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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign - Matthew 24:3-5

Taught on | Topic: End Times | Keywords: End Times, signs, revelation, millennium

Do you believe signs when you see them? Do you know how to read signs when they are given to you? Jesus, in Matthew 24 tells of His return and the signs we are to look for. If we have a different understanding other than what the bible says then we may miss the greatest happening of all time and be left behind.., the return of Jesus. So, will you read the signs and seek to understand, or will you simply dismiss them and interpret your own signs.

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7/30/2006
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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
Matthew 24:3-5
Skip Heitzig
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Do you believe signs when you see them? Do you know how to read signs when they are given to you? Jesus, in Matthew 24 tells of His return and the signs we are to look for. If we have a different understanding other than what the bible says then we may miss the greatest happening of all time and be left behind.., the return of Jesus. So, will you read the signs and seek to understand, or will you simply dismiss them and interpret your own signs.
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Rumblings of War and the Prince of Peace

Rumblings of War and the Prince of Peace

For 2,000 years the church has awaited the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. For 2,000 years men have tried to predict the exact moment of His return. Though no man knows the exact hour or even the day He will come back, there are signs to indicate His coming is near. In the teaching series Rumblings of War and the Prince of Peace, Skip Heitzig thoroughly expounds upon Matthew 24, explaining prophecy of what must take place and encouraging the church to always be ready.

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I. Look Up!
II. Look Around!
III. Look Out!

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People of this world are fickle in many ways about reading signs but really the most fickle are those who see signs and ignore them. Here's what I mean; if a scientist proclaims that there are billions of stars these same folks will surely believe it…, and why should they not, the scientist is not wrong…, or are they? The question is not in the right or wrong of the scientist's statement but rather whether or not these people believe in the creator of those stars and the sign of the times.

In Matthew chapter 24 Jesus is speaking about the signs of the times, the last times. And the disciples wanted to know what will be the signs of the times? Jesus speaks to His disciples words addressing their questions, but Jesus is speaking in one context and the disciples are thinking in another. The disciples thought the kingdom of God was going to be set up right now because the Messiah was here, but Jesus tells of the future and what they should be looking for at His second coming. There was a time when Jesus told them of the very near future about Himself and that He should go up to Jerusalem and be killed, but the disciples understood none of what Jesus said about His death. We are like this at times, why? Well sometimes we are not ready to comprehend the issue at hand or we are hearing from God but we won't accept it.

The disciples asked Jesus to tell them what the signs of the end would be and Jesus tells them many difficult and horrid things about the events of the times to come. One would think the disciples, after hearing these things, would have many question but they had no reply to the things Jesus said. Jesus further tells of His second coming, for the disciples knew that Jesus came this first time but the disciples thought of Jesus' time here on this earth now as the only coming. The disciples were a bit confused with all these things and it frustrated them as it would us if we were thinking as they were.

Jesus continues to give insight to the disciple's eyes concerning the scripture of Daniel the Prophet when Daniel wrote of the abomination of desolation. But the disciples still did not understand what Jesus was saying. Jesus tells of His coming with His saints in the clouds and we who remain will be caught up to meet Jesus in the sky. You would think that the disciples would be excited about this but we see in Matthew that there is no response in question from the disciples.

Now what is all this stuff that Jesus says about His second coming? Jesus will come for His church in what we call the rapture, now this term in not in the bible but many inferences are referenced in the bible concerning this catching away of the church. It is the catching away of His church, the people who have accepted Jesus and are His and we will meet the Lord in the sky. But there is another coming as well, this is after the seven year tribulation period and this time Jesus will come with His saints to the earth and set up a thousand year reign called the millennium.

All these things that Jesus was giving to the disciples are all signs that will come to pass. Jesus loved the disciples so much that He told them and recorded these things so they would believe, more so now for us, for we read and see these things that have now come to pass as Jesus told His disciples.

We must also hear the words of Jesus and look to the sky for our salvation is near. As we see the world events we can't but think it may be very soon. Understand this; every thing has come to pass except one thing, the coming of our Lord for His church…, it could happen at any time, so, be ready for your Lord is coming.

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

[MUSIC PLAYING]

You guys look fabulous. Good morning.

[APPLAUSE]

We're in Matthew 24, as you remember. But before we start, we prayed last week at second service on Sunday morning for those 30 high schoolers that are over in England. Let's pray for them before we even get started any further, shall we?

Lord, we're so grateful to be a part of that group that has gone over to support them in prayer. We pray, Lord, as they have gotten over there safely, that they would return here to us safely. We pray that there would be great fruit in their ministry there in England. We pray, Lord, that they'd be an encouragement to the people up in Harrogate, people from this church who have been there for years, that their presence, their love would encourage others to go on in serving You.

We pray, Lord, also that many would come to know Jesus personally through their testimony, their witness, and that you'd burn a fire that resides within each of these young people so that when they come back, their heart for evangelism and missions would continue. We're so grateful to be together in one accord with one purpose, here, as we break the bread of your word. Teach us, Father. We ask in Jesus' name, amen.

People can be funny in that if you tell a man that there are 735,688,214,362 stars in the universe, he'll believe you. But if that same man sees a sign that reads "wet paint," he will feel the need to personally investigate it himself. Signs can instruct. They can warn. They can direct.

You can tell a lot about life or about a person's journey by signs. I'll give you a little experiment. I'm going to read to you signs that I read this week, and you tell me where I was.

First sign-- "Fasten seat belts while seated. Use seat bottom cushion for flotation." Airplane-- I flew back Sunday afternoon from Albuquerque to Southern California. Second sign-- "San Juan Capistrano, 17 miles." That was on the freeway back to my previous abode.

Third sign-- several of them all in one setting-- "Drive defensively," "Do not tailgate," "Use mirrors," "Caution at intersections," and "Watch overhead clearance." It's a truck, a 16-foot Penske truck that I drove from California to Albuquerque with a bed, some books, and a few other sundry items.

The next sign-- "Wilmington, North Carolina, 2,558 miles." Now, that's a little harder. That's when interstate 15 turns into I-40. It's the first sign that you see out by Barstow, California. They're telling you where I-40 ends. It's an odd sign to see in the middle of nowhere, so I put it in here.

Finally-- "Welcome to Albuquerque. Albuquerque next 17 exits."

[APPLAUSE]

That's home. That's home.

Signs once they have been fulfilled tell you of the journey past. Signs when they're unfulfilled tell you of what is ahead. In Matthew 24, Jesus gives us signs so that we would know what's going to come in the future.

Now, when the Bible makes predictions, it's not a stab in the dark. These aren't good guesses. These are firm indicators. When something in the Bible says it's going to happen, it is going to happen.

It's not like the fella driving through West Texas. He stopped at a gas station, saw a sign that said "Weather forecaster." And from that sign was a little rope dangling. And the tourist said to the gas station attendant, how could that thing forecast the weather?

And the gas station attendant, chewing his gum, said, it's easy. When that rope is going back and forth, it's windy. When that rope is wet, it's raining. Frozen stiff? Snow storm. When that rope is gone, tornado.

[LAUGHTER]

Well, big deal, right? When the Bible makes predictions, it's not just a stab in the dark or that kind of a weather forecaster. Jesus here tells his disciples some very intriguing predictions because they asked him a question. They asked him a question because certain things were troubling them. Jesus said the temple they were looking at was going to be destroyed completely.

And so they said, well, we want some signs of when these things are all going to occur. So back in verse 3. Now, as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? And Jesus answered and said to them, take heed that no one deceives you, for many will come in my name saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many.

OK. Conversation. Jesus, disciples-- they are both talking to each other, exchanging thoughts. But there is a language barrier. That is, what Jesus means by certain things He has said, they take it to mean something different. They're not connecting the dots.

You see, as we mentioned last week, the Jews, including the disciples, had in their minds a fixed eschatology, or a scenario of end-time events. They thought Jesus was going to set up His kingdom at any moment, even though Jesus had explicitly already told them on the way up to Jerusalem that He would die.

Yeah, they were walking, and Jesus said, when I get to Jerusalem, I'm going to be handed over to the Gentiles. I'm going to be arrested. I'm going to be scourged, beaten, spat upon, and then they're going to kill me.

But the Bible says this. They understood none of these things. They understood none of these things. Jesus told them specifically He's going to die in Jerusalem. They didn't get it.

Well, we all have to some degree a disease called selective listening disorder. That is, when somebody says something, we key in on certain things that they say and not hear the rest of the message. Jesus told them, I'm going to die. They're not listening to that.

They weren't expecting that. It's like the sign that hung up on the psychiatrist's office, "Amnesia patients must pay in advance."

[LAUGHTER]

I like that. The disciples sort of have spiritual amnesia. The things Jesus had told them, they're not picking up on.

Now, this morning, we're going to look at verse 3, 4, and 5, so we're overlapping a little bit. But it will give to us three ways that all believers ought to look, especially in these last days. This is for all followers of Christ at any age, but specifically for those living in these times, we are to look up, we are to look around, and we are to look out.

We're to look up for the coming of Jesus Christ, which could come, I believe, at any time. We're to look around because there are certain signs on the prophetic horizon that give that away. And then, number three, we're to look out, because as Jesus said, there is spiritual deception that is coming.

Look at verse 3. The question is, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? You see the word coming? Don't get confused by that term.

When the disciples use the term coming, they are not thinking Jesus is leaving and returning. They're not thinking of a Second Coming. The word parousia, coming, means your manifestation, your appearing. You're going to do something in the next few days.

That's what they thought. Jesus would say, well, I'll tell you. In the next few days, you can expect just before Passover, I'm going to set up this whole kingdom. You're going to see it.

They were not expecting what Jesus is going to tell them, that if you put it all together, he's going to leave. There'll be a period of years-- 2,000 years so far-- where there is this thing called the church age, and then Jesus is coming back. They weren't expecting that at all.

In Luke's gospel, chapter 19, they're on their way up to Jerusalem. And Luke says, Jesus told them a parable because they thought the Kingdom of God would appear immediately. That's what they're thinking. When is your coming? The Kingdom of God is going to appear any moment.

So Jesus told them a story, and here's how it started. There was a certain nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. And the parable unfolds the meaning. And we'll see it here in Matthew 24.

Jesus is basically saying, I am leaving. I'm not setting up my kingdom now. But eventually, I will return. And that coming will be a glorious coming, an unmistakable, powerful coming.

Go down to verse 29 of Matthew 24. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened. The moon will not give its light. The stars will fall from Heaven. The powers of the Heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in Heaven. Then all the tribes of the Earth will mourn, and they will see this Son of Man coming with clouds and with great glory."

So effectively, the confusion that the disciples have in this question, what's the sign of your coming? Jesus will clear up that confusion by his answer in Matthew 24. Oh, yes, I am coming, but I'm leaving for a while, then coming back. And that coming will be with power and glory.

It's sort of like the little boy went to his pastor after Sunday service and said, now, preacher, today you said that we all come from dust. Preacher said, that's right. You were listening well. That's good. He said, yeah, I know. But you also said that we're all going back to dust. Well, that's right. Why do you look so worried? And the little boy said, Pastor, you got to come over to our house as quickly as you can and look under my bed, because there's somebody under there who's either coming or going.

[LAUGHTER]

The disciples-- it's like, well, Jesus, are you coming or are you going? And the answer is both. I have come. I am going. And then I will come again. And that coming will be very different than this one. Again, look at verse 27. "For as lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be."

Now, folks, from our vantage point today living in this era, we are looking toward the future at two events that will come at some point-- two events. Event number one-- Jesus comes toward the Earth for His Saints, His church. Event number two-- Jesus comes all the way to the Earth with His saints.

The first event is known as the Rapture of the Church. That happens after the church age, whatever time God wants that to end. This second event, the Second Coming, will occur at the end of a period of judgment upon the Earth, a seven-year period known as The Tribulation, the time of Jacob's trouble, or the 70th week of Daniel. That's yet future. So two events, the Rapture, the Second Coming-- Jesus comes toward the Earth for His church. Jesus comes to the Earth with His church.

The focus of Matthew chapter 24 is not the first, but the second. The focus, the primary reference of the coming of Christ in this chapter is not the Rapture of the Church, which might astonish a few people. You say, now, wait a minute. If Jesus is talking to disciples, they're believers. Wouldn't He want to say you ought to wait for my coming for you?

Why would he tell them about the tribulation period? They're not going to be around for the Tribulation. You're right. But they're not going to be around for the Rapture either. And Jesus knew that. Jesus knew that that generation would die, and there would be several generations before any of that takes place.

But here's the real answer. The reason Jesus talks about it in Matthew 24, the Second Coming, is remember last week, we said the framework, the context of Matthew 24 is not a Presbyterian, Methodist, or Baptist framework? It is Jewish. The main focus is God dealing with Jerusalem and the Jews because they are at the center of his prophetic work.

So what Jesus does in this chapter, in fact, in both chapters, 24 and 25, is highlight and outline Daniel's 70th week. You will find out what that is in the next few weeks. You'll know what it is. But look at verse 15. Here's a hint.

Therefore, when you see-- you being the generation that is of that time-- when you see the abomination of desolation spoken by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place, whoever reads, let him understand. And we're going to discover something, that Daniel, especially Daniel chapter 9, especially Daniel chapter 9 verse 25, 26, and 27, is the key that unlocks the door to all of prophecy. It's called the Backbone of Prophecy. And we'll discover that in the next few weeks.

But for us living today, we are waiting for Jesus to come to snatch us away, to rapture the church. It could happen, I believe, at any moment. There's nothing, I think, that is precluding that from occurring.

Keep a marker here, if you would, and turn and look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 for just a moment. You probably know this chapter well. You know that it deals with the Rapture of the Church. Paul's words to the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 4 verse 13, but I do not want you to be ignorant brethren concerning those who have fallen asleep-- that's a nice way of saying who have died-- lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Christ. For this, we say to you by the word of the Lord that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout-- can't wait to hear what that sounds like. You will-- with the voice of an archangel, with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words. That's the Rapture of the Church.

Now you say, wait, wait, wait a minute. I didn't read the word rapture there. And I've had people say, the rapture is not in the Bible. You're right. The word rapture is not in the Bible. The teaching of the rapture certainly is in the Bible. Don't worry about the word. The word Bible isn't in the Bible.

[LAUGHTER]

Just because the word doesn't appear doesn't mean that teaching, the kernel, isn't there. It is there. You say, well, where did we get the idea of the term rapture? Well, in verse 17, there's those two words caught up. That's where we get it from caught up. The original language harpazo, harpazo translated into English 13 different times in these ways. Four times it's translated "to catch up." Three times as translated to "take by force." Twice to "catch away," "to pluck" two times, to "catch" once, and to "pull" once. So you get the idea? Jesus is going to come at [SUCKS IN AIR] us, catch us away, take us instantly away from the Earth.

To make it even more understandable, I'm going to read to you from the Kenneth Wuest translation of the New Testament, a Greek scholar who's very colorful. He translated verse 17 this way. "We shall be snatched away forcibly in masses of saints having the appearance of clouds for a welcome meeting with the Lord in the lower atmosphere." Very picturesque.

You say, I still didn't see the word rapture. Well, I'll tell you where we got it from. When Jerome translated the Greek into Latin, the word he used for catch up was rapto or rapare, where we get the English term rapture. Same difference. [SUCKS IN AIR], Taken away.

Now, the Rapture and the Second Coming are two different events. And some believe they happen very close to each other. I believe they occur seven years apart from each other. That's my viewpoint.

The Rapture and the Second Coming are two very different events. The Rapture isn't really a full coming. Jesus doesn't come to the Earth. He comes towards the Earth. Somewhere in the atmosphere, we meet Him. It's like a fly-by, a near pass, what our friend Raul Ries would say, he's cruising.

[LAUGHTER]

And we'll enjoy the ride.

[LAUGHTER]

At that event, the Rapture, the church will rise to meet the Lord. But at the second coming, Jesus comes from Heaven, through the air, to the Earth. And the Bible says every eye shall see him. At the Rapture, Jesus comes for the bride. At the Second Coming, Jesus comes with the bride. At the Rapture the focus is the church and Christ at the second coming the focus is Israel and the kingdom the Rapture of the Church is unpredictable no one knows the day of the hour a lot of people have tried to set dates nobody has been right because nobody knows that it's unpredictable.

But the Second Coming is absolutely predictable to the very day. You could count 1,260 days after the abomination of desolation, 3 and 1/2 years, and you will end at the Second Coming. So they're two very different events.

So here we are in our day and age watching what is happening over in the Middle East, et cetera, and we wonder, when is the Lord going to come? The Rapture could occur any time God wants it to occur. I love it. One student said to me last night, he goes, I hope Jesus comes back before the school year starts. And I said amen. I hope he does too.

Something else-- some scholars believe that the Ezekiel 38, 39 scenario could also happen before the Tribulation. It's not necessarily restricted to it. That the invasion of Israel from the north, Gog and Magog, with its allies, Iran-- Persia-- could possibly occur before that. That's why the events we're looking at over in the Middle East are very, very interesting. So we're to look up. He's coming for us. And then we'll be coming with Him to the Earth.

Second, we're to look around. And that's by that key word in the question, and then in the answer, the word signs. What are the signs? [NON-ENGLISH] is the word-- signal, indicator, mile marker. What are we to look for that would indicate this is about to happen?

And so Jesus gives these signs. His answer to the question is found in verse 4. Jesus said, take heed that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. That is one of the signs. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you're not troubled, for all these things must come to pass. But the end is not yet. That's another sign. Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines, pestilences, earthquakes in various places. All of those are signs.

Here's the point. Our God is a God of signs. Did you know that? God gives indications to people on the Earth about things that are going to happen before they happen. It's always been that way. In fact, listen to this very intriguing verse out of the prophet Amos chapter 3 verse 7. Surely the Lord God does nothing unless he reveals his secret to his servants, the prophets. When God is about to do something, there will be some revelation, some indication, some sign of what God is going to do. And God holds people responsible to be aware of the signs.

One day, the religious leaders walked up to Jesus and said, we want to see a sign from Heaven This they said after he had done already many miracles. We want to see a sign from Heaven. Jesus said, well, it's interesting, you guys, in the evening, when you see a red sky, say, tomorrow, it's going to be a beautiful day. You're predicting what tomorrow will be like based upon the sky.

But if you wake up in the morning and you see a red sky, you'll say it's going to be bad weather today. Like the old saying, red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red Sky in the morning, sailor's warning. You can predict what the weather will be like based upon the signs you see in the sky.

Then Jesus said, you hypocrites. You can discern the face of the sky, but you cannot tell the signs of the times. And the words, you guys should already know who I am. You guys should be aware that I, your Messiah, have come. There have been enough indications. In fact, did you know that there are over 300 prophecies of the first coming of Jesus that would build his personal profile of who he would be?

Jesus would be born, the prophets say, in Bethlehem. He would be of the tribe of Judah, of the lineage of King David, that he would exist before the destruction of the temple. They were to have been aware by the signs. So in Matthew 24, there are more signs of his Second Coming.

Now, the signs that he gives, you discover, are signs that principally will take place during the Tribulation period, during that seven-year period of judgment upon the Earth. And here's how we know that. Here's a clue. If you were to turn-- and you don't need to, but you can look at it later. If you were to turn to Revelation chapter 6, when the judgments start happening on the Earth, where Jesus Christ takes the scroll, and takes the seven seals. And every time he peels one seal, a judgment occurs.

So he peels seal number one, and out comes a white horse bringing deception. He peels seal number two, and out comes a red horse bringing war. He peels seal number three, and out comes a black horse bringing famine. Seal number four, a pale horse bringing death. And the signs and destruction spoken about in chapter 6 during the Tribulation sound strikingly familiar to the signs he says here in Matthew 24.

There's another clue. Look at verse 8. All these are the beginning of sorrows If you happen to have a New International version this morning, I believe your translation says all these are the beginning of birth pains, which is very accurate. That would be most literal. All these things, these signs, are the beginning of birth pains. Every mother here understands what Jesus meant.

When you're pregnant, pain isn't the indication that you're about to have a baby. But when the pains become more frequent, and more intense, time's up. Delivery is soon. I'll never forget that May evening of 1986 when my wife had a certain kind of pain, and then again another pain, and she said, he's coming. I said, the Lord's coming?

[LAUGHTER]

No, my child is coming. And those contractions were timed, and they were very intense. And the doctor said, you better come to the hospital. You're going to have that baby.

Well, it's going to be like that in the Tribulation period. There's a series of judgments that occur, and they'll occur in more intensity as they go on, and in more frequency. So the first set of judgments, as we said, are the seal judgments, which look like they appear over a period of a few years.

The seventh seal ushers in seven trumpet judgments, which look like they happen in more intensity, certainly, but in a quicker period of time. Maybe over a few months. And then, finally, the bold judgments are poured out on the Earth, and they look like they appear even within a few days. This rapid, intense kind of judgment. So that's what we're dealing with here.

However, having said that, I think that even before that period, even before the Rapture, that those signs are already starting to shape up so that we can look around, and we can be aware generally of the frame that we are in. So as we look around, and we pay attention, we go, you know what? It sure seems like the Lord is coming back soon. Because yes, all of these things have always been around. There's always been war, always been famines, always rumors of wars, always false messiahs. But we're seeing a proliferation of these things already in more frequency, already in more intensity.

So look at verse 42. Jesus says watch, therefore. Watch. Look out. Look around, for you do not know what hour the Lord is coming. So look up, and look around. See what's happening in the world.

Remember what we called those guys that found the star in the east and followed the star to Bethlehem? We call them the wise men. Wise people observe the signs, and it leads them somewhere. It was only the foolish people of the time that ignored the signs. Hah, a star. Off with you all. We're not into that stuff. It should have been. Should have been.

It's like the man who bought a barometer. He wanted it on his shelf in his Long Island home. He worked in New York City. He bought it, took it home, opened up the box, but he was perturbed because the needle seemed to be stuck in one spot pointing to the area called hurricane.

It was beautiful weather, beautiful day. So he hit the thing on the desk, shook it a few times, but it was still stuck, the needle pointing toward hurricane. He was so angry, he sat down, and he wrote a letter to the company that made it and the store that sold it.

He left the barometer on his mantle in Long Island, drove into Manhattan where his office was, mailed the letter the next day. In the evening, he was driving back out to Long Island, only to discover not only was his barometer missing, his home was missing where the barometer sat.

Well, that's right. That hurricane was a prediction. It came, and he ignored the sign. So we look up. Jesus said, when these things begin to take place, lift up your heads. Your redemption draws near. But we look around, we see what general time it is on the prophetic horizon.

Third, he calls us to look out. Watch out. Look out. Verse 4, take heed-- the word Greek is blepo-- watch, look. Take heed that no one deceives you, for many will come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many.

Don't you find it intriguing that the very first sign on the list Jesus says to look for is spiritual deception? Very first thing to notice-- spiritual deception. He doesn't just say it once. Look in verse 11. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Verse 23-- then if anyone says to you, look, here is the Christ, or there, do not believe it, for false christs and false prophets will rise, and show great signs, and wonders, and deceive if possible, even the elect.

There's always been false messiahs. There's always been false prophets. There have always been false religions. Satan always crafts deceptive means to draw people away. He's done it years ago. He does it today. His best tool, though he has a lot, his best tool is deception.

As soon as Jesus left and ascended into Heaven, did you know that shortly after Christ, there appeared in Jerusalem a man by the name of Shimon bar Kokhba? He was called the messiah. There's even coins, the Bar Kokhba, that were minted by the Jews. They believed he was the messiah who was going to deliver them from Rome. He promised to overturn them. He was a false messiah. He was destroyed by Rome.

And since bar Kokhba onward, there have been many false prophets, and many false cries. But here's the point. Satan is all about deception, trickery. And he's done a pretty good job. As I look around, I think, at least you got to give him credit. He does his job really well.

Listen to the words of this 17-year-old boy from Los Angeles. He said, I often think of Satan as a cool dude. Boy is he deceived. Since Satan controls one part of the supernatural, he tends to let you be on your own and do whatever you want, whereas God wants to put you in a prison cell. Boy, is he deceived.

As time marches on, the deception will grow worse, until eventually, Satan will craft his masterpiece, the Antichrist. So deceptive that he would get even the Jewish nation to believe he is our messiah. Jesus predicted it. He said, I have come in my Father's name, and you did not receive me. Another will come in his own name. Him you will receive. That's a chilling prediction.

I've come in my father's. Name. I've come as the second part of the triune God in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to honor my Father I've come to you. You don't receive me. Someone is coming, and he will come in his own name. Him you will receive.

And that nation will embrace this false messiah, the Antichrist in the end times because Satan's chief calling card is deception. He's called in Revelation 12 the great dragon, the serpent of old, who deceives the whole world. So look out.

OK, but that's for the future. What I notice in this verse is the word many, not one-- many. Take heed that no one deceives you, for many will come in my name, saying that I am the Christ. Not one, the Antichrist. Not two, the false prophet and the Antichrist. It says many.

Principally, this prediction will be fulfilled in the Tribulation period. But I think there's a secondary, ancillary hint for us, that as the end times march on, as we're moving toward that period of history, that the activity of Satan when it comes to spiritual deception will be on the rise. And you'll see it with more frequency and more intensity even before that time of great judgment. And it would be very easy to do a study of how many in the last 20 years have been deceived by false claims, false religion, false christs, and there are many.

But listen to this. This is John writing-- first John chapter 2 verse 18. Little children-- listen to this-- it is the last hour. He said that 2,000 years ago. I guess we're in the last minute then. It is the last hour, and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming-- singular-- even now, many Antichrists have come, by which we know it is the last hour.

There is Christ, and there is Antichrist. That's how Satan works. God moves. Satan counter moves. Remember in physics, every action brings an equal and opposite reaction. So there's Christ. There's Antichrist. There's God. There's Antigod. There's the work of God. There's then the work of Satan. There's the movement of the Spirit. There's then the movement of the unholy spirit.

Like they used to say, whenever you turn on the light, the bugs will come. The light of the gospel goes out, salvation gets extended, and there's a movement of the enemy. And I believe that even Christians, solid believers, can sometimes become duped by the enemy, where we forget the spiritual battle that's really handy. And we can turn inward, we can get cloistered, or we can get lethargic. Somebody once wisely said, the devil is never too busy to rock the cradle of a sleeping saint.

So what do we do? We look up. Jesus could come. Be ready. Be holy. Be waiting. Look around as you're looking up, and notice what is going on in the world in terms of spiritual trickery and deception. But then, look out yourselves, lest you be brought under that lethargy, complacency, or unbelief.

I've always known that polar bears liked to kill and eat seals, but I just didn't know how they did it till I read a little article that said polar bears will catch seals by deception. A polar bear will take in a deep breath, dive under the water, and look for the holes in the ice from below looking up where the seals make their fishing holes. And then the polar bear will scratch to simulate the movement of a fish so that the seal thinks there's a fish scratching under the ice.

The seal will jump through that hole, believing it just caught or about to catch its meal, only to discover they're the main course themselves. It was all a trick. The polar bear knew how to scratch and make the right noise.

So ask yourself today, have you been lulled into a pattern of unbelief? Or have you gotten into a place of lethargy? Satan is a crafty enemy. Jesus said to Simon Peter one day, Simon, Satan's been asking for you. Now, that would bother me if I heard those words, to know that Jesus and the devil have been talking, and the devil has been asking about me.

I'd say, well, what does he want? Jesus said, he's been asking about you. He wants to sift you like wheat. I'd say, what'd you tell him? Jesus said, but I prayed for you, Peter. And when you have recovered or been restored-- in other words, you're going to fall. Then you strengthen your brethren.

Now's the time to be strong and to strengthen others. Now is the time to understand what the battle is, what the fight really is, and just strengthen one another. Let's pray.

We're so excited to have your Holy Spirit present to feed us the bread of life, the word of God, to remind us once again of the coming of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We echo the words of revelation. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. Lord, make us ready, anticipating by living godly, holy lives, focused on you, about your business.

As we look around at the world seen today, and we see what's happening, not only in the Middle East, but what's even happening in our own neighborhoods, now people are not looking to you, but denying you, disbelieving, walking away from you. We then want to look out, considering our own selves, lest we also be tempted or fall. And we pray that we would be strong. we would be ambassadors. We would fight the good fight of faith, watching out for the deception.

I pray we be all about your business in the next week, telling others how to know you. In fact, Lord, we're praying for that right now because we believe that there could be some people right here in this room right now, or in the overflow in the hub, who haven't yet come to Christ. They've come to church, but they haven't surrendered their lives to you, And they're sensing an urgency, and an urging by your Spirit, a prompting to make a choice, a decision to follow Jesus, to believe in Him, to place all of their weight in Him.

We pray that they will. Maybe it'll be the first time. Maybe it'll be a recommitment. But we pray, Lord, that if anybody is away from you, if there is distance between that person and God, we know that's exactly what Satan wants. And that's exactly what you have come to heal and to cure, to bring people close to you by the blood of your Son. And we pray, Lord, that would occur right now.

With our heads bowed for just a moment, if you've come this morning, and you realize I don't yet belong to Christ. I am not following Him. I haven't surrendered my life to Him, but I want to do that. Or I walked away from Him, but I want to walk back to him. I want to experience that peace again, that joy again, that love. I want to be able to look at world events with confidence.

It means that God is speaking to your heart, and you're not here by accident. But the choice still is yours. And if you desire to make your commitment for Jesus today having never done it before, having never totally surrendered to Him. Or maybe you did, but you walked away from Him, I want you to raise your hand right now. As we close this service, I'd like to pray for you and give you an opportunity to pray to receive Christ.

God bless you toward the back. Yes, sir. Just raise your hand up if you're ready. God bless you. I see a couple of hands right back to my left. And right over here in the middle. Toward the front. Gotcha. Right up toward the front here.

Anybody else? Right there toward the middle-back on my right. Anyone else? Anybody in the balcony? Over in the family room? Or if you're in the hub, you raise your hand. There's a pastor right over there right now to see you. Right up here in the front.

Lord, I see hands all around this auditorium that have gone up. And these are signs to us, indicators that you're at work, the work of salvation. We're so happy. We're so grateful. This is so wonderful.

And it is our earnest prayer that each person, each heart, each life, would now be totally transformed. As these follow through and make that full pledge that commitment to turn their lives over to you, we know that it will be met with your pledge, your commitment to totally forgive, wipe clean, and grant salvation as a free gift. Thank you, Lord. Strengthen these in Jesus' name. Amen.

Would y'all stand? Now, I saw hands go up around the auditorium. And I'm going to ask you to do something else now. So often when Jesus called people, as you know, he called them publicly. And we're going to give you that opportunity. If you raised your hand, no matter where you're sitting, I'm going to ask you now to find the nearest aisle, come forward, and stand right up here in the front, where I'm going to pray with you to receive Christ publicly.

So as we sing this song, you get up quickly from where you're standing if you raised your hand. And you come, and let me say that word of prayer with you.

[APPLAUSE]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Come on down.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

I love it. I love it. Don't you love this?

[APPLAUSE]

Isn't this always exciting? This is so cool. You guys are all wise men and women. You're following the right signs. It's leading you to Christ.

[APPLAUSE]

Come on up.

[APPLAUSE]

All right, I love it. Well. I'm going to lead you in a prayer. This is a way that I can introduce you to Jesus. And as I pray this prayer, I'd like you to say this prayer out loud after me. I want you to say it from your heart to the Lord. And this is a prayer of commitment. You're asking Jesus to come in and take charge, to take control. Sort of like wedding vows, you're pledging your life to Him. And you're going to find, guaranteed, God is going to meet you, come inside, and change you forever. OK, so let's pray together.

Lord, I give you my life.

Lord, I give you my life.

I know I'm a sinner.

I know I'm a sinner.

Please forgive me.

Please forgive me.

I trust Jesus--

I trust Jesus--

--who died for me--

--who died for me--

--and rose from the dead.

--and rose from the dead.

I turn from my sin.

I turn from my sin.

I leave my past.

I leave my past.

I turn my life to you--

I turn my life to you--

--as your disciple.

--as your disciple.

Help me now to obey you.

Help me now to obey you.

Fill me with your Holy Spirit.

Fill me with your Holy Spirit.

Empower me--

Empower me--

--to live for you.

--to live for you.

In Jesus' name I pray--

In Jesus' name I pray--

--amen.

--amen.

[APPLAUSE]

Congratulations. You made the wisest choice of your life. Welcome to God's family. We're so thrilled that you're here.

Neil's got his Bible raised. He gave those announcements a little while ago. He's one of our pastors. Would you follow Neil and our counselors into a prayer room? We want to give you something and explain how to follow Christ every day of your life. Let's go.

[APPLAUSE]

Additional Messages in this Series

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Date Title   Watch Listen Notes Share Save Buy
7/23/2006
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Rumblings of War and the Prince of Peace
Matthew 24:1-3
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
When you hear of wars and rumors of war what do you think of? When you see TV news of images of the horrors of evil what do you think? Most of us turn to others for comfort and others turn to the bible for answers but the real question is do you believe in your heart that God is your Father? Matthew tells us of the concerns of the disciples as they heard of Jesus speaking of the end times. The disciples are much like you and I for they asked Jesus and He told them plainly but did they really believe? So are you hearing and believing or are you believing what you think you want to hear? Think about it.
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8/6/2006
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Why We Can't All Just Get Along
Matthew 24:6-8
Skip Heitzig
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War has always been a part of the regular life of humanity since our beginning. So what makes war a sign that Jesus' return is near? And more importantly, why can't people around the world get along? Why is it that strife, conflict, rivalry, and fighting have so marred God's highest creation? Where will it lead and how can we cope?
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8/13/2006
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When Faith Turns Fatal
Matthew 24:9-11
Skip Heitzig
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The Bible extols the benefits of faith. Faith justifies the sinner, appropriates God's promises for the believer and will bring us into eternal joy. But faith can also be fatal - there are consequences to believing! Faith in God brings us into direct opposition with Satan's worldly system and incurs the wrath and opposition of unbelievers and false believers. What will it be like for those who trust Christ just before His Second Coming?
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8/20/2006
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Big Mess; Bigger Message
Matthew 24:12-14
Skip Heitzig
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Whenever there's a mess, a messenger with a message is needed. God has always worked that way. In ancient Israel he sent prophets to herald truth to a recalcitrant nation. In church history God raised up evangelists to proclaim the gospel to sin-hardened and cynical generations. The future Tribulation will be the biggest mess ever, yet God will still have his message heard! Lets notice four human conditions that will prevail in the future of earth's most severe time.
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8/27/2006
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God's House Vandalized!
Matthew 24:15
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
This single verse is pivotal in understanding prophecy. It highlights something that is both historic as well as prophetic. This verse, when tied to its historical roots in the prophet Daniel, will help you understand what John wrote in the book Revelation. But it offers more than just biblical information it provides practical inspiration when properly understood.
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9/3/2006
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Holy Land Tour: CANCELED!
Matthew 24:16-20
Skip Heitzig
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For many Christians, a trip to the Holy Land is a once-in-a-lifetime dream. To see where Jesus walked, taught and spoke prophetically of is thrilling. But trouble is in store for Israel's future, in fact Scripture refers to it as "Jacob's Trouble" (Jer. 30:7). What will be Israel's future and what can we learn about the nature of God in adversity? Moreover, what should a believer's response to catastrophic events be?
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9/10/2006
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When God Declares War
Matthew 24:21-22
Skip Heitzig
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War is ugly but sometimes necessary. It's meant to defend the weak and punish deadly aggressors. Jesus' words here depict a time when God wages war on the human race and throws every conceivable judgment to the earth in the Tribulation. These two verses also highlight three prevailing conditions that exist between God and mankind. The first condition has existed since the Fall of Mankind, the second will be a temporary result of the first, and the third condition is rooted in the character of God and takes the edge off of the first two.
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9/17/2006
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The New Dark Ages
Matthew 24:23-28
Skip Heitzig
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Jesus said, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."(John 9:5) and that His followers were to take up the same occupation: "You are the light of the world" (Matt 5:14). But what happens when the light has been extinguished? What happens when spiritual darkness overshadows everything, everywhere? There's an old saying, "It's always darkest just before the dawn." Jesus tells His followers here that just when the world plummets to its darkest moment, He will be returning!
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9/24/2006
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Ready or Not, Here He Comes!
Matthew 24:29-31
Skip Heitzig
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Children love to play games. One of those games is Hide and Seek where a child, after counting to ten, will call out to his friends, "Ready or not, here I come!" One day, after a time of intense distress, Jesus will return to the earth for the second time and many will not be ready for it. Those who survive and are ready will be gathered together with the rest of God's people to be ushered into God's eternal Kingdom. Are you ready or not?
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10/1/2006
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The End Times Farmer's Almanac
Matthew 24:32-35
Skip Heitzig
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For years agrarians have consulted the venerable Farmer's Almanac for predictive signs on what this next season would bring, in terms of weather forecasts, threatening bugs and water table levels. It helps them know how to navigate through the growing year. Jesus gave a story to His disciples on how the future generation can tell when the season of judgment is upon them and how they should live during the last days on earth.
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10/8/2006
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What Angels Want to Know
Matthew 24:36
Skip Heitzig
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Man's knowledge is impressive but it pales next to God's knowledge. The only things we know for certain are the things that God has revealed to us. Some things must be stored in our hearts in the imaginary file marked, "Wait for further information." As we wait for Jesus to come for us, let's consider what we know and what we don't know; in fact let's see what angels don't even know!
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10/15/2006
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Eat, Drink and Be Judged!
Matthew 24:37-44
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When Noah built his ark, most people thought he was nuts. Only seven others listened to his warning and went with him. Jesus spoke about the fool who thought he was prepared for the future because of his wise investments. This man said to himself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." (Luke 12:19). Jesus also tells us that the world will largely adopt this attitude in the final days of history unaware of what's ahead.
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10/22/2006
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Caught in the Act!
Matthew 24:45-51
Skip Heitzig
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Every parent remembers walking into their child's room catching them in some act either good or bad. The youngster wasn't expecting you to be there and that child's look tells all, betraying innocence or guilt. The return of Jesus Christ will catch some people off guard while others will be diligently involved in the Master's work. Ever wonder what you'll be up to when Jesus returns: what activities, conversations and thoughts you'll be engaged in? Let's consider two possibilities.
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There are 13 additional messages in this series.