Tuesday, June 22, 2010
ETERNAL IMPACT CRUSADE July 10th-16th Barry Cosper and the team from Alabama
Featured artists are Shane and April Dye from Remnant Gospel, who will share in services
Newcastle Baptist Tabernacle
Corner of Laman and Dawson Streets Newcastle
Across the road from Civic Park and alongside Newcastle City Library.
Sunday 11th July 10:30 and 7:00 pm
7:00 pm Tuesday 15th July and Wednesday 16th.
HOLIDAY KIDS CLUB
At the Tab.
July 12th-16th. 9 - Midday.
$3 per day per child.
Fun and adventure for the kids.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Matt 24:15-31 (ESV) “The Abomination Of Desolation”
15 "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.
28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
People in our world are always wishing for a better day, for a time when the problems that plague human society will be alleviated. However, the message of Scripture is that before there is a better time, there is going to be an infinitely worse time. Our Lord describes that time in Matthew 24:21: "Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be." One of the facets of that time is something called the abomination of desolation.
Daniel 9:27 (ASV) "And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations [shall come] one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall [wrath] be poured out upon the desolate."
Daniel 11:31 (ASV) "And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual [burnt-offering], and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate."
Daniel 12:11 (ASV) "And from the time that the continual [burnt-offering] shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days."
The term is used by Jesus Christ in the Olivet discourse, according to both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark. In the Matthean account, Jesus is presented as quoting Daniel explicitly. In the Gospel of Mark, the phrase "spoken of by Daniel the prophet" is absent in earlier manuscripts including Codex Sinaiticus
Matthew 24:15-26 (ESV) "So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."
Mark 13:14 (ESV) "But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."
The 1 Maccabees usage of the term points to the actions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the mid-second century BC. Specifically, he set up an altar to Zeus in the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and sacrificed swine on it around the year 167 BC. Accordingly, most modern scholars believe that Daniel 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11 are a prophecy after the event relating to Antiochus. 1 Maccabees 1:20-22, "After Antiochus had defeated Egypt in the year one hundred and forty-three (167BC), he returned and went up to Israel and to Jerusalem with a strong force. He insolently invaded the sanctuary ... and stripped off everything. V54 the king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar."
2 Maccabees 6:1-5, "The Temple Desecrated: Not long after this, the king sent an Athenian senator to force the Jews to abandon the customs of their ancestors and live no longer by the laws of God; also to profane the temple in Jerusalem and dedicate it to Olympian Zeus, and that on Mount Gerizim to Zeus, the Hospitable, as the inhabitants of the place requested. The Gentiles filled the temple with debauchery and revelry; they amused themselves with prostitutes ... even in the sacred court. They also brought into the temple things that were forbidden, so that the altar was covered with abominable offerings prohibited by the laws."
Some maintain that Daniel's prophecy was wholly fulfilled in 167 BC. But the words of Mt & Mk, "Let reader understand", indicate some connection between Daniel's prophecy and the future.
Matthew 24:15 give us the key to identifying the abomination of desolation. It is not just any event, but the one spoken of by Daniel the prophet, who gives us a preview of it in chapter 11. In describing the sacrilege committed by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C., Daniel gives us a foretaste of the abomination of desolation that will be committed in the end time by the Antichrist.
Daniel 11:31 introduces us to an interesting historical figure, who almost all scholars agree is Antiochus Epiphanes. He was a Syrian king who reigned in Palestine from about 175 to 163 B.C. He called himself Epiphanes which means "the great one." The people called him Epimanes, which means "maniac." Verse 31 says this about him: "Forces shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that makes desolate." In that historical act of Antiochus Epiphanes, we have a picture of what the Antichrist will do in the end times.
Antiochus Epiphanes was a great persecutor of the Jewish people. The apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees describe how he tried to stamp out Jewish religion, and in so doing slaughtered thousands of Jewish men, women, and children. In one of the worst acts in Jewish history, Antiochus desecrated the Temple by slaughtering a pig on the altar, forcing the priests to eat pork, and setting up an idol to Zeus. The Jews then abandoned the Temple, not wishing to go into a defiled place. That put a halt to the daily sacrifices (as predicted by Daniel 11:31), until the Jews regained control of the Temple during the Maccabean revolution.
Luke 21.20-21 (ESV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains..." Notice the Luke uses the phrase Jerusalem surrounded by Armies in place of the Abomination of Desolation [standing where it ought not to be] in Matthew and Mark.
The only problem is that Jesus is saying this in 33 AD. And saying it was a yet future event to Him. In Matthew 24:15, Jesus was speaking some 200 years after the abomination of desolation described above had already occurred. So, Jesus must have been prophesying that some time in the future another abomination of desolation would occur in a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Most Bible prophecy interpreters believe that Jesus was referring to the Antichrist who will do something very similar to what Antiochus Epiphanies did. This is confirmed by the fact that some of what Daniel prophesied in Daniel 9:27 did not occur in 167 B.C. with Antiochus Epiphanies. Antiochus did not confirm a covenant with Israel for seven years. It is the Antichrist who, in the end times, will establish a covenant with Israel for seven years and then break it by doing something similar to the abomination of desolation in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
The Abomination is after Christ’s First Coming
In verse 24 Daniel says, "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy." The weeks here are weeks of years. Daniel is saying there will be seventy times seven, or 490 years, to the Kingdom of Messiah. Verse 25 tells us when that 490-year period began: "Understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." In 445 B.C. King Artaxerxes of Persia issued a decree permitting the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem. From that date, sixty-nine weeks (483 years) were to elapse before the coming of Messiah the Prince (Dan. 9:25). Calculations by Sir Robert Anderson (The Coming Prince [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1954]) and by Harold Hoehner (Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977]) have shown that the period from Artaxerxes' decree to Christ's presentation of Himself as Israel's Messiah (at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem) is 483 years--to the very day.
That leaves one week unaccounted for. We know that the first sixty-nine weeks ended when Messiah came, but the seventieth week hasn't come yet. That leaves us with an undetermined time gap between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks.
One commentator relates the prophecy to the actions of Caligula c. 40 AD when he ordered that a golden statue depicting himself as Zeus incarnate be set up in the Temple in Jerusalem. This prospect however, never came into fruition since he was assassinated in 41 AD along with his wife and daughter. Caligula issued a peremptory decree ordering the erection and worship of his statute in the Temple of God. He also appointed to the government of Syria, bidding him carry out that decree even at the cost of a war against the rebellious Jews. Whereupon the Jews in tens of thousands protested to the governor that they were willing to be slaughtered rather than to be condemned to witness that idolatrous profanation of their holy Temple. Soon afterwards Petronius asked Caligula to revoke his order, and Agrippa I, who then lived at Rome, prevailed upon the Emperor not to enforce his decree. It seems, however, that Caligula soon repented of the concession, and that but for his untimely death (A.D. 41) he would have had his statue set up in Jerusalem (E. Schurer, History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ, I Div. II, 95-105; tr.)
Some see it as about Emperor Hadrian's attempt to install the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus on the site of the ruined Jewish Temple in Jerusalem leading to the Bar Kokhba rebellion of 132-135 AD.
Donald Barnhouse in his commentary on Revelation (1971, Zondervan) who affirms that the Beast of Revelation is the incarnation of Satan into the body of Antichrist and that the Abomination of Desolation is this future event. This revelation of the "man of sin" is two-fold: (1) he is assassinated in a rebuilt Jewish Temple (the so-called Third Temple) when religious Jews become outraged over his self-deification and declarations of godhood—a blatant desecration; and (2) whereupon Satan incarnates himself into Antichrist's body and feigns the resurrection (i.e., "temple" as when Jesus said: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up...he was speaking of the temple of his body" - (John 2:19-21).
Jesus is saying that Antiochus was a prototype of another ruler to come. The one Jesus refers to is called by various titles such as “man of sin”, “man of lawlessness”, but the most common is “the Antichrist”. Like Antiochus before him, this ruler in the last days will win the favor of the Jews by deception. He will enable them to rebuild their temple and then at the mid-point of the seven years of tribulation, he will come to the temple and do something abominable. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (NKJV) “3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin [antichrist] is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” That event marks the beginning of 3 ½ years of horrible persecution for the Jews. That is why verses 16-20 of our text warns them to flee and pities those who have anything to slow them down. The depth of the tribulation is seen in verse 21 (read). When we read details of this persecution in Revelation, we see that it is greater that when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD and the holocaust all put together. The word “shortened” in verse 22 is the idea of “terminated” or brought to an end. The termination is the bodily return of Christ to slay His enemies. The second coming avoids the eradication of the Jewish people and those who stand with them.
2. The Abomination is immediately before Christ’s Second Coming
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 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.
In Revelation 13 is a graphic portrayal of the abomination of desolation. We meet the Antichrist, who is described in verse 1 as the beast. Verse 5 says, "There was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and power was given to him to continue forty and two months." Forty two months equals 1260 days, or three and a half years. Once again, as in Daniel, we see the Antichrist will flourish during the second half of the tribulation. At the midpoint of the tribulation, he starts to blaspheme God: "He opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven" (v.6).
The story is of Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher in southern California, who was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Harry Reid’s great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor. On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research was this actual inscription:
“Remus Reid, horse thief, was sent to [a U. S. government prison] in 1883, but escaped [and went on to rob] the Montana railroad six times. He was caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.” For fun, Judy Wallman e-mailed the photograph and the information to Congressman Harry Reid to tell him about his great-great uncle. The photograph shows Remus Reid on the gallows with men putting a noose around his neck. Sometime later, Harry Reid’s staff sent back a statement, tongue-in-cheek – having a little fun of their own – putting a spin on the story as only the political culture can. The following is their response:
Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include the acquisition of equestrian assets and dealings with the Montana railroad. In 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, but took leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in an investigation by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor . . . when the platform upon which he was standing suddenly collapsed.
How is that for spin?! The truth is that we would also probably cover up the story if he were our great-great uncle.
It occurred to me that there is coming a time on planet Earth when spin-doctoring will reach levels never before achieved. It will not be tongue-in-cheek, it will be deadly serious. The entire world will follow a man who captivates it by his smooth speech and winsome ways. There happens to be a coming leader who will mesmerize Europe and the coalition of European countries and then, the rest of the civilized world as he spins lies into something sounding like truths. He will eventually be worshiped as a god. In reality this man is the incarnation of Satan’s agenda; he is a murderer, a liar, and a cheat. He is the devil’s messiah; he will be the proud prince of hell.
The world will be falling apart during the fury of God’s wrath – and we have already studied this outpouring of wrath – but this man will still have the world convinced that he is in perfect control. And for a short period of time, after he rises to world power, he will be acclaimed as the Man of the Year, the miracle worker, the prince of peace, the savior of mankind.
Church leaders for centuries have expounded on the biblical passage related to the antichrist’s brief rule on earth. Irenaeus, the second century church leader, wrote extensively on the subject of the antichrist and even
the meaning of the number 666. A signature work on the antichrist was written by another church leader named Hippolytus around A.D. 200.
Tertullian also wrote about the antichrist as he battled against mysticism in the church during the third century.
I found it interesting that these men expected the antichrist to surface at any time.
John the apostle wrote in his first epistle that the antichrist was coming (I John 2:18). By the way, the name “antichrist” is found only five times in the New Testament, and all of the references are in the letters of John the apostle. There are actually a number of additional titles for this coming deceiver. These include:
· the prince who is to come Daniel 9:26
· the fierce king Daniel 8:23
· a despicable man Daniel 11:21
· a worthless shepherd Zechariah 11:16
· the destroyer II Thess. 2:3 the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
· a master of intrigue Daniel 8:23
· the evil man II Thess. 2:9 or the man of sin
Antiochus Epiphanes set up the image of a Greek god; the Antichrist will set up an image of himself. As Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, he will be the one who "exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." The Antichrist will actually set himself up to be worshiped as God. That is the abomination of desolation.
This man’s peace accord with Israel that allows safety, freedom, and the license to construct a new Temple in Jerusalem, which will be nothing short of miraculous. By the way, peace which the antichrist brings to Israel may very well be an imposed peace. Daniel describes it as a “firm covenant” in Daniel 9:27. The Hebrew word that is translated “firm” can be translated “forced, or compelled”. It is possible that the antichrist is in a position of power that offers Israel a “take it or leave it” peace plan. The idea of an imposed peace on Israel by a confederation of Western nations does not take much of an imagination today, does it?xi
Even now the United Nations is unable to keep peace in the Middle East. Jimmy Carter thought he could bring peace to the Middle East. Ronald Reagan tried. Bill Clinton tried as well. The Bush administration tried and yet, it ended with missiles flying through the air above Gaza. Obama will give only one more attempt in a long line of failed cease fires and paper-thin peace treaties.
Ladies and gentlemen, the next chapter can be written at any time. Peace in the Middle East will be the signature of the antichrist whereby he will amaze the world and cap his meteoric rise to power. Arnold Toynbee, a British historian, wrote these interesting words decades ago, “By forcing on mankind more and more lethal weapons, and at the same time making the world more and more interdependent economically, we are ripe for the deification of any new Caesar who might succeed in giving the world unity and peace.”xiii
a seven year period called “the great tribulation”. God’s people have always experienced tribulation. Jesus made a promise to us that seldom makes it into those Scriptural promise books. He said in John 16:33 (NKJV) “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." However, the tribulation described here in Matthew 24 and in Revelation 6-19, Jeremiah 30, Zechariah 13-14, several passages in Daniel, as well as 2 Thessalonians is beyond anything experienced before it in history.
During this time the false Messiahs will have supernatural powers to do signs and wonders. By the way, not all supernatural actions are of God. Satan also has supernatural power. Listen to this description of the supernatural power of Satan’s emissaries in the last days in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 (NKJV) “9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” Revelation 13:13-14 (NKJV) “13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.” So the question comes, how will the true Messiah be recognized when He comes? Matthew 24:27 (NKJV) “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” The emphasis is that it will be sudden like lightning and there will be no time to prepare. One Bible scholar described it as “quick, sudden, public, visible, universal, and unimaginably glorious”
Christ’s Coming After The Tribulation
Signalled by Great Changes
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
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.
Here the time of tribulation ends and the Messiah returns to rule and reign. Those who say that this whole passage was fulfilled in 70 AD in the destruction of Jerusalem have a real hard time with this passage. It has to be spiritualized and cannot be taken literally. Yet I see no hermeneutical reason not to treat it as literal since it meshes well with other Scriptures.
A. The Sequence of Events (V29a)
Jesus says that the unmistakable sign of His return will occur immediately after this time of tribulation. The sequence is that 3 ½ years into the great tribulation, the antichrist will set himself up to be worshipped in the temple and great persecution breaks out on the Jews and those saved during the great tribulation and then Christ comes.
B. The Scene in the Heavens (V29b)
Luke gives a fuller description of this in Luke 21:25-27 (NKJV) 25 "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” The events of that day will be so awe inspiring that men will faint in absolute terror.
1. First, there is the antichrist’s global defiance.
Rev 13: 5. There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies . . .
One commentator said, “He was given a mouth and it was a really big one too.”vi
By the way, you should underline the four times the phrase appears, “given to him”.
· In verse 5a – a mouth was “given to him”;
· In verse 5b – authority to act for forty-two months was “given to him”;
· In verse 7a – to make war was “given to him”;
· In verse 7b – authority over every tribe, people, tongue, and nation was “given to him”.
The antichrist has four “givens”: · to blaspheme; · to lead; · to persecute; · to rule.
We might wonder who gave these things to him. Obviously Satan is the intermediate source, as, in fact, we are told in verse 4 that Satan gave his own authority to the beast, or the antichrist. However, these four “givens,” beginning in verse 5, are passive verb forms. Satan might be the intermediate source, but God is the ultimate source. This is all according to God’s plan – God’s delegated power to the forces of evil to ultimately bring about His purposes on earth.
There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.
Remember that the Tribulation period is divided into two, three-and-a-half-year periods. The first half of the Tribulation is relatively peaceful among the nations, as the antichrist rises in power – beginning with his peace accord with Israel. It is around the midpoint of the Tribulation that the antichrist is assassinated, miraculously resurrected, steps forward to declare himself the Messiah, desecrates the Tribulation temple, tramples Jerusalem, and demands the worship of the world (Daniel 9 and Revelation chapters 11 and 13). Keep in mind that forty-two months is three and a half years. Revelation 13:5 tells us that for forty-two months this man will begin to blaspheme God. This lets us know that at the midpoint of the Tribulation, the antichrist will take off his nice-guy, peace-negotiator, wonderful-leader who wants to serve mankind mask. He will then openly declare himself the world ruler, God in the flesh, the long-awaited Messiah and begin to wage open war against the knowledge and name of God. The antichrist’s defiant blasphemy and arrogance will surpass that of anyone else in human history. He will be Satan’s mouthpiece, voicing his master’s frustrated rage against God.
Notice in verse 6, the extent of his blasphemy. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name [God’s Person] and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven [God’s people].
2. Secondly, not only does the antichrist’s time of global defiance begin, but his time of global dominance begins.
Forty-two months of global domination by the antichrist begins during this part of the Tribulation as well. There are two aspects to his world dominance according to verse 7.
· First, the antichrist becomes the believers’ final persecutor. Notice the first part of verse 7.
It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them . . .
The antichrist will not overcome the believers in a spiritual sense, but in a physical sense. He will kill them. This is not referring to a military campaign (at least not yet); this is referring to a time of tormenting, harassing, persecuting, and executing the people of God. This is the answer to the martyred Tribulation saints’ prayer in Revelation chapter 6, when they asked God how long until He vindicated His name and brought justice to their persecutors. God told them to . . .
. . . rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed as they had been, would be completed also. (Revelation 6:11b)
During this forty-two month period of persecution, the number of the Tribulation saints who are martyred for their faith will be completed. Christians will be especially hated by the antichrist because they will be a reminder that his master has long since met his Master.x
Why does the antichrist pull out all the stops? He does so because his time is short; because he only has forty-two months left. He will be passionate to dishonor Jesus Christ.
· Secondly, the antichrist becomes the unbelievers’ final ruler.
Notice further in verse 7. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.
The antichrist will succeed in what every other ruler only dreamed about – total world domination. Could it be that even now the world is moving toward this climactic setting of a one-world government? Is the world ready for a one-world system of authority, commerce, and rule of law? Like never before.
For those who believe in Jesus Christ, let me give a challenge to be discerning.
Even today, even without the antichrist to do his bidding, the Christian is in danger of being distracted by the enemy, or worse yet, deceived. For everything that God has, Satan has a counterfeit. There are counterfeit Christians, whom we call hypocrites. There is a counterfeit church, which the Bible calls the “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 3:9). There are seducing spirits and doctrines of demons (I Timothy 4:1). There are false messiahs and false prophets who will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 7 and 24). When trouble comes, will it detract from your worship; will it distract from your walk; will it divert your commitment?
The end of all things is near . . . (I Peter 4:7a) If Peter thought the end was near, then what we can know for certain is that it is now 2,000 years nearer. We believe the end of all things is really near. So what does this mean?! Peter writes,
The end of all things is near; therefore . . .
. . . panic! No, this is not what he writes. Peter writes,
. . . be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever is the [gifted] speaker, do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever is [gifted] in serving, do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:7-11)
For the believer then, let this discussion on last days call you to a pure way of living; to a gracious love and hospitality; to a committed service to the body of Christ with your spiritual gifts that God has entrusted to you to bless the church – whether speaking or serving. And along the way, the truth about the last days is meant to challenge us, as believers, toward living with discernment.
Matt 24:36-51 (ESV) No One Knows That Day and Hour
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 “and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. 47 “Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. 48 “But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ 49 “and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 “the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 “and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Whenever discussion moves to the subject of the Return of Christ, someone will ask “When are these thigns going to happen?” Acts 1:7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
" Therefore be ye also ready : for in such an hour as you think not the Son of Man cometh " (Matt. z4: 44)•
"An hour " Ah, how much may happen in one hour Simon Peter failed to watch and pray for one hour (Matt. z6 : 40), and thus in about " the space of one hour " (Luke 22:59) thrice denied his Lord. One hour of devotion would have delivered from one hour of disaster. To have wrought " but one hour" in our Lord's vineyard (Matt. 20:12), will bring its great reward ; while for others, in the world's great city, one hour will herald eternal judgment and desolation (Rev.18 :10 and 19).
Oh, my Lord, teach me the vital value of one hour, and also the solemn urgency of those words " in such an hour
AN UNREVEALED HOUR
The Hour of Christ's Coming is an Unrevealed Hour. " But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only " (Matt. 24 : 36).
The secret of the Second Advent is hidden in the heart of " the everlasting Father." It is a secret He has not and will not share with another. Let me beware of invading this secret territory, lest I detract from my Father's glory, because " It is the glory of God to conceal a thing " (Prow. z5 : z) and " The secret things belong unto the Lord our God " (Deus. 29 : 29).
The signs that we have discussed so far in Matthew 24 relate primarily to that time known as the Great Tribulation, a future time when the Antichrist will set himself up as the abomination of desolation in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.
Verses 13, 42, 44, and 50 all indicate that the exact moment of the Lord's return is unknown. The general time frame of the second coming will become obvious once people see all the signs in Matthew 24. The abomination of desolation will be a historical event. The wars, famines, pestilences, devastation, waters turning to blood, and increased darkness will all be noticed. But the exact day and hour of Christ's return won't be known; it will come unexpectedly.
Both Daniel and Revelation tell us that the Great Tribulation-- the second half of the tribulation--will be three and one-half years long, forty two months, or 1260 days (Dan. 7:25; 9:27; 12:7; Rev. 12:14; 13:5). The second half begins with the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15. That's when the Antichrist will demand to be worshiped. Matthew 24:29-30 says that immediately after that period the Son of Man will come. However we don't know exactly how long it will be before the kingdom is actually established. In Daniel 12:11-12 we read about a seventy-five day period following the tribulation, during which the kingdom will be established.
The tribulation will begin once the church is raptured. There will be three and one-half years of peace as the Antichrist politically rescues Israel and starts to revive what once comprised the Roman Empire. Then in the middle of the seven-year tribulation, he will desecrate the Temple in Jerusalem and demand that he be worshiped. The next three and one-half years will culminate with the return of Christ.
None of those things have happened yet. We don't know what generation they will come upon. It could be this generation; the church might be raptured any moment. And even those who do see the signs in Matthew 24 come to pass won't know the exact moment of Christ's return at the end of the tribulation. That is a secret.
Notice that the Lord says repeatedly Matthew 24:42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know Matthew 25: 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
In all of those terms the “day and hour refer not only to the specific moment of His glorious appearing, but also more broadly to the eschatological time frame in which all of these events will occur. There are many signs that must precede His final coming with His saints; the abomination of desolation, the sun darkened, movements in the heavens, , but the beginning of these last days events is the rapture of the church out of the world. The rapture of the church is the event that commences all the other events.
And the rapture of the church is the unknown day and hour, that begins the days and hours of the last 7 years of human history.
The rapture is where the Lord Jesus Christ comes for His Church, later at the end of the 7 years of tribulation ,He will come with His church, riding the horses of the armies of heaven.
Matthew 24:42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Is applicable to us who wait now, awaiting the rapture, which precedes all of the events of the last days. There are no signs whatsoever that precede the rapture. We need to be ready 42 for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
The last half of the Sermon on Mount Olivet, Matthew 24 and 25 continually reminds us to be prepared for His coming.
It is not known by men Jesus specifically stated in Matthew 24:36 that no man knows the day and hour of His coming. If men did know the exact moment of Christ's return, they would probably choose to live in sin right up until just before that moment. Christians might stop everything they are doing just to await the Lord's coming. Life would change considerably if you knew exactly when the Lord was going to come. People wouldn't make plans for the future; long-term relationships would be affected. So the Lord, in all His wisdom, has kept secret the time of Christ's return. He didn't want people to take advantage of such knowledge for their own selfish reasons.
It is not known by angels Matthew 24:36 also says that the angels of heaven don't know the day and hour of Christ's return. The natural world (mankind) doesn't know, and neither does the supernatural world (the angels). The angels have constant access to God. In Isaiah 6 they hover around His throne awaiting His commands. In Matthew 18:10 we read they are face-to-face with God in intimate communion with Him. According to Matthew 13, angels will be the agents of judgment at the second coming. They are the reapers who will gather the wheat and tares, and throw the tares into a furnace of fire (vv. 37-42). Matthew 24:31 indicates that the angels will gather the believers who survive the tribulation. Yet in spite of all those things, the angels still do not know the exact moment of Christ's coming. God has chosen not to reveal it to them. Scripture doesn't tell us why.
It is not known by the Son That Christ didn't know the time of His own return has created much discussion. How could Jesus Christ, who is God, not know something? Since He is God, isn't He omniscient? That's easily explained if we understand some facts about the incarnation. Jesus Christ is fully God (John 1:1, 14), but when He became a man, He voluntarily restricted the use of His divine attributes (Phil. 2:6-8). He didn't put His deity or divine attributes aside; He simply restricted the use of them. He lived without using His omniscience unless the Father prescribed for Him to use it.
Christ's omniscience is obvious in some passages. In John 2:24-25 we read that He knows what's in the heart of every man. In John 3 Jesus answers a question that Nicodemus had in mind but hadn't yet asked (vv. 1-3). In His incarnation, Christ restricted the use of His omniscience to those things that the Father wanted Him to know. Philippians 2:7 says He took upon Himself the form of a servant. He submitted Himself to whatever the Father wanted Him to do, say, or know. In John 15:15 Jesus says to the disciples, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." That verse explicitly states Jesus' knowledge was qualified by what the Father revealed to Him. Some of what He knew came through the Old Testament, some came from personal experiences during which He saw God's power, and some through direct revelation.
Jesus didn't have to restrict the use of His omniscience. But He chose to act as a servant to redeem mankind. That Jesus humbled Himself and took upon Himself the form of a servant means He limited the use of His divine attributes, including His omniscience. Scripture says that as Jesus grew older He "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).
I believe after Christ was resurrected, the day and hour of His return became known to Him. After He came out of the grave in His resurrection glory, He said this to the disciples: "All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18). Shortly afterwards He said, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons [of the second coming], which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). He said only that the disciples wouldn't know the time of His return; He didn't include Himself as He did in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32. So when Christ rose from the dead, He resumed full use of His attributes and therefore had full knowledge of when His second coming would be.
God doesn't want mankind to know when the second coming will be because He wants every generation to live in expectation of it. He wants everyone to be prepared at all times. So ever since the New Testament era, Christians have always lived in eager anticipation of the second coming of Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:6-7--"The testimony of Christ was confirmed in you; so that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The first generation church in Corinth anticipated Christ's return.
Hebrews 10:24-25--"Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." That was written as if those who received the letter of Hebrews would witness Christ's return.
Philippians 3:20--"Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." We look to heaven in anticipation of Christ's coming.
James 5:8--"Be ye also patient, establish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth near."
1 Peter 4:7--"The end of all things is at hand; be ye, therefore, soberminded, and watch unto prayer."
1 John 2:18--"Little children, it is the last time."
Revelation 22:20--"He who testifieth these things [Jesus] saith, Surely, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
The writers of the New Testament didn't fully understand how much time would go by before the second coming of Christ, but they lived in expectation of it. Every generation should be prepared for His return. If we knew when Christ planned to return, then no one would live in expectation until just before the right moment.
Dr. H. Bonar :I know not in what watch He comes, Or at what hour He may appear,
Whether at midnight or at mom, Or in what season of the year; I only know that He is near.
AN UNEXPECTED HOUR
The Hour of Christ's Coming is an Unexpected Hour. " In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh (Matt. 24 : 44).
Mark 13:32-33 "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 33 "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.
Lu 12:39 "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Lu 12:40 "You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."
Re 3:3 ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
Re 16:15 ("Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.")
Jesus is coming to earth again. What if it were today?"
In the midst of all the trials and sorrows of life, it is the hope of Christ's imminent return which never fails to encourage the troubled heart.
The Rapture is signless, and will be unannounced and largely unexpected. It is next on the revealed program of God, and is so presented in the Scripture that every generation may enjoy the hope, challenge and other blessings of His appearing. We are all exhorted to watch but no one can know the day nor the hour when the Bridegroom will come (Matt. 25:13).
No clearly prophesied event must transpire prior to the Rapture, for this might date the time of His coming. If the return of Christ for His Church is imminent, then obviously it will be before the coming period of Tribulation with its clearly predicted signs and judgments. In theological language, the Rapture of the Church must be Pretribulational We do not first look for an invasion of the Holy Land by Russia or some other northern confederation, nor the revelation of Antichrist and his godless ambitions, nor the predicted Battle of Armageddon with its vast devastation. We look next for the coming of Christ from heaven to take His own to the Father's house (John 14:1-3), and the Bible calls this our "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13).
If the rapture of the church were in the middle of the tribulation, we could easily determine the day and hour of His coming – 3.5 years (1260 days) from the beginning of the 7 year peace accord between the nations and Israel which is brokered by the antichrist.
If the rapture were to occur at the end of the tribulation, the we could mark 3.5 years from the day the antichrist enters the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God.
The rapture of the church is imminent – sure to come, but unexpected. Other views do not effectively allow for the imminence taught in Scripture.
The Rapture is imminent, which means it can happen at any moment. Christians are not to wait for signs of Christ’s return but for His coming itself. The demand for every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is that everyone must be ready for His coming. The immanency of Christ’s return or rapture is proved from the following arguments. Firstly, Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” The word “to wait” is written in present tense as if this great event could occur at any time. Secondly, in 1 Corinthians 15:52 Paul explains that our mortal bodies will all be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet . . . .” This shows that this event will be unexpected and happen at any time is supported by the apostle’s concluding exhortation to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
At Christ’s second coming in the clouds (Revelation 19:11-21), his angels will gather all believers living on earth (Matt 24:30-31)., “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, . . . that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. . . . Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess 4:13-18). This clearly indicates that Paul fully expected to be alive at Christ’s coming since he included himself (“we which are alive and remain”) among those that would be alive at the time of the Rapture.
“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. . . . Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. . . . and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thess 5:3-11). This maintains that the day of the Lord (which begins after the Rapture and continues through the Millennium) was imminent so that it would take people by surprise. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to fight “sleep” (spiritual lethargy) to prepare for Christ’s unexpected arrival. Sixth, when Jesus told the disciples, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). He actually used the present tense (“I am coming”) with a sense of the immediate future without any intervening signs
we see clearly that the Rapture is not identical with the Revelation, commonly called the Second Coming of Christ. There are some obvious differences. The Rapture relates to the Church, when the dead in Christ shall rise and the living will be translated to meet the Lord in the air (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). It expresses hope and a warm spirit of expectancy (1 Thess. 1:10), all of which should result in a victorious and purified life (1 John 3:2-3).
On the other hand, the Second Coming of Christ does not deal primarily with the saint but with the sinner. When Christ returns to earth, Armageddon must be terminated (Rev. 19:17-18), the Beast and the False Prophet will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:19-20), Satan shall be bound in the abyss (Rev. 20:1-3), the nations of earth will be gathered and judged (Matt. 25:31-46), and Israel, which has gone through deep trial, will now behold and put their trust in Christ, their true Messiah (Zech. 12:10; Rom. 11:26-27).
The Rapture will happen in the "twinkling of an eye." 1 Corinthians15:51-52 promises that” in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye... the dead shall be raised imperishable and we (living at the Rapture) will be changed." This instantaneous disappearance will terminate the Church's earthly ministry.
The Rapture will take place in the air. Unlike the glorious appearing when Christ descends to earth, splits the Mount of Olives, overthrows Antichrist and binds Satan, the Rapture will occur when we are "caught up together... to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:17).
The Identity of the Restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2 gives us an idea that there will be a rapture. If the power that restrains the revealing of the Antichrist is non-other than the Holy Spirit operating through those He indwells (2Th. 2:7) and those who are indwelt are permanently sealed with the Spirit unto the day of redemption (John 14:16; 2Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30), then when the Restrainer is removed, so will be the Church. In the same way the Spirit began a new ministry baptizing believers into the body of Christ at Pentecost (John 7:38-39; Acts 2), so the Spirit will complete that ministry and withdraw the Church prior to the revealing of Antichrist and the outpouring of God's wrath.
This is why you also must be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Maybe, in the hour of sleep, when the tired toiler is being refreshed in body and brain for the business of another expected day—the unexpected hour will come. Maybe, in the hour of pain, when the sufferer feels he cannot endure another pang and dreads the thought of long days and nights ahead,—suddenly the unexpected hour will being release.
Maybe, in the hour of toil, when mind and heart are set on things below, that the unexpected hour will call to " things above." Maybe, in the hour of sport, with a full programme for the day, the unexpected hour will introduce an unthought-of event.
Maybe, in the hour of sin, when trifling with the truth of God, the unexpected hour will arrest the trifling one.
Maybe, in the hour of prayer, when bowed at the throne of grace, the unexpected hour will introduce to Glory.
AN UNPREPARED HOUR
The Hour of Christ's Coming may be an unprepared Hour.
The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looked not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of " (Matt. 24 : 50). that slave’s master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know.
Oh, my soul, take care that thou art not this " evil servant " who, deluding his heart with the devilish dope " My Lord delayeth His coming " (Matt. 24 : 48), will, in an hour, be cut asunder and denounced as an hypocrite
Since no one knows the exact time of Christ's return, how should each generation respond, especially those who see the birth pains--the disasters, the changes on the face of the earth, and the abomination of desolation? We will examine three attitudes: alertness, readiness, and faithfulness.
Alertness (vv. 37-42)
"As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
The flood is the only event in human history that comes close to illustrating what will happen in the end times, for the flood destroyed everything on earth. The attitude that prevailed during the time of Noah will be the attitude that prevails during the second coming.
When Noah told the people that God's judgment was near, they didn't care. Similarly, people during the end times will notice all the signs and wonders going on around them, but many of them won't consider what's happening and why. Hard to imagine, but true.
Sometimes when we envision the tribulation in our minds, we think surely the terrible events in that time will cause people to recognize that the end of the world is coming. There will be some people who recognize it; they will be the redeemed remnant. But in general there will be a massive, worldwide rejection of anything that is associated with God. Everyone but Noah's family rejected God. And by the time Noah had shut the door of his ark and the rains began, it was to late for anyone to change his mind. Once the floodwaters started rising, I'm sure some people knocked on the door of the ark. But it was too late. Matthew 24:39 says they didn't realize what was happening "until the flood came." The Greek word translated "flood" is κατακλυσμος , from which we get the English word cataclysm. It means "to wash down." All the wicked people were washed away into damnation and judgment. Verse 39 continues, "So shall also the coming of the Son of man be." The same thing will happen at the second coming. Life will go on as usual until it's too late. The people in Noah's generation were warned for 120 years. The generation that lives through the tribulation will be warned. In reality, we are all being warned now. Ever since the New Testament was written, it has warned every generation that Christ could come at any time. But most people won't heed the warning until they are swept away in judgment.
Reasons for a Pretribulation Rapture
The doctrine of the timing of the Rapture, which we believe occurs before the Tribulation, is based on a number of lines of evidence. I've highlighted a few of these below:
The Imminent Return of Christ: The teaching that Jesus Christ can return for His Church "at any moment" - there are no remaining preconditions for His return. If the Rapture is mid-tribulational or post-tribulational, then Jesus cannot return until after the Tribulation has begun. So, anyone who believes in a future Tribulation and that Jesus "could return tonight," but rejects a pre-tribulational Rapture is essentially inconsistent. Either Jesus can come "any moment" or He can't. If He can - and this is clearly what the Scriptures teach - then His arrival cannot be dependent upon the Tribulation having started.
Populating the Millennial Kingdom: From many passages in the Old Testament, we understand that sinners will inhabit the millennial kingdom. The kingdom is ushered in at the return of Jesus (Mtt. 19:28; 25:31; Rev. 20:4). The sinners who enter the kingdom are believers who survive the Tribulation and produce offspring who eventually reject the rule of Christ (Rev. 20:7-9). If the Rapture is after the Tribulation, then where do these people in unglorified bodies come from? If all believers are caught up to meet Christ in the air at the Rapture (1Th. 4:17) and are changed (1Cor. 15:52) and only believers enter the kingdom (Mtt. 25:34 cf. Mtt. 25:46), whence the people producing children in the millennium (Isa. 65:20)? Clearly, the believers at Christ's return did not participate in the Rapture or they would have glorified bodies and would be incapable of sin or reproduction. If the Rapture occurs at the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation (some sort of glorified "U-turn in the sky"), then there are no human beings in natural bodies to populate the millennial kingdom.
Escaping God's Wrath: Numerous passages indicate that believer's will not be subject to God's wrath (Luke 21:36; Rom. 5:9; 1Th. 1:10; Rev. 3:10). Yet Scripture also identifies the Tribulation as a special time in history connected with an intense outpouring of God's wrath upon those who dwell on the earth (Rev 6:16,17; 11:18; 14:8,10,19; 15:1,7; 16:1,17,19; 19:15). Although believers have eternal life (past tense) when we believe, we will be saved (future tense) from wrath through Him (Rom. 5:9). This salvation from wrath speaks of a future time of wrath which believers will not experience. It is a time period which we will not be present to witness - we are saved, not just from the wrath, but from the very hour of testing of the earth dwellers during the Tribulation (Rev. 3:10).
Waiting for Christ, not Antichrist: Everywhere Scripture maintains that believers are to watch for Christ, not Antichrist. God is a jealous God and our Lord has no intention that we should be distracted trying to identify the man of sin by watching for Antichrist. Instead, we are to watch for our Lord. If the Rapture were not pretribulational, it would occur after the start of the Tribulation, and we should logically be watching for Antichrist because the sooner we identify him, the closer we are to the Rapture. But this is just opposite from what God intends: the Lord can come for His Church at any time and it will be in advance of the revelation of Antichrist (2Th. 2:1-12).
Contrasting Second Coming Passages: When we look at various Second Coming passages, we notice apparent distinctions. In some passages, Christ comes in the air (1Th. 4:17). In other passages, He comes to the earth (Zec. 14:4; Acts 1:11). In some passages tribulation begins (2Th. 1:6-9). In others, the millennial kingdom is ushered in (Rev. 20:1-7). In some passages, signs precede His coming (Luke 21:11,15). In other passages, no signs precede His arrival (1Th. 5:1-3). How do we put all these passages together if they describe one and the same event? It is the same puzzle that the Jews faced attempting to reconcile Old Testament passages which speak of a victorious king (Ps. 2) and a suffering servant (Isa. 53). How do we reconcile these tensions in the Old Testament passages? We understand that they describe different Comings of our Lord: to suffer and die at His First Coming, but to rule supreme at His Second Coming. Similarly, New Testament "Coming" passages with consistent contrasts are describing two different events: the Rapture of the Church - when He comes for His own versus the Second Coming in judgement upon an unbelieving and rejecting world. If we ignore this distinction, nothing but confusion will result.
Identity of the Restrainer: If the power that restrains the revealing of the Antichrist is non-other than the Holy Spirit operating through those He indwells (2Th. 2:7) and those who are indwelt are permanently sealed with the Spirit unto the day of redemption (John 14:16; 2Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30), then when the Restrainer is removed, so will be the Church. In the same way the Spirit began a new ministry baptizing believers into the body of Christ at Pentecost (John 7:38-39; Acts 2), so the Spirit will complete that ministry and withdraw the Church prior to the revealing of Antichrist and the outpouring of God's wrath.
Matthew 26 A Sacrificial Love For The Lord
2 You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified."
3 Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
4 and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him.
5 But they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people."
6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,
7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.
8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste?
9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor."
10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me.
11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.
12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial.
13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."
14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests
15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.
16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Matthew’s gospel centres now upon the cross.
The cross is introduced to us in an amazing way.
First there is the mention of the prophecy the Lord gives about His cmoming death and the plotting of the Jews to make that happen.
The Lord Prophecies His coming crucifixion, and at the same time the Jewish leaders are plotting it.
1 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples,
2 You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified."
3 Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
4 and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him.
5 But they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people."
It is amazing that these two harmonies. God’s Sovereign plan laid before the foundation of the world was laid was that the Lord should suffer and die as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. And while the Lord is telling the disciples this, the Jews are plotting it to happen. While Jesus prepares His disciples for His death, another group in town are likewise making preparations. The chief priests and elders, the leaders with whom Jesus has been in conflict for the past several years have had enough. They gather in the High Priest’s palace, trying to figure some way to arrest Jesus and then kill Him. The one thing they must avoid are the crowds. It was usual for the Jews to punish criminals at the public festivals; but in this case they were afraid of an insurrection, as our Lord had become very popular.
But then there is an event that seems to summarise it all for Matthew. Our attention is shifted once again back to the Lord Jesus. Unlike the leaders gathered in a palace, Jesus is enjoying a meal in the house of Simon the Leper. We don’t know much about this fellow. He may have been a leper who was healed by Jesus. John’s account in John 12 says that Lazarus was there along with Martha and Mary.
John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said,
5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mary who had just recvently seen her brother raised from the dead after 4 days, when the Lord Jesus called out Lazarus come forth, and he had come out bound in his graveclothes.
Mary who had sat at the feet of Jesus listening to his teachings. (Luke 10). Mary brings an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and pours it on His head. Alabaster is a white translucent stone from Egypt. The contents of this jar was expensive perfume. Mark says it is spikenard, a fragrance from India, worth 300 denarii. Most laborers earned a denarius a day, so this was a year’s salary.
Why did Mary give such an expensive gift?
The Wisdom her sacrificial love gift reveals
Everything in God’s sacred story centres on the cross. J. C. Ryle said it better than I ever could: “We can never attach too much importance to the atoning death of Christ. It is the leading fact in the word of God, on which the eyes of our soul ought to be ever fixed. Without the shedding of His blood, there is no remission of sin. It is the cardinal truth on which the whole system of Christianity hinges. Without it, the Gospel is an arch without a key-stone, a fair building without a foundation, a solar system without a sun. Let us make much of our Lord’s incarnation and example, His miracles and His parables, His works and His words, but above all, let us make much of His death… This, after all, is the master-truth of Scripture, that ‘Christ died for our sins’. To this let us daily return. On this let us daily feed our souls” [J. C. Ryle, “Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, page 347].
The story is told of a man who loved old books. He met an acquaintance who had just thrown away a Bible that had been stored in the attic of his ancestral home for generations. "I couldn't read it," the friend explained. "Somebody named Guten- something had printed it." "Not Gutenberg!" the book lover exclaimed in horror. "That Bible was one of the first books ever printed. Why, a copy just sold for over two million dollars!" His friend was unimpressed. "Mine wouldn't have brought two dollars. Some fellow named Martin Luther had scribbled all over it in German."
And Mary is preparing the Lord’s body for His burial.
Why did Mary carry out this act of anointing Jesus with the very expensive oil that John implies (John 12:7) that she had been keeping for this purpose for some time? Her extravagant act was not impulsive, but planned. Jesus very clearly gave the answer in verse 12 (read). It seems that Mary alone (of all His followers) understood what Jesus had told them over and over. She understood that He was about to give His life on the cross. This act by Mary was to show Jesus that she understood what He was about to do and loved Him for it. Here is an interesting question: Why did Mary understand the coming cross when none of the disciples seemed to understand? There is a clue when we look at all the Gospel accounts of this Mary of Bethany. Almost every time we see Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet. John’s account of this incident says in John 12:3 (NKJV) “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” In Luke’s account of a visit by Jesus to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, we find Martha scurrying about, but where was Mary? Luke 10:39 (NKJV) “And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.” When Lazarus died and Jesus came to Bethany, we see Mary again. We are told what she did in John 11:32 (NKJV) “Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’" Sitting at someone’s feet was a Hebrew idiom of learning from and adoring another person. Mary was always listening to, spending time with, and worshipping the Lord Jesus. The equivalent today of sitting at Jesus’ feet is to spend time in the word and see Him and listen to Him in the Old Testament pictures and illustrations of Him, to devour the Gospels and meditate on His words, and by His grace obey His commands. It is to sing of Him and worship Him for who He is and to set our hearts on His work and live in an atmosphere of thankfulness to Him. It is to abide in Him (live in constant, conscious, dependence upon Him and to be constantly available to Him to produce in and through us whatever fruit that He desires). When you sit at Jesus’ feet and know and love Him, no sacrifice is too great to give.
What she did was to express just how precious the Lord was to her.
The Welcome her sacrificial love gift receives
Jesus seems to says something that seems callous: "The poor you’ll always have with you." It seems to contradict what he said he said earlier in chapter 25. He quotes from Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Rather than a casual dismissal of the poor as something that will always be around, He is pointing the disciples to the proper priority as to how we can reach the poor. Deuteronomy 15 commands us to reach out to the poor, not to ignore them.
But the Lord is seeking not to denigrate the poor or even discuss the poor at this point, He is going to highlight how much he valued Mary’s sympathy.
The Welcome her sacrificial love gift receives
The Lord was grateful for the sympathy and understanding that Mary demonstrated in her gift. Yes she had done it for His burial.
And He knew what was in her heart. But then the coldly critical voice of Judas had been echoed in the disciples; And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor."
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.” He was saying to the disciples “You just don’t get it do you? Mary has recognised something that I have been telling you for weeks, and you just don’t have the wisdom or love to see it.” Mary saw it. She sympathised with her Lord. And the Lord was grateful for this.
The Work her sacrificial love gift recommends
“faith makes all things possible; love makes all things easy.”
S.D. Gordon wrote: The All-Inclusive Passion: But all of these and much more is included in one of Paul’s packed phrases which may be read, “the love of God hath ﬂooded our hearts through the Holy Spirit given unto us.” The all-inclusive result is love. That marvelous tender passion-the love of God-heightless, depthless, shoreless, shall ﬂood our hearts, making us as gentle and tenderhearted and self-sacriﬁcing and gracious as He. Every phase of life will become a phase of love. Peace is love resting. Bible study is love reading its lover’s letters. Prayer is love keeping tryst. Conﬂict with sin is love jealously ﬁghting for its Lover. Hatred of sin is love shrinking from that which separates from its lover. Sympathy is love tenderly feeling. Enthusiasm is love burning. Hope is love expecting. Patience is love waiting. Faithfulness is love sticking fast. Humility is love taking its true place. Modesty is love keeping out of sight. Soul-winning is love pleading. Love is revolutionary. It radically changes us, and revolutionizes our spirit toward all others. Love is democratic. It ruthlessly levels all class distinctions. Love is intensely practical. It is always hunting something to do. Paul lays great stress on this outer practical side. Do you remember his “fruit of the Spirit”? It is an analysis of love. While the ﬁrst three-”love, joy, peace”-are emotions within, the remaining six are outward toward others. Notice, “long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness,” and then the climax is reached in the last-”self-control.” And in his great love passage in the ﬁrst Corinthian epistle, he picks out four of these last six, and shows further just what he means by love in its practical working in the life. “Love-suffering” is repeated, and so is “kindness” or “goodness.” “Faithfulness” is reproduced in “never faileth.” Then “self-control” receives the emphasis of an eight-fold repetition of “nots.” Listen:-”Envieth not,” “boasteth not,” “not puffed up,” “not unseemly,” “seeketh not (even) her own,” “is not provoked,” “taketh not account of evil” (in trying to help others, like Jesus’ word “despairing of no man” ), “rejoiceth not in unrighteousness” (that is when the unrighteous is punished, but instead feels sorry for him). What tremendous power of self-mastery in those “nots”! Then the positive side is brought out in four “alls”; two of them-the ﬁrst and last-passive qualities, “beareth all things,” “endureth all things.” And in between, two active “hopeth all things,” “believeth all things.” The passive qualities doing sentinel duty on both sides of the active. These passive traits are intensely active in their passivity. There is a busy time under the surface of those “nots” and “alls.” What a wealth of underlying power they reveal! Sometimes folks think it sentimental to talk of love. Probably it is of some stuff that shufﬂes along under that name. But when the Holy Spirit talks about it, and ﬁlls our hearts with it there is seen to be an intensely practical passion at work.
Love is not only the ﬁnest fruit, but it is the ﬁnal test of a christian life.
Mary was not satisfied with anything but that which was the most precious possession she had to lavish upon Jesus in expression of her love and gratitude. I remember reading years ago of a church in South Korea with a vision to reach more and more people with the gospel. To do what needed to be done required a great amount of money. One Sunday, a woman in her 80’s made her way to the altar and handed the Pastor an old rice bowl and a pair of chopsticks, and a spoon. She said, “This is all I have … I want to give it all to the Lord’s work to help somebody somewhere to know the truth about life. I have decided that I can eat out of cardboard with my fingers”. The Pastor tried to refuse her sacrificial gift, but she began to cry and begged him to take it. A businessman in the congregation seeing what was happening jumped to his feet and said, “Pastor I want to buy those three things!” He gave the equivalent of almost $30,000. . A sacrificial gift like Mary’s is an example of what loving sacrifice for the One who loved us and went to the cross for us looks like.
General William Booth received a request from some Salvation Army officers requesting a transfer from India to a more settled situation. They had seen little fruit. General Booth wrote a terse telegram of two words : “Try love!” And this of course is the secret of it all.
The Witness her sacrificial love gift remembers
The Fragrance of Love
John 12:3 The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
The memory of that moment had lingered 70 years in John’s memory long after Mary had died. Long after her Saviour had been crucified buried and raised again.
The odour filled the room. Does the sacrificial love that you have for your Lord fill the room? Do others know that they are in the presence of one who loves the Lord Jesus intensely when they meet you?
Is there a sacrificial love that you demonstrate that sweetens others lives? Live so as to be missed! Robert Murray Mcheyne used to say. Do you live so as to be missed? Will others grieve your going or be glad?
Phil 4: 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
Mary Left An Enduring Memory
13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her."
Mary Left An Enriching memory
She touched others lives.
Do you touch others lives?
1 Kings 16 Withstanding The Culture
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.
30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.
31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him.
32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria.
33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.
Chapter 17 1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
2 And the word of the Lord came to him:
3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.
4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan.
6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
Have you ever wondered why so much of the Bible is biographical? Its not just theory or theology, it is life lived out real. We are going to read of Elijah over these next several weeks. The reason we are studying his life, is that his life echoes so much what you and I are called to do today. God calls us to live out our lives counter culturally. He calls us to live Courageously in the face of values and beliefs that oppose our faith in the Lord. He calls us to live faithfully, trusting that He will sustain us through the battles we must fight if we would be truly Christian in this present age.
James 5 : 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours,
This man was no cardboard Christian who never had a brush with reality! Here was a man just like us.
Relevance and realism is laid out for us here.
In every generation, it seems that God has a few extremely unusual people who, just because of who they are and how they live out love for Christ, impact countless other people.
Things were dark enough. After the death of Solomon, his kingdom split into two parts--the southern under Rehoboam, his son; the northern under Jeroboam, who had superintended the vast public works. Jeroboam was desperately eager to keep his hold on his people; but he feared to lose it, if they continued to go, two or three times in the year, to the annual feasts at Jerusalem. He thought that old associations might overpower their new-born loyalty to himself. He resolved, therefore, to set up the worship of Jehovah in his own territories, and erected two temples, one at Dan, in the extreme north, the other at Bethel, in the extreme south. And in each of these he placed a golden calf, that the God of Israel might be worshiped "under the form of a calf that eateth hay." This sin broke the second commandment--which forbade the children of Israel to make any graven image, or to bow down before the likeness of anything in heaven above, or in the earth beneath. So weak and sinful a bid for popularity is never forgotten in Holy Scripture. Like a funeral knell, the words ring out again and again: "Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin."
After many revolutions and much bloodshed, the kingdom passed into the hands of a military adventurer, Omri. The son of this man was Ahab, of whom it is said, "He did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him." This came to pass, not so much because his character was more depraved, but because he was a weak man, the tool of a crafty, unscrupulous, and cruel woman; and some of the worst crimes that have ever been committed have been wrought by weak men, at the instigation of worse--but stronger--spirits than themselves.
Ahab was periodically involved in war with Syria to the north, and so, in order to strengthen his country, he made alliances with the leaders of Tyre and Sidon, in Phoenicia — or Lebanon as it is called today. He married the daughter of the king of Tyre, a woman whose name was Jezebel, and he made her his queen. Jezebel — it's a name that even today rings with hardness and cruelty and passionate spitefulness — this queen had an agenda for the nation. It was every bit as aggressive as her husband's agenda, and she was a strong fearsome person. Her father had not only been the king of Tyre, but he was also the chief priest of all the prophets of Baal. Jezebel was absolutely determined to establish Baalism as the official religion of Israel. She was strong and domineering and self-willed and forceful, a fanatical devotee of Baal, with over 800 prophets of Baal on her day-to-day staff. If her husband wanted to be able to depend on her father's nation as an ally, then she required that Ahab establish Baal as, at least, equal to the Lord Jehovah in the land of Israel.
When the young and beautiful Jezebel left the celled palaces of Tyre, to become the consort of the newly-crowned king of Israel, it was no doubt regarded as a splendid match. Tyre at that time sat as queen upon the seas, in the zenith of her glory: her colonies dotted the shores of the Mediterranean as far as Spain; her ships whitened every sea with their sails, and ventured to the coasts of our own Cornwall for tin; her daughter, Carthage, nursed the lion-cub Hannibal, and was strong enough to make Rome tremble. But, like many a splendid match, it was fraught with misery and disaster. No one can disobey God's plain words against intermarriage with the ungodly without suffering for it at last.
As she left her palace-home, Jezebel would be vehemently urged by the priests--beneath whose influence she had been trained, and who, therefore, exercised an irresistible spell over her to do her utmost to introduce into Israel the hideous and cruel rites of her hereditary religion. Nor was she slow to obey. First, she seems to have erected a temple to Astarte in the neighborhood of Jezreel, the Windsor of the land, and to have supported its four hundred and fifty priests from the revenues of her private purse. Then Ahab and she built a temple for Baal in Samaria, the capital of the kingdom, large enough to contain immense crowds of worshipers (2Ki_10:21). Shrines and temples then began to rise in all parts of the land in honor of these false deities; whilst the altars of Jehovah, like that at Carmel, were ruthlessly broken down. The land swarmed with the priests of Baal and of the groves--proud of Court favor; glorying in their sudden rise to power; insolent, greedy, licentious, and debased. The fires of persecution were lit, and began to burn with fury. The schools of the prophets were shut up; grass grew in their courts. The prophets themselves were hunted down, and slain by the sword. "They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented;" so much so, that the pious Obadiah had the greatest difficulty in saving a few of them, by hiding them in the limestone caves of Carmel, and feeding them at the risk of his own life.
The whole land seemed apostate. Of all the thousands of Israel, only seven thousand remained who had not bowed the knee or kissed the hand to Baal. But they were paralyzed with fear, and kept so still that their very existence was unknown by Elijah in the hour of his greatest loneliness. Such times have often come, fraught with woe: false religions have gained the upper hand; iniquity has abounded; and the love of many has waxed cold.
1. FACE REALITY
If you are a Christian, then this age is not your friend.
Chapter 17 1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
Elijah’s very name set him at animosity with the spirit of his age.
Elijah means “Yahweh is God!”
Elijah lived during the period of Ahab’s reign, when pagan worship was formally introduced into Israel (1 Kings 16:32 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.). Jezebel was not only a zealous propagandist for her religion, but was also a persecutor of the true followers of Yahweh. The very existence of true Yahweh worship was threatened.
Baalism emphasized power and pleasure and success, and anything was okay as long as the end result was pleasure and pleasing Baal, who delighted in pleasure. Dishonesty, bribery, even murder were justifiable, in certain cases, under this system. Nothing could have been more in disagreement with the responsibilities and with the faith of the people of Abraham than the worship of Baal, which involved sleeping with temple prostitutes of both sexes and encouraged the most lascivious practices. Its most famous and horrible practice was the practice of child sacrifice. Children were greatly valued by the people, but it was believed in that day that to sacrifice the life of a child could enable people, in the end, to have better lives. That's a principle that's not all that far from the philosophy of our day that justifies abortion when the pregnancy is inconvenient.
Baalism was holding the day: its aggressiveness appealed to the young people of Israel and it encouraged their natural rebelliousness against the older values. So, calling people back to the strict moral demands of God seemed like an almost hopeless task when the going philosophy of the day was: "You can have your cake and eat it too, whatever you want." For these reasons, most people thought the religion of the Lord God Jehovah was on its way out. Baal altars had been built all over Israel. Jewish priests had pretty much lost their moral power. Hundreds of the prophets of God had actually been murdered by Jezebel's representatives, and Ahab, according to 1 Kings 16, did more to provoke the Lord God than all the other kings of Israel who were before him. So, you thought things were bad in Washington. [Laughter.] No, never had the national character of Israel been so morally bankrupt — at least it seemed that way — but, you see, God wasn't at a loss. God is never at a loss. When times seemed particularly bad, God usually has his eye upon a person, a man or a woman whom God is shaping, directing, preparing, sharpening so that this person might become a tool in God's hands. This takes us now to the passage from 1 Kings, chapter 17.
Idolatry had spread throughout Israel.
Ahab and Jezebel must have thought Yahweh was done.
King Omri did evil in the sight of Yahweh and Ahab followed by marrying Jezebel. (1 Kings 16:30)
Ahab was dominated by Jezebel, as we in America is today.
He erected an altar to Baal, sinning more than all the kings before him.
It was not convenient to godly living, as it never is.
Christianity did not flourish in prosperity; in fact peace and prosperity hinders Christianity, though it flourishes in persecution.
Elijah was opposed to the accepted standards of his day, when belief in many gods was normal. He appears in the role of God’s instrument of judgment upon a wayward Israel because of the nation’s widespread idolatry. Elijah’s views were in conflict with those of King Ahab, who had attempted to cultivate economic ties with Israel’s neighbors, especially Tyre. One of the consequences was that he had married Jezebel, a daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre. Ahab saw no harm in participating in the religion of his neighbors, particularly the religion of his wife. Therefore, he established a center of Baal worship at Samaria. Influenced by Jezebel, Ahab gave himself to the worship of Baal. Suddenly Elijah appeared on the scene.
Elijah came from a tiny hamlet of Tishbe, so he was called "Elijah the Tishbite." It was a rugged land of solitude that produced tough people. Elijah was a roughly-clad, rather frightening-looking person with unkempt beard and hair, but God had given him a gift of prophecy and, when he spoke in the Spirit, he spoke with power and conviction.
2. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Elijah knew himself to be the Representative of the living God.
A voice of a man will never suffice. Here is the man representing God. When he spoke, Ahab listened.
Elijah’s first act was to announce to Ahab that the true God was about to send a dreaded famine upon the country because of Ahab’s religious sins. Baal, the Canaanite god of storm and fertility, was directly challenged in this prediction of drought. Martin Luther was like Elijah in compassion and in discouragement. Once in great discouragement Luther’s wife asked “Is God dead?” And this sparked Luther to bold faith. We would not say God is dead but we often live that way.
Deut 11: 13 “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15 And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. 16 Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; 17 then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you. 18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.
He knew the Word of God and knew that God would fulfil His Word!
God is not out of business, He is alive and would fulfil His Word.
As Elijah prayed, apparently the conviction grew within him that he should actually go to the court of the king, which was many days' journey, and confront the king personally with the word of God. In his heart, he had come to the place where he knew now that God was going to keep his word and drought would come and that only national repentance, beginning at the top, could avert the coming drought. How he managed to come into the king's court, getting past all those court attendants and palace guards, we don't know, but he did, and we read:
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew or rain these years, except by my word."
What an amazing thing to say! What a confrontation! The unkempt, puny little man of the desert stood up against the smoothest man in the kingdom, the king. Nothing could have been calculated to make Ahab more angry. Elijah had courage that grew out of an unshakable faith in God, and a righteous indignation for the sake of God. It's as though Elijah knew in his heart, and he came to the king and he said: "You know, this is what God has said. It's true; you better believe it." Elijah's strength — where did it come from? It came from God. You see this in his first two preliminary statements that I've just read. "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand." As the Lord lives. You see, God was the primary reality in Elijah's life. Could that be said of you that, above and beyond everything else, the primary thing in your life is God? Then he said, "Before whom I stand." In other words, Elijah was standing before the king, but he was conscious of standing in the presence of one more important, namely, God himself. You and I need to cultivate this same moment-by-moment awareness of being in the presence of God, wherever we are, whomever we're with.
3. RELY UPON GOD’S RESOURCES
What was the secret of Elijah’s strength? If it can be shown that it was due to something inherent in Elijah, and peculiar to himself; some force of nature; some special quality of soul, to which ordinary men can lay no claim--then we may as well close our inquiries, and turn away from the inaccessible heights that mock us.
But this splendid life was lived not by its inherent qualities, but by sources of strength which are within the reach of the humblest child of God.
Elijah's strength did not lie in himself or his surroundings. He was of humble extraction. He had no special training. He is expressly said to have been "a man of like passions" with ourselves. When, through failure of faith, he was cut off from the source of his strength, he showed more craven-hearted cowardice than most men would have done; he lay down upon the desert sands, asking to die. When the natural soil of his nature shows itself, it is not richer than that of the majority of men, in fact, maybe much weaker. But he had a trust in God. He trusted in God’s divine resources.
Beginning at verse 4, God says:
4 "You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the [stream]."
Phil 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
A. He can provide grace in times of weakness
B. He can provide goods in times of poverty
C. He can provide glory in times of opposition
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
A. We still need faith in lean times
B. We still need faithfulness in lean times
C. We still need fruitfulness in lean times