy Week, possibly Wednesday, which means that in two days’ time, Jesus would be sacrificed for the sins of the world. The final argument with the Pharisees had taken place, and Jesus is now with his disciples. Every word counts, as we walk with Jesus through these dramatic last few days of his life.

“The End is Nigh” conjures up pictures of an old man with a sandwich board warning people about the end of the world. And those who have paraded with these sandwich boards  have done it with good reason. There is plenty to be warned about and plenty to think about. Perhaps the question to ask is: “Are you ready for the biggest day of your life?”

Our passage is Luke 21v5-38

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and Egovernors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

As with all prophecy in the Bible you need to put on bi-focal glasses in order to see what is being said here. Jesus is speaking of an event in the near future (the fall of Jerusalem in AD70) and also of an event in the distant future, His return, at a time and date unknown. Readers and hearers would have understood that the passage referred to both, and that one is a picture of the other.

But the main theme is the return of Jesus at the end of the current age, and the urge for us to be ready for it.

The trigger for the conversation is the admiration that the disciples have for the temple in Jerusalem. It is difficult not to be impressed with the things that human beings build. Whether it is buildings or art or businesses or governments, man’s achievements can look pretty impressive – including those allegedly done for God.

But Jesus wants the disciples to be under no illusions: none of it will stand. The only thing that will stand when Jesus returns is His Kingdom. So this opening statement of Jesus causes us to question where our security is, where our confidence is and where our admiration is. Peter says that we are to set our hope fully on the grace to be given us when Jesus is revealed. Do we? Are we ready for the biggest day of our lives?

To help us to answer that question let’s consider four points:

1. Signs of the End

We don’t know when the end is coming, but we do know that it is inevitable. Signs in the affairs of men and in the natural world indicate that the time of the return of Jesus is approaching, and they urge us to be ready for the biggest day of our lives.

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

2. Believers at the End

Contrary to much preaching around today, Jesus words indicate that things will be hard for believers and will become harder as the years go by. Certainly the pictures of persecution and suffering are a present reality for much of the church, even if we have been shielded from it. We may expect grace and help in our distress rather than to be delivered from it.

But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name

3. A Picture of the End

Now we put on the bi-focals: Jesus talks about the fall of Jerusalem in D 70 – still a future event then, but a past event now. Why are these two future events linked? Surely it is that one is a picture and a warning of the other. Just as the fall of Jerusalem was a time of unprecedented suffering, so the end judgement of God will bring pain and misery. There is still time to escape the judgement of God.

20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem

4. A promise of the End

The return of Jesus is unmitigated good news for all believers in Christ. Therefore we can look forward to it with joy and anticipation.

“Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

So, how should we respond to this extraordinary teaching from God?

Jesus tells us that we should:

a. Be Wise

“Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. 

Deception of the saints is a major strategy of the enemy. We have to make sure that we test every spirit.

b. Be Careful

 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.35 

As we wait in hope, it is so easy for us to be deceived and to live as if it won’t happen. We need to make sure that whatever we do, we only do things that we would be happy to do if Jesus was to come back.

c. Be ready

…and that the things we do, Jesus would be pleased with.

 d. Be Strong

36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

e. Be Joyful

We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our saviour.

 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

 

 

John MacDiarmid

January 2016

Posted Under: Talks

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