9 August: “But the end is not yet”

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
9 August 2020

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

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Start the video, then click the Settings button, then “Subtitles”, then “English”. This will display English transcript as Harry speaks. The occasional word will be displayed incorrectly (it is a machine translation), but the majority of words will be correct: it can be a helpful supplement.

Welcome

We first begun this Service @ Home on 22 March 2020, which is twenty weeks ago, the day before lockdown begun on Monday 23 March 2020. Please keep praying about the Children and Families’ Worker, the possibility of a Youth Worker, and the best time for them to begin.

Testimony

(Thanks Andrea)

Andrea shared at the Prayer Meeting for the Children and Families’ Worker on Tuesday that she woke up with this hymn (by Sydney Carter, illustrating life as a journey and calling upon God to be our companion and guide) on her heart. The line that was especially impressed upon her was: “from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with You” and she encourages us all individually, and as a church at Bethel, to be open to the new thing the Lord wants to do, Amen and thanks again Andrea. This is interesting as I had already chosen the verse of the week for this week about two weeks ago – see below. I am now going to add a Quote of the Week to fit in with it.

Worship

(Thanks Andrea)

Word

Reading Matt. 24:1-51.

“… but the end is not yet”

Matt. 24:6 NKJV

I’ve always been a late developer! I was the last to wear long trousers in my year, by at least 12 months (at the age of 15 – things were different in those days). It had its advantages though, as I always went home with muddy knees, and cuts and scrapes, through playing football during break-times and after school.

With regard to the study of the last things, Eschatology, again I feel like a late-developer. When I was at Bible College everyone seemed to speak with more ease than me about Post-Millennial, Pre-Millennial, A-Millennial; Pre-Tribulation; Mid-Tribulation; Post-Tribulation. For me it was something I needed to put time aside to study but which never seemed to happen. Even for my final year thesis on, yes, Eschatology, having left it till the very last minute to do it, I literally used the three week Easter vacation to stay at College and read every book I could get my hands on about the End-Times and managed, in a Zombie state, more confused than ever, to hand in my assignment just in time at the start of the summer term.

I feel uncomfortable in taking a heading and then trying to gather as many Scriptures together, even forcing Scriptures out of context, to fit that heading and to back up a certain way of thinking. Rather, let’s study Scriptures in their context and see what they have to contribute to our understanding of the subject, as here, the last things. It really doesn’t matter if someone is of this particular persuasion, or that particular persuasion, because when Jesus does finally return, He will take us all by surprise and leave us all saying, “I get it now, that’s what was meant by that particular verse“. So we should be comfortable listening to anyone’s point of view, prayerfully considering it, and then making up our own mind as to what we believe about the ‘Last Things’:

It is remarkable how often occurrences such as those mentioned in these verses are appealed to by those who are trying to work out a pattern for eschatological events, whereas in fact they are mentioned here precisely to discourage such speculation and to assert that the events  described are not part of the eschatological scenario, but rather routine events within world history which must not be given more weight than they deserve. Each generation has its share of political and natural disasters, and each is tempted to think that its own  experiences are somehow worse and of more ultimate significance than the sufferings of other generations, but “it is not yet the end”; at the most such events can be seen as “the beginning of labour pains” but the period from the first labour pains to childbirth may be short or long.

R. T. France on Matt. 24

For the sake of interpreting Jesus’ teaching here, in Matthew 24, let’s go with R. T. France: In Matt 24:4-35, Jesus is answering the first part of the disciples’ question: ‘when will this happen? (Matt. 24:3) i.e. when will the temple be destroyed?

When?

So it’s not a surprise to see that Jesus’ answer is accordingly …

structured around a series of time indicators which lead up to the climax of the destruction of the temple within the current generation. This is in sharp contrast to the new section which will begin in Matt 24:36, and which will answer the second half of the disciples’ question: “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3). “In this second section there are no specific time indicators and indeed the starting point for the whole section is that the day and hour of His coming (‘parousia’) cannot be predicted, and that it will come without any “sign” or prior warning, so that one must always be ready for it. Thus one event (the destruction of the temple) falls within defined and predictable history, and those who know what to look for can see it coming, while the other (the ‘parousia’) cannot be tied down to a time frame, and even Jesus does not know when it will be and so will offer no ‘sign’.

R. T. France

“The end is not yet” (Matt 24:4-8)

We have already looked at “deception” (Matt 24:4-5) and “wars and rumours of wars” (Matt 24:6-7) and Jesus response: “such things must happen but the end is still to come” (Matt 24:6). Likewise as He adds “famines and earthquakes in various places” to the list, He emphasizes that: “All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matt 24:8). The ‘end’ here spoken of (‘telosnotsuntelaia’ – used in Matt 24:3 for ‘the end of the age’) refers to the end of ‘the old order,’ the temple, and is a word used more generally e.g. “But Peter followed Him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome (‘telos’)” (Matt. 26:58).

To those stuck under the Old Covenant, the end of the temple means the departure of God’s presence, the end of atoning sacrifices, and the cessation of corporate worship. However, what they don’t realise is that all these are now fulfilled in Jesus, even corporate worship: “Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth’” (John 4:21-24). And the only way anyone is going to get the Holy Spirit in their lives is to: “Believe on the Lord Jesus!” (cf. Rom. 8:9).

Deception, famines, earthquakes, wars, and rumours of wars have happened throughout history: “In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites” (2 Sam. 11:1), and will continue to do so.

“Standing firm in difficult times” (Matt 24:9-14)

Interestingly, the same word for “handed over” in Matt 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” was used for John the Baptist and Jesus Himself, and already for the disciples (Matt 10:17), and here again for those Jesus is speaking to: “Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues” (Matt. 10:17). Again, Jesus is teaching that this will continue and will result in many turning away from the faith, before the destruction of the temple.

Matt 24:14 comes as a refreshing change amidst these dark times: “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.

The same phrase (in Greek) is used  to refer:

  1. to the whole of the Roman Empire: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world” (Luke 2:1);
  2. to the extent of the famine: “One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)” (Acts 11:28); and
  3. the extent of Artemis worship: “There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshipped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty” (Acts 19:27).

Let’s note also, Paul’s claims as in for example: “the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace” (Col. 1:6); “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant” (Col. 1:23); “my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ … is manifested, and by the Scriptures … according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith“ (Rom. 16:26); cf. Rom. 10:18: “But I ask: did they not hear? Of course they did: ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world’. To a Jewish mindset, the gospel will go far outside its former boundaries: “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6).

“Unless one insists on a woodenly literal meaning for the phrase, the good news of God’s kingdom was indeed being proclaimed ‘all over the world’”

(France)

Amen.

Quote of the Week

“Today, I believe the Lord would say to His people, “BEHOLD! I am doing a new thing.” He is calling us to come up and out of the ordinary and rise above our limits. He is asking us to SEE and RESPOND to His hand of preparation and purpose in our lives and in the Church – His Bride …

Are you expecting God to do a new thing in your life? That may seem overwhelming when you consider your present circumstances but take courage – the Bible declares that God has made a way, carved a road to lead you and positioned rivers of provision to refresh you”

(B. Houston).

Verse of the Week

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”

Isaiah 43:18-19

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, Your ways are exciting ways. You are the One who tells Your people, Your Church, to forget the former things and do not dwell on the past, because You are doing a new thing. Lord, You want us to perceive it as it springs up, so help us to. Lord You are truly making a way in the wilderness, and spiritual streams in the barren desert places. Father, help us to see it and not to fear it, but to walk with You in and through it. Lord, we look forward to the new heavens and the new earth to come, the home of righteousness.

But while we are still here on earth, help us, Your Church, to continue to share this extraordinary good news, in word, thought and deed. Father, we ask that many, in the last moments of their lives, here on earth, would like the man on the cross next to You, repent and believe in You, and hear You tell them, “Today You will be with me in Paradise!” But Lord, we pray that many, many, more will find You early in their lives so that they can spend quality time here on earth serving you as part of Your Church. Lord, pray continue to build Your Church and let not the gates of hell prevail against it.

Lord, Your kingdom come, Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven, in the power of Your Holy Spirit, in and through Your precious Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.