End of Days Part 2
It's the End of the World as We Know It!
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 8, 2003

 

Main Passage: 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.

1. Sex
2. The End Times
3. Is There Sex in the End Times?

Well, one out of three ain’t bad. We stated this series on the End of Days a couple weeks ago. We took a break from it last Sunday. But we’re back at it this week. Now, I don’t have any statistics to show you. I don’t have any graphs to prove this. It’s 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 we’re 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, we’re 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. We’re 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? Let’s get started.

 

What Is the Tribulation?

 

A. A seven year period of great suffering and distress

We’ve had times in human history and even times in our own lives that have been no picnic. We’ve all gone through times that we would describe as a tribulation… 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?

PARTICIPATION

(People were predicting the collapse of our economy, a world-wide food shortage, a lack of pure drinking water… 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 didn’t 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. That’s 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 ones.

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. That’s the first thing. It will also be…

 

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 left."

That’s a description of what we know as the Rapture. It’s when God takes His Church… all the people on earth who believe in Him, love Him, and live for Him… 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 there’s 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. I’m just making sure I’m prepared for the rapture.)

Christian believers everywhere will be taken to be with God in an instant. That’s 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 on… we’ll get to that. But first let’s finish talking about what the Tribulation is. We’ve already said that it will be a seven-year period of great suffering and distress. And we’ve discussed how it is tied to the Rapture and the Second Coming. This third thing about the Tribulation is that it…

 

Includes the 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 antagonist… 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 “Antichrist” literally means “one who is against Christ.” 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 there’s 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. I’m 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 don’t 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 won’t 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 lost… but then there’s a renaissance… a revival… 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 don’t know when. And really, it’s pointless to try to define exactly when the Tribulation will begin. We don’t know, can’t know and shouldn’t know.

There will be two defining events which ushers in the Tribulation period.

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 that’s 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 don’t 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 70 A.D.

I can’t 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 we’ll go through the Tribulation and that the Rapture won’t happen until the end of the seven-year period. The third theory is Mid-Trib. Any guesses what that means? That’s right, the Rapture of the Church occurs half-way through the tribulation.

I’ve 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. We’ll talk more about these theories next week, but I’m not about to endorse one over the other because I simply don’t know.

But what I can say is this: we can watch what’s 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 we’ve 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 able.

 

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, “the Antichrist.”

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, Barney’s a cute purple dinosaur, not a dragon. You’ve got me there. But there’s more:

Let’s start with that… Barney’s a CUTE PURPLE DINOSAUR.
Now, the Romans didn’t have U’s in their alphabet so we have to change all the U’s to V’s. 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 don’t know what that means, but we know it’s the number or the mark of the Beast. I always knew there was something about Barney...

Here’s 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 don’t know who the Antichrist will be. We don’t know if he’s even alive or if he hasn’t been born yet. There’s even debate about whether the Antichrist will be a person or a world power. After all, in the Bible the word “beast” is often used in reference to a government or kingdom.

Are you catching the theme here? The theme is that there’s a lot we don’t know about what’s 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 don’t 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?

 

That’s 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 didn’t 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 time… a sampling of what’s 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 rebellion.

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)
“God 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.”

What does this verse tell us?

 

1. With God, We Win.

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, there’s coming a day when it will all be worth it. You will inherit a great reward in heaven. So don’t lose heart. Don’t give in and don’t give up. Be faithful to God and He will be faithful to you.

 

2. Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst.

I think there’s a reason that there’s so much we’re 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 now… such as growing stronger in our faith and telling others about the love of Jesus for them.

Do I hope we don’t 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, “Do 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 You”?

Let’s pray.

 

 

 

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