Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 4

The Last Things You Need To Know: Living Life in Light of the End

While Mark 13 discusses the last things that we need to know, its author is talking to a Jewish audience about their future. So what will happen to those of us who are not Jewish? In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, God offers comfort to His church, which leads to a peace that passes understanding. Our concern is that we remain faithful while waiting and watching expectantly for Him!

Todd WagnerOct 27, 2002Mark 13:4-20; Daniel 9:24-27; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5; Daniel 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 3:3; Mark 13:14; Daniel 12:1-12; Daniel 11:20-45

We've been working our way through what's called the Olivet Discourse. It's a section of one of the Gospels, the stories of the life of Christ that are in your New Testament. It's where Jesus specifically addresses last things. We titled this little parenthetical series within the gospel of Mark The Last Things You Need to Know. These are the last things about the last times that Jesus wants us to know. So we've been having a little fun with that.

Jesus was specifically addressing a Jewish audience. He was telling these Jewish followers of God and followers of Christ what would happen to their race of people. They are God's chosen people, and God said he would take care of them and bless them just like he promised he would initially to Abraham.

This is what we've been looking at these last couple of weeks. It begs the questions…What's going to happen to those of us who are not Jewish? Why is it important that we know what God is going to do to with the Jews? What does that leave him to do with us?"

There was one church in specific that Paul visited and wrote a lot to about these last things. He deals with a topic called the rapture. The rapture is an event that he said would involve God removing his church from the time of Jacob's trouble and the time of Jacob's distress, which we have talked about, which is the great tribulation.

In fact, he said, "I want you to know this stuff, to teach this stuff, and to comfort one another with words about it." So Paul felt significant time should be given to teaching about this. Not so that people can have knowledge, but so that an application can happen in their life. Part of the peace that passes all understanding is having a comfort in the midst of a lot of uncertainty.

God has offered us comfort as his church as he's told us things are going to get worse than you can ever imagine before they get better than we can ever imagine. He tells us to comfort one another with these words.

There are a lot of folks who are confused about last things. With a lot of the horror that's happening and going to continue to happen in this world, people are going to be consistently asking, "You're a believer. You go to church. What does the Bible say about this?" When you speak, and you speak of the one who in our desperation and lostness has intervened and brought us by grace into a faith-relationship with him, if that has happened, you can comfort them with these words.

Way back when on a different day when my body could do different things to sometimes go different places and play basketball and share with folks in the context of sports a little of what Christ had done, there was a group of us who were at this particular time playing in Jamaica. We were playing what they hoped would be their Olympic team. They weren't very good. They didn't ever make it to the Olympics, and they would sometimes beat us. That can tell you how good we were.

We were playing them, and at halftime different ones of us would share truth from Scripture. I can remember that the national stadium in Jamaica is an outdoor court, if that gives you any idea what's going on down there. We landed in the southern part of the country, and we're crossing the island to go up and play. We hear on the radio, "Tonight, a nationally televised game starts at 8:00. This team from America is going to play our team."

It started to rain at about 7:00, so they had to move it indoors. At 8:15, they were still taping the basketball court down on the floor. When they say, "No worries…" It was a nationally televised sporting event, and they don't have the court set up until about 8:45, which can give you a little idea that they are not driven by the same thing that we are on this big landlocked area we're in.

While I was over there at halftime, one of the nights we were outside, I was sharing the gospel. I was just telling a story, and you could smell dope everywhere. I guess you could buy popcorn and peanuts and Jamaican. So folks were smoking it, and I'm sitting there. Rastafarianism, which one of the ways they worship Ra down there is by smoking dope, and there were a lot of guys there that were apparently devout followers. They were there that night in the audience.

I can remember telling the story of God's love for me and God's love for them and talking about how God has come to earth. Even though he was God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped in this God that is three as one, and his Son lived and identified with us and took my sins on the cross and was crucified, dead and buried, was resurrected and appeared to many over 40 days, was ascended into heaven where he sits now at the right hand of God (I didn't use those words) from which he will return the quick and the dead.

I was sitting there. I had one of those out-of-body experiences. I thought to myself, "This sounds flat nuts." A few times, I could see those guys who were smoking dope looking at each other and do this like, "What's he smoking?" I'm just going to tell you, if you don't feel like that sometimes when you just read this little section of Scripture that we're going to look at in 1 Thessalonians 4 which says that we're going to always be with the Lord, and those of us who love the Lord are going to be called up to be with him in the air…

"What's he smoking? This does not fit my categories. This is on a different plane than I'm comfortable journeying in.' All I can tell you about this is this testimony comes right in the middle of 66 books of testimony that are anchored in history and are, therefore, verifiable. This is not the writings of some wild man in Upstate New York or some woman on some spiritual journey or some guy trying to run a con to get some money.

God took his word, and he anchored it in the context of history and state and war and events and people so that we can test it. If you can't make sense out of something, it is nonsensical by name. If you can't verify something, then it might still be true, but you just can't have the same confidence in it. And the Word of God, unique to all books that claim to be divine, is a book that you can test. That's why there was such a big hubbub about this finding of this sepulture (this little grave box) of James who is the son of Joseph and brother of Jesus.

This Scripture can be found to be authenticated by the study of the sciences of archeology and by the science of the study of history and what's called manuscript verification. So when you have a witness that has shown itself to be completely true… Most archeologists, even non-believing archeologists, when they go and do their studies, they say they will not go without their Bible because it is a map to what they're going to find there.

Many a renowned archeologist has come to Christ because of this book matching up with what they keep finding, and they go, "There's no way that this was just some scant collection of men trying to run a con on a group of people." Plus, this is not a book a man could write if he would write it because it's a man-deprecating book and a very God-exalting book. Men don't like to write those books.

It's not a book man could write if he would write it because it's a book that tells about things that are yet to come. Over 30 percent of this book was prophetic in its initial writings, many of which have been literally fulfilled, which gives you some confidence that some of the things that are like this which seem a little bit out there might also be likely fulfilled.

Now in this little section of Mark 13, we've broken up the study of it this way. There are eight different little points that we've found in Mark 13:1 through the end of the chapter. This is basically how we've described it.

"Don't be deluded by dopes, false teachers who will come and say some things. Don't be diverted by disturbances, both natural and brought about by wars between men. You're going to suffer for your testimony for me, and don't be surprised by that suffering. It's not a sign I've forgotten you. It's just going to happen.

Don't be scared what you're going to say when you're delivered up. Don't forget who to fear because I'll take care of you. If they destroy your body, you can trust I will take care of your soul. I will restore that body. They can burn you to ashes, and I can pull those back together in a way that for eternity will show you to be wise. Don't bet on the exact hour when all of this is going to unfold, and don't mess around with him."

That's where we've really been focusing the last couple of weeks. Who is the, "him"? The, "him," is the Antichrist. When you get to little point number seven ("Don't bet on the exact hour when all of this is going to unfold, and don't mess around with him") up there, that is Mark 13:14.

This is what it says. "But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION…" which is a reference to what the Antichrist will do. The one who is the antithesis of who Jesus is, this one is self-serving, who wants to draw all worship and glory to himself, and who will oppress people and not deliver people.

When you see that one enthrone himself in a place where God alone should be worshiped, he says, "You run for the hills. Don't fight against him, because you will not stand against him. You are no match for him. Get the fat out of Dodge." Listen. Let me remind you again that Mark 13 is where a Jewish Messiah, a Jewish deliverer, is talking to Jewish men about the future of a Jewish temple and Jewish people, and he uses a reference to a Jewish prophet to give them that answer.

We went last week, and I beg you if you weren't here to grab that CD or that tape or listen to it on the Internet (whatever you want to do) and get a context with what Daniel was saying in chapter 7 of his book. I want to go back and take a quick glance at chapter 9. We'll roll through chapters 11 and 12, and then we'll see that Daniel's passionate question should be our passionate question.

In Daniel 9, Daniel just got through asking God, "You've given me visions for what's going to happen with the rest of the world in light of where we are as a people. What's going to happen to the Jews?" That's the response Daniel is getting here in Daniel 9:24. We looked at this last week. This is what the angel said to him. "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city…"

In other words, what you're going to see here in Daniel is very consistent with what you're going to see in Mark 13. This is information for Jewish people about the future of a Jewish state, Daniel, your people and the holy city which you're concerned about which is Jerusalem. It goes through in verse 24, six different things that will happen. We looked at those last week.

Then he introduces this thing called seventy weeks, and we walked through what those were. How those weeks are really groups of years. One week is seven years. So if you have seventy weeks, you have 490 years. We saw that he said from the issuing of a decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, there will be 7 weeks and 62 weeks before the Promised One will be cut off. We went through last week, as we did earlier when we went through the triumphal entry of Jesus in Mark 11, and we showed how to the very day God fulfilled this prophecy.

A guy named Harold Horner did some extensive work on the timing of Scriptures. He shows how when Christ rode into the city on what we call Palm Sunday and people laid down their garments and palm leaves and said, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," was the exact fulfillment of Daniel 9 to the day. It says after that that the Messiah will be cut off, so there's this gap that appears at the end of 69 weeks that still leaves Israel from wrapping up all of the prophecies about it.

So we have seven years that are left hanging. It's called the seventieth week of Daniel. The rest of the book of Daniel tells you about this seventieth week, as does Daniel 9:24-27. Specifically, let's look at verse 27 one more time very quickly. It says, "There will be one who will come." The, "he" you see here is the same, "he," you saw in Mark 13:14. "And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week…" If seven is a week, what's the middle? Three and a half years. "…he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering…"

In other words, what the temple of God is used for is a place to offer up sacrifices to God to honor him and to worship him. He's going to say, "Don't offer sacrifices to God because your God is here. He will enthrone himself." And it says, "…and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."

The angel whispers there to Daniel, "Daniel, this guy is going to come, and he's going to destroy a holy place by making a very unholy claim and blaspheming God, which is to say, 'God is not God. I am,' which is what Satan has always done." This guy will be the embodiment of evil, even as the Son of Man is the embodiment of Christ.

Christ, if you will, he is the visible nature of the invisible God (what Colossians says about him). Jesus is God, the Son, eternally existent with the Father, eternally part of the Trinity like the Spirit. This one will come and he will take on the embodiment of all that Satan represents and the evil that holds him. It says that Jesus will one day come and make him desolate. That's Daniel 9:27.

What happens throughout the rest of the book of Daniel is that more detail is given to Daniel about this awful thing that he has heard of coming and this awful beast and the awful nation of machinery and the power and the government that will accompany him. When you get to Daniel 11, you'll find more details that are given. I'm showing you this because I want to make sure we're faithful to the text in Mark 13.

This whole thing starts when the disciples say to him, "Jesus, tell us. When will you come back, and what will be the signs of your coming back?" If they were really being literal as Jews, this is what they're saying in Mark 13. "Jesus, tell us when the seventieth week of Danielbegins, or when will it end and what will be the sign that we're in that period?" So in Mark 13:1-13, he talks about these things that are going to be a part of that seventieth week or those seven years.

Then in verse 14, he says, "But when this happens, it's the time when real trouble gets unlocked. The word, 'this,' is a reference to Daniel 9:27 when the Antichrist claims to be me and sits himself in my seat and brings all kind of horror on you. Whenever you take an idol or a false God and worship it, you have trouble. He's going to be a false God. He's going to come, and he's going to oppress people, and he's going to tell them to worship him. If they don't take the sign of this beast, they're going to suffer horrible things for it."

That's what's going on in Mark 13. They're asking, "Hey Jesus. When's the seventieth week of Daniel going to be over, and what will be the sign that we're in it?" I say all that because there's nothing in Mark 13 that really has anything to do with the church. In Mark 13, he's not talking to the followers of Christ (Jew and Gentile right now). He's talking to Daniel's people about Daniel's people's city, Jerusalem.

So a lot of folks get confused when they start talking about this event that we just sang from…we will always be with the Lord, those of us who love the Lord will be called up to be with him in the air…because we look for it in Mark 13 in the coming of Christ. The rapture is a separate event from the coming of Christ. The second coming of Jesus is a movement from heaven to earth. The rapture is a movement from earth to heaven.

This is what's going on in Daniel 11. The angels are revealing more to Daniel about what is going to happen before this specific event. Let's read verse 20 together. "Then in his place one will arise who will send an oppressor through the Jewel of his kingdom; yet within a few days he will be shattered, though not in anger nor in battle."

Here's what he's talking about in Daniel 11:20. This is the angel Gabriel revealing to Daniel more details about how Gentiles are going to be in power, which means a Jewish ruler is not for a period of time, and a succession of rulers, who have been talked about in Daniel 10:1-19. Then it talks about one who will arise.

It says in verse 21, "And in his place a despicable person will arise, on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred, but he will come in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue." Notice what Jesus said in Mark 13. Don't let people impress you with their intrigue and with their signs and their wonders and things they say and their power and their charisma.

"And the overflowing forces will be flooded away before him and shattered, and also the prince of the covenant," which is to say any leader who should be will be driven out by this guy. "And after an alliance is made with him he will practice deception, and he will go up and gain power with a small force of people."

Again, the Scriptures talk about how this one who is to come who is called the Antichrist or the horn or the Beast will make a covenant with God's people that he will bring them peace, shalom. What they've always been looking for, and what Israel longs for today.

This is a reference to this. Let me throw this out for you again. There are some events in Scriptures which are what is called pre-fulfilled,which means you can see, if you will, a type or a shadow of ultimate fulfillment that will eventually come. They are called an already but not yet or a pre-fulfillment or a type.

In AD 167 there was a guy by the named Antiochus Epiphanes, which means exalted ones. He exalted himself. Antiochus is the guy who was the near fulfillment of Daniel's ultimate revelation from the angel Gabriel. Antiochus was one of the descendants of Alexander the Great.

When he finally got in control and warred with his brothers, he eventually came in and took over a section of the Near Middle East where he combined his southern kingdom and the northern kingdom and different kingdoms and pulled himself collectively together. Specifically, when he got to Israel, the Middle East, he took a statue of Zeus and put it on the altar in the temple and said, "Worship Zeus, you foolish Israelites, you Jews. Worship the Greek God."

That was an abomination of desolation in Jewish history. It was in anticipation of others who would come and do that not just with some statue of Zeus, but ultimately with their own claim and being. In AD 70, a guy name Titus, a Roman ruler, came and did a very similar thing. A statue of him was put on the altar, and the Israelites were told by the Roman people to worship Titus Caesar, who was god.

Some people say those two events are the complete fulfillment of what you have in Daniel 11. I would offer to you there are many reasons why they can't be the complete fulfillment of this, but they are in anticipation of the ultimate desolation and abomination, which will come. Some of this has been fulfilled in a sense, but only in a way that anticipates the ultimate fulfillment of it. That is what is called an already but not yet, a pre-fulfillment, or a type, and it happens through the Scriptures. That being said, it says,

"In a time of tranquility he will enter the richest parts of the realm, and he will accomplish what his fathers never did, nor his ancestors; he will distribute plunder, booty and possessions among them, and he will devise his schemes against strongholds, but only for a time." Why? Because it's been decreed how much time this guy will have.

Look down at verse 31. It says, "And forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation." *There's the direct quote. *"And by smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action."

Now you have a lot of what Revelation is about, which is a further explanation of what's going to happen inside this seventieth week of Daniel,which is synonymous with the tribulation period. Specifically, the last half of the tribulation is when the abomination of desolation is unlocked and all hell and horror is really unlocked. That's what's going on here in Daniel 11.

Look at verse 39. It says, "And he will take action against the strongest of fortresses…" Some devout folks who are going to say, "We're going to stand against you." It continues. "…with the help of a foreign god; he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him and will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price." That is a reference to the fact that he's going to want folks to take the mark of the Beast. It talks about then, in verse 40 through 45, more details that will surround him. I want you to go Daniel 12:1 with me.

*"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt." * That doesn't mean just Jews will arise, but he's talking about the Jewish people who will be gathered at that moment.

"And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase." In other words, more people will start to see what Daniel is talking about is what later the prophets like John are going to talk about.

Now there's a question in verses 5 and 6. "Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river and the other on that bank of the river. And one said to the man dressed in linen…" There are two angels who are watching this conversation. They say, *"How long will it be until the end of these wonders?" * Does that question sound familiar? It's the question that folks always have asked. "When's this going to happen?"

Watch the response in verse 7. "And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed," which is his way of saying, "God is in control. The one who makes desolation will himself be made desolate, and there's a limit to the destruction that I'm going to let him bring.

Times, time, and half a time means two years, one year, and half a year. Three and a half years, which is the exact same thing you find all through the Scriptures, exactly cutting seven years in half. This is when all hell basically breaks loose. He makes a treaty that for the first three and a half years he upholds.

There's going to be a war that will happen where God will miraculously deliver Israel from an onslaught of many nations, probably a combination of Russian and Arab nations if you look at the Scripture and where they're geographically located, and God will miraculously deliver Israel. The Antichrist, who made the covenant of peace with Israel, will take credit for it. That's when he'll have the gusto to go into Jerusalem and say, "Worship me."

These angels were saying, "How long will he get to say that? How long will he oppress your people?" He said, "For three and a half years. The last half of the seventieth week." Then Daniel chimes in. "As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, 'My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?'" What's going to happen after that? Here comes the answer in verses 9 through 12.

"And he said, 'Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.'" In other words, I'm not going to tell you when. Is that consistent with what you see in the New Testament? Yes, it is. "Many will be purged, purified and refined…" In other words, some are going to die. Don't worry if they destroy you. Just speak the truth, die, and I will take care of your body.

"…but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand." Some will compromise, take the mark of the Beast. Some Jews won't run to the hills when the Antichrist comes. Some will worship him and have three and a half years of blessing underneath him while other faithful Jews will run to the mountains.

"And from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days." That's an extra 30 days from what we had previously to the 42 months, which make up a prophetic year. There is not really clarity on what those 30 days mean. Is there going to be an anticipation that he's going to come before he sits himself on the temple or is it after the fulfillment of those three and a half years where judgment is taking place?

You'll see after that, there are another 45 days in verse 12. "How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!" What does that mean? Some believe the coming of Christ from heaven to the earth will be a procession where he will lead all his saints, and he will appear in the clouds and march around the earth until everybody gets in the parade.

That'll take 45 days for him to take the journey down before he seats himself on the throne. But it's speculation; we don't know. Here's what he says to us. "But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age." God is sovereign, Jew. He is in control, Jew. Comfort one another with these words, Jew.

Here's the big question. "All right. The Jews are taken care of. What about you?" I have that same question, and so did the church at Thessalonica. We're teaching you this in the context of different views of the end times. We've talked about these things called post-millennial and amillennial views. Those are views about whether or not there is a literal reign of Jesus in Jerusalem.

Too many people are trying to help God out because there came a time when, just like Daniel said they would be, the nation of Israel was dispersed and thrown out all over the place. How could God work with the people who were no longer a people? The Jews don't exist as a nation. They were just spread all throughout Asia and Rome and Europe. There was no Israel for God to renew a work with Israel.

About two hundred years after Christ, people started to go, "How can we still hold to the integrity of the Scriptures and not look foolish, and still not to have these things have to happen because there's no way they could happen because there is no nation of Israel? So what they started to do is they said, "Well, here's how we can do it. God works with the covenant people." The covenant people in the Old Testament were Israel. In the New Testament, they're the church. So the church is really called Israel in the Old Testament." That view became amillennialism.

What they basically did, some of them maybe with a good heart, is they said, "We know God's Word is true. We don't know how God is going to do this, so let's help God out. Let's make this mean that, and we'll spiritualize some of these prophetic promises and say, "Well they're not going to happen literally because they're going to happen this way."

Whenever we do that, whenever we try and help God out by rationalizing his ability to do something we couldn't otherwise do, we get in trouble. See a very old man who was childless, who couldn't have a kid, and God had promised him that he would have a kid, and through that kid, there'd be a nation of people who would be built, and God would do a great work with that nation.

"Since God probably isn't going to have anything come out of my wife, Sarah, who's pushing 100, why don't we just take on this mistress over here called Hagar, and there will be a blessing that will come through that?" Well, there was no blessing that came through Hagar. There was a kid by the name of Ishmael, who became the father of the Arab nations. They have been anything but a blessing to the sons of Abraham.

I'm going to offer to you that those who have tried to help God out by rationalizing and bringing on a bastard solution to the Scriptures have done anything but help out the cause of Christ. They've introduced error and liberalism into the church and have started to bring allegory and speculation where God has revealed truth. Whenever we try and compromise to help God out because we don't know how he can do it, we get ourselves in a jam.

So hold firm to his promise and say, "I don't have a clue how he's going to do it. All I know is every time he said he was going to get it done, he got it done." I agree with Paul that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable, so let's wait for the day. This is why we believe that a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial understanding of the Scripture makes the most sense. We teach you this why?

As people of the book, as the Word continues to unfold, folks are going to look to you. Over 40 million have read a little series called the Left Behind series that gives some idea of how, in a fictional way, a pre-millennial, pre-tribulational view of Scripture could unfold. The fiction, throw away, but the template I would tell you to embrace because Jenkins and LaHaye are men who have interpreted the Scriptures in, I think, a sound way. That's what we believe here. Are we going to part faith over this? No.

Are folks of an amillennial view of the Scriptures going to be in heaven? Yep. I believe so. If they get right on Jesus, he's not going to quiz them on their charts. He's going to check out their hearts. That's good news for me too. If I was forced to write a chart, I doubt I'd get 100. If there was a God who was holy, holy, holy, he doesn't take anything less than 100. So we're doing the best we can to accurately divide the Word of truth, but then we say, "Let's not focus on when. Let's focus on what."

Here are the applications I want to give you again. Jesus is not going to come back and check our charts. He's going to check our hearts as he always does. We also said this. If we focus too much on what he's supposed to do, which is to return, then we will fail to do our job, which is to prevail in faithfulness until he returns.

Why else, other than that all of Scripture anticipates this little event happening, do we believe that there are still a thousand years ahead of us where Christ will reign in Jerusalem and seven years before that, which is the seventieth week of Daniel, and an event called the rapture (that fits in there somewhere) where God takes the group that he's been working with and through because Israel was unfaithful, so he subbed them out and brought us in?

Paul uses the analogy of grafting in a wild shoot onto a vine (Jesus) and let them bear the fruit of faithfulness. He broke off, if you will, the shoot that was initially there (that's Israel), but he says if he can take a wild shoot and graft that into Christ, don't think for a second that he can't go back and take that shoot that he broke off and regraft it in using, if you will, an arborous metaphor.

So what's going to happen when he regrafts Israel back to the vine (Jesus)? The seventieth week of Daniel. Okay. Well, what's going to happen to those who've been grafted into the vine of Christ before that? Answer: First Thessalonians.

If you have your Bible, turn with me to 2 Thessalonians 2. As you do that, I'm going to remind you of some of the other reasons we said it makes sense to believe in what is called the pre-tribulational, pre-millennial view of Scripture. That's what we've been teaching because it's what the Bible screams for when you read it at its face value.

  1. All of Scripture anticipates a time when God accomplishes his Word with his people.

  2. God historically removes his people before ultimate judgment. We referenced Noah. Not when judgment comes. Sometimes the church and Israel are there in the midst of judgment, but when ultimate judgment and destruction comes, God has traditionally shown himself to be removing his people: Noah before the flood, Rahab before the destruction of Jericho, or Lot and his family before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. When God said, "This is it for Sodom and Gomorrah. I'm through with it," before he burned it to the ground, he pulled out those who knew him.

  3. The seventieth week of Daniel is what is called the time of Jacob's distress. It's what is called a time of great distress, the great tribulation. It's when all hell is unlocked. It is the day of the Lord when justice is poured forth with wrath. Paul has seemed to promise the church at Thessalonica, representing all followers of Christ, that they don't need to be concerned they're going to suffer through that because God removes his people before that judgment is unlocked.

Look at 2 Thessalonians 2:3-5. Christ promised to keep his followers from the wrath to come. We're not going to go there because we've talked about this before in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 and in 1 Thessalonians 5:9. He says, "You know the day of the Lord hasn't started, church, because you're still here and God has promised to remove you from that."

Then verse 4, the identity of the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2, and not just the restrainer but the fact that the man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed. That's a synonym of the Antichrist, the little horn in Daniel, and the Antichrist, like I said, in Revelation 13. Now watch this. Second Thessalonians 2. This is the church.

"Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…" That word gathering there means assembling together into one place. The fact that we'll be with him. When Paul uses coming here, he's using the word parousia which is the word for coming, but it's not the idea of Christ coming to earth. It's the coming of the Lord to get his church, which he had apparently taught on.

Verse 2 is the purpose of his writing. "…that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come." What is the day of the Lord? It's a name given to a point in history where the Lord is actively intervening in a purposeful way to execute judgment and accomplish his purposes. It's not one day. It's when God is actively apparent on the scene. He is working in a very supernatural, spectacular way in both bringing judgment and sometimes deliverance.

He seems to be implying, "I don't want you to lose your composure or be disturbed that we are in this little section here because if we're in this little section here, you wouldn't be around." He says, "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first..."

Apostasy can be seen in two ways. It means falling away. It could mean the falling away of the church is a greater and greater heresy or, more likely in the context, he's saying here the apostasy is the abomination of desolation. Just to show you the church is getting deeper and deeper into heresy.

They did a survey of 10,000 different pastors recently, and over 33 percent of them denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. Over 40 percent of them did not believe in the divine origin of Jesus Christ. Over 66 percent, over two-third of the pastors in this country today don't believe the Bible should be trusted as the authority and conscious and guide. In other words, over two-thirds of people who go to church today, don't even go to a church where they honor the Bible as what the church ought to be concerned with. That's the falling away.

I read an article in Newsweek in the midst of looking at all the scandals going in the Catholic Church. The title of it was "What Would Jesus Do Now?" I could not believe that in there, without any argumentation from the Catholic Church itself, they said that 35 to 45 percent of our priests in this country are homosexuals, and that's just the way it is. They didn't state that as a problem.

They said, "We accept that. That's just the way it is." And we wonder why there's such absolute lack of ability to have conviction about what a standard of righteousness is when men have already assumed there are certain activities they're going to participate in, be them homosexual or heterosexual. Be it lying or gossip, that we're going to say it doesn't really matter, and we're going to let these people lead others.

It says right here that the apostasy will come first. In verse 3 it also says, " …and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." That is Mark 13:14. It is Daniel 9:27 and following.

Then he says, "And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way." Let me explain this, please. What's going on here is two things.

He says, "The man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed." According to Daniel 9:27, when will the man of lawlessness be revealed? He will be revealed when the one horn swallows up first three horns and then the other seven and becomes the leader of the renewed Roman Empire. In this time of great world turmoil, Israel's looking for somebody who can promise them peace. He makes a covenant with Israel.

Daniel 9 says when that happens, that's the beginning of the seventieth week (of the last seven years of Israel's prophetic history). Has there been an individual who is a leader of, if you will, the renewed Roman Empire (maybe the 10-nation European Commonwealth)…? Has there been a time of great world disturbance recently, an individual, who has made a covenant with the nation of Israel promising them peace in the midst of all word turmoil?

Men have tried for decades to give and assign a name to this, but no one really fits that just yet. Partly because Israel doesn't need a protector. Why? Because who is Israel's primary protector today? Us. The United States of America. Let me just throw this out at you. I've told you when I'm teaching from God's Word and said, "This is the way it is," I will teach it that way. When we're now, in what I would call, our best efforts to understand it or, if you will, speculate, I would step away from the authority of God's Word and share with you a plausible idea.

This is the why in keeping with all the other reasons I believe that we will be removed prior to the seventieth week of Daniel. This is one of the seven reasons I offer you. You really cannot find the United States in end times. You can find them in Revelation, you can't find them in Daniel, and you can't find them in Isaiah. We don't exist in the Bible. How could the predominant world power not be there? The answer is because as screwed up as our nation is, it is still the most Christianized nation in the history of the world.

Who is the Restrainer? The Restrainer, the Scripture says, is the one who keeps lawlessness from running wildly amuck in this country? The answer is because there still is a voice for morality. Where does that voice for morality come from? It comes in our Judeo-Christian heritage, and it continues in our Judeo-Christian people, see also true devout followers of Christ; see also a reason why you must vote in two weeks.

Part of a republic that is a democracy, God holds you accountable for the men you put in positions of authority who will make the laws for our country and get our country towards honoring life in the womb and out of the womb and every other form of morality and ethics that should be out there.

So we must vote. We must participate in being a restraining influence against evil while we are here, not in America but in this world of which we are a sovereign citizen. For us to not participate in that is to deny our calling. So vote and realize people aren't changed by their laws that reign over them but by a transformed heart. You go, and you vote and make Washington and Austin better.

Then you love your neighbor, and you proclaim Christ, knowing that what's going to change people is not a law that is made (see also Enron) but righteousness that reigns in their heart, a law of redemption that leads man to make good decisions, because all righteous laws do is let wicked people know they're messed up. Wicked people already know they're messed up, so you vote for righteous men to make righteous laws, but then you try and make wicked men, righteous men. You do that by proclaiming Christ.

What is the Restrainer? It is the work of the Spirit of God. Where's the Spirit of God actively living today? According to 1 Corinthians 12 and others like it, the Spirit of God indwells those of us who believe. So when you remove the church, you remove the work of the Spirit of God in a preserving way in this world we live in. When you take the Christian core from this country, let me just predict that as awful as things are, it's going to get a little worse.

Let me predict that this great power that God is using to bring some sense of sanity to the world is going to crumble rather quickly. Let me suggest to you that if the United Nations has some power today, an organization like the United Nations might have more power then. Let me suggest to you that I think the Restrainer is the existence of the Holy Spirit in the church, not the church in the United States, but the church in the world. When you have chaos in the world because the church has been removed, the world is going to look for somebody who can bring some semblance of order to the chaos that we are experiencing all around us.

Let me read you a quote. This is a quote by a guy who was the first president of the United Nations general assembly, Paul-Henri Spaak. He's been the secretary general for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well as an early planner for the European Common Market. He said this one time. "We do not want another committee, we have too many already. What we want is a man of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all people, and to lift us out of the economic morass into which we are sinking. Send us such a man, and be he god or devil, we will receive him."

I'll tell you what. He's right. We will. This world is going to be so desperate for peace. There is going to be somebody with a great charismatic nature who's going to say all the right things, have an incredible ability to relate to people, and through ingenuity, he will seduce them. He, as the world leader in some form and fashion, will offer peace to Israel, and they will get it through him for three and a half years. Then he will get it in three and a half years later. So will all those who follow him.

I suggest to you that the Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2 is the church. The Antichrist will have the ability to assert himself as the world ruler when the world as we know it is changed radically forever. Lawlessness is unleashed in one who will be a slick individual will come and say, "I'll bring a little credibility. Let's just steady this ship for a little while." He will, until he gets what he wants, which is worship. Jesus says to the Jew, "When he gets that, don't worship him. You run, and the true King will come get you one day." So where is the church? We're gone.

Quickly, let me show you again some other reasons. The man of lawlessness will be revealed…when? When he makes a treaty with Israel. When will the treaty of Israel be necessary? When the church is removed and the world as we know it changes and is collapsed forever. Okay, the Restrainer is gone. That's going to allow the man of lawlessness who makes a covenant with Israel to be revealed, which is the beginning of the seventieth week.

The judgment of the sheep and goats is unnecessary if the rapture happens simultaneously with the second coming. All I'm saying there is if you go read the same Scripture in Matthew 24 (The Olivet Discourse) it tells parables. One of them is the parable of sheep and goats. What's that? It's the judgment of the Gentile nations after the seventieth week of Daniel.

So there will be non-believers who are non-Jews who some will live through that great horror of seven years. At the end of that seven years, some of them still won't believe and some will. What's going to happen to them? There's going to be a separation of the sheep and the goats. Why would there be a separation necessary if at the end of the seventieth week the rapture happens?

What happens then? That's when the church is already removed. The rapture has to happen sometime before the end of the seven weeks. The same thing is true at the end of the seven-year period when the resurrected saints (the martyred saints) during that last seven years are resurrected. The resurrection of those martyred during the tribulation is unnecessary if the rapture happens simultaneously with the second coming.

In Revelation 20, verses 4 and 6 it talks about how there is a resurrection of the martyred saints. There doesn't need to be resurrection of the martyred saints after the second coming of Christ if they were just raptured as Paul promised in 1 Thessalonians 4. All that is saying is that's why the rapture has to happen sometime before the end (for sure) of the tribulation and probably at the beginning so that the man of lawlessness can be revealed.

I'll tell you, if you're going to error, go pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation. If you really want to go out there in the streets, just be a pan-tribulation and trust that it's all going to pan out in the end. I do believe that. Get me off the planning committee. Get me on the welcoming committee. So now then, what is the welcoming committee? This is what we are passionate about as a church. Not this stuff. We'll teach it because it has application. But this is what we're passionate about as a church.

Our job is to make you look forward to the day when judgment begins with you, the church. Our goal is to make you excited for the day that you meet the King. I'm going to tell you you're going to meet the King. I think you're going to meet him in the air. I think you're going to meet him in the air before, certainly, the last three and a half years or the last seven years happen, and I think probably just even before the last seven. You're going to meet him.

Listen, that's not good news if you're living an abased, fallen, unfaithful life as a servant of Jesus Christ. If you're a believer you are his servant, and salvation is always by grace. Even faithful sons get judged as servants. Do you hear me on that? This is 2 Corinthians 5:10. It simply says that all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. This is to the church now, not Israel. Each of us will be recompensed for his deeds in the body according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Hear me on this. You as a church, me as a church, me as a follower of Christ will be judged. How did I do once I was saved by grace through faith? He says, "Great. Now, how'd you do as my servant." Our goal as a church is not to convince you when he's coming but convince you that when he comes for us, he will give an account for our life. So we equip you, we labor with you, we call you to community, we call you to God's Word in the disciplines so that you might find joy in that day.

We close with this: First John 3:3 This is the last verse we look at. It says, "He who has his hope fixed on this…" What is this? The coming of Christ. "…purifies himself." This is why I've taught this. This is why Jesus thinks the last things you need to know are not when he's going to return, but what you should be doing. Do you want application? I taught you this to show you that it's there.

Now, here is the application. He's coming. Get ready. How do you get ready? Not by having your charts right, but by having your hearts right. How do hearts that are right look like? They have faithful hands that are consistent with their hearts, they love one another, they use their resources for the glory and kingdom of God, they don't invest in this world, they invest in the world to come, they preach Jesus, they love for the lost, they equip the saints, and they serve the King. If you've never had a place to do that, you have one right here. We'll labor with each other until that day to honor him.

Father, I pray for my friends right here that they would take this information and lose it in abandonment of obedience and that obedience would be that, Father, we are found faithful on that day. We don't want you to say, "Well done my good and faithful student. Your charts were perfect."

We want to hear you say, "Well done my good and faithful servant. You participated in the form of government that I gave you to restrain lawlessness. You participated as being salt and light in darkness and a tasteless, rebellious society. You preached the gospel without fear, and you loved me. You cared for one another, you bear each other's burdens, you gave as you were able, and you lived in humble submission to me. Well done."

Father, may Watermark be known not as a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial church. May it be known as a place where folks are fully devoted to Jesus Christ. Period. Lord, we know that you taught us about your coming and holding us into account that we might be spurred in that direction. So we received your Word, and now we yield to your Spirit that we might honor you. In Christ's name, amen.

About 'The Last Things You Need To Know: Living Life in Light of the End'

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.