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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
Title:The End of the World
Text:Matthew 24:29-31 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:End Times

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Isaiah 13: 1-13
Matthew 24:29-31
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, have you ever wondered what the end of the world would be like? You’d think that our status as pilgrims (as aliens and strangers in this vile world) would encourage us, if not convince us to give serious thought to the question of the end of the world.

But how often have you given serious thought to that day, to that moment? You know, we probably aren’t even aware of it, but we make reference to ‘the end of the world’ all the time in our daily conversation.

When something goes slightly wrong in our life, when something disappoints us (perhaps we break up with our boyfriend, or burn the Sunday roast, or get involved in a little fender bender, or just have a bad hair day), what is the phrase that our friends or parents tell us to calm us down—to help us to gain some perspective?

Sometimes they say, Hey, don’t worry about it; it’s not like it’s the end of the world. In other words, they’re trying to show us the smallness of the problem. They’re trying to tell us that despite our little set-back, life goes on. The world continues to turn on its axis, the sun will rise in the morning, the birds will chirp, the day will begin, and business will carry on as usual.

Yet, it seldom dawns on us that one day the world will indeed come to an end. The world will stop turning on its axis; the sun will stop shining; the birds will no longer be chirping; time itself will ground to a halt; and all over the world, life and business will not go on as usual.

An unlike what many experts say, the end of the world will not come about by means of a nuclear holocaust; the end will not come about as a result of a giant meteor striking the earth and a world wide ice-age ensues. The end will not come as a result of the depletion of the ozone layer so that the earth will be burned up by the sun.

No the end of the world will be signaled by far more terrific and powerful signs, by events that are so unbelievable that all men everywhere will see and come to one unmistakable conclusion—that Christ Himself has returned—just as he said, just as He promised.

That is what these verses are all about in Matthew 24. Here we read of the final signs, if you will, that signal the coming of the Lord. This morning, I minister God’s Word to you under the theme: The Son of Man Reveals the Final Signs of His Coming. Our text calls our attention to two aspects of these signs. These signs are,

  1. A World-Wide Manifestation of His Glory;
  2. A World-Wide Declaration of His Grace.

1) A World-Wide Manifestation of His Glory

As we look at the opening verse of our text, vs. 29, we see that Jesus is describing a climactic and cataclysmic event that will take place right after the great and final tribulation. The earth is drenched with the blood of the saints in the most terrible tribulation of all time, but Immediately after the distress of those days, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’.

Of all the events foretold in our text, this is easily the most difficult to understand and interpret.

However, the language of this verse should not be foreign to us. Jesus is quoting OT prophesy. In fact, there are several Old Testament prophesies which use similar language; which use similar imagery of the sun and moon not shining, of the stars falling to earth:

  • Isaiah 34:4 All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree;
  • Joel 2:10 Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.
  • Joel 2:30-31 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD;

We gather from those passages that darkness was a harbinger (a sign) that the day of judgment was at hand. But those Old Testament prophesies are not designed to be interpreted in the literal sense. Those things happened hundreds of years before Christ, yet the sun was still shining in Jesus day, the moon didn’t turn to blood, and the stars were still holding their course in skies.

So were the prophets guilty of lying or of issuing false warnings? Not at all. In Joel 2 for instance, the darkening of the sun is said to have been fulfilled when the great swarms of locusts so filled the heavens that they literally cast a dark cloud over all the land, blocking out the sun. Darkness could also be brought about by the smoke of attacking armies. The moon turning to blood can be a reference to the night sky filled with the fires and flames of burning cities.

Clearly, the prophets were speaking of a coming day of judgment for their generation (judgment upon Babylon, Edom or the nation of Israel). But at the same time, the prophets were pointing beyond their own day. They were pointing to the ultimate fulfillment, the end of the world, the day which Jesus foretold in Matthew 24.

But what are we to make of this prophesy spoken by Jesus? Is this also mere symbolism? Are we to take His words literally? Will the heavens really be shaken? Will the sun and moon literally be darkened? Will the stars literally fall from the sky?

Turn to Revelation 6:12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

It would appear that the great and dreadful day of the Lord will be just that. It will be a great and dreadful day unlike any before; it will be a day beyond human description or comprehension. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that the events foretold by Jesus will not literally happen! In fact, we could easily tie in the destruction of the heavens with what Peter describes in II Peter 3: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Continuing in verse 12-13, Peter writes, That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Then think of Rev. 22 which says that in the New Jerusalem there will be no more night (so there’s no need for moon and stars), and there will be no need for the sun, for the Lord God will give us light. We ought not to think for a moment that God is incapable of bringing about such cataclysmic events.

True, it’s hard for us to imagine. How could such a thing happen? If the sun and moon were darkened, if the stars all fell from the sky, if the heavens were rolled back like a scroll, wouldn’t we all be dead in a moment. Wouldn’t the earth’s atmosphere would be compromised, the air would be unbreathable; we’d by sucked out into outer space. I’m sure there’s scores of scientific theories that would argue that such an event couldn’t take place without all humanity perishing.

But the truth is, God the Creator put all this in place, and he most certainly has the power to suspend the laws of nature, and do just as He says. True, we cannot say for a certainty what exactly what will take place.

In fact, the respected commentator, William Hendriksen wrote that until this prophetic panorama becomes history, we shall probably not know how much of this description is to be taken literally, and how much figuratively. But this much we do know (vs.30), At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky…the nations of the earth…will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.

The return of our Christ will be accompanied by powerful signs and wonders in the heavens such as have never been witnessed since the very dawn of creation. There will be such an uproar in the heavens hat all the attention of the world will be fixated upwards. All business will stop. Trading on the world’s stock exchanges will cease. What transpires on that day will make what happened on 9/11, or Pearl Harbor, or D-Day or Hiroshima, pale in comparison.

In that instant, in that moment, amidst the tumult of the heavens, the Son of Man, Jesus Christ Himself will appear on the clouds. We can think of it this way, the destruction of the heavens, the rolling back of the sky as a scroll is like the unveiling of the glory and the splendor of our Lord for all to see!

Boys and girls, think of the thundering and shaking of the heavens, the turmoil in the sky as nothing more than fanfare that announces Christ’s presence! It’s like creation itself is calling all mankind to stand at attention, to recognize and revere the King of glory!

In his book, The Promise of the Future, Dr. Venema writes the return of Christ will be an event, at the close of the present age, in which the splendor, honor, and authority that belong to the risen and ascended Lord will be visibly, personally, and publicly displayed in his being revealed from heaven (p. 83).

Interestingly, Dr. Venema notes that the return of Christ in this manner is not first and foremost about bringing comfort and relief to his beleaguered saints. (Yes, that comfort is sure to come). But first of all, the return of Christ in such power and glory is meant to be a revelation to all the world of Christ’s triumph, of His majesty, of the consummation of the reign of King Jesus!

This powerful and spectacular revelation is a public disclosure to all-the-world of who Jesus is and what he has done. It is a world-wide manifestation of the power and glory that the Father has conferred upon His Son at His ascension. (Venema).

Boys and girls, all this simply means is that when Jesus returns, everyone on earth will finally see Him for who He is. Recall, we said in LD 15 that when Jesus came to earth as a baby, He humbly emptied himself of all His glory; He hid His glory from our sight. But when Jesus returns on that great and final day, His glory and power will be fully revealed for all to see.

So what is presently known to believers only by faith will (on that day) be an object of sight. that All the nations will know that God did indeed give His Son Jesus the name that is above every name; that He crowned Him with glory and honor at His right hand; and that He truly was given all authority in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

On that day beloved, our faith shall be made sight! Our Lord shall be exalted in the eyes of all nations. That is the moment we are living for. I know that sometimes we get so involved in our own lives, in our daily affairs, in our business, in our pleasure, in our schooling, in our pursuit of our dreams and goals that we forget that the end is coming; or maybe we even secretly hope that the Lord would prolong the end just so we can go on doing what we’re doing.

But beloved, there should be no higher goal for us in life, no more urgent prayer request, no more timely and pressing issue in all of life, then seeing our Lord manifest His glory and power and splendor in all the earth!

That is the day the Psalmist sings about—when all the earth sings praises to His Name. That is the day we need to sing about and live for as well. We’re called to live our lives in the sure and certain hope of Christ’s return; we’re even called by God’s Word to encourage ourselves with this Good News, that we might all the more endure the sorrows and strife of life.

2) A World-Wide Declaration of His Grace

The Son of Man Reveals the Final Signs of His Coming. We saw the world-wide manifestation of his glory. Secondly, we consider the world-wide declaration of His grace. Here we take a look at what coincides with the powerful revelation of the Son of Man.

We read that the people (literally, the ‘tribes’) of the earth will mourn at this sight. Revelation 1:7 says, Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Notice, the ‘nations’ mentioned here are distinguished from God’s people who are referred to as ‘the elect’.

The elect are not mourning the revelation of the Son of Man in glory! They are rejoicing at the sight. But we’ll get to them in a moment. The ‘nations’ are in mourning because they are the ones who by their hatred and disbelief rejected Jesus Christ as Lord. They are the ones who refused to believe the Gospel when it was preached; they are the ones who all their days on earth refused to bend the knee to Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.

The mourning described here is not that of someone weeping and sobbing. Rather, it is deep despair, a self-loathing; what comes to mind is someone so forlorn that they are beating their chest in anguish and misery. They are in deep despair because they have suddenly been met with the awful reality that Jesus Christ is real; that He is the Judge of heaven and earth, and that he has returned to judge both the living and the dead.

The depths of their despair and anguish is seen in Revelation 6 (15-17) Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"

So on that day an awful, indescribable feeling of terror and dread will fall upon the hearts of everyone who does not know the Lord Jesus Christ. They are about to stand before a Holy God without a Mediator to intervene for them. They are about to experience the eternal wrath of God against their body and soul! There’s not one unbeliever who will not shutter in fear on that day.

But at the same time as the nations are mourning, the angels of the Lord are descending to earth and they are sounding forth the loud call of the trumpet. We adults ought to know what the trumpet call will signal. Boys and girls, do you know what happens when the angels sound the trumpet call of God?

1 Thessalonians 4: 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. The trumpet call of God summons forth the dead out of the grave. I Corinthians 15:52 says the same thing, the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

At that time the angels will go throughout all the earth (‘unto the four corners of the earth’ as it is sometimes said) and gather the elect, all those whose sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Their souls will be united with their glorified bodies, and the elect will be taken up together to one place, to the right hand of Christ, where we will be welcomed into His kingdom.

But don’t overlook the fact that all this takes place in clear view of the whole world! The scene of the angels gathering in the elect (the final harvest, the separation of the sheep and the goats) is not taking place in some secret place where all the elect in clandestine fashion sneak aboard a celestial ship and head off for Paradise.

No. This is all purposely done in the presence of the mourning nations as a very public and a very final (even sweet) vindication of God’s people. At long last, God’s justice is about to be meted out. The Day of Judgment is at hand. The end of the world has come.

For those who mourn, it will be the beginning of their eternal travail. But for the elect, for those who look to Jesus Christ in faith, who are sorrowful for their sin, who repent of their wicked ways, who show by their obedient life that they love the Lord their God, for all such people, their travail and tribulation are over. This day stands as a great encouragement for the church!

The end of the world signals the coming of the new heavens and the new earth, and there shall no longer be any sin and suffering. The old order of things will have passed away. Beloved, we come back to the question again, ‘do you look and long for the day of his appearing’? Are you securely in the fold of God, or are you still wavering between belief and unbelief?

Beloved, Christ’s promise of the future is our only real hope, our only true hope. We are not to place our trust and hope in our growing business; or in the technology of our age; or in our nation’s effort to bring Democracy to every shore; or in the NASA space program, or in our own lucrative financial portfolios or in life insurance policies.

No, in all heaven and earth, we have but one hope. That hope is found in none other than Jesus Christ, who on the final day shall appear in glory in the heavens above, and he shall bring with Him full and complete redemption for His people. That is what the end of the world will be like. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2005, Pastor Keith Davis

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