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“The Real End Times Scenario”
Matthew 24:36


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost—November 6, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

There is an interesting but little-known curiosity about the great cathedrals of Europe.  Cathedral construction all across Europe came grinding to a halt in about 975 A.D. and didn’t really start again until about 1025.  What was the reason that for 50 years people all over Europe stopped building their cathedrals?  Because almost everyone accepted as an established fact that the Second Coming of Christ would occur in the year 1000.  Why expend all that effort on a building that won’t even be finished before the end of the world?

There was a similar movement in England in the 1600’s.  Many people thought, because the book of Revelation mentions the number 666, the Second Coming of Christ must surely occur in the year 1666.  Some were so convinced they decided to withdraw from the wicked world and move to a place where they could live the final decades in holiness and purity.  They were called the Puritans; we call them the Pilgrims.  We’ll be remembering their journey to the New World in a few weeks as we celebrate Thanksgiving.  But, you probably didn’t know the reason why the Pilgrims came to America in 1620, because they were convinced the end of the world was coming in 1666.

The Bible does say that the world really is coming to an end.  How should you prepare yourself for the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world?  If you are prepared for your own death, you are prepared for the Last Day.  Prepare yourself by receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior, by trusting that all your sins are forgiven because of his sacrifice for you, by believing his promise of everlasting life:  “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live.”  If you are prepared for your own death, you are prepared for the Last Day.

A decade ago we were privileged to witness something really extraordinary: not just a change of centuries, but a change of millennia, from the 1000’s to the 2000’s.  Just as happened in the decades before and after the year 1000; just as happened in the decades before and after the year 1666; in the decades before and after the year 2000 we have heard more and more about the End Times, the Last Days, the Second Coming, the end of the world.

You may remember that last May a radio preacher announced the end of the world would occur on May 21st, 2011.  His followers spent over $100 million dollars on a world-wide publicity campaign, billboards, radio, television, and newspaper ads, proclaiming, “Judgment Day May 21st—The Bible Guarantees It.”   You may not have heard that this same preacher recently said he had miscalculated, and revised his prediction to October 21st, which of course also came and went without the end of the world.

That was the big end of the world story in 2011.  A year from now in there will probably be an even bigger frenzy over the end of the world supposedly predicted in the Mayan calendar for December 21st, 2012.  This morning we are looking at what the Bible itself says about the End Times.  What is “The Real End Times Scenario”?

We must begin with an important principle of Bible interpretation: Scripture interprets Scripture.  In order to interpret those parts of the Bible that are less easy to understand we look at other places in the Bible where the Bible itself speaks plainly on the same subject.  Scripture interprets Scripture.  Especially with the subject of the End Times, the Bible often uses symbolism.  We interpret this symbolism by looking at other places where the Bible itself speaks plainly, without symbolism, on the same subject.

For example, people have put forth many elaborate schemes, supposedly based on certain symbolic passages of Scripture, for allegedly calculating when the end of the world will occur.  Christopher Columbus actually predicted the end of the world would be in 1656.  Sir Isaac Newton said it would be 1948.  In the 1800’s, William Miller calculated the end of the world would be on March 21st, 1844.  Thousands of Millerites abandoned their jobs, their homes, even their families.  They journeyed to Jerusalem to await the Second Coming that never came.  More recently the television preacher Pat Robertson calculated the end of the world would be in 1982 and again in 1999.

Such false prophets often have one thing in common: They quote passages of Scripture, especially symbolic passages of Scripture, to supposedly prove their calculations.  But we must let Scripture interpret Scripture.

The Scriptures we are looking at today are printed on your bulletin insert.  Jesus says very plainly in today’s Gospel Reading, “No one knows that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  According to Jesus’ own words, any interpretation of Scripture which supposedly calculates the Second Coming is false, wrong, just plain phony.

What was the last thing was Jesus himself said about his Second Coming?  Just before he ascended into heaven, he told the disciples: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”  Trying to figure out the time of the Second Coming is like Adam and Eve trying to be like God by eating the forbidden fruit.  “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”  Even attempting to calculate the Second Coming is sinful rebellion against God’s will.  “It is not for you to know.”  “Therefore keep watch,” Jesus says, “because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

So what is “The Real End Times Scenario”?  Scripture says the End Times actually began over 2,000 years ago, with the first coming of Christ.  In about 90 A.D. the Apostle John wrote, “Dear children, this is the last hour.”  Hebrews says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”  We have been in the End Times for over 2,000 years.  The End Times began with the first coming of Christ, which we will soon celebrate at Christmas, and will end with his Second Coming. 

Jesus gives us many different signs that must be fulfilled before his Second Coming will occur.  “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”  Historians tell us that in the 2,000 years since Jesus spoke those words, there has never been one moment where there hasn’t been a war somewhere in the world.  This sign has been fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled.

“There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”  Already in Acts there is recorded a great famine, and one of the worst earthquakes of all time hit the Mediterranean in 365 A.D.  This sign has been fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled.

“False Christ and false prophets will appear . . . Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.”  That radio preacher who predicted the end of the world for May 21st and October 21st this year was one of thousands of false Christ and false prophets who have arisen since Jesus spoke those words.  This sign has been fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled.

In fact, if you take them one by one, all of the signs of the End Times given in the Bible were already fulfilled in the days of the apostles.  That’s why John said, “This is the last hour” and Peter wrote, “The end of all things is at hand.”

The Bible does teach there will be a period of increasing wickedness at the very end of the Last Days.  Paul says, “There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”  I would not disagree with those who see in Paul’s words a description of 21st century America.  But I also know that Martin Luther read those same words 400 years ago and concluded, “Surely the Apostle is speaking of our generation.”  Perhaps we are at the very end of the End Times; perhaps the end will come very soon.  Certainly all the signs are fulfilled; the Second Coming could be at any moment.

What is “The Real End Times Scenario”?  The Bible teaches that the Second Coming of Christ, the Resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, the end of the world, all will occur in a single instant.  In one moment Jesus will appear to the entire world:  “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so it will be with the coming of the Son of Man.”  “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”  “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.”

At the moment of the Second Coming, all the dead will rise:  “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out.”

At the moment of the Second Coming, our resurrected bodies will be glorified: “We will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”

At the moment of the Second Coming, all people will be judged: “For he has set a day when he will judge the world.”  “And before him will be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

At the moment of the Second Coming, you will be declared not guilty because the Judge himself has already served the sentence and paid the penalty for you.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And since I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you also may be.  You know the way to the place where I am going. . .  I am the way, the truth and the life.”

At the moment of the Second Coming, heaven and earth will pass away and God will create a new heaven and a new earth:  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”  “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. . .  That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

Just as they didn’t start rebuilding the great cathedrals of Europe until about 25 years after the 1000, as we continue in the decades following the year 2000 we are going to continue to hear more and more about the Second Coming and the end of the world.  Whatever you may read or hear, always remember that Jesus says, “No one knows that day or hour” and, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”  But, the signs are all fulfilled; the Second Coming could happen at any moment.  

However, Jesus says that for you and all who trust in him the imminent end of the world is not cause for panic but for rejoicing: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. . .  Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

“The end of all things is at hand.”  Prepare yourself by trusting in Jesus.  “Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”  That is “The Real End Times Scenario.”

Amen.

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