2 August: The end is coming … but when?

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
2 August 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

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Welcome

Well, we went back to Bethel last Sunday 26th July 2020 and in the restricted circumstances, due to Covid-19, had an enjoyable and blessed time together in the Lord’s Presence. There were 23 of us, including several visitors. Although we weren’t allowed to sing we played three songs on Youtube and meditated on the words. Afterwards we all had a time of fellowship in the car park observing social distancing rules. By the grace of God and the hard work, we had got the building cleaned and measures put in place to make it as safe as we possibly could. Praise the Lord also, that the lounge was still dry with there being no evidence of leaks for over a month now since Rick repaired it. Once again, a big thank you to Rick and his team who carried out the necessary repairs.

Testimony

Thanks Wendy:

“I have had some dark days during lockdown and my Macmillan Cancer Support Nurse was concerned over my health. I was so missing Church and being with you all. When I go to Church I feel the Lord’s Presence and He fills me afresh with His peace. I come home from Church and I am at peace. I have really missed this. Yes, the Lord has been with me because He is always with us, but there is something special about being in His Presence at Church. I’m looking forward to coming again next week.”

Amen Wendy and thanks again!

Worship

(Thanks Wendy)

Word

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’

Matthew 24:3

We will be looking at the End-Times over the next few weeks. Jesus’ frequently referred to the End-times and His second coming:

“Jesus lived and taught with the end of the world constantly on His mental horizon – He was ‘eschatological’  or adventist  to His core”
(Bruner).

We see this also in the Gospels, the epistles, and of course the Book of Revelation – there was that expectancy amongst His followers of His (even soon) return.

Any mention of the End-times can possibly make us a bit nervous, or wary, following dubious teachings and claims throughout Church History. Jesus Himself warns us right at the outset of His detailed teaching of the End-times in Matthew 24:

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah’ and will deceive many”

Matt 24:4-5, see also Matt 24:11,23-25”

Also, it is remarkable, despite the clear teaching of Jesus, that no-one, except the Father, knows when that day or hour is, yet so many have repeatedly tried to fix a date for it, with little in the way of apology and repentance, when, yet again, they get it wrong:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Matthew 24:36-42

This in no way takes away from the full divinity of the Son:

“I and the Father are one”

John 10:30

Rather, for the purposes of Redemption, the Son lived in a subordinate role to His Father in heaven:

“the Father is greater than I.”

John 14:28

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Matt 11:27

Imagine, that in an army, 3 men have exactly the same qualifications, are equal in capability, yet for the efficient running of that army they must take up the different roles assigned them, of Major General, Colonel, and Captain.

For the period of His incarnation certain divine attributes (in this case omniscience) were voluntarily put aside, to be restored after His ascension:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs.

Hebrews 1:1-4

Rather than be put off by these things we need to study the Last things (‘Eschatology’) and as Jesus exhorts His disciples then, so He exhorts us now to: “watch” (Matt 24:4); “see to it that we are not alarmed” (Matt 24:6); “not turn away from the faith, or betray and hate each other” (Matt 24:10); “not allow our love for the Lord and one another to grow cold” (Matt 24:12); “stand firm to the end” (Matt 24:13); “testify” (Matt 24:14).

A healthy focus on the End-times can strengthen us spiritually. Here though, the disciples had their attention on the external temple (Matt 24:1) – [admittedly and “probably, the most awesome building in the ancient world” – Beasley-Murray], but Jesus knew what was going on inside it: “a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13; see also John 2:13-22). Jesus had already pronounced the end of the Temple as they knew it:

Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”.

Matt. 23:38-39

“The place which He had hoped to preserve as a house of prayer (Matt 21:13) has proved as fruitless as the fig tree which He has symbolically destroyed (Matt 21:18-20)”
(France).

Interestingly, He went away from the temple after this, to the Mount of Olives (Matt 24:1, 3) foreshadowed in the book of Ezekiel regarding the glory of God:

Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple … The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it [= the Mount of Olives]

Ezekiel 10:18; 11:23

Jesus had to shock the disciples to retune them into His thinking: “‘Do you see all these things?’ He asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every-one will be thrown down’” (Matt. 24:2; cf. Luke 19:44), and it worked: “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’” (Matt. 24:3). Jesus’ prophecy regarding the temple came to pass in 70 AD giving us confidence that all He also prophesied about the End-times will also come to pass!

The disciples question involves two aspects concerning the future

  1. The destruction of the temple which He has predicted: When will it be?  and
  2. Jesus coming (‘parousia’) and the end of the age: What will be the sign?

To understand Jesus’ answer to these questions I have followed R. T. France:

My understanding of the discourse … is that Matt 24:4-35 is concerned with the destruction of the temple, answering the question “When?” with a clear time-scale summed up in Matt 24:34, and that the second question about the Parousia comes into the frame only with the new beginning in Matt 24:36 (“but concerning …”), which, in contrast with what has gone before, speaks of a “day and hour” which no one can predict, not even Jesus Himself (who has just predicted quite specifically the time within which the temple will be destroyed).
(R. T. France –“The Gospel of Matthew” – NICNT). 

At first I struggled with some of his teaching but then found it all started to become clear.

The disciples, having been told that the temple will be destroyed, (which must be the most devastating event for a religious Jew to come to terms with), would naturally link this to the end of all things. Jesus, in answering their questions, is at pains to distinguish these two events.

“what will be the sign of your coming?” – the word for “coming” here is ‘parousia’ and was already established in Christian usage. The apostle Paul uses it frequently (1 Cor 15:23;  1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:1, 8) and see also James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4; 1 John 2:28. This is a very important word in the studies of the end-times and is only used 4 times in this Gospel (Matt 24:3, 27, 37, 39).

“the end of the age” – Jewish theology contrasts this life and the next. This age and the age to come is separated by the end of the age, the judgment:

“The ‘end of the age’ is a familiar Jewish expression for the crisis which was expected to bring the present world order to a close and to inaugurate ‘the age to come’”
(France).

As well as warning the disciples about not being deceived Jesus goes on to speak about things that might easily unsettle them and make them think that the End has come and cautions them accordingly: “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come (Matt 24:6 – cf. Psalm 46:6, 10). Again, regarding other cataclysmic events: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” (Matt. 24:7). He plays it all down: All these are the beginning of birth-pains (Matt. 24:8). Birth pains can sometimes go on longer than expected or desired!

To conclude this basic introduction to Matthew 24 it would seem that there is a balance here in which Jesus is teaching them about being alert to all that is going on in the world scene, and to watch and pray continually, but not to get carried away, because the end is not yet!

Verse of the Week

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

James 5:7-8

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus is not directly prophesied in Scripture, but I believe it foreshadows the end time plagues prophesied by Jesus (Luke 21:11) and in the book of Revelation e.g. Rev 6:8” .
Mark Hitchcock.

“Ever since the advent of the Bomb in the last century, the end of the world has become relevant again, even to unbelievers … the world has become apocalyptic in our time.”
F. D. Bruner.

Let’s Pray

Our loving heavenly Father we acknowledge that You are the Sovereign Lord, the One who is in control of all history. We thank You for the guidance that You have given us in Your word regarding the last days. Help us, Your church, to be ever faithful to You. Help us to discern the times and seasons. Protect us from error and false teachings. Lord build Your Church in these days.

Heavenly Father we pray for all people, that in this time of Covid-19 they may be more open to You, Your ways and Your word. For all those who are addicted to substances and alcohol, let there be a great setting free in these days.

We pray for wisdom for us here at Bethel to know who is the right Children and Families’ Worker of those we have already interviewed, or, if there is someone, else bring them to our attention,

in Jesus Christ’s Name and for His glory, Amen!