In our previous article we dealt with the desolation of Israel, as prophesied by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse, in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.
Note the questions of His Disciples.
1. When will the temple be destroyed?
2. What will be the signs of Jesus’ return to earth?
Jesus does not answer the WHEN question, but warns them to not be deceived by false teachers.
In Luke 21:7. we find Jesus’ Disciples confused and concerned with the timing of the establishment of Christ’s Millennial reign over the earth. We Christians continue to be confused and divided over it even to this present time. Prophetically, we all fall into one of three camps: Pre-Millennialists, Post-Millennialists or A-Millennialists.
The A-Millennialists are not looking for any Millennial reign of Christ.
The Post-Millennialists believe Jesus’ Millennium has been in force ever since Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven and that He is building His Kingdom through His Church. They believe Jesus will return when His Kingdom is fully established. They believe the Bible does not teach the Rapture of the Church. As for the Tribulation, they believe that it took place in 70 AD when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The A-Millennialists, as the Post-Millennialists, believe the Kingdom is totally spiritual and not a literal, physical one thousand year reign of Jesus from Jerusalem over this earth.
Most of us Pre-Millennialists agree with Post-Millennialists, as well as the A-Millennialists, that Christ’s Kingdom is spiritual. However, we Pre-Millennialists also believe that Christ will return to earth in His glorified body to establish his literal, Millennial Kingdom (one thousand years reign) over the earth.
The Last Days
Prior to the Kingdom Age is a period known as “The Last Days” These are the days that precede Jesus’ Millennium.
The entire 2000 plus years of the Church Age, beginning at Pentecost and ending with the Rapture of the Saints, are described by Peter in his sermon in Acts 2:14-21 as “The Last Days”
Hebrews 10:25 tells us, Christ’s Church, that we can see the day approaching.
In I John 2:18 John clearly announces to us that we are in “the Last Time”.
Jude 14-15 prophecies that Christ will come with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment on the earth. Again, he is speaking of the Millennial reign of Christ.
Before Jesus returns publicly in great glory to reign, He is returning suddenly, unexpectedly and secretly to catch up His own to Himself. The Christian dead will be raised first in glorified bodies, then we Christians who remain alive at that moment, will also be changed and given glorified bodies to meet the Lord in the air. See John 14:1-3, I Corinthians 15:51-58, I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I John 3:1-3 for the details concerning this event. The unsaved will not see Jesus when He comes, but will note the sudden absence of all Christians from this earth.
Once we are gone from this earth, along with the sin-restraining work of the Holy Spirit, all hell will break loose on this earth as the Anti-christ is revealed and takes over the control of the world in what is described as The Tribulation, or the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. You can read prophecies of this period of 70 weeks of Daniel in Daniel 9, Matthew 24, Luke 21, II Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13:8. The seven years of Tribulation on this earth are described in Revelation 6-18.
At the end of the seven years of Tribulation, Jesus will return publicly in great glory to destroy the Anti-christ and his false prophet and his armies. We will follow Him and witness the destruction. Jude 14-15, Revelation 19:11-21 Then Jesus will establish His Millennial reign from the city of Jerusalem, as clearly shown in. Zechariah 14 and Micah 4. From there, Isaiah 9:6-7 tells us, He will reign on David’s throne. Christians who have lived and suffered for Him in this life, will reign with Him then, II Timothy 2:12 promises us.
His Millennium will be; not for an unspecified period of time, but for one thousand years. Describing the length of Christ’s Kingdom, Revelation 20:1-7 repeats the number one thousand six times.
Christ’s Kingdom will be characterized by peace, good health and prosperity and holiness for all who submit to Him. A description of life on earth during that reign is found in Isaiah 11, 35 and Micah 4 as well as other Old Testament passages.
Again, I remind you that Post-Millennialists believe that we have been in Christ’s Kingdom ever since the resurrection of Christ and that it has lasted now for over two thousand years.
I would agree that the Church is the expression of Christ’s spiritual Kingdom in the world today. We are moving forward and making progress against the Kingdom of darkness, as Christ promised would happen in Matthew 16:18. However, Christ’s spiritual Kingdom over His Church, does not nullify His promised Millennial Kingdom from Jerusalem over the whole world
Isaac Watts 1674-1748 is a beloved hymn writer of the church. Christians, both Post-Millennialists and Pre-Millennialists, sing together hymns such as Jesus Shall Reign. As a Pre-Millennialist, I sing that song, rejoicing that as the church evangelizes the world, Christ’s spiritual kingdom continues to grow. However, I also understand that we are singing about a future event when Jesus shall reign for one thousand years over the whole world as king on David’s throne, as promised in the Davidic Covenant in II Samuel 7.
Jesus Shall Reign where’er the sun
Does its successive journeys run.
His Kingdom spread from shore to shore
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
From north to south the princes meet
To pay their homage at His feet.
While western empires own their Lord,
And savage tribes attend His Word.
To Him shall endless prayers be made,
And endless praises crown His head.
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.
People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song,
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.
Another well known Christmas carol, “Joy to the World”, another of Isaac Watt’s hymns, not only celebrates the birth of Jesus, the new Born King; but it also describes His coming Millennial Kingdom.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.
And Heaven and Heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Saviour reigns,
Let men, their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy.
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.
No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow,
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
As people are saved and submit to Christ’s Lordship, His spiritual kingdom continues to grow; but Christ’s Millennial Kingdom has not yet come.
In the meantime, in this Church Age, I must agree with Scripture, such as II Timothy 3 and 4, and II Peter 3 that this world system is not getting better and but is growing worse and worse.
Perhaps the strongest argument for the Pre-Millennial position is the description of the Tribulation in Revelation 6-18, which will be the worst years in all of world history, This Tribulation followed by the return of Christ in His glory to this earth precedes the inauguration of His Millennial Kingdom in Revelation 19-20.
But before all of this happens; the Church, described in Revelation 3 is caught up into Heaven in chapter 4 before the Tribulation is unleashed. This is the time of the Rapture of the Church, as described in I Corinthians 15:51-58 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18. In Revelation 4 and 5 we see the Church in Heaven worshipping the Lord Jesus.
No, Christ’s Kingdom is not prospering today. Rather, Satan is working to destroy Christ’s Church as we draw closer to the end of this Church Age. The Apostasy which began two thousands years ago, is continuing to accelerate and deepen as we draw nearer to the return of Christ. Christ will soon come to fight and annihilate Anti-christ and his forces in the Battle of Armageddon and then set up His glorious Kingdom and reign from Jerusalem for one thousand years.
How do Bible believing Christians become Post or A-Millennialists? It happens as they use a non-literal, symbolic method of interpreting unfulfilled prophecy, assigning their own meaning to words. The problem with this is that when one starts assigning meaning to words other than their normal meanings, one can decide that a word, phrase or sentence can mean whatever one wants it to mean. All objectivity concerning the meaning of words is lost. For example, to the Post-Millennialist, the term 1000 years used six times in Revelation 20:1-7 does not mean one thousand years. To them, it only means a long time. Of course, if we have been in Christ’s Kingdom ever since Christ’s resurrection, then the Post Millennialist is forced to conclude that one thousand years doesn’t really mean one thousand years. That seems to me a dangerous road to start down.
Am I pessimistic about the future? Absolutely not! These are exciting days to be a Christian. Based just on the deepening apostasy and the dangerous situation of Israel today, I believe the rapture is very close at hand.
Are you ready for His return? Remember the warning of II Thess. 2:1-2 that those who knowingly reject Christ in this church age because they love their sins, will believe the lie of the Anti-Christ and follow him to destruction. Read it there in II Thessalonians 2:8-12 and make your decision for or against Christ. The decision you make will be eternal with eternal consequences. To attempt to make no decision concerning Him is to reject Him.
Shortly before Jesus was crucified, He met with His disciples just outside of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives to share with them the future, especially as it concerned Israel and Jerusalem. He warned them of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. He also spoke to them of the signs that would occur before His return to reign on this earth.
The Mount of Olives is an extremely important geographical location as far as Jesus is concerned. Not only is it where He met with His disciples just before His trial and crucifixion to share His Olivet Discourse which we are presently studying; it is also the location of the Garden of Gethsemane where He often resorted to pray, as He did the night in which He was betrayed by Judas. It is also the place where He ascended back to Heaven after His resurrection from the dead, as witnessed by His Apostles. This is described in Acts 1. Finally, it will be the place where Jesus returns to this earth in His glory to put down His enemies and rule over this earth in the Millennium. That event is prophesied in Zechariah 14.
Note the questions of His disciples. When will the temple be destroyed? What are the signs of Jesus’ return and the end of the Age?
JESUS WARNS US TO NOT BE DECEIVED CONCERNING PROPHECY
The basic answer to these questions concerning prophecy is a warning from Jesus to not be deceived. Luke 21:8, Mark 13:5 and Matthew 24:4. Understand that there is much deception, confusion and wrong thinking in the world when it comes to prophecy concerning Jesus.
There are three parts to this prophesy concerning Israel, as found in Luke 21.
Part 1. The destruction of the temple is prophesied in Luke 21:20-24. That event took place in 70 AD when the Roman army captured and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including the temple. Not one stone was left upon another.
Part 2. The last half of verse 24 “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled” is the transition. It refers to the past 2000 years in which the Jews have been scattered and trodden down by the Gentiles throughout the world. In all this time, Christ’s true Church has been a friend to the Jews as we lovingly seek to lead them to their true Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Many have been saved and have come into the Church, the Body of Christ. They have learned the wonderful truth in Galatians 3:27-29 that in Christ Jesus we are no longer Jew nor Gentile, but one new body, the Church.
Part 3 of Prophecy, Luke 21:25-32 describes the seven years of Tribulation which follows the secret rapture of the Church. This is known as the time of “Jacob’s Trouble” prophesied in Jeremiah 30:7. Here is found the promise that the Jews will be supernaturally saved out of it. This will be the time, yet to come, when Anti-christ defiles the temple and the Holy Place as prophesied in Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15, II Thessalonians 2:3-4 and in Revelation 13.
THE DESOLATION OF ISRAEL
Consider the ongoing desolation that has dogged Israel through their 4000 year history. Her story has been a sad, sad story of ongoing sorrow and heart ache.
The name Israel and the word desolation are such a sad contradiction. God chose Israel to bless her and make her a blessing to the whole world, as prophesied in the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12,13 and 17. The desolation has followed them because they have turned away from God to go their own way.
Read a synopsis of her story in Ezekiel 16. It describes her as a castaway new born baby lying out in the field to die. The story goes on to tell how God found her in the field and pitied and loved her and took her to be His own child. The story goes on, telling how she grew up to become a beautiful young woman.
Then in verse 15 the story takes a turn for the worse. This young woman turned from her loving God and became a harlot chasing after false gods and living a life of wickedness and rebellion against her God. The chapter goes on to describe God’s judgment on her and her abominations.
Then in verse 60-63 the story has a happy ending as God remembers the Covenant that He had made with Abraham, her father.
In the latter chapters of Ezekiel starting with chapter 34 and continuing to the end of the book, the future of Israel is unfolded for us and it is truly an exciting, wonderful future that awaits this people who have rejected their Messiah for so many centuries.
It’s the same with the words Christian and desolation. They also are contradictory. God saved us to bless us and make us a blessing to others. Desolation follows us as we rebel against God and go our own ways.
Let me give you just a brief summary of Israel‘s perpetual desolation.
From 1800 BC to 1400 BC Israel was desolate as slaves in Egypt for 400 years. You remember that God used Moses to deliver them from slavery and start their journey to their Promised Land of Israel. Joshua completed that journey by leading them into the land of Canaan, their permanent Home.
They were further desolated for another 300 years during the time of the Judges. This was a time characterized by failure and defeat, although God came to their rescue whenever they cried to Him for mercy. Overall, the story of Israel under the Judges is quite pathetic and depressing.
Then starting with I Samuel, we read the story of the kings of Israel. Saul, the first king, was the people’s choice, rather than God’s choice. It was a story of sin, failure and defeat.
Then followed the stories of David and his son, Solomon. Though both men failed God personally, God in His sovereignty and grace, gave them each forty years to reign over Israel. Solomon’s especially, was a peaceful and prosperous reign. Following Solomon’s reign, because of the pride and stubbornness of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, Israel and Judah divided as two separate nations, Israel with ten tribes and Judah with two.
The story of the kings of divided Israel and Judah are a mixture of good, but mostly evil kings and the abominations that overtook them for another three hundred and fifty years.
Finally in 722 BC, God allowed the Assyrian Empire to conquer the ten northern tribes of Israel and disperse them throughout the nations of the world, where they are to this day.
Then in 586 BC the Babylonians conquered the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, taking them into captivity for seventy years. In the meantime Persia conquered Babylon and in time freed the Children of Judah to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple and city.
Four hundred more silent years passed as Israel pined in their desolate state awaiting the birth of their promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Both Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, and Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus, were from the line of Judah; thus Jesus is the rightful promised King of Judah. Though Israel rejected Him as their Messiah and King, He is one day returning to this earth to reign over them, as well as the whole world in His Millennial reign.
ISRAEL‘S OPPORTUNITY TO BE SAVED TODAY
In the meantime, the desolation of Israel has continued these past 2000 years as the Jews continue to await their promised Messiah. Thank God that during this time countless numbers of Jews have been converted to Christ and have been joined by God’s Spirit into Christ’s Church, along with converted gentiles. As Christians, our identity is no longer Jew or Gentile. We are one new Body, His Church, a New Kingdom, loving grateful subjects of the Lord Jesus, whom we have gladly made King of our lives. All of this wonderful truth is taught in the New Testament, especially in Romans, Galatians and Ephesians.
We live in a world that scoffs and mocks God and uses the name of Jesus, our precious Saviour, as a curse word. They despise Him, as they do all of those who publicly confess Him as Saviour and Lord.
WILL GLOBAL WARMING DESTROY THIS EARTH?
Liberals who deny the inspiration and authority of the Bible are very concerned about man bringing an end to this world as we know it through pollution and so-called “global warming”. Dear friend, though most Christians are angered by man’s thoughtlessness and carelessness in polluting this beautiful planet; man is not powerful enough to destroy this earth. Talk about pollution, wait until you see what God is going to do to this planet during the tribulation! You can read about it in The Revelation. the last book of the Bible.
When Jesus returns to this earth in His glory, following the seven years of tribulation, the earth will be refreshed and returned to its original beauty and pre-curse state. Then for one thousand years Jesus will reign over this earth, showing sinful men and women the blessedness of life under His sovereignty.
At the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, sinful man will once more rebel and Christ will put a final end to all rebellion. In an instant. Then Christ Himself will cause this earth and the universe as we know it to be imploded into nothingness in one tremendous explosion.
After that He will create a new Heaven and a new earth wherein dwells only righteousness. Read the final chapters of Revelation and decide whether you want to be a Christ receiver and spend eternity with Christ in Heaven or be a Christ rejecter and spend eternity in Hell.
There are those who believe that since the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, that is proof that Jesus returned at that time and established His Millennial Kingdom. Millennium means one thousand years. It has now been two thousands years since that time and I still see no evidence of Jesus’ reign on this earth, So I reject that prophetic position. At the same time, no true Bible teacher rejects that God who rules from Heaven is sovereign in the affairs of men and that genuine Christians ought to bow to His Lordship. Lord willing, I will deal with this prophetic confusion among Christians in the next article as we contrast Pre and Post Millennialism.
Whatever the Apostle Paul did before and after his conversion, he did with all of his heart, soul and strength, whether it was persecuting Christians before his conversion or preaching the Gospel after his conversion.
Acts 9 records Saul’s conversion, who was then renamed Paul. It records that immediately he began to face rejection, opposition and persecution; not only by the lost, but by the young Church itself. As Jesus, His Saviour and Lord, Paul was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
He was beaten and imprisoned repeatedly for the Gospel.
He sorrowed constantly for His people, the Jews, who rejected Christ.
He sorrowed for his brethren, fellow preachers of the Gospel, who often turned against him, as recorded in II Corinthians 12:15, Philippians 1:14-16
and II Timothy 4:10-16. These preachers were envious of Paul’s spiritual power and success. They were attempting to compete with Paul, rather than recognizing themselves as his fellow-laborers.
His attitude towards all this garbage heaped upon him was, “So what?” “What then, notwithstanding”, he says in Philippians 1:18, “In every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached and I therein do rejoice and will continue to rejoice”
So it is for every faithful servant of God. We can rejoice, regardless of circumstances, whether we have bought a new home, or lost it, whether we have a job or have lost it, whether we are hospitalized or enjoying good health; whatever our circumstances; we can rejoice in Jesus, our Saviour and Life. As Romans 8:28 teaches, every circumstance, joyful or painful, is working together for our good.
Paul was confident of the supply of his needs through the provision of the indwelling Holy Spirit and that the supply of those needs would result in his salvation; that is, his sanctification, his full spiritual health. In other words, it was going to make him a stronger Christian.
Paul didn’t know what lay ahead for him; but he was confident that whether by life or death, that the Gospel he preached would succeed in doing its work. He was always aware that he was Christ’s chosen vessel. Anananias had shared that special message from God with him at the time of his conversion to Christ.
Persecution of Christ’s enemies and misunderstanding and meaness of fellow Christians did not deter him from preaching the Gospel.
Paul really didn’t care what happened to him. All that mattered to him was that the Gospel he once hated and fought against was furthered through his efforts. Though in chains in Rome, and though misunderstood and miserably treated by others, it really didn’t matter. Paul was thankful for every opportunity to preach the Gospel.
He was assured through his knowledge of God’s Word that whatever happened was going to work out for the spread of the Gospel and for his salvation from his imprisonment, whether by life or death. He knew the God of the Psalmist David who wrote repeatedly of how God delivered him.
He had witnessed Stephen’s stoning and death, and he never got over it. He had watched him die fearlessly and he knew God would give him that same faith and courage to face anything.
He didn’t care that there were mean-spirited, fellow preachers of the Gospel who hated and despised him and tried to make him look bad, even as they preached. He really didn’t care who got the credit for winning people to Christ. He was just glad the Gospel; was preached.
He was truly thankful for the faithful Christians who prayed for him and he was confident that through the provision of God, all his needs would be supplied.
In all his difficult circumstances and unfaithful “friends” who would gladly stab him in the back, no one could steal his joy that he had in knowing and serving Christ.
Does Christ and His Gospel consume you 24/7?
As John the Baptist’s motto in John 3:30 was “He must increase. I must decrease”; so his aim was “that Christ be magnified in his body.” His one purpose in life is summarized in Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is CHRIST. To die is gain” From the moment he was converted to Christ on the road to Damascus until the day he was executed, the Christ he once hated, was now the Christ he loved with a consuming passion. He was a one track man. Christ was everything to him. For Christ he was willing to suffer the loss of all things.
God doesn’t call every believer to be a preacher or a missionary, but He does call us all to that total dedication to Him, to use our strength and our resources to help spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, starting with your next door neighbor.
A key indicator of spiritual maturity is a deep abiding, unshakable joy, regardless of circumstances. Joy comes from living in the conscious presence of the Lord 24/7/365. We live in His presence as we read and digest His Word by meditating on it day and night. In Jeremiah 16:11 the prophet describes the source of joy as eating God’s Word. It was “the joy and rejoicing of his heart.”
When we lack the joy of the Lord, we tend to become unthankful, critical, sullen and bitter. These negative emotions rob us of His joy.
The real test of our Christianity is how we react to disappointments and differences of opinion with others. Joyless Christians are one of the major curses in churches. It’s one of the red flags that discourage visitors from returning to our churches. A joyful church is attractive to visitors. That joy must be genuine; not just a big grin behind a sour personality. It must be seen in the lives of the teens and children, as well as the adults.
Although some people seem to be born with a constant smile (and that is a wonderful quality) people need to see more than a smile. They need to observe the constant love, joy and peace that bubbles up from a Spirit-filled Christian, regardless of his circumstances. That is supernatural and cannot be worked up in the flesh. According to Galatians 5:22-23, joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit. That fruit is seen in the lives of those who are surrendered to Christ. When we are surrendered to Christ, His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, fills and controls us under every circumstance of life.
The Epistle to the Philippians repeatedly tells us to rejoice always. To rejoice is to live in a state of constant joy. That does not mean that we wear a constant smile; but one who rejoices can be recognized whether he smiles or weeps, whether he is a conversationalist or the silent type.
Only sin robs us of joy. That’s why David in his confession in Psalm 51 cries to God to restore the joy of his salvation.
Trouble comes to everyone: Christian and non-Christian. Jesus warned His own in John 16:33 “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” We’re taught in God’s Word to learn to rejoice in trouble.
Happy is the Christian who learns early in life that our joy is not related to our circumstances, to our possessions, nor to what we call success. Rather, joy is related to living for Christ and serving Him with all our hearts.
Paul was hounded by trouble from the moment he became a Christian. He writes about it on several occasions in his epistles. There’s no doubt that he experienced much more trouble than the average Christian. When he went into a town, he did not check out the motels, but the jails. That’s where he usually landed when he preached the Gospel.
TROUBLE BRINGS BLESSING
That’s what James teaches us in James 1:2-4. I can testify to the fact that most of my troubles in the ministry have been doorways into greater blessing. Paul wrote many of his Epistles from a jail cell. He wrote Philippians, this Epistle of joy chained to Roman guards twenty-four hours a day.
Troubles, including imprisonment, did not hinder his ministry in any way; nor did it dampen his joy. His troubles always resulted in the furtherance of the Gospel. Serving Christ was his passion and his source of joy. His joyful testimony for Christ resulted in many of his Roman guards coming to Christ and it was the talk of Caesar’s palace.
Can you imagine being chained to Roman guards 24 hours a day for two years? But, better yet, can you imagine a Roman guard being chained to the Apostle Paul for six hours stretches, day and night? No wonder, many received Christ as Saviour.
How about you, Christian friend? To whom or to what job are you chained each day? Are you doing your work as unto the Lord? Are you taking opportunities as they appear, to be a witness for Christ to those to whom you are chained through your job? I’m not asking you to ignore your job or disobey your employer, but if your life is shining for Christ, God is going to open up opportunities for you to be a witness. Be ready at all times to give an answer to those who ask you concerning the hope and joy that fills your heart.
As we move into Luke 21 Jesus has ceased His public preaching ministry. He has cleansed the temple, gotten rid of the sacrificial animals and has closed down operations there. As He dies on the cross in a day or two, the divine hands of God will wrent in two from top to bottom the heavy veil hanging before the Holy of Holies, showing that the way into that sacred dwelling place of God has been made available to anyone who trusts the shed blood of Christ for salvation. See Mark 15:37-38 for a record of this amazing miracle. See Hebrews 10:`9-10 for the doctrinal implication of this miracle.
Jesus’ enemies have quit asking Him any more questions. They have been silenced by His answers. Jesus had asked the scribes a penetrating question concerning King David’s Lord and Son. Of course, that Lord and Son is none other than Jesus Himself. The scribes, rejecting Jesus, gave Him no answer. The conversations with His enemies has ceased.
As we come to Luke 21 we see a poor widow being observed by Jesus as she casts her last two cents into the temple treasury and He hears the people marveling at the beauty and grandeur of the Temple.
With that, Jesus prophesies the total destruction of the temple. He then walks a short way with His Disciples from the temple to the Mount of Olives where He often resorted to talk to His Heavenly Father. There He begins what is known as His Olivet Discourse with His disciples. Three accounts of the Olivet Discourse are found, not only in Luke 21, but also in Mark 13 and Matthew 24-25, where we find the most complete account.
Jesus’ explanation to His Disciples and to us concerning the course of the Church Age is outlined in this conversation. It was initiated, Mark 13 tells us, by the question of Peter, James, John and Andrew, “Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”
Jesus’ answer beginning with Luke 21:8 is primarily a warning to not be deceived. Then He fills them in on the disastrous events yet to come before Christ returns to reign on this earth.
Though Jesus is with His disciples at the time of this conversation, the disciples are asking when He will be appearing. The Greek word is parousia, a word that has the idea of His appearing to judge and rule the world. Those who knew their Old Testament, were aware of the many prophecies of Messiah’s coming to reign on the earth, but they thought it might happen while He was still on this earth. So they were looking for signs that Jesus would launch His Kingdom.
Note, that Jesus does not mention the Rapture of the Church, for the Church has not yet begun. That will take place at Pentecost after Jesus has ascended back to Heaven. The Church will begin as the promised Gift of the Holy Spirit descends on His little band of followers including His Disciples to unite them into one Body and empower them for service.
Although in the Upper Room, Jesus will promises His Disciples in John 13-17 that He will return for them and take them to His Home in Heaven; the truth of the Rapture will be fully taught by the Apostle Paul, who at this time is still Saul of Tarsus, an enemy of Christ. That teaching concerning the rapture is found primarily in I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4, as well as from the very lips of Jesus in John 14:3.
But for now, Jesus, speaking on the Mount of Olives, outlines for His Disciples the events that must take place before He returns to establish His Millennial Kingdom. As we read this long list, it is quite evident that there is a long period of time and many events that must take place in the interim. So far, that period has stretched into 2000 years.
In Matthew 24 Jesus begins His Olivet Discourse. Now note the question of the Disciples as they came to Him privately as recorded in Matthew 24:3, “Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the signs of Thy coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus’ immediate and primary answer to His Disciples and to us is, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Then He begins to list a long string of events that must take place before He will return to reign, events that most of us have witnessed or heard about in our lifetime. It has only been in the past century that there has been an increased preaching and writing concerning the return of Christ. Why is that? Because of the events that are increasing before our eyes. Surely, the coming of the Lord is drawing nigh. Listen to Mark 13:29 “When ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it (His Coming) is nigh, even at the doors.” Does that excite you? It surely excites me!
Note in Luke 13:35 that Jesus gave basically the same warning concerning the Fall of Jerusalem several months earlier. In that warning is a promise at the very end of the verse. “Ye shall not see Me until the time come when ye shall say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!” There Jesus promises that one day Israel will receive Him as their Messiah and Saviour.
Let’s think for a moment about this temple Jesus prophesied would be utterly destroyed. There had been two earlier temples. First, was Solomon’s temple. It had been grand and beautiful, but it was destroyed by the Babylonians when Judah went into captivity. Then there was a second temple built by Zerubbabel while Judah was still in captivity to Persia, following the Babylonian captivity. This temple was not quite as grand as Solomon’s.
The temple standing at the time of Christ, had been built by Herod and was also built on a grand scale. It took over many years to build. It’s massive walls were built of beautiful white stone in that area. When cut and polished it was as beautiful as marble. The eastern walls were plated with gold and were dazzling in the morning sunlight. The walls were imbedded with beautiful precious stones and gifts given by the people.
The temple sparkled with the glory of these material things, but inwardly the glory had departed., and the people went about their religious ritual oblivious to God’s departed glory. Their religion was a counterfeit, outward show, as is so much of Christianity today.
That’s why Jesus pronounced judgment on it all, even as He does today. Any of those Jews then or now could read of all of this coming judgment, and future salvation of Israel, by reading their prophet Zechariah who prophesied it all in Zechariah 12-14.
SIGNS OF THE END OF THE AGE
The Disciple’s concern in Luke 21:7 and Matthew 24:3 is all about WHEN? When will this wicked world be judged? When will Christ Jesus return to usher in His Millennial Kingdom?
Again, I remind you, Jesus primary answer is “Don’t be deceived!” Lots of events will happen first. His Kingdom will not come for a long time. The question I would like to ask those who believe we are presently living in Christ’s Kingdom today is, If Jesus returned to establish His Kingdom in 70 AD, how do all these other events fit in that Jesus said would precede His return to reign? Jesus said that not only would Jerusalem be destroyed, as it was in 70 AD, but in addition there would be
1. Wars and rumors of wars
2. Nations rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms
3. Famines, pestilences, earthquakes all over the world
4. Ongoing persecution of Christians; not just in the first century.
5. Great tribulation in the world, not seen since the beginning of time.
6. Finally, the return of Christ would be seen as a flash of lightening that streaks across the horizon of the whole world.
7. All Israel is to be converted to Christ before He begins His reign. That has not happened yet.
8. Satan will be bound for 1000 years during Christ’s Kingdom. Satan is not presently bound. He is more active than ever today.
9. Earth’s conditions are not changed, as described in Isaiah 11 and 35, which describe life during the Kingdom Age.
Israel waited through 400 years of silence from God from the time of the last of the Old Testament prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi until Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Now she has waited for 2000 more years for their Messiah to appear. Time means nothing to God. A thousand years is as one day and one day is as a thousand years.
I don’t know when Jesus is returning to establish His Kingdom. I think it[s soon. So did the Apostle Paul expect Jesus to return in His lifetime. He wrote, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.” I Thessalonians 4:15. Preachers, especially in the past two hundred years, have increasingly preached the blessed hope of Christ’s soon return.
Let me close with a repeated warning, an encouragement from Jesus and a prayer, the very last prayer in the Bible.
Warning: Let no man deceive you concerning the return of Christ. Luke 21:8
Encouragement: Jesus has promised to come back for us. John 14:1-6
Prayer: Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20
Christians have no business living their lives by their moods or relating to others according to their moods. Moodiness is an evidence of spiritual instability and immaturity. Rather, we are to live our lives regulated by God’s unselfish agape love. Agape love is a love that only God has, but He gives it to His own. As we allow Him to control us by submitting to His indwelling Holy Spirit, we begin to share that agape love with others. I invite you to read Philippians 1:9-11 and learn about dynamic, growing unselfish agape love.
Love is the foundation of the Christian life.
All other religions have fierce, hateful deities. The worshippers do not love their gods, nor do they sense their gods love them. Hebrews 2:15 characterizes their lives as controlled by fear and bondage. They offer sacrifices and do penance to try to appease their angry gods.
On the other hand, Christianity is characterized by a loving relationship with God, Our Creator, as our Heavenly Father. We do not deserve that relationship with God, for our sins have offended Him. Thanks be to God, He sent His Son as a man, Jesus, to come into this world and live among us and then die on a cross, taking the penalty of death we deserved to pay for our sins and then rising from the dead three days later to justify us. When we receive Him by faith as our Saviour, He imputes His righteousness to us. We are justified and declared righteous. It’s His righteousness; not ours, that saves us.
Not only are we justified and declared righteous, but His Holy Spirit comes to live in our bodies and He empowers us to live lives pleasing to Him.
Furthermore, we are adopted into His family and begin to experience His amazing, unfathomable love to us. As a result we begin loving Him and others, because He first loved us. I John 4:19.
For us, love is not static. As Christians, we have the ability to grow and mature by feeding on God’s Word. With that growing maturity we have the ability to grow in our love for God and for others. That was Paul’s concern for the Philippian Christians and that is the concern of every true pastor for his congregation. We as pastors need to grow in selfless love for our congregations and model that love for them.
Nothing we do has value unless we are motivated by God’s love.
That’s the message of I Corinthians 13, the great love chapter of the Bible. For example, knowledge without love is just irritating noise. Preacher, teacher, remember that next time you stand before others to teach your congregation or your class God’s Word.
Romantic love shown to your spouse or sweetheart is basically selfish unless it comes from the heart of one who has been touched by God’s unselfish, agape love.
Love without humility is simply proud, arrogant self-love.
The use of our spiritual gifts, apart from agape love, is just another pious manifestation of ugly pride.
Only prayer from a heart of love and concern is effectual prayer.
Growth in agape love is commensurate with spiritual maturity.
With a growing spiritual maturity that comes by feeding on God’s Word, comes a growing genuine humility that enables us to esteem others as better than ourselves and a growing discernment of being able to distinguish right from wrong and that which is better from that which is best. That’s what Paul is teaching in Philippians 1:9-10
We don’t become know-it-alls, forcing our opinions on others. An arrogant teacher is so unbecoming as a Christian. He has nothing of value to share but his hot air.
Love leads to excellence.
Do you see the progression in verse 9-10? “So that ye may approve things that are excellent.” Christian parents, preachers and teachers, by feeding on God’s Word and staying surrendered to His indwelling Holy Spirit, we progress in spiritual maturity so that as we stand before our children or our Sunday School class or congregation, we are able to distinguish between trivia and our opinions and give to those we teach that which is valuable and worthwhile, God’s Word. Everyone’s time is too valuable to waste on trivia and trivial pursuits.
Spiritual maturity is caught more than taught.
In the final analysis, our children, our students and our congregations learn more by observing our lives than they do by listening to what we say. That’s why Paul and every true preacher or teacher or parents should be saying with the Apostle Paul, “Be followers of me as I follow Christ.” I Corinthians 4:15-17, 11:1, Philippians 3:17, and I Thessalonians 1:5-10.
Most people do not think. They simply react to their moods.
Spiritual growth does not come by our seeking feelings and experiences in church. It comes by quietly and humbly listening to or reading the Word of God and determining to obey what we learn. Philippians 4:8 warns us that it is important what we read or what we watch on television or at the movies and feed our minds.
We need to get beyond living by our moods and reacting to circumstances and other people. We need to feed on God’s Word. We need to meditate and ruminate on God’s Word as a cow chews its cud.
Philippians 1:10 teaches us that the goal of feeding on God’s Word is so we may be sincere and without offense. That word sincere speaks to us of integrity. The word sincere comes from a Latin word that means without wax.
Pottery merchants would sometimes take cracked pots and fill the cracks with wax and repaint them so that they looked as good as new. For us to pretend to be what we are not is to lack integrity. How many preachers stand in pulpits today who preach a good Biblical message, but whose lives are not what they ought to be. Such preachers lack integrity. They try to cover the cracks in their lives with the wax of hypocrisy.
It’s only as our lives are in harmony with what we preach that we have integrity. That’s why we need to expose our lives and our flaws to the light of God’s Word. Sometimes God allows the heat of trials to come into our lives in order to expose those cracks. It’s only as we confess our sins and get right with God that we can become men and women of integrity.
May we be so filled with God’s Word that we are repulsed by the world’s attractions, values and standards. May we not tolerate sin in our lives.
May we as Philippians 1:11 teaches, be filled with the fruits of righteousness. Only then can we bring praise and glory to God our Saviour. Will you begin this process today?
In the book, The Battle for the Bible by Harold Lindsell published in 1976 by Zondervan. Dr. Harold Ockenga, former pastor of Park Street Church in Boston and president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, describes in his Foreword to the book, how New Evangelicalism was born.
Here are his words in that Foreword.
“Neo-Evangelicalism was born in 1948 in connection with a convocation address which I gave in the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California. While reaffirming the theological view of fundamentalism, this address repudiated its ecclesiology and its social theory. (Emphasis mine) The ringing call for a repudiation of separatism and the summons to social involvement received a hearty response from many evangelicals.
The name caught on and many spokesmen such as Drs. Harold Lindsell, Carl F.H. Henry and Gleason Archer supported this viewpoint. We had no intention of launching a movement, but found that the emphasis attracted widespread support and exercised great influence.
Neo-Evangelicalism differed from modernism in its acceptance of the supernatural and its emphasis on the fundamental doctrines of Scripture. It differed from neo-orthodoxy in its emphasis upon the written Word as inerrant, over against the Word of God which was above and different from the Scripture, but was manifest in Scripture.
It differed from Fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and in its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological,
political and economic area of life.”
The Foreword goes on for several more paragraphs, but I want to focus in one thing- the negative, embarrassed attitude of New Evangelicals to the Biblical teaching of Biblical separation. I encourage you to read through this series on Separation on this Hidden Treasure’s web site, following along with what the Bible teaches about Separation and then decide for yourself whether New Evangelicalism was in line with the Bible on this issue.
You may ask, “What does it matter? That issue was over sixty years ago. The term New Evangelicalism isn’t even used today.” I agree that term is no longer used. But other terms are being used today. The Emergent Church, for one.
Regardless of how you would describe your church, the inclusive principle of Christians joining in doing God’s work with people who deny the Bible matters. I’ll tell you why it matters. This Biblical issue of separation has affected the church ever since. It has changed and weakened the church and many Christian colleges and seminaries over the past sixty years, just as Balaamism affected God’s people in Bible times.
Let me explain Balaamism. Follow along by reading the following scriptures and see how New Evangelicalism is modern day Balaamism.
Read Numbers 22, 23:4, 30 & 31. In these passages you will learn that Balaam preached the truth, but used his influence to cause Israel to compromise with God’s enemies in order to be popular and make more money.
Read II Peter 2 to learn that Balaamism was a way.
Read Jude 11 to learn that Balaamism was an error.
Read 2:14-15 to learn that Balaamism was a doctrine which Christ hates.
I encourage you to read this series on Separation and then settle where you stand on this vital issue. It’s not going to go away. It’s only going to bring more confusion to Christians and to churches. Everyone of us as Christians MUST study the Biblical doctrine of Separation and then get on one side of the issue or the other. Your decision is of eternal consequence on you, your family and your church.
The human author of Philippians was the Apostle Paul. I doubt that any Christian in the past 2000 years ever suffered for Christ anymore than Paul. His life was filled with it from the moment of his conversion until the day he was executed, no doubt by beheading, by Rome.
The Book of Acts describes much of his sufferings and he makes reference to that suffering often in his Epistles; never for sympathy, but as his reason for rejoicing. In II Corinthians 11 he lists a sampling of his sufferings for Christ. Shortly after his conversion to Christ, Saul (later named Paul) was given an inkling in Acts 9:15-16 of the sufferings that lay ahead for him.
But is wasn’t just Paul who was called to suffer for Christ. As we read through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and through the Epistles, we Christians are repeatedly reminded that suffering for the sake of Christ is the common experience of every faithful Christian. Paul shows us how to face that suffering joyfully. In fact, he says in Galatians 6:17 that he bore the scars of repeated beatings for Christ as a badge of honor.
There is no greater theme in the Epistle to the Philippians than the theme of joy and rejoicing. This theme is repeated in each of the four chapters. Joy, in fact, is the essence of Christianity. A miserable, pessimistic, defeated Christian is an oxymoron and a shame to the cause of Christ. Although I am an empathetic person by nature and know what it is to weep with those who weep; I have little patience or sympathy for pessimistic, whining Christians.
What is Christian joy?
Joy is the heart-felt emotion that wells up from the depths of our souls when we receive Christ as our Saviour from sin and surrender to Him as Lord of our lives. It’s not something we can work up. Rather, Psalm 16:11 explains that joy comes from living in the conscious presence of Christ. It’s the gift of God that is produced in us as we live surrendered to the indwelling Holy Spirit. In fact, Galatians 5:22-23 teaches that it is fruit produced in us by the Holy Spirit. Joy comes from reading and obeying God’s Word, we learn in Jeremiah 15:16 and I John 1:4.
Don’t confuse joy with happiness. Anyone, saved or unsaved, can be happy if the circumstances are going well. Joy is infinitely more wonderful than happiness.
I first experienced joy as a nine year old boy, when I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour. Joy is the combination of experiencing God’s love and peace, knowing that my heart is right with Him and I am ready for Heaven. Only one who has been born again into the family of God, can know and experience true joy. It never wavers, regardless of the worst of circumstances.
Keep in mind, that being saved and living in the joy of the Lord, does not insulate us from the trials of life and the pain and sorrow that accompanies those trials.
The Purpose of Philippians
Paul wrote this Epistle to encourage the hearts of the Philippian Christians and our hearts to live above our circumstances and to recognize Christ, not only as our Saviour, but also as our life. Philippians 1:21
I have had my share of negative, heart-breaking experiences with fellow Christians; but, to tell the truth, I need to dig into my memory to remember those negative experiences. They’re not on the surface. All of my conscious memories of Christian friends, are only joyful. I refuse to dwell on the negative memories. One day in Heaven, I will meet those Christians who have hurt me in the past, and hug them with Christ’s love. But, as far as I’m concerned, I’m ready to hug right now. I desire only God’s best for my former enemies. I refuse to be bitter. I wouldn’t touch that negative emotion with a ten foot pole. I encourage you to go to the GEM link and read the short statement by a medical doctor on the high cost of HATE.
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” Hebrews 4:9
What is this sabbath rest spoken of in Hebrews chapter 3 and 4?
For one thing, we know from Hebrews 3:1 and 4:9 that it concerns Christians. Our walk is likened to Israel‘s journey from Egypt through the wilderness and into Canaan.
We know it is a place of rest from our own works, efforts and struggles. 4:10
We know that only unbelief keeps us out of that land. 4:11
The Exodus from Egypt
Israel‘s 400 years of slavery in Egypt is an illustration of our condition before we were saved. We were slaves of Satan and knew nothing of true freedom. We were, as Hebrews 2:15 describes, “all our lifetime in bondage” to religion and self-effort; trying, but failing to gain merit with God.
Then in the fullness of time God gave them Moses to lead them out of Egypt and slavery. That took place at the first Passover described in Exodus 12. You remember that each family had to slay a lamb and smear the blood on the doorpost of their house so that the death angel would pass over them as he went through Egypt that night killing all the first born of the land. The death angel passed over the homes covered by the blood.
What a picture of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was slain for our sins! How important it is that we trust in that shed blood for our salvation! Those covered by the blood of Christ will never experience God’s condemnation. Are you covered by that blood? Are you trusting the blood sacrifice of Christ on Calvary as your only merit for salvation from sin and judgment?
Next day, after the angel of death had struck Egypt, while Israel had been spared; they began their journey from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. You remember the miracle of crossing the Red Sea on dry ground and then later the Egyptian army being drowned in the Red Sea as they pursued after Israel.
The rest of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy describe Israel‘s journey through the wilderness on their way to Canaan. Those books speak, not only of their journey, but also of the laws, the Tabernacle and the sacrificial system that God gave them for dealing with their sins and living their lives so as to please Him.
Their destination, the land of Canaan, does not speak primarily of Heaven, as many of our Christian songs teach; but of a life of victory we can experience as we live in a sin-cursed world. Yes, Canaan is a picture of the life that every Christian ought to be living here on earth right now. This life in Canaan, though filled with battles with Satan our enemy, is described as a life of REST.
REST is the key word in Hebrews 3 and 4.
As Israel journeyed through the wilderness they eventually came to Kadesh-barnea in the northern desert just south of the border of Canaan. Number 13-14 tells the story of how Israel sent twelve spies into Canaan to spy out the land so that they would be prepared to enter. Ten of those spies brought back a negative report of unbelief. “It was too dangerous. There were too many enemies. It was impossible.” Only two spies, Caleb and Joshua, brought back a positive report. ” Yes, there were enemies, but with God’s help, they could enter the land and be victorious!”
Israel listened to the majority report and gave up right then. They moaned and groaned and said it was impossible to enter. God became angry with them and sentenced all the Israelites twenty years old and older to continue to wander in the wilderness until they were dead.
Forty years later when all were dead, God called Joshua to lead the new generation, including eighty-five year old Caleb, to enter Canaan and begin conquering the enemy. That story is told in the book of Joshua. Basically, they were told to rest in the Lord, obey Him and watch Him conquer the enemies and enable them to possess the land. This is told in the first nine verses of the first chapter of Joshua.
What dangers do we face as Christians?
Through the sin of failing to trust God, we risk the danger of never entering the land of Canaan, the victorious Christian life. We risk the danger of just existing all our days, walking as living zombies with no purpose, no joy and no victories over sin. That’s the warning in Hebrews 3:7-11. Though saved, we depart from the living God and live our lives as though He were dead.
I’m afraid that Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years is a picture of many Christians who go through the motions of Christianity, but with no reality of walking with the Living Lord and experiencing His purpose, joy and victory in their lives.
Hebrews 3:13 instructs us to be aware of those defeated Christians and exhort them daily, lest their hearts become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Be aware that if we entertain and coddle even just a little sin in our lives, our hearts will gradually become calloused and hardened to where we don’t care.
We Christians who rejoice in our eternal security in Christ need to be especially cautious that we do not use that truth as an excuse to become careless about sin. If you’ve not read it, I encourage you to read my article on eternal security in our SALVATION series.
How do we partake of Christ?
Note the exhortation in Hebrews 3:14 “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfastly to the end.” How do we partake of Christ each day? We partake of Him as we read and take heed to His Word daily. His Word is the daily food that sustains us. Find a church that is faithful to the Bible where you are faithfully fed. Use this web site to help feed your soul as you test by the plumb line of the infallible, living Word of God what I or anyone else writes or says.
What must we fear?
Hebrews 4:1 warns us to fear something. What is it that we are to fear? Certainly not our eternal security in Christ. A Christian need not ever fear losing his salvation. Read Romans 8:28-39 for a powerful statement on why this should never be our fear. Our standing in Jesus’ righteousness can never change.
Certainly we ought not be concerned whether we are pleasing God through the Sabbath observance or through any other ceremonial law for Israel under the Old Covenant. That is not even an issue. If you have come to Jesus as your Saviour and are trusting Him, the observance of ceremonial laws and sabbaths should have no place in our lives. Those are all shadows of Christ. We have Christ Himself. The only value of studying those shadows is that we can learn more about Jesus.
If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation and for your life, you have nothing to fear as far as your standing is concerned. I John 4:18 says that “perfect love casts out fear.”
What is it then that Hebrews 4:1 is telling us to fear? The fear should be that of falling short of entering into Christ’s rest. We should fear displeasing our Heavenly Father.
Do you remember when you as a little child were warned by your parents to stay out of the street so you would not be hit by a car? As a little child, did you live each day in mortal fear of being hit by a car or being punished by your parents. Of course not! While you played in your yard or in the park with your parents or an older brother or sister, you didn’t even think of the dangers of the street; however, if your ball rolled out into the street, you were fearful of venturing out into the street. Even if a car didn’t hit you, you did not want to risk getting punished for disobeying your parents. Hopefully, your friends exhorted you to stay out of the street. So in our walk with God Christian friends and pastors exhort us to avoid seeing how close we can play with fire without being burned. They exhort us to come to church when we are beginning to get discouraged and slack off. See Hebrews 3:13 and 10:24.
How do we labor to enter this land of rest?
Hebrews 4:11 asks that question.
For one thing, we get into the Word of God. 4:12 It exposes the thoughts and intents of our heart like nothing else can. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring us to conviction of sin.
As we struggle with our infirmities and sins, remember that Jesus our great High Priest walked this earth as a man experiencing all the temptations we face yet without sin. He invites us to come boldly before His throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace to help us discover His victory when we are tempted. 4:14-16
Have you come to know Christ; not only as your Saviour, but as your Victory and Rest? I’m not teaching present perfection. I John 1:8-10 teaches that we will not be sinlessly perfect until we arrive in Heaven in our glorified bodies at the Rapture of the Church.
However, even though we are not perfect yet, we can learn to enjoy consistent victory over sin as we come to Jesus, our Sabbath Rest. Jesus invites us in Matthew 11:28-30 to come to Him, learn of Him and yoke with Him in service. We will discover the wonderful rest that comes in fellowship and service with Him.
My prayer for you, dear reader, is that your eyes will be opened to grasp this wonderful, life-changing truth of discovering The Lord Jesus Christ; not only as your Saviour, but as your Lord, as your Life, as your Victory over sin and as your Sabbath.
There is much teaching in Scripture about sacrificial and proportional giving, and of the blessing it brings to us as well as to others; but the purpose of the story before us in Luke 21:1-6 is not one of those lessons about giving and it’s rewards.
In this story Jesus told about a widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury, Jesus is simply making an observation that the widow gave all she had, whereas the rich gave from their abundance.
THE SETTING OF THIS STORY
To learn the proper lesson from this story, we must understand the setting. This is Jesus’ final week of earthly ministry. He has cleansed the temple and exposed the covetous religious leaders. He has nothing more to say to the crowds, nor to the religious leaders who were leading the people astray. His three years of earthly ministry are finished. The Jews have rejected their Messiah. .
Now Jesus is about to pronounce judgment on the people and their religion and total destruction on the temple and the city of Jerusalem.
This event concerning the poor widow who gave her last two mites to the temple is the last straw for Jesus. He is ready to cut loose and pronounce judgment on Israel here in Luke 21. You can also find an account of this judgment on Israel and the course of these past 2000 years in His Olivet Discourse in Mark 13; but the most complete account is found in Matthew 23 where you will read the harshest and most blistering denunciation of the Jewish leaders that Jesus ever spoke.
After the denunciation, Jesus took His disciples with Him to the Mount of Olives to speak to them privately about the future course of history for the Jews and for the rest of the world. This is known as the Olivet Discourse and you will find it in Luke 21:7-36, Mark 13:3-37 and Matthew 24-25.
Were all the disciples there listening to Him? Probably. I’ve always pictured them all there, but Mark 13:3 seems to teach that this was given privately to Peter, James and John only. In any event, these three are the ones who asked the question of Jesus.
Note that Jesus told this story of the widow between two events.
In Luke 20:45-47 He warned His disciples, as the Jewish crowds listened, to beware of their false religious leaders.
Then in Luke 21:5-36 He pronounced judgment on the temple and Jerusalem.
In between the warning and the judgment, came this event of the widow giving her two pence.
Why did Jesus make this observation of the widow just then? It seems like a strange time to be giving His disciples a lesson on stewardship.
WHAT THIS STORY WAS NOT TEACHING
Jesus was not primarily teaching a stewardship lesson here. He was just making an observation concerning the widow who gave everything she had to the temple treasury and contrasting her giving with the giving of the wealthy who gave a little out of their wealth.
Just a side thought here. Jesus is God. He was God then and He is still God today. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever as Hebrews 13:5 declares. He is always looking on our hearts. He is always observing how we spend our time, talents, energy and money. Let’s never lose sight of that. He is fully aware of our sacrifices and our motives and He will reward accordingly.
Jesus was not teaching here that the measure of our giving is determined by how much we have left after giving.
He was not teaching self-denial here; although He does teach self-denial elsewhere, such as in Matthew 16:23-25.
He was not teaching that the highest level of spirituality is for us to give away everything we own and take a vow of poverty. That is stupidity and an evidence of spiritual blindness.
How do we know Jesus was not making these points? Because He didn’t. He just made an observation, contrasting that the widow gave all she had, whereas the rich simply gave from their abundance.
If there is a stewardship lesson to be given here, it is that God wants us to give away everything we own: our house, car, clothes, food and everything else. That is NOT the lesson of this story, nor is it normally His will for any of us; or Jesus would have made that point.
To teach people to give away all they own is foolish and irresponsible.
Some exceptions to that statement
1. Elijah told the widow who was preparing her last meal before she died with her son to give it to him. God told Elijah to ask her for all of it. You are aware of the rest of that thrilling story. If not, read it in I Kings 17.
2. Jesus once told a rich young man to sell everything he had and give it all to the poor. That story is in Matthew 19:16-22. He challenged that man to do so in order to confront him with his pride and self-righteousness on which he was counting to earn Heaven.
3. I think of another example of a young man, William Borden, who gave up everything to serve Christ. William Borden was heir to the Borden Dairy estate and a millionaire.
As a high school graduation gift, he parents sent him around the world. During his trip the Lord called him to be a missionary to China. He wrote home, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” And at the age of eighteen he wrote in the back of his Bible, “No Reserves.”
As a student at Yale, he sought to win college men to Christ and His service. After graduation he entered two more words in his Bible. “No Retreats”
After finishing Princeton Seminary, in 1913 Borden sailed for China to begin his ministry. While on the trip, in Egypt he developed meningitis and died within the month.
But underneath the words, “No reserves” and “No retreats”, Borden had written the words “No regrets.” God used Borden’s story to speak to the hearts of many young people of that era who gave their lives for Christ’s service.
4, Certainly the Apostle Paul is one of the chief examples of this kind of total sacrifice for Christ. You can’t read the Book of Acts and Paul’s Epistles without being struck with Paul’s total sacrifice for Christ His Saviour and Lord.
If God leads someone to give all they own to His cause, we must not try to hold them back. However, we must never teach nor encourage needy people, especially widows to give away all their life savings, leaving themselves in total poverty in hopes that God will bless them. Preachers who would teach such are evil men to be avoided. Jesus described them in Luke 20:47, Matthew 23:14 and Mark 12:40 as people who devour widow’s houses; that is, take advantage of them.
IF THIS STORY DOES NOT TEACH STEWARDSHIP, THEN WHY IS IT FOUND HERE?
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus was furious with the wicked religious leaders who were taking advantage of the poor. They had confused values as they taught the people to observe their man-made traditions and ignore God’s clear commands. That’s what was being talked about in Matthew 15:1-9. They were teaching that giving to the temple took precedence over giving to the support of needy parents. Mark 7:6-13 gives the same lesson.
He uses the word corbon, (which means devoted to God) to refer to their offerings.
TOO BAD, TOO BAD! We’ve already given our money to God!
In other words, selfish sons and daughters could ignore the needs of their needy parents simply by declaring that the money that could have been used to help their parents, had already been given to God. It was as if they were saying, “Too bad! Too bad! We can’t help you. We’ve already given our money to God!”
THE FINAL STRAW
So as Jesus, in sorrow and utter exhaustion, was looking down; suddenly He lifted up His head and saw the widow and others giving their money to the temple treasury and as He saw and heard others glorying in the wealth and beauty of the temple, He cut loose. This was the final straw. In Luke 21:6 He proclaims, “As for thee things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Here Jesus prophesied of the judgment and utter devastation of the temple and of the city of Jerusalem. That destruction took place forty years later when Titus led the Roman army to totally destroy the temple and the city in 70 AD.
God will judge preachers today, some on television, who pressure poor and needy people to send their money to their cause, promising God will bless them for their sacrifice. Some of these prosperity preachers, are no better than the bankers and CEO’s today who live in luxury and then cry to Congress to bail them out at tax payer expense.
In nations where dead, oppressive religion reigns, you will find magnificent cathedrals and you will find masses of people, kept in ignorance and poverty and bondage to religion, as they struggle in their poverty to pay their religious leaders to pray them out of Purgatory (a sheer invention of their religion) into Heaven. With such religious leaders, God is furious and they will face eternal damnation in Hell.
A FINAL THOUGHT
Though Spirit-led Christians delight in sacrificing their lives and all that they possesses to God and though sometimes they give perhaps more than they should, we who are in spiritual leadership should never encourage it, but rather try to dissuade them from such extreme sacrifice. That’s what the Apostle Paul did as he tried to dissuade the Macedonian Christians from giving more than they should. Read II Corinthians 8:1-5 on this. Paul rightly cautioned them about going overboard in their sacrificial giving. They had to entreat Paul to take their offerings. Nevertheless, the people insisted on giving sacrificially to the poor saints in Jerusalem. Paul commends them for that sacrifice.
May God help us as church leaders to never put people in bondage by pressuring them to give beyond their means with the promise that God will bless them for it.
We’re presently going through Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians in our Sunday evening services. As I prepare this for HIDDEN TREASURES I want to simply hit the key points in these studies from this Epistle.
Paul was imprisoned by the Roman Empire for preaching God’s Word. The events leading up to his being taken to Rome for his trial and later his execution began in Acts 18. I would encourage you to read of the events that led to his capture and journey to Rome in the exciting events described in Acts 18 through 28. Actually you would do well to start in Acts 9 with his conversion when he was still known as Saul of Tarsus.
When he finally arrived in Rome, he was not yet in a dungeon awaiting execution. That time came later. For now, he lived in his own private quarters in Rome, chained to guards day and night. These guards were changed every six hours. Can you imagine being chained to a guard day and night? The chains were about 18 inches long, so there was not much privacy for Paul, whether he was sleeping, eating or whatever he needed to do.
But can you imagine what it was like for those guards to be chained to Paul for six hours at a time? Talk about a captive audience! Acts 28:30-31 informs us that this house imprisonment went on for two years. You can be sure those guards were thoroughly evangelized and taught the truths of God’s Word. Many were saved as they heard him explain the wonderful Gospel of the grace of God. Philippians 1:12-13 and 4:22 speaks of the saints in Caesar’s household who joined Paul in sending greetings to the church of Philippi. That included many of those guards.
Epaphroditus, a leader in the Church of Philippi had traveled to Rome with a financial gift from the Philippian Church for Paul. Paul had received the gift and was greatly encouraged by their love and thoughtfulness. This Epistle to the Philippians was a thank you note from Paul which Epaphroditus would take with him when he returned to Philippi.
Of course, coming from Paul, it was more than a thank you note. It was an epistle of inspired truth concerning salvation and Christian living. I hope you will take time to read it and reread it several times as we work our way through Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. If you enjoy memorizing, this would be a great epistle to memorize and hide away in your heart. I guarantee you that it will change your life.
“Doctrine divides. Love unites.” You’ve probably heard that statement. It is both a true and at the same time, a confusing and dangerous statement.
FIRST, WHAT IS DOCTRINE?
Doctrine is the foundational truth, or the core beliefs and principles upon which a body of adherents is built, whether it be a church, a religious denomination, a service organization, a political party or a nation. Without core beliefs, we are like a house without a foundation. Without core beliefs, we will change daily as we are led by public opinion.
WHAT IS CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE?
The Christian’s doctrine is based on the Bible alone. The Bible, both the Old and New Testament, is God’s inspired, infallible Word and is our only and final authority for faith and lifestyle. What applies to individual Christians also applies to the church which is an organized body of Christians gathered together to worship God and use our spiritual gifts to edify the saints to carry out Christ’s Great Commission to evangelize the lost, locally, state wide, nationally and internationally.
IT IS A TRUE STATEMENT
There are many doctrines that divide true Christians, including (but not limited to) positions on church polity, prophecy, the person and work of the Holy Spirit and the essence and methods of worship.
Christians who differ in these areas, but hold to the Bible for core beliefs, can still get to know and love one another as brothers and sister in Christ and work together in certain areas to achieve common goals.
IT IS ALSO A DANGEROUS AND DEADLY STATEMENT
That statement, “Doctrine divides. Love unites” when applied to the Doctrine of Christ becomes a dangerous and deadly statement. Let me explain from God’s Word.
All Christians will agree with the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 16:22 that true Christians ought to love Jesus. There he writes, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” That is, if any man loves not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be cursed when Jesus returns. All true Christians love the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter how confused they may be in other doctrines of The Faith.
All true Christians can be agreed on the fact that though we Christians differ in doctrine in many areas, we are agreed that genuine Christians love Jesus and those who love Jesus will be drawn together to work for His glory. That statement is true as far as it goes.
The dangerous and deadly part of that statement is that Jesus has not been identified in the statement. It’s one thing to confess that we love Jesus. It’s another thing to define the Jesus we confess.
Paul warns in II Corinthians 11:1-4 of the danger of being deceived by Satan to follow “another Jesus” whom Paul has not preached.
John warns in II John 8-11, of the danger of being led away from the Doctrine of Christ. Listen to his warning. “Whosoever transgresses and abides not in the Doctrine of Christ, has not God. He who abides in the Doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and brings not this doctrine, do not receive him into your house, neither bid him God’s speed, for he who bids him God’s speed (or encourages him and asks God’s blessing on him) is a partaker of his evil deeds.
Paul is amazed how the Galatian Christian have so quickly been led away into false doctrine by evil men and he warns them in Galatians 1:6-9 “I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him who called you into the grace of Christ into another gospel: which is not another; but there be some who trouble you and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel unto you then that which we have preached unto you, LET HIM BE ACCURSED. As we said before, so say I now again. If any man preach another gospel unto you, than you have received, LET HIM BE ACCURSED.”
WHICH CHRIST SAVES?
The Christ of religious Liberalism does not save. They teach that Jesus was a man born to Joseph and Mary who grew up and became a wonderful teacher about God and who became known as the Son of God. He did not really perform miracles. For example, they falsely teach that the Feeding of the Five Thousand with a boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish, was accomplished as the boy shared his lunch and encouraged others to share their lunches and thus everyone was fed.
Liberalism, including Neo Orthodoxy, totally rejects the virgin birth of Jesus and His bodily resurrection and they explain away His miracles. They believe Jesus died, simply as a martyr for the things He believed and taught.
In short, Liberals do not believe that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, Creator of Heaven and earth. They deny the biblical Doctrine of Christ and must be recognized as false teachers under God’s curse.
The Christ of the Cults do not save for the same reasons. Each cult has their own doctrine of Christ which is not in harmony with the Bible.
SO, WHAT IS THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST?
We can learn that by reading our Bibles. What does the Bible teach us about Jesus?
1. Jesus is the eternal, only true God, without beginning or end, who has always existed. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:13-20, Hebrews 1, Revelation 4:11
2. Jesus is the Son, the second Person of the Trinity: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit; each separate and yet they are one God. I John 5:7
3. Jesus was born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14, Matt. 1:16, 18-25, Luke 1:26-38
4. Jesus was totally sinless. I Peter 2:21-22 Hebrews 7:22-27 II Corinthians 5:21
5. Jesus, the Lamb of God, shed His blood on the cross for our sins. Apart from faith in His shed blood, there is no forgiveness or cleansing from sin. Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22, Revelation 5
6. Jesus arose from the dead bodily from the tomb on the third day and He was seen by numbers of witnesses. Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21
7. Jesus ascended back to Heaven from the Mount of Olives Acts 1
8. Jesus is returning in His glorified body to raise Christians from the dead and catch up Christians into Heaven. I Corinthians 15 I Thessalonians 4
9. Jesus will return one thousand years later to raise all the lost to stand before His Judgment to be condemned to eternal Hell. Revelation 20
That, briefly, is the Doctrine of Christ. Only by believing these doctrines concerning Christ, can one truly receive Christ as Saviour. Those who reject the Doctrine of Christ, have rejected the Jesus of the Bible and such are still lost in their sins.
To teach anything contrary to the doctrine of Christ is to be cursed by God and such should be rejected by us as a false teacher.