Today is part two of a series of four sermons on last-day events and how to get ready for the last days.
Is Jesus coming soon? Absolutely! Joel 1 makes a prediction about the last days. Joel 1:15 says, Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; It will come like destruction from the Almighty. Well, this was written a long time ago, wasn't it. And I could read you other things. I can go to the back page of the Bible: Revelation 22:7 "Behold, I am coming soon! And, Revelation 22:12 "Behold, I am coming soon! and, Revelation 22:20 "Yes, I am coming soon."
So, do you believe the Bible? Is Jesus coming soon? Can we set a date? No, we can't do that. But He's coming soon to take us home. Jesus is coming soon to put an end to sin and suffering. He's coming soon to rescue His people from the terrible conditions of the last days and from this world. How do we know Jesus is coming soon? The signs! There are signs of His coming! We are now experiencing the events that were long predicted. Just before Jesus comes there will be such a scenario of developments that are called Signs or Warnings to all believers that the end of the world is nigh, is close at hand. I want to list several of these.
The first sign I'd like to mention is WARS .
Matthew 24:7 "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." In the last days there are going to be wars. In other words, there won't be peace. Have we always had wars? Sure. And they're going to continue until the very last moment.
Did you know that "North Korea is developing ballistic missiles that can be armed with an atomic war-head capable of striking the U.S. Mainland from North Korea." 1 Does that concern you? You might say, "It can probably reach the hurricane state, the sunshine state." If it could reach Florida, it could reach Chattanooga. Would it be aimed at Ooltewah? These are possible scenarios for the last days. Now, I doubt if they would use an atomic bomb against the United States because we might strike their land, but I'll tell you who would use it. I think terrorists would. If they could get a hold of an atomic bomb, don't you think they'd love to use it on Washington DC or New York or Los Angeles or some place like that. Terrorists would be happy to have such a thing. And they're out there, these bombs are.
Come to Zephaniah in your Bible. Fighting will be widespread in the last days. Zephaniah 1:14, 15 "The great day of the Lord is near-- near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin..." It's going to be a bad day, lots of trouble. And, Luke 21:26 says, Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Here the Bible is predicting terrorism, fright fear, terror, panic, woe, distress and trouble. These things are coming. Terrorists indeed are raising havoc. Did you know that sixty-two percent of Americans think a major terrorist strike is likely in the twelve months. Do you feel that way, sort of? We don't know where it will be. We do know that global terrorists are near to obtaining nuclear bombs.2
In the presidential candidate debate (9-30-04) between Bush and Kerry both men said their greatest concern was nuclear proliferation. I other words, atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs in the hands of the wrong people, people that might hate us, people that are out to get us. Americans are now fearful of what Al Qaida and other terrorists might do next. There are now 19 major wars in progress in our world right now.3 Of course, nearly 1 million people commit suicide every year in this world, which is a death toll higher that of murder and war combined.4
So, it's a bad age, we're living in a mess. The New York City Police Department for instance. Just the police department of New York City has an annual budget of 3.3 billion dollars. Do you have any idea how much money that is? Just the police department in New York City as an annual budget is larger than that of all but 19 of the world's standing armies.5 People are wondering if World War Three is already in progress. It's going to be a different war, they think, a unique war fought against an elusive, religiously motivated terrorist.
You remember the 2004 Olympics. Did you know that the security personnel in Athens outnumbered the athletes by a ratio of 7 to 1?6 The world is a dangerous place.
Come over here to 2 Timothy in your Bible. I hope you all look these verses up in your Bible. 2 Timothy 3:1-3. But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal . . . It goes on and on. But the first sentence says the times will be terrible. Terrible times in the last days. You would think that after nearly 6000 years of living here in this old world that by our great intelligence and reason and technology that we would be living in the best times ever, that everything would just be perfect. Since creation, that human beings would have it all figured out. We would be living in a utopian society where everybody is at peace with everybody else, that times are easy. But the Bible accurately forecasts that the last days will be terrible times. Apparently evolution doesn't work, because life is getting worse. That ought to tell you something about evolution.
The second sign I'd like to mention is about CATASTROPHES.
Matthew 24:7, the last part now. . . . There will be famines and earthquakes. Natural calamities in the last days. We talked about that last week. We talked about the disasters, and all this includes famines, floods, earthquakes, volcanos, tidal waves and asteroids. These things are coming. Some of the asteroids will actually hit. So we talked about that last week.
Point 3 is. PERSECUTION
This is found in Matthew 24:9 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. All around the world, all nations are going to hate Christians. True Christians will be hated. So, that's persecution. The Bible says, "you will be handed over to be persecuted."
Now, I looked up in my dictionary, and my dictionary defines this unique word as: "Oppression with injury for adherence to religious faith." Persecution is brought on by people that are religious. Wouldn't that seem odd that religious people would be the persecutors? Someone said: "We slit each others throats because we cannot agree on where we go once our throats are slit." Well, that's about right. We have theological differences, and therefore we go out and murder each other. Isn't that weird? Then Bible doesn't command that. In my observation, though, the majority of the persecution in this world comes from people who are in bad religion.
Are Christians being Persecuted today? Now, you may say, "Nobody is really being killed today." But did you know that earlier this year, 2004, over 1000 Christian churches in just one Province of China have been shut down by the government. Their Christian leaders have been jailed. In Rwanda almost 100,000 SDA's have been killed in the genocide of the last 15 years. Our conference president lost his wife and 9 other family members. It's hitting us! Luke 21:12. "But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons..." That's taking place today.
In Sudan, Christians regularly risk their lives and many have been reduced to slaves by just going into the church. Many Seventh-day Adventists have been reduced to slaves in some of these countries. Newly baptized members quite easily turn up missing never to be heard from again because their family didn't like it that they were baptized. Some are shot, beheaded and buried in mass graves. In some areas of the world Christian Churches are being bulldozed by the hundreds, and you hear about those reports. Today there is not one visible Christian Church in Saudi Arabia. Dictatorship is returning in Armenia where over a million Christians were slaughtered. Even Russia faces near dictatorship, many are fearing. Adventists in Azerbaijan are being threatened with death if we fail to stop all religious activity in the area.7
"Today approximately 160,000 Christians are killed every year because of their beliefs."8
Is persecution going on? You bet it is! Is the bible prediction being fulfilled? It is! It's being fulfilled.
It appears that some Moslems have an agenda to obliterate Christianity. Could this be a return to the Crusades? If present trends continue, Islam will be the second largest religion here in the United States in 15 years. Think about that. There are over 3000 mosques in America today. Mosques here are growing here at a rate of 4-5 every week!9 That's a lot.
Point number four: WHOLESALE APOSTASY
There will be wholesale apostasy in the last days. Matthew 24:10. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other. There's going to be apostasy, wide-spread apostasy in the last days.
There will be many, many backsliders. Christian churches becoming empty. Is this happening? Well, I believe it is. The world is becoming more and more secularized. In Europe only 24% of its 725 million people ever darken the door of a Christian church.10. Twenty-four percent! Thousands of churches are empty or abandoned and have been turned into shops, antique stores, bars or night clubs. Luke 18:8. "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" There are going to be a lot of apostasies.
Over the past few years there has been a mass exodus of Asians from East Africa into Europe. Today England is home for well over one million Asian immigrants, of whom almost 800,000 are Hindus. In 1960 London had one mosque. Today the Muslims claim they have over 600 mosques. By the way, 30 years ago there was one Mosque in Bethlehem, today there are 89. How many Christian churches do we have in Bethlehem? Hardly any. People are beginning to think that we are entering the Post- Christian age because of all the apostasy.
In Europe Hinduism is thriving. Empty church buildings are converted into temples. Carey Hall, Remember William Carey that famous missionary? The large Baptist church named after him and it's called Cary Hall. Cary Hall is now Leicester's largest Hindu temple there in England.
Why are so many apostatizing? Because of the wickedness of the last days. Because of the religious hatred. Because of persecution. Matthew 24:12 says, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." Their love for God will die away. Here is a Question for you: What is 750,000 miles long, reaches around the earth 30 times, and grows 20 miles longer each day? What would that be? Answer: The line of people who don't know Jesus Christ in this world.11 It lines up one against the other, tight. That's phenomenal! 750,000 miles long! Around the world thirty times! Growing at 20 miles a day. We're not reaching them! And more and more are apostatizing
We know that the gospel will be preached to the world. Matthew 24:14. "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a witness to all nations; and then the end will come." What it does not say is that 100% will rush to the baptistry and give their hearts forever to Jesus. That would be wonderful. The gospel will be preached in all the world, but in actuality not all will be converted. It will not happen. Many will refuse, and others fall away. In Jesus day there was apostasy.
I wonder what Jesus would think today if He walked the streets of America, and He looked at some of the goings on around here. We are slowly enacting laws to negate God's ten commandments. We don't even allow the Ten Commandments to be put up in public places. The devil hates the two institutions that were founded in the Garden of Eden. One was the Sabbath and the other is Christian marriage. Satan hates those two things. He wants to destroy us all. If he can destroy the family he can destroy this Nation. Just as the evils associated with same sex marriages testify to the evil located within the Devils heart, just so the benefits of Christian marriage testify to the goodness in God's heart.
Matthew 15:6 "Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition."
We are legalizing same-sex marriages. They are becoming more and more legalized. One by one more and more states are joining in the call promoting such things. Even some so called Christian churches these types of marriages are legal and looked upon with joy, and participated in. Shame on a Christian church that is involved in such an iniquitous effort. It could be possible for churches that defy future laws passed by the states by not performing gay marriages in their churches will lose their tax exemption if its ministers refuse to perform such ceremonies. We've got a strange day and age going on. I think that when the church participates in sinful activities that everybody can see that it is evil, God just might send Jesus to tie the ribbons on this experiment called sin. I think we are living in the last days.
Point number 5. ESCALATING KNOWLEDGE
Daniel 12:4 says, But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll, until the time of the end. Many shall go here and there to increase knowledge. You don't have any idea how much information we possess. If we would just take new information (nothing already in print), just the new information, just the new data that is created in just one year on paper, the web and on film, it would fill 500,000 Library of Congresses.12< 500,000 Libraries of Congress would be filled with the new information that comes in just twelve months. That's how much new information we're getting now. Knowledge is increasing at a breakneck speed. Is your knowledge about Jesus increasing at a breakneck speed? Are you getting closer to Jesus than you've ever been? Is His truth expanding in your heart and your church? Are you personally reading your Bible? Seventh-day Adventists ought to be among the finest Bible students in the whole world. We ought to be studying our Bibles as never before.
Point number six. POOR NATIONS CATCH UP
Joel 3:10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, I am strong. And here I think Joel is predicting that in the last days backward nations take to the forge and beat the iron into swords. Weak nations will become strong. Look at China and India. The 1.3 Billion Chinese and the 1.1 Billion Indians are swinging their hammers and producing more and more of the worlds durable goods. They are beginning to own automobiles and pave roads. They are now demanding and consuming more and more products, and more and more oil and gasoline. As consumption and depletion rates accelerate the price of oil could easily reach $200 per barrel.13 We haven't seen anything yet. Imagine, if over 2 billion people in China and India someday put out pollution at the same rate we do here in America, what the air will be like. You'll be tryiing the breath in the next few years.
We love a live of ease. 2 Timothy 3:2-4 says that . . . in the last days people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure. But our easy lifestyle is fast grinding to a halt. We Americans don't really know what hard times are. We get all bent out of shape if the electricity goes of for ten seconds and we have to go reset all of those eighteen electronic devices around the house. That really bothers us. We need to be thankful we have eighteen electronic devices around the house. We get all upset when we have to wait behind a car when the light has been green for two or three seconds. We get upset about that! "What's wrong with that person?" Be thankful you have a car and that you have gas in it.
We even get all upset when we hear a baby cry in church. People talk with me about that. Now, let's be thankful we have babies. Do you know that in Haiti and Somalia babies cry because they are dying from a lack of food. In Florida babies cry because everything has been blown away. Be thankful we have a mother's room, and mothers that are willing to use the mother's room. But let's be thankful the babies are here. We really don't know what hard times are. When hard times come, we'll be crying about some big things.
As we cogitate on these signs, the times dictate that we meditate on Jesus. While many Christians vegetate the wicked imitate Satan. Our Potentate will soon come and devastate all who hesitate to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Rotate from your sinful life and turn fully to Jesus.
Romans 13:11, 12. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
1. The Week, 8/20/04, p. 9.
2. Ibid, 4/23/04, p. 4.
3. Associated Press, 9/2004.
4. The Week, 9/24/04, p. 18.
5. Ibid., 9/10/04, p. 18.
6. Ibid., 8/23/04, p. 18
7. Waymarks, published by the Southern Union, March/April, 2004 p.3.
8. World Christian Encyclopedia, NY, Oxford University Press, 2003
9. How Islam Plans to Change the world, William Wagner p 72.
10. Brad Thorp, Hope Channel
11. Pulpit Helps
12. San Jose Mercury-News, quoted in The Week, March 5, 2004.
13. Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb 2004 p. 64.
Hymn of Praise: #212, 'Tis Almost Time for the Lord to Come Scripture: Luke 21:25-28 Hymn of Response: #200, The Lord is Coming 041002#561
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last updated October 4, 2004 by Bob Beckett.