Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
30 August 2020
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
Testimony of Horatio Spafford who wrote the hymn below:
Spafford was the son of Gazetteer author Horatio Gates Spafford and Elizabeth Clark Hewitt Spafford. On September 5, 1861 he married Anna Larsen of Stavanger, Norway in Chicago. Spafford was a lawyer and a senior partner in a large law firm. The Spaffords were supporters and friends of evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Spafford invested in real estate north of Chicago in the spring of 1871. In October 1871, the Great Fire of Chicago reduced the city to ashes, destroying most of Spafford’s investment. Two years after the devastation of the Great Chicago Fire the family planned a trip to Europe. Late business demands (zoning issues arising from the Fire) kept Spafford from joining his wife and four daughters on a family vacation in England where his friend D. L. Moody would be preaching. On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel killing 226 people, including all of Spafford’s daughters. His wife, Anna, survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford that read “Saved alone.” As Spafford sailed to England to join his wife, he wrote “It is well with my soul.”
And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.Matt. 24:31-35
The Son of Man has been enthroned as King and given all authority in heaven and on earth. Now He sets out to gather the subjects of His Kingdom, to gather the elect as they are referred to in this verse. Again, “gathering” is a theme that recurs frequently in the OT, e.g. as far back as Deuteronomy 30:4: “Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back” (cf. Psalm 147:2). In Isaiah we even have reference to the trumpet blast echoed here in Matthew 24:31:
In that day the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.Isaiah 27:12-13
These were, in their original context, referring to the scattered people of Israel, although there are prophecies also about gathering all nations. Jesus has now widened out that mission and the chosen people of God now include the Gentiles also, the elect of the Son of Man. E.g. seen when Jesus was marvelling at the faith of the centurion (a Gentile): “When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those following Him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (Matt. 8:10). Jesus continues by teaching that all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile, are now children of Abraham:
I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’.Matt. 8:11-12
And see how this develops with the faith of another centurion in Acts 10:1-11 and Acts 10:18. The Jews took real exception to such teaching from Jesus (e.g. Luke 4:24-30), especially when he added to it the ultimate fate: “the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (to a Jewish mind such was reserved mainly for Gentiles with maybe a few reprobate Jews who had not lived worthy lives). “Thus belonging to the kingdom of heaven is found to depend not on ancestry but on faith” (R.T. France). Jesus, has been given all authority in heaven and on earth and on that basis sends out His disciples to gather His elect from all nations:
Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And, surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age’.Matthew 28:18-20
“Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree”
Again, Jesus is pointing to a certain time-scale when He focusses the disciples attention on the fig tree:
“the most prominent deciduous tree in Palestine, and one whose summer fruit was eagerly awaited”
“Most of Palestine’s trees are evergreen. But two trees lose leaves in the winter’s rainy season, the almond and the fig tree. The almond’s leaves return in early Spring, while the figs return in late spring, and so the fig tree serves as the ideal announcement of summer’s real imminence”
They knew that “as soon as its twigs become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near” (Matt. 24:32). Applying this to the events Jesus has been speaking about: “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door” (Matt. 24:33). The phrase used here in Matt 24:33: “when you see” is the same as that used in
So when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation,” spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand –.Matt 24:15
In the same way that they know that summer is near by the leaves coming out on the fig-tree, so they will know that the end of the temple is near by the signs He has given them.
“This generation will not pass away”
Jesus has used the word “generation” frequently in this gospel and it always refers to His contemporaries, and often in a context of God’s impending judgment e.g. “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the market-places and calling out to others: ‘We played the pipe for you, you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’” (Matt. 11:16-17 and see Matt 11:20-24; also Matthew 12:38-45; 16:4; 17:17) and Matt 23:36-38: “Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation. ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.” These last verses quoted linking in the same time scale “this generation” with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which took place some 40 years later when many of these contemporaries of Jesus would still be alive. Those who regard “these things” as relating to the ‘’parousia” have great difficulty in explaining how the phrase “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” fits in nearly 2,000 years later!
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” – similar words have occurred frequently in the OT to emphasise the permanence of God ‘s covenant faithfulness to Israel e.g.
This is what the Lord says, He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord Almighty is His name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will Israel ever cease being a nation before me’.Jer. 31:35-36
Here Jesus strongly emphasises that His words are permanently valid and coupled with His “Truly I tell you” (in Jer 31:34) He is backing up these solemn pronouncements with His own personal authority, meaning that they are sure and certain to take place.
Next week we will begin to look at the following section: Matthew 24:36-25:46. Let’s compare what we have looked at so far. It all begins with the disciples remark about the splendour of the temple and Jesus’ response to this: “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another” (Matt 24:2). The disciples then ask: “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The disciples might have thought these were all going to happen at the same time but Jesus in His answer makes it clear that they are not and deals with them separately,
- “When will the temple be destroyed?” (Matt. 24:4-35)
- “What will be the sign of your Parousia (Second Coming) and of the End of the Age?” Matt. 24:36-25:46).
Note how Jesus begins this first section: “Watch out that no-one deceives you … You will hear … see to it that you … Then you will be handed over … you will be hated … So when you see standing in the holy place … Pray that your flight” etc. (Matt 24:4, 6, 9, 15, 20). It is directed to His disciples even to the point that Jesus finishes this section by stating: “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that itis near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matt. 24:33-34) and there is an absolute certainty about this time: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35). However, regarding His Second Coming (‘parousia’) and the end of the age there is not a certainty about the time: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36). Here Jesus is speaking about “that day or hour” and stating it is unknown even to Him. Yet in the first section we see Him referring to “those days” linked to time indicators:
- “the end (of the temple) is still to come” (Matt 24:6);
- “these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matt 24:8);
- “then the end will come” (Matt 24:14)
- “So when you see” (Matt 24:15);
- “then..” (Matt 24:16);
- “in those days” (Matt 24:19);
- “then” (Matt 24:21);
- “those days” … “those days” (Matt 24:22);
- “At that time …” (Matt 24:23);
- “See I have told you in advance” (Matt 24:25);
- “Immediately after” … (Matt 24:29);
- “Then … then … when …” (Matt 24:30);
- “when you see … it is near, right at the door” (Matt 24:33);
- “this generation will certainly not pass way until all these things have happened” (Matt 24:34).
Quote of the Week
Hearts on earth say in the course of a joyful experience, “I don’t want this ever to end.” But it invariably does. The hearts of those in heaven say, “I want this to go on forever.” And it will. There is no better news than this.
Verse of the Week
Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.Revelation 22:12-13
Heavenly Father, we thank You for all those things You have revealed to us, especially regarding Your Son Jesus Christ. We thank You for the gift of Your Spirit who enables us to follow Him. We thank You also for all those things we don’t yet know, for we still see only a reflection as through a mirror. Father, we look forward to the day when we shall see You face to face and know not in part, but fully. Lord we don’t know when You will return but we ask You that You continue to enable us to live lives that are holy and godly. Let us Your people make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with You as we await the new heaven and new earth, the home of righteousness, in Jesus Christ, Amen!