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BIRTHPANGS: part two
The Signs of the Coming Future from the Gospel of Mark 13:5 to 8
Have you been paying close attention to the news? I was shocked to learn recently the number of natural disasters around the world has increased by more than four times in the last twenty years. A British charity, Oxfam, analyzed data from the Red Cross and the United Nations (with the help of some university of Belgium researchers). Together they found the earth is currently experiencing 500 major natural disasters per year, compared to 120 per year in the 1980’s, and the trend seems to be accelerating.
The number of people affected by natural disasters rose from 174 million people affected per year (in 1985) to 254 million people affected by disaster just ten years later. Even this year (in 2014) there have been more earthquakes than usual in 2014. A new study by the USGS finds there were more than twice as many big earthquakes in the first quarter of 2014, as compared with the average since 1980. Geophysicist Tom Parsons, with the U.S. Geological Survey, just said, “We have recently experienced a period that has had one of the highest rates of great earthquakes ever recorded. In the last ten years, the average annual rate for killer earthquakes; magnitude 8 and larger; has jumped 300 percent.”
Did you know, the number of nations involved in armed conflict continues to increase internationally? Then with the increase of worldwide media, TV, internet and more, the number of leaders offering false answers to the world’s problems continues to increase. The birth pangs of the end times are increasing with intensity.
In a day famous for living “YOLO” (you only live once), Jesus Christ declares, “every one of you will live forever (YOLF). But only those in Christ will live in perfect joy in Heaven, and those who reject Christ will live in everlasting torment. Every person in this room here is fallen in sin, and this earth is under a curse because of sin, and our only hope is Christ who died for the sins of His children, and who alone will someday reverse the curse on this planet.
Open your Bibles to Mark 13:1 to 13, and listen to Jesus Christ as He describes the difficulty of living on this planet in our day, and as He describes the indicators, which will intensify as we get closer to His Second Coming. Stand with me and let’s read verses 4 to 8 together from our outline. After Jesus says the Great Temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed in verses 1 to 3, the disciples ask this in verse 4–let’s read together.
“’Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?’ [DECEPTION] 5 And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, “I am He!” and will mislead many. [DISASTER] 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.’”
Mark 13 is called the Olivet Discourse because Jesus delivered this teaching on the Mount of Olives, which is just east of the Temple, across the Kidron Valley. It is the longest discourse in Mark by our Lord. In fact, the Lord’s answer is the longest answer to any question recorded in the New Testament, reminding you and I to pay attention.
The Olivet Discourse could be the single most important passage of prophecy in all the Bible. This discourse concerns the devastating destruction of the Temple as a soon coming type of the future devastating destruction of the Tribulation, then the certain Second Coming of our Lord.
Mark 13 concerns eschatology, a word which comes from eschatos meaning last, and ology meaning study–the study of last things. And no matter which approach you take to the last things–no matter what hermeneutic you use to interpret the Bible, whether normally/literally like we premillennialists do at FBC, or allegorically like the amillennial or postmillennialists do–all views of the end times agree that Jesus Christ will physically and gloriously return to this planet and set things right.
Jesus said in John 14:3, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Revelation ends with Jesus’ promise, “Surely I am coming soon,” and John’s response, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
As we dig into Mark 13:5 to 25, the Lord will describe the coming 7-year period, also found in Daniel 9:24 to 27, and found in Revelation 6 through 19, called the Tribulation, or Daniel’s Seventieth Week. The Lord is telling you, life during our day will be marked with trouble–like deception, war, famine, earthquakes and more—today. And when we finally arrive at the Tribulation, those same troubling signs are going to intensify in a way they never have–more deception, more war, more famine, more quakes, and more death.
And here is the question you’re asking, as these signs described in Mark 13:5 to 13 begin to intensify in our day. Is it indicating that we are approaching the beginning of the Tribulation? Our Lord wants His men, and you, to know what this Tribulation will be like. He describes the first 3-½ years, the beginning of the Tribulation, in verses 5 to 13, then the middle in 14 to 18, and finally the last 3-½ years called The Great Tribulation, the horrible outpouring of God’s wrath for sin on this planet, in 19 to 25.
So are we getting closer to the beginning of the end? Are these signs intensifying in order to indicate the soon coming Tribulation? Listen carefully to what Jesus says here in Mark, pick up the same warnings elsewhere in Scripture, be here each week, and by the time we get to verse 37 you’ll get your answer.
But do not be afraid. God has plans for His children. Many of us believe our God has a plan to actually remove us from this planet before He pours out His wrath on this planet. And He plans to do so via the rapture. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 4. Even though the movie, “Left Behind”, is getting bad reviews, being a fictional adaptation with unbiblical assumptions and additions—in spite of all that. In spite of Nicholas Cage–okay? It doesn’t have a prayer. I read one review of “Left Behind” which called it “The Rupture”.
There will be a rapture–why? The Bible says so. What is it? The rapture is a future event when Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven, and in a moment of time, resurrect the bodies of departed believers, transform the bodies of living believers immediately into His glorious presence, then escort them to Heaven to live with Him forever.
The Lord wants you to be aware of the rapture. Our believing loved ones who have died will not miss out on Heaven! Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 14, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”
At the rapture, the Lord will come again in the clouds with a shout–and the bodies of dead believers will be bodily resurrected. Verses 15 and 16, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
Then as soon as the dead have been raised, living believers will immediately be transformed into glorified bodies without dying, and then forevermore be with Christ. Verse 17 is the hope of everyone in this room–look. “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” The dead in Christ and the living in Christ will all receive their eternal glorified bodies at the same moment, so there’s no need to fear death.
“But Chris, the word ‘rapture’ is not in the Bible.” So right you are–but just because that word is not in the Bible, that does not make it false. The word Trinity is not in the Bible either. The word rapture comes from the verb “caught up” in verse 17—look there. “We who are alive and remain will be caught up together.” That Greek term, caught up, is harpazo, which means to seize or take away. And harpazo was translated in the early Latin versions of the Bible with the Latin word rapturo, which is where we get our English word for rapture.
Some believe John 14 and 1 Corinthians 15 point to the rapture as well. John 14:2 and 3, “’In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.’” First Corinthians 15:51 and 52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
When will the rapture be? I believe the best view is to hope for the rapture prior to, or before the Tribulation, or as it’s called, a pretribulation rapture. There are those who think it’s in the middle of the Tribulation, called mid-Trib, or at the end of the Tribulation, post-Trib, and some who believe it is right before the final outpouring of God’s wrath toward the end of the Tribulation, called pre-wrath. There are even some who think only on fire, Spirit-filled Christians get to go, called partial-Trib. If that were true, who of you would be raptured, and who’d still be here?
Why should you hope in the rapture before the Tribulation? Obviously, no sane person here wants to go through the Tribulation. But biblically, why can we hope in a pretribulation rapture? Turn to 2 Thessalonians 2.
Because the rapture is described as sudden and unexpected, but the Second Coming is described as slow and viewed by the world
Because the Church is curiously absent from Revelation 6 to 19, which is the detailed account of the Tribulation–we’re absent from the Tribulation
Because 2 Thessalonians 2 tells us the restrainer is removed–this present age is described as the age of restraint. Second Thessalonians 2:6, “And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.” The Tribulation age is described as the age of rebellion. Second Thessalonians 2:7 and 8, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed.”
Who is the restrainer? It is best to see the restrainer as the Holy Spirit working through the Church. Why? Because the restrainer must have omnipotent power–there is a change of gender in verses 6 and 7 which can only be explained by the Spirit, who is described both by the neuter noun “spirit” and the pronoun “He”. Plus the Spirit is the one described as restraining sin and evil, and the Church is the main instrument the Spirit uses to restrain evil.
So once the Church is removed, and the Spirit’s work of restraining evil through the people of God is gone, this earth will rush toward an unprecedented season of anti-God rebellion, evil will reign, led by the Antichrist, who is then revealed. And all of this points to a pretribulation rapture. Why else a pretribulation rapture? Turn back to 1 Thessalonians 1, and then 5.
Because we are told repeatedly in the Bible that as God’s true children, we will be saved from the wrath to come, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” First Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” We are kept from the wrath to come.
The rapture is also before the Tribulation . . .
Because the Church is viewed as in Heaven during the Tribulation–Revelation 4:4, “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.” In Revelation there are a total of twelve references to elders being in Heaven. Though there were elders in Israel, this term as a title is unique to the Church, representing the Church, and in the book of Revelation, demonstrating that the Church is in Heaven during the Tribulation. Plus the things the elders do, such as casting crowns, sitting on thrones, wearing white clothing, and singing praise are all unique promises or activities of the Church. This shows us the Church is in Heaven during the Tribulation.
And though there are many more reasons, the rapture is pretribulation because the rapture is imminent–it could occur at any moment, even right now. Believers are to be looking for it all the time. First Corinthians 1:7, “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,”
Titus 2:13, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
Are you looking for it? Are you ready to go? Are you waiting for your snatching? If so, if we really are ready, it will move us to live for Christ all the more zealously, and all the more purely. First John 3:3, “Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” It will make the sacrifices we make for Christ in this life seem very small compared to what is coming. And looking at each day as our last will cause us to truly number our days.
How soon will it be? Back to Mark 13–the birth pangs of Mark 13 will occur in our day, leading up to the Tribulation. But when the Tribulation arrives, these birth pangs will hit with savage intensity at a level and proportion the world has never seen. The Church is raptured out, the restrainer is removed, and it ushers our world into chaos. We have war now, earthquake now, we have famine now, we have trouble now, we have killing now, persecution now, we have hatred now–but nothing compared to the incredible display that’s going to take place during that 7-year period of time when there’s no restrainer in the world to suppress the evil of men.
Again, the imagery Jesus uses is of a woman in labor. Just as a woman’s beginning of labor is less severe compared to the hard labor to follow, so too, this time of Tribulation will begin with lighter pain, but immediately transition to all out, intensive, hard labor prior to Christ’s return. First Thessalonians 5:1 to 3, “As to the times and the epochs, you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 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.”
So what are these birth pangs? Jesus identifies four distinct realities. Last time we looked at . . .
#1 Religious DECEPTION Mark 13:5 to 6
“And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, “I am He!” and will mislead many.’” The greatest threat at the end of time is not external dangers, but religious deception. “See to it” is a command–beware, keep your eyes open.
False religions which promote a false christ, like Catholicism and Islam, will deceive many. If it isn’t the biblical Christ, it is a false christ who cannot provide true salvation. Plus there’ll be prophets who’ll arise using the name of Christ, claiming for themselves the title of “Messiah”. Today, we need to tell people to stop listening for a voice and start looking for a verse–He’s already spoken.
We’ve always had false christs, but during this final phase of the end of the world, the Tribulation, there’ll be a proliferation of them like nothing we’ve ever seen. Notice verse 6, “’Many will come in My name.’” When the true Church is taken out of the world, deceivers will be able to work more persuasively than ever, so that deception will reach massive proportions during the Tribulation. The Holy Spirit will withdraw His restraining power, and all hell will break loose.
And as the world begins to unravel at the seams through political change, environmental holocausts, economic upheaval–the time will be ripe for a deliverer to come on the scene and deceptively offer himself as the solution. These false messiahs will ultimately be the lynch pin for the ultimate deceiver, the false christ himself–the Antichrist, who during the Tribulation, according to Daniel 11, will magnify himself above God Himself. Paul calls him the man of lawlessness, Son of Destruction, and Revelation says he’s called the Beast.
Daniel calls him the “the willful king” in 11:36, with “a fiery countenance” (8:23). Daniel 8:25 says through his shrewdness he will cause deceit to succeed by his influence; and he will magnify himself in his heart, and he will destroy many while they are at ease.
At the first seal in Revelation 6:1 to 2, “Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, … I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” The rider upon the white horse under the first seal is a counterfeit. He is a false Christ, who comes to conquer.
His conquest starts as a bloodless one, as he only has a bow. He uses peace to ultimately destroy. His power will escalate during the accelerating birth pangs that will eventually thrust him in power during the second half of the Tribulation in Daniel 9:24 to 27. Matthew 24:24, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” Deception is deadly, and this is only the beginning of birth pangs. Mark 13:5, “See to it that no one misleads you.”
And students, don’t be misled now. Don’t think, “Okay, I’ll do what I want now, but when I find myself in the Tribulation, then I’ll turn to Christ.” That’s foolish—and deadly. You could die suddenly, but even if you do not, God’s Word says those who’ve heard the Gospel now will be deluded during the Tribulation and will not be able to respond to the Gospel.
Speaking of the Antichrist, Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 to 11, “One whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.” Religious deception is here, it’s getting worse, and it’s going to be intense at the end.
#2 International DISSENSION Mark 13:7 to 8a
“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” This is human history. Hot wars and cold wars between nations have been a reality throughout every year of history. And we’re not getting any better. We’re not evolving too well, are we? Our Lord accurately foresaw the world would never know peace–never improve morally, never improve socially, never improve spiritually, but it would in fact devolve into a worse condition.
As many as ninety-five percent of societies throughout history have engaged in war. It’s everywhere. As technology increases, so does killing power. Why do we have war? There are all kinds of theories:
Marxist theory which has to do with economic inequality
Evolutionary theory which has to do with the survival of the fittest
Behavioral theory says some people have an inherent violent bent
Demographic theory says expanding population leads to conflict
Rationalistic theory says some people just don’t have enough info
Political science theory points to people’s quest for security
But there is only one correct reason–there is only one accurate reason for war, not theory but truth. James says in James 4:1, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.” You hate others and you want what they have for yourself.
War is one of the constants of history. War has not diminished with civilization and democracy. In fact, in the last 3,421 years of recorded history, only 268 years have seen no war. One author counted 300 wars in Europe during the last 300 years. Since 1985 up until recently, almost a half million people have died every year in war. In the 700s, the great war in China killed 36 million people. In the Mongol Conquest in the 13th century, 50 million people died. In World War I, 20 million people died. In World War II, 72 million people died. And on it goes–that is human history, and it’s not changing but will only escalate.
And wait until we get to Revelation 6, 9 and 16. As you look at the wars during the Tribulation, massive death will take place on a scale that has never occurred before. But for now verse 7, “Wars and rumors of wars” will characterize our day! Jesus says wars will be typical of our time before the end. The threat of war will always be with us until the Tribulation.
These wars range from physical destruction, to political and economic wars. It might even include a cyber war. But as we get closer to the Tribulation, these wars will increase with intensity. It will be so bad the Antichrist will first rise to power by bringing peace. He’ll achieve a false peace, but then the greatest war this planet has ever seen will begin. Zechariah 14:1 to 3, “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations.”
Then the second seal in Revelation 6:3 to 4, “When He broke the second seal…And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.” The first rider on the white horse brings peace, but this second seal takes away peace. The horse in the second seal is red, with a sword to slay, indicating the holocaust of war.
So God prophesies a worldwide war converging on Jerusalem. Even now, that part of the world is a powder keg waiting to go off. In 9:27, Daniel describes Israel making a covenant with the Antichrist in order to protect herself during the Tribulation. In Revelation 9:16, “The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million.” China’s army has surpassed that number years ago.
So Jesus says in Mark 13:8, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” This not only describes war, but hints at civil war. “Will rise” is literally will be roused, telling us they provoke each other. As we get closer to the end, nations will war against themselves. And civil wars are intensifying–from 1800 to 1945 there were 37 civil wars, and from 1945 to current there’ve been 81 civil wars, a 200% increase.
But look again at Mark 13:7 to 8a, “Do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.” Here is the second command in these birth pang verses—“do not be frightened,” do not be disturbed, alarmed, troubled. Do not allow wars, or the potential of war, of attack, or radiation or disease, or economic collapse act upon you to frighten you.
War (being attacked) brings about natural feelings of alarm and fear. So Jesus says, “Do not allow political or social upheaval to upset you so that you do not carry on with the work of the Gospel.” Don’t become alarmed thinking God has lost control, or that this is the end—why? Verse 7, “Those things must take place.” It is by divine compulsion these things must take place.
Do you remember what Jesus said back in Mark 8:31? “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” “These things must take place.” God knew in advance suffering, beatings and crucifixion was planned for Him–this was and is God’s will to accomplish salvation. God is orchestrating history to accomplish His perfect plan.
Verse 7, “Those things must take place”–literally, it must be. This is partly due to the nature of living in a cursed planet, but mainly due to a preordained divine decree. They are divinely initiated as part of God’s eschatological program for this world, which includes judgment and salvation. Look at verse 7 again—“But that is not yet the end.” All these stirring events do not constitute the immediate sign of the end of the age. They demonstrate the rotten moral condition of the world, which will certainly lead to judgment, but not yet, implying that there is more suffering in store first. The worst is yet to come. This is only the beginning.
#1 Religious DECEPTION
#2 International DISSENSION
#3 Natural DISASTERS
Verse 8b, “Earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines.” As I said, in the last ten years the average annual rate for killer earthquakes–magnitude 8 and larger has jumped 300 percent. Luke’s account in 21:11 says, “There’ll be great earthquakes,” seismos megaloi–mega quakes, like a 9-point quake 80 miles off the shore of Japan. Throughout history, countless millions have died in earthquakes. There are over one-half million earthquakes a year every year. A hundred thousand of them are felt, but a half million register on the Richter scale.
As the Tribulation begins, earthquakes will devastate. Revelation 6:12, “When He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake.” Revelation 11:13, “And in that hour there was a great earthquake and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified.” Revelation 16:18, “And there was a great earthquake such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.” Revelation 16:20, “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” You live on a shaky planet, and you’re in California, the ring of fire.
Earthquakes are not produced by wars, so it’s clear these items introduce a new source of horror and suffering–natural disasters. Jesus adds natural disasters in various places, meaning these earthquakes will occur in many places, and may be implying possibly in several places at once. Verse 8 adds there will also be famines. Likely these famines are the consequence of the “wars” and “earthquakes”.
And it is not an accident that famine corresponds with now the third seal in Revelation 6:5 to 6, “When He broke the seal,…and behold, a black horse and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.… A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.” Famines are a tragic feature of human history, and the prospects of a worldwide famine are no longer just a fear-mongering danger.
Around 3 million people died from famine in North Korea in the late 1990s after a series of environmental crises. Every year, environmentalists seek to prevent the locust plague, which if not stopped, will result in a vast continental famine. As a result of not gaining access to countries for political reasons, they failed to stop the swarm early enough in 2004, which wiped out the food in several west African nations. Famine is going to augment the sufferings of deception, dissension and disasters, causing some to believe the end is near. But at the end in the Tribulation, famines will be more devastating and more intense than anything we have ever seen.
Luke 21 also adds, there’ll be plagues, terrors and great signs from Heaven. You want plagues? We’ve already experienced the black death, in the 1300s in Europe, carried by rats, which killed 60 percent of the population of Europe–in excess of a hundred million people. We’ve already had over 40 million who were killed in the great influenze during World War I. We’ve had the SARS outbreak in 2003, and the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, and we’re all watching Ebola.
Luke adds there will be terrors and signs from Heaven, which are manifestations in the skies both terrifying to men, and as signs the physical heavens and Earth are coming to a close. Comets, eclipses, meteors, volcanoes and more scary phenomena point to the end, which then directs us to the coming of Christ. Mount Sinabung just erupted on October 5th, causing hundreds to flee their homes in Indonesia. But until Christ comes, great signs in the sky, fires, diseases, heat, cold, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, drought and tsunamis are all headed our way now, and far worse later. This planet is a dangerous place, and it’s going to get deadly.
Look at the end of verse 8. It says, “These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs”–again the analogy of a woman’s contractions. Starting mild they’re separated–but as they get closer together, they intensify before the birth. Birth pangs signal the end of the pregnancy, just like these signs in Mark signify the path toward the end. What we’re seeing in human history is just the beginning. Today? Could it be we’re seeing the contractions beginning to intensify?
Sadly, today’s indicators could merely be mild contractions. Wait till you see what’s going to happen just before the very end. Two thousand years of milder contractions will explode at the end, during the time of Tribulation. Jesus tells us in verse 8, “These are just the beginning.” At the beginning of the Tribulation these disasters will be severe.
But there’s good news–“birth pangs” mean we’re looking forward to the birth of a new age, the Lord’s Kingdom of peace. This earth is awaiting regeneration, and we are awaiting our new glorified body–and it will all come together when Jesus Christ returns and establishes His 1,000-year Kingdom on Earth. It will truly be beyond description, beyond joy, beyond perfect. I cannot wait! Ask yourself . . .
1 Where is your HOPE?
Troubles are coming, and troubles either drive you from Christ or drive you to Christ. Not only will this earth turn worse, but the unsaved will turn on Christians next week. A 4th distress is coming in verses 9 to 13. If it costs you everything, will you still follow Christ? Will you stand up for Him and His Word when it means trouble? How about when it means loss, pain or death? Is your hope in this world, or is it in Christ?
2 Where is your LOVE?
When Christ is your first love, then your changing life is the expression of your devotion to Him–and the proof that He is at work in you. Is He your first love?
3 Where is your ZEAL?
If you believe this world is going to burn, and that only what is done for Christ will last eternally, then does it show in your service, your ministry, your giving, and especially your love? You really haven’t trusted God until you’ve attempted something you could never do in your own power. Have you? Where is your zeal?
4 Where is your HOME?
Read Colossians 3:1, “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” What in your life actually proves you would rather be in Heaven with Christ than here on Earth? And if you believe in the rapture, what kind of attitudes should be present in your life daily, anticipating your snatching away? And finally . . .
5 Where is your TRUST?
Jesus Christ, God who became a man, lived a perfect life, ministered for 3½ years on Earth doing miracles, proved He is God in the flesh, taught men to turn from sin and follow His Word. Then out of unbelievable love, Jesus took the place of His children on a cross to take the punishment of death for sins.
Every human is corrupted by sin, sick with sin, saturated in sin–and our sinfulness is so ugly, God hates it. Jesus died for sins, then rose from the dead to provide salvation and a totally new life for His children. If you exchange all you are for all that He is, He can save you. If He gives you the gift of faith to depend on Him and the gift of repentance to turn from your sin, you can be saved.
Have you trusted in Christ? Are you sick of your sin yet? Then cry out for mercy like the tax collector in Luke 18:13, “Standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” But be warned, friend–the same God who came to Earth as the sacrificial savior is coming back as the conquering sovereign God of wrath. It will be Jesus who pours out His wrath on this planet. It will be Jesus who returns as the Judge, and it will be terrible for any who are not in Him. Cry out for salvation today! Let’s pray.