End of Days Part 2
It's the End of the World as We
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 8, 2003
Matthew 24:1-25 (NLT)
I was watching a video a
week or so ago from a seminar on Church Leadership. And on the video,
the speaker started talking about how the church can reach people in
our world today. And he said there were three things that people were
interested in, so three things we need to preach on to get the
attention of our world today.
2. The End Times
3. Is There Sex in the End Times?
Well, one out of three ainít bad. We stated this series on the End of
Days a couple weeks ago. We took a break from it last Sunday. But weíre
back at it this week. Now, I donít have any statistics to show you. I
donít have any graphs to prove this. Itís just a general feeling I
have. But I believe that interest in the End Times is at an all-time
high, at least during the span of my lifetime. It seems to be something
that Christians and pre-Christians alike enjoy talking about. Everyone
wants to know what the Bible has to say about the signs the end is
near, and they want to know if weíre entering into the last days.
There are a lot of things associated with the End Times. When we began
this series we talked about the Second Coming of Jesus. Today, weíre
going to talk about such things as the Tribulation, the Rapture, and
the Antichrist. So get out your pens, find the notes in your Sunrise
Update, and get ready to go. Weíre going to try to answer five
questions this morning, and you can use those notes to follow along,
fill in the blanks, and jot down any notes you want to remember.
Okay? Letís get started.
What Is the Tribulation?
A. A seven year
period of great suffering and distress
Weíve had times in human
history and even times in our own lives that have been no picnic. Weíve
all gone through times that we would describe as a tribulationÖ a time
of heartache, suffering, pain, chaos, confusion. But this Tribulation
that the Bible talks about will overshadow them all. It will be like
nothing we have ever experienced before.
Remember all the hype surrounding Y2K? What were some of the things
people were afraid of happening?
(People were predicting the collapse of our economy, a world-wide food
shortage, a lack of pure drinking waterÖ anything and everything that
operated by use of computer chips would cease to function, which
basically includes everything in our society. Airplanes, cars,
computers, power plants, right down to our everyday household
appliances which pretty much all include computer chips these days.)
In fact, a lot of people thought the year 2000 would be the beginning
of the Tribulation. They were perhaps a little overly zealous, but they
thought that all the terrible things that were supposedly going to
happen were part of the Biblical prophecies about the End Times.
Thankfully, we didnít run into those kinds of problems when the clock
struck 2000, but there will come a time when it will seem like the
whole world is falling apart. There will come a time when the whole
earth goes through a Great Tribulation. Thatís what we read about
earlier in the service. Take a look at part of that passage again:
Matthew 24:21-22 (NLT)
For that will be a time of greater horror
than anything the world has ever seen or will ever see again. In fact,
unless that time of calamity is shortened, the entire human race will
be destroyed. But it will be shortened for the sake of God's chosen
The Tribulation will be a time of great suffering and distress. It will
include intense misery, political uprising, satanic deception, and
conflict on a global scale. Thatís the first thing. It will also beÖ
B. Tied to the
Rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus
The Bible says;
Luke 17:24-25 (NLT)
That night two people will be asleep in one
bed; one will be taken away, and the other will be left. Two women will
be grinding flour together at the mill; one will be taken, the other
Thatís a description of what we know as the Rapture. Itís when God
takes His ChurchÖ all the people on earth who believe in Him, love Him,
and live for HimÖ and He takes them in an instant to be with Him. In
just about every book you read and every movie you see concerning the
End Times, it focuses in the instantaneous and unexpected disappearance
of millions or even billions of people throughout the world. Airliners
will be left without a pilot, cars will be hurtling down the highway
without a driver, people will be shaving and suddenly their razors drop
in the sink because thereís no one there to hold them. Schools will be
left half-empty, parents will be left without their children, Clothes
will be left in heaps on the floor. (Sounds like my room. Iím just
making sure Iím prepared for the rapture.)
Christian believers everywhere will be taken to be with God in an
instant. Thatís the rapture.
As for the Second Coming, we talked about that a couple weeks ago. We
discussed how the Bible describes a specific day when Jesus will return
to earth in all of His glory to bring reward and judgment. If you
missed it or want to refresh your memory, you can find the text for
that message on our website.
When will the Rapture and the Second Coming occur? Hold onÖ weíll get
to that. But first letís finish talking about what the Tribulation is.
Weíve already said that it will be a seven-year period of great
suffering and distress. And weíve discussed how it is tied to the
Rapture and the Second Coming. This third thing about the Tribulation
is that itÖ
rise and reign of the Antichrist
I have a friend who,
when he talks about movies, will refer to what he calls the BBG. And
just about every movie has one. Any guess for what BBG stands for? Big
Bad Guy. Every good movie has a protagonist and an antagonistÖ a hero
and a BBG. And in the context of this Great Tribulation which will
occur someday, the Antichrist is the BBG.
Now, let me explain something about the Antichrist. He gets that title
because he will oppose Jesus. In fact, the term ďAntichristĒ literally
means ďone who is against Christ.Ē He will lead people away from God.
And yes, he will be a very powerful person. But he will not be opposite
and equal to Jesus. He will not be as powerful as Jesus. He will be
against Jesus, but he will not wield the same power and authority that
Jesus has. He will be a servant of Satan, and Satan is not even close
to being equal in power to God.
I think we often consider God and Satan to be equals on opposite sides.
We think thereís a balance of power between good and evil, between God
and Satan, between the good side and the dark side. But the truth is
that God and God alone is all-powerful. He alone is all-knowing. He
alone is omni-present (or present everywhere). Satan was a created
being who rebelled against God, and has limitations as a created being.
Now, with that said, during this time of Tribulation the Antichrist
will seize a great deal of power in our world. There are several
passages which make reference to who we call the Antichrist. Three main
passages which you can check out later are listed in your notes:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 John 2:18-22; Revelation 13:11-18
When Will the Tribulation Happen?
Not a new question.
People have tried to answer it since the first century A.D. The early
Christians were persecuted by the thousands and thrown to the lions for
public entertainment on the order of Roman emperors who demanded to be
worshipped as gods. Iím sure those Christians thought that the End
Times might be near.
Later on, barbarians began invading a weakened Roman Empire, pillaging,
raping and killing. Surely that was a sign that the end was near.
During the Middle Ages, a drastic climatic change occurred that caused
catastrophic crop failure and famine. This happened at the same time
that a plague was sweeping through the world, killing up to a half of
the inhabitants in the affected areas within a matter of weeks. I
imagine it seemed like Jesus had to return soon.
Then, during the Protestant Reformation, Protestants were persecuted
and threatened with annihilation by the Roman Church, and many believed
that the pope would soon be revealed as the Antichrist.
In the years leading up to World War Two with the rise of the fascist
powers in Europe, many people believed the final page of history would
soon be turned.
And of course, September 11, 2001 lead to renewed speculation that the
End Times were beginning.
When will the Tribulation happen? Simple answer:
We donít know
The passage Lynn read
for us in Matthew 24 seems to indicate some signs that the end may be
near, such as wars and earthquakes and famines and the emergence of
several false prophets claiming to be the Messiah. But then it says
that these things must happen, but the End wonít come immediately. So
we have no idea when this time of Tribulation will begin. We can look
at the signs of the times and it would appear that our society is in a
downward spiral. It seems like things are getting worse and worse, and
the Tribulation may not be far off. Then again, human history is full
of times just like this. Standards fall, morals fade, society weakens,
bad things happen, evil seizes power, and all seems lostÖ but then
thereís a renaissanceÖ a revivalÖ an awakening. And then the process
begins again. We seem to go through these cycles in our world. One of
these times there will be no awakening, but we donít know when. And
really, itís pointless to try to define exactly when the Tribulation
will begin. We donít know, canít know and shouldnít know.
There will be two defining events which ushers in the Tribulation
Matthew 24:14-15 (NLT)
And the Good News about the Kingdom will be
preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it;
and then, finally, the end will come.
"The time will come when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke
about: the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the
Holy Place"--reader, pay attention!
First, the news about Jesus will be spread throughout the world. And
thatís becoming a reality with Christian missionaries spreading to
every part of the globe. And second, there will be some sacrilegious
object erected in the Holy Place. I donít know what this object will be
or really even what the nature of the Holy Place will be, since the
Holy Place was part of the Temple in Jerusalem which was destroyed in
I canít even say for sure that Christians will have to go through the
Tribulation. There are three main theories, and some variations beyond
that. The first one is called Pre-Tribulation, or Pre-Trib for short.
It claims that the Rapture will happen at the beginning of the
Tribulation and that Christians will be excused from going through it.
The second theory is called Post-Trib, which claims weíll go through
the Tribulation and that the Rapture wonít happen until the end of the
seven-year period. The third theory is Mid-Trib. Any guesses what that
means? Thatís right, the Rapture of the Church occurs half-way through
Iíve leaned toward different theories at different times, and people
smarter than me disagree on exactly when the Rapture will occur and
whether or not the Christian Church will have to endure it. Weíll talk
more about these theories next week, but Iím not about to endorse one
over the other because I simply donít know.
But what I can say is this: we can watch whatís happening in our world,
do our best to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world and
influence our world for God (as weíve been talking about over the past
month or so), and concentrate on fulfilling our responsibility of
introducing people to Jesus and helping them grow as long as we are
Who Is the Antichrist?
The common understanding
is that he will rise to a position of power over a unified world
through a series of peace treaties at the beginning of the Tribulation.
But three and a half years in, he will break a treaty and send the
world into chaos.
I should mention that the Antichrist goes by different names and titles
in the Bible, including the Beast, Little Horn, Man of Sin, Son of
Perdition, and Man of Lawlessness.
Throughout history, more than a few people have been accused of being
the Antichrist. Nero, Constantine, pretty much every Pope, Mohammed,
Martin Luther, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Kennedy, Kissinger, Saddam
Hussein, Bill Gates, Osama bin Laden, and George Bush are just some of
the people that others called, ďthe Antichrist.Ē
Really, though, the list is limitless. I did a search on Google this
week and found 367,000 references to the Antichrist, the second of
which maintained that David Hasselhoff is the Antichrist. Yes, I know
it was a joke.
My favourite theory has to do with Barney the dinosaur. Check this out:
Revelation 12:9 (NLT)
This great dragon--the ancient serpent
called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world--was
thrown down to the earth with all his angels.
Okay, Barneyís a cute purple dinosaur, not a dragon. Youíve got me
there. But thereís more:
Letís start with thatÖ Barneyís a CUTE PURPLE DINOSAUR.
Now, the Romans didnít have Uís in their alphabet so we have to change
all the Uís to Vís. So now we have this:
CVTE PVRPLE DINOSAVR
Then if you extract all the Roman Numerals you have C V V L D I V.
Convert them into real numbers you have 100 5 5 50 500 1 5
Add them together, you get: 666
And we know from Revelation 13 that 666 is the number of the Beast. We
donít know what that means, but we know itís the number or the mark of
the Beast. I always knew there was something about Barney...
Hereís another passage:
2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 (NLT)
For this lawlessness is already at work
secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it
back steps out of the way. Then the man of lawlessness will be
revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the breath of his mouth
and destroy by the splendour of his coming.
The truth is we donít know who the Antichrist will be. We donít know if
heís even alive or if he hasnít been born yet. Thereís even debate
about whether the Antichrist will be a person or a world power. After
all, in the Bible the word ďbeastĒ is often used in reference to a
government or kingdom.
Are you catching the theme here? The theme is that thereís a lot we
donít know about whatís going to happen. The End Time prophecies are
meant to warn us about rough times to come and to let us know that in
the end we win. But they are not meant to give us a comprehensive
checklist and timeline of everything that is going to happen. We donít
know how or when everything will unfold, so we need to be ready for it
to happen at any time.
Why Will the Tribulation Occur?
Thatís a good question.
If the Tribulation is going to be so nasty, why would God allow it? The
best answer I was about to find is this:
Because by then
God will have tried everything else to bring people to repentance.
He provided the Law
through Moses in the Old Testament. When people didnít follow that that
he sent the Judges. When people ignored them, He sent His prophets.
They killed the prophets. So He sent His Son. They killed Him, too.
With the resurrection of His Son, the Church was born. This Church has
changed the world and has led billions of people into a restored
relationship with God. But the majority of people continue to choose to
ignore God and walk their own way.
So the Tribulation will be the final effort to get our attention. It
will be a terrible timeÖ a sampling of whatís in store in Hell for
everyone who continues to reject God. Will it work? To a degree. It
would seem through reading the Biblical passages regarding the
Tribulation that many people will turn to God and call out to Him
because of the events that happen. But others continue in their
Revelation 9:20 (NLT)
But the people who did not die in these
plagues still refused to turn from their evil deeds. They continued to
worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and
wood--idols that neither see nor hear nor walk!
What Does It Mean for Me?
For starters, you should
memorize these verses. Read this aloud with me:
Matthew 5:11-12 (NLT)
ďGod blesses you when you are mocked and
persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about
it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And
remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.Ē
What does this verse tell us?
1. With God, We
Remember that as bad as
things may get in this world, and no matter how many people may laugh
at you and discriminate against you and even attack and persecute you
because of your relationship with God, thereís coming a day when it
will all be worth it. You will inherit a great reward in heaven. So
donít lose heart. Donít give in and donít give up. Be faithful to God
and He will be faithful to you.
2. Hope for the
Best, Prepare for the Worst.
I think thereís a reason
that thereís so much weíre not told about the End Times. I think if we
knew when things would happen and how they would happen, we would
neglect the important things we should be doing right nowÖ such as
growing stronger in our faith and telling others about the love of
Jesus for them.
Do I hope we donít have to go through the Tribulation? You bet. I have
no desire to experience all of the chaos that the Bible predicts. But
at the same time, I want to be ready for it in the event that I have to
go through it. I want my relationship with God to be strong enough that
it will endure. I want my faith and hope in God to sustain me when
times get tough. I want to be able to withstand all the suffering and
all the distress and emerge safely and victoriously on the other side
because of what I allow God to do in my life today.
How about you? Are you
willing to say to God, ďDo anything you want with me, do whatever you
want in me, do whatever you want through me. As long as there is time,
help me to serve you and meet the needs of people in the world around
me. And help me to grow in my faith and in my relationship with You so
that, whatever comes my way in life, I will remain faithful to YouĒ?