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Entries in Prophecy (16)

Tuesday
Apr182017

Jesus, The Suffering Servant

Isaiah 53:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Resurrection Sunday, April 16, 2017.

The death and the resurrection of Jesus is one of the most substantiated facts from ancient history.  So generally it is not because of the facts that people reject its veracity.  On one hand it seems impossible to our minds, especially in this modern age.  On the other hand, if it is true, then I would have to admit that I am a sinner and guilty before a holy and just God.  Thus this moral claim upon a person’s life is not always acceptable. 

Written about 700 years before the life of Jesus, our passage today is mid-stream in a series of visions and revelations that God gave to Isaiah.  The truth that Isaiah reveals was and still remains a shocking thing regarding the Messiah.  The Messiah was to be the Anointed One that God would send to save Israel and eventually the whole world.  Israel had been waiting for this heaven sent savior and had given lip service to the promise since at least 700 years before Isaiah.  Thus Isaiah makes several things clear:

  • God would be faithful to send the Messiah.
  • But Israel would not be faithful to receive Him.

The story doesn’t end there because God always has the last word.  Thus the unjust death of Jesus becomes the means by which we can be saved from our sins, and even more, that we can become the children of God.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Yes, Jesus would be rejected.  But our Lord’s acceptance of this rejection becomes the very demonstration of God’s love for us.  He cares even for the sinner, and makes a way back to Him for those who will yield to the graceful drawing of the actions of His Son and the work of His Holy Spirit.  So let’s look at this passage in Isaiah 53, where we see God’s Anointed One coming forth as the Suffering Servant.

His Life, vs. 1-4

Isaiah starts out verse 1 with the question, “Who has believed our report?”  This question is somewhat rhetorical. The rejection of Jesus makes sense when we see it on the backdrop of the lives of the prophets who predicted his coming.  They were generally rejected during their lives and many times killed by the leaders of Israel.  Later, after their word proved to be true, they honored them as prophets and kept their words.  This highlights a strange tension within us as humans.  We want a word from God, but we tend not to like what we hear.  So there has been an ever-present conundrum that God is faithful to speak and reveal Himself to mankind, but our flesh tends to push back against what He has to say.  There is a sense of frustration in Isaiah as he opens up this passage.  He has an unbelievable revelation to make clear to His people.  Yes, the Messiah would come, but we will mistreat Him and put Him to death.  Jesus came as the final word of God before Judgment Day.  Christians carry on this tradition of speaking this final word to the rest of the nations.  Here we too see a somewhat stormy welcome.  So let’s face the reality that our natural self doesn’t want to believe the message of Jesus.  We need to have our eyes and ears opened spiritually before we can see who Jesus really is.

In verse 2 Isaiah uses the image of a tender plant growing out of a hardened desert.  This spiritual imagery shows Israel to be a place devoid of any moisture.  Typically it is strong, prickly plants that can endure in such harsh environments.  However, the Messiah would be like a tender plant.  Somehow it miraculously grows in this harsh environment.  He is not what they expected.  He was humble, gentle, and not on the warpath against Rome.  Or, at least, he wasn’t in the way they expected.  Even today we must recognize that Jesus is not what most people are looking for.  We want something that changes the world and its systems they way that we want it, rather than a humble, gentle Jesus.

Isaiah goes on to point out that the Messiah would be without physical attractiveness.  One of the weaknesses of mankind is that we are easily drawn by that which is outwardly extraordinary.  We want to be on the team of the powerful athlete, the savvy business person, or the beautiful and glamorous of this world.  This is not meant to be a slam against those who find themselves to be powerful and beautiful externally.  Rather, it is a recognition of how easily we are seduced by that which is beautiful on the outside, and yet, a world of horrors on the inside.    We are often seduced by that which is strong and powerful on the outside, and yet, filled with every weakness imaginable on the inside.  So don’t get Isaiah wrong.  Jesus is strong and beautiful, powerful and desirable.  But these were all internal virtues.   God was not sending a Greek demi-god to wow the crowds and win them over through external, fleshly means.  God refuses to seduce mankind, or deceive mankind into following Him.  He presents the Messiah in a way that stands all the hopes of our flesh on their head, and forces us to turn away from them.  Of course, Satan and the world that he controls has no problem manipulating us in these ways.

Then Isaiah says that the Messiah would be a man of sorrow from whom we hide.  Jesus technically held the rights to the throne of Israel and the throne of heaven, and yet, he would live a life of sorrows.  He would know the sorrow of a leader trying to help his people, who refuse to be helped.  He would know the sorrow of a teacher trying to teach students, who refuse to be taught.  He would know the sorrow of a rich man whose wealth and power could not fix the problem.  He would know the sorrow of the poor man who has nowhere to lay his head.  He would know the sorrow of an innocent man unjustly maligned by people with wicked intentions.  When someone is being executed, you tend to keep your distance from them.  Thus when Jesus is seized and crucified, all those who claimed to follow Him hid their faces from Him.  The cross and the resurrected savior that God offers us can only appeal to our souls.  No one gets excited about picking up a cross and following Jesus.  If we are to do so, it will be because our inner man is made aware who He is.

Lastly in this section, Isaiah points out that the Messiah would look more like God is against Him rather than for Him.  To those who rejected Him, the death of Jesus would serve as proof that God was not on his side.  They believed that they were being used of God to strike this blaspheming heretic down.  There is no way that God would allow the Messiah to be killed.  However, not only in Isaiah 53, but many other places like Daniel 9:26, we are told that the Messiah would be executed.  And so, the sign of the cross and what happened on it, the picture of Jesus as he goes into the grave, each of these are abhorrent to our flesh and something that we will seek to avoid at all costs.  Yet, verse 4 also has a change to it.  Yes, he is a man of sorrows.  But, he is bearing “our” grief, and carrying “our” sorrows.  If you have ever felt like God doesn’t understand your grief and sorrow, you only have to look to Jesus and quickly you will see that He more than understands it.  He has done more than just join us in our grief and sorrow.  Even more, he dove headlong into it, and that is what scares us about Jesus.  Our flesh does not want to follow Him, but our spirit knows that he is the only way.

His Death, vs. 5-9

In verse 5 Isaiah moves to talk about the death of this Suffering Servant that God would send.  Verses 4-6 have two sides to them.  First is the aspect that this is happening because of our sins.  He is wounded because of our transgressions, and bruised because of our iniquities.  The Lord has laid on Him all of our iniquities.  In our pride we are tempted to reject such a message.  But if we think that we have been good enough, or that somehow we should be acceptable to God on our own merits, then recognize just who it is you are arguing with (i.e. God).  Can you really win an argument with Him?  Are you not just holding up a pretense to Him in hopes that He won’t see through it?  We only need to read the words of Jesus in the New Testament in order to recognize that even the best of us fall short, and that we are sinners in the end.  We want to redefine sin so that we can tell ourselves that we are good.  But that kind of logical magic will not work when we stand before our Maker.

The second side to verses 4-6 is that his death is for our benefit.  Yes, it is because of our sins, but it is also for taking our sins away from us.  Yes, he is wounded for our sins, but so that we may be healed from their wound.  This word “healed” in verse 5 applies to both physical and spiritual things.  It is a healing of everything that is wrong with us.  Yes, in the garden, a spiritual entity (the devil) tricked our ancestors into rebellion against God, and so has inflicted the wound of sin upon all mankind.  But, in Jesus God has provided for the healing of our lives, both between each other, and with Him.  God would rather do what Jesus did than let us die with an eternal wound.  He has provided for your healing in every way.

The sheep imagery in verses 6 and 7 is important because Jesus is the Lamb of God who is being offered as a sacrifice for our sins (vs. 10).  But, he does so without protest.  In a world that rages against the authorities and demands justice, as we dictate, before God, there is Jesus.  This tender lamb is not just being sacrificed against his will and over the top of his bleating protest.  Rather, in a surreal manner, he unflinchingly takes the bitter pill and puts his faith in this plan of salvation.  He is not silent because he is broken and knows it will do no good to protest, like some kind of Hebrew Socrates standing before the men of Athens.  Rather, he is silent because this is his plan and his heart.  This is why he came down from heaven and took on flesh, to do this for us, to save us.  He is not sitting aloof in the heavens, untouched by the things that ail us.  Instead, he has come down and done for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  This is the Savior that God offers to the world, and to you.

In case it wasn’t clear yet, vs. 8 slams the point home.  He would be cut off, or executed.  It is shocking enough that he would suffer, but that he would also be executed is unthinkable.  As I said earlier this is an unbelievable story to our flesh.  But it is the Truth.  Not only would he be humiliated with death, but he would unjustly be associated with the wicked and the rich in his death (vs. 9).  He would be treated as a criminal.  Even though he is without sin, he is crucified between two thieves.  He ends up buried in the tomb of a rich man who was a secret follower of Jesus.  Yet, he is no criminal.  He is crucified because he testified that their deeds were evil and unacceptable to God.  He did not have great wealth in this life and yet he ends up in the tomb of a rich man.  Yes who ever said life was fair?  But in the end we would not want it to be fair.  If life were fair then we would all be held accountable for our sins and punished.  Yet, Jesus steps forward and pays the price for our sins and willingly associates himself with those sinners who will simply repent and put their faith in Him.  This isn’t fair, but, it is love.

His Glory, vs. 10-12

Praise God that the death of Jesus is not the end of the story.  This is what Resurrection Sunday is all about.  It is the reversal of the most heinous event in history.  The savior of the world is killed, but God overrules the wicked and their plots against him.  And, yet, even the glory of Jesus is something we don’t always understand.

The words in verse 10 seem horrific, “it pleased the LORD to bruise Him.”  However, we must understand that both Father and Son are in agreement and unified in this plan.  Thus, just as it pleased the Father to bruise, so it pleased the Son to be bruised.  It is pleasing because of what it will accomplish and not for the sake of bruising and death alone.  The age of animal sacrifice comes to an end with God’s sacrifice of his own perfect lamb, His Son, for our sakes.  Thus the glory of Jesus is that he becomes that One who fully pleased the Father, the perfect Son.

Verse 10 also says that these things will prosper in His hands.  Thus it is the glory of Jesus to prosper over the top of all that is done to him and done against him.  They can kill him, but he will be resurrected.  They can reject him, but God will accept him.  They can put him with the criminals and even in Hades, but God will raise him up to sit at the right hand of the throne of God.  They can use their authority to punish him, but God will take their authority from them and give it to Jesus, who waits for the day when he will be sent back to earth in order to remove the powers of wickedness, both natural and spiritual.  Yes, Jesus is enjoying the glory of prosperity and it is only going to increase.  The question is, “Will you join him in that glory?”  Or, will you side with the wicked against him?

Verse 11 shows that it will be to the glory of Jesus that he will justify many through his knowledge.  No one else understood how to save Israel and even the whole world, but Jesus.  The beautiful truth is that though I am not righteous, I can be justified.  And, though I am a sinner, I can be made righteous by what Jesus did all those years ago.  All I need to do is to confess my sins and repent of them.  Then I must turn towards Jesus and put my faith in him, not just that he died, but also in the words he spoke.  He must become both savior and Lord of our life.  Jesus wants to share his glory with whosoever will.  Won’t you surrender to his call today?  “Come follow me!”

Jesus, Suffering Servant audio

Tuesday
Nov102015

Jesus Reveals The Future- Part VI

Luke 21:29-38.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 08, 2015.

Today we will finish this chapter and return to the events of the last days of Jesus leading up to the crucifixion.  I plan to pause our study through Luke for the next 2 months and then pick it back up next year.

Having finished his revelation of the things that are in the future, Jesus ends with some final instructions regarding how that should affect their minds and lives.  It is important to recognize the difference between receiving information from the Lord and having that rightly impact our lives.  We must not only hear the Word, but we must also recognize the imperatives that the Spirit of our Lord is pressing to us.

Instructions From The Lord

Jesus starts his instructions with a parable regarding vigilance.  Several times he commands us to watch, look, and see the things that are happening around us and within us.  Thus earlier he commanded his disciples not to fear and not to be deceived.  Both involve the things that we may or may not see.  The people of God are called to be a vigilant people as opposed to those who are spiritually sleeping, drunk, or dead.  The first thing he points them to watch for involves all the signs and events that he has prophesied.  It is not enough for us just to know that he believed these things were coming.  We need to be a people who watch for these things.  On one hand we watch for the things that fit the descriptions that Jesus gave.  But on the other hand we make distinctions based upon what he said.  Thus we know that some things were going to happen in the first century, other things were going to be indicative of the whole age of Gentile domination, and then some things would be indicative of the end of this age and the Second Coming of Jesus.  Part of our watching is coming to a better understanding of what Jesus was saying.

Jesus gives a parable of budding trees.  It mentions a fig tree but then adds “and all the trees.”  Sometimes a fig tree is used as a metaphor for Israel.  However, in this passage it is a picture of all the things Jesus prophesied (some of them having to do with Israel).  When a tree begins to bud then we know that summer is near.  Although we may think this a no-brainer, there is a subtle point being made.  We have dates on the calendar such as June 21 and September 21 (depending on the year) in which we declare the beginning of summer and its end.  However, our experience with this period of time called summer is not always the same.  Sometimes it comes late and sometimes it comes early.  Trees have a relationship with the earth and sun that is different than us.  They are more sensitive to the things that can go undetected by us.  Thus a tree buds when it has a certain amount of energy and nutrients from the soil and sun.  We can make educated guesses at when that will be, but nothing can take the place of seeing the trees and plants responding.  Thus the difference between computer models and real life cause and effect cannot be made clearer.  Those who watch the world and make their guesses as to when the times of the Gentiles will end and the Second Coming will occur have often demonstrated the inability we have as humans to sense spiritual things clearly.  The signs and events that Jesus has revealed are intended to be like buds on a tree.  They help us know that the Kingdom of God and the Second Coming is near, or not.  Clearly, Jesus is not referring to the spiritual aspect of the Kingdom of God that the disciples had already entered into.  Rather, He is pointing forward to the Millennial Age when Messiah will remove the wicked of the earth, depose its wicked kings, and hand the kingdom over to the saints.  What has happened spiritually will come into being politically at the Second Coming.

Next Jesus makes a statement that “this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.”  If this was the only information we had, it would seem that Jesus is pointing to the disciples and saying this generation (the one that exists now).  But when we look at the same account in Matthew 24 it is worded a bit differently.  “When you see all these things, know that it is near-at the doors!  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”  Here the generation being referred to is a generation that will see “all these things” in the future.  So here is the rub.  If all the events of Luke 21 happened in the first century then they were the generation Jesus was talking about.  However, I have made the case in the last 5 sermons that not everything happened.    In fact, the genius in how this prophecy is written can be seen in how the people of every generation will still operate with a characteristic of vigilance and it would do them in good stead.  Thus the first century believers saw many of these things and were prepared to avoid the wrath of God poured out on the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

Yet, there are still some things that have not happened.  Matthew 24:15 mentions an Abomination of Desolation that did not occur in the first century.  There are some creative attempts at connecting this with events at the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem, but they are forced at best.  Matthew 24:14 mentions the Gospel being preached in “all the world.”  This also would not be the natural understanding of what happened before 70 AD.  Yes the Gospel spread greatly into the Roman world.  But the universal need of the Gospel requires a spread throughout all the nations literally.  Notice that it says all things that are written would be fulfilled (vs. 22).  This sets up many passages, such as Zechariah 14, that were clearly not fulfilled in the 70 AD destruction.  The times of the Gentiles ending and the Second Coming of Jesus did not happen in 70 AD.  Again, there are some creative attempts to say that Jesus came back spiritually.  But that is not what this prophecy predicts.  Lastly, we have not seen a convergence of the sun and moon darkened with stars falling to the earth.  See last week’s sermon for more on this.

Up to verse 34 Jesus is talking about our vigilance regarding the things in the heavens and on the earth.  But at verse 34 he begins talking about our vigilance regarding ourselves.  Believers must be watchers of their own souls as much as they are watchers of the times around them.  The word translated “take heed” in the NKJV has the idea of turning your mind and inspection upon yourself.  Thus we talk about introspection.  There are many temptations and fears that can sidetrack a believer from following Jesus.  If a person is not careful and does not watch themselves they will fall into sin and into its consequences.  If left unattended, these things can even jeopardize the soul of a disciple of Christ.  We only need to think of Judas to recognize this.  Jesus warned Peter, James, and John, when he asked them to pray with him on the night he was betrayed, that they needed to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41).  The love of God and the blood of Christ do not absolve the believer from vigilance over their soul.

Jesus points out that our hearts can become weighed down with sin.  The picture is of a person who is overly burdened and cannot follow where the Lord is leading.  Hebrews 12:1 touches on this same concept, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Whether we think of the analogy of an animal that is so loaded down they can’t move, or of a runner in a race who is wearing boots and heavy clothing, both instances demonstrate that we will not be able to do what Jesus wants us to do, or go where he wants us to go.  Jesus mentions two specific sins and a general category.  They are: carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life.  The word translated as “carousing” is a reference to the state of mind of a person when they are drinking alcohol.  It involves both the giddy feeling of euphoria and the attending horrible pain of a hangover.  In both cases the mind of the person is messed up and not focused on Jesus.  In the first all inhibitions and ability to work well are overwhelmed by a false sense of well-being.  This false well-being takes the place of seeking our well-being in Christ.  Thus it is a form of idolatry.  In the second situation our mind is filled with pain and suffering to the point it is unable to deal with anything else that the Lord may have for us.  This cycle of drinking to feel good and then not feeling good has sidetracked many a person from being a faithful servant of the Lord.  The second sin translated “drunkenness” goes hand in hand with carousing.  It is a clear reference to the person who drinks too much alcohol and becomes intoxicated.  Believers are not commanded to be teetotalers, but they are commanded not to be drunk.  Both of these issues can be seen as spiritual metaphors.  The lusts of our flesh can become the directors of our pursuit of well-being.  The consequential cycle of dramatic highs and crashes, shipwrecks the faith of people in the way of Christ.  This leads us to the general category of the cares of this life.  Jesus referred to this in the parable of the soils.  He warned that the cares and worries of this life can suck up all the moisture and nutrition of our life and choke out the Word of God.  Thus a person does not grow in becoming like Christ and instead grow in becoming like the world.  All of these are like weights on our heart and must be jettisoned in order to follow Jesus.  It might be better said that the Christian life is one of learning to prune the things we need in order to continue following Christ.  This is a process that will not end as long as we are in this flesh.

The consequence of dilatoriness in the battle against the lusts of the flesh can lead to being caught unaware by the Day of the Lord.  Now the problem here is not that a person has sinned.  But that they have quit watching over their soul and have become like one of the drunkards.  Just because you have the label of Christian does not mean that your heart is really following after Jesus.   Several parables that the Lord told refer to servants who doubt that the master is coming back and begin to take advantage of their position in his “house.”  They end up receiving the same judgment as those who were his enemies and never a part of his house.  The Lord is coming back to judge the wicked of this world who reject him as Lord.  Yet, he will also judge the wicked servants of his house who have rejected him in their hearts.  Thus Jesus uses the picture of a snare or trap in verse 35.  The world and “Christians” who are following their flesh will be surprised at the coming of Jesus.  They will both be caught up in the judgments and wrath of the Lamb of God.  All traps have bait that the thing being trapped wants.  In this case both those who never follow Christ and those who only pretend to do so are trapped by the lusts of their own mind and body.  God has warned us for millennia that those who go after the lusts of the flesh will reap destruction.  Thus we begin to understand another side of the distress and perplexity experienced by those who see the wrath of God coming upon the earth.  They are trapped by their desire to do it any way but the way of Jesus.  The world is headed into a trap that it will not escape.  Do not listen to the songs of the singing sirens.  They call mankind to take hold of its “evolution” and become the gods it was destined to become.  This will lead to inescapable judgment and destruction.

Finally Jesus tells us to pray for ourselves.  Technically watching and praying are concepts that are tied together in the Scripture.  They are two sides of the same coin.  Yes we ought to pray for one another.  But a prayer life begins with a person who sees the assault of sin upon their own heart and has established a communion with Jesus regarding what is seen there.  Only then are we able to rightly pray and intercede for others.  A prayer of introspection concerns itself with being ready for the Lord’s return.  Regardless whether he comes back or we die, we know that we will have a day of accounting and this should be a daily concern of our prayers.  In fact, Jesus uses the phrase “counted worthy to escape…”  This is not talking about meriting our own salvation.  Only those who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ are worthy.  However, our response of faith to Jesus must demonstrate works that are worthy of true repentance.  In other words, “Don’t be deceived.  God is not mocked.  Whatever a man sows that will he also reap.”  If we sow to our flesh we are going to reap destruction.  But if we follow the Spirit of Christ and sow to it, we will find life.  Our pretense will not be over looked by him who can see all things of the mind and heart.  Thus we want to be able to stand before Christ as an accepted servant, rather than to fall as an unworthy servant who is cast out into utter darkness.  Many who think they should be accepted will be rejected in that day.  It is no mystery.  Christ has made these things abundantly clear.

Let me end by reminding us that God does not intend His wrath to be poured out on His people.  1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  Also, Revelation 11:18 says, “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.”  Like He has often done, and like He did in 70 AD, the Lord pulls out the righteous before He brings down His wrath.  Thus He will do in the last days.  At some point Jesus will rapture His bride before He pours out the wrath of God upon a world that hates him.  Today is the day to choose what side you will be on.

 

Jesus Reveals Future VI Audio

Saturday
Nov072015

Jesus Reveals The Future- Part V

Luke 21:25-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 01, 2015.

Today we continue working through the prophetic teaching that Jesus gives in Luke 21.  In these verses Jesus points to a time when he will come back to earth again, often called the Second Coming.  After having walked through the signs of the age of sorrows, and the destructions of Jerusalem that would occur, Jesus then turns to his Second Coming.

Then Jesus Will Come Back

We finished last week talking about the Times of the Gentiles.  This undisclosed amount of time would continue to manifest Gentile domination until the time allotted by God was completed.  This long period of time would eventually come to a close leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.  It can be tempting to make the Second Coming of Jesus be a spiritual coming in 70 AD.  However, I will point out later why this stretches all credulity.

The first thing Jesus points out in verse 25 is that there will be signs in the heavens, specifically the sun, moon and stars.  It is somewhat vague here.  However, in Matthew 24 it states that the sun and the moon will be darkened and the stars will fall.  Such phrases would have been recognized by the hearers of his day.  They are used in the Old Testament as part of the Day of the Lord, when God judges the whole earth.  We have the same language used in Revelation 6:12-14 regarding the opening of the 6th Seal.  “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.  And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.  Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.”  Darkness of the sun and a blood-like moon is usually a sign of massive dust or ash particles in the air.  However, there is more going on here.  The picture of a scroll rolling up is used to describe the sky.  Some have said this could be pointing to some kind of nuclear warfare event.  However, it could also be the effects of an asteroid or comet striking the Earth.  Now it is common in the Bible for natural events to point towards spiritual events.  So when the Bible talks about stars falling, it can be a simple description of celestial objects entering the Earth’s atmosphere and shining like a star as it burns up in the atmosphere or strikes the earth.  It is nonsensical to hold the Bible accountable to a modern, technical definition of a star.  We even still refer to meteorites as “falling stars,” even though we know they are not technically suns.  Yet, we must also realize that the idea of falling stars has been used as a metaphor for falling angels.  We will come back to this later.  The main point is that there will be disturbances in the heavens, most likely both natural and spiritual things.

Then Jesus says that there will be distress and perplexity on the Earth.  Just as the heavens are disturbed, so the Earth will be too.  The term for distress means to be in dire straits.  It was a metaphor similar to being between a rock and a hard place.  This leads to the second term, “perplexity.”  Perplexity points out the inability to move forward or escape.  This can be due to a distressed mental state, “I can’t see my way out.”  Or, it can be due to a strategic error, “Checkmate.”  Either way, people on earth will be in a state of being boxed in and not sure what to do next.

This leads to a description of the seas and waves roaring.  I think that this also hold a natural and metaphorical meaning.  Powerful blasts of “space rocks” would cause massive tsunamis and tidal waves.  Yet, the Bible also uses the tumultuous sea as a metaphor for the peoples of the Earth.  They are pushed by tidal forces beyond their control.  They are tossed to and fro by the winds of the air.  This was a picture of the frenzied and driven nature of mankind.

The next description is that men’s hearts will fail them in fear of what is coming.  Earlier Jesus had told his disciples not to fear the things of the time of sorrow.  However, these things will be tied to the wrath of God being poured out on the Earth.  The phrase literally means that men would faint or drop dead out of fear of those things coming upon the earth.  Now as I have said earlier there is both a natural and supernatural aspect to these things.  Jesus says that the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  This reference is to more than just the natural powers of the sun and planetary motions.  Here are some Scriptures that reveal that the powers of the heavens are not just about celestial objects.  1 Peter 3:22, “Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities, and powers having been made subject to Him.”  Jude 1:13, “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.”  Revelation 12:3-4,9, “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.  His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth… He was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”  Thus we see that the powers of the heavens and the stars are often a reference to spiritual entities.  In Revelation 12 we see that a time will come when Satan and the angels that follow him will be forced out of the heavens and down to the earth.  Thus the last days will be scary from a natural standpoint and a supernatural standpoint.

It is at this point that Jesus says that the Son of Man will visibly return in great power and glory.  In Revelation 19 we see that this is during the great battle of Armageddon.  The armies of the world will be drawn to the Middle East by demonic messengers, where they will destroy Israel and then turn their power against the Lord Jesus as He returns.  In fact, notice that Jesus says, “they will see…in a cloud.”  The Second Coming of Christ is not an invisible, spiritual event.  It will be very visible.  Every eye will see Jesus coming on the clouds.  This fulfills what the angel told the disciples in Acts 1.  They were watching Jesus ascend into heaven until he disappeared in a cloud.  The angel said, “In like manner he will return from heaven.”  The rolling clouds and visible, glorious power of Christ is described as very bright and he will be followed by the hosts of heaven. 

Thus Jesus says that when we see these things happening we should look up for our redemption is near.   As Christians we are already redeemed in that the blood of Christ has purchased us back from sin and death.  However, our redemption is not complete.  We are still stuck in sinful flesh, and in a sinful world full of wickedness.  Christ will come to redeem natural Israel, and to complete the redemption of His Church.

It is important for us to understand that, though it has been a long time, God has a plan that is slowly working itself out.  This plan does have a point at which the present order comes to an end.  Think about this.  If you have not put your faith in Jesus and become his disciples, then you need to give this serious thought.  If you are not ready for His Second Coming, then you will be caught up in the judgments on the wicked.  But if you repent then you will be cared for by God Himself.  He will bring you through the fire of those times and you set your feet on a rock so that you can stand.  He will remove the wicked from the Earth and establish a kingdom of righteousness.  We have seen each of these things happen one by one.  A time of sorrows began back in the first century AD.  Jerusalem was destroyed in the first century and is now under threat of destruction again.  Mankind as a whole is rejecting the gospel of Jesus and is primed to receive the man of sin as its leader in these last days.  We are on the precipice of the wrath of God being poured out and the Second Coming of Jesus.  Prepare yourself today!

Jesus Reveals Future V audio

Tuesday
Oct272015

Jesus Reveals The Future- Part IV

Luke 21:20-24.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 25, 2015.

We continue this section where Jesus reveals to his disciples what the future held for them and the world.  The disciples wanted to know the timing and the sign that would point to the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the age, and the coming back of Jesus.  The answer Jesus gives them starts by pointing out what things would be like before the end of the age and the coming back of Jesus.  In Luke they are called “the things that must come to pass first.”  In Matthew and Mark they are called “the beginning of sorrows.”  So here is the list of sorrows that would be happening throughout the time leading up to the 2nd coming of Jesus.

The Things That Must Come To Pass First

  1. False Christs will come.
  2. Wars and Turmoil will come.
  3. Great Earthquakes will come.
  4. Famines and Pestilences will come.
  5. Fearful Sights and Great Heavenly Signs will come.
  6. Persecution and Martyrdom of Christians will come.

It is at this point that Jesus has finished this list and now turns to give revelation regarding the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Will Be Desolated

When we read verses 20-24 the message is clear, Jerusalem will be completely destroyed.  The word that is translated “desolation” literally means to be made into a wilderness, without inhabitant and barren.  If you have looked into the history of Jerusalem then you will know that there were long periods of time that Jerusalem was a wasteland.  In fact many explorers through the centuries have commented in awe that the devastated place they were looking at was a “land flowing with milk and honey” at one time.

Jesus gives them a sign by which they can know the desolation is near and they should leave.  That sign is when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies.  I will point out that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record this desolation but do not point out the armies as the sign.  Instead they point to something called the Abomination of Desolation standing in the Holy Place.  We will come back to this later.  However, it is important to note that it is clear there is far more discussion than is recorded here.  The different Gospels are focusing on many of the same parts and yet also on some that are different.  In each case the person who sees either of these things are told to flee or they will be caught up in the destruction.  Much like Lot and his wife we should not want to watch the judgments of God being poured out and neither does God want His people to be caught up in the judgment.  Around the year AD 66 the Roman legions began to encircle Jerusalem and eventually destroyed in AD 70.  It is common knowledge that Christians of that day understood what God was doing and had either been forced from the area because of persecution, or left as they saw the destruction coming.  One historian from the 4th century AD refers to a city called Pella on the eastern side of the Jordan River as a popular place they fled to.

Verse 22 calls this the days of vengeance so that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  Thus the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersal of the people to the nations were prophesied in the Old Testament.  Moses reveals it in Deuteronomy 29:23, the prophet Micah does so in Micah 3, Jeremiah 26:9 and also Zechariah 14.  One thing we see here is the grace and mercy of God.  Though He has already warned of judgment for 1500 years, He first sends His Son, Jesus, to offer him up as a sacrifice for sins and then gives the nation 40 years to repent and be saved.  It is due to the hardness of their own hearts that the people perish under the judgment of God.  In one place it is referred to as “wrath upon this people.”  So AD 70 clearly was a watershed moment as the wrath of God is poured out upon the unbelieving portion of Israel, destroying its capitol, and scattering the people to the nations.  Yet, there is a problem.  If all things that are written are to be fulfilled we need to deal with Zechariah 14.  When you read this chapter about the destruction of Jerusalem it is striking how different it is from what happened in AD 70.  Two major things stick out.  In Zech. 14 the Messiah comes after half the city is destroyed and fights for them.  His feet touch the Mt. of Olives and split it in half.  He strikes the armies of the people with a plague where their flesh dissolves while they are standing.  Now some people try to make this figurative language and explain that anyone who stands against Jesus will see their whole life fall apart (i.e. dissolve) as they go to the grave in destruction.  Yet, this doesn’t pass the smell test.  Even when prophecies have figurative or symbolic meanings, they is still a literal fulfillment of the prophecy.  Is Jesus talking about more than one desolation?  We will come back to this.

In verse 24, Jesus clearly reveals the people being deported out of the land into the nations of the world.  They will cease to be a nation.  They would lose their homeland and be dispersed to the winds.  This is basically what has happened from the end of the first century until 1948.  Yes, some Jews have lived in that area off and on throughout the centuries, but, as a people, they have generally not had a homeland to call their own.

This brings us to the phrase that Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled.  The word until should jump out to you.  This condition of Israel being homeless and scattered would be the case until the times of the Gentiles reached their completion.  Of course we are not told how much time that would be.  The word trample has the sense of doing what you want.  Think about how the temple was a series of restrictions.  There was a wide area that anyone could be in.  But at some point a boundary showed where no Gentiles could pass.  Then there was a boundary where no female Israelite could pass, then an area where only the priests could go, until you reached the Holies of Holies where only one man could go only once a year. Though we may think of this as bad and exclusionary, It would be a misunderstanding to do so. The Gentiles would be trampling all such holy distinctions without thought for the God of Israel.  Thus trample is a sense of control and domination.  Also, note that the word is “times.”  This denotes a history of dominations by more than one nation over the years.  Of course, this has been the history of the area.  It was initially under the control of the Romans (including the Byzantine era), then the Muslims, then times of Europeans in control.  In 1948 the people of Israel were able to reestablish as a nation.  So does this mean the times of the Gentiles are over?  Some have pointed out that Jerusalem wasn’t under Jewish control until 1967 after the Six Day War.  However, upon taking the city, the defense minister, Moshe Dayan, relinquished control of the temple mount to the Jordanian forces.  Thus there is still a part of Jerusalem being trampled by Gentiles.  So the last 2,000 years has been a time where God has given control of the temple mount to Gentiles.

This leads me to my last point.  I believe that when you look at these predictions in Luke, Matthew and Mark, there is more than one destruction talked about.  Thus another destruction is still yet future.  Let me lay out a couple of reasons why I say this.  Israel does have political control of Jerusalem, yet they are still hard of heart and blind towards Jesus.  Yes, some Jews are becoming Christians.  But the majority are still in unbelief.

One reason I believe another destruction is being talked about is because AD 70 did not have an abomination that causes desolation.  Again this is the term found in Matthew 24.  In Matthew it says this, “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand)…”  Here Jesus tells us that Daniel spoke about this abomination of desolation and Matthew makes sure that the reader doesn’t miss what he just said.  Now there are three places in Daniel where he refers to this.  Daniel 9:27 says that after the messiah is executed then the city will be destroyed.  After that one will enforce a covenant that he breaks later and on the wing of abominations will be one who makes desolate.  The main point is that Daniel says this abomination will happen after messiah is executed and after the city has been destroyed.  In Daniel 11:31 another abomination is mentioned.  This chapter follows the history of the battles between the Ptolemy’s of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria so closely that some scholars reject that it was written by Daniel.  They say it had to be written after the fact.  Thus the abomination of desolation in this chapter fits perfectly with a Syrian King named Antiochus Epiphanes.  In fact in the book of 1 Maccabees it refers to the abomination of desolation as two things.  An idol of Zeus was erected in the Holy place and the altar had pigs sacrificed to false gods on it.  Thus it appears that this abomination of desolation is not the same as chapter 9.  The last place is in Daniel 12 and is mentioning the timing of the event.  It states that from the stopping of the sacrifices until the setting up of the abomination of desolation will be 1,290 days.  This does not fit with what happened during the days of Antiochus Epiphanes.  So Jesus is pointing us back to Daniel 9, and yet Daniel 11 becomes an event that helps us to know what the whole thing would look like.  It is an event of pagan worship that occurs in the temple compound.  This simply did not happen in AD 70.

On top of this the AD 70 destruction does not fit Zechariah 14 as I mentioned earlier.  In fact it ends with the nations of the world coming to Jerusalem to worship the King and being punished if they don’t.  Yes, you can spiritualize all of these things and even be somewhat correct.  But prophecy of this sort is always literally fulfilled also.  When you study Zechariah 12 and Romans 11 you come to the distinct realization that there is going to be a time when the hard hearts of Israel will be softened and the blind eyes will be opened.  Israel will look upon the one whom they have pierced and mourn for him.  A spirit of repentance will be poured out upon them.  This will be an amazing time for them, but at the same time the wrath of God will be poured out on the nations of this world.

Let me end this passage by reminding us that the God of heaven has an issue with the nations of the world.  He is going to bring us into the valley of Judgment.  Are you ready for such a judgment?  The only way you can be ready is to put your faith in Jesus and follow Him.  Anything else is simply a path that leads to destruction.  Believe in him today.