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2007-12-30_The Coming-Birth Pains_Matthew24.1-14_SL

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The Coming: Birth Pangs

Matthew 24:1-14   |   Shaun LePage   |   December 30, 2007

The Coming: Birth Pangs

Matthew 24:1-14   |   Shaun LePage   |   December 30, 2007

I.       Introduction

A.    People throughout history have developed an amazing assortment of methods for attempting to see into the future: palm-reading, tarot cards, crystal balls, Ouija boards, horoscopes/astrology (stars), but all of these have proven to be completely unreliable; Lloyd Cory (Quote Unquote), Union-Sun Journal: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, no clairvoyant meeting will be held until further notice.”

B.    The only voice of certainty about the future is God Himself—as revealed in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. Almost every Christian in the world (certainly evangelicals) would agree with that statement. And yet, perhaps in no other area of Bible interpretation do evangelicals differ so widely as in eschatology (study of future; “last”); if God has spoken about the future (1/4 of the Bible!) why can’t we agree on what He said?

C.    Full answer beyond scope of 1 sermon, but simple answer: Interpretation—what does text actually mean and how do we figure that out? Little history: Walvoord (Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, p.10); Explains Dispensationalism being late in history —though time does not determine truth (many heresies early! Reformation 16th cent.)—is it Biblical? Zuck (another DTS prof; Basic Bible Interpretation, p.7)—I fully agree; this is my view; many claim this view, but when it comes to prophecy—allegorize and spiritualize.

D.    Matt 24-25 (next few weeks) key prophetic passage—“Olivet Discourse” (Mt. of Olives)—Jesus Himself discussing His “parousia” (“coming”)

E.     Theologian Millard Erickson has created two words related to eschatology. “Eschatomania” he defines as “an intensive preoccupation with eschatology.” “Eschatophobia” on the other hand, is “a fear of or aversion to eschatology, or at least an avoidance of discussing it.” Erickson concludes: “Somewhere between the two extremes of preoccupation with and avoidance of eschatology, we must take our stance. For eschatology is neither an unimportant and optional topic nor the sole subject of significance and interest to the Christian.” (Christian Theology p. 1153.)

F.     So, we must be balanced and not think prophecy is the sole and most important area of study, but we must also recognize that the very nature of Christianity is intertwined with prophecy. OT—Christ is coming! NT—He came and will return! Again ¼ prophetic!

II.     Body—Matthew 24:1-14

A.    The End of the Temple (1-2)

1.     (1) Context: finished debate / 7 woes Scribes/Pharisees; Sorrow over Jerusalem, “house left desolate”→ “going away” (1); disciples “point out the temple buildings” started by Herod the Great in 20BC, completed AD64! How “left desolate”? Figurative/spiritual?

2.     (2) “Not one stone” destruction of temple—AD70 prophecy literally fulfilled; Romans/Titus; Josephus eyewitness: “…the wall [surrounding Jerusalem]…was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited.”; Why? Lk 19.41-44—Rejection of Christ brings judgment; Jn 1.12

B.    The End of the Age (3-14)

1.     (3) “Mount of Olives” (Olivet); 1,2or3 questions? Zech 14:1-9—to disciples (Jews of that day), 1 event! As with many OT prophecies, Church Age (“mystery”) unknown

2.     (4-14) From this point on, disagreements—3 major views: 1) all fulfilled in AD70; 2) 4-8 present; 9ff future/Great Trib; 3) (best) General now with increasing intensity, most intense in Trib (Rev 2-3 present age and Rev.6 seal judgments); 9major characteristics:

a)     False Christs (4-5)

b)     Wars and rumors of wars (6-7) “not yet the end”

c)     Famines (7)

d)     Earthquakes (7) “merely the beginning of birth pangs”

e)     Killed/hated by “nations” (Gentiles? Trib→Jews; 9); problems from without

f)      Fall away/betray/hate one another (10); problems from within

g)     False prophets (11)

h)     Lawlessness increased/love will grow cold (lawless & loveless; 12)

i)      World-wide preaching of gospel (v.14) “then the end will come”

3.     Interlaced with these characteristics, Jesus answered another significant question: What should we do in the meantime? Why did God give prophecy? At least 2/3rds of Mt 24-25 is devoted to answering this question! Dr. Zuck, helpful list (back of handout):

a)     Prophecy Comforts. Jn 14:1-31 Jesus just announced departure; comforted disciples—coming back for them; 1 Thes 4:16-18 Paul comforted Thessalonians—believing loved ones already died would not miss the rapture—the Lord’s return.

b)     Prophecy Calms. 2 Timothy 3:13-15 terrible days to come; Christians can rest—God knows/controls future; second coming “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)

c)     Prophecy Converts. several sermons in Acts include God’s plans for the future, and as a result a number of people became believers in Christ.

d)     Prophecy Cleanses. Titus 2:11-14 and 2 Peter 3:14. Knowing Lord may come any moment should influence believers to lead lives pleasing to the Lord.

e)     Prophecy Compels. 1 Cor 15:51-58 and 2 Cor 5:9-15. In view of soon return of Lord, believers should “stand firm…give fully to the work of the Lord” etc.; Heb 10:24-25 “assemble…encourage…as you see the day drawing near”

f)      Prophecy Clarifies. Revelation 1:7-8. Bible prophecy presents many details about what God will do in the future; pulls Bible together—clarifying God’s plan

4.     Here in Mt 24:4-11 I see at least 4 clear applications/instructions:

a)     Don’t be misled (4-5) Stay grounded in word—“every eye will see” Rev 1.7

b)     Don’t be frightened (6-8) “birth pangs” joy after “delivery”!

c)     Endure in tribulation (9-13) many will fall away; betray/hate one another; false prophets (confusion: date-setters); lawlessness, love grow cold—“But one who endures to end, he will be saved” condition for salvation? “saved” not always justification (e.g., 1 Tim 2:15); call to remain faithful—God will end persecution, reward overcomers

d)     Preach the gospel (14) whether sign for now or Trib, this is the Great Commission both periods the call is the same; Wycliffe friend—every language by 2025; complete fulfillment only in Tribulation

III.   Closing:

A.    J. Dwight Pentecost: “A short time ago, I took occasion to go through the New Testament to mark each reference to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and to observe the use made of that teaching about His coming. I was struck anew with the fact that almost without exception, when the coming of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament, it is followed by an exhortation to godliness and holy living. While the study of prophecy will give us proof of the authority of the Word of God, will reveal the purpose of God and the power of God, and will give us the peace and assurance of God, we have missed the whole purpose of the study of prophecy if it does not conform us to the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily living.” (Prophecy for Today, p. 19).

[ Closing Prayer—over ]

B.    Closing Prayer: Lord, God, we praise You as the Sovereign Lord of history and thank You for revealing to us Your plans for bringing history to a glorious, climactic conclusion. We thank You for Your patience and mercy—because this will result in more being saved. We pray that You would help us to have a balanced approach to these prophecies—understanding that Your purpose in giving us these pictures into the future is that we would not be misled or frightened, but that we would endure and be about the work You’ve given us to do—specifically, preaching the good news to all within earshot. Lord, please use us in this way and be glorified in our lives as we eagerly await Your parousia—Your Coming. Come, Lord, Jesus—may it be today.

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