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The New Dark Ages - Matthew 24:23-28

Taught on | Topic: End Times | Keywords: end times, Jesus' return, apostasy, Antichrist, deception,

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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9/17/2006
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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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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. Spiritual Vulnerability (Vss 23, 26)
A. False Claims
B. False Signs

II. Scriptural Vitality (Vs 25)


III. Supernatural Visibility (Vss 27-28)
A. Unmistakable
B. Universal


LIVING IT:
1. What things has God given to His people to keep them from becoming deceived? How
have these things kept you from error?
2. When do you find that you are most vulnerable to spiritual attack? How do you typically respond?
3. What excites you most about Jesus returning?

Topic: End Times

Keywords: end times, Jesus' return, apostasy, Antichrist, deception,

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The New Dark Ages

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Wednesday nights, we're going to do a series start this Wednesday on minor prophets in the major league. We're going to look at the minor prophets. I discover that most of us don't know a lot about those guys. There's 12 of them. And they had a very particular role to fill. So we want to introduce you to those 12 men.

This Wednesday night, you'll meet one of their wives as well-- a girl by the name of Gomer. I know that's a strange name. And they had a strange relationship. But we're going to look at that Wednesday night.

Open your bibles this morning to Matthew, chapter 24. And let's have a word of prayer. Heavenly Father, we open up this Bible, this book, your word. And along with it, we open our hearts to you. Captivate us, Lord, as you reveal to our hearts the future.

We give attention now to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who told us in advance what's going to happen. And then, Father, I pray that you would help us apply these lessons to our present situations, that we might grow and be pleasing to you. In Jesus' name, amen.

The Dark Ages, historians tell us, were from about the year 476 AD to 1,000 AD. They were called the Dark Ages simply because it was a time of illiteracy. It was a time of spiritual, moral, political corruption and superstition. And by and large, the population of Europe was spiraling downward.

I heard one story from that time of a man who wanted to join a monastery. And it was in Spain during that period. And there was only one real standing non-negotiable rule in the monastery-- that anybody who entered had to take a vow of silence. He couldn't say any word at all. Except, every two years, he was granted two words to say.

So the man joined the monastery. He went through all of the paces. And after two years, he was brought before his superior who gave him the hand gesture to make his two word presentation. The young man looked at his superior and said his two words. He said, food terrible. That's all he said.

Well, two more years went by. And the same young man was given an opportunity to say two more words. He looked at his superior on the fourth year, and he said, bed lumpy.

And then two years passed by. And the young man was brought before his superior to give two more words. And he looked at his superior and he said, I quit. And before he left, his superior said, you know, I'm not surprised one bit, because all you've done since you've arrived is complain, complain, complain.

Dark Ages. Truth be told, though, it was the clergy who stood up against the Dark Ages. Did you know that the barbarian hordes that invaded Europe were unable to withstand the enlightened civilization of Christians during that time period?

Some people believe we are now on the verge of another dark ages. They're predicting that. They say that Western culture is right at that tipping point where we could go into a very similar set of circumstances.

One of those observers is a woman by the name of Jane Jacobs. About a year and a half ago, she wrote a book called The Dark Age Ahead. She said there are, in American culture, five things that show decline-- five pillars of any culture.

Number one, community and family, she said, is on the decline. I think we would all agree with that. Higher education was number two. Government was the third. Science was the fourth. And then she said there is, number five, the injection in our culture of what she called bad culture. Bad culture.

Well, they may be right. We may be on the verge of another Dark Age societally. But the Bible would indicate the real Dark Age will come just before the light comes. Just before the second coming of Jesus to this earth, the world will be plunged into the darkest of ages, known as the Great Tribulation period. There's a lot of descriptions of that age in the Bible.

I think this one verse in Zephenia, chapter one, sums it up. He writes, "it is a day when the Lord's anger will be poured out. It is a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness."

The dark ages, the Bible says, are coming in the future. Now, we know that just before this world ruler we've been talking about, the Antichrist, comes on the scene, there's going to be what the Bible predicts in second Thessalonians, 2, a falling away.

The falling away, Paul said, will come first. An "apostasia" is the Greek word. This spiritual declining away from the truth. And then the Antichrist will emerge in a war-torn world.

Eventually, he'll demand that the world worships him as God. And eventually, a system will be set up-- a spiritual, worldwide religious system that the Bible refers to as Babylon, that great harlot, the mother of all harlots whom the world will worship.

Now, at that time in history, that future era, there will be no church as we know it. The church will have been raptured. There will be no organized salt and light. Jesus said, you're the salt of the earth. You're the light of the world. You are that which keeps the darkness from overtaking the world, because you're the light of the world. You are the salt so that you keep the meat from being corrupted.

So once the church is gone, once the salt is gone, once the light is gone, then the world will rapidly deteriorate like putting a piece of meat out in the sun to putrefy. It will rot very quickly. You know, I think of all the people who have said, you right wing fundamentalist Christians, you're the real problem. I wish you would just all go away.

They'll have their wish. We will all have gone away. All that which restrains evil as we know it will be gone. And the world will quickly plummet during that time.

Well, what will it be like just before, just right before Jesus Christ comes the second time? There are a few last signs Jesus gives, a few final indicators of what that time will be like just before the second coming.

And I'd wrap it up by saying this. There is going to be-- just before the Lord Jesus comes from Heaven to Earth, there's going to be spiritual warfare at its peak. The spiritual battle will reach its ultimate height.

And here's why I say that. What you are about to read in these verses is the third time in this short little sermon that Jesus preaches-- the third time Jesus mentions spiritual deception. He does it once. He does it again. And now he does it a third time, as if to say, it's going to get bad, then worse, then really bad.

So go back with me to the fourth verse, the introduction of the message. Jesus answered and said to them, take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many. Skip down a few versus. He gives more signs and more signs. And then he says, in verse 10, and many will be offended and betray one another and will hate one another. Then, many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

Now we come to the 23rd verse. And the final few signs just before the light dawns that Jesus Christ comes back-- and first of the final signs, there will be a spiritual vulnerability-- spiritual vulnerability. Look at the 23rd verse. 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 to deceive.

The good verse 26-- therefore, if they say to you, look, he's in the desert, don't go out. Or, look, he's in the inner rooms, do not believe it. So sum it all up. You have false prophets, false Christs performing false signs and wonders and making false claims. All of it will be designed to deceive people on the earth.

And not only will there be great deception. There's going to be great persecution against anyone who is a believer during that period of time. Listen to Revelation, chapter 13, verse 7. It says, and the Beast-- we call him also the Antichrist-- and the Beast was allowed to wage war against God's holy people and to overcome them.

Now, would you think for just a moment what this means on an emotional level? Think of all that we have studied in the last several weeks. Think of all of these signs occurring on the earth-- natural wonders, supernatural wonders, famine, disease, peril, heartache, the death of not hundreds, not thousands, not millions, but billions of people all around, stars falling from the sky, sun scorching the flesh of men and women, water being poisoned so that people are running away from the abomination of desolation, fleeing to the wilderness for refuge, unable to drink, thirsty, tired, vulnerable.

When you get very, very tired, weary, you are most susceptible to anything or anyone that would promise you relief. That's why I say spiritual vulnerability will be high. People will be looking for any kind of relief, any kind of promise at all. Satan, the ultimate opportunist, will rise and send false prophets and false Christs to deceive many.

Now, we know that the tribulation period begins with deception. If you recall, in Revelation, chapter 6, it opens up. And there's four horsemen that ride in. And the first-- well, it says, in Revelation 6, these words.

When the lamb opened one of the seals, I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a loud voice like thunder, come and see. And I looked. And behold, a white horse. And he who sat on it had a bow. And a crown was given to him. And he went out conquering and to conquer.

Some people read that and they think, that's Jesus Christ coming. That's because he's such a good counterfeit. That's what he wants people to think. He comes on a white horse like the old westerns-- good guy on a white horse, white hat. Bad guy-- black horse, black hat. That's a counterfeit. If you're a robber in the old westerns, you want to get on a white horse and put on a white hat, because people are going to think you're the good guy.

So this one who is coming at the beginning of the tribulation comes in like the ultimate man on the white horse, the ultimate ambassador for peace. But it cannot be Jesus Christ, because what follows this first rider is war, famine, death, destruction. That is not Jesus Christ.

No. Jesus Christ comes at the end of that tribulation period. That's the second coming. Here's the real deal-- Revelation 19. I saw heaven opened and a white horse. And he who sat on him was called faithful and true. And on his head were many crowns. And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword. And he has on his robe and on his thigh the name King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

So at the beginning of that one last seven-year period, he is going to come on the scene-- the Antichrist-- in a war-torn culture, offering peace, signing peace treaties. And he's going to have a very unusual draw and appeal-- the ultimate wolf in sheep's clothing.

He'll be able to speak great words, show great signs and wonders. One commentator said, he's going to have the oratorical skill of a John Kennedy, the inspirational power of a Winston Churchill, the determination of a Joseph Stalin, the vision of a Karl Marx, the respectability of a Gandhi, the military prowess of a Douglas MacArthur, the charm of a Will Rogers, and the genius of a King Solomon.

He's going to come. And when he comes, this Antichrist will basically be a counterfeit second coming. People are going to go, look, there's the Christ, or, here he is. That's what he's always wanted. Satan has always been a poser, a counterfeit, a wannabe, ever since he fell from heaven, when he said, I will ascend up to the stars of God. I will be just like the most high.

So during that very vulnerable time, he will inject himself as a counterfeit. Now, I'd like you to turn with me to Revelation, chapter 9. Just keep a marker back in Matthew, 24. Turn to Revelation, chapter 9. I don't exactly know where this fits-- probably in the middle, toward the end somewhere of the tribulation, that last period. That's what I'm guessing.

But talk about the Dark Ages. Wait till you read this. Then the fifth angel sounded. And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. Right away, we're interested. A star that falls from Heaven is called him. He's personified. It's not an it. It's a person.

And he has the key to the bottomless pit, the abusso. And this abyss, this bottomless pit-- it's a word used nine times in Revelation-- always speaks of that place of incarcerated demon spirits. It says in verse 2, he opened the bottomless pit. And smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace so that the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit.

Then, out of the smoke, locusts came upon the earth. Now, wait till you get a load of these things. To them was given power as the scorpions of the Earth have power. And they were commanded not to harm the grass of the Earth or any green thing or any tree but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

They were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days, men will seek death and will not be able to find it. They will desire to die, but death will flee from them.

The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns or something like gold. Their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women's hair. And their teeth were like lions' teeth. Crazy things. Huh? And they had breast plates like breast plates of iron. And the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running to battle.

You say, what on earth are those things? These are some odd creature-- probably demon spirits. I see this as hell belching out all of its incarcerated demons on the earth to torment men to the point of being so susceptible, so vulnerable, so weary that they'd be open to anything at all for relief. It's as if Satan invites all of his fiendish friends to torment people on the earth.

One writer says, picture what the world would be like if you were to open all the doors of all the penitentiaries of the earth and set free the world's most vicious and violent criminals, giving them free reign to practice their infamies upon all mankind. Every foul, demonic spirit waiting for this moment to come and do that to people on Earth.

Now, add to that Antichrist who comes, add to this belching smoke of demons on the earth-- add to that the false prophet who comes in Revelation, 13, who looks like a lamb. But the Bible says he talks like a dragon. And so you have this ultimate tormenting period of deception where Satan, the father of all lies, gets people at their weakest moment-- spiritual vulnerability.

It brings up a question. We know that's coming in the future. What about today? How vulnerable do you think people are on the earth today towards spiritual deception?

Well, you might say, well, this is a different age right now. We are enlightened people. OK. I buy that. And I know that a lot of people have come along and said that they were Christ or God or the Messiah or something great. And these are basically wingnuts that people don't pay attention to.

I had a guy come in my office years ago here. And he put out his hand and said, I'm Jesus Christ. I was taken aback a little bit. I shook his hand and said, well, happy to meet you.

So I said, let me ask you a question-- just one question. Where were you born? He said, Pittsburgh. I said, I don't think you're Jesus Christ, then, because the Bible predicts that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. And he was. He goes, well I'm the second coming of Jesus.

I said, how do you know? He said the third testament. I said, OK. I've read the Old Testament and the New Testament. I've never heard of a third testament. And he said, well, I wrote it. Well, this guy was a wingnut. Nobody was following him. Nobody would pay attention to him. He's crazy.

But think back a few years. Think back a few years to the 1980s when this character named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had thousands of followers on a 64,000 acre compound in Oregon. Now, here's a guy who claimed upfront that he would take over America, take over the continent, and eventually take over the world. He crowned himself Christ.

He had thousands of followers. And get this. 80% of his followers had college degrees. 20% of his followers had doctorate degrees. 12% had double doctorates. Many of these intelligent people were raised in churches or synagogues.

You say, well, what was the appeal for this intelligent group of people to follow this crazy guy who said he was Christ? Well, one of them who got out said, I'll tell you what was happening. We were all burned out. We were burned out on society. We were burned out on our culture. And we were burned out on organized religion. So here you have this group of people absolutely vulnerable to someone who would promise them the new age.

Recently, I looked at the Barna research group. They always survey the landscape of spiritual America. He put out an article that said most Americans base their truth on-- guess what. Most Americans base truth on feelings-- purely feelings.

In fact, he said, by a three to one margin, 64% of American adults say truth is always relative to the person and the situation. That's how we feel right now, most American adults. It's always based on the situation and the person. Well, if the situation is like what we've described in the Bible in the future, and if the persons are that vulnerable in the future, we see the setup.

Have you heard of this guy recently named José Luis de Jesús Miranda? You will hear about him. I known you just heard about him now from my mouth. But you're going to hear probably more about him. He's a guy who claims to be Jesus. He was on the Today Show just a few weeks back. He looked right into the camera and said, I am Jesus Christ.

The Miami Herald did a little article on him. It said, in 1988, Miranda announced that he was the reincarnation of the apostle Paul. In 1999, he dubbed himself "the other," a spiritual super being who would pave the way for Christ's second coming. And in 2004, he proclaimed himself to be Jesus Christ, the sole interpreter of the gospel. So he's working his way up every few years.

He said to the Miami Herald, I don't study the Bible. I don't go into rooms for prayer. Who am I going to pray to? You say, OK. It's a guy who claims to be Jesus. So what? Nobody takes him seriously.

That's where you're wrong. Thousands of people take him seriously. He has 30 study centers in the continental United States and a total worldwide of 58. Thousands of people have left churches and are following this guy who claims to be Jesus Christ. They protest. They picket outside in front of churches.

This guy has a messiah complex. In fact, psychologists even use that term today-- messiah complex. They first used it just before the year 2000. They said, expect to see more people with the messiah complex around the Millennium.

But one rabbi says that today in Israel, there are many people who have a messiah complex. They believe they're the Redeemer. And I've heard about these people that move over to Israel. And they're waiting for the right time to reveal themselves.

But let's just go a little further over, in the Muslim world. Let's go over to Iran. We've already mentioned, on Sunday morning, this guy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, the leader of Iran. He sincerely believes that Allah is going to use him to bring in the Muslim messiah-- the 12th imam, the hidden imam, the coming of their messiah-- to take over the world and Islamize the entire world. That's why-- watch what happens with Iran in the next weeks, months, and if we have, years.

Now, all of that to say, the world is being conditioned messianically. We have a messiah-ready world. You might not see it as much in the United States. But on a worldwide scope, the world is getting ready.

Now let's look at the next couple verses. Not only will there be a spiritual vulnerability in that dark period of history, there will be, at the same time, a scriptural vitality. Because look at the end of verse 24 in Matthew 24. He says, false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive-- look at this-- if possible, even the elect. See? I have told you beforehand.

Now that's an implication that it's impossible to deceive the elect. This deception will be so widespread that even the elect, if it were possible, would be deceived. It won't be possible. They're going to be sealed by God and made aware of this deception.

Listen to John's words-- Revelation, chapter 13, verse 8. All who dwell on the earth will worship him. That's the Antichrist. All on the earth will worship him whose names have not been written in the book of life, in the life of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Did you get that? All the people whose names are not written in the lamb's book of life are going to worship him, implying once again that the elect will not worship him. See, Jesus said, my sheep hear my voice. They're not going to listen to another.

Question-- what's going to tip them off? How will they understand this is a deception. We're not going to follow it. Answer-- prophetic scripture. Prophetic scripture. It's written about all through the Bible. Verse 25-- Jesus says, see? I have told you beforehand.

It's the same idea way back in verse 15. Look at that once again. He predicts the abomination of desolation. And it says in parentheses, whoever reads, let him understand. So in the coming tribulation, people are going to be looking for bibles, saying, what does that book say?

And it's going to all be laid out-- what Daniel said, what Jeremiah predicted, what the minor prophets, some of them, said, like Joel, what Jesus said, what Paul and John wrote about in Revelation. It's all going to be put out there. They're going to read these warnings. And the elect are going to understand what is happening at a spiritual level.

Now, I'll give you a couple of scriptures in Revelation that back that up. Revelation chapter 6, verse 9-- and the fifth seal was opened. And I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.

Now, all the way at the end of the seven year period, the same group of people shows up-- Revelation 20, verse 4. I saw thrones and they they that sat on them. And judgment was committed to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God who had not worshiped the beast or his image. They had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ 1,000 years.

What was it that kept them away from taking the mark of the beast? What is it that kept them away from the deception of the Antichrist? Answer-- Jesus told them in advance. They had the prophetic scripture. In the most vulnerable of times, when they were at their weakest and most weary, they had the advance warning of Christ and the prophets throughout the Bible, the word of God.

OK. Let's apply that to us. What do you turn to steady yourself when you are weak and vulnerable and beat up by the enemy? I hope one of the things you turn to is the word of God. I see a few nods already. Yeah. We're Christians. We turn to it. Great.

David said, your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you. But now take that a step further. I submit to you-- one of the things to study when you're being spiritually attacked, when you're on shaky ground and you feel very vulnerable, isn't just scripture, though all of it is God-inspired and God-breathed, but especially prophetic scripture.

There's something very rooting and steadying in your life when you understand God has talked about this well in advance. He's got everything under his control. It does something to settle you and to steady you. That's why Peter said, we have a more sure word of prophecy.

Did you know that the Book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a specific blessing to those who read it and hear it and obey it? It doesn't mean you won't be blessed if you read any other portion. But here's a prophetic book. And it's the only book in the Bible that blatantly, specifically offers a blessing to those who read it, hear it, and do it.

Remember those two disciples on the road to Emmaus? The heads were down. They were all bummed out. Jesus was gone. He was never coming back. That's what they thought.

And Jesus walks up to them incognito and says, hey, how come you guys are so bummed out? It's a free translation I'm giving you. Well, you must be a stranger, because you haven't heard about this Jesus guy and all the things that he has done.

And Jesus says, like what? So they told him. And then it says, beginning at Moses and all of the prophets, Jesus began to expound, explain all of the things concerning himself.

In other words, the very first Bible study Jesus gave to his disciples after the Resurrection was a prophetic one. He showed how all the Old Testament prophets spoke about the Messiah and what he would be like and how God had it all under control.

And you know what it says after that? The disciples turned to one another later on that day. And they said, did not our hearts burn within us as He spoke to us along the way? They had heartburn-- scriptural heartburn.

And where did they get that heartburn? It was from listening to the scripture being all placed together, all the prophecies being laid out. And it caused something inside of them to well up. It steadied them during a very dark and vulnerable time.

Well, did you also know that one fourth of this book is prophecy? 25% percent of the Bible, it is estimated, is prophetic scripture. So there's a lot in there to read to steady your heart. And all of it ultimately deals with Jesus Christ, who is coming, who will set the world straight.

I love the story about the father who came home from work one afternoon. He was so tired. He just wanted a little bit of space. And, well, he had a little boy who wanted dad's time. He wanted dad to play.

Dad knew he needed 30 minutes of just alone time. So he had a brilliant idea. He looked at the newspaper sitting there on the couch. And on the front cover was a picture of the Earth shot from outer space. He took a scissors and he cut up that picture and a little puzzle-like pieces and handed the pile to his son with a spool of tape.

And he said, here. Put this puzzle together. Put the world together. And when you're done, bring it to me. And then I'll play with you. Now, dad thought he had 30 to 45 minutes. Five minutes later, his son came and said, daddy, it's done. And it was.

His daddy said, how did you do it so quickly? The little boy smiled and said, easy. On the back is a picture of a man. And when I put the man together, the world came together.

All of the Bible ultimately speaks of one man who is coming who will put the world together. And when we raise our eyes and sights on the prophetic scripture that centers and zeros in on Jesus Christ, it all comes together. And it brings a calming, steadying effect, even when you're most vulnerable.

Well, let's finish this off and look at the third sign. This is really the ultimate sign. And that is the coming of Jesus Christ himself. And there will be a supernatural visibility. Or maybe I should have said universal visibility. Everyone's going to see it.

It's not like, he's here, but he's in the desert. Oh, he's here, but he's in a secret little inner room. Jesus said, for as lightning-- verse 27-- comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

So you see, this is the second coming. This is not the rapture we're dealing with. At the rapture of the church, Jesus comes into the atmosphere. We go up to meet him. First Thessalonians, 4. We go to the air to meet the Lord. Second coming is different. He comes from Heaven, through the air, all the way down to the earth.

At the rapture, only those who are raptured will see him. Those who are alive, Paul said, and remain will be caught up with the Lord in the air. But at the second coming, every eye will see him, Revelation chapter 1, verse 7 tells us.

And Jesus said, it's like lightning. It comes from one side of Heaven, hits the Earth, and you see it everywhere. It's like a flash of lightning. You say, but what's that last verse about? Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

There's a lot of takes on that. I think it's sort of the same meaning as verse 27. You can always tell the position of a dead carcass miles away, because you see birds circling overhead. From a very long distance, you can tell there's something going on over there. It's like lightning. It's unmistakable. You see it from a far distance. So I think the point is, the second coming will be sudden, public, glorious, dramatic, universal. Everyone will see.

Now, it could also refer to the battle of Armageddon, because at the battle of Armageddon, Jesus comes back. And we'll probably touch on this a little bit next week. But he comes back. And all the armies that gather against him he will destroy, it says in Revelation 19. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. So it could be that graphic.

All right. Next week, we're going to look all at the second coming of Christ, which is in the following verses. Jesus just really introduces that coming here. And then he describes it in the next few verses. But this morning, there is a lesson that we should be walking away with. And here it is.

Your enemy mine, the devil, knows you very well. He has studied you for years. And he knows when you're weak, most vulnerable. And he will wait, oftentimes. When you are at your weakest, weariest, and most susceptible, then he will attack.

So what do you do? What do you do when that happens? You can say, I run! No. Don't do that. Or if you run anywhere, run toward God's people.

Here's what you do. Number one, get together with God's people. Don't isolate yourself. You will be tempted to isolate yourself. I'm not feeling good. I'm depressed. I don't want to be around anybody. I was going to come to church, but I'm not going to go to church now. Don't do that.

That's the very time you need God's people around you. You just think about it. In the tribulation period, the church will have been raptured. And all the elect will be fleeing in caves and hiding and running. And they won't have the advantage of all of the fellowship that we now enjoy that takes the edge off our vulnerability.

Number two, study your Bible. Study the Bible. Read the word of God. In fact, read prophecy. And see how all these things that Jesus predicted and the Bible predicted are coming together. It will really calm you and steady you.

And then, number three, expect the Lord to show up. Expect that God is going to intervene in the situation you're now facing and turn this vicious attack of the enemy into something wonderful that you'll learn from, you'll be better for, and God will enrich your life with.

There was a woman who was a Christian. And she lived next door to an atheist. Every day, she would pray out loud. And the houses were close enough that the atheist could overhear her prayers.

And he would think to himself, that crazy old lady. There is no God. Praying does no good at all. And every now and then, he would taunt her and say, you crazy old woman. Why do you even pray? There is no God?

She didn't care. She kept doing it every day. She'd pray out loud. She'd pray for her neighbor. One day, she needed groceries. And so she said, oh God, I'm in great need. I don't even have enough money for groceries. Would you please provide?

Well, the atheist overheard that. And he thought, ah, here's my chance. He went out and bought her a bunch of groceries and placed them on her doorstep, knocked on the door, and hid in the bushes. And that Christian lady opened the door and saw the groceries. She lifted s head up to Heaven and said, thank you, Jesus. Hallelujah! You've provided!

The atheist jumped out of the bush and said, you crazy old lady. God didn't buy those for you. I did. Then she got really excited. And she started running down the street. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God is good! Praise the Lord.

The atheist couldn't figure it out. He finally caught up with her and said, I don't get it. Why are you so thrilled? She goes, look, I always knew God was going to provide for me. I just didn't know he'd get the devil to pay for it.

[LAUGHTER]

Either way, she was a winner. She didn't care how God provided for her. She just knew that God did. Even when Satan will unleash his worst attack, God can overturn it.

Heavenly Father, we are thankful, because life itself is in your sovereign control. You are God. There's none like you. And even in our worst situation, you know all about it. You know all about us. And you're able to turn around the situation.

So Lord, when we're weak, when we're vulnerable, when we're susceptible to all sorts of false relief, I pray that we would come together with your people, turn to your word, and see how you're in control. In Jesus' name, amen. Let's all stand.

Additional Messages in this Series

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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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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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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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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
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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
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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
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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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9/24/2006
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Ready or Not, Here He Comes!
Matthew 24:29-31
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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
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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
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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
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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.