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This week Todd encourages us to live a life prepared for the return of Jesus, faithfully representing Jesus to a world far from God.
The Tree of Salvation and How to End on the Right Branch
How the Bible Preps Us for the Return, the Rapture and the Rupture: Setting Our Heart Not the Date
How the Bible Preps Us for THAT Day
How the Bible Preps Us for Loneliness
How the Bible Preps Us for Failure
How the Bible Preps Us for Doubt
How the Bible Preps Us for the Future
How the Bible Preps Us for Spiritual Warfare
How the Bible Preps Us for Perseverance
How the Bible Preps Us for Surprises
How the Bible Preps Us for Pornography and Lust
How the Bible Preps Us for Addictions
How are we doing? Hello Watermark. It's good to be with you all. We are going to dive right in tonight after we pray. I'm going to be giving you some big news. I'm going to tell you tonight, prophetically, Jesus is coming back. That is a prophetic fact. We'll see how much further than that I'm willing to go, but let's pray.
Father, I thank you for a chance to study your Word. I thank you for a chance to be taught by it, and that wherever we are tonight, whether we need to reconcile ourselves with you for the very first time or return to a place of faithful service and passionate response to the truth we have already received, we ask your Spirit, like only you as a gracious God can do, would meet us where we are.
We ask you would quicken us, enlighten us, and strengthen us to live in such a way that we would not shrink back at your coming. We thank you for this time. We pray you would teach us now. In Jesus' name, amen.
We are going to talk tonight about the return of Christ. We have been in this series called Prep, and the most important thing to prep for is the time when you will stand before the Lord and give an account of your works. We will all be judged based on our works, every single one of us. The truth is, there's going to be an eternal difference in the consequence of judging us according to our works.
There are some people who refuse the work of Christ on the cross. They reject it as a necessary means for us to be reconciled to God. Since they do not want to be judged on the grace that is offered to us when God made him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, all that's left is to be judged by your own works. Because your own works will not meet the standard God gives us, which is to be perfect, because he is perfect, that will not go well with you.
There are other people who have received the provision of salvation by grace through faith who will also be judged according to their works, not as sons or daughters and whether or not they could be in the presence of God, but how they faithfully lived as servants. There is a time when Christ will return and judgment will take place.
Here's what's confusing. When you start to think about return, you need to make sure you understand what is going to happen. There are really two primary references in Scripture to what the return means. Probably the most consistently thought-of is the return of Jesus Christ to earth, where he will establish his millennial reign.
He will rule with a rod of iron. God will reign in the person of Jesus Christ on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and he will fulfill all the covenants he ever made to the nation of Israel. That is, in fact, the return of Christ. We'll look at some of the places that's mentioned in Scripture tonight.
There is also the return which is better described not with the word return but with the word rapture. It is not when Jesus comes to earth but when he gathers his bride, his church, to be with him. There is a return of the bridegroom for his bride, and we go to be with the Lord. We meet him in the air. The dead in Christ will rise first, and those who are alive and remain will be given glorious bodies. That will be a time when the church is judged, and they will then return with him.
There is another apocalyptic sense many people in this land are often confusing with the return. I'm going to call that not the rapture or the return but the rupture, meaning the return of judgment to this land. It's not surprising that, many times when there is trouble in your life, you start to equate that with the end times. "God must be rolling up all of history because he is wrecking my history."
I want to take some time tonight to talk about the rupture, or the reckoning, if you will, of the United States of America, the return of Christ for his church, and also the return of Christ in the way it's classically thought of. There is a sense of judgment with each one of these. Let's see what we can learn together.
Let's take a look at Revelation 22. In a moment, we're going to go back to Luke 12 where we looked last week. We spent a lot of time talking about Jesus' prep series. Jesus was prepping you for the return of Christ. He wants you to be ready and on the alert. We'll see those words a lot tonight, but before he did, he made sure you would not be afraid.
My purpose in teaching this tonight is so you would be ready, so when you stand before the Lord on that day when he comes like a thief in the night, as you'll see the language represents, you will not be surprised or caught unprepared, but you will be one of the blessed ones. My job is to help you not just eke in. My job is for you to live out your salvation and your faith in such a way that you would hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant," not, "Welcome, one who is saved and yet making it look like you passed through a fire."
We're going to spend a lot of time talking about the eternal difference between those who reject Christ as provision and those who accept Christ as provision. There is an eternal difference in those two judgments of works. One is not going to ultimately be in God's presence, because their human works will be found wanting. Others will be accepted by God because they have put their trust in the work of Christ, but they will not have gone to work in the way faithful people do.
There is an eternal difference in their judgment as well. Next time, we're going to spend our entire time together on that, but today, we're going to talk about the return, the rapture, and if you will, the rupture or the reckoning of this country. I'm not sharing what I'm sharing to get you all worked up, although some of you may. I am teaching you this tonight so you can get to work. This is not to make you fret. It is to help you be faithful. That's why I spent the time I did last week. That's why I made sure you saw the words of Christ.
Do not worry at death or even death by persecution. God will take care of you. Don't worry about what to say. God has given you revelation. Don't worry about provision on this earth. God will provide for you. Don't you worry, little flock, for your heavenly Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom as long as you identify with his Shepherd. Fear is not the proper outcome of coming judgment. It's symbolic of not being in good stead with the Master. May that never be said of us.
1._ The return._ Revelation 22 is the very last chapter in your Bible. God is wrapping up major points. He's closing up what will be the canon of world history, his story of redemption. Here are some truths he wants you to know as he's shutting this thing down. Revelation 22:6 says,
"And he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true'; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. 'And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.'"
Notice he's coming quickly. Peter says in his book, "He's not slow as some count slowness, but he's patient toward you, wishing that none should perish, but that all should experience eternal life." The doctrine, though, of what is called imminence, the imminent return of Christ…which means at any moment he is at the doorstep; it could happen immediately…is the one that suggests there's more than just the return of Christ to rule on earth.
We believe that because there is a very specific time clock that is put into place in Matthew 24, in Mark 13, and also in the gospel of Luke. Jesus is giving what is called the Olivet Discourse, where he's standing before his disciples on the Mount of Olives, an easy eyeshot and a short walk from the Temple Mount.
The disciples have heard Jesus talk about his faithful completion of God's historic plan, and they say to him, "Master, when will these things happen, and what will be the signs of your coming and the end of the age?" Jesus answers those questions. We'll read a few verses from them in just a minute.
He's like, "This is when it's going to happen. These will be the signs." Then he says, "Then the Lord will come." There's a moment within what is called the seven-year tribulation period where the bowls, the seals, and the trumpets of God's judgment, according to Revelation 6 through Revelation 18, actually manifest themselves in world history.
He tells you it's going to start when the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, makes a treaty with the nation of Israel. He said, "At that moment, the clock starts." There will be three and a half years of general world peace, and then the Antichrist will show up back in Israel and say, "I'm not just your treaty enforcer. I am your one true God."
He will establish himself on the Temple Mount as not just the rescuer of the threats of the surrounding nations, but he will claim to be God. It is called the abomination of desolation. It is a moment when Jesus says, "When that happens, if you're on the roof, don't go back into the house to grab something. If you're out in the fields, don't return to get your cloak. You run to the mountains, and I will take care of you there. Don't go back to the walled cities."
That's what people would do in that day. They would return to walled cities for protection. Jerusalem was a walled city. Imagine this 13 acres in a very rural area was surrounded by a high fence, a high gate, and a high wall. When they would hear marauding forces come, all the surrounding agricultural workers and the serfs to the lord's house would come running into the walled city for protection from the coming enemy.
Jesus says, "Don't you go to the walled city. You go to the mountains, and I will miraculously care for you, because the world power at that time will be looking to destroy you." Even as Jesus provided for Israel before in the desert wilderness, he will do it again as the one true God and make himself known.
We know what Jesus is going to make some reference to when he talks about the return. It's not always just the second coming of Christ to physically dwell on earth. This time, he's not coming as a lamb but as a lion with a rod of iron. It's going to be a fairly specific period of time, and we can start the clock, if you will, at seven years when the treaty is made, and specifically, a little less than three and a half years when the Antichrist reveals his true nature and says, "Worship me."
Jesus says, "I'm coming quickly," in chapter 22, verse 12. He says, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." There it is again. Every man will be rendered judgment. Verse 14 of the same chapter: "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying."
He's not talking about people who struggle a little bit. That is a commitment of the force of their nature. They don't sin, confess, repent, and make amends. They go, "I am who I am, it's okay what I do, and I'm not really sure judgment is coming." They show themselves by their commitment to saying things that God said are unholy are okay and holy and not dealing with them appropriately.
What should you do? Verse 17: "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." Implied, come. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," Jesus said in Matthew 11.
Jesus also says in that particular passage, "No one can come to the Son except those to whom the Father chooses to reveal him." We ought to be the most humble people on the face of the earth, not thinking ourselves especially bright or better. There is none who seeks God. There is none who does right. God has allowed us to know he is good, he is a king, he is a lover, and he has reconciled us to him by grace through faith.
Sometimes people go, "Todd, when I hear that, it makes me struggle. What about people, for instance, who have never heard about Jesus. If Jesus is the only way man can be reconciled to God, what about those who have never heard?"
Let me answer that briefly, but before I answer that, I like what one man said a long time ago, which is, "A better question than, 'Can those who have never heard of Christ truly be saved?' is, 'Can those of us, the elect of God who have come to understand who he is and know, by grace through faith, of the provision of his Son and the certain return and ultimate judgment of mankind, who choose not to speak about it, tell about it, or respond appropriately to it… Can those people be saved?'"
Let me ask you a question. Do you understand what Christ has done, what he's going to do, and who you are as people who are ready for that glorious day, that day when Christ is revealed to all men and women everywhere, and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess? You are going to be in a place of peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Are you telling people about that? If not, I think what the man said is correct. Can that kind of person really know who God is?
As far as the other person, the Bible says there's no such thing as a person who's going to go to hell because they've rejected a Jesus Christ of whom they've never heard. They don't need to hear the name of Christ and reject it to go to hell. The Bible says they'll go to hell not because they rejected a Jesus of whom they had never heard, but because they suppressed the truth of God and unrighteousness.
There's enough revelation in all of creation about God's existence, his power, his invisible attributes, and his divine nature. They've been clearly seen, and men did not respond appropriately to the revelation, even, of creation, where they see an intelligent designer, something sovereign over them. They don't humble themselves, and there's no right response to it.
They don't respond to the conscience God put within them. The heck with the law God has given us that we don't obey. We don't even obey our own conscience. We do wrong, and we know it's wrong. We don't mourn our sin and cry out for salvation. None of us do until God, in his kindness, quickens us.
It is clear that if any man responds to the revelation that he has been given, God will give him more. The truth is, God is not keeping anybody out of heaven. Nobody wants to do business with God, but God, in his grace, has shown some of us enough, livened us, and quickened us to the place where we do acknowledge him and we don't suppress the truth. We respond to it, and we know the fullest expression of it is Jesus.
"When is this going to happen, Todd? That's what you're going to tell me, right?" Well, here we go. First Thessalonians 5 says, "Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you." You're like, "Really? I'd kind of like to know." "For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night."
"I can't tell you any more than that," Paul says. He's going to come like a thief in the night. He's not going to phone you and say, "Ehhh, 11:15 or 11:30. You know, right when the kids go to bed, the news is over, and you're a little sleepy. That's when I'm coming." That's not what he does.
"While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness…"
When people want to do things given to rebellion, sin, shame, and guilt, things that make us know what we're doing isn't right, we close the doors, lower the shutters, and wait until nightfall. We operate in exclusion. Eric Clapton has a song that goes, "After midnight, we're going to let it all hang down," for those Clapton fans out there. Y'all heard from your mom ever since you were little, "Nothing good happens after midnight."
He's saying, "You're not those people who live for those moments when you can get away with that which isn't good. You're people of the light." "…so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober [clear-thinking] ." We want to be clear-thinking about the fact that our Master is coming and we are accountable to him.
I mentioned this at the very end of last week, and I'll say it again here. There are two mistakes faithful servants never make. First, they don't believe the lie that what they do when their master is not present doesn't matter. I told you last week, my dog knows better than that. What he does when I'm not there matters a lot to me, and there's an accounting every time I return. Has he eaten that which he should not have eaten or has he left that which he should not leave? There is a talk there. Dogs know what they do while their master is gone matters.
The second thing faithful servants never do, a mistake they never make, is they don't believe the lie that whenever the master comes back they will have plenty of time to get ready. My teenagers still have not learned that. They're given assignments they should partake in, dishes to clean, rooms to clean, homework to do, siblings to feed, and beatings that should not happen.
Sometimes, when they wait for my headlights to pull into the driveway, it's like, "Ahh! Quickly, scramble! Feed! Ice the bruise!" or whatever it might be. "Let's get it right." They still haven't learned they won't have time when they finally see the master return. Unless you're dumber than a dog or as stupid as a teenager, don't make those mistakes. Faithful servants don't make them. They are clear-thinking.
This is in that Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. By the way, if you want to hear more about this, the rapture, and why the pre-tribulation rapture of the church to be with Christ is, in my understanding, the best and clearest option when you talk about the removal of the church, I did an entire 10-week series on this called The Last Things You Need To Know when I was teaching through the gospel of Mark. It was in the early days of Watermark. You can go back and listen to it on our Watermark app. It's all free always.
Go to Mark 13, and you can listen to those different weeks. We have charts and illustrations about why, when you look at Daniel, Revelation, and the Olivet Discourse, certain things seem to be revealed to us. There is nothing that needs to happen for you and I to move to a place where we are giving an account for how we are doing as his stewards. We are stewards of his truth and servants of his kingdom, and God expects us to be at work and to be ready.
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus says, "But of that day and hour no one knows…" Watch this. "…not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." That is why, when you have somebody who sets dates and tells you they know when Christ is coming, you know you're dealing with a heretic. They might get really lucky, but it is why I'm going to beg you tonight to not be a date-setter.
I want to encourage you to set your heart to study the law of the Lord, to obey it, and to teach its ordinances and statutes in the land. That's what faithful men do, just like Ezra. I went back and looked. In the twentieth century, from 1901 to 1999, there were 30 major apocalyptic, end-of-the-world prophecies that made their way into the public consciousness. Twenty of them were from 1980 on, and there has been a whole slew of other ones since the year 2000.
By the way, the Jehovah's Witnesses got this whole thing really started by saying it was going to happen in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, and 1925. That wasn't working out so well, so they added two decades to it and said it was 1940. Then they came back and said, "Oh, it's 1975." Then they've become a little less certain since then.
A guy named Edgar Whisenant wrote a book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 that he republished a year later called 89 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1989. Yes, he did. Hal Lindsey, one of the more famous men who prognosticate the return of Christ, was pretty certain in 1981, 1988, and 2007, and now he's down to 2018.
Harold Camping… You guys probably remember this one. In May of 2011, all around Dallas there were billboards that said, "The second judgment is coming." He put the date on there, and he missed it, so he recircled up and realized it was October of 2011 when he was coming and not May.
All this was a real problem, because we start to lose our voice, like Chicken Little. If you run around telling everybody the world is going to end all the time, people are not going to listen to you, and they need to listen to you when you tell them, "There is going to be an accounting. God is going to roll up history at some point. There is often a second chance, but there is always a last chance."
When you start telling people, "Your last chance is in May of 2011," and there, indeed, are other chances, they're going to be like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," and they're going to move to a 2 Peter 3 mode where they go, "Where is this judgment you speak of?" We are not to be date-setters. We should know the signs of our time. There are some things that would indicate that if God were alert at all to what we're doing, and he is, we as Americans would have to give an account. We can warn, we should witness, but I would wait to tell America for sure when it's going to happen.
Be careful. Jesus says, "No one knows." The Son, in his incarnation, when he was here, said, "I don't know. The angels don't know. Only the Father knows." In Matthew 24:42-46, he says, "Therefore be on the alert…" Watch. See if this doesn't sound familiar. Jesus is wrapping up his last message to his disciples. This is going to sound a lot like the prep message he gave in Luke 12. He says,
"But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.** Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes."**
He said back there in verse 13, "Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour." That's one of the reasons we know there's more than just the return. Jesus very specifically said about the final return of Christ, "When you see these things happen, the generation that's seeing them are not going to die before he comes. It's seven years. The shot clock started."
2._ The rapture._ This other judgment, the rapture, the removal of the church, is imminent. There is nothing prophetically that needs to happen for God to advance his kingdom program through the removal of his church. In fact, that is likely the thing that will allow the Antichrist to get busy, because it says the Restrainer, which probably is the Holy Spirit, is gone from earth. How can the Holy Spirit be gone? You remove those vessels, the church, that are the means through which the Spirit of God is proclaimed, lives, dwells, and acts.
We're in Luke 12. We wrapped it up last week right there around the 30s. Remember this is not to freak you out; it is to help you be faithful. It's not to get you worrying; it's to get you to work. That's where Jesus was. "Don't worry. Fear not. Be ready." Verse 35:
"Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them."
The master will serve them because it's time to celebrate your faithfulness. It's an amazing story. Jesus goes on to say, "Whether he comes in the second watch [9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.] , or even in the third [12:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.] , and finds them so, blessed are those slaves." My desire is to get you ready.
I'm going to tell you tonight what you have to do to be ready, to not shrink back at his coming, as it says in 1 John 3. He's saying, "Those folks are going to be blessed when they meet their King and when their Master comes. They won't be mocking the idea that what they do when he's not there doesn't matter and they won't be thinking, 'I can get my house in order quickly.'"
Jesus says in verse 39, "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect." There it is again. Jesus retells this story in Matthew 25. He doesn't use the head of the household. He uses bridesmaids. He talks about how they need to constantly keep their lamps trimmed with oil, their lights shining.
Whatever you want to do with that parable, and there's a lot of discussion about what that parable means, exactly, and whom it's referring to, let me explain something to you. I'm not expert in weddings, but I've been around enough to know a few things. I can always pick out who the bridesmaids are and who the bride is.
You go, "Todd, how in the world do you do that? How do you know who the bridesmaids are and who the bride is at a wedding?" The answer is the bridesmaids are wearing about $250 worth of bad taffeta, and they'll never wear them again. They're all dressed the same. You know them by how they are adorned, where they're standing, and where their focus is. That's exactly the point of the parable. "Are you adorned in such a way that you're ready to be identified, that your lamp is lit, in that particular instance, because of the cultural reference of the day?"
When you talk to a bridesmaid or a bride, specifically, she is thrilled to tell you about the bridegroom. Her eyes are fixed on the bridegroom when she shows up. She's excited. She wants to tell you about how they met and how he consummated his offer of love for her. She wears whatever she can to tell you, "There's a man who has pledged himself to me."
The Scripture says the Holy Spirit is God's earnest gift. It's his engagement ring to us. He's given us his Spirit. We should gladly display his Spirit in our lives. That oil that's referenced that makes the lamp shine brightly is a reference, again and again, throughout the parables of the Scripture, of the Spirit of God.
If there is no oil, if there is no Spirit, if there is no light, if you're hiding under a bushel, no… That's not what you want to be. That's a bride who doesn't look like she is ready to meet her bridegroom. That would seem to suggest you've had some fleeting commitment to him and not a real, passionate love, an expectant return. That day will come when the relationship is fully consummated. That bride and those bridesmaids are ready, and you can figure out who they are very easily.
With all this going on, Peter said, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us or to everyone else around here, like some of those people who don't really know who you are? We know who you are." That's a great question because you're trying to figure out, "Who are those slaves the master is going to surprise when he comes back?" He's talking to everybody. Jesus doesn't really answer the question. He doesn't tell Peter, "I'm talking, really, about the Pharisees, who don't know who I am. They're really going to be surprised when who I said I was is affirmed."
He moves into the story, and he keeps saying, "Whether they recognize me as King and live faithfully or they recognize me as King and don't live faithfully while I'm gone or they don't even acknowledge I'm a King, I'm still their King. Your calling me something other than what I am doesn't change who I am, but your relationship to me and the consequences of your foolishness are going to really matter to you." Jesus doesn't even answer Peter's question. He just keeps telling stories. He says,
"Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants…" That's who Jesus says you want to be. "…to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk…"
In other words, if he is power-obsessed or pleasure-obsessed and he's not Prince-of-Peace-obsessed, that's not going to go well with him. It says, "…the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers." He's saying, "That's really who you are. You can tell me what you think, but I know who you are by what you do."
So much that has happened in American Christianity and revivalist Christianity is, "Hey, all you have to do is walk forward at a certain point and say something, and it'd be great for you to even go through a motion of identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ through baptism."
That's why, when you watch prophets of God baptize people, like the forerunner to Christ did, he said, "Look guys, I love the external conformity to repentance, but you're a brood of vipers. You had better bear fruit in keeping with your repentance." It's not just a moment of professing something about him. Do you really know who he is? Are you clear-thinking or are you coming up just in case it's a good idea to come up? He doesn't want fans; he wants followers.
We're going to talk about the awful possibility that some of the people who said, "Yes, I want salvation," are deluded that they really understand their need for salvation and the real, actual character of their King. My job is not to see through you to figure out who is deluded, who has a said faith, and who has a saving faith. My job is to see you through to faithfulness. What does faithfulness look like? It looks like you're ready. I'll tell you exactly what it looks like in a moment. Verse 47:
"And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."
In other words, the amount of revelation you receive is to be commensurate with the amount of responsibility you have. We've been given a lot of revelation here. There's a lot of responsibility for what we know and the way we've been blessed. We're not just having to rely on creation and conscience. We have the clear teaching of the specific revelation of Jesus Christ.
He's saying, "Let's respond, people, commensurate with that which you have been given. You are commissioned." Be faithful. Don't be those who receive lashings or, if you will, who are saved, but yet is one who is passed through fire. Excel still more.
3._ The reckoning._ I told you I wanted to not just talk about the rapture and the judgment. I'm going to spend an entire time next time on the judgment of the church, the idea of rewards, and what it looks like, specifically, to receive the gift of salvation and not respond rightly to it. There is a branching off there that has eternal consequences. Tonight I want to talk about some stuff that is going to come up and affect you, because you're going to hear about it if you tune your ears at all to the Harold Campings, Hal Lindseys, or Edgar Whisenants of the world.
Some of these things are not all problematic, but you want to be careful, even when you're talking about the reckoning and the final day of judgment for the corporate nation we live in, to not be too date-setting. You don't ever want to take what might be true and confuse that with your declaration of what is true. What might be true might not happen when you think it will the way you think it will, and that will affect your declaration of what's going to happen when it happens.
When is there going to be a reckoning of America? How many of you all have ever heard of Jonathan Cahn? Raise your hand if you've heard of Jonathan Cahn. There aren't very many, about 15 spread around the room. That means I'm going to freak a lot of you all out right now. I'm not going to freak you out, but I'm going to help you be faithful.
I think Jonathan Cahn is trying to be faithful. Jonathan Cahn is an American Jew. He is a rabbi. He happens to believe in the Christ. He believes Jesus is the Messiah. Some would call him a completed Jew, and some would call him a messianic Jew. Jonathan Cahn has made some observations about America that are haunting at the very least. They are major coincidences at the very least.
Jonathan Cahn is trying to say, "Is God trying to tell America something?" He's gone back and taken an ancient prophecy God gave the covenant nation Israel… Listen. You have to be really careful with what Cahn is doing here. The book he wrote to talk about this is called The Harbinger. It's actually a fiction story, but he says in this book, the events that happen are real.
He says there is an ancient mystery God gave his people of Israel telling the future of America. A harbinger is nothing but a fancy word for an omen, a sign, or an individual who delivers these signs. He went to Isaiah 9, and in Isaiah 9 there is a story about God's covenant people, Israel. God has a unique relationship with Israel he hasn't had with any other country in the history of the world, including America. America is not a covenant nation.
It is typical of Americans, when things get tough here (and they may be really tough here in the days ahead), to start to think the world must be ending. That's not so, necessarily. God told Israel he was going to persevere with them. The Scripture says, "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated." You go, "What kind of God would hate Esau?" It's not talking about the fact that God really hates anybody.
It's the same thing Jesus is doing in the Gospels when he says, "I tell you, unless you hate your mother and father in comparison to the way you decide to honor me, you don't know who I am." In other words, Jesus wants you to obey the commandments. He says, "Honor your mother and father, but if your mother and father call you to honor them in a way that compromises your commitment to who I am, you had better not do what Mom and Dad want. You had better do what I want."
When he says, "Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated," it doesn't mean he hated Esau from the beginning. Go back and look at the story of God's graciousness to Esau and the Edomites. Esau messed up, and God extended him grace. Esau had problems, and God extended him favor. God kept calling Esau again and again and again to repentance.
God sent prophets to the nation of Edom, but though there was often a second chance, there was eventually a last chance. God was done with Esau, and the Edomites have largely been erased from the face of the earth. Jacob, on the other hand… Israel is the most disciplined nation on the face of the earth, sometimes being brought down to a very small remnant.
God is telling Israel, "I'm not going to quit on you. I will accomplish what I said I'm going to be accomplishing through you." By the way, what's so great about the fact that he wants to bless Israel is he says, "All the nations of the world will be blessed through my relationship with Israel. All the nations will be blessed. Those who bless you I will bless, and those who curse you I will curse. From you there will be a seed, an individual male, through whom all the nations will be blessed. His name is Jesus."
God says he's going to accomplish what he said he was going to accomplish for the good of the world through Israel. Israel, when they got placed in the land, did not walk with God or honor God. They started to sacrifice their children, worship pagan idols, and have a superficial relationship with God, so in Isaiah 9:8, he sends a message against Jacob, and it falls on Israel.
All the people know there's going to be a group of marauding forces that are going to come from Assyria. They're going to come down into Israel, and they're going to break into their walled cities. He's going to put a hook in their noses, and he's going to lead them away. It's going to be a time of great judgment because God's hand of protection is going to be removed from them.
As for all the inhabitants of Ephraim and Samaria, God says, "What's amazing is they will not humble themselves with this very first discipline. They're going to stiffen their necks against me, and as a result of that, they'll suddenly be broken beyond remedy." This is God talking to Israel, specifically the 10 tribes in the northern part of the kingdom that took the name Israel, while the 2 tribes in the South were the remnant for a season.
He says, "They're not going to humble themselves, but they're going to stiffen their necks. They're going to look at me, and when I knock down the walls of the city, they're going to say, 'The bricks have fallen down. That's fine, God, but we're going to rebuild with smooth stones. You want to knock down our brick wall? We'll build a stone wall, a stronger wall, a prettier wall, a better wall.' The sycamores the siege nation came and cut down to feed themselves while they attacked our city…
That's fine. We'll replant cedars, trees with a stronger root system. We'll find a different way to provide produce for us. You can go ahead and bring your little Assyrians down and knock our brick walls down, and you can tear up our sycamore trees, but we are not done. We will be a great nation, and we don't really care if we're at war with you. We will rebuild." That was Israel's response.
What does this have to do with America and the rupture? Jonathan Cahn went through and made some observations. One of the things that's good about Cahn is he isn't a date-setter. He says, "I'm not saying; I'm just saying." September 11, 2001, was a Tuesday. Five days later, I taught a message here at Watermark. You can go back and listen to it. This was well before Jonathan Cahn came out with his DVD series and his book called The Harbinger.
I stood out before the body of Watermark and I said, "Let me tell you what I think just happened. I think this is a warning shout across the bow. I think this is God trying to get our attention." When you look at what's happening right now, we talk about how we're the greatest nation on the face of the earth, the greatest economic and military power, and the place of amazing prosperity like nothing had ever prospered before.
If you had told me, as I went back and read your history 2,000 years later, there was a time when 18 men, porn addicts and drunks, brought this nation to its knees, that they melted the institutions of our financial strength, penetrated the institutions that represented our military strength, and brought our entire country into a panic…
If you had told me 18 men could do that, I would go, "That's why I don't like your Bible. That's a stupid story. What do you mean, a little shepherd boy felled the great giant? That is a stupid story. What do you mean, 18 men froze the nation in fear? That is crazy." That's exactly what happened. It was the first time there had ever been an attack on our country, our homeland, the continental United States. In a matter of 20 minutes, God threw our entire nation into an absolute panic.
I really think it was God trying to say, "Hey, guys, America the great. You're great because I've chosen to use you. You're not a covenant nation. I have chosen to work in and through you, and by and large, you've blessed Israel over the years. That's great, but I don't need you to bless Israel. I'll be Israel's provider and protector. I don't need big brother America around to take care of them. I'll even use the Antichrist to protect them for the three and a half years I want to protect them."
"You had better not just put In God We Trust on your money. You had better not just be a people who have kids who talk about how you're one nation under God. You had better not make In God We Trust your motto. You had better make In God We Trust your manner." We didn't do that, and we haven't been doing it for a long time. In fact, we've spit in God's face, sacrificing our own children for our own comfort and pleasure, at that time for almost 40 years.
What do you think the national response was on September 12? Tom Daschle, who at the time was the Senate Majority Leader, stood before the joint session of Congress and read, written into the Senate record, the official national response to that moment. There are some 31,000-odd Bible verses. Guess what Bible verse his speech writer, maybe, wrote into his speech. Watch this.
Tom Daschle: I know that there is only the smallest measure of inspiration that can be taken from this devastation. But there is a passage in the Bible from Isaiah that I think speaks to all of us at times like this. "The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars."
[End of Video]
What's amazing about what Daschle did right there in reading that particular verse is he wasn't saying, "Hey God, bring it. You want to use 18 men to take us out? We're going to rebuild it taller and stronger." We'll get to the sycamore trees and the smooth stones in just a moment, but I think we just really need to say, "America is not going to be shaken by these 18 terrorists." America, at that point, is not a humble nation. We don't know we're here because of nature's God and nature's providence, as we wrote into our Declaration.
I think, in the amazing kindness of God, he's presenting us with, "Hey, America. Look what I'm putting into the mouth of your national leaders. It's the same thing that was in the mouth of the national leaders of Israel who thought they could do what they wanted to do. They can't do anything without me, and neither can you. While you're not Israel and you're not a covenant people, you are a people, and it should be expected that any people who forsake me experience the consequences of that forsaking."
What did America do that week? They didn't just have Tom Daschle speak. It also started to sing, like this. Here's our external response. Watch this, because initially, this looks pretty good. With God Bless America,here's America saying, "Oh, man, we need God to bless us"
There it is. The New York Stock Exchange, baseball games, and joint sessions of Congress, even those same Congressmen who were mocking God's laws with the things they advocate, were feigning national repentance. Churches were full. They stacked themselves up for, I don't know, a month, and then went right back into our own ways.
In 2004, at a national dedication at the 9/11 site, they re-read Isaiah 9:10. It wasn't just one outlier there on the day after. They hung on to this verse. They said, "We're going to rebuild. We like this." It was a good thing to rebuild with bricks and stones. Guess what they did. They decided they were going to rebuild, and they were going to get very serious about it.
Specifically, they said, "Hey, we're in New York. Let's go up to this granite field and get this quarried, smooth stone, and let's make that the cornerstone of what we're about to build." The governor of New York, in a ceremony, says this. Watch this.
George Pataki: Today we take Adirondack granite, the bedrock of our state, and place it as the foundation, the bedrock, of this new symbol of American strength and confidence. Today we lay the cornerstone for a new symbol of this city, and of this country, and of our resolve to triumph in the face of terror. Today we build the Freedom Tower.
[End of Video]
There we go. "We're going to build it, and we're going to use quarried stone." A little bit later, that particular stone was removed when they built the tower. How about the sycamore trees? There's the quarried stone we're referencing. Cahn is making all these observations. What's interesting is right across the street from the World Trade Center is St. Paul's Cathedral.
In 1766, when it was first built, St. Paul's Cathedral was the tallest building in New York. A church used to be the tallest building in New York. It's a pretty significant church. If you remember the first two years our country existed, that is exactly where our capitol was. This is where George Washington worshiped. The Great Seal of the United States is still over the pew he would often sit at and pray.
The shock wave that happened destroyed many of the buildings that were surrounding the World Trade Center on the day it fell, but St. Paul's Cathedral was not damaged. It was the place where a lot of the workers who were rescuing people who were in the rubble slept and stayed. It was taken over by them.
There's a tree right in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. Guess what kind of tree it is. It's a sycamore. How about that? That sycamore tree received the blow, and it was destroyed. The sycamore was removed. Some of the metal was penetrated into the ground and got tangled up in the root system. They actually dug the root system out and made a cast of it, and there at the 9/11 Memorial, there is a symbol, a cast-iron replica of the root system of the sycamore tree.
What do you think America did when they said, "We have to put another tree there right outside St. Paul's Cathedral"? If you're just taking a wild guess, what kind of tree do you think we put right there? You bet. We put in a conifer tree, an evergreen. We put in a tree that is consistent with the description of the erez tree. It didn't take. It died.
Look what God is doing. He's saying, "Yoo hoo! America!" This is all spooky coincidence. There are other harbingers Cahn goes through and talks about in his particular book. He says, "Is God telling America what he's going to do?" He introduced us to something called the Shemitah. He wrote another book…
The Shemitah is a reckoning. That's what the word Shemitah means. It's a seven-year cycle of when the nation of Israel was supposed to rest. It was a time of a redistribution, or reckoning, of the wealth. In fact, at the end of every seven Shemitahs, the fiftieth year, which was the first year of the eighth Shemitah, was the Year of Jubilee, when all debts were returned and any financial inequality that happened in the covenant nation was supposed to be reconciled.
Jonathan Cahn went back and looked at the cycle of Shemitahs over the period of time. He's traced the seven years forward. By the way, God takes this very seriously (Leviticus 25, Deuteronomy 15), so much so that Israel was in the land for 490 years, and they never ever once kept the Shemitah.
After 490 years of being in the Land of Promise, all of a sudden, since they didn't respond to the rebuke of the destruction of the 10 northern tribes, the 2 southern tribes are sent into exile. Does anybody know how long they were sent into exile? It was 70 years. Guess how many times 70 goes into 490. The answer is 7 times. God says, "You're going to be there 70 years, one year for every Shemitah you did not appropriately follow."
There's this system around the Shemitahs, and it's a big deal. Cahn makes this observation. Let's go back and look at Shemitah years. 1917 was one. That's when America rose to power. That's when Germany was defeated in World War I. Fast forward several more Shemitahs and you get to 1938, when Jews themselves suffered a great loss. It was the Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, when Jewish businesses were destroyed.
In 1945, eventually, those who came after the Jews were defeated. God restored and blessed them, but he also raised up a new world power like there had never been a world power. America becomes the world superpower, and the US dollar becomes the standard of the world economy. It becomes an economic power.
Fast forward another 28 years, four Shemitahs, Cahn observes, and you're at 1973. In that year, America, now in it's great strength, starts to sacrifice its children as the law of its land. It's really interesting. Fast forward from there 42 years, and you get to where we are today. You have God almost sending out a wave of videos.
He says, "Just in case you think what you're doing in the womb is not what they were doing outside of the womb in Israel that was an offense to me, let's go ahead and acknowledge that these really are babies, you know they're babies, you're chopping up their body parts, and you're selling them. There is no discussion about whether or not what you're doing is offensive to me. You know those are children."
This year, 2015, is a Shemitah year. We just said this to God: "We don't really care what you say about marriage and family." In fact, the American president now is no longer outrepresenting the righteousness our land once stood for. He's advocating, when he goes to his homeland in Kenya, that they should adopt the same views of rebellion against God we do.
In 2001, there is a little correction in the stock market. The World Trade Center buildings are destroyed by Islamic terrorists, and Wall Street has one of its greatest collapses in history. In fact, the greatest single-day loss of economic provision our country has ever known was delayed, actually, from September 11 all the way to when it opened a week later, which was September 18. Guess what. That's the end of the Shemitah year in the Jewish calendar.
In 2008, Wall Street suffered its now largest decline. Guess what. The end of the last day of the Shemitah year is called Elul 29. Fast forward another seven years. By the way, last year when I did the Declaration series, I talked about the American economy and our living in a way that is in absolute rebellion against any system of wisdom. I pointed out the seven-year cycle there. I wasn't thinking about the Shemitah.
I mentioned 2015 would be the end of the next seven-year cycle. If you were going to take a wild guess, what do you think the end of the Shemitah year is in 2015? It's not September 11. It's the 13, which is a Sunday, which means the stock market will close on September 11. Cahn is saying, "I don't know what's going to happen then. I'm just telling you it sure looks to me like God is trying to tell America something, and he's using an ancient Israeli prophet to do it."
I tell you all this because there are a lot of people who are going to start to talk to you about these things. If not the Shemitah and the harbingers they're going to talk to you about the blood moons. Have you heard about the blood moons? The Bible talks about blood moons and darkened suns. It says it's a sign of the end of the times.
Do you know what a tetrad is? It's a set of four. There has only been a handful of times there have been four blood moons in the same year and even a smaller handful of times when those blood moons have synced up exactly on Israeli or Jewish holy days. One of those years was right after Israel reacquired the land. Another one of those years was when Israel reacquired the city in '67.
The year 2015 is a red blood moon tetrad. In case you're going, "Todd, no one really calls them blood moons." Really? How about NASA. This is NASA's website. "There is going to be a 'Hunter's Moon,' sometimes called a 'Blood Moon." There will be four of them this year with a solar eclipse, a darkened sun, in the middle. It won't happen for another 600 years, and it's happening now." What does that mean? I don't know. I'll tell you what I think it means. I think it means the earth's shadow is going to come between the sun and the moon.
Isn't it just like our God to send a message and say, "What do I have to do?" America is not Israel. He doesn't have a specific covenant love and affection for us, but you're going to hear about this in the next days. Some people are going to go into a panic: "What do you do?" Don't panic. If you panic it's a sign that if God is doing something you're not ready for him to do it. You ought to be ready for him to do it.
Cahn goes right up to you and says, "I'm not saying, I'm just saying." Some of the people who listen to him not saying but just saying are starting to go, "He's saying! God is saying! The world is going to end." I don't know, but don't be a date-setter. Set your heart. Don't be a fearmongerer. Be a Christ-follower. Don't be a doomsdayer. Be a disciple-maker. That's what faithful prophets do. That's what faithful people do.
Don't try to time your stock investments to profit off the coming Shemitah. Be a prophet. I'm not telling you not to be observant, but I am telling you profit in not God's goal. Prophet is your calling. You make sure you worship God, walk with God, and warn people about the fact that there's going to be a day when a nation like America that scoffs at God, whether they line up with Isaiah 9:10 or not, is going to give a reckoning.
Make sure you don't put all the pieces together like you exactly know, because you don't know, and if you don't get it exactly right it's going to affect your ability to preach on what is exactly true. I'm telling you, don't confuse speculations with Scripture. That's what fools do. Don't have more confidence in conspiracy theories than in Christ.
What has Christ said? "I am coming quickly, I am coming certainly, and I am going to judge you, so be prepared." You can be prepared by preaching the Word in season and out of season. You tell other people there is a God, you're going to give an account, and he graciously has made provision for you so you could be reconciled to him.
You brace yourself to be persecuted, because you live in a world that increasingly calls evil good and good evil. If you represent the good, you will indeed be persecuted. Brace yourself, but Jesus said, "Don't worry, little ones." Get ready to suffer for your faith. Speak up. Love others. Share with others. Serve others. The way you prep is not by buying a bunch of AK47s and mowing people down if they step into your house when this big event happens.
When the big electronic signal is sent out that kills all electronics, our cell phones and computers don't work, our electronic ignitions won't start, and there's an economic collapse, and you've stored up all kinds of food for yourself, you're going to kill everybody who comes near you, and you've prepped for that day… That's not the way of Christ. You ought to be wise.
Here's the problem. People are given to extremes when they prep. People have a tendency to do one of two things. They either have a 10-year supply of food or they tend to do nothing at all. Neither one of them are wise. You have to store up. The Wagners have been ready. This did not come from Alabama, and this did not come from South Texas. This has been in my freezer for six months now. How odd is it the one I saved was Red, White, and Blue Bell?
We were ready for the great Blue Bell famine of 2015. I've been enjoying it. Every now and then I'll just dip my little spoon into there, and I'll get one taste. I can't take a lot, because, you know, we don't know how long. It's better than I remember. This has been there the whole time. We're down to just this. A little spoon here, then we put it back. but I don't have a bunch of AK47s built to shoot when you come to get my Blue Bell. I'll have you over to my house and go, "Do you want a taste? I have some." I was ready.
It was so funny. Last night I was telling my kids I was going to bring our Blue Bell up, and I'd take care of it when I brought it up here. My 10-year-old goes, "Dad, you can't do that. You can't take that up there. If you eat that thing, what would happen?" Because they quit eating it a long time ago. They went, "What would happen if you ate that and died?" He then continued, "It'd be six more months before they'd make it again and we'd have to wait that much longer to get Blue Bell."
I go, "Really? That's why you don't want me to take a spoonful, because it might be six more months before you can get as much Blue Bell as you want? That's your concern, that I might get listeria in my illustration, and you'd have to wait six more months? Thank you for loving your daddy."
However you prep, don't tend to do nothing and don't get 10 years worth of supplies. Whatever you do, you get ready to take care of the people who said, "What's our plan? How are we going to prep? What are we going to do? Do you guys have a bunch of food here? Do you store your food over there?"
Watermark has been storing food. On the fifth floor of that tower over there we have a bunch of flat Coke and stale Cheez-Its left over from membership classes you said you were going to come to and you didn't show up. We are storing that food for you, so if you need flat Coke and Cheez-Its, we have, I don't know, a Y2K supply, probably, right over there.
That's it. Here's our plan. This is how we're prepping. What did Jesus say to his disciples when he saw a group of people gathered who were hungry and needed food? "Master, there are a bunch of hungry people." Jesus said, "You feed them." This is where I feed you every week. This is where I teach you to be faithful every single week. This is where I tell you to be wise, to be aware of the times you live in, and to be ready, not to be freaked out but to be faithful.
If you have provision when horror hits, God doesn't say, "Bundle up and lock down." He says, "Love others. Care for them. Be a missionary in your neighborhood." Look at all the places God has put his church represented in just this room alone, not to mention the thousands in Plano and Fort Worth.
There are other people who have been equipped and fed the Word of God so they are ready to love people and tell them why they shouldn't be concerned if their blessed America comes to its knees, because their blessed God is advancing his program. There's a way to be reconciled to him. You go to work.
If this building is still here, we'll gather here. I'll feed you the Word of God, we'll talk about what to do, and we'll share our needs with one another, saying, "Hey, we've been doing everything we can for our neighborhood. We're out of provision in our neighborhood. Is there a neighborhood that still has provision so we can take some and care for ourselves and the people who are there?"
We'll talk about that, but there is no storehouse here. We're storing up for you training and equipping, that you would be ready. Church, are you ready? You don't know what hour that's going to come, but that's our plan. We are prepping you not for just a disaster. I'm prepping you right now to be able to tell people the disaster is eventually coming.
What's the disaster? Some men might meet the Judge of the universe without being reconciled to him through faith in Jesus Christ. That's a disaster. Some of you might have made some profession about who Jesus is, that he's your Master, but you think what you're doing now doesn't matter. That's a disaster.
Admonish each other. Encourage each other. Spur each other on to love and good deeds. Be ready. If you're here tonight, and you don't know who Jesus Christ is, step one is to hit your knees, repent, and acknowledge you do need a Savior, and his name is Jesus of Nazareth.
Father, I pray for my friends. As we leave here this evening, I pray, if we know you, we would do it more alert, ready, and aware of the imminent return of Christ, that at any moment, whether there is a rupture of America or a reckoning of our country or not, there's going to be a reckoning with us.
We do not know the hour when that will happen. He'll come like a thief in the night, like lightning from the East to the West. Lord, we want to be ready. We want to be found preaching the Word. We want to be found warning others. We want to be found enduring persecution, loving others, sharing what you've given us, serving people, and ready to meet you.
Would you help us be faithful this week as the church, having been fed by the Word of God? Would you help us, now, be those people who, having heard of it, declare it? Would you teach us to be your church? Would you allow us to have little communities of faithfulness all over this city?
I pray for the church of Jesus Christ all over this world, that we're ready to speak hope and model the love of Christ who, though he was rich, for our sake became poor. If there's anybody in this room who has never understood you made him who knew no sin to become sin on their behalf, that they might become righteous, I pray tonight would be the night they would deal with that, because you are their King too, and they need to be ready.
Father, would you quicken their hearts and help them see what they could not see if it weren't for your kindness on them, as your kindness has struck me and this church? May this church now respond to the kindness of your love and grace on our lives by living it, proclaiming it, and modeling it for others. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
Come, all you weary, and go, all you faithful. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.