Malachi 4:1-6, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-28
We're used to looking for signs. "Turn right at the place where Widow Claxton's old barn used to be, you know? She always had the big haystack there." "When was that?" "Oh, forever. Remember? It burned down about a few years back, in '75."
Ever had that conversation with someone?
I'm new in town. Will I find the sign? Guess not.
We look for signs.
Signs of the times.
What are the signs of Jesus' coming?
rumors of where to look for help
nation against nation - wars
earthquakes, typhoons, famines, floods
What was that sign in the heavens? We aren't so interested in that these days.
What happens to people as Jesus prepares to return?
Persecution of his people
Religious, legal, criminal charges
Religious - BBC recently minimized persecution of Christians artificially lowering estimates of people who die for their faith from about 100,000 per year to more like 7,000 per year. Still too many, more than the early Christians in the Roman empire would have ever imagined.
Legal - U.S. military had a ban on chaplains performing their duties during the government shut-down. There's no forgiveness for military personnel, must be non-essential.
Conservative organizations attacked in legislation requiring them to violate their consciences.
Christianity ends as soon as you start a business?
Pro-life people marked as dangerous to society.
Criminal - Where do we cross the line?
refuse to participate in government requirements that violate conscience
In Acts chapter 2 Peter the apostle identified us as being in the last days. None of what I've just spoken of is anything new. What happens to Christians?
killed for expressing their faith - yet we fear rejection by our friends
driven out of communities and into unemployment and poverty - yet we are upset when we are told to keep doing our work rather than talking about whatever we're interested in during work hours
tried in religious courts - happening today but not in this country
separated from educational opportunities - world tries to paint as a fringe group
We hear about the wars, the family conflict, we hope it's distant.
Yet when we fear to be public witnesses to Jesus we have given in to the pressure of our world.
What will we do?
be hated by all for the sake of Jesus' name
Our world says this is a very bad thing. What does Jesus say?
Luke 21:18 "NOT A HAIR OF YOUR HEAD WILL PERISH" (ESV)
Is it pleasant living in these last days, in the time of persecution?
NO NO NO!
It's a time of danger. It's a time when God shows the sin and failure of human wisdom, of human care, of human institutions, of our goodness.
God's people are trampled.
There's a perfect time to flee and hide, but it is not at that point, not here, not now. I think it may be for some people in some of the areas where people listen to these sermons on the Internet, in East Timor, in China, in parts of Russia, in some areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
falling by the sword
falling by fear
The end of the world is a time for terror.
Remember Luke 21:18? "NOT A HAIR OF YOUR HEAD WILL PERISH"
even if you're killed
even if your town is surrounded by enemies who wish to kill you
even if we have to have armed guards at church to try to prevent it from being blown up
even if there is destruction and death all around
even if your world is crumbling
If we have hope only in this world, we have no hope at all. It is only as we lift up our head and look to see Jesus, the Son of Man, coming to redeem us from this world, that we have life.
What's Jesus' promise to us, as we look to him? NOT A HAIR OF YOUR HEAD WILL PERISH!
Why do we gather then on Sundays, on Wednesdays, on other days when we have Bible studies planned?
Jesus has help and hope for those who are trusting in him. If we look anywhere else we find nothing but destruction. It is only in Jesus that we can find hope.
Look to Jesus
Repent of sin, distrust, fear, everything that stands in the way of his love
Receive his great and mighty promises.
We are in the last days. The time is soon to be fulfilled. We look, in these last days, to the coming Savior, who will come to redeem us from this world, from the curse of sin, from every evil. He alone is our hope and our salvation.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.