Dr. Craig fields questions from Australia, Iran, and the U.S.
KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, are you ready for some questions? Because we have them. Let’s look at some questions from all over the world. We will start here at random with Joel in the USA. He says,
Hi, Dr. Craig. I recently listened to your podcast about whether or not your Christology is orthodox, and I greatly enjoyed it. I think the view makes a lot of sense, and I am troubled by how many people have considered it heretical when it is clearly historically orthodox. I did have a question about it though. Most theologians believe God is genderless, but if that is true doesn’t that mean a genderless spirit was inhabiting a male body in the incarnation? That seems potentially problematic from an ontological perspective as humans are, of course, male or female. What are your thoughts on the matter?
DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: I am inclined to think that because the Genesis narrative says that God made man in his image –male and female he created them– that men and women alike are created in God’s image and that, therefore, God includes in himself the properties that go to make up masculinity and femininity. Therefore, it is not that Jesus would be genderless. He would be a man – he would have a male body – and included in the divinity are the properties that go to make up masculinity that would be represented in him.
KEVIN HARRIS: A question from Will in Australia.
In your article, What Was Herod Thinking?, you say it is blindingly obvious that Herod didn’t mean to say that Jesus was literally a revivified John because Jesus and John were contemporaries. Is it so obvious? Couldn’t one suppose that Herod wasn’t very well informed in this matter?
DR. CRAIG: Since he’s got more than one question, let’s take them one at a time. It is obvious because John and Jesus were about the same age, and Herod certainly knew that Jesus was a person who was having a ministry in Judea at this time and that John the Baptist was doing the same thing. It is not as though one man was from one generation and the other man from a later generation after the first had died. They were about the same age and therefore clearly contemporaries.
Secondly, you make a clear distinction between revivification and resurrection. That is fair. However, couldn’t Jesus’ disciples have believed he was revivified initially and the claim have been heightened later, sort of like arguments made about the people’s view of Jesus becoming more exalted over time?
DR. CRAIG: I think this is implausible.If Jesus were simply revivified in the way that Lazarus was (a return to the earthly mortal life but would die again) then his resurrection from the dead would not have the theological import that the earliest Christians attributed to it. There is no evidence that early Christians considered Jesus to be anything less than raised to glory, immortality, eternal life, and thereby was vindicated in his messianic claims. So the earliest sources we have which are in Paul would, I think, say that right from the beginning the disciples were proclaiming that Jesus was raised from the dead in the proper Jewish sense of that word.
Lastly, and I am sorry you may have addressed this elsewhere but, how is the reliability of the disciples’ timidity prior to the resurrection appearances established historically? Yes, it is fair to assume that they would have been timid, maybe terrified, but if the Synoptics were written from a shared source and John was aware of them at the time of writing his Gospel, couldn’t a skeptic suggest that this was all part of an early Christian apologetic established only by one independent source? Or does this defame the apostles too much to be a fabrication?
Could the Gospel writers have wanted to defame the apostles?
DR. CRAIG: I would say that this is not only independently attested by multiple witnesses, such as John and the Synoptics as well as multiple sources within the Gospels themselves, but the criterion of embarrassment (which is what he refers to in defaming the apostles) would be a very powerful reason for thinking that in fact the disciples upon Jesus’ crucifixion were afraid and cowering. There wouldn’t be any reason for the Gospels to invent stories like the apostasy of Peter or the women disciples being courageous and observing the crucifixion and the burial and the empty tomb and the disciples cowering in fear unless this were in fact the case. I think there is a sort of, as he says, verisimilitude to these narratives as well. This is exactly what one would expect in such a case in which one’s leader has been arrested and brutally executed. You would fear for your life as well.
KEVIN HARRIS: This is a question from Chris in the USA.
Dr. Craig, I have a question that has been vexing me for some time. It has to do with the eschaton and the nature of everlasting time. [The eschaton being the end times, end things. Jumping down to the third paragraph, he says. . .] Here is my vexation. As a Bible-believing Christian I do believe that I will have an embodied, finite existence in the eschaton. I do believe it will be an everlasting experience, world without end. However, I cannot fathom how my finite mind could possibly process an unending succession of moments. Given an infinite future, would not all probabilities be realized and all potentials become actual? Wouldn’t I master every instrument in the symphony orchestra? Wouldn’t I play chess better than Deep Blue? Wouldn’t I memorize every word of every book? Wouldn’t I converse with every redeemed being an infinite number of days? Wouldn’t we all? After 10 billion billion successive moments, wouldn’t all residents of heaven become drearily identical? Dr. Craig, can you help me escape this vexation?
DR. CRAIG: I agree with Chris that we will have finite human minds in the new heavens and the new Earth, but we need to understand the difference between a potential infinite and an actual infinite. Our lives in the eschaton will be potentially infinite in that they will go on and on and on forever. But they will always be finite. There will always be a finite number of experiences or memories or facts that one will know even though the limit of those is infinite. So one will never arrive at an actual infinity of experiences or knowledge. It will be an unending quest for greater and greater knowledge and more and more experiences. I would agree with him that no finite good could ever suffice to satisfy such an infinite longing. That is why we should think of the eschaton primarily as coming to know God more and more deeply because God as infinite and truly inexhaustible and therefore can never be completely plumbed by any finite being.Given the infinite good that God is, I think that the eschaton will be an exhilarating and thrilling experience as our experience and minds grow and grow without limit in our knowledge of God.
KEVIN HARRIS: I will tell you what else will help him is, by the same token, if all these possibilities and potentialities are realized then the possibility and the potentiality of him figuring out how to handle it will also be realized.
DR. CRAIG: He also doesn’t take an account of the fact that maybe you would forget certain things. If it is true that the finite mind can only hold so much, well then you simply forget things that are far in the past just as we forget now.
KEVIN HARRIS: From Iran it says,
Hello, Dr. Craig. Peace and greetings. I watched one of your debates with Yusuf Ismail regarding the identity of Jesus – Is Jesus Man or Both Man and God? In that debate you provide a model for proving the hypostatic union based on the movie Avatar. The question that I have is if we accept that God and man are two contradictory notions – man is limited in the full sense and God is unlimited in the full sense; for example, God is omnipotent whereas man is not – then using that analogy would become fallacious because Jack Sully in the movie has two natures but they are not contradictory. He is limited in both his natures and therefore it could not be a good model for proving Jesus to be fully God and fully man. First, how can you logically make these two natures on logical grounds possible? Thanks, Ali from Iran.
DR. CRAIG: I appreciate the question. It is important to understand that I am not appealing to this movie to prove that Jesus is truly God and truly man. It is meant simply to be an illustration of a person who has two different natures. I think it is a very effective illustration. If you have seen the movieAvatar you can see that this character has a human nature and then he has a Navi nature. Ali objects to the analogy by saying that these two natures that Jack Sully has are not contradictory. But I would say the same thing of divinity and humanity – these are not contradictory. It would be contradictory to say that Jesus is merely a man and that he is also God, but it is in no way contradictory to say that he has both a divine nature and a human nature. He is omnipotent in his divine nature but he is limited in strength and power in his human nature. He is omniscient in his divine nature but he is limited cognitively in his human nature. There just isn’t any inconsistency between those. The divine nature exceeds the powers and capacities of the human nature, but there is no contradiction between one person exemplifying both of these natures.
KEVIN HARRIS: Final question today.
Hello Dr. Craig, thank you for your so needed work. I am having a little trouble with your hypothesis for the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ. If Christ was fully God and fully man then you suggest that somewhere in the unconscious/subconscious part of the mind of the man Jesus that the God or divinity aspect of Christ was present according to some insights you suggest come from some discipline related to deep psychology. But if the man Jesus had a less than human unconscious/subconscious aspect in his human nature then it seems to follow that Jesus wasn’t fully human since all humans share an equally fully human conscious and subconscious mind. If something in the human subconscious mind of Jesus was not human in nature but divine then Jesus was not fully human since all humans have both a fully human conscious and subconscious mind. Maybe I misunderstood something in one of the premises of your argument. But if I’m making a strawman then it is an unintentional one. Again, thank you for your work and your response. Felix in Puerto Rico
DR. CRAIG: I appreciate Felix’s question. I think it is important to understand that the orthodox doctrine of Christ is not that Christ is fully God and fully man but rather that he is truly God and truly man. To say fully God and fully man makes it sound like he is 100% God and he is 100% man which is a contradiction in terms. Rather, it is that he has all of the essential properties that make up divinity, and he has the essential properties that make up humanity. I think that when the second person of the Trinity brings to the body of Christ – the biological body of Christ – a rational person, that completes the human nature of Christ because what it is to be a person is already included in the divine nature. So the divine nature by its union with the human body makes a complete human nature. It brings a rational soul to this human body so that you have here a body-soul composite which is a human being. Now, he is not merely human, as I said a moment ago, because he is also divine. But he is truly human. So that is why we should reject this language of “fully God and fully man.” That is ambiguous. That would suggest that Jesus had to be merely human, and that is not the orthodox view. Jesus is truly human but he is not merely human. He has the essential properties that make up humanity (being a rational soul and body) but he has additional properties that we don’t possess in virtue of which he is divine.
(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
We address pushbacks and concerns on the podcast, like this one: “Hello, Pastor John, I’m a joyful graduate of Bethlehem College and Seminary. I was also able to fly back this year to attend the pastors’ conference. I’ve been blessed by God’s work in your ministry for years and find myself consistently in agreement with you. One area of difference that struck me at the 2017 pastors’ conference was the statement you made that Jesus’ reign isn’t good news (recently reposted online). Here’s my struggle: the statement ‘the kingdom of God is not good news’ seems to conflict what I find in Isaiah 52:7 (especially in light of Hebrews 2:5–9). I am in full agreement that the atonement is necessary, but rather than seeing this at odds to Jesus’ reign, I see it — atonement — as a vehicle of his reign. That is, his reign demands that all of his enemies are under his feet — this includes sin and death, according to 1 Corinthians 15:55–56 — and the means of their defeat was his suffering (cf. Hebrews 2:9). Am I wrong in seeing Jesus’ reign in this way? I hope this makes sense and comes across with the great respect I have for you and the earnest desire for your response.”
I doubt that we have a basic disagreement, but let me say what I was thinking and see if this helps.
When I say the kingdom of God is not good news (and I don’t say it often because it’s so blatantly wrong at one level and right at another), I know that I’m saying something which, out of context, contradicts numerous texts of the Bible.
In Luke 4:43, Jesus says, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God.” Good grief, Piper, it’s so clear! Yes, it’s good news. The kingdom of God is good news. Jesus came preaching the good news of the kingdom. Of course, it is based on Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news” — What good news? — “who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”
So to those who have him as their God, that’s really good news. So why do I say something so blatantly opposite to what the Bible says in its own language? I say it because it’s true in the way I mean it, and the way I explained it. It’s true biblically.
When the kingdom of God is established, finally with the new heaven and the new earth, those who have not repented and received the forgiveness of sins offered through the gospel of Christ’s shed blood and perfected righteousness will perish. They will perish precisely because God reigns. They will perish precisely because the kingdom came decisively and finally and gloriously.
Here’s a description of what’s going to happen from 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9. Here’s what happens when the king comes: “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”
Revelation 6:16 describes what will happen when the throne is exalted and people see it, saying, “[They will call] on the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.’” That’s not good news for them. The worst news they could possibly hear is that God reigns over their unrepentant rebellion.
What moves me to use this drastic language — “the kingdom of God is not good news” — is that some preachers today, some younger preachers and some older preachers, are downplaying the centrality and prominence of the personal work of salvation through the cross in the forgiveness of sins and the propitiating of the wrath of God. They are instead foregrounding cosmic, global triumph of God over the world and the restoration of all things to the way it should be.
It is possible to wax very global and social and environmental and holistic and comprehensive and eloquent as if the preachers of the traditional, historic, personal gospel that Christ died for the sins of individuals somehow didn’t know that Romans 8:18–25 is in the Bible, where the whole creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God who’ve been individually redeemed.
I’ve always taught the renovation of the universe is a playground for the children of God who’ve been saved. What I’m concerned about is that the magnificent propitiating work of the blood of Jesus to remove the wrath of God from his people by his blood is minimized. It’s treated as an afterthought, a footnote. You have to raise your hand and say, “What about that?” and then they say it.
There are those who even despise it.
When I said, “Farewell, Rob Bell,” I wasn’t reacting to his view of hell. I was reacting to him despising the atonement in his video where he made fun of the work of God to propitiate God through the sacrifice of his Son.
But that’s not the impression you get when you read the New Testament. You don’t get the impression that the personal saving, forgiving, justifying, reconciling work of Jesus for particular people who are guilty before God is backgrounded. You don’t. You do not get that impression.
You read the New Testament and, of course, there’s a global, cosmic, glorious consummation to all things. But nobody’s going there with a guilty conscience. We must be forgiven for our sins; we must have the righteousness of Jesus; we must have our guilt removed. My way of responding to that emphasis is to say if you’re going to talk about the kingdom as the essence of the gospel, you better be clear that millions and millions of people will experience the final coming of the kingdom as the worst thing that could ever happen to them.
The best news in all the world is how the king has chosen to reign. He has chosen to come in two stages. The first time as a servant, “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The glory of the king is going to be upheld. Oh yes, it will. And wonder of wonders, traitors and penitent, believing rebels are going to be pardoned, even adopted, into the king’s family because the king became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).
In his flesh, our sin is condemned (Romans 8:3). He bore in his body what we should have borne (Isaiah 53:4–5; 1 Peter 2:24). This is the heart of the gospel, and without it, the reign of God is only bad news. With it, with this cross, the reign of God is our joy and our glory.
Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.
(By Desiring God. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
KEVIN HARRIS: Let’s put you in the hot seat, Dr. Craig, and get you to answer some questions from listeners. We just got this one in that says,
Dr. Craig, I just listened to Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, and heard your arguments for the resurrection. I am just confused about one thing. When the women went to the tomb to anoint the body, since it was impossible for them to move the stone, how did they anticipate doing that? It seems implausible to me.
DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: It was common Jewish practice to anoint the body of the deceased with aromatic oils to offset the stench of decay. This could be done for up to three days after interment in the tomb. What the women were wanting to do was common Jewish funerary practices. I don’t think that we should underestimate the love and devotion of these women to Jesus that would lead them to do something that they had no idea of how they were going to get inside that tomb and do it. Maybe they hoped they would find some able-bodied men along the way or there that could move the stone for them. But they weren’t going to let that impossibility stand in the way of them trying to exercise their last devotions to Jesus.
Dear Dr. Craig, I am not a philosopher, so I might be missing something obvious. As I understand it, there are four ways that Christians look at God’s foreknowledge. 1. Determinism (Calvinist). 2. Molinism (Middle Knowledge). 3. Simple Foreknowledge. 4. Indeterminism (Open Theology). I am not convinced that determinism is truly Scriptural, and indeterminism seems obviously contradictory to Scripture. But why would Molinism be more scriptural than Simple Foreknowledge? Why cannot both be true? That is, God knows what we will freely choose without influencing our choices, but using it in his plans or by telling his people what to do and he knows us well enough that he will know what we will do in certain circumstances.
DR. CRAIG: I agree with him that determinism is implausible. I would not call so-called Openness indeterminism because Molinism and Simple Foreknowledge are indeterministic views as well. I would prefer to call this the No Foreknowledge view – that God is ignorant of the future. I think he is right. That is unscriptural. So his question is: why is Molinism more scriptural than simple foreknowledge of the future without middle knowledge? I think the major reasons for affirming middle knowledge would be philosophical and theological rather than just scriptural. But if I were to make a scriptural argument, I think I would say this. Scripture is filled with these counterfactual propositions that any verbal inspiration doctrine would require to be true. One of my favorites is, I think, 2 Corinthians 2:8 where Paul says of the crucifixion,None of the rulers of this age understood this for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. That is a counterfactual of freedom. If they had understood this they would not have crucified Jesus. Anybody who believes in scriptural inspiration cannot say this is a truth value gap in Paul’s letter. He must say, This is a true statement. But then if it is true, God must know that statement. That is what omniscience entails. God cannot know this only posterior to his divine decree to create a world. Otherwise, it would be determined. In order for it to be indeterminate and free, he must know it logically prior to his decree to create a world. That is middle knowledge. I think that the presence of these counterfactual statements in Scripture itself gives us good reason for affirming a middle knowledge position.
When he asks, Why can’t both Molinism and Simple Foreknowledge be true?, the reason is because of the word “simple.” When the proponent of Simple Foreknowledge uses the word “simple” what he means is “only” – God has only foreknowledge, not middle knowledge. That is what excludes it. But if you drop the word “simple” then both can be true and are true. If God has middle knowledge then that entails foreknowledge of the future. He will know the future. The questioner doesn’t quite get it right in the way he expresses it. What he should say is that God knows what we would do under any circumstances. Therefore he knows what we will do in the circumstances in which he has decreed to place us.
Hi, Dr. Craig. I am a huge fan of your work, particularly your debates. I know this may not be your area of study. I read the question of the week guidelines, but I am dying to know your position on the end times. I’ve been a believer in the pre-trib rapture for as long as I can remember. I’ve heard evidence on all views, and the evidence seems to point toward a pre-trib rapture for me. It would be great if you would in classic Dr. Craig debate style outline an argument or two for your position on the end times. I’d be extremely grateful to understand your view on this issue that seems taboo to talk about these days.
DR. CRAIG: I can’t obviously lay out an extended argument here, but what I can do is refer you to my Defenders lectures on this subject. In Defenders Series 2 (not Series 3), we discussed the doctrine of the last things. That will include a discussion of the rapture.I, like you, started my Christian life believing in the rapture doctrine. But what I’ve come to find is that, in fact, this doctrine enjoys no scriptural support whatsoever! It is not just that it is under-attested. It is nowhere attested in Scripture that there is going to be this secret return of Christ in which he will rapture the church prior to the second coming of Christ. As I explain in my Defenders lectures, your departure point here should be Jesus’ Olivet Discourse about the signs of his return and the coming of the Son of Man. You will find nothing there about some sort of rapture of the church. The teachings of Paul with respect to the day of the Lord and the return of Christ are reiterations of the teaching of Jesus to the disciples. What Paul is talking about (for example in his Thessalonians correspondence) is the second coming of Christ, not some secret early return of Christ to snatch the church out of the world in the way that Tim LaHaye and other rapture doctrine proponents hold. The position I’ve enunciated here is the historic position of the Christian church.
KEVIN HARRIS: What would it be called? Amillennialism?
DR. CRAIG: No, no. It has nothing to do with the millennium. This is just the view that Christ will someday physically and bodily return to bring about his Kingdom and to judge the world.
KEVIN HARRIS: We like to put little labels on everything and names of everything.
DR. CRAIG: Here is a label for you. This rapture doctrine was invented by a British fellow named Darby in, I think, the 1800s. This view could really be called Darbyism. It is a view that is confined to a narrow segment of Christianity that flows out of Darby and then the Scofield Reference Bible that picked up this view. It is very, very different from the historic position of the Christian church which is simply that Christ will someday personally and bodily return to this planet in this universe to establish his kingdom and judge the quick and the dead.
KEVIN HARRIS: Do you ever think about whether it will be in your lifetime?
DR. CRAIG: Oh, sure, we all think about that. But I don’t think that it will be based on the signs of the times, though I am cautious because when you look at the way in which Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophesies for the Messiah, he was so different from what people had been led to believe in terms of a Davidic king who would establish this messianic kingdom in Israel and command the respect of Jew and Gentile alike, that it makes me cautious to think that maybe the fulfillment of these end times prophecies might look very different than what we’ve been led to think.
KEVIN HARRIS: The next question:
Dear Dr. Craig, I can’t thank you enough for all that you do. I’m just a simple truck driver who loves the Lord and I have struggled at times to share with unbelievers. That was until I read your book On Guard. Now I have so much more confidence when I’m talking with people at work or just around the neighborhood. I no longer hide from tough questions. I am still just a truck driver, and I continue to work hard at mastering all of the material in your book. Someone at my church once said to me, Why do you try to learn apologetics? I quickly realized that this person does not share his faith with many people.
DR. CRAIG: I just love this testimony. This is so great. Just an ordinary layman but studying, bettering himself, improving himself, and making himself a more effective witness for Christ. It is wonderful.
On to my question. When I am speaking with someone for the first time, I usually start off with the absurdity of life without God. I quickly go on to say that life would be meaningless and without purpose, to which they usually respond that they have their own subjective purpose. But my question is this: if we are nothing but chance and randomness and the mind is totally subject to natural causation, then I think it would follow that we really don’t have a point of view as Alex Rosenberg asserts. It would seem to me that any subjective purposes would also be an illusion as well since there would be no free will involved. It seems to me that when someone says that they make their own purpose, there is an assumption that we have free will. Am I missing something? Anyway, I hope I am not wasting your time with this question.
DR. CRAIG: Hardly! I think that he makes a very good point. Alex Rosenberg is a naturalist and a materialist who argues that there is no soul, there is no self, and therefore I quite literally do not exist and that this is all an illusion – this first-person point of view. My colleague J. P. Moreland works in mind-body questions. In revisingPhilosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (our jointly authored book) he has added a couple more chapters on the mind-body problem. J. P. seems to show fairly convincingly that on naturalism if there is no soul which is distinct from the body then there is no mental causation. The only causation would be from the brain states to mental states. There is no enduring self that endures from one moment to the next. And there is no freedom of the will because everything is determined by the brain states and the stimuli of those nerves. In which case it seems that he would be right and Rosenberg would be right that there really isn’t a self that I call “me.” This whole thing is just illusory.
Hi, Dr. Craig. Today I watched the argument video of “Does God Exist?” between you and Peter Millican. I only have one question, and I feel that it is because it did not get answered as thoroughly as I expected it to by you. Peter mentions that we cannot rely on current physics because current physics is constantly changing. I assume part of your argument was relying on physics as support for the fine-tuned theory of creation. So my question is more: can you give me a better explanation of what your answer is to this? I need help understanding this. Any sort of answer or referral to another reading is perfectly fine. I just want to better understand.
DR. CRAIG:Before we go on to the next paragraph, let me just respond to this. The simple answer to the question is: we have no choice but to go on the basis of what our best scientific evidence indicates. Of course it is always possible that things could be revised in the future, but that is the very nature of science. I think the second thing that could be said is that the evidence in favor of both the beginning of the universe and that the fine-tuning of the universe is not due to physical necessity or chance is pretty good. Therefore the best explanation of the evidence is that the universe in fact did begin to exist and that the fine-tuning of the universe is not due to physical necessity or chance. Those conclusions don’t need to be certain or 100% proved. Science isn’t in the business of doing that sort of thing. We simply go on the basis of the best evidence that we have. In this case the evidence is pretty convincing.
KEVIN HARRIS: He concludes his question:
I am a young Christian and I am just scratching the surface of apologetics and defending my faith. So whenever I discover debates like this dealing with non-believers and atheists, I feel a deep sense of anxiety that my mind has a hard time dealing with. I am not anywhere as educated as these philosophers are. Not to make it another drawn out question, but I am simply asking from my heart for a tip or suggestion – do you have a suggestion to a young Christian apologist dealing with this.
DR. CRAIG: This is a pastoral question. Yes, I would have a tip for this. I would encourage this listener to cultivate his spiritual life – his worship of God, his relationship with God. Because when that is strong and robust and intimate, this can help to quell the anxiety that one feels intellectually when you are confronted with these complex issues that are just overwhelming and that will take years of study to resolve. Fortunately, the basis of our faith and our confidence is not arguments and evidence. It is in a relationship with the living Lord himself. Therefore this underlines the importance of confession of sin, having a prayer life and devotional life, corporate worship, sharing one’s faith with others, Christian service, exercising your gifts within the body of the church. All of these spiritual disciplines are important to maintain a healthy spiritual life so that one isn’t hagridden by anxiety over these intellectual questions that are overwhelming especially for someone who is just beginning.
KEVIN HARRIS: More Q&A next time on Reasonable Faith.
(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
Spoiler Alert: This PODCAST will not be paradigm-shifting. This podcast will be paradigm-shattering.
There is so much going on here in Jesus’ conclusion to His landmark End Times Olivet Discourse that I hardly know where to begin.
Last week, we saw that Jesus told a parable about ten bridesmaids, five who were wise and five who were foolish.
This week, we’ll note that He told a follow-up parable about three servants, two who were faithful and one who was unfaithful.
We are fast-winding down our study of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ End Times sermon that He gave to His disciples high atop the Mount of Olives.
We are soon to pivot from the Tuesday of Jesus’ final week, to the Thursday of His final week, with detailed discussions of His final Passover Seder with His disciples, Judas’ betrayal, the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, His subsequent confinement in Caiaphas’ house, plus Peter’s denial.
The countdown clock to Jesus’ crucifixion is ticking; the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry is fast-approaching.
But to get there, we must first consider Jesus’ words here. Specifically, who are the faithful servants, and who is the unfaithful servant? What distinguishes between the two — faithful versus unfaithful? And what does all of this have to do with our lives in the here and now today?
And, on the heels of what we discussed last week, remember: How we wait and watch is all about how we treat each other. This may not sound like a monumentally important thought, but in the array of Jesus’ values, this is what Jesus valued the most!
So with all of that, let me now walk you through Jesus’ conclusion to His Olivet Discourse. A parable that I truly believe you will discover to be OH so encouraging to you!
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. (Matthew 25:14-15)
Now, let me begin by asserting this truth… you, yes YOU have talent. Whether you want to admit it or not, each of us has talents. But, let me explain something. There is a coincidence of language here. It’s an odd situation where our English and the ancient Greek fall together in an unusual way. In the context of the passage “talent” refers to a measure of money. Therefore, the master had given various amounts of money to each of his servants before leaving on his journey.
But, as you will see, this is not a parable about money. This has nothing to do with a financial investment strategy.
It is actually a parable about faithfulness.
In other words, how faithful are we to use our talents in treating each other?
But, this goes far beyond our money. When we apply this parable to our lives, it is in regards to our gifts, our abilities, and our opportunities. Some might say (in English) that its all about our talents… which is where the linguistic coincidence rears its head.
In matthew 25:20-21, Jesus said:
“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
This is a parable about faithfulness!
In the parable, the master is about ready to leave on a trip. As He told the parable, Jesus was about 48 hours away from being arrested, when He would leave His servants. The parable talks about servants to their master. We are servants to our Master, God. In the parable, the master entrusts his servants with talents. In our lives, God entrusts us with our abilities, gifts and opportunities… our talents. The first two servants faithfully invested their talents on behalf of their master, with substantial returns on their investments. The third unfaithful servant did nothing with his talent except to bury it and sit on it.
The parable is meant to tell us that each of us are gifted, by our Master with certain gifts, abilities and opportunities. We should use these talents for the sake of God, being light to a very dark world.
So, the question is: Are we doing this? Are we investing our talents or sitting on them? Are we shining lights in a dark world, or are we hiding our lights under a basket so that no one can see?
What’s cool is how the remainder of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse explains to us how God wants us to invest our talents. And it has nothing to do with how “talented” each of us are. When it comes to obeying God, there is no competition between any of us.
However, we have a problem when it comes to how we have historically defined what it means to serve God (aka how to invest our talents). It has nothing to do with church involvement, attending retreats, nor volunteering at your local church. You see, if we did everything that our church bulletins say that we should be doing in order to be a “good Christian”, there would be no time left to do anything else. There would be no time left to tend to the needs of your family. Neither would there be any time left to be involved in the lives of the people in your community.
That’s not what Jesus intended, defined nor commanded of us in our efforts to be a “good Christian”.
So, how is it that we are supposed to invest our “talents”? Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:34–40,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was homeless, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was shivering, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to someone who is overlooked or ignored, you were doing it to me!’
That’s the key.
As we daily interact with the people within our community, when we see a need we need to meet the need. That’s it.
See a need, meet the need.
That’s all that Jesus wants from us. That’s the hallmark of a genuine committed Christ-follower.
So, when should we get busy doing this? Well, as Paul wrote:
For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. 3 When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3)
In other words, tough times are coming. I would argue that tough times are already here. We are living in a very unloving culture. The people around us are in less need of our “church activities” and more need of genuine care and love.
Isaiah put it this way:
“Why this frenzy of sacrifices?”
…When you come before me,
whoever gave you the idea of acting like this,
Running here and there, doing this and that—
all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?
Quit your worship charades.
I can’t stand your trivial religious games…
…I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion,
while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance,
I’ll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray,
I’ll not be listening.
And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing
people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.” (Isaiah 1:11-17)
This is all about helping those in need. See the need, meet the need.
As you will hear in this PODCAST, we are fast-approaching the end of our mini-series within a series, this one having to do with all-things End-Times related.
We are, as you well-know, well into the Olivet Discourse. Jesus’ primary teaching on End-Times events, as given on the Tuesday of His final week on earth.
In two weeks, we will pivot to the Thursday of Jesus’ final week, including His Upper Room Discourse.
It is curiously intriguing to me in the first letter that the Apostle Paul ever penned, 1 Thessalonians, he devoted so much of that letter to a discussion of the End Times. Which tells me that even from the very beginning, the first generation of committed Christ-followers had questions about Jesus’ return, even as they watched and waited for Jesus to come back.
There was then, as there is today, much confusion about what was going to happen and when it would happen.
One of the most encouraging things that Paul wrote — you could consider it Paul’s commentary on this podcast’s Matthew 25 passage — was this:
“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that THE DAY OF THE LORD will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day… Since we belong to the day, stay alert and be clearheaded… For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ… Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (Just a few of the highlights of 1 Thessalonians 5)
So let’s now heed Paul’s loving encouragement and be clearheaded about what he called “the Day of the Lord.” A vitally important, oft-repeated biblical phrase.
Now listen carefully: Over the past few weeks, we have gone to great lengths to distinguish between such things as the Rapture, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation, the Battle of Armageddon, the Second Coming of Christ, Millennium, Eternal State, and all-things in between.
We who are of a Western Mindset obsess over the order of things (those perennially bestselling prophecy charts, along with all of their precisely-placed arrows).
As westerners, it is woven into every strand of our western DNA to focus on Form (how something fits, with an emphasis on symmetry, balance, order, everything in its proper place, everything perfectly fitted together). But those of a Middle Eastern Mindset were much more concerned over function — not on how things fit together, but rather on what things do. Not on how something fits, but what something does.
As you are about to hear, this will have a profound impact on your own personal Bible study.
For example, when a Middle Easterner reads the 23rd Psalm’s opening verse:
The Lord is my shepherd…
They don’t think about what a shepherd looks like, what comes next in the Psalm, or any other details about the shepherd than WHAT DOES A SHEPHERD DO?
So, the Psalm goes on telling us what the Good Shepherd does:
The rest of the Psalm answers the question, “What does a shepherd do?” It’s all about function.
This explains why we – American (Western) Christians – get so hung up on Biblical questions that the writers and original Biblical readers would have never even thought to ask. Consequently, we get hung up on questions that the Bible doesn’t even endeavor to answer. Because, to the original writers and readers, it didn’t matter how things fit, it mattered how things functioned.
An example: How can God be a Trinity? It is impossible to accurately and completely describe what the Trinity is like. But, the original writers and readers weren’t concerned about this. Instead, they asked, “What does the Trinity do?”
Genesis 1:1 tells us,
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The Hebrew word elohim is used. This is actually a plural word, so the literal translation would be “In the beginning, Gods…”
The next word, “created” is the Hebrew bara, which is singular. So you have a plural entity singularly doing something. From the first verse of the Bible, we have a plural Godhead as a singular God. It would be akin to an American starting a sentence with the words, “They is…” It’s just wrong, in regards to our Western understanding. And, don’t think for a second that Moses, who wrote Genesis, did not know Hebrew grammar. He was more educated in Egyptian and Hebrew than nearly anyone in his day.
Yet, we obsess over “inconsistencies” such as this.
Another example: Are we saved because God chose us, or are we saved because we chose God?
The answer is YES!
How can that be? The question seems binary. Our Western sensibilities compel us to choose one… who did the choosing? God or us? Both! To the original writers and readers, it didn’t matter… it’s the way it works.
You will be in heaven because one day you chose to follow Jesus. You will be in heaven because before even the foundation of the world, God chose you. There is no “because” linking these two things. One did not cause the other. He chose you and you chose Him.
Yet another example: Who wrote the Gospel of Matthew?
If you said Matthew did, you’d be right. If you said God did, you’d be right. Which is it? It surely can’t be both. The way we Westerners often make sense of this is assuming that God must have dictated the Gospel so that Matthew was merely a stenographer. Yet, Matthew actually writes with a distinct style that was true to himself – a former tax collector. For instance, the Gospel of Matthew talks more about money than the other three Gospels combined. Yet God wrote it. How does that work? To the original writers and readers of the Bible, it was simply a matter of fact: Matthew wrote his Gospel and all Scripture is God-breathed.
This is the stuff Bible academics call systematic theology.
But, the word systematic has literally no relevance to a Middle Eastern mind. It is strictly a Western conception. God never intended to give us a systematic theology textbook. If He did, He would have.
We need to be careful that we never become so arrogant that we pigeonhole God.
All this to say that we American Christians get too hung up on whether or not someone is pre-tribulation, post-tribulation or mid-tribulation in regards to when the Rapture will happen. We want a nice, neat little fold-out chart in our Bibles that lay everything out in perfect symmetry, where everything fits.
Yet God did not give us such a fold-out chart.
The Biblical writers didn’t think that way.
Now, I do happen to believe that in matters of eschatology – Biblical study of The End Times – when approached with no preconceived ideas, that the prophesied events can be laid out into a chronology. This chronology, I believe, makes sense to our Western proclivities… to a degree.
But there will always be loose ends dangling out there that no Bible teacher can answer.
One of the most glaring examples of this is repeated throughout the Bible: The Day of the Lord.
Paul wrote that it will come like a thief in the night. He also discussed the times and dates… which is all form, not function. Coming like a thief in the night… that’s the function. That’s what the Day of the Lord will DO. That’s the important part.
This is why we so often are confused in regards to prophesy passages. There is a collision of the form that we yearn for and the function of things that the Biblical writers actually wrote about.
Getting back to 1 Thessalonians 5… does the Day of the Lord refer to the Rapture? To Jesus’ Second Coming? The answer is that it refers to the whole enchilada! Paul didn’t see the prophesied days as a chart with specific stopping points, he saw the whole thing as a single entity, from the Rapture all the way through to the Eternal State and everything in between. All of it is the Day of the Lord.
The Biblical writers saw the Day of the Lord – all of it – as one big, huge, awesome, awful, glorious, dreadful, awe-inspiring, fear-inducing, catastrophic, victorious event. It is all of those things.
The question they were concerned about was: “How does this all end?”
End ends with Jesus winning. And when Jesus wins, we win.
Now, Jesus described the Day of the Lord in the terminology of a Jewish wedding.
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise… (Matthew 25:1-2)
And if we try to interpret His prophesy passages without that lens, then we will certainly miss His point. It’s a wedding that includes the Rapture, through to the Second Coming, ultimately ending with the Eternal State… and everything in between (aka the entire Book of Revelation).
It’s brilliant, in that Jesus point is as relevant to our lives today as it was when He first uttered the words to His disciples on the Mount of Olives.
“…So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.” (Matthew 25:13)
THAT’S THE POINT! For all of mankind, from Jesus’ disciples through us in the 21st century… we must keep watch because we don’t know when Jesus will return.
So, how do we do that? How should we keep watch?
In Matthew 24, just before these verses, Jesus talked about His Second Coming. Roughly 48 hours later, in the Upper Room, Jesus will tell His Disciples about the Rapture (John 14). In Matthew 25, Jesus bridges the gap between the two.
Here’s what I mean:
Matthew 25 begins with the word “Then”. This means that Jesus is talking about a day in the future. The words following are a parable about a wedding day… OUR wedding day.
Now, when Jesus started His ministry, He would often say, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand…” But, He is not saying that here. It is no longer “at hand”. Now He is saying:
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like…”
He is speaking in the future tense now, not in the present as He did before. What changed? Well, Jesus knew that in less than 72 hours after saying these words, He would be killed. You can’t have a kingdom without a king.
And, the “kingdom of heaven” is broad. It encompasses everything that will happen in heaven and earth during “our wedding”.
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. (Matthew 25:1)
Just to straighten the record – we, the Church are Christ’s bride and He is the bridegroom. Now, in ancient Jewish weddings, there would be the betrothal, which begins with the fathers of the bride and groom meeting and negotiate the bride price. The price is paid, a contract is signed and the couple is legally joined together. In some respects, the couple could be considered “married” at this point, but in most cases, they had not exchanged vows yet, nor did they live together. This is the metaphor that Paul was using when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20,
You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.
After the price had been paid, the bride would be referred to as “one who was bought with a price.” That’s us. We, the Church, are Christ’s bride. But we haven’t been married yet. We are betrothed.
So, when an agreement had been made, the groom would tell his bride something to the effect of: “I will now go to my father’s house where I will prepare a place for you. And if I prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself. Where I am living, there you may live also.”
Now, in those days, a groom could be gone for a few months or a few years. It all would depend on how long it would take for him to prepare a place for his bride. The problem was that the bride would have no idea when he might return.
Likewise, we are here on earth, waiting for Jesus to return to receive us unto Himself, just as He promised over and over again.
Once the bridegroom returned to his bride, they exchanged vows and hosted a celebration banquet that would last up to seven days.
Ours will not last seven days, but seven years – in heaven! While we are celebrating up there, down on earth there will be seven years of Tribulation.
At the conclusion of that time, Jesus will come back to earth (His Second Coming). We will return with Him and watch Him finally and completely destroy Satan and all his gathered minions at Armageddon.
It’s all about OUR WEDDING.
This is why John wrote this in Revelation 19:7-16,
Let us be glad and rejoice,
and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
and his bride has prepared herself.
8 She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.”
For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people…
…Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war… The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. 15 From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress.16 On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
This whole thing is a wedding.
So, Jesus’ point of His parable in Matthew 25 is to explain what we are supposed to do while we wait for His return and our celebration to begin.
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, 4 but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. 5 When the bridegroom was delayed… (Matthew 25:1-5)
Jesus has delayed His return. The Rapture, Second Coming, and Day of the Lord has been delayed. Peter wrote about the frustration that the early Church felt about this delay.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. (2 Peter 3:9-10)
Jesus, the Bridegroom, is delayed with the hopes that more and more people will be saved.
5 When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’
7 “All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. 8 Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’
9 “But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. (Matthew 25:5-10)
Now, this may sound harsh, but when you couch it in the context of a loving and tender event like a wedding, it is obvious that Jesus meant this to be a tender and loving warning. This is not hellfire and brimstone. This is a Good Shepherd reaching out to His sheep who are prone to wander away.
The warning is that there comes a point where people pass a point of no return.
In Genesis 7, there came a point in time when God closed the door behind Noah and his family an no one else was allowed in to God’s safety.
11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’
12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’ (Matthew 25:11-12)
You may be surprised at who those five bridesmaids are – the ones locked outside.
“…by no means are all who read the Bible, attend and belong to a church, sing the songs of salvation, make a public profession of faith, or even preach in Christ’s name, going to share in the blessings of Christ’s return.”
– William Hendriksen
If a modern commentary on Jesus’ parable isn’t your cup of tea, here is what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:1-5,
Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.
Paul is describing people within the Church who call themselves Christians. They are the five foolish bridesmaids. Now, in stark contrast, the five wise bridesmaids – the ones we should aspire to be like – are described in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-19,
For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night…
… 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
12 Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. 13 Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.
…Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.
15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, 21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil.
And, just as Jesus wrapped up His parable:
…keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return. (Matthew 25:13)
As you will hear in this PODCAST, with Jesus’ words here in Matthew 24, the climax of human history as we know it will occur.
No one will miss it. No one will mistake it. Everyone will know exactly what it is that is happening and why it is happening!
The “it” to which I refer and which I intentionally repeated in the above sentences is Jesus’ Second Coming.
What did Jesus say? “Then all the tribes of the earth… will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Quite a contrast to Jesus’ first coming, which you will remember was seen only by a few lowly shepherds out in the remote regions of Bethlehem. When Jesus came the first time, He came not with power and great glory, but as a newborn baby laid in an animal’s manger in the cold of a cave.
That was Jesus’ First Coming. In the run-up to the crucifixion, the disciples were understandably fixated on the future, specifically on Jesus’ Second Coming.
They were waiting; we are waiting. They were longing; we are longing. They were asking; we are asking: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
In giving His answer, Jesus said this: “That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 24:39).
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).
“You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Matthew 24:44).
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne” (Matthew 25:31).
That’s what Jesus said just in Olivet Discourse. Indeed, the whole point of the Olivet Discourse is Jesus’ Second Coming.
So with all of that background, let’s discover together what Jesus taught us in the Olivet Discourse about His Second coming.
In Matthew 24:29-30, Jesus told His disciples:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
But, how do we make sense of all this, here in the 21st century?
Well, we can begin by examining Peter’s second letter:
This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. 2 I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.
3 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4 They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”
5 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. 6 Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood.7 And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.
8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
11 Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, 12 looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.
14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.
15 And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him—16 speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.
17 You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:1-18)
Peter said that there will be scoffers who mockingly question whether we believe that Jesus will really come back. Well, I believe Jesus when He said:
“After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back…” (John 14:3)
So, considering that Jesus said that after his ascension, He will come back again, we have three options:
In the same vein, if He is not really coming back, then we do not have the option of saying that Jesus was a great teacher, an upstanding moral man, an example to be respected, or an amazing communicator of life lessons (all things that people who minimize who Jesus is tend to offer). Since He claimed over and over again that He would rise from the dead and then return again, He created a binary choice: He is either believable, or unworthy of us basing our calendar on His birth and printing “In God We Trust” on our currency. If His claims were wrong, then it would be intellectually dishonest to honor Him with any credibility whatsoever.
But I believe Him.
I believe Him when He told us that prior to His Second Coming, Satan, through the anti-christ, will desecrate the Temple, demand that the world’s population worship Him as God, and as we read in Revelation 16:14-16,
“…demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty…
16 And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon.”
And, in direct response to this, Jesus will make a declaration of His own:
“Look, I am coming!”
And the battle of Armageddon will ensue between with all the armies of the earth combined along with the forces of hell against the forces of heaven.
Now, I understand that this all sounds like a wild tale.
Yet, no one can deny that our world today is a daily witness to the collision of the forces of good and evil. The Bible merely puts a name to it all.
But, as it names the places and even the people who will be involved, how are we supposed to know when the Bible – specifically the Book of Revelation – is speaking literally or figuratively?
The interpretive key is this: whenever you are reading any prophetic literature in the Bible, especially concerning the End Times, remember that the Book of Revelation is written in the language of appearance – how things will look like.
We know this based on what John wrote in Revelation 1:10-11,
It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. 11 It said, “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
So, he did. He wrote down everything he SAW. And what he saw was this:
And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon.
Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying, “It is finished!”. (Revelation 16:16-17)
So, by and large, we should take John’s words literally, since he wrote down what he saw, as he watched it. But, where we get into trouble is where some of the things that he saw sound really bizarre to us. You just have to understand that he is writing these things in the terminology of an uneducated first-century fisherman.
So as he describes, for instance, scorpions that seem to come up out of the earth and sting everybody with fire coming from their stingers… he’s not describing some crazed, fire-breathing dragon. Consider being in John’s shoes with his life-experience and suddenly you saw an Apache helicopter attacking ground troops. One way you may describe that scene is a giant scorpion breathing fire!
Therefore, John’s writings are literal, in that they do describe what he saw. But, when we try to attach specificity to every little thing that he describes, then we begin to run into trouble as we match today’s technologies with his first century understanding.
So, when God declares from His throne, “It is finished”, there shouldn’t be any debate on whether or not this is literal or metaphorical. It’s literally what John witnessed in his prophetic vision from God. There was a definite beginning to human history – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) – and a definite end is coming.
But John’s vision didn’t end there:
Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed. And a great earthquake struck—the worst since people were placed on the earth. 19 The great city of Babylon split into three sections, and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble. So God remembered all of Babylon’s sins, and he made her drink the cup that was filled with the wine of his fierce wrath. 20 And every island disappeared, and all the mountains were leveled. 21 There was a terrible hailstorm, and hailstones weighing as much as seventy-five pounds fell from the sky onto the people below. They cursed God because of the terrible plague of the hailstorm.
In his attempt to sum up all that stands against God in a single word or phrase, John uses the term “Babylon”. Knowing the Old Testament, and assuming that his readers would as well, John conjured up the perfect “anti-God” nation who followed the perfect “anti-God” king to summarize just who was daring to battle against the heavenly armies.
And, when John writes that every island disappeared and all the mountains were leveled, I am reminded of the L.A. Dodgers. No, not any time when they may have seemed to disappear. But a very memorable afternoon game when the beloved Vin Scully noticed that “…the hills beyond Chavez Ravine have disappeared today…” No, the hills beyond Dodger Stadium didn’t actually disappear that afternoon. But, from Vin’s vantage point, they appeared to.
And, when we read the Book of Revelation with this perspective – through the eyes of a first century fisherman who loved Jesus Christ – then we can understand his words so much more clearly.
In the fog of such a cataclysmic battle as what will occur at Armageddon, I can’t imagine what it must have looked like to this first century fisherman! Regardless of the specific details of how John’s vision and depiction translate into modern technology… it’s going to be spectacular! It will be unlike anything the world has ever seen!!
John continues to report what he saw after the Great Battle in Revelation 18:1-7,
I saw another angel come from heaven. This one had great power, and the earth was bright because of his glory. 2 The angel shouted,
“Fallen! Powerful Babylon
and is now the home
It is the den
of every filthy spirit
and of all unclean birds,
and every dirty
and hated animal.
3 Babylon’s evil and immoral wine
has made all nations drunk.
Every king on earth
has slept with her,
and every merchant on earth
her evil desires.”
4 Then I heard another voice
from heaven shout,
“My people, you must escape
Don’t take part in her sins
and share her punishment.
5 Her sins are piled
as high as heaven.
God has remembered the evil
she has done.
6 Treat her as she
has treated others.
Make her pay double
for what she has done.
Make her drink twice as much
of what she mixed
7 That woman honored herself
with a life of luxury.
Reward her now
with suffering and pain.
Any modern reader today can feel the longing in the hearts of so many for justice. At this moment – after God proclaims, “It is finished”, justice will finally be served. Evil will be brought to its justified end. And righteousness will prevail.
John continues with his description of seeing an entire global system that is in denial and rebellion to God completely collapse:
“Deep in her heart
‘I am the queen!
Never will I be a widow
or know what it means
to be sad.’
8 And so, in a single day
she will suffer the pain
of sorrow, hunger, and death.
Fire will destroy
her dead body,
because her judge
is the powerful Lord God.”
9 Every king on earth who slept with her and shared in her luxury will mourn. They will weep, when they see the smoke from that fire. (Revelation 18:7-9)
So, in Matthew 24, when Jesus said,
“…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
…you better believe it!
In these short phrases, Jesus summarized what John wrote all throughout Revelation 16 and 18. There will be a bloodbath like no other in earth’s history. Imagine the devil and every demon furiously fighting in desperation because they sense that their end is near.
Jesus continued in His Olivet Discourse:
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Understand this – Jesus doesn’t need a secondary sign as an opening act for His Second Coming. Jesus is the sign. When He returns, everyone will see Him. Everyone will know who He is and what they have done to Him. That is why everyone will mourn.
As Jesus said these things on the Mount of Olives, He then told His disciples another parable:
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Wait a minute… “this generation will certainly not pass away?” Which generation? Jesus is talking about the generation that will be alive to see these signs and ultimately the battle between ultimate good and ultimate evil.
You see, Jesus Himself said He would come back. I believe Him. If He was wrong either maliciously or ignorantly, that would make Him a madman or a liar. There’s enough proof in His life to contradict both of those possibilities. So I believe Him.
I also believe Him when Jesus said:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 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;39 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.
So, just as in the days when Noah was around, when evil had reached a global height that God had to intervene and wash it from the earth’s surface, just like then, evil will once again rise up to unprecedented global levels.
Jesus continues to describe what will happen:
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:40-41)
Now, many Bible teachers have mistook these two verses as references of the Rapture. However, within its context, we see that this is actually talking about Jesus’ Second Coming – an even that will happen years after the Rapture. While a similar description may be applied to the Rapture – Christ’s followers will be taken up to be with Him and those who refuse Jesus will be left behind – but, that’s not what Jesus is referring to. He is speaking in the context of Noah’s flood where people were swiftly “taken” into judgment.
The people right before Noah’s flood were in full rebellion to God’s will and had no idea what they were about to be a part of. The same will be for those at the end of the Great Tribulation. This is why Jesus issues this warning:
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Matthew 24:42)
And, as in Noah’s day, the skies will open. But, instead of rain falling from the skies, John writes what will happen in Revelation 19:11-21,
Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. 12 His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. 13 He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. 15 From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress.16 On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords…
…Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies.
With merely a word from Jesus Christ, it will be a bloodbath.
But, let’s end this on a happy note. John continues in Revelation 20:4,
I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
And this will begin a blessed 1,000 year period of absolute utopia. During this time, the earth will be governed by Christ, Himself and His peace will reign.
Jesus wins. And when He wins… we win!
As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:15, words that describe a singularly hair-raising event, the Great Tribulation will begin.
A 3½-year period of unprecedented spiritual defection and oppression, along with its resultant worldwide suffering on a scale never seen before on this planet.
Don’t take my word for that. Take Jesus’ word for that. In Matthew 24:21, “For then there will be great tribulation, greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again.”
The Great Tribulation, that will begin with the singular event to which Jesus alluded in Matthew 24:15, and will end with the climax of human history as we know it — the glorious Second Coming of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Permit me the briefest of reviews. It is absolutely vital that we keep the end-times timeline straight.
The next event on God’s prophetic timetable is that wondrous event we commonly call The Rapture, where Christ-followers throughout the world will “meet the Lord in the air.”
Nothing needs to happen before the Rapture, that awesome event described so vividly in 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, and alluded to by Jesus in John 14. The Rapture, or as Paul called it, Our “blessed hope.” Titus 2:13, “While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Please note that Paul described our “blessed hope” as Jesus’ “appearing,” not His “coming,” a distinction of monumental importance.
Now again, nothing has to happen before the Rapture, where Jesus will appear in the clouds and we meet Him in the air, all of this near the beginning of Tribulation. Yes, you can indeed wake up every morning of every day with the hope-filled words flooding your troubled soul, Perhaps Today! Nothing has to happen before the Rapture.
That said, much, much has to happen before the Second Coming, where Jesus will literally come down to the earth, setting foot on the Mount of Olives, this at the very end of the Tribulation.
Most notably, what has to happen before the Second Coming? The event described by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, and by Daniel in Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.
Hear it from Jesus’ lips to our ears: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15).
“Let the reader understand.” Why that particular exhortation? Precisely because there is so much confusion about this prophecy, and so many who therefore do not understand.
Confusion which we will bring to a conclusion in this podcast.
Now, a common interpretation of Daniel 9, 11, and 12 states that “the abomination that causes desolation” refers to an unspeakably horrific event that rocked Jerusalem in the years 169-167 BC. During this period, the ancient Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes declared himself “God Manifest” and took the throne over Syria. During his rule, he almost conquered Egypt and brutally persecuted the Jewish people, which precipitated the Maccabean revolt. He even erected a statue of Zeus inside the Temple’s Holy of Holies and punished any adherence to God’s law with a death sentence. Ultimately, he sacrificed a pig (an unholy animal) in God’s Temple. His bizarre and blasphemous behavior earned him another nickname among the Jews: “Antiochus Epimanes”, which means “mad one”. It’s quite understandable how Old Testament prophesy experts might believe this is the fulfillment of Daniel’s “abomination that causes desolation”.
However, Jesus spoke of Daniel’s prophesy as something that hadn’t yet happened in Jesus’ day.
What I find incredibly frightening is that the actual “abomination that causes desolation” will be even worse than what our Jewish friends endured at the hands of Antiochus “the madman”!
So, in order for Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:15 (as he referred to Daniel’s prophesy), the Temple in Jerusalem will have to be rebuilt. No Temple stands there today. Yet, as we speak, preparations are being made so that given a green light, the people of Jerusalem could have a new Temple up and running within just a few months. But there is one huge problem: the golden Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine built to commemorate Muhammad’s ascension into heaven. It will take someone with as much charisma, leadership and supernatural ability as the man that the Bible describes as the “man of lawlessness” to negotiate the kind of agreement that will convince the Islamic leaders to tear down their shrine and allow a new Holy Temple to be built at that site.
Paul writes about this, and Jesus’ Second Coming (not the Rapture) in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4,
Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet Him. Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. 3 Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. 4 He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.
Even Antiochus didn’t go this far in his blasphemy. He set up a statue of Zeus and proclaimed Zeus as God, but the anti-christ will go one further and declare himself as God. THAT is the “abomination that causes desolation”.
Also, keep in mind that there will be two “gatherings” of this nature: 1) the Rapture and 2) Christ’s second coming, which will include those fortunate enough to have survived the Tribulation along with those who were raptured before the Tribulation. Here, Paul is talking about the latter.
Jesus adds more detail about His Second Coming in Matthew 24:30-31
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
That’s all of us who have chosen to follow Jesus!
But, before Jesus comes back, any of those who are living at the time need to follow Jesus’ instructions, NOT the example of the Maccabees and run for the hills… if they try to rebel and fight, they will lose.
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:15-27
Our blessed hope is that we, those who have already chosen Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives and the Savior of their souls, will be spared all this! And, gloriously, we can, and should, wake up every morning with the thought of… perhaps today! Perhaps the first gathering – the Rapture – might happen even today!
Birth pains. It’s all about the birth pains.
As you will hear in this PODCAST, as we enumerate the final three of the six “signs of the times,” both Paul and Jesus made it crystal-clear that we are to think of these signs in terms of birth pains.
Paul, who borrowed this most-meaningful metaphor from Jesus, used it most-appropriately when he in Romans 8 declared, “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
It would not surprise me one bit to hear that some of you — Or should I say some of us? — have been groaning a little more than usual this past week.
It is all about the birth pains, that increase dramatically in frequency and in intensity as the moment of birth approaches. This troubled planet of ours is undeniably in the later stages of its own labor pains, as it waits in breathless anticipation as the moment of Jesus’ return approaches.
So said Paul.
So said Jesus. Here in Matthew 24:8, spoken in the Olivet Discourse, on the Tuesday afternoon of His final week, in reference to these “signs of the times.” Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
That is precisely where we are today. Groaning, watching, and waiting for the climax of human history as we know it finally and mercifully to dawn upon us.
In Luke’s abbreviated account of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said in reference to these same “signs of the times,” “When these things (these birth pains) begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Stand up; and lift up. Those are phrases that speak of victory, not defeat!
We don’t sit down in defeat; we stand up in victory!
We don’t hang our heads in dismal distress; we lift up our heads in victorious anticipation.
We are not defeated. Not by a long shot. We are encouraged.
These “signs of the times,” these birth pains, have indeed begun to take place. Our redemption is indeed drawing nearer, every single day!
Yes, these six “signs of the times” have always characterized our world. Yet, there is no denying the acceleration of their frequency and intensity.
Let me briefly remind you of the first three, and then we’ll discuss in some detail the final three. All with a view to standing up and lifting up our heads, not in defeat but in glorious victory.
The first three include:
So, those are the first three signs that Jesus prophesied about and we discussed last week. Here are the next three…
“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. (Matthew 24:9)
Now, upon reading this, I can think of two things you may be tempted to think. The first is, “I don’t see any increases in frequency or intensity of this kind of persecution. After all, churches meet all around the world in complete freedom.”
But, remember, the world is much bigger than the United States of America.
The other thought that may come to mind is, “There has always been religious persecution in the world. Just read the Book of Acts.” While this is true, Jesus is talking about a birth-pain-like increase in frequency and intensity that the world has never known. Therefore, what is coming will be far worse in frequency and intensity than what is described in the Book of Acts.
I’m not talking about the annual “atrocities” that occur every December when places like Target or Macy’s decides to use the words “Holiday Sale” instead of acknowledging Christmas. The persecution that Jesus describes in Matthew 24:9 is infinitely worse than Starbucks changing the design of their winter coffee cups.
You see, the truth is that Christians in the USA have been largely – almost entirely – immune to the types of persecution that Jesus is talking about. On one hand, we ought to be incredibly thankful that we can meet, fellowship, pray, preach, and worship without any fear of arrest or death. The same cannot be said in other parts of the world today. On the other hand, these several centuries of religious freedom has accumulated into the development of a very lethargic and lazy American Church. Sadly, in some ways, we in America do not “need” God in order to survive, as our brothers and sisters in places like Syria and Iraq do.
You see, according to published studies, beheadings and imprisonments made the year 2015 the worst year for Christian persecution ever. EVER.
“Islamic extremism and authoritarian governments combined to make last year the worst in modern history for Christians around the world. The trend spiked upward in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia with thousands of Christian killed or imprisoned and even more chased from their homes. Islamic extremism continues to be the primary driving force behind the expansion of persecution…
It is no longer just a Christian problem, but a global problem.” (OpenDoorsUSA.org)
In Iraq alone, the reported amount of Christians in the entire nation has shrunk to less than 270,000. This is but a fraction of the 1.5 million Christians that lived there just three years ago. In North Korea, of the nation’s 300,000 reported Christians, nearly 70,000 of them are imprisoned in North Korea’s notoriously brutal labor camps. Those who are not jailed are forced to hide their faith, even to members of their extended families.
These two countries are not alone. Atrocities lashed out on Christian communities are widespread in India, Columbia, Cuba, and many other nations as well. But, not here in the good ol’ USA. We Christians here are cozy comfortable. But are we too comfortable? Do we no longer hold our religious freedoms as sacred? My fear is we will lose what we take for granted.
The United Nations put it this way, in regards to Christian persecution around the world:
“Never before have so many Christians been on the move. A record 60 million Christians have been displace worldwide.”
And, believe it or not, the pace and level of intensity of this global persecution of Christ followers will indeed grow as we draw nearer to Christ’s Second Coming.
Jesus said this about the fifth sign:
And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other…Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:10, 12)
Now, Jesus said these words around the year 33AD. By the time Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, around 24 years had passed. By that time, Paul described what was going on within the Roman Empire as such:
So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.
Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best! (Romans 1:24-32 , The Message)
Back then, it was exactly the way it is now. However, today the frequency and intensity and worldwide spread of these atrocities, heresy and rampant evil have increased so much more… just like birth pains.
Just as Jesus promised.
On a more happy note, the sixth Sign of the Times will look like this, according to Jesus:
But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:13-14)
Now, I believe that we live in the first time of human history where, technologically, this part of Jesus’ prophesy can be fulfilled – and indeed is. I am constantly amazed how nearly anyone on the globe can click a mouse and receive sound Biblical teaching in a fraction of a second. Even in the far reaches of the Arctic, the Amazon, and Saharan Africa.
Jesus encouraged us with these words,
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)
So, as we see these events happening before our eyes, and Christ’s Second Coming drawing nearer by the day, do not hide in fear or hang your heads in defeat. Instead, obey Jesus and stand up. Lift up your heads in glorious victory!
Essential Biblical Doctrines are those teachings, which are crucial to saving faith. And everything contrary to those doctrines is heresy. There are several ways to narrow down what these doctrines are, but one helpful way is by using the word DOCTRINE as an acronym.
D stands for deity of Christ. For salvation, it is necessary to know that Jesus is God.
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known (John 1:18)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. By Him all things were created… (Colossians 1:15-16)
O stands for original sin. All have sinned and the wages of sin is death. If we don’t know we’ve sinned against a holy God, we can’t know what Jesus has saved us from.
Sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned… (Romans 5:12)
Truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he can’t see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
C stands for Canon – just another word for the Bible, God’s inerrant Word. For without it, we can’t know Him or the words for eternal life.
All Scripture is breathed out by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness… (2 Timothy 3:16)
T stands for Trinity. God is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. Salvation is given by the Father; it is acquired through the Son; it is experienced in the Holy Spirit.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:19)
R stands for resurrection. Not only did Jesus rise from the grave, so do all who believe in Him. If Christ has not been raised, no one gets raised and our faith is hopeless.
If we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Romans 6:5)
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
I stands for Incarnation – meaning the Son of God put on flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus was fully man and fully God, born of the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless human life, and died a sinner’s death to atone for sins. He rose again and ascended into heaven where He alone intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh… (Romans 8:3)
The Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
For we do not have a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… (1 Timothy 2:5)
N stands for New Creation. We must no longer walk in our old sinful ways, but live anew in Christ.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
E is for Eschatology – the study of end times. While there are many End Times theories, we need to know that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead, ushering in His peaceful kingdom and we will be with our Lord forever.
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever! (Revelation 11:15)
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. (Revelation 22:12)
These doctrines are the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ… when we understand the text.
(Many of the Bible stories and verses we think we know, we don’t! When We Understand the Text is an internet-based video ministry committed to righting some of the wrong understanding of scripture, all while advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Check out more at WWUTT.com!)
Welcome to the Olivet Discourse. The End Times prophetic address that Jesus gave to His disciples high atop the Mount of Olives, immediately to the East of the Holy City, Jerusalem.
As you will hear in this PODCAST, that lovely little land that we affectionately call Israel is the center of the world.
Literally and metaphorically.
Literally, because Israel is the place where the three major continents — Europe, Asia, and Africa — tenderly touch and affectionately kiss each other. Which goes a long way to explaining why God chose this modest piece of real estate — a mere 150 miles long (North-South), 50 miles wide (West-East) — as stage for the Greatest Story Ever Told.
Metaphorically the center of the world because throughout all of human history, the eyes of world have ever been focused squarely on the Middle East — so called because it sits in the middle or center of the world. And in center of the Middle East sits Israel.
So Israel is indeed the center of the world.
That said, Jerusalem is the center of Israel, and the Temple is the center of Jerusalem.
So it is no wonder that Jesus and His disciples took a timeout from all of the hubbub of activities on this Tuesday of Jesus’ final week, exactly three days before Jesus would go to the cross.
As they sat upon the Mount of Olives taking in that breathtaking view of the Holy City and its glorious Temple – God’s House, what Jesus called “My Father’s House,” what many of our Jewish friends call “The House” – the disciples were moved by that spectacular panoramic portrait to ask Jesus these two most important questions in Matthew 24: “What will be the sign of your coming,” and “What will be the sign of the end of the age?”
Jesus’ answer to those questions comprise what we now call the Olivet Discourse, spanning two full chapters, Matthew 24-25.
As you are about to hear, there are Two Interpretive Keys to understanding these all-important prophetic chapters.
The first of these keys is to understand that the disciples’ questions were VERY focused. Their first question was a direct reference to Jesus’ Second Coming. Their second question was in reference to a distinctly different moment in the future – the end of the age. As an answer to these very specific questions, Jesus offered a very specific answer. He doesn’t talk to them about the Rapture, but about His Second Coming. Therefore, Matthew 24-25 is a “Second Coming Passage”. Jesus doesn’t discuss the Rapture until two days later, as written in John 14 in the Upper Room Discourse.
So, as we approach Jesus’ Second Coming, which will come at the end of the seven-year Tribulation… which will begin after the Rapture, the “signs of the times” that Jesus describes become very applicable to us, here in the 21st Century.
This week, we will discuss the first three of six “signs of the times” that Jesus describes.
The second interpretive key comes from Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:8,
But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
Some Biblical translations use the word “sorrows” in place of “birth pains”. Nevertheless, the original Hebrew text that Matthew wrote contained a very precise word referring to the pains of a woman in labor.
Talk about a masterful and meaningful metaphor!
Like birth pains, as the “signs of the times” begin, they will then proceed, becoming far more intense and far more frequent. So, the reason that Jesus used this metaphor is: as we near the “end of the age” and His Second Coming, and therefore the Rapture, the events will occur with a never-before seen intensity and frequency.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I know these things have been occurring throughout the world and throughout the history of mankind… but not with the intensity and frequency that we are in store for. So, like labor pains, as we see the frequency and intensity of these events growing and growing, we should realize that the “moment” is drawing nearer and nearer.
What I find most interesting is that as I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, it sounds eerily similar to today’s news headlines. Yet He said these things over 2,000 years ago:
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:3-5)
So, as Jesus put it, there will be a lot of false teachers rising in popularity across the planet – not all of them, but many of them actually claiming to be Christ, the Messiah!
IN other words, we must choose our Bible teachers very carefully!
Now, I realize this isn’t news. There have always been false teachers, ever since the beginning of the Christian Church. But, like labor pains, as Jesus points out, the amount of intensity and frequency of false doctrine being taught around the world will grow at unprecedented rates.
Interestingly enough, we are seeing the number of false teachers sweeping the globe as never before seen in human history. This might be, if for no other reason, that there are simply more media outlets than ever before. Anyone with an internet connection can put their teachings for the world to digest…and there are many who do so with false doctrine, mostly motivated by greed and/or a lust for power. On a deeper level, this increased frequency of false teaching is brought on by Satan, himself.
Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. (1 Timothy 4:1-2)
Now, part of the mystery and majesty of Jesus’ metaphor is that Paul was writing to Timothy about the “last times” some 2,000 years ago. Here we are two millennium later, and therefore even closer than Paul and Timothy were to those days.
Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)
So, if this warning was applicable in Paul and Timothy’s day, how much more applicable is it to our lives today?
I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
I remember years ago, sitting under the teaching of one particular pastor. He was telling us about a cruise that he and his wife had just returned from – the gorgeous sea, palm tree lined beaches, and glorious weather they enjoyed. He then said that what impressed him most about his trip was that every night, when they were done with their day’s activities, they would discover that someone had come into their cabin, turned down their bed and prepared everything for them, including laying a little mint on their pillows. Then he said, “You know… that perfectly describes our relationship with God, who comes into our room into our room every night and turns down our bed and puts a little mint on our pillows.”
Now, that’s heart warming.
But is it true? Is God’s role to serve me? I thought I was here to serve Him.
This is like the myths that Paul was warning Timothy about – a nice sounding story that may contain truth, but ultimately is untruthful.
I am also reminded of the words Paul said to the church leaders at Ephesus:
“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood — over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.” (Acts 20:28-31)
What’s most frightening about Paul’s warning is that when it comes to false teachers, he wasn’t talking about malicious people coming from outside of their church. He was talking about false teachers rising up from within their congregation.
Peter offers similar warnings in 2 Peter 2:1-2
False teachers will also sneak in and speak harmful lies to you. But these teachers don’t really belong to the Master who paid a great price for them, and they will quickly destroy themselves. Many people will follow their evil ways and cause others to tell lies about the true way.
John added his voice to the chorus when he wrote in 1 John 4:1-3
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God.
I don’t believe that it is impossible to overstate this case. It is a constant drumbeat throughout the New Testament. And Jesus actually gave the most pointed warning of all in His Sermon on the Mount:
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ (Matthew 7:15-23)
All this to say, that the first sign that Jesus warned about was false teachers coming in multitudes, so choose your teachers carefully!
Sign number two:
And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. (Matthew 24:6)
Why not? Well, as we have already discussed in earlier podcasts, the end won’t come until after the final war of Armageddon. So, until that war, the end (along with Christ’s Second Coming) is not eminent. But, this doesn’t pertain to the Rapture.
Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (Matthew 24:7)
Once again, there has never been a time when we have basked in the glow of worldwide peace. Nor with there be a time such as this until the end. In fact, the first World War was supposed to be the “War to end all Wars”… but then came World War II. Decades later, the Iraq war was supposed to bring democracy to and stabilize the Middle East. It didn’t.
As of July 18th, according to WarsInTheWorld.com, there were 67 countries embroiled in some kind of armed conflict. Now, in regards of acceleration of all this. Since September 11, 2001, we have not only witnessed an ongoing escalation of military hotspots around the world; but for the first time in human history, we have seen a new and terrible way to “do war”. Since September 11, 2001, we have been engaged in what the experts call Asymmetrical Warfare. In Symmetrical Warfare – what the world has known since warfare began – there were two opposing forces, each with identifying uniforms so that each side knew who the enemy was, combating against one another. There were careful rules of engagement, and the two sides would battle until either the last man was standing or a truce was made. But today, we are fighting in a completely different kind of war against a completely different kind of enemy – radical Islamic terrorists who have no rules of engagement except to kill anyone by any means possible. This is not a war fought on a battlefield between to opposing armies, but a war waged against innocent civilians in barbaric acts of targeted terrorism. And no nation or people seem to be immune to this war.
Yet, as Jesus told us… DO NOT PANIC.
There is no need for you and me to feel unsettled, despite what we see, read, and experience almost daily. In fact, after telling us to not panic, Jesus continued by saying that these things actually MUST take place. So, if there is any comfort to be found for those of us who hopelessly watch this war unfold before our eyes, it is that none of this catches God off guard or by surprise.
Jesus said it would be this way, and it actually has to happen… even with increased intensity and frequency.
So, when people look at these horrific world events and wonder such things as “How can a loving God allow this?” and their faith is rocked to the core, I can only respond by saying that my faith is actually bolstered in all this. Jesus said it would be this way. Therefore, I expect it.
So, don’t panic. Because as the frequency and intensity of this Asymmetrical War grows hotter and hotter, so the timing of the Rapture and Jesus’ Second Coming grows that much closer. We don’t need to panic because as Paul wrote in Romans 8:22-25,
For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
So, groaning deeply, we wait eagerly.
And, speaking of creation groaning, let me move to the third sign. In Matthew 24:7, Jesus said:
“There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.”
So, let’s talk about natural disasters. I don’t want to get politically controversial. You can call it global warming, or climate change, or natural progression of the planet’s weather systems. I really don’t care what you believe regarding the planet’s weather. But the one thing we cannot choose to believe or not to believe is what is happening throughout our country and the world regarding drought, earthquakes, severe floods and the like. You can say that this has always been the case and we are in the midst of another identifiable cycle. BUT, the truth is that this is not a linear cycle. We are in the midst of, at the very least, cycles on an upward incline. The frequency and intensity of global seismic, atmospheric and climatic disasters are continuously increasing. Whether this activity is manmade or not; or whether it has anything to do with fossil fuels… all this can be debated. But, what cannot be debated is that change is occurring.
It is absolutely true that droughts, and famines, and earthquakes have occurred over and over again throughout human history. But what we are witnessing is an undeniable increase in the intensity and frequency of droughts, famines, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and other catastrophic weather related events.
I do find it interesting that while Jesus didn’t list off every type of weather related catastrophe that could and will happen, He did choose to name off the two that are the most illustrious. He mentioned famines, which do speak of climate and weather. He also mentioned earthquakes, which are the very picture of labor pains, as if the earth itself is about to give birth. And if you have ever been through an earthquake, you know that in the more severe shakers, you can literally hear the earth groaning as it happens.
The world is broken. But – at the risk of getting political – no matter which person wins the Presidential Election this year, they are not the person who will fix it. Neither candidate is our hope. This is not fixable.
In Luke’s abbreviated account of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said these comforting words:
So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:28)
That is our hope.