Keep Building One Another Up

Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Main Point: Build others up because Jesus is coming.

We are a people who love God, love others, and listen to the Word. God’s Word is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the story of God’s people looking forward to Jesus. The New Testament is the story of Jesus and what it means to live as his people waiting for his return. Today we are in the New Testament; we’re in 1 Thessalonians 5. The Thessalonians were a people who had been celebrating the Lord’s Supper and declaring Jesus’ death until he comes. They were looking for Jesus’ return, but it wasn’t coming quickly, they were being persecuted, and church members were dying. They had questions about what it means to be the church waiting for Jesus to return. The end of it is this admonition: build others up because Jesus is coming. Let’s read it. Let’s read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.

When it comes to living the Christian life,

I. Remember what you have been taught (1-5)

Acts 17 records the story of Paul and Silas planting the church in Thessalonica. Acts 20 records the account of Paul returning to the area and people from Thessalonica joined him in his missionary work. So, when Paul writes, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night,” Paul is here referring to the fact that he has thoroughly taught them concerning the return of Jesus. From the very beginning of their Christian lives, they had instructions about the 2nd coming of Christ. What follows in chapter 5 is a reminder of what they already know as well as some application on how these truths should shape their lives. Here’s what they know

  • Jesus’ return will surprise the world (2-3)

Look back at verse 2 and pay attention to what they are fully aware of, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

We really need to define that phrase “the day of the Lord.” What is the day of the Lord? The day of the Lord is the day when Jesus returns to judge the world and save his church. For one group, for the world, the day of the Lord is a terrible terrifying day. Isaiah 13:6 says, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!” (ca Joel 1:15; 2:30-32; Amos 5:18). For the unbelieving world, the day of the Lord is a horrible transition to judgment. For the believing church, the day of the Lord is glorious. The day of the Lord is, verse 9, when we receive the fullness of salvation. The day of the Lord is that 1 John 3:2 time when Jesus appears, and we are made like him because we will see him as he is. For the church, the day of the Lord is good and glorious; its everything we are hoping and striving for. For the world, the day of the Lord is awful and terrifying; it’s the loss of every good grace and it is the fullness of God’s wrath.

Look back at 1 Thessalonians 5:2. What is the coming of the day of the Lord like? The day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. Here’s the problem with burglars: they don’t tell you when they are coming. Jesus’ return is certain, but he will return at a time when it is unexpected by the world.

I want you to notice why the return of Jesus will be unexpected. The world won’t expect Jesus’ return because things will appear to be good. 1 Thessalonians 5:3, “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them.” The picture we have of life just before Jesus’ return is one of a sinful world enjoying their sin in relative peace and security. Sodom and Gomorrah enjoyed their rebellion in relative ease until the very day of destruction. So it was in the days of Noah, “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Lk 17:20-37).

People who are longing for Jesus’ return, people who are putting sin to death, and people who are enduring persecution for the advance of the gospel will not be surprised by Jesus’ return. On the other hand, people who are sleeping morally and are drunk on pleasure will be surprised.

But let’s not judge them; they already have a judge. Let’s fear for them and love them and share the gospel with them. We fear for them because of what is coming. Look at the end of verse 3, “then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” People who are currently enjoying the ease of sinful pleasure will soon suffer the fullness of God’s wrath because of their sin. An eternal hell is coming for those who are not looking for Jesus’ return. Like a pregnant woman who cannot escape the coming pain of her labor, so the sleeping world cannot escape the coming pain of judgment on the day of the Lord.

The return of Christ will surprise the world but not the church.

  • We will not be surprised by Jesus’ return (4-5)

Look at verse 4, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”

When you are in the dark you cannot see what is going on; you can’t see what’s coming. But when you are in the light you see what’s going on; you see what’s coming. We have the Word of God, a lamp for our feet, so that we can see the reality of Jesus’ return.

The first reason we are not surprised is we are not in the darkness. Verse 5 gives the next reason we are not surprised. Look at verse 5, “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

This is more than you have a Bible, verse 5 points to the very nature of what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to be a son of light or a son of the day. This is a Jewish way of saying light and day characterize your person. In Acts 4:36 we meet a man named Barnabas. Barnabas’s name means son of encouragement. Barnabas was an encourager. He comforted the church and built up the members. Just as Barnabas was characterized by encouragement so also Christians are characterized by light and day. We are not in moral darkness because we have been given the light of Christ. Jesus said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” So, in 1 Thessalonians 5, being a child of the light means you are believing and looking for Jesus’ return. You aren’t making excuses for your sin. You are hoping for Jesus’ return.

John Stott puts it well, “Imagine you and your family are enjoying your summer holiday. One evening the sun goes down, you draw the curtains, and everybody goes to bed. You sleep well too, because the following day you are expecting a visit from the family’s favorite Uncle Bill. But because you are tired, you oversleep. In the morning, the sun rises as usual, but you know nothing about it because you are still fast asleep and the curtains are still drawn. Only one member of the family wakes early, your eldest daughter. She gets up and flings back the curtains of her room, so that the sun streams in. Suddenly, there is a loud knock on the front door, and Uncle Bill stands outside. Your daughter is ready to welcome him. She is not taken by surprise, for she is awake, alert and in the light. But the rest of you are covered with confusion because you are still asleep and still in the darkness. So, the question which Paul’s teaching presses upon us is this: to which age do you belong, the [light or the dark]? Do we belong to the night or to the day? Are we asleep or awake? Are our curtains still drawn, or has the light of Jesus Christ shone in upon us? (John Stott, The Message of 1&2 Thessalonians, 111).

If the return of Christ never factors into your decisions, you are probably not a Christian. Are you sleeping in the dark of this world or are you awake to the reality of the return of Jesus? If you are a Christian,

II. Be watchful and sober (6-8)

Paul has established the difference between the world that will be surprised by judgment at Jesus’ return and the church that is aware and waiting for salvation at Jesus’ return. What Paul does now is establish an ethic as we wait. We need to see how we are supposed to live. Here is our first order

  • Keep awake and be sober (6-7)

Look with me at verse 6, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.”

This same message is loud and clear in 1 Corinthians 15:33-34, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals. Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”

The picture here is one of Christians slowly drifting back into the world’s ways of thinking and living. Don’t be deceived. The people you hang out with, the music you listen to, and the shows you watch all influence you. If we are not alert and sober, then the people and stuff around us will corrupt us. Wake up! Turn away from sin. Get ready for Jesus’ return. Get your neighbors and coworkers ready for Jesus’ return. They are sleeping in the dark. Take the knowledge of God to them and plead with them to wake up.

It appears that there is a direct connection between being awake and being an evangelist. The more you think soberly about Jesus’ return for salvation and judgment the more you will labor to wake souls.

So, the woke Christian is the Christian who is alert and sober minded concerning the day of the Lord. The woke Christian isn’t trying to make sleeping sinners comfortable. The woke Christian is armed for battle and is fighting to turn sinners from the idols of sexuality and skin color to serve the living God. The woke Christian is waiting for God’s Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:9-10).

1 Thessalonians 5:7 continues the comparisons between asleep and awake, drunk and sober. When you are asleep you don’t know what’s going on. When you are drunk you don’t care about what’s going on. When you are awake you know what’s going on. When you are sober you care about what’s going on.

Parents, are you aware of what’s going on inside your child’s heart and mind? Do you care? Sober up. The darkness is coming after your child. The Pied Piper is playing his tune.

  • Be sober and gear up (8)

Look at verse 8, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” Since you are a Christian, thinking clearly about the church, work, family, sexuality, gender, money, justice, and the like; be sober.

A soldier who knows he’s about to plunge into life-and-death hand-to-hand-combat puts on his armor. A soldier who thinks he’s going to a party picks up a bottle. Christian, do you have a bottle in your hand or a helmet on your head?

Now that I have your attention, Jesus is coming soon in judgment, we are to fight for souls, put on the breastplate of righteousness and love. Put on Christ. Repent of your sins. Believe in Jesus for his righteousness. Pursue holiness in your mind, at your work, and in your home. Put on the righteousness of Christ so that you can live a righteous life. And put on the breastplate of love. Know who you are. You are chosen, you are holy, you are loved (Col 2:12). Knowing the fullness of the love of God we go and love our teammates, coworkers, neighbors, and our church.

If we suddenly had emblems on our chests that reflected the focus of our hearts what would be on your breastplate? Sober up, believe in Jesus, and put on righteousness and love.

For your head, put on the helmet of the hope of salvation. The world is trying to get into your head. The world has its drunken ideas about meaning, money, sexuality, race, and family. You put on the helmet of the hope of salvation.

In Philippians 3:14 the helmet of the hope of salvation looks like this, “I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I’m awake to the reality of Jesus’ return for my salvation. I’m sober as to those temptations that will tempt my fellow members to sleep. I’m striving, I’m straining, I’m putting on the helmet of the hope of salvation. Be watchful. Be sober.

III. Rest in the work of the Lord (9-10)

Listen, living with a sober mind in the light is difficult. The Thessalonians knew how hard it can be to put on righteousness and love while the world mocks you and gets drunk without you. Verse 9 tells us why we stay armed and alert

  • God has destined us for salvation

Look at verse 9, “For God has not destined (or appointed) us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Some of you are nervous because you know what getting ready for the day of the Lord will cost you. You are worried you won’t have what it takes to endure. You are afraid the day of the Lord will be a day of judgment for you. Rest in this, “God has chosen you. God has destined you. God has appointed you. God is holding you in his sovereign strong hand. Despite the battle, your end is salvation.”

But man, it is hard today. There are so many days when you really just want to get drunk and go to sleep, but you can’t. Why is that? God has not destined you for wrath but for salvation through Jesus Christ. The Jesus who is returning for you is the Jesus who is sustaining you. Your salvation is through Christ.

  • We are united to Christ

Rest in the truth of verse 10, “Our Lord Jesus Christ died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” Your union with Christ will see you through. More precisely, because of your union with Christ, he will see you through. If you die, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, you will be raised. If you are alive at the day of the Lord, you will be transformed. Rest in this: the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection was to give you life. That life will be yours at Jesus’ return. Stop trusting yourself. Rest in Christ and the reality that his death and resurrection are the only sure reason why you will be saved. Rest in Jesus and

IV. Get to work (11)

Verse 11 starts with a “therefore.” God has destined you for salvation and you are united with Christ for life therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. Church,

  • Keep encouraging one another

I had this verse put on a big piece of canvas to remind us why we gather each week. Why should you wake up and gather with the church each week? You need encouragement. Why should you wake up and gather with the church each week? We need you to encourage us. If you aren’t here, then we miss out on encouragement. If you aren’t here, then you miss out on encouragement. It’s a battle out there, we need to focus on encouraging one another in here.

Each Sunday when you see this verse on the wall, I want you to pray a simple prayer: God show me one person to encourage today. Maybe you need to give an encouraging word of thanks to a brother or sister. Maybe you need to give some financial help to a struggling brother or sister. Maybe you need to help that discouraged member put on the helmet of salvation. Maybe you need to help that beat down guilt wounded member put on the breastplate of righteousness and love. Let’s keep it simple, if we are going to keep encouraging one another we must come early, stay late, and meet up during the week. Come early, stay late, and meet up during the week.

Hebrews 3 is our New Testament reading for today. Listen to verse 13, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you maybe hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

The day of the Lord is coming quickly. Make room in your life so you can encourage your brothers and sisters every day. Keep encouraging and

  • Keep building one another up

For months now we have been building a building. We’ve torn stuff down, leveled stuff out, laid a foundation, and built walls. We are building a building. I want to remind you that the reason we are building that building is so that we can build one another up. Particularly, our goal is to build up the next generation with the truth of Jesus. I’m going to again state the obvious: we need money. Maybe you can write a big check. 23,000 dollars would pay for the septic system we need. Maybe you can give a few dollars. An electric outlet costs about a dollar and we need those too. My point is we need every member to do what they can to finish this building. Thankfully, this work of building a building is temporary. We’ll soon be done hauling lumber and swinging hammers.

But Mambrino Baptist Church will never be done investing in and helping one another follow Jesus. There are only two ways to get out of making disciples in this church. The first way out is the grave and the second way out is the return of Christ. Seeing that you’re not dead and Jesus has not returned, we have work to do. We must proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

In the Lord’s Supper we remember that Jesus died for us so that we can live with him. The Lord’s Supper is for believers. The Lord’s Supper is for those who have been baptized. The Lord’s Supper is for those wounded warriors who need the reminder of God’s promise of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Think for a moment about how you can encourage us through the Lord’s Supper. Maybe you need to get up and go pray with a brother or sister. Maybe the simple act of you eating and drinking will encourage us because we see that we do not fight alone.

Think for a moment about how you can build up the church. Maybe you need to write a note to a member this afternoon or set up a meeting this week.

In preparation for the Lord’s Supper we are going to stand together to pray for, encourage, and build one another up. Karol and Janie are going to play one verse and while they play, do what you need to do. Pastor Jay and I will stand down front. Pastor Aaron will be in the back. We would love to pray with you. Let’s stand and let’s pray.

Be Ready- Matthew 24

You can listen to the sermon audio here.

Main Point: Jesus is coming. Be ready.

On your mark, get set, go! Fasten your safety belt and return your seat to the upright position. Get your house in order. Ready or not, here I come. These are all ways of telling people to be ready.

In Matthew 24 Jesus is telling us to be ready for his return. Know the signs, stay awake, and keep working. We are going to cover a lot of ground today so here is the plan. In our time together I’m going to preach what I understand Jesus is saying to us. Since we’ll cover 51 verses I simply do not have time to deal with alternate interpretations. I also do not have time to deal with the difficulties present in my own interpretation. So this is our plan. I will strive to show myself an approved workman rightly dividing the word of truth without reason to be ashamed. Come back tonight for choir at 5 then in our 6 pm bible study we can unpack alternate interpretations and difficulties with my own interpretation.

The truth of the matter is eschatology, or the study of end times, can be divisive. Well meaning saints often use their eschatology like a stick with which they beat people. So here are the ground rules for this controversial issue just like every other controversial issue.

I. The ground rules

A.  We are going to talk about it

Avoiding difficult, uncomfortable, or controversial issues is unhealthy in any relationship. Also when it comes to difficult issues we cannot leave it with “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it” because often times it is unsettling to believe what God says. We are a people devoted to teaching one another to obey everything Jesus commanded even the difficult, uncomfortable, and controversial things. So we are going to talk. Come back tonight. Next rule

B.  We are going to be gracious to one another

We are going to actually listen. We are even going to listen to people who don’t listen to us. Often in controversy we don’t listen to one another. We ignore the other while formulating our next zinger. This is not love or grace it is selfishness. We are committed to listening. We will give each other grace and

C.  We will not be snide or condescending

If your position has ever been misunderstood and then mocked you know how a harsh word can stir up anger. Do not mock. Do not be snide. Do not be condescending. Instead we must strive even in disagreements to build one another up. Here is our last rule.

D.  We will keep Christ as the center of our unity

We will strive for unity. We will strive for the unity of the faith. We are going to talk these things through but we will refuse to make a particular biblical understanding of the end times the center of our unity. What I mean is a church which defines its boundaries mainly by its detailed eschatology is a church with a shaky center. Membership in the body of Christ does not depend on being Premillennial, postmillennial, or amillennial.  Jesus isn’t coming to save only those who get the millennium right. Jesus is coming to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Heb 9:28). Together as we unite around Christ we will talk about our differences, give each other grace, and seek to build one another up. Let’s put this into practice.

Read Matthew 24

II. We need to understand how apocalyptic and prophetic literature work

A.  The Bible was written using different styles of literature

The bible contains history, narrative, law, wisdom, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic literature, parables, epistles, and romance.[1]

When Solomon told his wife, “You are beautiful; your eyes are doves,” (Song 1:15) he didn’t mean her eyes were actually feathered flying birds. Her eyes were soft and beautiful. But when Solomon told Shimei “the day you go out and cross the brook Kidron, know for certain that you shall die,” (1 Kings 2:37) he meant if you cross the Kidron I’ll have you killed. We need to know what type of literature we are reading because different rules of interpretation apply. You don’t interpret poetry like history or law like wisdom. The parables are like apocalyptic literature and also a little like prophecy but they all have their differences which need to be understood. This is why we study the Bible we don’t make it say whatever we want it to say. The Bible uses difference genres and

B.  The Bible was written using symbols and patterns

When we read the bible we are first trying to understand the passage according to the worldview of the author. We don’t start with what we think it means. We start with what the author thought it meant. To do this we need to know our bibles well.

Knowing our bibles well means we think about how various authors over the centuries string together types, symbols, and patterns. We look for types, symbols, and patterns because each book of the Bible is a link in the chain of God’s redemptive work in history. Each author builds on the previous in order to interpret past and present events and advance the story of redemption.

Let’s get specific concerning Matthew 24. I agree with George Ladd. Matthew 24 should be classified as apocalyptic prophecy. There are elements of prophecy in this chapter and there are elements of apocalyptic literature. Prophecy can generally be classified as communication which warns people about coming judgment or promises future blessing. Apocalyptic literature is an often highly figurative form of literature used to describe events in the future and most often the end of the world.

Knowing this chapter is apocalyptic prophecy is important because prophecy and apocalyptic literature deal heavily in symbols and patterns. In this chapter Jesus uses historical patterns and future events to explain what will happen when he returns. He uses prophecy and parable to illustrate the apocalypse. Jesus also uses future events as evidence of a standing pattern to prepare us for the end times. We need to know our Bible and how it works. This is a lifelong commitment. For today let’s fly through the passage and then we’ll apply the passage. Bottom line

III. You need to know what’s coming

A.  The disciples ask a two-fold question

When is the temple going to be torn down and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age (3)? Two pressing issues are being sought after: the destruction of the temple and the end of time. We need to understand these issues are related to one another but they are not the same thing. In fact the destruction of the temple will help illustrate a pattern which will find its climax at the close of the age.

We begin with

B.  The end of the world in eleven verses (4-14)

We start with birth pains (v8) and end with terrible persecution. The beginning of the end will be characterized by false messiahs, wars, and natural disasters. The end of the end will be characterized by difficulty, death threats, martyrdom, apostasy in the church, lawlessness, and selfishness. One doesn’t have to look far to find these things happening in the church and to the church today.

Notice the climactic event which ushers in the end of time, verse 14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.” Here the major event is evangelism. The good news of rescue through Christ and Christ alone must go out through the whole earth. So if you want to see Jesus return then get involved in missions.

Now let’s tackle our next section, verses 15-28

C.  The temple is a pattern (15-28)

In the Garden of Eden mankind was in the presence of God. After the Fall mankind was kicked out of the presence of God. All of history then becomes the story of mankind trying to get back into the presence of God. Every religion is an attempt to regain the presence of God or the godness-out-there. In the Bible we see people meeting with God first at an altar and then in the tabernacle and ultimately in the temple. The temple became a symbol of the presence of God on earth. So the destruction or desecration of the temple is a very big event.

Follow the pattern. Solomon built the temple but the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 BC. After the exile the temple was rebuilt in 516 BC. Things rocked along until 167 BC when the Greek king Antiochus Ephiphanes entered the temple and set up an image of Zeus and sacrificed a pig on the altar. He did this in order to prove the subjugation of the Jews and the defiling of the Jewish religion.

The prophet Daniel said this would happen. In Daniel 11:31 we read, “Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.” It is important to see the connection between the temple and the abomination of desolation. A pattern exists of reclaiming the temple and then defiling the temple.

Fast forward to AD 70 and Jerusalem is again under attack. This time the future emporer Titus is leading the charge. He will break through the wall and burn Jerusalem and the temple to the ground. The pattern is reject God and the temple will be defiled. Reject the true God and the abomination of desolation will be set up in God’s place.

Jesus’ words here in Matthew 24 were spoken around 30AD some 40 years before the temple would be destroyed by Titus. Jesus is answering the disciples’ question concerning when the temple will be torn down. He answered their question with a prophecy and a pattern. The pattern is Daniel’s abomination of desolation. But not the abomination of Daniel 11:31 that happened in 167 BC. My understanding is the destruction of the temple and the abomination of AD 70 is a type of the destruction of the temple and the abomination which will come in the Great Tribulation which Daniel predicts in 8:13; 9:27; and 12:11. What will happen to the temple in AD 70 will serve as a parable or foreshadowing of what will happen to the temple in the Great Tribulation.

So the great struggle and persecution and flight of the people in AD 70 is a picture of what will come at the end of time. There are implications for the apostasy we see in the church today; the church being the temple of God. There are implications for the Muslim dome of the rock on the temple mount today. The pattern continues until it will ultimately reach the climax of the return of Christ. Christ is our focus and our desire.

Yes false Christ’s will come. Be ready. But when Jesus comes it will be unmistakable like lightening flashing across the sky. When you see the vulture’s circling it’s no secret- something has died. The return of Christ will happen after the destruction and desolation of the temple. And his return will be obvious to all. I think it’s important to note here that I while I am open to the idea of a physical temple being rebuilt I do not feel it is necessary. This is due to the fact that the church is the temple of God. But that is another can of worms we can talk through tonight. Back to the text.

D.  The end will be obvious (29-31)

There will be signs in the heavens. Not blood moons but big unmistakable signs. The Son of man who received the Kingdom and dominion at his ascension will appear with power and great glory to deliver his kingdom to his people on earth (Dan 7:14&22). Everyone will see Him. The trumpet will sound and the elect will be gathered from the earth as well as raised from the grave. And this will begin the millennial reign of Christ. The end.

IV. Here’s why you need to know what’s coming

A.  Expect a truck load of people to claim to be Jesus. Don’t buy it.

Many false prophets will arise (v11). Many will claim Christ has come (v23). Some of them will do some crazy miracles (24). Don’t follow them. The true Christ will return and his return will not fly under the radar. Wikipedia has a partial list of people claiming to be Jesus[2] and we read the list knowing all these fakes have dead, disillusioned, or soon to be disappointed followers.

If you think Jesus has come ask, “When the person showed up was it obvious to the whole world?” No? Then don’t follow him. He’s a fake. We need to know what’s coming because there will be a truck load of pretenders. Don’t buy it. We also need to know what’s coming because

B.  You will need endurance (13)

As I was writing this sermon I received a text simply saying, “Death threats target church congregations.” Jesus put it plainly; it is the one who endures to the end who is saved. Buckle your chin straps because being a Christian is going to hurt. The saints will need endurance for every cycle of persecution and every stage of tribulation. I hope we don’t but I believe we will go through the great tribulation. You will need endurance. We also need to know what’s coming because

C.  You need to stay awake (32-44)

Through the parable of the fig tree Jesus tells us to know the signs so we will be ready. Through the parable of the thief Jesus tells us to be vigilant and watchful for his return.

We should live with an expectation and eagerness. Be ready. Don’t be surprised. Don’t be caught off guard. Don’t wait to get your life right with the Lord. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to be ready. Repent, believe, and be ready. We need to know these things because as we wait we are tempted to drift away from Christ. And we need to know these things because

D.  Jesus wants you to know these things are sure (34-35)

These are difficult but helpful verses. I believe “this generation” is a reference to the generation that experiences the great tribulation. Jesus is prophesying. The current generation of 1st century Jews who will experience the destruction of the temple in AD70 is a part of the pattern or a type of the generation to come.

What you need to hold onto today is the surety of these events. The end is coming. Heaven and earth will pass away but these words of Christ are going to come true. Rest in the assurance of the things. Know in the difficulty, in the tribulation, there is an end and the terrible ending will give way to a glorious future.

Jesus wants you to know these things are true and lastly

E.   We need to get to work (45-51)

The parable of the faithful and wise servant reminds us we have work to do until Jesus comes home. And what is that work? We are to advance the gospel through missions and evangelism (14). We are to guard our love for one another making sure our love does not grow cold (12). We are to pursue lives of holiness avoiding all impurity (Eph 5:3). The faithful servant is the one who cares for others. The wicked servant who is cut up and cast into hell cares only for himself.

Church, Jesus is coming. Don’t be fooled by imposters. The real Jesus will be obvious to all. Until Jesus comes it will be hard to be a Christian. You will need endurance. His coming may still be a long way out. You need to stay awake. And there is work to do. Let us be found working when our Lord returns.

[1] http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=31435
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_claimed_to_be_Jesus

Behold the Amazing Gift of Love

I discovered a wonderful old hymn from Isaac Watts today. The hymn is “Behold the Amazing Gift of Love.” It’s a meditation and celebration of 1 John 3:1-3 which says,

 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure (ESV).

Here are the lyrics Isaac Watts penned. In order to get the tune in your head and heart you can listen here.

Behold what wondrous grace
The Father hath bestow’d
On sinners of a mortal race
To call them Sons of God!

’Tis no surprising thing,
That we should be unknown;
The Jewish world knew not their King,
God’s everlasting Son.

Nor doth it yet appear
How great we must be made;
But when we see our Saviour here,
We shall be like our Head.

A hope so much divine
May trials well endure,
May purge our souls from sense and sin
As Christ the Lord is pure.

If in my Father’s love
I share a filial part,
Send down Thy Spirit like a dove,
To rest upon my heart.

We would no longer lie
Like slaves beneath the throne;
My faith shall Abba, Father, cry,
And Thou the kindred own.

Understanding the Ascension; the Apostles’ Creed

Text: Various                                                                    8/3/08 p.m.

Thesis: Jesus’ ascension and return are displays of his supremacy.

 

Intro: Tonight we look at this phrase from the Apostles’ Creed, I believe Jesus “ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”

We’ll tackle these three truths. First, after Jesus’ resurrection and 40 days of teaching he went to be in the very presence of God.

Second, Jesus sits in the seat of honor and authority in the presence of God. He sits at the Father’s right hand.

And third, Jesus is coming back to judge the living and the dead.

That is admittedly a great deal of soul satisfying truth so what I intend to do for each of these is give the biblical testimony and personal application for each.

 

Read the Apostles’ Creed

 

I) Jesus ascended into heaven

a)      The biblical testimony is that heaven is a place

i)        Here’s a little trivia. Who is Yuri Gagarin?

ii)      Gagarin is the first man to enter space. Yuri Gagarin was a Russian cosmonaut. It is reported that he said to ground control, “I don’t see God up here.”

iii)    But it appears this is not the case. The statement seems to have come from a speech by Nikita Khrushchev concerning anti-religious propaganda in which Khrushchev said, “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any God there.”[1]

iv)    Is heaven a place where we could go if we flew far enough and fast enough in a rocket ship?

v)      Luke 24:50-51 (Acts 1:9-11)

vi)    From this passage and Acts 1:9-11 it is right to affirm heaven as a place and it is appropriate to talk about heaven being above us.

vii)  Revelation 21:2 tells us that the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven from God.

viii)            Since heaven is a place where is it?

b)      The bible tells us that there is an unseen spiritual world or realm all around us

i)        Read 2 Kings 6:15-17

ii)      Angels and demons are potentially all around us yet we cannot see them unless they are revealed to us.

iii)    They influence this physical world while being themselves spiritual.

iv)    Scripture testifies that the physical and the spiritual are related to each other and influence each other. These are not two disconnected or incompatible realms.

v)      Before Stephen died Acts 7:55&56 tell us,

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

vi)    Was Stephen transported to heaven? I think it is better to say that Stephen was allowed to see what was there all the time.

vii)  Heaven is certainly a spiritual place but it is definitely a place.

viii)            Jesus said in John 14:2-3

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

ix)    There is work being done on this place, Jesus is currently working in this place, and one day Jesus will return and take us to this place.

x)      After the resurrection of Christ and his 40 day ministry on this earth he ascended into heaven.

xi)    His real person in a real body went to a real place. Is the God-man different from us in his humanity; in his person?

xii)  Yes, he is no longer subject to pain, temptation, sadness, or decay.

xiii)            Is Jesus’ body different from our bodies?

xiv)            Yes, he’s able to stand among a group of men who were inside a locked room (John 20:26). Yet he ate bread and fish (John 21:13-15).

xv)  His body is different from ours but his body being different from ours’ doesn’t make it not real.

xvi)            Is heaven a real place? Absolutely. We’ve already read about eye witness accounts of heaven as well as the biblical testimony that heaven is where Jesus is right now.

c)      The personal application of the ascension is hope

i)        Our church-wide memory verse, Colossians 1:13-20, tells us in verse 17 that Jesus “is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.”

ii)      1 Corinthians 15:20 says

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

iii)    What happened to Christ, what he has become, and where he has gone is true for every believer.

iv)    1 John 3:2-3 says

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

v)      Jesus’ ascension, the testimony that he has a different body free from pain, temptation, sadness, or decay is true also for everyone who is in Christ.

vi)    We will be like him and we will be with him and this is true for all of eternity.

vii)  What is different about Christ’s ascension and our state at his return is Christ’s seat of honor in heaven.

II) Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand

a)      The bible testifies that Jesus’ seat is a seat of honor and authority

i)        Jesus prayed in John 17:5,

Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed

ii)      Jesus was longing for the honor and authority that are rightfully is as creator of all things.

iii)    You see when Jesus came to this earth, when the incarnation happened, there was a humbling that happened as well.

iv)    Not that Jesus was prideful and needed to be knocked down a notch or two.

v)      The great God willing took on human flesh. This was a humbling thing to do for the creator of all human flesh.

vi)    This was a humbling thing to do for the One who didn’t need to take on flesh (Philippians 2:6&7).

vii)  Jesus longed for, prayed for, died for, and ascended to the glorious position which he rightfully held from eternity past.

viii)            Peter testified to the right hand of the Father being a place of honor when he said in Acts 2:32&33

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

ix)    The right hand of God is a place of exaltation. It is the highest honor to sit at the right hand of God.

x)      James and John knew this so they asked Jesus to sit at his right and left hands in his coming glory and all the disciples got ticked off because they didn’t ask first (Mark 10:37).

xi)    That Jesus has a name that is above every name is displayed by the fact that he has a seat of honor that is above every seat of honor (Philippians 2:9)

xii)  Read Ephesians 1:16-23

xiii)            Jesus’ seat is a seat of honor over every name and Jesus’ seat is a seat of authority or power.

xiv)            At the right hand of God Jesus is above all rule and authority and dominion and power.

xv)  Jesus is the unstoppable unbeatable King of kings and Lord of Lords. His position at the right hand of God proves his power (1 Peter 3:22).

b)      The personal application of Christ’s seat at the Father’s right hand is purification and authority

i)        Hebrews 1:3& 4 says

[The Son] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

ii)      After making purification for sins, Jesus sat down at the right and of the Majesty on high.

iii)    Jesus is done purifying your sins. It’s not that now you have to do your part. The purification for your sins is finished (John 19:30).

iv)    How do you know your sins are forgiven? It is neither first nor foremost because you feel forgiven.

v)      We know we are forgiven of the most grievous or respectable of sins because Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.

vi)    I am completely and eternally forgiven. How do I know? Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the father.

vii)  I am also now in a position of authority.

viii)            Ephesians 2:4-5 says

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

ix)    We have joined to Christ so we share in his honor and authority.

x)      2 Corinthians 10:4-6 says

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

xi)    Because we have been given power and authority in Christ we stand up for what is true.

xii)  We battle “against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12)

xiii)            Those Christians who are going after souls and standing against what is false are those Christians who are enjoying the blessings of Christ’s seat of authority at God’s right hand.

xiv)            This is for all of us right now.

xv)  And in the age to come, Revelation 2:26-27 says

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.

xvi)            This pushes us into the realm of Jesus’ 2nd coming

III) Jesus will return to this earth to judge

a)      The biblical testimony is that Jesus is coming again

i)        We saw that in John 14:3 where Jesus said if I go prepare a place for you I will come back again.

ii)      Jesus said in Matthew 25:31&32

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

iii)    Jesus will come and he will come in glory

iv)    At the ascension in Acts 1:11 the angel said,

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

v)      Jesus went up in glory and he will return in glory. I believe the cloud that Jesus was taken up into was the cloud of God’s glory.

vi)    It wasn’t just a grouping of water vapor but the shining of God’s eternal and glorious perfection.

vii)  Concerning his 2nd coming Jesus said in Matthew 24:30&31

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

b)      The personal application of Jesus’ second coming is hope

i)        Read 1st Peter 1:3-7

ii)      Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ God causes us to be born again to a living hope.

iii)    Where Jesus has now ascended, the place of the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, is the very presence of God.

iv)    He is in heaven. This inheritance, being made like Christ and being with Christ, is the promise of God kept in heaven. Jesus is now kept in heaven.

v)      Through the gift of faith we are being guarded for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

vi)    God gives us faith in Christ to keep us in Christ while we wait for the coming of Christ which is our salvation.

vii)  This is our hope. In this we rejoice even when life stinks, even when we are grieved by various trials.

viii)            The craving to see and be with Christ. The desire for eternal salvation drives us to endure even the testing of our faith.

ix)    At the coming of Christ there will be praise and glory and honor not to us but to Christ.

x)      Hope in God.  He who neither slumbers nor sleeps watches over you.

xi)    In his love God sent his Son. The son was kept by God through the requirements of the law, the temptations to sin, the pain of torture, the agony of separation, and even death.

xii)  The Son was raised to new life, ascended to heaven, he sits at God’s right hand, and he will return to judge.

xiii)            The work of salvation is done and complete. The firstfruits of righteousness and new life are real.

xiv)            The first fruit is Jesus.

xv)  Hope in God. He will formed you in your mother’s womb. Has lovingly chosen and called you.  You are his child and he will keep you through the temptations of life and he will give you the perfect righteousness of Christ.

xvi)            He will see you through death and bring you into his glorious presence.

xvii)          Even in trial we have reason to hope. Even in death we will not despair. We will hope in God and truth in Christ.