God's End Game - Part 36
Series: God's End Game
September 01, 2019
I almost hate to say this, but after today’s sermon we will be thirty-six messages into a series called God’s End Game. I know.
It could be worse. What if I preached the whole series in one sermon? That’s what one fellow did.
Pastor Zach Zehnder of Mount Dora, Fla., set a world record for longest speech marathon. He delivered a 53-hour, 18-minute sermon with the help of 200 pages of notes and more than 600 PowerPoint slides that spanned two days. He started in Genesis and ended in Revelation.
Count your blessings, folks.
In this series we are trying to discover what God’s up to with us and the world, where all this is headed.
Off and on I’ve used little graphics to help us keep up. Now would be a good time to go back and look at those as our study moves forward to its climactic end.
Take a look at that sheet you should have received on your way in.
That last one — for now — probably intrigues you. It does most folks. Before I came to Pleasant View I served on staff at a mega church. They ran about 4,000 on Sunday mornings. But on Wednesdays, not so much. They moved into the old and much smaller chapel for the midweek service. That is, until the pastor started a very cleverly titled series on the book of Revelation called “The End.”
They had to move back in the sanctuary for that one. It was crazy. It’s natural, I think, to want to fast forward to the end and find out what’s going to happen (like some people I know who read books like that!).
Even the disciples, if you remember, at Jesus’ ascension wanted to the know when and how this was gonna go down…
Acts 1:1–11 (ESV) — 1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
They knew that part of God’s end game plan was to literally set up his kingdom on earth and they wanted to know was this it? Would it be at this moment? But look how Jesus responded…
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
In other words, it’s on a need-to-know basis.
Some of you probably feel I’ve come down hard on folks fascinated with the end times. I don’t mean to. I’ve just learned to heed Jesus’ words here. I’ve learned to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
I’ve learned that Jesus wants us to be aware of “The End” but even more than that he wants us to focus on something now because the end is coming. Which has to do with that question mark we’ll come back to another time.
Starting today we will try to decipher what’s going to happen in “The End.” The Bible refers to that time as “The Last Day.”
Not surprisingly, the apostle John records Jesus talking about the Last Day a lot in his gospel, and it’s not surprising because he is the same apostle given the visions that became the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation.
The first time we come across the Last Day is…
John 6:35–40 (ESV) — 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
That soul hunger we have, that sense we have deep down in our souls there must be more to life than this, it can only be satisfied by Jesus.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
What do you think “raise him up on the last day” refers to? Yep, the resurrection. The coming resurrection, when we’ll get real, physical, resurrection bodies like Jesus’. Jesus’ resurrection and ours are inextricably linked to the Last Day. You can’t have one without the other. In some ways the coming resurrection and the Last Day are synonymous.
We see this connection in John 11, the famous story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had died and his sister Mary told Jesus she knew Lazarus would be raised on the Last Day. Jesus says to her, in another I am statement, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live even if he dies.”
The last time we come across the Last Day in John’s gospel is chapter 12…
John 12:44–50 (CEV) — 44 In a loud voice Jesus said: Everyone who has faith in me also has faith in the one who sent me. 45 And everyone who has seen me has seen the one who sent me. 46 I am the light that has come into the world. No one who has faith in me will stay in the dark. 47 I am not the one who will judge those who refuse to obey my teachings. I came to save the people of this world, not to be their judge. 48 But everyone who rejects me and my teachings will be judged on the last day by what I have said. 49 I don’t speak on my own. I say only what the Father who sent me has told me to say. 50 I know that his commands will bring eternal life. That is why I tell you exactly what the Father has told me.
Here’s a sobering spoiler. The Last Day involves our resurrection but it also involves judgment. That’s the part no one wants to talk about. But if you’re going to be honest, if you’re going to be accurate, if you’re going to be forthright, you have to. And we will cover this. And I’ll do it in different way in what you might think.
Let me ask you a question. Do you think we are living in the Last Days?
Every generation since Jesus went back to heaven has thought it lived in the last days, the time leading up to the last day. Did you know we entered the last days when Jesus came the first time, when he was born in that manger. That’s when the clock started ticking. Now we’re just waiting for the Last Day, when he returns to set all things to rights.
Here’s what’s wild about all this. In a way, the End has already come. In the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, Jesus says of himself…
Revelation 22:13 (ESV) — 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
That’s what I mean when I say the Last days began with the coming of Jesus. He is himself the embodiment of the beginning and end of all things.
It was through him and for him all things were created and in him and through him all things will come to and end and be remade.
What Jesus did on the cross and what he accomplished by rising from the grave are so sure, so mighty, so complete, so settled you might as well say the end already happened in the middle. If anyone knows the secrets of the last days, it’s Jesus. His very name is the Alpha and Omega!
The teachings in the Bible concerning the Last Day are called the doctrine of last things. If you want to get really fancy, it’s called eschatology. But we try not to get too fancy around here.
Let’s borrow yet again a definition from a theology book…
The doctrine of the last things describes the final outworking of God’s purposes and activity, as well as human and angelic destiny, at the end of the present age and the dawning of the age to come.
This is where we’ll pull over for a while in the series.
Conclusion: As we get ready to close, know that the doctrine of last things, the Last Day, is cosmic in one sense. It tells us what’s going to happen to the world, the universe even. But in another sense it’s supremely personal. The doctrine of last things tells us what’s going to happen to us. To me. To you.
Let me ask you a personal question. What’s going to happen to you in “The End”? On the Last Day?
If anything this compels us to think about that. The Last Days are mentioned in the OT as well as the new. The prophet Daniel was allowed to look forward to the last day. Listen to what he says about it…
Daniel 12:1–3 (CEV) — 1 Michael, the chief of the angels, is the protector of your people, and he will come at a time of terrible suffering, the worst in all of history. And your people who have their names written in The Book will be protected. 2 Many of those who lie dead in the ground will rise from death. Some of them will be given eternal life, and others will receive nothing but eternal shame and disgrace. 3 Everyone who has been wise will shine as bright as the sky above, and everyone who has led others to please God will shine like the stars.
That puts the end in perspective. Everyone who has been wise will shine like stars, will have eternal life.
That takes me to something Jesus said…
Matthew 7:24–27 (ESV) — 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
The wise at the end are those who surrendered to Jesus. Not those who obeyed a certain set of rules. Not those who joined a particular church. Not those who held to a specific set of political beliefs. Not those who performed well morally.
But those who listened to Jesus and answered his call to follow him through repentance and faith.
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