SERMON: WITHIN 10 SECONDS IT WILL BE ALL OVER EXCEPT FOR THE SMOKE.
PREACHED AT A “HERALDS OF HOPE”” MEETING.
In far-away North West Pakistan twelve women in a hut were having some refreshment following working in the hot stony field. Their children were with them. They never knew what hit them. An American civilian in the mid-West of USA, sitting before a computer screen in a factory style office, was puzzled by the movement of some figures going into the hut. He concluded they were terrorists from Al-Qaeda. He was watching images from a drone, 30,000 feet above and about fifty miles away. After checking his screen, he pushed a button, and a missile hit the hut killing all inside. It was a regrettable accident.
Since 2006, drone-launched missiles killed between 750 and 1,000 people in Pakistan. Of these, about 20 people were said to be leaders of Al Qaeda, Taliban, and associated groups. Overall, 66% to 68% of the people killed were militants, and 31% to 33% were civilians. US officials now refer to drones as Remotely Piloted Aircraft, to highlight the fact that these systems are always controlled by a human operator at some location, even if it is literally half a world away.
But within 10 seconds it was all over except for the smoke. For some Christians that will be how the world will end: “Within 10 seconds it will be all over except for the smoke.”
There are those who believe that this world is going to finish with a zap from a mighty drone, and we shall know no more about it than did the women in the hut. Others believe that T.S. Eliot was closer to the mark when, in his poem “The Hollow Men”, he wrote,
“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
“Time Magazine”, looking at the pollution problems facing the world, suggested, “The world will end with a wheeze, a cough and a gasp of emphysema!”
People everywhere are speaking of the end of the world. Even old Harold Camping is back on air in USA again. Camping’s teaching from 2001 told everyone the church age was over and everyone should flee the church because it was led by Satan, and no-body could be saved through the Church. He is best known for his failed predictions on Jesus Christ’s return and the end of the world. Although he made previous Judgment Day predictions, he gained the most attention for his May 21, 2011, forecast, saying that true believers would be raptured and the apocalypse would begin on Oct. 21, 2011, when the world would be physically destroyed. He then changed the date. This too past although foolish Christian in America sent him $93 million dollars to be spent on advertising warning people.
This year March 2012, the 91-year-old Christian broadcaster issued a statement admitting that his predictions were wrong and sinful. He further stated that he had no interest in making another prediction. But this month he is back broadcasting the same material. He said: “We now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible’s statement that ‘of that day and hour knows no man’ (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32), were right in their understanding of those verses and I was wrong,” said Camping. “Whether God will ever give us any future indication of the date of His return is hidden in God’s divine plan. God has humbled us through the events of May 21, to continue to even more fervently search the Scriptures, not to find dates, but to be more faithful in our understanding.”
The trouble is that hundreds of millions of people, including millions of Christians, have dismissed the Bible’s true teaching concerning the Second Coming of Jesus, putting it all down to an old man with dementia. We have to speak up on Bible truth even when large numbers of people reject it or ignore it.
1.MANKIND’S HOPES HAVE TURNED TO DESPAIR
Today, there is not much optimism about the future. The wave of euphoria of the 1960s began to ebb in the 1970s, and turned to pessimism at the beginning of the 1980s. It has remained at a high level of pessimism ever since.
Scientific technologists, for example, are pessimistic about the future of the world. Our means of production are not keeping pace with the population. Our forests are being denuded, our deserts are expanding, even the Great Barrier Reef is shrinking before our eyes, and our nuclear weapons are stockpiling.
ane’s Annual on “Weapons Systems” says that “Warfare has now become a battle, not man against man, nation against nation, but computer versus computer.”
Capitalistic expansionism, likewise, has failed. World leaders are concerned about the world economic situation. The best being hoped for by many economists is not economic recovery, but economic survival, with permanently depressed areas and massive permanent unemployment. Capitalism is failing because it intentionally places concern for people below economic gain.
During the past few years, the United Nations Organization has held a series of conferences, each one related to a major world crisis. There were Conferences on “World Resources,” “World Food Production,” “World Population,” and “World Environment.” The findings of each of them confirmed the predictions that the world today is in much worse shape than it was ten years ago.
We are told that only by limiting growth is there hope for the future. Zero population growth. Zero consumption growth. Zero armaments and zero pollution! These are only idle dreams. There is no way that the nations of the world will limit themselves in enjoyment, prestige, possessions or power.
Messianic Marxism is also bankrupt of hope for the world. The classical position of the Marxist-Leninist line was simple: capture through State Revolution the means of Production, place it in the hands of the people, the proletariat, develop economic gains for the benefit of the whole community, then there will be true sharing and true Communism resulting in peace and plenty. This ideal has failed miserably in practice. Russia for sixty years and China for forty followed that path and then gave up in frustration. Both countries still have major problems and still lock their people into their communities to stop them leaving the country. Marxism has no promise for the future.
Islamic Terrorism, is causing turmoil in as dozen countries, and extremists say they will not stop until Islam dominates the world and Sharia Law subjects all to its sway. But most moderate Muslims, believe this will never happen and they oppose the extremists.
Dr Charles Birch, former Challis Professor of Biological Sciences in the University of Sydney, said, “This world is like the ‘Titanic’ on a collision course with a huge iceberg. There is no escape for mankind unless we have a radical change of course.” God is rattling the keys. He may soon shut the shop!
2.THE CHRISTIAN LIVES IN HOPE
Why should Christians hope, when others, with the benefit of reason, and with access to academic surveys and national and international resources to support them, be so pessimistic? There are several reasons.
The Bible proclaims hope. Throughout its pages the Bible consistently gives the message of hope. There is a pattern to creation and a purpose behind all things. The Bible tells us that God created the world and why He made it. The Old Testament develops God’s plan for His people and for the world through a covenant based upon obedience to Him.
When God’s people failed to fulfil their part of the covenant agreement, He gave a new covenant through Jesus Christ. Unlike the old, the new was for all mankind and it was based upon faith in Christ. To His followers, the church, was given the task of proclaiming to the world the hope that is in Jesus.
The last book in the Bible, The Revelation of John, describes how the purposes of God, announced in the beginning, made known through the covenants, expressed to the whole world through Jesus Christ, and proclaimed by the church, will be consummated.
Your Bible has God’s plan for the redemption of mankind and for the renewal of this Earth. Everything will be drawn into God’s purpose and towards His plan, and because the Bible teaches hope, Christians are the most hopeful of all.
Jesus proclaims hope. Paul wrote, “Jesus is God’s ‘yes,’ for it is He who is the ‘Yes’ of all God’s promises.” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20). The promises of God were central to the teaching of Jesus. He declared the conditions of entry, the quality of life within the Kingdom of God, the assurance of salvation for individuals, judgment for nations and renewal for the entire earth.
The poor, who are shut out from much of this world’s benefits, can rejoice because they can be part of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom is the realm of Good News. There is forgiveness for sin. There is a new relationship with God and the opportunity for a brand new life. “That Kingdom of God,” said Jesus, “is already among you.” (See Luke 17:20). It is here. It is at hand. You can enter into it, yet it is not recognized by everyone. It is not yet fully come. It is not observed over the entire world, but for those who accept the kingly authority of Jesus the Kingdom has already begun and believers are already a part of it.
That Kingdom will continue to grow until the Kingdom will be seen among all the nations. At the moment when God’s Kingdom comes on earth, His will be done here as it is in heaven. That is the climax of history.
Christians proclaim hope. They recognise that they are part of a grand plan – initiated from creation, developed through the covenants, brought to us in Jesus Christ, and demonstrated to the world by the church. We are now awaiting the fulfilment of His Kingdom.
Therefore we live in hope, in confidence. God is in command and all that happens is part of His plan. “I am always in your care,” said the Psalmist. (31:15) all that happens is part of His plan. Therefore we rest in confidence.
On January 16, 1977, Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda, a man of integrity and great personal courage, stood before President Idi Amin. He told that murderous madman that what he was doing was wrong in the sight of God and in the eyes of the world. The Archbishop had become a thorn in the flesh of Amin who decided to get rid of him. Just before he was taken for the last time before Amin, to proclaim again God’s judgments, Luwum gathered together some of the Bishops of the church and spoke what were to be his last words. He said, “I do not know how long I will be occupying this Bishop’s Chair, but I live as if there will be no tomorrow. Every day I face being picked up by the soldiers. While the opportunity is there I must preach the gospel with all my might. My conscience is clear because I obeyed the Scriptures and obeyed this government. I have been threatened many times. I have told the President the things of which the church disapproves. God is my witness.” As he said those words, the doors were smashed open, soldiers entered and he was taken away on his last drive but as he left, he called back to the Christians: “I see the hand of the Lord in this.”
Because the Bible proclaims hope, the church preaches hope, Jesus preaches hope, and Christians live with hope.
3.OUR HOPE IS CENTRED ON OUR LORD’S RETURN
When General Douglas Macarthur was leaving the Philippines to go to Brisbane, Australia, to establish new headquarters, he promised, “I shall return.” He was quoting the promise of Jesus.
Jesus Himself said, “I shall return.” It was a promise that He will keep. When astronauts who have been on the moon, or in the space shuttle beyond earth’s gravitational pull, and as they return into the earth’s atmosphere, a cry goes up from Houston, Texas, “Re-entry has been achieved.”
That exultant call is nothing to the mighty shout that will be heard across the face of this earth when our Lord Jesus, who came in poverty, in silence, submission and subjection, who came as a baby in the barn, achieves re-entry and returns – this time to the world in glory, power and acknowledgement.
In February, 1978, there was a gathering of editors of major newspapers in the United States. At this conference, someone suggested that they have a competition to write the greatest possible headline. The winning headline, chosen by the editors, was simply, “Jesus Has Returned!” That is the biggest news this world could ever receive!
Once, at a printer’s premises, I asked about the big headlines that are sometimes used. “What is the largest type a printer has for a headline banner on a page?” The printer told me, “Throughout the trade, the largest type is called ‘Second Coming Type.’ You reserve it for the Second Coming!”
The Signs of His Return. In Matthew 24, Jesus refers to some of the signs that would be seen before His coming. There would be widespread immorality, fighting among the nations, wars and rumours of wars, false prophets, scoffing against those who believe in Christ, persecution against the true faith, world dictators, and famine in many parts of the earth, recurring earthquakes, and, from other scripture, the Jews, back within their own land of Israel.
For the first time in world history, all of these signs are present today. Is that why Francis Ford Coppola called his famous film “Apocalypse Now”?
The Purpose of His Return. Jesus Christ is coming to vindicate God’s people who have been proclaiming truth throughout their lives; to raise to life again those believers who have died in faith in Christ; to judge the nations of the earth; to destroy Satan and the forces of evil; to renew the world and the environment, and to gather the faithful in heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:24; Revelation 20:7; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).
“When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and life shall be no more, and the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair; when the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore. And the roll is called up yonder – I’ll be there!”
I must ask, “Where will you be?”
This world will pass away. Peter wrote: “Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God, as you wait for the Day of God and do your best to make it come soon – the Day when the heavens will burn up and be destroyed and the heavenly bodies will be melted by the heat. But we wait for what God has promised: new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will be at home.” (2 Peter 3:11-13).
4.THEREFORE, WATCH IN HOPE!
The scripture reaches this conclusion. If Jesus Christ is coming, if the Bible is full of hope, then we are expected to live in hope ourselves. Faithfully living, ever expecting, honestly serving, being watchful, being warned – that is how we are to live.
James Galway, the magnificent Irish flautist, is a wonderful musician. I love the beauty of his flute playing. Not long ago he was in an accident and he was nearly killed. In speaking of the incident he said, “My life went before my eyes. That accident brought a lot of things into focus. I decided that henceforth every concert that I give, every record I cut, and every TV programme will be as if it were going to be my last. I have come to understand that it is never possible to guess what is going to happen to any one of us – that the roof might fall in upon us. The important thing is to make sure that every time I play my flute, my performance will be as near perfect and as true music as God can help me do.”
Every one of us should live as if the end time is just about to come.
The Bible, in speaking about the Second Coming, calls us to be watchful and gives us warning. We are warned about false messiahs and false prophets. In Matthew 24:23-24 Jesus says, “If anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ do not believe him. For false Messiahs and false prophets will appear; they will perform great miracles and wonders in order to deceive even God’s chosen people, if possible.” He warns us against those who make up timetables and say, “Now is the time. This will be the day.”
There are many earnest Christians who have fallen into the same trap. I remember, as a child, then again as a teenager, seeing someone put up a chart 50 feet long. It described all the various dispensations that had been discovered in the Bible. We were told that this was the only way to understand our Lord’s return. The dispensational movement was promoted by J.N. Darby in the Mid-19th century and had not been heard of before.
John Nelson Darby was an Anglican minister who left the Church of England to lead the Plymouth Brethren. Revelation 20:4 reads, “They came to life and ruled with Christ for 1000 years.” Darby declared that this meant that the Christian faith would triumph and that Christians would rule the earth for 1000 years before the Second Coming of Christ. Those holding this view are called Premillennialists.
Others believe that Christ will reign for 1000 years after His Second Coming, and are known as post-millennialists. Still others refuse to take Revelation 20:4 literally, and treat it as a symbol for Christ’s reign. These are called amillennialists.
There are great dangers in taking such verses and trying to create a timetable, but there are many Christians who are attracted to such schemes. They say, “This is how and when it will happen.” They point to various events around the world and say, “It’s the eleventh hour! Christ is about to come.” Be warned against false messiahs and false timetables!
Watch and be ready! Jesus said, “If people should tell you, ‘look, he is out in the desert!’ – don’t go there; or if they say, ‘look, he is hiding here!’ – don’t believe it. For the Son of Man will come like the lightning which flashes across the whole sky from the east to the west.” (Matthew 24:26,27).
Watch out, then! We do not know when our Lord will come. The Bible makes it quite clear that no one can know in advance, the time of His coming. We should always be ready, “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting Him.” (Matthew 24:44).
During the 1980’s, while in America, I was having breakfast with Dr Billy Graham. We were talking about things that were happening around the world. As we were speaking, I was wondering, “What is the secret of this evangelist’s great power?” Then he said, “Gordon, do you believe that Jesus is coming again, today?” I replied, “Billy, I believe that Jesus is coming again, but I wasn’t thinking of it today.” With those steel blue eyes he looked at me and said, “Why not?”
That was the secret of his power! He lived as if the Lord’s return might be far off, and he planned for the future; but he also lived as if Christ might come today, and he was ready.
Christians can live with faith and hope. We are not pessimistic as are the futurologists; not despairing as those who are outside of Christ and have only scientific technology to rely upon; not sinking with the empty Marxist or failed capitalistic theories – Christians have hope that Jesus is coming again!
“Do not be worried or upset. Believe in God and believe also in Me… I am going to prepare a place for you…after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back.” (John 14:1-3).