Title: Certain and Soon
Text: Matthew 24:29-35
FCF: We often struggle with false assurance.
Prop: The immanent second coming will divide the visible church, so we must be sure we are ready.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 24. I want to apologize that in one of the most difficult sections in the gospel of Matthew, our study has been so broken up. Because of this, for the next few minutes I want to take time to review what we have covered so far in the Olivet Discourse.
Let’s begin by reviewing the less important parts.
Since a great deal of this discourse is written in prophetic language and speaks of the end of the world, there are several viewpoints on how Jesus’ prophesy is fulfilled. These are the primarily positions.
1.) A Futurist Perspective – Everything Jesus says relates to something that has yet to be.
2.) A Preterist Perspective – Everything Jesus says relates to something that has already happened.
3.) A Preterist-Futurist Perspective – Some of what Jesus says has happened, some of what Jesus said has not happened.
1.) Futurists would tend to fall into a view of the end times called premillennialism. This means that Jesus will return prior to a literal 1000 year reign on earth. Futurists would also hold to a pretribulational view of an event called the rapture. Where the church of God are caught up in the clouds with Jesus prior to a period of time characterized by God’s judgment upon the earth. They would say that this period of time is a literal 7 years, or 1 week from Daniel’s prophesy. And upon the completion of that 7 year period, Christ will return to the earth with the elect to judge and reign over the earth for 1000 years.
2.) Preterists in various degrees would primarily fall into two groups.
Postmillennialists, who believe that there will be no literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth per se, but that the church will progressively make the earth more and more the kingdom of Christ until He returns.
The second group in preterism would be Amillennialists. Their name suggests that they do not believe in a millennium at all, which is not exactly true. Much like postmillennialists they see the millennium as happening now. The primary difference between A and Post, is that Amillennialism would say that the world will not get better, but rather, it will get worse until the Lord Jesus must come to end it all and carry us to the eternal state.
3.) Finally are those who are Preterist-Futurists. This group would house basically every premillennialist position that doesn’t adhere to a strict pre-tribulational view of the rapture.
This would include mid-tribulational rapturists who would say at the abomination of desolation, an event that is to happen in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week, the church is raptured out while the 144,000 Jews who are sealed from every tribe of Israel remain, unable to be harmed by the judgments of God.
It would also include pre-wrath rapturists who are similar to mid trib, except they would place the rapture somewhere between the 1st trumpet and the 1st bowl or vial judgment mentioned in Revelation. In their view also, the 144,000 are Jews who are sealed from every tribe of Israel.
Finally it would also include a group called Historic or Classical premillennialism which would hold to a post tribulational rapture of the church and Israel, meeting Christ in the clouds as He is coming to reign for 1000 years, and so also to reign with Him.
With all that confusing stuff out of the way, look with me in your bible to review what we have learned from Chapter 24.
[Slide 4] With the beginning of the chapter, Matthew gives us the shortest narrative in his gospel. A two verse introduction to the thoughts of the disciples of Jesus and the reason they ask the question they do in verse 3. Jesus tells them that the temple, as grand as it was, would be destroyed and no stone left on another.
This forces the disciples to ask 3 questions. When will the destruction of the temple happen, and what will be the sign of his coming and the end of the age.
Jesus begins by answering their second and third question first. He gives them 9 signs in total.
7 of them are hum drum signs that have been true since the garden. 2 of them are promises of the success of His elect. Which also, if you think about it, has always been true.
After this he moves to discuss an event prophesied by Daniel, namely the abomination of desolation set up in the holy place. At the appearance of this sign, the whole of Judea will be under siege. They must quickly flea to the mountains if they have any hope of escape. It will be that event where the temple and city will be destroyed. It will be a time of great suffering and there will be a great apostasy where many are deceived and the visible church is split between real followers of Christ and those who have been faking.
All this leads us to our text this morning. I am in Matthew 24. I’ll start reading in verse 29 from the NET. You can follow along in the pew bible starting on page 1122 or whatever version you prefer. If you don’t have a bible of your own, please take the pew bible with you.
Let’s not waste time. There is some pretty cool stuff to see this morning, and I am excited to show it to you.
I.) The Second coming brings redemption and judgment, so we must be sure we are ready. (29-31)
a. [Slide 5] 29 – Immediately after the suffering of those days
i. Greek is a highly specific language. We who are studying Greek on Tuesday Nights have seen that over and over again.
ii. The two Greek words in this little phrase translated “Immediately after” not only make what comes next in verse 29 sequential to the events that precede it, but also uninterrupted by a time period of any length.
iii. In other words, grammatically, there is no other way around the conclusion that what Jesus predicts next, comes without delay following the events He just spoke of.
iv. Specifically the suffering and apostasy that the elect experience at the abomination of desolation.
v. So what immediately follows this?
b. [Slide 6] The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.
i. The sun will be obscured or hidden, the moon will be without light, the stars will fall.
ii. First of all let’s go back to the Old Testament to see this.
iii. [Slide 7]Is 13:10
iv. [Slide 8] Isaiah 34:4
v. [Slide 9] Joel 2:10
vi. Now let’s look to revelation and see if we can find a correlation.
vii. [Slide 10 - 11] Rev 6:12-14 – sounds the same
viii. [Slide 12] Rev 16:10 – sounds the same
ix. [Slide 13] Revelation 16:17-18 – Sounds the same
x. So in both the seals and bowls we find a darkening of the sun, moon, and stars. Earthquakes and general wrath of God being poured out.
xi. What happens then?
c. [Slide 14] 30 – Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven,
i. What is that sign?
ii. We have no idea.
iii. Could be a banner, could be His presence, the sky rolled back. We do not know.
d. [Slide 15] and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory
i. Why will they mourn? If we had kept reading in the 6th seal, we’d have seen that it was because He is coming in wrath and judgment.
ii. He is arriving with power and authority. This goes back to Daniel.
iii. [Slide 16 - 17] Dan 7:13-14
iv. In this reference we see that He is coming not simply to make an appearance but to rule. To set up an eternal kingdom.
e. [Slide 18] 31 – And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast,
i. What trumpet?
ii. We know that in Revelation there are 7 trumpets, each with judgments attached to them. Do any of them overtly mention this event? No they do not.
iii. So we are still unsure what trumpet this could be.
f. [Slide 19] And they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
i. Many assume this is talking about the rapture.
ii. If it is, it is a tremendous proof text for the mid trib, pre wrath, and post trib rapture view within premillennialism.
iii. As we saw, In the sixth seal’s breaking, all the events that Jesus describes here come to pass. So depending on when that event transpires, middle, pre-bowl judgment, or post-bowl judgment would be when the rapture happens.
iv. If this is not talking about a rapture event, it could be talking about a time when Jesus gathers his elect on earth (the four winds) and in heaven (from one end of heaven to the other) to reign with him in the millennial Kingdom.
v. Or if it is not a rapture context, it could also be talking about gathering the elect for the eternal state, which would mean that in a rare instance, a pretrib, premil person would somewhat agree with an amillennialist. Of course by saying this I have successfully made both groups feel a little queasy J
vi. One final point, A preterist has difficulty with this passage as a whole, because they see the events of Matthew 24:15-28 as already fulfilled in AD 70 with the fall of Jerusalem. However, Jesus says here that immediately following that event and that suffering, the sun moon and stars would be darkened and the Son of Man would return, and he would gather his elect. But that doesn’t seem to have happened yet.
g. [Slide 20] Passage Truth: So what is Jesus teaching His disciples? Quite simply, he is answering their question. These are the signs of my coming, and the end of the age.
h. Passage Application: His application for them has not been made plain yet. But perhaps we can guess. Why would Jesus answer their question so plainly? Why would Jesus give them many signs of the end? He would want them to trust Him and therefore not lose hope. He has made it abundantly clear that the end will bring trouble upon His followers. But they are not without hope. They must comfort one another in knowing that as the end approaches, and as their trials increase, He will come back for them.
i. [Slide 21] Broader Biblical Truth: Broadening this out to a whole bible kind of truth, we can conclude that the end of the age approaches. The whole world is hurtling ever closer to the time when Jesus will return and gather his own to Himself. That gathering is for redemption, and thus it is for hope. However, there is one extra detail that we need to include. Jesus was speaking to His disciples, but one of those disciples was the son of perdition. Matthew is talking to Jews, but not just Christ following Jews. And because of this, Christ includes the detail that all the tribes of the earth will mourn His coming. For the followers of Christ, the end means hope. For those who are not followers, the end means judgment.
j. Broader Biblical Application: So in applying this text in a broad whole bible context kind of way, we must include both outcomes of this one event. If I was speaking to only the elect, I would be saying take hope. Trust your King! Be courageous! Our redemption is sure, regardless of your view of eschatology, our redemption is sure. Rejoice! But if I were speaking to only those whose status is unknown, I would say beware! Repent! For the Kingdom of God has come and is coming and with it the Righteous Judge. He will separate the chaff from the wheat. Beware! The end draws nigh. So combining both of these concepts, the application is simply – Be ready. So are you ready? A question that when asked to the elect is like a father asking his children if they are ready for Christmas. But when asked to a person whose status is unknown, the question takes on a completely different tone. Like a young man turning 18 and asking him if he is prepared to register for the draft. Are you ready? Are you prepared for all the coming of the Son of Man will bring?
[Slide 22 (blank)] The surety of the event presses this question on us. Are you ready? But the surety of the event, is not near as pressing as the timing of the event. That it will happen forces us to action… but as we will see… the timing of the event, raises the fever pitch a hundred fold on the question… Are. You. Ready?
II.) All that is necessary for the Second Coming to occur has already happened, so we must be sure we are ready.(32-35)
a. [Slide 23] 32 - Learn this parable from the fig tree
i. This is not the first time he has used a fig tree to illustrate his point.
ii. But here he calls attention to the importance of understanding this parable.
iii. If we can understand what the fig tree teaches, we can understand what He is teaching.
iv. So let’s try.
b. [Slide 24] Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.
i. What Jesus gives us is just the simple illustration that we need to realize that His point is not that difficult to grasp.
ii. Fig trees are late bloomers. They bear leaves in late spring and begin producing their fruit in the summer.
iii. So as you see the signs of spring all around you, you may be wondering when will summer come. But when you look to the fig tree and you see tender branches (new branches) and leaves, you know for sure that summer is very near.
c. [Slide 25] 33 – So also you, when you see all these things
i. What things? Well, so far…
ii. Jesus gave 7 hum drum signs and 2 promises to the disciples
iii. He predicted both the abomination of desolation and great suffering and apostasy.
iv. And most recently he predicted the darkening of the lights of the sky and His coming.
v. So what things is he talking about? All of them? That is what the text says. But look what He says next.
d. [Slide 26] Know that he is near, right at the door.
i. Who is he?
ii. The most obvious reference is to the Son of Man. So Jesus is answering the question of the disciples. What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?
iii. Jesus says, that you will know that the Son of Man is near, right at the door, when you see all these things.
iv. So what are “All these things”
1. So the signs he told them in verse 3-14 are included for sure.
2. What about the abomination of desolation and the suffering of the people of God and apostasy? Probably?
a. But take note of something. Jesus predicts the suffering in the abomination of desolation being quick and difficult to escape, and immediately following that is the darkening of the celestial lights and His coming.
b. That leads me to conclude that the events after the abomination of desolation being set up, will follow in very quick succession.
c. So perhaps, 15-28 is NOT included in “all these things?”
d. Perhaps the reason we are uncertain, is because there really are two fulfillments of verses 15-28.
3. What about verses 30 and 31? Would “all these things” include this?
4. These all seem to pertain to his coming and not the signs of his coming, so I’d say no.
5. Therefore, It seems best to understand the “All These Things” as the 9 signs Jesus gave, and, if you, somehow, have time to notice them and respond before the end, then it would also include the abomination of desolation, great suffering, great apostasy, and darkening of the celestial lights.
v. So when you see these signs, know that he is close.
e. [Slide 27] 34 – I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
i. This verse is quite a large thorn in the side of any non-preterist. Particularly in reference to the phrase “this generation”
ii. Much argument goes on about what is “This generation” in this text.
iii. But the most natural way to interpret the phrase, is that Jesus is talking to His disciples and tells them that in their lifetimes, or their generation, they would see all the signs pointing to the nearness of the coming of the Son of Man.
iv. Many other theories are proposed at the meaning of “This generation” but they all seem to twist the phrase to fit whatever system they believe. I won’t discuss all the other opinions because…
v. For me, the more important phrase is not “this generation” but “All these things”
vi. This generation will not pass away until all these things take place. What things?
vii. We have already attempted to answer that. And can I submit to you, that everything Jesus told them as signs of the coming of the Son of Man, did happen in their lifetimes.
1. They saw all 9 signs being fulfilled that Jesus mentioned in verses 3-14.
2. Did they see the destruction and devastation of Jerusalem in AD 70? some of them did.
3. Yet we do not have the darkening of the celestial lights or the second coming of the Son of Man? Why? Well my solution is…
4. Because verses 15-28 are a dual prophesy. Of two future events.
5. So when Jesus said that when you see all these things the coming of the Son of Man is near – He was meaning the most future fulfillment of 15-28. A future fulfillment even for us. – But when He says that this generation will see all these things he is referring to the least future fulfilling of 15-28. Which was AD 70.
6. Now you may accuse me of stretching Jesus’ words, but Isaiah did the same thing to Ahaz when he predicted that Ahaz would see the man born of a virgin or young maiden who would be called Immanuel. Ahaz clearly saw the first fulfilment in his lifetime which was Isaiah’s son – but Ahaz certainly did not see the second fulfillment of that prophesy which was Jesus Christ.
7. Meaning that if Jesus meant it this way, it is completely consistent with other scriptural examples of prophetic sign giving.
viii. But Jesus wants them to know something else…
f. [Slide 28] 35 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
i. His words will never fade, and they most certainly will come true.
ii. He will return. He will come back. Of that we can be sure. A great promise to His elect, and a terrible warning to those whose status is unknown.
iii. Even though all creation crumble… He will keep His word.
g. [Slide 29] Passage Truth: Jesus’ point in this second half of our text this morning, is different than it was in the first half. For review, the first truth Jesus taught his disciples was simply assuring them of his coming. But Jesus now tells them when that sign would occur. Jesus is insisting here on His immanent return. Meaning, that it will not be long for all the signs he already told them about, to come to pass. Like 40 years to be precise.
h. Passage Application: His application for them is to trust His words. Trust what He has said. In the throes of their persecution, in the midst of their suffering, though heaven and earth melt away like snow, remember and trust, believe and hope in the return of the Son of Man and their redemption.
i. [Slide 30] Broader Biblical Truth: This truth broadens out for us as well in that we need to understand that for 2000 years now, the signs have all been fulfilled. The whole earth anxiously awaits with bated breath the coming of its true King. And the one thing that is clear in this passage is that it could happen at any time. There are caveats to this truth that we will learn next week, but for now, just know, that the Son of Man’s second coming could happen at any moment. There is nothing – I repeat – nothing that must happen still before Christ’s return. Now I don’t say that because I am ignorant of many things in scripture that seem to remain unfulfilled that precede His coming. I say that because that is what this passage of scripture is teaching. Jesus wanted His followers and those who were not His followers to know, that in their lifetimes, all that needed to be fulfilled, would be. What does that mean for us?
j. Broader Biblical Application: Previously we discussed the question, Are you ready? To the elect that is a question of hopeful anticipation, but to those whose status is still unknown, that is a question of fear and dread. What we learned in this second half has only amplified the urgency and weightiness of the question. Again to the elect, knowing that all the signs are fulfilled, the question moves from a father saying, are you ready for Christmas, to a father asking his children on Christmas day if they are ready to open their presents. But to those whose status is unknown, before the question was asking an 18 year old if he was ready to register for the draft, but with all the signs fulfilled, and Christ’s return immanent, the question is aboard a ship heading to a fortified beach… Are you ready?
[Slide 31 (blank)] So we have seen the certainty that the Son of Man will return to judge or save. We have also seen the immanency of that return in that it could happen at any moment. Which has pushed us to the question, are you ready? But taking that question to our everyday lives, what does that mean? What would it look like to be ready or, not ready?
As we have already hinted, this primarily depends on which spiritual class of people you are. Are you elect of God, or are you status unknown?
Well first, logically, we must determine how one would know that they are either. How do you know whether you are elect, or status unknown? Almost like God knew we’d ask that, much of the New Testament was given for people to know or to have assurance that they are elect of God.
So what is the test? How can I know?
In short, the way you know you are saved is because you are being saved. You say well that is confusing. Let me explain. The way you know you are saved, is that you are being saved from what you were and being saved to what God intended you to be. Ok, starting to get clearer. Let me be blunt. The way you know you are God’s child, is that you have a supernatural love of God’s law and that you have supernatural power to keep it. You can see the work of God in your life.
Think about it. If salvation is God’s work in you… and He is changing you into a new creation. Old has gone and new has come. Then wouldn’t it make sense that we would begin to think how God thinks, Feel how God feels, and act as God acts? That we would know His law, love His law and Keep His law?
This is the mark of the elect. Followers of Jesus… wait for it… they follow Jesus. That is the test. Are you more like Christ today than 10 years ago? 5 years ago? 3 years ago?
So which are you?
First things first. Let’s talk with those of you who either answered - I don’t know, or yeah if the standard is supernatural change and obedience, than no I’m not part of the elect.
Are you ready for the coming of the Son of Man. The first time He came, he came in meekness. He was lowly. He never left Judea. He lived his life as a pauper and He died as a criminal. The world should have forgotten his existence a long time ago. Yet His divine legacy endures. When He comes back, and yes He will come back, and soon. He will come back in power, and in wrath. He will not be the lowly peasant, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will be the Righteous Judge.
How do you suppose someone like that may judge you? When He comes in fury, when He comes in wrath, when He comes to bring to Justice all those who have failed to bring glory to the Father… do you think you can stand? Do you think that your petty little good works are going to stand up to that King?
[Slide 32-34] Let me read the full text of the sixth seal from Revelation 6:12-17
Are you ready for that?
You may be wondering… how can I be ready for that? No one is ready for that. I am doomed. I am doomed and there is no hope for me.
[Slide 35 (end)] If this is what you are honestly thinking, and not words I have put in your head. Than you are absolutely right. There is no hope for you. Because you are the problem. But what if you could change your identity? What if you could be made into something, someone new? There is still time for you. God is still extending mercy to you through His Son. Reject yourself and all the hopelessness that your identity would offer you on the day of His coming… and cry out to God. Keep asking, keep seeking Mercy from Him. Keep knocking on His door until He comes to let you in. Abandon the ship of you and cry out to God to send you the Ark, like He did for Noah.
That is how you can be made ready for the second coming of the Son of Man.
But what about for the elect? What does it look like to be ready?
I hope it is not too disappointing for me to say… come back for the next 5 weeks J
Because for the remainder of the discourse, that is exactly what Jesus is talking about.
But to send you home with something today to tie you over until next week… Trust your King. Trust His Words. He told you He is coming back for you. He told you He is coming to take you home. He told you He is coming to redeem you. Trust Him. And trusting Him has various applications all its own, which we will see as we press on, but for now, don’t lose heart. Why?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is an eternal God, the creator of the whole earth.
He does not get tired or weary; there is no limit to his wisdom.
to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy. (Do you need an energy boost to keep combating the world, sin, the devil and your flesh?)
they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired.
So rise up you who wait for the glorious appearing of our Lord! Walk, Run with endurance, knowing that one day soon, he’ll give us wings to fly.