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In a series on Jesus' teachings in Mark 13 about last times, Todd outlines four reasons to study biblical prophecy: to inspire worship by enlarging our view of God, to stir us to study His Word, to encourage us to live in readiness for Christ's return, and to engender our trust in the God who holds history in His hands.
False Promises, Prophets, Messiahs and Manipulations vs. the Truth
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 4
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 3
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 2
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 1
One of These Days: What to Expect and What He Expects of Us
Matter Only Matters if the Bible is not a Matter of Fact
Wonders of the World vs. the Wonders of a Magnificent Obsession
The Purpose and Product of Prophecy
I'll tell you, I count it as no small privilege and count it as a great responsibility to have this next number of minutes with you that you would allow me in your week and not just to take up the time but specifically the role you're entrusting me and others to play in sharing with you truth.
Our hearts here are that, whenever we do this, we make it really clear when what we share is our opinion and when what we share is the irrefutable and uncompromising Word of God. One of our core values here at this church, if you're just getting to know us, is that the Bible is our authority in everything. We stand firm where it stands firm, and we remain flexible where it is flexible.
You know, for anybody who, first of all, starts in and says, "Wait a minute. How do I know I want to gather with the people who say this book is their authority, when I'm not sure that book is authoritative?" we have ministries set up just for folks who want to come and just ask that very honest question and others that are similar to it that might be keeping you in your intellectual integrity from letting yourself go in faith.
We have a faith that goes beyond our ability to reason, but it never goes against anything that we can reason. Let me say that again, quoting a guy who lived about 400 or 500 years ago who caused most of us to flunk out of computer science class, Blaise Pascal, who said again something like, "We have a faith that goes beyond reason but not a faith that goes against it."
As you want to sit and come and reason with God and see if these things he claims are so and why you can believe that this book is unique and separate from all other books that claim divine origin, we'd love to welcome you in a very safe environment and let you ask your honest questions. We call those Explorer Groups, and there's always information about those in your Watermark News.
I thank you for the chance just to be in this role, and every week when I'm preparing, I'm mindful of y'all and asking… You know, specifically, I know folks tell me all the time, "Hey, man, next week, I have a friend coming who I've just been trying to love on for a long time, and I want to introduce him to what I get to experience in the community of faith, specifically in relationship with God.
What are you doing next week? Is that a good week to bring somebody?" We hope that, every time we do something, it's a good week for you to invite your friends, wherever they are in their spiritual journey. I have just been praying for you and that God would use this time in a way that would encourage you.
For the next four to five weeks, we're going to be looking at what is called in theological circuits eschatology. What is eschatology? Eschatology is the study of last things. Eschatos means last. We're going to look at what the Word of God has to say about what is coming, and we will focus off and make our launching point this little section of Scripture called the Olivet Discourse.
It's called that because the Mount of Olives (which, if you look at a map of Israel, you will find is just east of Jerusalem) is a little mountain that Jesus would walk up where he could look down to Jerusalem to the city and look over the city, and he could communicate to his disciples about things that would come to that city.
It's one of his longest teaching times in the Scripture, and we're going to look closely at what Christ had to say about last things. As we get started, what I want to do is just deal with this topic from a little bit different perspective this week, and that's simply, "Why do we want to focus on prophecy?" Before we do that, I want to pray, so if you would allow me to do that with you, I'd appreciate it.
Father, we are grateful that we are here for whatever reason in whatever way you, in your sovereignty, drew us here: through a friendship, through a hurt in our lives, through a sign we saw on the street, through a card that somebody gave us. We're glad we're here just to consider with our minds what you have to say. I pray we would be intellectually honest, and that is to look at your Word and to understand what you've claimed and then to consider it.
I pray for folks who are in this room who have honest questions, Lord, that they would find this to be a safe place to ask those honest questions, but I also pray for those who are in this room who have an honest rebellion against you and who don't really care what information they see that they are going to continue in their will and way.
I pray they would just have the integrity to state that and not create smoke screens of doubt as to the reasons they may not believe. I pray they would find themselves loved here and not treated as a project that we're trying to push over some hill but they would see themselves loved here as people who are made in your image ought to be.
I pray we would be patient with them and love them as we ourselves were loved and as we ourselves are loved as you patiently work with us in clarifying our understanding of who you are, where we've come from, and where you and we are going so that we might respond rightly right now. Would you just use this time for your glory and our good? We know that's Jesus' desire, and we join with him in that. Amen.
Well, especially since September 11th in the West, the idea of studying what will happen in the end days has again become fashionable. It happens a lot. It was a big push in the beginning of the 1990s with the Gulf War and the things that were happening, and whenever you see wars, especially wars where world powers are involved in places of ultimate meaning, places that the Bible says are going to have some part in the last stage of God's drama, the world perks its ears up and begins to look again and tries to figure out, "Is this the time? Is this the thing they call Armageddon?"
As always happens when magazines want to sell a few issues, they'll grab one of these hot-button issues that are out there. In July, the very beginning of July, Time magazine had this cover: "The Bible & the Apocalypse:Why More Americans are Reading and Talking About the End of the World," which this is what will happen to the world at that particular point according to the Scriptures.
A lot of folks are talking about that and when that's going to happen, when that moment in history is. A lot of folks scoff at that moment in history and say it's not going to be so. The historical person, Jesus Christ, whatever you make of him, was an individual who believed there would be an end to this world.
He lived his life in such a radical way that people said, "This man is either crazy or he knows something the rest of us need to know because nobody would leave the opportunity for blessing and power and recognition this man had and take up a cross and go through the humiliation he went through unless he knew something that maybe we need to know."
We're going to look at these words from Jesus, and as we set it up, I want to talk about this issue of prophecy. Before we do, I'll just show you… What's really interesting is, about 10 months ago, I got a call from Channel 11, and they wanted to talk to some pastors in town about what was happening in this particular stage. There were a number of pastors who would start to really get excited and say, "This is it. I can start to really see clearly how the events that are happening right now are the ones the Bible speaks about, so get ready. Brace yourself."
This is the story they put together. It was broadcast about 10 months ago, and one of the things I say in there is, "You have to be careful, whenever a new news event comes, not to just drape the New York Times over your Bible and go, 'See, this is that.'" You'll hear me say also in here, "You'd better be careful not to think that, one of these days, this won't be that." This is a little bit of that, and this will set us up for where we're going in just a moment, so enjoy this.
Female: Some people believe the increased violence in the Middle East signals the end of human existence.
Male: Every war, of course, has its share of doomsday prophets, but this time, the prophecies cut across the major religions, and whether you call it a holy war or the beginning of Armageddon, for some at least, this War on Terrorism comes with ominous signs. CBS 11's Ken Malloy reports.
Ken Malloy: It's an omen that some believe will lead to a day of reckoning and the end of the world. "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars," Matthew 24, verse 6. For some, this holy war has biblical proportions.
Reverend John Hagee: These winds of war that have engulfed this nation and Israel and are now in Afghanistan and so forth are going to become greater and mightier.
Ken: Reverend John Hagee of San Antonio is a pastor of one of the largest churches in Texas. He is also the author of a series of books on the end times. " 'There will be terrible times in the last days.' 2 Timothy 3:1."
Reverend Hagee: You can see it on CNN. You can see it on the front page of the newspaper. It's there. It cannot be denied.
Ken: But can it be denied?
Todd Wagner: There's always been a temptation to drape the New York Times over the Bible and to make what we see happening in our lives, you know, evidence of some prophetic Scripture.
Ken: Muslims embrace a different set or prophetic Scriptures. The Qur'an emphatically embraces peace but allows for war in self-defense. "You shall fight in the cause of Allah."
Muhammad Suleiman: Every society, every religion, and every civilized society will permit that. If that is the word of the Bible, I will not call it violence; I will call it a self-defense.
Ken: Muhammad Suleiman not only condemns the terrorist attacks but says the term holy war is a misuse of the Arabic word jihad, which simply means to strive for.
Rabbi Ned Soltz: There is no Jewish interpretation at all of this so-called holy war.
Ken: Rabbi Ned Soltz says the Torah and the Jewish faith not only reject the notion of a holy war, but that the holy war leads to Armageddon.
Rabbi Soltz: Traditional Jews express a hope in the coming of a Davidic Messiah that liberal Jews express the hope in the coming of a messianic age, where there will be peace.
Ken: The recently released movie, Left Behind, which is based on a best-selling series of Christian books, depicts the end days, the rapture of Christians and the return of Christ, "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven…" Muslims also agree a day of reckoning will come, but they believe that Allah shall judge between them on the day of resurrection, but for biblical scholars like Reverend John Hagee, the day of reckoning is fast approaching. He believes it will happen in his lifetime.
Reverend Hagee: The cycle of violence is going to become greater and greater and greater, until the nations of the world are involved, and nothing can stop it.
Ken: The Bible likens it to the beginning of birth pains.
Todd: And one of these days, one of these wars is not going to be a birth pain. It's going to be the war, and you want to be ready and not make it your last chance that you missed.
Ken: In Dallas, Ken Malloy, CBS 11.
[End of video]
What I said in that last little moment is, "Listen, there's often a second chance, but there's always a last chance." I'll be honest with you. I want to say right now at the beginning that I have no idea when Jesus is coming back. What I do know is that the events the Scriptures anticipate… There is nothing that needs to happen for the next major event in God's prophetic calendar to happen.
There's no war that needs to happen, no famine that needs to happen, no earthquake that needs to happen, no powerful false Christ who needs to come on the scene for the next event in God's eschatological calendar to happen. It's what is described in the books that have just basically taken the country by storm that the whole Time magazine is really based on. It's the Left Behind series. It's an event called the rapture.
You won't find the word rapture in your Bible. The reason you won't is because it comes from what is called LXX, which is the Latin version of the Bible. The Latin word for caught up is rapturo, so we have brought the word rapturo over into the English. It's a reference from the book of Thessalonians when it says that we will go to meet the Lord in the air. We will be caught up to meet him.
You won't find the word rapture in your Bible, but you'll have the idea and the concept of rapture spoken of in your Scriptures. It's the next major event that's talked about in God's prophetic calendar, and we'll unfold that some more as we get into the weeks ahead, but let's just take a step back.
The word prophecy, which is again a word we bring across… That's what a transliteration is. It's a literal word from another language we have brought across. It's really a compound of two words that are in the Greek. One is pro, which we all know when you hear pro that it means before, like the word ante. You ante up when you're playing a card game with your buddies. You get it out there before we deal. Get it out there before we go.
Then there is the verb phemi, which basically means to declare…prophemi, to declare before, prophecy, to say what's going to happen before it happens. To have that power sets you apart from a lot of other people. It will make you a rather sought-after individual, even if you're a woman from New York who says you're from Jamaica and you put a 900 number up there telling folks you can help them with their futures.
Foolish people are always looking for somebody who can prophemi, who can prophecy, and Miss Cleo and her little crazy friends who have no ability to prophemi are making a killing because people are looking for somebody who can. Men always have. What I want to do is just lay out and just tell you: this is what prophecy should do and the study of it and why we're doing it.
It's not to impress you with the knowledge of somebody who has done some hard work. It's also not to make you feel like you're some inner group who now has the official word, so you have power over those who don't. It's certainly not to make you be so sure of the time and the date that Christ returns that you can just jack around right up to the last minute and then get to your post, and it's not to allow you a wise investment strategy so, at the last moment, you can give everything and go, "Lord, I gave everything I had for that last seven days before you came."
It is to, though, do a number of things. With any good teaching, the purpose of it is not just information but what that information can bring, which is transformation, that we should be transformed by it. I'm going to list off very quickly, and then go back and show you biblically, how God has this in mind, four things that prophecy and the study of it should bring into our lives. Here they come.
The first thing it should do is it should encourage us to worship. It should make us individuals who have a greater appreciation of who the God of the Scriptures is. When the Bible was written, over 33 percent of it, over a third of it, was prophetic. There are over 1,000 specific prophecies in the Bible, where God declared beforehand what would happen. Over 50 percent of those have been literally fulfilled already.
Now if you had an individual who told you what was going to happen 1,000 different times, and 500 of those have already come to be exactly what he said they would become, you might want to listen to 501 and 502, mightn't you? You might anticipate that you're dealing with a faithful witness. One of the things that makes the Bible unique among other books that claim divine origin is its prophetic character and nature, and God stakes his name and his credibility on his ability to tell you that, in his sovereignty, these things will be.
Isaiah, chapter 40, is one of the most well-known little sections of the Scriptures. You have seen this little section here in Isaiah, chapter 40, in some way alluded to, if you ever have listened around Christmas or Easter to Handel's Messiah. Those of you who are Godspell fans will recognize certain portions of this. I want to take a second, and I want to just read to you pretty large amounts of Scripture here at the beginning.
Isaiah 40 is when God is coming around his people, Israel, whom he has chosen to declare himself through and to reveal himself to in such a way that other nations would go, "You know what? We're worshiping these totem poles, these rocks, these ideas, these concepts, but there's something going on in Israel that is not happening over here. We can't stand against you. What is the key to your strength?"
They were to say, "It's because we don't worship images that men have invented, and we don't worship ideas that men in their wisdom have incorporated together. We have heard from God, and his name is Yahweh, which is to say he is the great I Am. He always has been and always will be, and all things flow from him, and it's not that he loves Jews. He loves you, so he decided to reveal himself through us. We don't know why.
We were worshiping some pagan idols over there just like you were, and God grabbed a guy named Abraham and dragged him across the desert and said, 'I'm going to make you a great nation, and I'm going to put you in a place where I prosper you, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by you, Abraham. Why? Because of grace. What I want to do is declare myself through you.' Now you might say, 'Why did God choose to do it that way?' He doesn't frankly tell us that other than he says, 'I'm doing it that way, so pay attention.'"
God chose the Jews in the same way he has chosen us today. He's still very committed to Abraham and his people, but the purpose of choosing Abraham was so you and I might know who God is. What's going on right now is, the Jewish people, physical descendants of Abraham, have gotten a little bit off track, a little off course in their understanding of God's kingdom program. You heard the rabbi on that little news report say as much as, "We don't believe there's anything like that that's ever going to happen," because they don't believe Jesus had a clue.
What God is doing is he's working now to continue his kingdom program through anybody, Jew or non-Jew which is to say Gentile, who believes who he is and is to declare his glory to the nations. There will be a day when he will remove this group of people, Jew and Gentile, who are called-out ones, ekklesia, and are made up of a church, an individual group of folks who love him and are a new nation of people where there is no ancestral origin except faith.
In this event where they will be caught up and delivered, which will unfold all kinds of world turmoil, where somebody will come on the scene and speak peace to the people and bring folks together and institute a sense of peace, there will be a general sense of prosperity that will come from this world leader. The Scripture says he's going to bring false peace because he's a false leader. He's a false hope, and he's a false Christ.
What's going to happen is Israel is going to make a treaty with this individual, and that individual will basically hold faithful to that treaty for a period of time, and then he will break it, and at that point, Israel will see that they continue to trust in the wrong thing. The Scripture says God will open their eyes, and they will flee to the hills to escape the judgment that will come from this false hope they have now rejected.
They will survive by the grace and mercy and miracle of God and through the kind provision of others who believe in this Jesus who are not sought in the same way, the Corrie ten Booms and the Schindlers of the generation to come. Then Christ will return with his host, with his church, and Israel will be a nation that is blessed. All who know Israel's God will move into what is called the marriage feast of the lamb.
Now you're going to hear that…a little slower…over the next four weeks, and I'll show you from whence that comes. Some of the order of that (we have to be honest) falls to some sense of opinion. I will tell you mine, and I will remain flexible where the Bible has not been clear, but I will tell you to heed where the Bible has been. It should enlarge your view of God.
When Isaiah 40 was written, Israel was at a time when one of the great disciplines God brought on his people as they wavered from him was happening, and there was a nation and a world power called Assyria that had come down and wiped out about five-sixths of the nation of Israel, and those little two tribes that were left had a righteous leader by the name of Hezekiah.
He prostrated himself before God and said this wicked ruler from Assyria (you can go back and read your world civilization and see) whose name was Sennacherib would come down and he would mock the Jews. He got people who spoke the language of Hebrew and would mock the Jews and their God in the language of them and say, "Look, what happened to their little Jewish buddies up north is about to happen to you," and Hezekiah said, "He isn't picking a fight with me, God. He's picking a fight with you."
It says in Isaiah 37-39 that an angel of the Lord came in the midst of the night and slew 186,000 of them. That got Sennacherib's attention, so he decided to retreat. Then that little section of Israel, which is called Judah, continued for about another hundred years where they continued to rebel. Though God had done miracle after miracle after miracle, they rebelled against him, so then they brought another world force on the scene, Babylon, and God used them to go all the way through now where Assyria stopped and to continue and to discipline God's people.
Isaiah is speaking at a time of great discipline that's coming upon the nation of the North, and this is what he says. "I'm now going to tell you something. The discipline is over for those of you who, in this moment in that generation are heeding my way," so he says, "Comfort, O comfort My people…" He says, "Speak kindly words of affirmation to them and let them know good news is coming."
I want you to look down there with me in verse 6. It says, "A voice says, 'Call out.'" Say this. Then Isaiah said, "What shall I call out?" The answer is this. You call out, "All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. […] The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever."
This is his way of saying, "Listen, right now, Assyria is a pretty intimidating influence, but you tell them that Assyria is like the grass and like the flower that fades, but the Word of God will stand. Assyria will not wipe you out, and 'Let me give you a near-view, Israel, of the power and strength and might of your God.'" He says in verse 9, "Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, 'Here is your God!'"
Watch this, because one of the things that prophecy ought to do is enlarge your heart for worship. The God of the people is the God we love and the God we worship who has most fully revealed himself in the living Word who never fades, Jesus Christ. This is what it says in verse 10. "Behold, the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him." That's to say that he's bowed up, and he is a mighty King, and nobody can mess with him.
Then verse 11 gives you another side of this God who comes. Remember what he's doing right here. "Here is God. He is a King." But watch this. Verse 11: He's a shepherd King. "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes." There are two things that come there in verses 10 and 11 about God: that he is mighty and one to be reckoned with and that he is just a shepherd who can gently take the little nursing lambs.
Now if you're in a time of great world persecution, and Assyria, this army that has never been matched in the history of the world, Assyria that had humbled Egypt at the time, is there at your doorstep, do you want to know your God is a tender God, a shepherd God, or do you want to know he's mighty and able to defend his name? You want to know he's mighty, so the rest of Isaiah 40 is saying, "Here is your God."
I want you to just get a glimpse of this because it'll enlarge your eye of worship, because what's going to happen is God is just going to state it like it is, and then he's going to come back and say, "But I'm going to tell you how you can know I am who I say I am," and guess what he's going to go to…his ability to prophemi, to declare beforehand what will happen.
We are roughly, in your world history if you care, in 700 BC here, and it was 722 when historians will tell you that Israel in the north fell to Assyria, this marching world movement, and Isaiah is saying, "Listen, follow your God. What he said to Abraham, you can trust him." Here's what is says:
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him [God] understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket…"
How many of you guys, if you have a bucket and you've filled it up water and you're going back to deliver it, and you notice there's a drop that came out, one drop, and you go, "Doggone!" and you hike all the way back to make sure you fill it back up and get that drop back in there. Anybody ever done that? No. Not unless you're doing some chemistry assignment with a beaker.
It's a bucket, and you're feeding the camels, and one drop's not going to make much difference, and that's what God says the nations are to him, but he doesn't like that analogy because that's not enough. A drop to a bucket is not enough to show the distance. He says, "No, the nations, in fact, and the powers of men "…are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales…"
How many of you guys when you go to get your bananas at Tom Thumb, and they're 99 cents a pound, throw your bananas up on the belt, then the lady types in the code, and weighs it, and you go, "Wait a minute. Get those bananas off there, " then you blow the dust off the scale and go, "All right, you can weigh those bananas right now"? They'd think you're looney.
God is saying, "That's exactly what the nations are like. They're like a speck of dust on the scale." You know what? God is not satisfied with that either. He comes back, and he goes, "No, they're not like a speck of dust on the scale." In verse 17, it says, "All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless."
What God is saying is, "There are going to be powers and world powers and world leaders and intimidations and mockers. I have it under control. Now it may not look like it in your lifetime from your perspective, but that's why you're not God and I am, and I'm calling you to cling to me, worship me, honor me, wait for me."I waited for the Lord on high. This is what he says. Verse 18: "To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?"
He goes through and he mocks the idols that other folks happen to worship, and he says, "That's just absolute foolishness." Verse 25: "'To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?' says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing."
God names every single one of the stars. The number of stars in our universe is unspeakable, and one of the things that continues to baffle our astronomers is the billions… They don't even have numbers that we've invented yet that describe the number of stars that are up there, and God says he knows them all by name, and he can greet them personally because he has it under control.
To you are who are trembling in the midst of your world, I'll say this to you this morning. Some of you guys are in the middle of a lot of a lot of heartache. One of our dear friends, Bev Johnson, a member of our church is this week just beginning chemotherapy tomorrow, and you just kind of go, "God, where are you? You're in control of all this stuff. If you can deal with a nation like Assyria, you can deal with a little tumor like this or a little hole in my heart like this or a little rejection like this, and yet you wonder where God is. Why hasn't he shown up?" This is what he says in verse 27:
"Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary."
What God is saying is, "You have the right God. Look no further. It's going to be a little bit of a tough time, but I'm doing some things with this divine discipline to make sure you guys know the things you have been trusting in are not worth trusting in. Trust in me." It wasn't as if their World Trade Center had fallen. You understand this. It was as if Washington, DC, had been mowed flat.
What he's saying is, "You guys should not trust in Washington. You shouldn't trust in Schwarzkopf. You shouldn't trust in your financial institutions. You should trust in me, and I want you to know that." To this people, the Jews, he's saying, "I have made a covenant with you, and I know it looks like all hell's about to break loose but let me just give you a little insight."
Now in chapter 41, he says, "Coastlands, listen to Me in silence…" That word coastlands is the idea of islands or the remotest places of the earth. "…and let the peoples gain new strength; let them come forward, then let them speak; let us come together for judgment." Let's decide now who to trust. God asked:
"Who has aroused one from the east whom He calls in righteousness to His feet? He delivers up nations before him and subdues kings. He makes them like dust with his sword, as the wind-driven chaff with his bow. He pursues them, passing on in safety, by a way he had not been traversing with his feet. Who has performed and accomplished it, calling forth the generations from the beginning? 'I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.'"
What God is simply saying here is, "I'm going to tell you something. There's somebody coming from the East who will wipe out a lot of folks, and he will be untouched and unscathed. He will be a world power like nobody has ever known, and I'm going to give you, Jews, favor in his eyes." He says in verse 5, "The coastlands have seen and are afraid…"
In other words, the other nations of the earth hear about this coming power, and they get scared, so they build these idols, and they try and encourage each other to, as verse 6 says, "Be strong!" They say, "It's good. Our gods won't fail us against this coming power." He says in verses 8-20, "They're foolish, and Israel, don't you make alliances with other nations or alliances with other gods." Now, verse 21… What's the purpose? What are we talking about here? We're talking about prophecy and why you know who you can trust. Verse 21:
"'Present your case,' the Lord says. 'Bring forward your strong arguments [about who you should trust] ,' the King of Jacob says. 'Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what they were, that we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods; indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.'"
God is taunting these other nations with other gods, and he's saying, "Okay, why don't you tell us what's going to happen so it can come to fruition and we can know you have the ability to control the future of the world, and then we will tremble in fear and shake before your gods." He's saying, "You can't do that because your gods are no gods at all. There's one God who's in control here. Let me tell you who he is, and you're reading his book."
That's why he's saying, "Don't worship these other foolish things. Don't put your confidence and trust in other things. Put your confidence and trust in me because I hold history in my hands." He's saying, "I will tell you what will come, and there's one from the East." This is no Nostradamus, where you get a few letters right and maybe some creative person a few years later can put it together and go, "Well, look, he thinks that we think he saw Hitler. We think he saw Martin Luther King." No, Nostradamus is a farce.
Anybody who's ever done any kind of diligent look at that man's prophecies has seen that he makes Jeane Dixon look like a genius. Thank you. That's true. Some of you guys are going to watch some Discovery special or Nova with Dr. Spock on there, telling you about Nostradamus, and, and you're going to go, "Whoa! I'd better go read that." Well, go read it, and you put it to the same test you put this book, and you'll be right back here with us.
This is what God is saying. Isaiah 44, he says, "In 170 years, let me tell you what's going to happen. Right now, Assyria is the world power. Guess what? There will be another one. There will be Babylon, and I'm going to have them come and do some things. They're going to get your attention, Judah, because you're not going to follow me. You're not going to heed my words right here.
I'm going to raise up a guy 170 years from now. His name is Cyrus. Spell that. Write it down right now: C-Y-R-U-S, Cyrus. He will lead this little group of people who don't even exist right now. They're Persians, and they will gather together, and they will wipe out the nation that wipes out the nation you're trembling in your boots about right now, and I'm going to be the one who does it." Now that's rather impressive.
When you hear that God does that, if you're a person who reads that, what should you do? Exactly what God is betting them to do which is to say, "Worship me." What I want to do in this time is just say, "Look, this is not just some intellectual exercise so we can be some super-informed people. This is to remind us we are worshiping the God who is and that he is worthy of our worship and, when we come in here and sing to him, we're not doing him some favor. We're saying this is unbelievable that you have revealed yourself to us and we can know you."
This is what prophecy ought to do. It ought to declare to you the things that are. Let me just have some fun with his idea of prophecy. Let me read to you about 10 different things that pretty smart men have said, and we'll see how they did. There's a guy whose name is Marshall Ferdinand Foch. He was a French military strategist during World War I, and he said to his nation's leaders, "Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
The president of the Michigan Savings Bank spoke to a guy named Horace Rackham in 1903. Horace Rackham was an attorney for a young man named Henry Ford, and this Michigan Savings Bank president said, "The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad," advising him not to invest in his client's new venture. That was in 1903. Luckily, Rackham rejected his advice. He bought $5,000 worth of stock, and he sold it just a few years later for $12.5 million.
Former British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, August 1, 1934, said, "Believe me, Germany is unable to wage war." He missed that one. How about this one? The Commissioner of Patents, Charles Duell, of US patents, in 1899 said, "Everything that can be invented has been invented. We should cease and desist the patent office."
I quote Warner Brothers films in 1927. Harry Warner says, "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? No way are we going to go that direction." Kenneth Olsen, president of Digital Equipment Corporation… Anybody own stock in that? No, and here's why. Their president and founder said in 1977, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home."
Joseph Daniels, former (key word) Secretary of US Navy said in the 1920s, "Nobody now fears that a Japanese fleet could deal an unexpected blow on our Pacific possessions…radio makes surprises impossible." He missed that one. Western Union President, William Orton, when a guy named Alexander Graham Bell showed up and wanted to invest in his little struggling company, said, "What use could this company make of a little electrical toy?" It was called a phone.
In 1949, Popular Mechanics, a rather respected journal said, if we were lucky, with the increase in technology and research, "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." I have a couple more. Joseph Kennedy, 1936: "I have no political ambitions for myself or my children." Los Angeles surgeon, Ian MacDonald, Newsweek in 1963: "For the majority of people, the use of tobacco has a beneficial effect." Finally, Decca Records president in 1962: "We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out," speaking about the Beatles.
It's amazing when you look at the statements that folks make. You know, these are things that aren't necessarily things they're going to control, but it isn't easy. This is from the back of Newsweek. It just says, "Cloudy Days in Tomorrowland," and it talks about people's inability to predict tomorrow. Do you know what Newsweek would say if I told them I knew somebody who could and who not only predict tomorrow but chaperone the forces of history to make tomorrow come?
They'd should say, "You should worship him!" He'd be their Man of the Year. They'd shut their magazine down and say, "Quit reading this junk. Read his Word, and don't worry and concern yourself with the affairs of everybody life. You concern yourself with how to make yourself right with him." That's what Newsweek would say, and they're a bunch of idiots, and that's what God has been saying for centuries. If you can figure out Tomorrowland, you ought to worship him.
I'll tell you what else you ought to do as you study this ability to declare the future. Not only should it enlarge and encourage us to worship, but as we get ourselves right with God and as we get our correct understanding of what prophecy says, it should encourage us to read our Bibles. I don't have time to specifically unfold this, but let me just tell you, the book of Deuteronomy (we'll put Deuteronomy 32 up there) is basically four messages and a musical.
Moses gives four sermons, and then he sings a song in chapter 32. This is his song, and really, at the end of that song, he comes back and says, "Let me tell you what this song really means." What the song is, is a wrap-up of all the first four messages. It's a song the nation was to sing every year to remind them how God who brought them out of the grips of this nation that the world feared that was nothing to God, God humbled.
In fact, God said, "Moses, I don't want you to leave at night as a bunch of scared people. I want you to go out in the day, and I'm going to have you plunder this people." If you remember, the king of Egypt was giving them gifts and saying, "Take whatever you want. Just please go! Go!" just like God said they would.
Moses is reminding them that this God that they saw deliver them and then they rejected right away in trusting in his ability to take them into this land he promised them is saying, "Now you're about to go where you've been not for 40 years because you didn't trust the God who did what he said he would do. Trust him this time."
This was a song that Israel was supposed to sing every year. Then this is the verse I want you to understand. It ought to make us read our Bibles because, in Deuteronomy, chapter 32, (this is Moses now reflecting back on his musical), in verse 47, he just says a very simple thing. He says, "I want you to look at the Word of God. I want you to study it. I want you to love it. I want you to know it, and I'm going to tell you why."
"For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess." He is saying, "Listen, God alone can sustain you, and God's Word is not an idle word. It is your life." Do you remember how we started the service? "Your Love Is Life to Me."
The scripture says that his word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, and when you understand God's ability to prophecy, you will worship him, and you will pay attention to his Word. This is not just some exercise so we can have good conversations and impress people at dinner.
This should bring about regeneration and transformation in our lives right now. Not only should it enlarge our hearts of worship and not only should it enlarge our hearts in terms of giving us a hunger to read the Scriptures, but if we are correct in studying prophecy, it should encourage us to purify ourselves. In other words, we want to get ready.
If we know the day our King is coming… One of the things you're going to hear Jesus say is, "I'm not going to tell you when, but you ought to be ready. I want you standing at your post, and don't be a lazy servant because if I come back and find you not where I asked you to be, we're going to have to talk."
This is what it says in 1 John. We'll just read some Scripture together. "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." That's what happens when you're not ready. You just go, "Oh, my gosh!" and you scramble.
There's a story told of a young man who wrote a letter to one of our presidents. He lived in Colorado, and this president decided to stop there and go right to this young man's house he was so moved by the letter. Of course, all the press… This is before the days of advance teams and things of that sort, so the president of United States shows up at this man's house, and he was wearing his boxers and one of those little scoop tee shirts with no arms, holding a cold one in his hand.
Ding-dong at the door, and he gets up off the couch from watching his soap operas or whatever he was watching back there in that day and opens the door, and there's the president, and there's the news media. They said, "What in the world did you think when you saw that the president was at your door?" The guy said, "I wish I'd of know'd he was a-comin'. I'd have cleaned my house up. I'd have looked differently, and I'd made myself ready to greet one such as this."
You don't want to shrink back. I'll tell you what I would do. Most of us shrink back when a friend comes over, and we have rack head in the morning. We won't let them in the door. "What? Oh, no." We scramble around. We'll wet our hair down. We'll do whatever we can, so we don't have to shrink back at just a casual friend. Can you imagine what you'll want to do with your life when the Holy One of Israel shows up? You're going to want to be ready and purify yourself. This is what it says in verse 1 of chapter 3. He says:
"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is."
In other words, we know that Jesus is coming to do what he said he'd do. Verse 3: "And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." Do you see what prophecy ought to do? It ought to enlarge your heart of worship. It ought to enlarge your passion for the Scriptures, and it ought to enlarge your appetite for that which is holy. If this is true, then people get ready, that you may not shrink back at his coming.
Lastly, it should encourage us to trust. If prophecy is what it claims to be, then we ought to not just be individuals who worship him, not just be individuals who passionately look at his Word to understand we might purify ourselves, but we ought to be people who, with reckless abandon, trust in him, even in the midst of horrors.
This is Jesus' own words in John, chapter 14. He says, "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you." What's insinuated is, "I'm coming back, so trust in me. Wait for me. Don't align yourself somewhere else."
Then in verse 27, you see he says, "While I'm gone, this hope of me coming behind you and taking care of things will bring you incredible peace in a world that's filled with incredible pain." "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."
Do you understand why I want to study this with you? It's not just because it's a thing of national interest, and it is, but I want to enlarge your heart as a worshiper. I want to enlarge your appetite for God's Word. I want to enlarge your appetite for holiness, and I want to enlarge your ability to trust God during the day. Look, there are certain things we don't know.
There's a great story told by a guy named Warren Wiersbe who I think is one of the great Bible teachers of our generation, and Warren Wiersbe gave a great message, where he just laid out a prophetic calendar, and he got it all up there, and some guy came up to him at the very end of things and shook his hand and said, "Dr. Wiersbe, that was unbelievable. I did not know you were on the planning committee for the return of Jesus Christ."
Wiersbe said it just pierced him to the quick, and he said, "You know what I did after that moment? I got off the planning committee and purposed to be a part of the welcoming committee." Now I think that we can know what we can know, but I want to make sure that, when we walk out of here today, we are committed to being part of the welcoming committee, not the folks that like cockroaches, when the light is flipped on, try and scurry under a rock.
I have news for you. God said he can find cockroaches. He is the master exterminator, and he says he will rid this world of cockroaches of rebellion. There are some things that he says I want you to know. Listen, in the midst of studying prophecy, there are some things we can't be sure about, but I want us to make sure today we have convictions we don't waver on, things that you say, "I will stand firm on this" or things that you need to acquire conviction on if you don't have it.
In school, they tell you about the three R's: reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. Well, here, I'm going to give you the four R's, and you don't want to miss these. They come out like this. First, you need to know the certainty of the resurrection of the dead, and just write down next to that, 1 Corinthians 14:12-17, and you go read it.
Paul, in effect, simply says there, "Look, if the resurrection didn't happen, we of all men are to be pitied. We, of all men, are to be fools. If Christ is not raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain and worthless, and in fact, we're in deep kimchi because we have found ourselves to be the enemies of God because we say that he did."
Paul is saying, "You can stake your life on this." When it's going happen, what it'll look like when it happens, what ages our bodies will be, if we'll be able to recognize each other…some of those things are a little bit more difficult to understand, but you'd better set your compass by that fact.
Second, set your compass by the fact of the certainty of recompense through judgment. I just want to put some verses up there for you on this because this is no small idea in Scripture. The Scripture says, "Do you want to know what's going happen in the end days? Men are going to give an account of their deeds."
We've looked at 2 Corinthians 5:10 the last few weeks, and it says this. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." In Matthew 16:27, Jesus speaking says this. "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds."
Acts 10:42 says, "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead." You'd better form a firm conviction that there's a resurrection and that there is judgment. You'd better form a firm conviction that there is a resurrection, a recompense for judgment, and third, a return of Jesus Christ.
We're going to talk about this one specifically in the coming weeks, and we're going to talk about what the Scripture says about what that return will look like and how the coming of Christ is not the same event as the rapture, and we'll unfold that for you in a way that'll make some sense. It tells you that, in the last days, scoffers will come, and they will mock his coming. Just write down next to that point, 2 Peter, chapter 3, verses 3 through 9. As always, all this information, all these notes, will be available on the web in the days to come.
Lastly, you want to have a conviction of the certainty of the reality of heaven and hell. This is something you can't budge on. I want to show you one little passage of Scripture right here, where Jesus makes it very clear that he believed in this. It's John, chapter 5, verses 24-29.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man."
He's saying, "If you hear the Son of Man, you'll have peace with God," but he says. "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice…" Not just living men who are going to hear about God's mercy but those who are in the tombs who have heard his mercy in the past will come forth.
Then he says this awful thing. It's a great message of hope for those of us who have heard the message, and it's the message or horror for those who have hoped in annihilationism or who thought suicide was the end or who were fatalists or who were nihilists or who bought into Nietzscheism. Jesus himself says, "…and [every man from the grave] will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."
Now, listen, because you just go, "Wow! Well, then, I'd better get my resume together." Please don't. He wants you to know this is the one good deed he looks at. In John, chapter 6, verses 28-29, Jesus says, "Therefore they said to Him, 'What shall we do…'" Because they heard this message.
"What shall we do so that we may work the works of God?" Because you're going to be resurrected, some to everlasting judgment and some to everlasting life, according to their deeds, and they say, "So what should we do?" "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'"
Did y'all catch that? You'd better be firm in your conviction of the resurrection. You'd better be firm in your conviction of judgment, firm in your conviction of the return of Christ, and firm in your conviction of the fact that there is a real heaven and a real hell, and how you respond to the person of Jesus Christ will determine which one of those two places you will call home.
Now the idea here is, if you believe in him who he has sent, you won't just say, "He's my Savior," but you will follow hard after God. God says, "You say you love me, Israel? Then why don't you know that you are to follow according to my ways? If you take my name and you don't take my way, you're going to have a problem."
Now I said those are things you ought of have convictions about that you should not waver on, and I'm going to give you two things that you should have convictions on that can wait. First is the itinerary of Jesus Christ. What I mean by that is this. Well, you know, when you get an itinerary back from Expedia, it tells you when you depart and when you arrive. This is all it says in the Scripture. It says that Jesus said, "No man knows the hour, not even the Son."
My admonition to you this morning is, if you hear anybody, who tells you they know when Jesus will return, do not return to them for counsel. I'll say it one more time, and we're going to talk about this in the days ahead. When you go to somebody and they tell you they know when Jesus will return, don't return to them for counsel. We don't know the specific date when Christ will return. No man knows the hour.
Second is the identity of the Antichrist. You'd just better slow down on that one. Caligula, who was the caesar of Rome in the AD 40s, Nero after that in the AD 60s, Judas Iscariot before both of them, Mussolini, Napoleon, Hitler, the pope, Stalin, Gorbachev, Kissinger, Prince Charles… You laugh at Prince Charles. He is the favorite of the day. You go to people who go to Bible prophecy conferences, you will hear that Prince Charles is the Antichrist…guaranteed.
They will take you to Revelation 13, and they will show you about the Beast, and they will tell you the number of the Beast is 666, and they will show you through mathematical equations and formulas using languages and assigning numeric values to names that Prince Charles is the Antichrist. What I want you to hear is that I can do that for every one of those names of individuals I just mentioned. It's been done in history.
Every single one of those individuals, you can go through and say, "A is one," or "B is two," or do some other twisting with their name. If Adolf doesn't work, then you use Adolf Hitler, and eventually, if you're creative enough… If German doesn't work, try English. If English doesn't work, try Hebrew. If Hebrew doesn't work, try Latin. Eventually, you can find a way to make it 666.
Now I'm just going to do this for parents just so you might know. It's something you already know, and I'm going to tell you that this is just an example of the foolishness is of who the Antichrist is. I'm going to tell you the Antichrist is a cute purple dinosaur. Now follow me on this.
He's a cute, purple dinosaur. What you want to do is you write, "cute purple dinosaur." Then what you do, as a good student of Latin, is there are no U's, so you use V's. You replace all the U's in "cute, purple, dinosaur" with V's. Once you get that, what you'll do is you'll drop or bring forth only those which represent numbers in Roman law.
You bring forward from "cute purple dinosaur" all the things that have a number associated with them, and you have C-V-V-L-D-I-V. (It'll be on the website.) You add those up. C is 100. V is 5. V is 5. L is 50. D is 500. I is 1. V is 5, and you get 666. I'm going to tell you, Barney is the Antichrist. That's crazy, but if you can do it with Barney, you can do with Bush. You can do it with Clinton, and you can do it with any man.
You need to know this. There's going to be one, and you will have a false prophet who will come, and they will be energized by Satan, and they will try and reproduce the Trinity. Satan is the Father, the Antichrist is the Son, and the False Prophet is the Spirit who will try and affirm the work of the Son, and their number is 666, which I do believe in some way will have some representation towards that individual, but the point is this. If perfection is 777, they fall short, because there is none but God.
Bottom line, what's this mean? It means that prophecy is not written to satisfy our curiosity. It is given to supply us with confidence and remind us of our charge…bottom line. As we go ahead and unfold these next coming weeks, that's what I want you to do.
I want you to walk away from here, not with your curiosity scratched but with your charge resolved, your worship more committed, your passion for God's Word deeper, your commitment to purity more grand, your hope in the resurrection, your soberness at judgment, your certainty of his return, and your declaring of God's grace and mercy which will allow folks to have a relationship with him deeper in resolve. Let's pray.
Lord, we know that when you come back you're not going to question as to who was right on that day that we said you would return, but you're going to tell us that you want to know what we were doing, who we were serving. Were we watching at our posts? Were we alert and ready? Father, I pray in the coming weeks we would be humble about what we don't know but that we would be firm and confident about what we do know and that we would hold onto your Word and we would be careful in our understanding of it.
I pray we would see that this is no idle Word. It's our lives, and though there are cloudy days in Tomorrowland, there are no cloudy days for you. We know, in the midst of the suffering and turmoil we are in, as individuals you have stewarded the message of Christ to at this moment in history, we must be faithful at our posts.
I pray we would live not as individuals who are entangled in the affairs of everyday life so that we might please the one who has enlisted us a soldier and that we would suffer hardship for you as good soldiers of Jesus Christ and we would not fear man but serve you, the one whose opinion matters and, in the midst of this, we would cling to the hope that one of these days, that only the Father knows, we're going to be with you in glory. May that conviction burn in our hearts, and may it change us for your glory and others' good.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 13.