It’s the end of the World: Details to Follow

September 17, 2017

It’s
the end of the world as we know it.
Really?   There are certain events that spark certain
responses from Christians as a direct consequence of the scripture that we read
earlier.  Let’s go back to the last part
of that scripture:  Mark 13:7-8  And you will hear of wars and
threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the
end won’t follow immediately.  Nation will go to war against nation, and
kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as
well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to
come.
Almost
sounds like the evening news, doesn’t it? 
There have been promises of Peace in the Middle East for thirty years
but each year it seems to escalate with hard liners taking positions in both
camps. 
And
while we are used to nation going to war with nation, kind of like the threats
that we are seeing with all the sabre rattling between North Korea and the US, so
much of the fighting in Africa seems to be much more in line with Kingdom
against Kingdom.  Although sometimes it
almost seems like it’s Sneetches with stars on their bellies and Sneetches
without.
Add
to that Hurricanes, floods, wildfires and earthquakes, food shortages around
the world and ever-increasing fuel costs and the star of a reality show as
President and I’m starting to hear the “Could this be the end times” rumblings
that periodically emerge.
As I worked
on this message I realized something: We as Christians have lost the vision of
the imminent return of Jesus Christ. 
When I first became a Christian I used to get up every day with the
thought, “This could be it, perhaps this will be the day that Jesus calls his
church home” 
It’s been
awhile since I’ve woken up with those thoughts, although sometimes I find
myself wishing, “I hope he comes back soon”
Now we all
believe that Christ is coming again or at least we say we do, but are we
waiting expectantly for the return of Jesus Christ? I mean really expectantly?
People are
intrigued by the concept of the “End of the World”, how the world will end? and
when the world will end?  Whether it will
end with a bang or a whimper? 
This past
week there’s been a lot of reminiscing about where people were and what they
were doing when the twin towers came down on September 11 16
years ago.
I was at Beulah for a district minister’s gathering
and another minister asked me: “Do you think this could be the beginning of the
end times?” To which I replied, “Well that would certainly solve our pension
problems wouldn’t it?”  
To be very frank I do not live in fear of the end
times, it’s not something that I worry about, it doesn’t keep me up at night
and I don’t read about it constantly.  Now
for some people it is an obsession and that is the reason why the Left Behind
series of novels have became best sellers twenty years ago.
I will admit I have only read the first one and that
was out of curiosity.  You say “But Denn,
don’t you want to know what’s going to happen?” 
Well, let’s not go there, no let’s go there.  You understand that the Left Behind Series
are just novels, they are fiction if you were to look for them in the Library
they would have a “F” on the spine, and not very good fiction either. 
I know that’s just personal taste. The Left Behind
Series does not have an inside track on the end times, as surprising as that
may seem.
The authors have merely fictionalized what they found
in the Bible.  If the Left Behind books
cause you to become more passionate to see people won to Jesus they are
wonderful, however if you are reading them in order to gain more knowledge
about the end times you might not end up being the scholar that you hope. 
But maybe people will be won to Jesus with the books,
who knows it’s not a new outreach strategy.
When I first became a Christian in 1979 there was a
movie out called “A Distant Thunder” and it was a fictionalized vision of what
it might be like during the last days. 
The secret of that movie and the other two in the
series that was that you’d invite your pre-Christian friends out to church and
the movie would scare the hell out of them, literally.  Did it work? 
Sometimes.
 
I’m no expert on biblical prophesy, but I do believe
that we need to look into the scriptures to see just exactly what the Bible
says concerning the end times which will either begin or end with the return of
Jesus Christ, depending on your theological perspective. 
The experts tell us that there are over 1800
references to Christ second coming in the Old Testament alone, and that for
every one prophecy concerning the first coming of Christ that there are eight
prophecies concerning his second coming. 
We are also told by the same experts that there are over 300 references
about Christ return in the New Testament, or approximately one every 30 verses.
1) The Reality
of The End Times
Biblical
scholars tell us that the book of Mark was the first Gospel account put into
writing.  And according to Papias, who
was one of the early Christian writers and a man who had known some of the
apostles personally, Mark had acted as a scribe for Peter.  Now taking that into account if we look into
the book of Mark we see Christ making three direct statements referring to his
return.
The first
reference is found in Mark 8:38 If anyone is
ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of
Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father
with the holy angels.”
The second
was two days later, after Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, part of the
scripture that Ben read for us this morning 
Mark 13:1 As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his
disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the
impressive stones in the walls.”
Boy it
wasn’t hard to tell these guy’s were right off the boat.  Talk about a bunch of hicks, Gawking around
and staring.  You can almost hear them,
“Golly look at them buildings, aint got nothing like that in Galilee”.   
Can’t say that I blame them, remember that I grew up
in New Brunswick and to me a big city was Saint John.
Now it’s been a long time since I was a Saint John boy
and I’ve done a lot of travelling since then, I’ve actually visited 5 continents
and more than 2 dozen countries and been 75 miles east of the North Pole.
And I
thought I was a fairly seasoned traveler, been there done that type thing.  Well, as most of you know, in June, I was
able to visit Egypt and preach in a number of churches there.
We visited
a church that is 1700 years old, chew on that for a while.  When Christopher Columbus was a child they had
been worshipping in that church for 11 hundred years.
And I went
into the Great Pyramid, inside the Great Pyramid.  Stood at the feet of the sphinx and visited
the tomb of Saint Mark. 
And let me
tell, people would never have mistaken me for anything other than a hick, there
was no doubt in anybody’s mind that I was right off the boat.
So, for a
few minute the apostles stood in awe as they looked at the massive temple
building in front of them., and then Jesus told them in the next verse Mark 13:2 Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they
will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
Now the
disciples didn’t say anything right off but when Peter, Andrew, James and John
were on the Mount of Olives they asked Jesus when this would take place. “You know Jesus we don’t want to pester you about this, but
when you said the temple was going to be destroyed, did you mean like this
afternoon?”   
And in
reply Jesus gave them a three part answer. 
The first part is given in Mark 13:5-13 when Jesus spoke of the
tribulation that the Apostles would personally go through.  The second part is found in verses 14-23 and
Jesus told them about the tribulation that Jerusalem would go through.  And in 70 AD Jerusalem was totally destroyed
by the Romans.  One contemporary source
claimed that a man could plow from one corner of Jerusalem to the other without
hitting a rock.
In Mark 13:26-27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds
with great power and glory. And he will send out his angels to gather his
chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and
heaven.
There can
be no mistaking what Jesus was talking about. 
He was saying that there would come a time that he would return and
mankind would see him coming.
Now then
the third instance that Mark records Christ speaking about his return was when
Jesus was on trial before the high priest, let’s listen in Mark 14:61-62 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest
asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
Listen to
the response of Christ 
Jesus said, “I Am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place
of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus
couldn’t have made his message any plainer.
Peter’s
testimony to the second coming of Jesus extends even after the book of
Mark.  In Acts 2:35 on the day of
Pentecost Peter declared that Jesus had been exalted to the right hand of God
to reign until his enemies are made into his footstool. 
And
listen to what Peter says in his sermon in Acts 3:20 Then times of
refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you
Jesus, your appointed Messiah. 
What
Peter preached about in the book of Acts, he writes of in the two letters that
he wrote.  2 Peter 3:4-9 They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?
From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since
the world was first created.” They deliberately forget
that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth
out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and
earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of
judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a
thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his
promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does
not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
It is
pretty evident that Peter, one of Christ’s closest friends and confidants was
convinced that Jesus would return.  But
what about other writers in the New Testament? 
Glad you asked.  The conversation
on top of The Mount of Olives is also recorded by Matthew and Luke with only
minor variations.
And John
records in His gospel in John 13:36 Simon Peter
asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me
now, but you will follow me later.”
But then in
the next chapter, only five verses later we read
John 14:3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that
you will always be with me where I am.
And when
Jesus is telling Peter what his future holds, Peter asks Christ “Hey what about my old buddy John”  and John 21:22 Jesus replied,
“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you,
follow me.” and in 1 John 3:2 Dear friends,
we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like
when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see
him as he really is.  Not if he appears,
but when he appears, John was evidently pretty certain that Jesus was coming
again.
And in the
final book of the Bible, John wrote in Revelation 1:7 Look! He
comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him— even those who
pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen!
When Luke
records Christ’s return to heaven Christ has ascended into the clouds and the
Apostles are standing staring dumbfounded into the sky, which when you think
about it is a pretty appropriate response and two angels appear and say to them
Acts 1:11 “Men of
Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has
been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the
same way you saw him go!”
The New
Testament is full of references concerning the second coming, both direct and
indirect.  As a matter of fact, out of
the 27 books in the New Testament the second coming is mentioned at least in
passing in 23 of them.  Of them four
where the second coming is not mentioned Philemon and 2 & 3 John were
personal letters and Galatians had a very specific thrust.
For the
scholars out there the Greek word most commonly used for the return of Christ
is Parousia, which was used in referring to a
visit from the emperor or governor.  The
word Epipheneia is also used and it means “The
Appearing”, while John is fond of referring to the return of Christ as the Apokolypis, or the revelation.
The early
church was so convinced of the second coming that they actually greeted one
another with the word “Maranatha”, which is
actually two words, “Maran” and “Atha” which when put together meant “Our Lord Comes”. 
The return
of the Lord is a certainty, the Bible and early church tradition lend authority
to that fact, the question that remains then is: The Timing of the End  When
is this going to happen?
The
apostles themselves wondered that same thing and demanded an answer to the
question in Mark
13:4
“Tell us, when will all this happen?
What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?” 
And in
verse 32 of the same chapter Jesus answers them by saying, “It’s none of your
business”  well actually that isn’t
exactly what he said, but it’s close because he says
Mark 13:32 “However, no one knows the
day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the
Son himself. Only the Father knows.”
But that
reply hasn’t kept men and women from playing neat little mathematical games
with Biblical prophecies over the past two thousand years in an effort to
figure out some kind of time frame for the last days.  Through the years many sincere men have
sought by various formulas and mathematical techniques, primarily using the
prophecies of Daniel to arrive at; if not the day and hour of Christ’s arrival
then at least the month and year.
When the
First World War broke out even the secular press was asking the question:  Is this Armageddon?  There seemed to be further confirmation when
Jerusalem was delivered from Turkish rule in 1917.  Dr. C.I. Schofield of
the Schofield study Bible fame actually wrote a book in 1918 proposing that the
world would come to an end before the war to end all wars came to an end.  Obviously he was wrong.
In 1939
World War Two broke out and the next year B.F.
Atkinson wrote a book called “The War With
Satan.”  In his work Atkinson
speculated that the end was near.
While I was
pastoring in Truro I received a book in the mail entitled “88 Reasons Why the
World Will End in 1988”  Now all three of
these books based at least a part of their theories on the “Seven times” that
Daniel spoke of in Daniel 4.  They
multiplied the seven by the number of days in the Jewish prophetic year which
was 360 and came up with a total of 2520 years. The only problem is that three
men used the same figure and one comes up with 1918, one 1941 and one
1988.  The reason for the difference is
that they all have different theories on when we should start counting off the
2520 years.
Now
my favourite theory was put forth by Dr. Joe Kanzlemar, who was my professor in
Bible college who taught our class on the Revelation.  Joe figured that everything in God’s plan
goes back to the sabbatical concept.  And
this goes back to Daniel’s seven days again. 
Joe then adds to this Peter’s comment in 2
Peter 3:8
But you must not forget this one thing, dear
friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is
like a day. 
So
Joe figured that from the book Genesis to the last curtain will be seven
thousand years.  Now if we count the
millennium as the last day, or the day of rest and we use Bishop Usher’s date
to put Genesis 1 at 4004 BC, then we only have to find another 2000 years, so
Joe speculated maybe 2004. And since this is 2017 it looks like Joe blew it
too.
Perhaps
you’ve heard the most recent theory which puts the end of the world in six days
and 10 hours and 13 minutes.
Yep, that
would be September 23rd.  Those
who are promoting that theory base it on Revelation
12:1-2
 Then I witnessed in heaven an
event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon
beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was
pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving
birth.
And maybe
you are thinking so. . . ? 
Well, the
constellation Virgo is the woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her
feet.” The constellation Leo is the twelve stars (three of which are actually
Mars, Mercury and Venus but let’s just go with it).
And. . . on
the 23rd, Jupiter will orbit out of Virgo — a sort of “birth,” if you will.
According
to one of the theory’s proponents David Meade states “It will occur once
on September 23, 2017. It will never occur again. When it occurs, it places the
Earth immediately before the time of the Sixth Seal of Revelation.”
But the
truth of the matter is that David Meade doesn’t know when Christ will return
and neither does anyone else.
Seven
different times in the New Testament it says that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief in the night.  And how does
a thief come?  Well if he is a good thief
then he comes very, very quietly.  Now realize
that the return of Christ is not what is referred to as the rapture which is
the when Christ calls the church to be with him.
Eschatology
or the study of the end times is like golf, it’s fun it gives you something to
do but in the long run it you end up arriving at the same place you left from.  And just like anything else it can become an
obsession and prevent us from doing what we were put here to do and that is to
win people to Jesus Christ. 
But one
thing is certain and that is that the Day of the Lord will happen. It may not
have been in 70 or 1918 or 1941 or 1988 but Christ will return.  And when it happens, He will be more pleased
with the Christian who led one person into a relationship with God then with
the person who spent all his time debating and writing books about the end
times.
Jesus made
it very plain that the timing of the His return is neither our responsibility
nor our business, and personally I think that we border on blasphemy when we
try to wrestle that information from God. 
We look very much like Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of knowledge
of good and evil so that they could become like God.
Let
me end this morning with three quotes the first was made a hundred and thirty
years ago by French Scientist Pierre Berthelot,
“Within a hundred years of physical and chemical
science man will know what the atom is, and it is my belief that when science
reaches this stage, God will come down to earth with his big ring of keys and
say, ’Gentleman it is closing time’ “. 
The second quote comes from Sammy Tippit
an Author and Bible Teacher who wrote “The facts are
out there. Biblical prophecy is unfolding before our very eyes. Anyone with a
modest knowledge of the Scripture and a nearby newspaper can easily tell that
history is quickly coming to its conclusion. Planet Earth is on a collision
course with Biblical prophecy.” 
And
finally the words of C.S Lewis who said in
relation to the return of Christ “When the author
walks on the stage, the play is over!”