An Imperative and Comforting Filter
Passage: Matthew 24:3–24:14
Thanks for being with us today, thanks for joining with us and I just want to reiterate something that we heard just a moment ago, as Aaron was talking about how, we’re gathered together.
I've already seen some of the pictures that are online this morning, and I've seen some of the gatherings of families or groups of friends who are together, and I just wanna just make a comment about how we listen to sermons, because this is a unique opportunity for friends and families to engage in a different way. Maybe parents with their children during the sermon, but maybe there are some ways that we ask questions during the sermon, maybe something like this. What are we learning about God today?
What is something that you liked about today's sermon? And that's not just me looking for some kind of encouragement or anything like that. What's something that you heard that you didn't understand today? And who's somebody that we can talk to about that where we just learned to talk to one another about these things in very practical ways. What's something that I want to share with others that I heard today?
Maybe something like this. How can I live differently even today because of what I've heard or after hearing this is something that I'm going to thank God for, and then just list those things out very simply, "Where can I change after hearing this or hear our questions that I still have that I wanna look into further?
Here's why, because we want to go beyond knowing the date the passage, the title of the message and the speaker, we wanna become doers, of the Word of God and engaging with questions like this as we're listening to the word of God, and to the preach to Word of God, those are ways that we can really seek to live in light of His word. And this is where our community groups serve such a wonderful role in the life of our church, even as we're not able to physically meet together, we can still reach out and discuss these things. I know many of our groups have been meeting in different Zoom sessions and things like that, and you can find information on those groups that met to life dot org.
As you turn in your Bibles to Matthew Chapter 24, That's where we're going to be today, Matthew, Chapter 24. as you're turning there, we're gonna look at verses 3 through 14. and I just wanna start with this. There are maybe this is the best way to start the... There's a confession, I need to make and please don't tune me out or a result of this, but I don't drink coffee, I don't like coffee, maybe more specifically. Coffee doesn't like me. Maybe that's a better way to put it, at least that was my experience in my pre-teen years and that just turned me off to the warm bean water forever, right?
I just am not a person that drinks coffee, but I know a good coffee maker because my wife loves to hear those three little words for me. Every morning, “your coffee’s ready”, right?
That's something that's a great moment in our house when that's a way that I express love to her.
Your coffee is ready and it's ready to drink, but I do enjoy hot tea.
And in our house, we recently got a new coffee maker and a part of it is kind of a reservoir of water that I can just kinda tap into any time and get hot tea and in this filter should be in place when I go to make my hot tea. And this has happened a few times since we got this new coffee maker.
I was going to make tea, and I was starting to drink it and I realized something is different about this and this, either something's gone wrong with this filter or something else is in its place. And even as recently as Friday night when I was going to make some tea after dinner, I realized this was in its place. And it may be hard to see on the video but this is donut shop blend medium roast coffee, not my cup of tea, right, this is something that was in place, it was a filter that was in place that was kind of embedded in this and I didn't realize at the time, until I was kind of midway through my cup of tea, I just realized something is off about this, and maybe that's kind of how you feel about what's going on in the world around us right now.
Something seems off about it and things are being filtered through our understanding or our understanding is being filtered through what we see going on and we realize something else is in it's place, and we want to look to God's Word because Jesus is equipping his followers, he's equipping His disciples to rightly filter the circumstances that are going around them... Now, this is not a word of correction for our church, this is really a word of equipping and encouragement for our church today.
So if you're listening to this, don't hear this as this is this heavy-handed, correction because you've been doing something wrong.
Actually we want to look to God's word to understand how to live rightly and how to interpret or filter rightly the events that are going on around us, so with that in mind, let's look at Matthew chapter 24, verses 3 through 14 together, and we read this as he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately saying, Tell us when these things will be and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age. And Jesus answered them. See that no one leads you astray, for many will come in my name saying, "I am the Christ, and they will lead many a stray and you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, that see that you are not alarmed. For this must take place, but the end is not yet for 'nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be families famines and earthquakes in various places, all of these are... But the beginning of the birth pains then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you'll be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another and many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold but the one who endures to the end, will be saved and this Gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.
Admittedly, there aspects of today's passage that deal with fascinating subjects like history and archaeology and I would encourage you to dive into those things. We really just don't have time here to delve into that in a way that gives justice to their importance or meaning theologically even they do remind us of something they do remind us that we're looking at a real point in time we're looking at a real point in time given for our instruction and it's supported by evidence, in history.
And before we jump into Jesus' point in this passage, we do need to understand the setting that we're dropping into we need to understand the chronology of the days that were happening, and the times that Jesus was specifically addressing. Now, just before today's passage, we understand that Jesus has said to his disciples. You see all these do you not? I say to you, they will not be here one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down and this is as they're on the Mount of Olives, looking down to over the temple and the disciples, This is one of those mind-boggling things for them. This is one of those things that just completely up-ends their thinking that Jesus says, to them what she's saying to them. What you think is going to last forever, is not going to last forever, and that's the conversation that we drop into now, next Sunday represents Palm Sunday and this is a celebration of the Triumph representing Jesus, kingship, in lordship and that begins what's typically known as Holy Week. And this week, we're dropping into the timeline between Palm Sunday, and Easter or Resurrection Sunday, often referred to in this passage as the Olivet Discourse or the Mount of Olives, discussion.
It's happening as our passage states on the Mount of Olives, which has a central role in the ministry of Jesus throughout Jerusalem.
It's not an easy passage on an initial read.
Actually, one of the things that I want to highlight for you as a resource is right now media, and we have a free account ready for you at our website, if you haven't already signed up for that you can simply just request access and there are some great resources that even show you within like a three-minute video. What it was like for Jesus to look down from the Mount of Olives, on to the temple by showing us what is the Temple Mount in modern day and the disciples are curious about Jesus change of tone, in language.
They're curious about what it is that he's seeing and saying in this moment, he's talking about things that don't add up to the way that they thought life with Messiah, should go. They spent years with him and still there are these moments where they don't understand what's going on.
Perhaps that's where you find yourself today, you've been a follower of Jesus. Maybe four minutes or for years. And it's hard to understand everything that's going on. I was actually helped by reading this summary and study this week from Douglas O’Donnell, He says this:
First, this passage is difficult because Jesus uses somewhat unfamiliar language a mix of prophetic and apocalyptic utterances.
Second, it's difficult because Jesus makes few clear chronological distinctions as we read, we wonder about what time in history is he talking about?
Finally, it's difficult because there's not a consensus amongst Christian commentators or scholars as to its interpretation. In fact, the more one studies the history of its interpretation, including current debates and perspectives are more questions seem to arise the answers.
Now, let's deal with two aspects of this separately. Prophecy and end-times language.
Any time that we hear prophecy, we want to start our evaluation of that prophecy by considering who the messenger is.
We'll talk a bit more about how to process things that we hear prophetic ally in a bit... I’ll start by saying this.
Jesus is the perfect prophet, he himself is the perfect word of God for this world and he's not just simply bringing heaven to earth, he actually seems to be, in this passage, lifting our heads into the heavens to give a glimpse of what's happening in the spiritual realm in the days to come.
What prompts Jesus kind of talking in this way? Well, the disciples start with an interesting question in Verse 3. essentially, they are asking here the wind, the what and the how about the coming of the end of the age?
Here's where the “filter” plays an important part for us, whether we're trying to read through a filter into scripture or whether we're allowing scripture to be its own filter, which is the way that we believe that it should be. The way that we understand scripture in this filter is critical because Scripture interprets itself.
It is the filter that we should be looking through the lens that we should be looking through to understand the world, it's Scripture is what we weigh prophecy against we are to be like the brands that we read about in Acts and study for ourselves if what we are hearing is true, and there's a good deal of what might be called End Times or apocalyptic language here.
Our intent today is not to focus on that other than to say that as I've been studying, we call, we did a series on the Book of Revelation a few years ago. So I went back over some of our notes and I found this to be a helpful summary to keep in mind as we're looking at today's passage, this is from Aaron's, notes on our revelation, series as Christians, we believe in the physical, literal and visible second coming of Jesus Christ, that is what matters at the time of God's appointing Jesus is coming again. And on that day, pre-millennials, post millennial-ism, or a millennial-ism these are theological studies, they are themselves not going to be. What matters even as we've been talking this week, is there.
As Aron and I've been talking about this message, we summarized following his passage last Sunday, his sermon last Sunday, leading into this Sunday;
Since the ascension of Jesus. We're in the last days.
Every generation should live like it, we too should live like it even one for the return of Christ, but what we're walking through today. Is not a sign of the end of the age, it's a birth pain as our passage says, but it's not the end.
We'll look more closely at that, very soon when we view this mount of olive discussion, it describes both the events before and during, the destruction of the temple as well as the last days before and during Christ's return.
Now, scholars will kind of call this something called a prophecy foreshortening.
Sometimes we'll use in prophetic language, things like foretelling or forthtelling or forthcoming, the idea of being simply this: That events in the near future and those that are much further ahead are spoken of as if they're close together.
Now, a helpful illustration I think here is the idea of standing back and looking at a mountain range. And I know here in Florida, I'm born and raised in Florida. This can be a tough thing to make a connection with at times, but if you think about standing on flat ground, on a plane and looking across to a mountain for shortening is essentially this what the two different mountains look like in a mountain range. They look like they're very close together.
The horizon line seems to draw those two things together, uniquely. And I was thinking about this and talking with Stephanie about this, this week, and I was reminded of a time that we were in northern California driving up to create a lake, and Oregon, and we were meeting my brother and sister-in-law there, we were going to spend a little bit of time with them and their son and we were on the west coast, they were living there at the time, and we were driving through these mountains in Northern California, that were just beautiful.
Then, at some point they just kind of ended and, we were on this flat plane and as I was looking ahead, I saw a mountain range and I thought, "Oh that must be our destination. And it was easy for me to think that I knew we were going to be driving for a few hours and as I was looking ahead, I thought, well, that must be the point that we're going to actually the point we were going to was beyond that mountain range, but I realized as we got into it, we we passed the initial Mountain that I saw, and then we passed other mountains that we saw in that mountain range and then finally reached our destination. Hours later.
That is an example of what... Foreshortening is and that's an example of what can happen and prophetic biblical language at time.
We see this mountain range summarized in this language and yet we were looking at it from a fixed point, in time. And God is looking at it and His redemptive history. And so, let's just keep that in mind.
Jesus describes some signs of the end of the age that can be quite troublesome for us in verses be those that are trying to lead us astray Verse 4 says, and verse 5 goes on to say, many will come in my name saying, "I am the Christ, and they will lead many astray.
So, there's a spiritual deception that is happening here verses 6 through 7, go on to describe conflict and rumors of war over seven goes on to talk about natural disasters, actually in parallel passages in Mark 13 and Luke 12 phrases are added there by those authors like pestilence.
They are just the beginnings of or the transition to the pains toward that end.
My wife Stephanie has been pregnant four times. We have three children and each one of those pregnancies was very different, the three children's births were very different. And I thought: “What a dangerous thing to do, here is to share my perspective on what birth pain is.”
So I asked Stephanie to review this section very closely.
Actually, she always reviews my notes before I preach or go to share, or anything like that, but via live stream, I want to bring you into one of our children's birth in particular, that I remember and that was our oldest child Caleb. When the birth pains started they had been going on kind of maybe a couple of weeks leading up to it, on and off, and then, the day of, the day before his birth, they had really been increasing throughout the day, but when the birth pains started that Stephanie knew something different was happening.
I was fast asleep, it was the middle of the night, I think the Super Bowl had been on, so we'd been up late and I was interested in staying fast asleep now. I remembered from the birthing class that they tell you to take showers, take baths, etc. that's a great way to take up the time until it's the right time to head to the hospital. At least that's how I remember it as an excuse to just be able to get more sleep, hitting the “time of birth” snooze button, at least that's what I was trying to do.
And I sent Stephanie for something like two different showers and a bath.
The birth pains are continuing to increase. And then there came the moment when she leaned over the bed and said, “Babe! It's time to go!”, I don't know what was significant about those words, but I was up straight away and I went right for the shower.
It’s important to note here, that Caleb was born in January, and at the time we were living in Gainesville, and it was cold that night, it was in the 20s that night. Stephanie reminded me.
So oddly enough, all that extra sleep that I bought with showers and baths for Stephanie paid off in a very cold shower, for me in those early morning hours.
Caleb wouldn't be on the scene for quite a number of hours, but those pains that Stephanie was experiencing were telling her, something new was coming for our family, transition in our family was happening Caleb was on his way.
Now, this type of language, birth pains, was used quite a bit in this time to help people understand that there was something new that was coming. And so with that in mind, let me just give you a brief history, a brief overview of Christian history. If we look at the first century, we read about labor pains, the second century, include a number of new labor pains.
The third century, there are labor pains than the fourth through the 6th century.
More labor pains. That's right now. Maybe you're getting the idea. So let's just move it along a little bit. In the 20th century, we have seen and recorded labor pains and in the 21st century, we are experiencing labor pains and here's where the lesson is for us, we should rid ourselves of the idea and the dream that some day before Christ return the church will be free from experiencing labor pains that would be a wrong filter for our understanding of the labor pains that we're walking through today.
Jesus tells us in the same way that he told his disciples who are curious and wondering about the things that he's talking about that the normal Christian life between His resurrection turn, it's going to be filled with adversity, it's going to be filled with suffering and pain.
Now there's much to be celebrated as well. There are gifts given there is fruit that is born, there is talents used for His glory as the Holy Spirit works in us and works through us but we're rightly equipped for life, when we understand the labor pains that go along with this glorious gifts that we've been given and this abundant life that we've been called to Jesus was clear on this one, he said this, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
Maybe here's a simple way to summarize it. It's cross now and crown then. It's labor now, delivery then. This helps us correctly hear Jesus imperative words for us, two things that he says: 1) Don't be led a stray - he says, "See that you are not, led astray” And in verse six, he says: 2) Don't be the alarmed.
Don't be led astray and don't be alarmed, Be patient, endure, breathe in and breathe out, and trust that God will work everything for your good that baby is soon to be born and to hard and long labor.
If we were to return to the language of understanding of prophecy that we hear it might serve to plainly say, that If prophecy, you're hearing right now causes you to be led away from Jesus, or alarmed that is not something that's from God.
So we understand how to listen, even to leaders around us by looking to Jesus, the perfect profits God's perfect word for the world.
I think it's actually even worth noting that in Verses 9 through 12, we're told that the church will be persecuted, and that many will begin to fight against one another in the church, and that also helps us understand the church is not being I rescued right now.
There are those that are the persecuted church in their countries, in their lands, but what we're having to do to meet in this way, is not a form of persecution for the church, there is not in fighting for the church, the church is actually living out a practical aspect of our mission by serving our friends and neighbors, during times like this, and that's actually something that we see being celebrated around the world often these days, now we're not just told what not to do by saying Don't be led astray and don't be alarmed we're actually given direction by Jesus as to what we should do, we should endure and we should share the good news of the gospel of the kingdom we should endure and share the good news of the gospel of the kingdom.
Verse 13 tells us this, but the one who endures to the end, will be saved, and it may be very easy to think. Well, then I just have to do something right, I just have to have the right kind of efforts in place.
Well, that's not true at all. This is not our work that is being done, it's placing our faith in Christ finished work, it's faithfulness, in light of our circumstances. So right now you are being faithful by joining us in these types of discussions, or Zoom calls, or phone calls that are happening or just simple ways to stay connected and fellowship with one another.
Let's endure and be faithful when all of these restrictions are lifted as well.
It's faithfulness, in light of our circumstances because of Christ finished work, not our efforts and our work so we're called to endure we're also called to share the gospel of the kingdom.
Now, the gospel is very simply the good news that God through His Son Jesus sentence is to, to die for our sins, the good news that Christ Jesus died for our sins, He died for me, he died for you.
Second, the gospel, says this, that He was buried, and we realize that the sufferings and death of Jesus were real, they were extreme, and from an earthly perspective, they were final.
Third, the gospel, says this, That He was raised on the third day.
Lewis Johnson put it this way,
"The resurrection is God's ‘amen’ to Christ’s ‘It is finished’ on the cross.”
I love that.
Jesus on the Cross says, "It is finished”, the payment for our sins. The way that you and I fall short of the glory of God has been paid and Jesus says It is finished.
What a wonderful, wonderful word to hear it comforts our souls and then at the resurrection, God says, Amen. It's finished and there is new life, and there is new power for us.
Maybe today, you're hearing for the first time the amen of God's resurrected son in Jesus Christ.
Maybe for the first time, the Holy Spirit is opening your ears to hear and opening your eyes to see through His Word, the amen, that God puts and emphasizes on Christ. It is finished on the cross. Not just for me today, not just for our members that are joining online, but for you.
And if that's the case, would you simply respond by doing this? It's not about being good, it's not about looking right, it's not about the things that you do other than placing your faith and belief that Jesus was enough and that Jesus continues to be enough today for you.
It's really that simple. That's what endurance looks like, it looks like putting our faith constantly, no matter our circumstances no matter what's happening in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Maybe you're wondering How do I share this Gospel of the kingdom, and I actually love how John Piper summarizes it in this way:
“What is the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of the kingdom is the good news that in Jesus, God's kingly power and authority is breaking into the world. Like never before, perhaps, that's what you see us experiencing. Even today. He is ruling in a new way, to save his people from their sins, and deliver them from their enemies to reveal his glory, and established peace and righteousness in the earth.”
Obviously, this has application in our homes, our campuses, our workplaces and even when we dare to venture into public at the moment it has application for us because we can share the good news of this kingdom that is to come.
I think about a couple of our members who have specifically been sent out and commissioned to go as missionaries around the world. There's sisters, like Rachel who is helping translate scripture into her heart, language and what a thought to think that she could be joining with us even right now, fell shipping with a church, an entire ocean separating us and yet here with us fellow-shipping online, and if you're here, Rachel, hello, thank you, we love you. But we're all called to this type of mission no matter where we are, no matter where we go, we have sisters, like Devin and Colin, and their husbands who are serving those in Africa sharing the good news of the gospel. And this kingdom Metis to come, they're joining us even though this live stream now but let's be open to be part of the ways that Jesus is breaking into the world. like never before. As Piper set, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal this week talking about this virus potentially leading to another great awakening spiritually, and, Lord, may that be but it's not going to happen by Metro Life Church being good at Livestream as you've even experienced today as a part of our live stream or making sure that our social media accounts and the website are just humming with the right information at the right time in the right way. What does that do? Well, it starts to say, but that's all about our efforts and not the finished work of Christ.
No, it's going to happen by each one of us not being alarmed not being led astray, it's going to be by each one of us, rightly understanding what is happening in the world around us and welcoming people into what God is doing in our lives, so that through that, how it's inspiring faith or hope in us, how it might even be inspiring a longing for Heaven as we see the groaning of creation. All the more, for its creator, let's live with that purpose church, let's live to endure and spread the gospel of the kingdom while inviting as many to join us in this kingdom as we get the opportunity to talk to, let's hear the words from the Prophet Isaiah, He's speaking to Jerusalem, about their life giving, and comfort in God in Isaiah 27, where it says this, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who published his salvation, who says Design Your God reigns.
We go around boldly publishing this news. Not because of something that happens far off, although there's a day coming that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
No, we go around publishing this good news, because he already reigns in this way in our own hearts, He already reigns in this way, in our own minds, because he's overcome the mountain of sin and shame in our own lives. And we're early eagerly looking ahead to the day when he'll return to reign over his kingdom again and we want to tell everyone we can about it, so that they can join us.