THE END OF THE WORLD
Are You Ready?
October 31- November 1, 2009
I’ve always wanted to do this. [Tarzan yell.] If you didn’t recognize that, that’s the Tarzan yell. That’s old, old school. Johnny Weissmuller old school. If you want to see how someone really does it, go on YouTube and check it out.
Every time Tarzan would do that, what would happen? All of the animals in the wild kingdom would follow him and they would come to his aid. It was almost as if you thought it was curtains for Tarzan, but when you heard his voice, and especially when that yell echoed throughout the jungle floor, and off those beautiful trees, the animals would be right there to take care of him.
Well, today, I’m beginning an industrial strength series called The End of the World. This is going to be a high, high challenge series. It’s one of the most popular topics in Scripture. I don’t know if you realize this or not, but about a third of the Bible, rightly interpreted, is about the second coming of Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus Christ said it, the fact that he went on record and put the card on the table and said, “You know what, I’m coming back!” should cause those of us who are followers of him to really pay close attention to his words.
Now, whenever we start talking about the end times, the end of the world, most people really focus in, most people think about the how, and the why and all of that, and that’s fine. But let’s be very careful not to get into data that doesn’t matta’. It’s great to download data, but unless it translates into life change, then we miss the boat.
So it’s great to think about the why and the how and the when, but what I want to get you to concentrate on is to think about the who, and the you. Because the deal is, if it does not affect your life and mine, if it does not affect your relationship with God and mine, if it does not influence your marriage and mine, or your dating relationships, or how you handle your finances or your career, then really, we’re just talking data that doesn’t really matta’. I mean, it matta’s, but it should matta when we translate it into life change. So that is the goal of the study of the end times.
Now, it does not take someone with a Harvard MBA, or a theological degree to realize we are approaching the end. I mean, come on.
Everybody who is a theologian, pretty much everybody who walks with God closely would tell you, “Hey, we’re getting near the final frontier.” We really are. And it’s interesting to see how the curtains have opened and the curtains have closed. Because you can sort of outline Christ’s life this way.
First, we have the incarnation. Say incarnation. Incarnation. The incarnation is when he became flesh. The Bible says “The Word,” Jesus, “became flesh and dwelt among us.” He was born in an ordinary piece of farm furniture. I’m talking about Jesus, fully God, fully man. Something we’ll never, never wrap our pea brains around, but it’s called the incarnation.
The next thing we need to understand about Christ’s life, you could say Act Two, would be his redemption. Now, what happened there? Jesus lived a sinless life, he died a sacrificial death, rose again. He died on Calvary for all of our moral turnovers, for all of our mistakes, and because of that, because of his work on the cross, we have an opportunity to be wrecked by grace, to be ambushed by his mercy to be followers of Christ. That’s the redemptive process. That’s Christ’s redemptive act.
Ok, are you tracking with me? The last thing that’s going to happen, the end of the world, is going to be the coronation. Say coronation with me. Coronation. That’s when he’ll be crowned King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
So basically, we’re between the redemption and the coronation. Is everyone tracking with me? The redemption and the coronation. We’re waiting for the final return of Christ.
So Jesus has said, time and time again, “I will come back.” He said, time and time again, “I’m going to come back for my own.” So think about it. When Tarzan did this, [Tarzan yell], all the animals heard his voice, they recognized it, and they came to Tarzan’s aid. I know it’s a cool illustration, but when Jesus shouts, the Bible says, what’s going to happen? All of those folks who know him, who know the Master’s voice, will do what? Will follow Jesus.
I tell you what’s going to happen. A rapture will take place, a rapture. Now the word rapture is the word meaning to be taken up, to be seized by force. We’ll be taken up with Jesus.
If you remember when Phillip was talking to the Ethiopian Eunuch about Jesus, all of a sudden, he appeared, and the Ethiopian Eunuch was in his very expensive Maserati chariot and Philip asks, “Hey, can I have a ride?”
Well, the Ethiopian Eunuch said, “Yeah, come on up, come on up.”
So, Philip hopped in this Maserati, began to talk to him about the Scriptures, and began to explain to him about Jesus. The Ethiopian Eunuch became a follower of Christ. Philip said, “Hey, let’s stop the Maserati, and let’s get baptized.” And Philip baptized this guy.
And then the Bible says, “In a twinkling of an eye, he was gone to another place.” The Bible says that Jesus will come back for his own in the twinkling of an eye. I’ve studied that, and that’s one-one-hundred-thousandth of a second. We’ll be swept away by force. The rapture of the Church.
How many people in here like to read kids books? If you like to read kids’ books. I love kids books. I’m talking about everyone. The Three Little Pigs, the Berenstain Bears, you ever read those books before? Some of the kids are thinking, “Oh, I love those, man.”
There are a lot of great principles in those kids’ books. And one of the things I’ve learned about kids’ books is that pretty much every kids’ book ends with this phrase, you can say it with me, “…and they lived happily ever after.” Say it again. “and they lived happily ever after.”
Go to a movie, go to a movie. And what do you want to do? You want to see a movie that ends in happily ever after. Happily ever after. Happily ever after. I love the happily ever after movies. And I want a movie with a good ending.
And if you notice sometimes about our culture, we’ll have some movies that don’t end like with that kind of vibe – happily ever after. And usually it kind of gives you a chaotic feel. You know what I’m saying to you? You kind of feel incomplete. You feel like something is out of place, something is missing.
Here’s the deal. We’re made for a happy ending. We’re made to live happily ever after. Isn’t that cool? God hardwired us that way. So, the question I’m going to ask you over the next several weeks is this: Are you ever ready for the ever after? I mean, that’s the take home. That’s the sermon in the sentence. That’s the talk in a synopsis, the Wikipedia version. Are you ever ready for the ever after? Because we want to live happily ever after and Jesus wants all of us to live happily ever after.
Why is Jesus waiting for the second coming? Because you know God the Father’s holding him back. Why is he waiting? Because he wants more and more of us to choose to live, what? Happily ever after.
So, yeah. We’re going to get into the why’s and we’re going to get into the when’s and all that. We’re going to talk about the end times. And that’s great and fine. But I’m going to challenge you; I’m going to get up in your chili now, to challenge you about the who and the you. Because if this does not affect your life, then really we’re talking about data that doesn’t really matta’.
So, if you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to the book of 1 Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 4. And we can see basically the sequence of events. Again, I’ll go over it. We got the incarnation, we’ve got the redemption, and now, what do we have? We’re waiting for the coronation when he’ll be crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Here’s what Jesus is going to do. If you want to outline this, you can outline this. And I’ve tried to come up with some phrases that you can latch on to and remember.
The Bible says, let me read you this, 1 Thessalonians 4:16. It says, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command…” Some translations say, “a shout.” Ok, “…with a voice of an archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
Now, did you hear that? The dead in Christ, those believers who’ve died first, will rise first. That’s interesting isn’t it? Well, I know why they’ll rise first. Because they need a 6 foot head start! That’s why they’ll rise first.
Now, some of you might be saying, “Well, wait a minute Ed. Are you telling me there’s some sort of a soul slumber, a soul sleep? Are you telling me when a believer dies, we bury them, and their soul and their body is 6 feet under?”
No, I’m not saying that. Nor is the Bible saying that. The Bible says when someone dies, boom, their soul will either go to one of two places. Either in heaven, or in a Christ-less eternity – a place called hell. We make that choice. God does not hurl anybody to hell. He doesn’t. We choose that path. We choose one of two places.
When Jesus comes back, with a shout, he will bring the souls with him of those who’ve already died, believers in your family, believers in your circle of friends who’ve gone to be with the Lord, he’ll bring their souls back. Their bodies will come out of the grave. And I don’t understand all of this, this is mysterious, but I’m just telling you what the Scripture says. And they’ll have this beautiful collision in the heavenlies. They’ll have new and improved, glorified, bodies.
So the first thing that Jesus will say is this, are you ready for this? “Get up!” Say it with me. “Get up!” he’ll say that, and the first that will come back – the first that will be raised, will be those people in Christ.
I read the other day where this, 60-year-old woman really, really wanted to live for about 30 more years. So she prayed to God about it. She said, “God I want to live for 30 more years.”
And God said, “Ok, you can live 30 years, if you have cosmetic surgery, if you work out, if you start eating right – I’ll give you some more time.”
So the woman said, “Ok, I’ll do it.” So she went to the best doctors, got all the cosmetic surgery, she began to eat right and exercise, and so she thought, “You know what? I’ve got a new physique, a new face, a new everything – I’m going to go to New York on a shopping spree.” So she went to 5th Avenue. She was walking across the street. Walked in front of a bus [horn honking-vwoom] the bus ran her over and killed her on the spot.
She went to heaven, she said, “God, God! I mean, you told me I was going to live for decades longer. I got all these changes, and I did that. Why did you allow the bus to run me over?”
And the Lord said, “I didn’t recognize you!”
Our bodies will be so glorious, so unbelievable, so unique that I don’t think we’ll be able to recognize each other if we look from here to there. But here’s the good news: God’s going to say what? “Get up!” I say God, I say Jesus. Remember, 3 in 1, 1 in 3. The Trinity – there is oneness. “Get up!” Jesus is going to say to the dead.
But notice the second thing Christ is going to say. He’s going to say, “Give up!” and “Shut up!” That’s what he’s going to say! And who’s he going to say that to? He’s going to say that to the evil one. I’m talking about Satan. I’m talking about the devil. And I don’t have time to go there, but if you take your Bibles and turn to Ephesians 2:2. Or look at Ephesians 6, you’ll notice that the devil is called the prince of the power of the air. Isn’t that interesting? The prince of the power of the heavenliest. So, Michael, the archangel who spends his time kicking the devil’s rear 24/7, is going to say, “Move aside.” Jesus is going to say, “Give up,” and “Shut up! Because I am coming through. I have dominated you. I’ve already won. Step aside, give up and shut up!” “Shut up!” he’s going to say.
The devil is the prince of the power of the air. Isn’t it interesting, it’s stunning as we look around, especially at a lot of the music; a lot of the media stuff, a lot of the movies these days are so immoral and ungodly. And that’s definitely a sign of the end of times.
Illus: Just a couple days ago, and I’m embarrassed to tell you that Lisa and I saw this movie. But I’ll tell you. We’re in church, I will confess. Lisa and I saw this movie called Couples Retreat.
You know, it had a great premise. Very creative thought process, yet the movie was so godless. The language, and I’m no prude, man, you know me. I played sports my whole life, been around locker rooms, blah-blah-blah. But I mean the language! And the relationships and the sex out of context and what was seen on that movie was embarrassing. And I’m even embarrassed to even tell you that I went to the movie.
Now, you think, “Well Ed, you know, married couples will see that.” Yeah, but you know who’s going to see that? Teenagers are going to see that. Taking a God-given gift, and using it in a God-forbidden way.
That night, we went to Blockbuster, and got this movie, it’s already on DVD, Will Ferrell stars in, Land of the Lost. Have you seen that one? Land of the Lost. It’s a kid’s movie. Yet, every other word was a curse word. The F-bomb here and there and yonder. It could have been so awesome, so amazing.
But one of the signs of the end of times is what’s right is wrong and what’s wrong is right. You choose right, and I choose right, and what’s right for you might not be right for me, but its right for me and right for you, so I’m not to tell anybody about it. It’s a sign, this relativism, of the end of times.
The devil is the prince of the power of the air. That’s why so much sin is in the air. With gossip, and slander, and so much technology and so much of the movies and the music we need to think about what we’re putting into home, what we’re putting into our heart, and also, what’s coming into our head and coming out in our lives.
Because it’s like this old adage: garbage in, garbage out. Who’s the prince of the power of the air? It’s the devil. But right here, 1 Thessalonians 4, Jesus is going to kick butt. In fact he already has, now he’s saying, “give up and shut up.”
He’s going to say something else. “Get up,” “Give up,” one more. He’s going to say, “Go up.” Let me keep reading here. Let me keep reading.
1 Thessalonians 4:17, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
That’s you and me. And I really believe that Jesus could easily return during our life time. But I can tell you this, because there are always people who predict the end times. If you ever hear someone name a date, you know Christ is not coming back then, I can tell you that.
“Oh, I know when it’s going happen, it’s going to happen, uh, 2012.” Well, no, it’s not going to happen in 2012. It won’t happen on that date, you know that because Jesus said, “I’ll come like a thief in the night. I’ll come in the twinkling of an eye.” All of a sudden there’ll be a couple of workers, boom, one will be gone. One will be like, “Wait, what happened to her? What happened to him?”
Ok, those of us who are disciples will go up. We’ll be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And we’ll be with the Lord forever.
How long is forever? It’s a long, long time, I’ll tell you that. And sometimes ‘forever’ freaks me out. Because everything I know has an end. And you’re the same way, “Forever? I’m not sure I want to do anything forever. Forever?”
Well, heaven is not going to be this place where we just sit there and sing “Ahhhhh!” We’re going to have our gifts and abilities. We’ll be able to do things. There’ll be an agenda for us to follow. It is going to be just totally crazy. Just take the greatest feeling you’ve ever felt, multiply it exponentially, and you still don’t even come close to what heaven is going to be like. And I truly believe if we knew how phenomenal heaven was, I think all of us would be stepping in front of busses, you know, up in New York City. I really, really do.
Now, I like what 1 Thessalonians 4:18 says. It says, “Therefore, encourage each other with these words.”
In other words, as we talk about the end times, it should be a time of encouragement. So we shouldn’t fret or fear. We should say, “Wow! This is the greatest!”
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle with stress and anxiety. Anybody here struggle with that? Sometimes I struggle with materialism. Surely not here. Sometimes I struggle with envy.
Struggle with stress, struggle with anxiety, struggle with all of those things. But, if I keep my eye, are you ready for this, one eye on eternity; if I’m living in the future tense, take a wild guess what happens? I don’t struggle with that stuff as much.
You see, so often, we’re so earthly minded that we’re no heavenly good. And sometimes we can be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. So keep an eye on the temporal. Because matter matters. We understand that, because why? We’re going to have new bodies – matter. But also keep one eye on eternity. Live in the light of eternity.
So when you see someone, you’re looking at an eternal being. Everyone here is going to live forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. We’re looking at someone that Jesus died for. And when we think about that; when we think about that against this God-grid, against forever and ever and ever, it changes everything. That’s why the things of the world grow strangely dim in the light of the glory and grace of God.
Don’t you see why we need to talk to him every day? We need to recalibrate and reorient our lives. Don’t you see why we need to gather together in corporate worship regularly? Don’t you see why we need to talk to other brothers and sisters in Christ? And then we go out because, you know, life is short and we’re all eternal beings. This should amp me up to share my faith, to really be bold and loving and to invite people to the house. That’s why the church should have urgency about her. That’s why the church should have purity about her.
So Jesus is coming back. He’s going to shout “Get up!” to the dead. “Give up!” to the devil. “Go up!” to those of us who are disciples in Christ. And this should challenge us with the purity and urgency.
So now Jesus begins to talk about some other things. And I find it so interesting that Jesus talked about a wedding. Now, when I just say the word wedding, all the women lock in. And I thought to myself, “I wonder why Jesus talked about a wedding?” Well, of course all the ladies, you know, are all into the wedding. And even though guys aren’t into the wedding, you know the girl’s punch the guys and they’re like, “Ok, yeah, we’re listening.”
You might want to write these chapters down. Luke 12, and also Matthew 25. And I’ll give you again just a quick, quick, quick Cliff’s Notes on these.
Luke 12, there’s a groom, a bridegroom, who is going off for his wedding. And back in these days weddings would last for a week. Fathers, can you imagine paying for that, fathers of daughters. One week! I’ll say it again. Seven expensive, arduous, detailed days will wear you slap out. Anyway, this guy has gone to a wedding. His servants have no idea when he’s coming back. They’re clueless. So what do they do? Do they just chill? Do they relax? Are they lethargic? Are you kidding me?
Here’s what Jesus said, Luke 12:35-38. He says, “Be dressed, ready for service.”
In the original language, to be dressed ready for service is to actually have your sleeves rolled up. Back in the day they had these long robes and they would tuck them in so it would give their legs ample amount of room to move around.
So, these cats were serving, they were working, they were helping. Because they knew the master could return at any day. And notice what Jesus is saying. They were dressed up. Say dressed up with me. “Dressed up.” They were dressed up in readiness. Dressed up in readiness. Those of us who are followers of Christ, we need to be dressed in what? Readiness. And notice too, these people were serving.
Think about this. What if Jesus came back, let’s say, tomorrow or the next day, is there any activity, any conversation, anything you might be watching or doing that would embarrass you if Christ were to come back during that time? That’s what it means to live your life against the backdrop of eternity.
Think about how much time we spend getting dressed, especially the women in the crowd. The men do, too. We spend time getting dressed. We need to spend time getting ready. So, get dressed up in readiness, because we don’t know the time. The master could come back with his bride at any time.
So these servants understood, “We’re preparing this mansion. We’re preparing this house for the honeymoon, for the celebration, for the party.” So be dressed, ready for service.
Luke 12:35, “And keep your lamps burning.”
I like that. Keep your lamps burning. So, get dressed up. I like this. And get lit up. Light up! I don’t mean to [smoke] light up. I don’t mean to get drunk. No, no, no, no. I mean to light it up, man. Because again, in the ancient days they would carry around these little boats of oil. Then they put a little wick in the boat of oil. They would light it, and it would be a light. That was how they could see what they were doing.
And what does light do? Light penetrates darkness. What did Jesus tell us? He said, “I’m the light of the world.” Then he said, “You are the lights of the world.”
What does oil represent? Oil represents, throughout Scripture, check this out now, the Holy Spirit of God. Oil also represents the Word of God.
So, we have the light, and then we’ve got enough oil to keep the light going, the Word of God, the Spirit of God. And when the Word of God and the Spirit of God converging, what do you have? You’ve got some serious light going on. We are the lights of the world. So what are you doing just pouring just a little bit of oil? Keep the oil coming.
Also, so, if you wanted to keep your light on – you had to cut back the wick regularly. You had to cut it back, and cut it back, and cut it back. Cut it back-cut it back-waaaay back.” You had to cut it back. Cut it back.
What does that mean? That means that we’re to cut out those things in our lives that don’t honor the Lord. Once again, is there anything right now the Holy Spirit of God is saying you need to cut back in your life? Maybe it’s anger, maybe it is pride, maybe it is gluttony, maybe it is chicanery, maybe it is duplicity. What do you need to cut back in your life? Because as we cut back stuff that Jesus reminds us of, we grow and our lives shine brighter and brighter and brighter.
So, we have got to dress up, light up, and then also, we need wait up. We need to wait up. Let me keep going here.
Luke 12:36-37. “…like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve…”
What? [rewind noise] “He will dress himself to serve.” What? [rewind noise].
Are you ready for this? If you’re not serving, you’re swerving. That’s right. If you’re not serving, you’re swerving. You’re swerving off God’s plan for your life. So if you’re a follower of Christ, all right, you need to serve. Serve where? In the House.
Well, check this out. When the bridegroom comes back, as he finds us serving, he, this is Jesus, will serve us. Wow! He’ll dress himself to serve. And we’ll have them recline at the table and he will come and wait on them. That’s you and me!
[The verse continues] Luke 12:38, “…it will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.”
What does the word watch mean? It means to stay alert and awake. We have got to watch. We don’t know when he’s going to come back. That’s the first wedding story.
The second one, again, let me give it real quick to you. Matthew 25. It had to do with ten bridesmaids. Ten. We’re talking about a big wedding. Five were bright; the other five were probably blonde. Five were smart; the other five were sort of dingy.
Some more about a wedding. The bridegroom would go to the bride’s house. They would have the ceremony. The bridesmaids would wait for the parade, and the parade would go from the bride’s house where they had the wedding, all the way to the groom’s house. And the party at the groom’s house would last a week. A week of partying. So, the bridesmaids had been at the salon all day long, had their hair and nails done, they had the big Hebrew hair going on, you know. And anyway, five of the girls, the smart girls, they brought a lot of oil, extra oil. They said, “Girl, this is going to be some kind of wedding!” They brought a lot of oil. The five air-heads, the blondes, they said, “That’s enough. That’s enough.”
Well, they got tired, you know, they were just very lethargic, they went to sleep. And all the sudden, boom! The parade starts, the wedding’s over. It’s in the middle of the night, so they start the parade back to the groom’s house. And the airheads said, “Oh girl, I’m out of oil already. Can I borrow some oil from you? From you girls who have a lot of oil?”
And they said, “Are you kidding me? Go to 7-11. I think they have a special on oil.” So they cruise to 7-11. And this is scary. When they came back to the groom’s house, they tried to get in, but look at Mathew 25:11. “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replies, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.’”
What did Jesus say? “Not everybody who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of God.”
Not every professing confessing Christian is truly someone who is a believer. And if you’re serious, that should scare the hell out of you, literally. Because that’s what you’re facing.
“Well, Ed, are you getting me to doubt my salvation? Doubt the time when I received Christ?”
No I’m not. I just want you to take inventory. Because Jesus said, “I will know my followers by their fruit. My followers will know my voice.”
Do you know his voice? Do you know the master’s voice? Do you know Christ personally? This should cause us to go, “Wow, man!” because we need to live in the future tense.
The wedding, Jesus is coming back. He’s going to tell us, I’m talking about the dead, to get up. The devil, to give up. Those of us who are disciples, to go up. He’s going to tell us, ‘dress up, light up and wait up.’ And as we’re waiting up, we need to be serving and ready and enthusiastic and encouraging and evangelistic.
Next time, I’m going to talk a little bit more about this subject matter. I’m going to talk about some of the signs that point to the end times. Because as I read books, you can tell by the character development, you can tell by the number of pages turned that we’re getting near the end. The same is true right here in our culture, in our world today. We can tell it by the character development; we can tell it by what’s happening by what’s unfolding. We can tell it. There are only a few pages left. What are the signs that are pointing us to the end of the world? And what’s going to happen when those in Christ are in the rapture? What’s going to happen when we are taken away by force? That’s next week.
But I want to leave you with one question. Are you ever ready for the ever after?