Summary: Jesus told us no man knows the day or hour of his return - so why do we insist on speculating when the end will come? Jesus� emphasis to us is readiness.


TCF Sermon

October 18, 2009

What do all these people have in common?

Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Adolph Hitler, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict 16, Bill Gates, Prince Charles, John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Martin Luther, Mikhail Gorbachev, Benito Mussolini, Napoleon, Pat Robertson, Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

All these people, sometime, somewhere, have been named by someone as the antichrist. In the past several years, we tend to think we�ve never seen such a time as this in history. And in some ways, that�s certainly true.

But in a general sense, people through most of history have thought the same thing. The same is true of interest in the end times. As Jim Garrett noted last week, we�re in the midst of yet another resurgence in fascination with the end times. Best selling fictional book series, or many other non-fiction end-times books, fill the Christian bookstores. Movies and videos are being released with these themes, including the next big one telling us the world will end in 2012, just three years from now.

Among Christians, that interest in the end times takes the form of what one writer called �newspaper eschatology.� As a result, we have many so-called prophets or prophecy teachers (many of whom unfortunately have a large audience through television or books or radio or the internet, or all four) searching the scriptures for specific meaning behind the news of the day, and this often leads to what we�ve just discovered.

Just about anyone, anywhere, can be the antichrist. Some have called this dangerous game �pin the tail on the antichrist.� In fact, let me tell you about how Ronald Reagan was supposedly identified as the antichrist (at least one version of this story).

If you count the letters in the late president�s full name, you�ll discover a sinister pattern. Ronald (six letters) Wilson (six letters) Reagan (six letters). That�s 666.

If that�s all it takes for someone to seriously consider someone as the antichrist, then I�m in trouble. For all I know, after today�s sermon, someone will accuse me of being the antichrist. Bruce has promised never to reveal the number which was assigned to me on the church�s computer payroll system.

But this morning, in the presence of all of you, I�m going to reveal it. It�s number 66. If you take that, and add the six letters of one of my email names, bsully, you come up with, yes, that�s right, 666. Make of that what you will.

We can laugh about this today, but there�s a real problem with the popular eschatology of the day.

Eschatology is the fancy word for the study of the end times. A quick look through a Christian bookstore, or a quick google search, will tell you just how much stuff is out there on these topics. The prospect of imminent doom for sinners,is apparently significantly more popular than the day-to-day following of Christ.

Without judging the motivation of the authors of these kinds of books, one of the things I want to accomplish this morning is to help us think critically about these teachings, and to look carefully at what scripture says about our general stance toward the end times, what it should be. Well meaning, yet unbalanced or unbiblical teaching, is still unbalanced or unbiblical, despite being well-meaning.

Let me first of all state this so there can be no misunderstanding this morning. I believe Scripture teaches the return of Jesus Christ. The things I say today are not meant to undermine that in any way. Jesus is coming back to take his children home with Him. The TCF leadership takes no official position on how this will all happen, or when. We might have opinions, but they�re just that, opinions.

So, some of you may be disappointed, because what I will not do this morning is offer you an alternative to some of the speculation that�s out there, or a guess as to who might be right. I won�t name anyone as the antichrist. I won�t give a date, or even a month or a year or a decade for the second coming or the rapture. I won�t try to match the symbols in Revelation or Daniel,or any other passages of scripture, with current events.

There�s a sound reason why I won�t do these things. Because Jesus said it�s none of my business. And even if it was, I can�t know it anyway. Jesus Himself says He doesn�t know it.

In Acts 1:7, Jesus told his disciples, just before He ascended into heaven: �It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.� In the Greek, this means literally �it does not belong to you.� Or, �it is not of you.� This nuance reflects the idea that Jesus was telling his disciples �it is not your concern to know the times and dates.�

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