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Can we know the day and time of Jesus’ return to earth as promised in Scripture? How can we best prepare for the second coming? Are we judged by our works? As we wrap up our series, “The 7,” Todd Wagner teaches us about the second coming of Jesus Christ, answering these three questions and more.
Contending for the Faith
Hello! How is everybody doing? Good morning, Watermark. We're glad to be with you guys, Plano, and not Fort Worth, because I am in Fort Worth, if you're watching this. I will be in Fort Worth at this moment with our new campus opening today. Anyway, we are in the middle of a series called The 7, the seven essentials of our faith. We're actually on the seventh one. There will not be another part to this series unless we decide to add some other essential truth, which I kind of doubt that we will.
It's interesting. We went back. We did a series in the fall of 2009 called The Big XII where we talked about 12 things that were essential for you to know. We added a few things that were in there to talk about stuff we were passionate about, and they're still true to go back and look at them. We covered all of these seven essentials that were in there, and it's just great to come back and remind ourselves about these things that if you don't get them right it's going to not allow you to be useful and fruitful and filled with peace and thrive the way God wants you to on this earth. It's going to cost you dearly right now, and it might cost you eternally.
We've talked about the centrality of God's Word. We've talked about the nature and person of God. We've talked about how he reveals himself most fully in the Son, how he empowers us, and the presence of God today working in us and through us in the person of his Spirit. We've talked about who we are, created in the image of God. We've talked about how God saves man, even though man has left him and rebelled against him.
This is the truth: how you determine your eternal home is based on a right understanding of the gospel alone, a right understanding of who Christ is and what he did on the cross, and that should have great effect on how you live here on this earth. You won't live as fruitful and productive a life for him if you get these other things wrong.
Number seven is this truth: Jesus Christ is coming again. There are some details about when he's coming and what will happen once he comes that we'll have to talk about for a little bit, but let me just give you the statement that you can't miss. You have to get this right. You have to be certain about the bodily resurrection of the dead, about the coming of future judgment, about the fact that Christ himself will come again physically, and the fact that there is an eternal heaven and an eternal hell or it's going to mess with you.
Here's the statement: we believe in the future, invisible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to the earth (commonly called the second coming) to rule the nations and establish his kingdom on earth. Let me explain this to you. There are some details about how this is all going to work out. This is a picture of Israel and the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is to the east of what is called the Temple Mount. This is looking from the west at Israel from a hover shot down toward the Temple Mount. This is the city of Jerusalem right here.
You'll see the mount that was built by Herod that Solomon's temple was on and Herod's temple was on that has been destroyed. This is Al-Aqsa, one of the holiest sites in Islam. We know the Dome of the Rock right here is where the temple was. This is the Kidron Valley that runs right through here, and this is a hill that's called the Mount of Olives. Over here are Bethany and Bethphage. If you read the stories about the end of Christ's life, you know that he left there and walked down. This is where his triumphal entry happened.
He came down and came up and entered under the Temple Mount, and he went to where the temple was in that day. The Scripture tells us in Acts that he ascended from right here with his disciples, and the Scripture tells us in Zephaniah 14 and other places that Christ is going to return right here. It's why when you go there you're going to find… The Messiah will come on the Mount of Olives. In Zephaniah 14 it says that.
Right here are a bunch of Jewish tombs and a burial ground, because they want to be there when the resurrection happens. The thing is they'd better make sure that, as a nation state, they come to understand who the Messiah is and who their King is. Let me explain a few things to you. I'm not going to get into all of the details about what exactly is the progression of events that will happen around his second coming. There are periods like the tribulation, an event called the rapture, and this idea of the millennial reign.
The reason I'm not is I spent 10 weeks teaching you through what is called the Olivet Discourse. The Olivet Discourse is in Mark 13 and also in Matthew 24-25. Jesus taught about his second coming on the Mount of Olives. It's called the Olivet Discourse because it was given right here. I'm going to read to you from it again tonight, because it has great implications on why the doctrine of the second coming of Christ matters.
We believe the best way to understand the Scripture in some of the prophetic passages that are in there pertaining to the second coming is consistent with what would be called a pre-trib, premillennialview. There's also postmillennialism. There's amillennialism. There's pre-wrath rapture. There's mid-trib rapture. There's post-trib rapture. All of those I covered in detail in that series in 2002 for 10 weeks. There's nothing I said that I would change.
Part of the reason I wouldn't change anything is I think we take this position with… This is the series. Here are some of the messages that happened: The Purpose and Product of Prophecy, Wonders of the World vs. the Wonders of a Magnificent Obsession (people and matter and why we don't make ourselves obsessed with this world), and then Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
So if you're into these things (this is before we had video), you can go back to 2002 on our website, search under "The Last Things You Need to Know," and there are 10 weeks on that. Let me just tell you, Jesus thinks the last thing you need to know is not so much details about when he will return but details about what you need to be doing. The reason I wouldn't change much about what I said right then is I didn't set any dates.
I'm not one of those people (and I don't think you should be either) who drapes the New York Times over their Bible and goes, "Oh, this is that" and starts to be very certain about when Christ is going to return. We know that no man knows when Christ is going to return. One of these days, one of these guys making predictions is going to be right, because everybody keeps making predictions about when he's coming back. For me, I want to get off the planning committee and on the welcoming committee. Christ's job is to return; our job is to be ready. We have to be ready.
When I did The Big XII series, one of the things I did was every week I took these core doctrines and I said, "This is what we affirm. If you don't affirm this to be true, then this is the alternative to this affirmation about biblical truth, and then this is the application." Back when I taught this almost 10 years ago, I affirmed this. This is what you need to understand: Christ is coming quickly, his reward is going to be with him, and he will render to men according to their deeds.
The alternative is: No, he's not. It's fine if you want to keep going to church, sing your little songs, rehearse your little creeds, and enjoy whatever benefits come from living a moral life and the long life morality affords you, but I hope you're happy in your delusion, because Christ is not who he said he was or he's dead, he's not resurrected, or we're misunderstanding the Scripture and you don't really need to worry about the fact that you're going to be held accountable. That's the alternative.
The application is because you affirm that Christ is coming quickly, that his reward is with him, and that he will render to men according to their deeds, you want to get after it. If it is true that Christ is who he says he is (and we believe it is), then you ought to trust him, obey him, and serve him. You ought to endure, you ought to persevere, you ought to love your enemies, you ought to love him, and you ought to love others. There is a lot riding on the literal, physical return of Jesus Christ to earth.
Now let me explain to you this. I'm going to show you one little map. Again, I unpacked this for a lot of weeks. This is what is called the pre-trib, premillennial view. Basically, this is what we believe is the best explanation for how the end times are going to work out. I talk a lot about what's called the seventieth week of Daniel. I talk a lot about when Revelation talks about times, time, and half a time. I talk a lot about the Antichrist. I talk a lot about how this stuff could all happen, but bottom line, here we go.
Right now, from AD 33 to the present time, we have the church age or the age of grace. There's going to be a moment where the rapture happens. We do believe the Scriptures indicate there is a rapture event. It is the removal of God's church, God's people. Just like he removed Noah before the flood, we believe that… Again, this isn't an essential. This is where you need a lot of humility. The second coming of Christ is an essential. What happens up until then there's a lot of good discussion about.
The word rapture is not in your Bible. It's actually a transliteration of a word that basically means to be caught up. Paul talks about the blessed hope we'll have, that we will be caught up to be with the Lord in the air. It's the removal of the church. I believe (and I talk about this) that the Antichrist won't be revealed, it says in 2 Thessalonians, until the restrainer is removed. What's the restrainer? I believe it's the presence of the Spirit of God working on earth.
Where does God work on earth? Through his presence in his people. You take away all folks who know the goodness of God and the rightness of his way, and you can imagine how dark and awful this place would be. Not just specific grace through his Spirit but even some of the common grace that is there. It's going to get crazy. But there's an event that happens called the rapture. This is not the second coming. This is what I want you to hear.
Us going to be with him. If there is a rapture event, if he does remove his people, that is us going to be with him. That is not him coming to earth. So there will be this event. During that time, if that is true (and, again, I believe it's the most reasonable reading of Scripture), that's when the church goes through what's called the bema seat. (Stay tuned today. I'll talk about that.) Then you're going to have the second coming.
Actually, while the church is, in a sense, going through the bema seat blessing in heaven, you have the tribulation period here. This is the time of Jacob's distress, a time of trouble that Daniel talks about. This is the seventieth week of Daniel. I know this stuff is absolutely foreign to 99 percent of you. Halfway into the seven-year tribulation period, after the Antichrist makes a treaty with Israel, which starts the seven-year period, the Antichrist shows himself.
He sits himself on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and says, "I'm not just your deliverer. I'm not just a great world leader. I am God himself. Worship me." That's when it gets really nasty, because during the tribulation period, the first three and a half years aren't that much trouble, other than we're trying to recover from "Where did all of these people go?" Kirk Cameron walked you through that.
Anyway, here's where it gets really nasty, and then you have the second coming. Now, some people believe there is none of this stuff. They just believe Jesus is basically either going to establish his kingdom on earth through his church (they're called postmillennialists) and there will be 1,000 years, basically, of the world getting it right, which, if you look at history, doesn't seem to be where we're trending.
There are what's called amillennialists, which means there is no literal thousand-year reign and it's figurative speech in the Scripture and Christ just comes. They do away with all of this, and they just have Christ coming once right here. We believe he's going to fulfill his literal promises, that the second coming will happen right here at the end of the tribulation, and then Jesus will reign for 1,000 years.
What you need to hear is this isn't even the beginning of eternity. The second coming commences Christ reigning on earth. There's a great judgment here. What happens is all of the wicked are judged. There's a separation of the sheep and the goats. The goats, if you will, in Matthew 25, are the wicked that did not honor him, and they're put in a place of judgment. We start this thousand-year reign with pretty much everybody on earth being a believer, and there's another great rebellion, if you can believe it or not.
At the end of that other great rebellion, where Satan himself has been bound for 1,000 years and man still rebels, you're going to see our need for grace. You're going to see God roll this whole thing up. It's what's called the great white throne judgment, and we move into eternity. By the way, when we move into eternity and go to heaven, heaven will not be this place way out there. Heaven is a renewed earth. Now there's a ton there, and there are 10 weeks on it. Go get it. The Last Things You Need to Know.
All I want you to focus on right now is this: the second coming. Some of this is the best we can do in understanding Scripture, but you can't mess up the fact that Jesus is coming. What I want you to know is that you need to watch yourself more than you need to watch for signs. One of the reasons that a lot of our friends who are Jewish in their descent miss who Jesus is is they were looking for a messiah who would come who would deliver them from the oppression they were under.
Last week, I talked at the end of my message about how Israel had suffered for a long time, first under Egypt, then they were put into a place of promise, but they never really walked with God obediently there. They went through a lot of times where the prophets would come and rebuke them and tell them to get it right because they were a kingdom of priests, and if God was going to use them to represent himself on earth they needed to be a holy people.
After they kept ignoring the prophets, God wiped out about 80 percent of them or more, five-sixths of them. They went into bondage to Assyria. Watch your world history. Wiped out most of the known world, including all of the tribes north of Jerusalem. About another 150 years later, then Babylon rose up, wiped out Assyria, came down, took the last two tribes, and hauled them off over to Babylon. They were there for 70 years.
Then Medo-Persia wiped out Babylon. Know your world history. You'll find out that Israel was allowed to return, but when they returned and rebuilt their temple, it wasn't the glory of the old temple. They never were really satisfied. No more prophets came to them. There were 400 years of silence. It's what's called the intertestamental period in your Bible. If you're here going, "Man, what is happening today?" don't worry. Hang in there, because it's going to get very relevant for you.
This intertestamental period had Greece. Alexander the Great wiped out Medo-Persia. They became the known powers. Alexander died. His kingdom was split up amongst his three sons. The Ptolemies in Egypt re-presented themselves. They were oppressive to Israel. The Israelites rebelled against them through the Maccabees. There was a small period when Syria had come and wiped out the Ptolemies, and then the Maccabees rebelled against the Syrians.
Then there was a little bit of a period of peace, and then Julius Caesar in Rome came and wiped out Israel. It was just a sad time. Then Christ came. When Christ was here and offered salvation, there was a day in Luke, chapter 4 (this is where I want to start in the Scripture today), that we're told Jesus presented himself in Nazareth. This is verse 16: "And He [Jesus] came to Nazareth…" This is that period still where we're not sure anything great has happened. Israel is still in that intertestamental period in their minds.
"…where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written [in Isaiah 61, these words] , ' The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me *…'" Reading right out of Isaiah. *"… because He anointed Me to preach the gospel[the good news]*to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord *."
When your Bible was written, it didn't have chapters and verse. Those were added centuries later. The reason they were added is we no longer had scrolls, and the codices were put together, and eventually they moved into book form. So we could all turn to the same pages in the book, because there wasn't just one scroll we read from but we all had copies of the Scripture, we put chapters and verses so we could turn there quickly together.
What Jesus did when he was reading from Isaiah 61 is really important. He stopped dead in the middle of a prophecy. Right after he got done with this… He said, "I'm here to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord," and then he shut the scroll and said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." You knew Jesus was going to be well received by these people as he started his public ministry at this point, because his first message was all of about 30 seconds long. That's a good way to make folks like you.
In all seriousness, what he said was, "Hey, this is who I am. This is what I'm here to do. I'm here to proclaim the good news, to bring healing and set captives free. I'm here to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." Had he continued reading from the scroll of Isaiah… I leave Luke now and take you back to Isaiah to show you what Jesus did not read out of Isaiah 61. In verse 2 it picks up where he says, "I'm here to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
Had he continued he would have said this: "…and the day of vengeance of our God…""When I come to pour out my wrath and my justice against all those who rebel against me," which is a great comfort to those who seek to live in righteousness. There were those who were trying to do right who were being oppressed by the wicked who were in the world and by those who scoffed at God and the fact that there was a God we were accountable to.
Jesus said, "I'm not here to judge all of the wicked. Actually, I'm here to save all the wicked, and I want all of you to understand that your problem in first-century Israel is not Caesar who is oppressing you but the sin which reigns in each of your hearts. That's what you're really in bondage to, and I want to set you free from that." Jesus said, "I've come to bring you hope, and I'm going to go and be your Passover Lamb. I'm going to be the scapegoat that the sins of the world are placed on."
Isaiah 53 says, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." He said, "It's going to happen to me. I'm going to go where you can't go: to the cross to pay for your sins. God is going to make me who knew no sin to become sin on your behalf, that you might become the righteousness of God in me. God is going to make me poor, even though I'm rich, so through my poverty you might become blessed and be reconciled to God."
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Listen. Here's the deal. The Jews are looking for a deliverer from Rome. The Jews are looking for a political figure. They don't know their problem is not political. Their problem is they don't have a relationship with me. They don't walk with me, and because they don't walk with me they don't have my protection. The thing that's going to allow them to be the people who will lead to blessing is for them to be reconciled to God, and they're not going to be reconciled to God by keeping their traditions and trusting in their own works. They need me as their Savior."
Isaiah has in the Scripture the talk of Messiah as the one who will reign on earth and will bring peace to Israel, and all of the nations of the earth will acknowledge that Israel's king is the one true King, but it also says that Israel's King, this Messiah, this Prince of Peace, was going to bring peace first by being a lamb who would bear the sins of the world to reconcile all who trust in him to the Father so that true peace might come.
Think about that. What would you want if you were an oppressed people? Would you want somebody who's going to come and live a holy life and then ultimately be beaten, die, and called a madman or would you want somebody who's going to take on the powers of the world? That's what Israel was looking for, but Jesus says, "I'm going to come again. Mark my word: this lamb that has come to be slain is the lion that will return."
If you don't believe in the literal return of Jesus Christ, you don't believe in the biblical Jesus. You don't believe he was who he says he was. Now what did I say at the very beginning? I told you at the very beginning that Jesus is more concerned about you doing what you should be doing and not the details and the dates of his return.
What I want to do is walk you through the Olivet Discourse, and I want you to see how many times he tells you what you need to be doing. I'm going to use Matthew to do it, and it's going to get us to a very strategic place that's going to make this message have as much application to you as any message we've given in this series. Here we go.
Matthew 24:3: "As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying,'Tell us, when will these things happen[that you say are going to happen], and what will be the sign of Your coming…'""You told us you're going to go die. You told us they're going to destroy the temple and you're going to rebuild it in three days, and you weren't talking about Herod's temple; you were talking about your body. But when are you going to come back, and what's going to be the sign of your coming?"
"And Jesus answered and said to them, 'See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, "I am the Christ," and will mislead many.'" The Antichrist is going to claim to be God's gift to the world. So when there is a person in this world who tells you they are God's gift to the world and they are God's messiah and God's hope and is doing miracles, you should not be led astray.
Now if we're right, us pre-trib, pre-mil people, and you know Jesus today, you won't even be around to be deceived, but in case we're not, you need to know there are going to be people who are going to say, "That must be God's man. That must be the guy," and it's not going to be Jesus. Here's how you're going to know:
"You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold."
They're going to think, "Hey, there's no God. He's not going to do anything. Look at all this immorality. Look at all this craziness that's happening. I guess I'm just going to jump in on the party, because clearly, if there was a God, he wouldn't let this go on." "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore…"
Now he's talking about two people who are going to be on earth during this time. He's being very specific, and he says, "…when you see the abomination of desolation …" **Which, if you understood the full scope of Scripture, will probably happen halfway through the tribulation period."…which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place…then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains."**
If you're on the housetop, don't go down to get a thing out of that house. If you're in the field, don't go get your cloak. You'd better hightail it out of there or he's going to kill you, because you haven't taken the mark of the Beast, because you're going to say, "No, you're not the Christ; you're the Antichrist, and I won't bow before you." You'd better just hightail it to the mountains. You'd better let God miraculously provide for you in the wilderness the way he did with people in the wilderness before when they were oppressed by an ungodly pharaoh. That's his exhortation.
He says in verse 21, "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world…" That's the last three and a half years of that seven-year period I talked about. "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short."
Some are going to believe in the true Jesus during that tribulation. They're going to go, "Oh, those Christians who told us that they trusted in Christ? That's where they went, and this is what they told us about." There are going to be some who believe and don't bow to the Antichrist. As I told you, Kirk Cameron is one of those guys, if you watch the movie.
"Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be." You aren't going to miss it.
Verse 36: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." So quit date setting. "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. […] Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming."
I want to tell you something. There are things, if my understanding of the Scripture is correct, that need to happen before Christ comes again, but you need to know there is nothing that needs to happen prophetically or biblically for the event we know as the rapture to happen, when Christ comes to remove his people, which will then commence the things that will unfold: the Antichrist coming on the scene, offering himself as a solution to the chaos that's in the world.
He will make a treaty specifically with Israel. Israel will trust on him. This Antichrist happens to be the leader of what is basically the restored Roman confederacy, which happens to line up with the current European Union. He will keep folks from oppressing Israel. Israel will say, "You're our hope," and for three and a half years there will be general world peace. Then he's going to tell Israel he's not their hope; he's their god, and then all hell will break loose on earth. Three and a half years later, Christ will return.
He says, "Be on the alert." Verse 43: "But be sure of this…" This is application for you and me now. Even though Jesus is talking about the second coming, there is application for those of us who believe that he is going to remove his means of grace on the earth, which is where God is working today, which is through his people, the church. There is nothing prophetically or in the calendar of Scripture that needs to happen before Christ removes his people. It could happen at any moment. "Be on the alert," he says. Verse 43:
"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. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Uh-oh.
Let me read you this. I'm going to take you to 1 John for a second. We're going to come back to the Olivet Discourse. In 1 John we're told, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." That's 1 John 2:15-16.
Then we get to 1 John, chapter 2, verse 28. He says, "Now, little children, abide in Him…" Meaning, walk with Jesus. "…so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." Again, church, listen to me. I fervently believe that when Christ comes it will be our being caught up to be with him, if you're part of the church, and not his coming.
The second coming and the rapture are two different things. If there is no rapture, then there will just be a second coming, which is primarily what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 24, but there's nothing that needs to happen before Christ removes us, as Paul writes a little bit later. He tells the Thessalonians, "Some of you guys are causing trouble because you think the Antichrist is already in the world." He says, "No, the Antichrist can't come until the restrainer is removed."
There's a lot of debate about what the restrainer is. There's other Scripture all through that talks about this "blessed hope" of the believers, which I believe is a removal before the ultimate tribulation on this earth. There's going to be a day when we're going to be caught up in the twinkling of an eye. We shall not all die, the Scripture says, but we shall all be with him. I think it's talking about the rapture event there.
Now watch. There's application. "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him." In other words, if you're God's child and he's a righteous God, live righteously. "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God…" That's talking to us, church. "…and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us…" Because we're not of this world.
This isn't our home. We live with a completely different mindset. We see something the world doesn't see. We have a hope the world doesn't have. We have a morality, therefore, that is not familiar to the world. We know Christ is coming, he will have his reward with him, and he will render to men according to their work. We know that because we are his sons we are going to act like we're members of the family and be about the family business.
What's the family business? Well, what did our older brother Jesus do while he was here? First Peter says, "Christ suffered, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps, who though he committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth, when he was reviled, he reviled not in return; when he suffered, he did not utter threats, but he kept entrusting himself to the one who judges rightly."
Paul says, "Church, you are here to complete what is lacking in Christ's sufferings." What does that mean? It doesn't mean Christ didn't finish paying for our sins on the cross. No. God is still here. Just as the Father sent the Son into the world, the Son said to his disciples, "I'm sending you into the world to love them. Not for comfort. This world isn't your home, but you are my hands and feet. My Spirit is going to dwell in you. The works that I did you're going to do. Even greater works than these, because you're going to be all over the world.
I'm going to leave you here to suffer, just like I did. I'm going to leave you here to be called a madman, just like I was. I'm going to leave you here to steward your life for the glory of God, because I love people. Before I bring judgment on the earth, I want to bring more good news. The day of vengeance is coming. I will return, but I'm leaving you here for a while, children who know me, because I love others."
This is 1 John: "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be." We don't know fully yet how glorious it's going to be. "We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on [Jesus] purifies himself, just as He is pure."
Let me ask you a question. Is your hope fixed on Christ or are you going, "No, this world is kind of my home. I'm making this my home. I'm not really serving him right now. I think I'll just be about my business, not the Father's business"? People who are here on earth and still about their business and not ambassadors for Christ, not suffering for the kingdom…
We talked about salvation last week, and I want to show you a little tree. It's a salvation tree. It comes back now to Matthew 25. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells some stories. One of the stories he tells is the story of a man who is going to go away and is going to return and basically hold people into account for what they did when he was gone.
Let me just say something to you really quickly. I want to read this to you. This is Matthew 25, and we'll pick it up about verse 14. It says, "For it is just like a man…" He's telling a story. "…about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey."
This should encourage you. This is Matthew 25. Here Jesus tells the story of what's called the parable of the talents. In the parable of the talents, he gives them different amounts of his blessing. What I want you to be encouraged by here is that in Matthew 25, where we're given five talents and two talents and one talent, we're given different things, whether that just be human giftedness or maybe even physical resources to use for his glory, how you use your two, if it's as faithful as the guy who used his five, you get the same reward. Where there is unequal distribution of gifts there is equal reward.
In Luke 19 is what's called the parable of the minas. A mina is basically 100 days' wage. He gives in that parable three different guys the same thing. Where you are given the same thing there are variant rewards. Where we're given different things there's the same reward. I want you to hear this. Some of you are not 10-talent people. Some of you don't have the means to advance the gospel the way very gifted or very well resourced people do, but it doesn't matter. If you're faithful with what you've been given, you will get the same reward for a billionaire who walks and lives like Mother Teresa.
This week, I was with Evander Holyfield. We were at the same event I was speaking at, and Evander was with a young man named Chester. Chester is his handler, basically, because Tyson didn't just bite his ear; a lot of people beat Evander's head. Even though he's a four-time heavyweight champ of the world, because of that, he doesn't travel alone, for good reason. He has Chester with him.
Now Chester was an interesting guy. I sat there and talked to Chester. One of the things Chester told me… He said, "My dad was 47 when he died of a heart attack. My dad was a well known man. My dad was called to the White House by two different presidents and recognized by those presidents and commended and given honor. My dad pastored a church in the 70s that grew to thousands back before there were really megachurches. My dad died of a heart attack when he was 47."
He goes, "I'm 46, and what I'm doing now is walking around managing and handling Evander. I sometimes wonder, 'God, I don't look like I'm living up to the standard of my daddy.'" He said, "I was just lying in bed one night, and I was grieving that I wasn't these things that my dad was." He said, "The Lord said to me…" Not in an audible voice, but Chester looked at me and said, "Do you know what the Lord said to me, Todd?" I said, "What did he say to you, Chester?" "He said, 'Chester, what I've given to you is enough. Just you be faithful with what I've asked you to do.'"
I believe if that's what God wants Chester to do and he does it well, he's going to get the same reward as people who are given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as Mother Teresa, as Billy Graham, as D.L. Moody. So I want you to hear me. Where there is unequal distribution of gifts there is equal reward. Where there is equal opportunity there is variant reward. You'd better believe that Christ is coming, he has his reward with him, and he will render to men according to his works.
Last week I talked about salvation. Salvation is a free gift offered by God, but there are going to be some people who say, "No thank you, Lord. I don't think I want your salvation. I don't think I want anything to do with the grace you're going to offer me." Those people, it says, will be judged based on their works because they've rejected grace. They say, "No." So all you can do is offer your own life. "Here's my résumé."
The Bible says your résumé had better be perfect, but all men have sinned, and because the wages of sin is death, all you're going to experience is judgment, and that judgment is final and complete. It's going to be where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth forever. This is 2 Thessalonians 1:9: "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…"
I did a series called The Most where I took different verses and said, "This is the most important verse, the most essential verse, the most short verse, the most difficult verse to interpret, the most misinterpreted verse." This is the verse in the Bible that I think is the most awful verse: 2 Thessalonians 1:9. People who say no to God's offer of salvation that I talked about last week will have nothing to offer God, but there are going to be some who say, "Yes, please" to God's offer of salvation. "Yes, please, Lord. Not my will but your will be done."
By the way, that's all hell is. God doesn't rape anybody. He grants to you what you ask for. If you say, "I don't want what you've offered to me. I don't want anything to do with you," then God says, "Well, great. I'll let you go to a place where there will never be anything that will remind you of me again, away from my presence and my glory." That, my friends, is hell.
But for reasons we can't explain, for some of us, the Lord is going to give us the grace to understand. This is people who will say, "Yes, please." Those people who say, "Yes, please" are going to be folks who accept salvation by grace through faith. These folks, it says, will come down, and they're going to be no longer judged, because judgment is always based on works, but what we're saying is, "Not my works but his works for me. Christ died for me."
In the Bible, judgment is always based on works, but salvation is always based on grace. People who don't want the grace of God have nothing to do except be judged with what they have to earn salvation, and they can't earn it, because God's standard is perfection. Those of us over here who say, "Yes, please" to Jesus being the one who is judged, being the one who went to the cross for our sins and received grace, are still going to be judged.
You're still going to be judged, but you're going to be judged not as a son, because you become a son through grace. You will be judged as a servant. In other words, "What did you do once you became my son? Were you a faithful son?" This is Matthew 25:21, that parable I told you where there were five, there were two, there was one. There were two who did well, so he said, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in. You've been faithful with a little; I'm going to give you much."
But there were some who didn't do well with that, and he says to them, "Depart from me." He sends them away, and there is a sense of loss. The Bible talks about those people who don't do well as servants in 1 Corinthians 3:15. First Corinthians 3:15 says if you don't build on the foundation of grace by walking in faith and being a faithful servant, when you're judged as a servant you will not receive a reward.
Your work is wood, hay, and stubble, not eternal things, so when the fire of God's judgment evaluates how you stewarded your life, it's not going to lead to reward. Now people who don't believe that Christ is going to judge us aren't really too concerned that they're going to respond to grace. They just kind of take grace and go, "I'll just do enough of it, a little bit." You're missing out on the blessing of being faithful.
Let me just show you this. There's another part to this salvation tree that I want you to see. There are some people who say, "Yes, please. I want salvation." These are people in Matthew 7:22 to whom Jesus says, "Hey, you know what? You said yes, I'm Lord, but you had a true false faith. You had a demonic faith. I even used you for my glory. You cast out demons in my name. You prophesied in my name. You did miracles in my name, but depart from me, for I never knew you. You were deluded. You practiced lawlessness, even maybe in doing things that were done in my name. You're just a professor about me. You don't possess my Spirit."
Jesus says these people are going to be judged as imposters. Let me tell you this. Most of you who are here go, "Yeah, Todd. I believe. I want to be who Jesus wants me to be." You definitely don't want to be here, and friends, you don't want to be here. Because you believe that Christ is King and he's coming again and his reward is with him and he will render to men according to their deeds, you know you won't be judged for your sins, because Christ was judged for your sins, but now you're his servant. What kind of son-servant will you be?
Last illustration. My daughter hates this illustration. She gets mad at me every time I use it. I love doing weddings. My favorite part of doing a wedding is right before the bride is revealed to the bridegroom. I'm standing there with the bridegroom. We're back there. The music starts. It's just awesome. Whenever I do a wedding, as the music starts, I always tell the wedding coordinator, "Don't open the doors" at the moment where it builds. It's supposed to make everybody wait, like, "We want to see the bride!"
I love this moment. She's back there, and we're ready. We're standing up there. We're watching. Imagine Jesus our Bridegroom is watching you. He's waiting for you, for the Father to say, "Go. Return. Bless them." It's coming, and Jesus is ready. You know he's ready, and you are his bride, and you're back there. The doors of heaven will be opened, the clouds will be rolled back, and here comes Christ. Have you purified yourself? Are you ready for his coming?
Imagine your bridegroom is there. The bride is waiting, and here comes that moment. Boom! And we open up. You go, "Oh my gosh! What is she doing? She was my bride, and she's making love to somebody else." Can you imagine that moment, that horror, as she pushes her dress down and comes out? See, this is what it looks like. When Christ returns, you want him to find you being about his business, being devoted to him. You want him to see you in the Word and being a student who's studying what it is that he loves.
You want to see yourself in prayer. In these images, you want to be that guy. You want to be in prayer. You want to be in community, loving other people. You want to be sharing the gospel with other folks. You don't want to say, "I'm your servant. You died for me. I'm going to live for you" and find yourself obsessed with the things of the world, obsessed with your college football fantasy. You don't want to find yourself obsessed with work.
You don't want to find yourself obsessed with your iPhone. That was a family that was sitting next to me at dinner one night. All of them. Instead of shepherding your family, let's just all… All four of them. You don't want to be this guy. Sloth, not laboring faithfully. You don't want to be somebody who's sitting there in front of a computer screen looking at images that need to be blurred out. You don't want to play five more games of Fortnite and take on Ninja. (That's for the section over there.)
You want to be anything but this. Folks, your King is coming, and today is the day that he has given you. I am asked a lot, "Todd, when you get to heaven, what's the first thing you're going to ask God?" I'm going to be certain. I know the first thing I'm going to ask God. When I know him as I am fully known right now, I know the one thing I'm going to want more than anything else.
I'm going to say, "Oh my gosh. All the glory I preached about, all the glory I believed in, all the grace, all the power you had, all the love you showed, I see it's true. I don't live by faith. I see it's true. Would you give me six more hours? Would you somehow just resuscitate me? Send me back. Give me 24 more hours.
Let me not be deluded with the importance of college football or my kids' sports or more money or more comfort. Oh, let me go tell the world of the glory of who you are. Let me be your servant for just a little bit more, because now I know I'm just here to share in glory with you. Let me go and be a little bit more faithful."
I guarantee you the first thing I will ask God when I'm in heaven, when I see it is, "Lord, let me live a radical life." Guess what: I have that privilege today. The answer to the first prayer I'm going to have in heaven is being granted to me today. This is my day to be a servant of the one who died for me. This is my day to get to know him more. This is my day to love his people. This is my day to share his story. This is my day to use the resources he has given me for his glory.
I am living today in the very first and most passionate prayer I will ever pray when I'm in the presence of my God: "Let me serve you." What a privilege. You'd better believe that he is coming and his reward is with him to render to men according to his deeds. You will be judged, sons. You're sons because Jesus was judged, but servants will be judged on their works.
I'm going to pray, and then we're going to listen to a song, and then we're done. I want you to listen to the song. The song will talk about a story Jesus tells in Matthew 25 about a bunch of virgins who were supposed to trim their lamps and be ready. Jesus' job is to return; our job is to be ready.
Father, I pray that today's message and this series would be useful to us, that we see that your Bible is a record of your love expressed in history, of the God who is slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, who demonstrated his love through his Son, who gave us the gift of the Spirit, that we might be useful and fruitful for you, because we are men, trapped in our trespasses and sins. Your glorious Son Jesus saved us from the death we deserve.
You will come again and will have your reward with you and will render to us according to our deeds. Help our deeds to be glorious. Help us to be faithful brides, clothed in righteousness of the works of faith. We thank you that we're going to be clothed in the righteousness of the works of Christ. We thank you that we're saved by grace through faith alone, but Lord, may the faith that saves in our lives not be alone. In Jesus' name, amen.