My Aims for End Times Series: over the course of the next few weeks, I want you to join the believers of the early church by feeling the wonder and awe of the Bible’s teaching of Christ’s return. I want the impact of Christ’s return to stir you with new affections for Christ. As a Christian believer, is the end of time really that important to my life? Does it really make a difference to how I live? I want this truth to impact your Monday commute to work. I hope you have brought a Bible with you and I invite you to turn with me to Luke 12.
Jesus has just finished speaking about His return to earth when He says these words:
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.” (Luke 12:49-59)
The Bible is one big story. The Bible is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Indeed, the Bible tells a story that makes sense of the smaller stories of each of our individual lives. The Bible is a single story. Even though there are two testaments, there is but one story. Here’s the Bible’s big story in four sentences…
1. God made the world.
2. The world itself was devastated because we turned away from Him.
3. God reentered the world to rescue us from sin and death.
4. And one day, God will remake the world – he’ll completely restore the world at the end.
Again, the Bible tells one story. It begins with an innocent garden and it ends in a glorious garden city. And what you’ll discover is that we are living between the first and second coming of Jesus. We are living between God’s reentry where He rescued us from sin and death and His complete restoration of the world in the coming days.
Jesus Begins the End Times
Jesus Brings a Crisis
Review from Week One: There is at least two things we can about Christ’s return with conviction:
1) Jesus is Coming – it’s going to happen.
2) We don’t know when it’s going to happen.
1. Jesus Begins the End Times
Believers and unbelievers alike are interested in asking: “Are we living in the end days?” I want to clear a surprising misconception about the end times by closely reading our Bibles. A Surprising Truth: Contrary to what you’ve heard – the end times are not a day in the distant future but the last days began with Jesus’ First Coming. Let me show you in our passage… Jesus links His first coming at Bethlehem and His Second Coming in a surprising way. Jesus has just completed speaking about His Second Coming, or the end of time. Here in the later part of Luke 12, Jesus is moving back and forth between two horizons: His first coming and His second coming. Jesus moves from talking about His Second Coming to speak of His present ministry, at His first coming… … His first coming that began in Bethlehem and ends with the cross and resurrection.
Look again at what He says: No sooner that Jesus says: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40) Then He says: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50) Again, Jesus is moving back and forth between two horizons: His first coming and His second coming. Jesus recognizes He’s on a schedule, a program if you will. You can see the sense of the schedule’s He’s on when you see the words, “until it is accomplished.” Jesus has a divine to-do list and He has certain things that must soon take place, namely His baptism. The baptism Jesus mentions in verse fifty is not when He was baptized by John the Baptist, for that has already happened. Instead, You get the sense of this when you see the words at the end of verse fifty: “how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50b) The baptism here is a future event. Jesus’ baptism is a metaphor for the cross where He must die. Again, Jesus moves back and forth between two horizons: His first coming and His second coming.
Jesus begins the End Times with His First Coming. Here are three confirmations of this. Allow me to give to three other places in the Bible that show the same thing… Turn with me to the book of Hebrews and to 1 John: “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:2) “for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26) “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18) You see, for Jesus the last days is not a period right before the final judgment. The rest of the New Testament saw this clearly in Jesus’ message. Instead, the last days are the Bible’s description of the time period that began with Jesus Himself.
You ask, “How can anyone in their right mind believe the ‘last days’ last for 2,000 years and counting?” I will answer as Peter himself did in the pages of the Bible: “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:4)
People who scoff and forget these two facts:
1.1 God’s Time is Unlike the Way We Measure Time
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) God’s time is unlike the way we measure time.
1.2 God is Patient for A Purpose
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Don’t be seduced by the end times specialists. Instead, remember these two things about Christ’s return with conviction:
1) Jesus is Coming – it’s going to happen.
2) We don’t know when it’s going to happen.
2. Jesus Brings a Crisis
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49) And then a few verses later we read: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)
It is obvious that Jesus Himself brings a crisis. Jesus refers to the division He causes and He is fully aware that the results for many people will be disastrous. Whenever people start chunking the unwanted parts of the Bible that make them feel uncomfortable, Jesus teaching on God’s wrath is among the first to go. There are few things more distasteful and abhorrent in our day that a future judgment where God Himself condemns sinners to an everlasting judgment. Maybe you feel that way? It’s tempting for pastors to avoid such topics as God’s wrath and future judgment for we feel the air get sucked out the room when you speak on these topics. So why do preach on God’s wrath and future judgment? Why not simply run off and talk about God’s love and mercy? Jesus answers this by saying common sense tells you He is the judgment that is coming: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Luke 12:54-56)
Fort Worth Zoo & Ecological Balance
Right before school started back a few weeks ago, the family and I took off to visit the Fort Worth Zoo. I found a curious and interesting quote right here in our backyard at one of America’s best zoos. Here it is: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attach to the rest of the world.” Most zoos and children’s museums teach visitors the need to be careful with the world we live in. For example, if we get rid of predatory or undesirable animals in an area, the balance of that environment may be so upset that the desirable plants and animals are lost — through overbreeding with a limited food supply. The nasty predator that was eliminated actually kept in balance the number of other animals and plants necessary to that particular ecosystem. In the same way, if we play down “bad” or harsh doctrines within the historic Christian faith, we will find, to our shock, that we have gutted all our pleasant and comfortable beliefs, too. There is an ecological balance to Scripture that must not be disturbed. Neglecting the unpleasant doctrines of the historic faith will bring about counterintuitive consequences.
The Judgment of God
Fire in our text refers to God’s judgment and specifically to His future judgment that awaits When we consider God’s future judgment it is important to understand what the Bible clearly means and what it doesn’t mean. First, God’s judgment and anger at sin is not God losing His temper. Instead, God’s judgment and wrath are His “thought-through” reaction against all rebellion to His rule. Note: No one, including myself, should speak about God’s future and final judgment sounding nasty and mean-spirited. Christian faith and thought are not helped by angry preachers whose tone almost suggests that they take a kind of vicious glee from the tragic end of others. Instead, we should find ourselves weeping just as Jesus did when speaking about these realities.
Four Characteristics to God’s Judgment
2.1 God’s Judgment is Eternal
Jesus speaks of family divisions in our story today and He means that these division are eternal. He’s pressing all of us to make a decision about Him. Why? Because all through the pages of Bible, God tells us over and over again that there is no end to eternal joy in heaven and no end to eternal judgment in hell. Simply you need to know this: God’s wrath will have no end.
2.2 God’s Judgment will be Indescribable Pain
“the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful.” (Luke 12:46) While God’s anger toward sin and sinners does include emotion, we shouldn’t think of His anger as a volatile reaction on God’s part.
2.3 God’s Judgment Will be Deserved
In the end, God Himself will be totally right and everyone of His decisions will be justified.
2.4 God’s Judgment is Escapable
Let’s get back to what Jesus refers to as His “baptism” – His death and resurrection on the cross. The very heart of the gospel. Note the words of today’s story—Jesus is both anxious to see this “baptism” happen but dreading the ordeal as well. You can readily think of the stress Jesus endured in the Garden of Gethsemane where His sweat was mingled with blood while He prayed. And what caused Jesus so much pain when He considered His “baptism,” His death on the cross? It wasn’t so much the physical pain of the cross that distressed Him as much as taking on the “raw sewage of our sins.”
God has a design for your life and every single area of your life. This includes our lives as singles and married and our children. But instead of following God’s design, we rebel against Him. And the Bible calls this sin. Whenever we break God’s design for our lives, we end up in a place of brokenness. And everyone can agree that being broken hurts. We start searching to escape the pain of our hurt. Brokenness is God’s designed way to tell us that something has to change. We know something has to change. The solution to our brokenness is the gospel. The gospel is how Jesus Christ takes mercy and anger together. God’s anger is constantly against evil. And we’re told God invented the cross where Jesus died for our sins out of His anger because He hates sin. He has to pour His wrath and His opposition out on it. Yet, He wanted to do it in such a way that didn’t destroy sinners. How can he deal with the sin and channel His anger so it didn’t destroy us but destroys the evil and destroys the sin inside of us? On the cross. It was both His love and anger that gave Him the impulse to invent the cross and have Jesus die on the cross. His anger and his love both come together on the cross. There he’s able to save us and pour out his wrath on sinners at the same time without killing us. The change that has to take place is described by two words: repent and believe. The gospel gives us a new power to recover God’s design for our lives.
Are You Prepared to Meet Your Judge? “As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.” (Luke 12:58-59) “This life is not all there is. Life on earth is just a dress rehearsal before the real production. You will spend far more time on the other side of death – in eternity – than you will here. Earth is the practice workout before the actual game; the warm-up lap before the race. This life is preparation for the next.”