20 September: “The End Times” … and your response?

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
20 September 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.

Testimony

(Thanks Harry – please continue to send in testimonies)

These last couple of weeks I’ve started distributing the second Brochure; I wear gloves and a mask and sanitise after completing each street. I ask the Lord which streets today as we don’t have enough to cover everywhere. On Tuesday I felt the Lord laying on my heart to go to Waterside Mill and Jack Lee Mill. Prior to going I suddenly remembered I needed to pop into town for something for Mandy. Finally, as I got out of my car and walked towards the flats a young boy called me. He was with his Mum and just returning home from school. He was now going to Tytherington High School, but previously went to Puss- Bank Primary School and remembered me from taking assemblies there. I gave him a brochure. Please pray for Robert and his Mum. It so felt like a divine appointment, God’s perfect timing.

Worship

(Thanks Harry – please keep sending in your song requests and any prayer requests)

Words and Music by Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood
© 2016 Hillsong Music Publishing. CCLI Song No. 7068424

Word

We have spent quite a few weeks on these chapters in Matthew 24 and 25 and it will be good to draw things to a close on this for the time being. Last week we looked at what can be learned about Jesus Second Coming from the days of Noah (Matt 24:37),

  1. Life goes on as normal;
  2. It may be a long time;
  3. We need to be ready.

This week we will draw out some salient points in the last two parables and Jesus account of the sheep and the goats.

(1) Does the Lord know you?

In “The parable of the ten virgins” (Matt 25:1-13), as it is entitled in the NIV, Jesus is emphasising again, the need to be ready despite there being a long delay before the Bridegroom appears. Interestingly, both sets of girls fell asleep, and yes we all need our sleep, God has made us that way. The key teaching here though, is in the Bridegroom’s response to the girls who were locked out having been caught unprepared: “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’” (Matt. 25:12). Does the Lord know you? Do you know the Lord? Are you part of His family: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:50). The word “know” here means much more than acquaintance or recognition, rather denotes a special relationship, a close, intimate relationship based on the relationship of the Father and the Son: “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).

(2) Fervour and Enthusiasm

In the second parable, “The parable of servants entrusted with a lot of money” (Matt 25:14-30), note the fervour and enthusiasm of the first servant: “The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more” (Matt. 25:16). We are exhorted: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11). I remember hearing of one of God’s saints being criticised for his enthusiasm (I think it may have been John Wesley who was criticised), that is for his excessive religious zeal, which was the original [derogatory] meaning of enthusiasm – how interesting for the original word is made up of two words, ‘en theos’ meaning – in God;  – possessed by God; – inspired. What the world criticises as OTT God commends with: “Well done good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of the Lord” (Matt. 25:21).

(3) Take a risk for Jesus

‘His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?” (Matt. 25:26) – the word for ‘lazy’ here means “one who hesitates or holds back, from fear or uncertainty. Here it is usually translated “lazy,” but the sense is not that the slave couldn’t be bothered, but that he was too timid to take a risk with his master’s money” (France). His attitude represents “a religion concerned only with not doing anything wrong” (Schweizer). It certainly brings out the fact that God expects a return from His disciples and will not be fobbed off by lame excuses. On the other hand, He abundantly rewards those who have been faithful:

Peter answered Him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life’

Matt. 19:27-29

(4) The Final Judgment (Matt 25:31-46)

OT passages depict God as judge but the NT refines this to describe judgment by the Son of Man:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.

Matt. 25:31-33

cf. I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial (Joel 3:2). 

The basis of the judgment is on what they have or haven’t done in their lifetime:

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”‘ Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?” ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.

Matt. 25:34-40

This reminds us of Jesus’ initial words to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). What Saul was doing to Jesus’ Church, was counted as if he was doing it to Jesus Himself! It is the same here: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me(Matt. 25:40). cf. Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.” Jesus often referred to His disciples as “these little ones” (Matt 10:42; 18:6, 10, 14) and as His “brothers and sisters” (Matt 12:50; 28:10). He is present where His people come together in His name (Matt 18:20) and “their experiences are His experiences, and what is done to them is done to Him” (France). Such is reinforced in Matthew 10:40-42:

Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.

Matt 10:40-42

Ultimately it is from the root of faith that these good deeds spring: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). The exact opposite is true for the ‘goats’ on the left – to the righteous: “come”; “you who are blessed”; “take your inheritance, the kingdom”; to the unrighteous: “depart”; “you who are cursed”; “into the eternal fire.”

(5) Eternal Punishment

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels … ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Matt. 25:41,46

I have always believed, based especially on these Scriptures, that the punishment of the unrighteous was to be for ever. However, I am now reconsidering this in the light of R. T. France’s teaching:

Fire has been a repeated image for ultimate judgment (Matt 3:10, 12; 5:22; 7:19; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8, 9) … In the debate among evangelical theologians on the issue of annihilation as against continuing punishment, the phrase “eternal punishment” here in Matthew 25:46 is commonly cited as a proof-text for the latter position. But this is usually on the assumption that “eternal” [‘aionios’] is a synonym for “everlasting.” That assumption depends more on modern English usage than on the meaning of ‘aionios’, which we have seen relates to the concept of the two ages … “Eternal punishment,” so understood, is punishment which relates to the age to come, rather than punishment which continues forever, so that the term does not in itself favour one side or other in the annihilationist debate. Insofar as the metaphor of fire may be pressed, however, it suggests destruction rather than punishment.

R. T. France – “The Gospel of Matthew“ – NICNT – p. 967

To summarise

We have gone with the interpretation of Chapters 24 and 25 on this basis that Matthew 24:4-35 is Jesus answer to the disciples first question: “When will this happen?” relating to the destruction of the Temple and the end of the old order. From Matthew 24:36-25:46 Jesus is answering their second question regarding His Second Coming and the end of the age. Probably the greatest difficulty in accepting this is presented by Matthew 24:30: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” which we take as referring to Jesus’ second coming.

However, this passage has a clear link to Daniel 7:13-14: “‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” The same passage in Daniel is alluded to a number of times by Jesus, as recorded in Matthew, e.g. when Jesus was on trial and being questioned by the High Priest:

But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’You have said so,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven”.

Matt. 26:63-64

Again, we have a time frame “from now on” = following His death and resurrection, the Son of Man, coming on the clouds of heaven, but not to earth, but as it states in Daniel, into the presence of God, the Ancient of Days there to be vindicated, enthroned and given all authority in heaven and on earth so that by the time He appears to His disciples He is able to say to them: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”  (Matt. 28:18) which wasn’t the case before His death and resurrection as Satan had authority over the kingdoms of this world, following the fall of Adam:

The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only”

Luke 4:5-8

but Christ through His death, resurrection and enthronement has taken it all back, Amen! 

Quote of the Week

“His authority on earth allows us to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success. And His Presence with us leaves us no other choice”

John Stott

Verse of the Week

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Phil. 2:9-11

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, glorify the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, in the nations of the world, for You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him. Father, protect Your Church, from the evil one, by the power of Your Name so that we may be one as You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. Lord that we, Your Church, may have the full measure of Your joy within us and that You may sanctify us by Your word, the truth.

Father, we pray for all those who will come to believe in You that they may also be one and within You. Father, fill us to overflowing with Your love, Your power and Your Holy Spirit, that the world might know and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, Amen!