A sign = in the worst of times you will still be able to pray.

In 168 BC the Greek Hellenistic King, Antiochus Epiphanes slaughtered a pig on the altar and offered it to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem, it became known as the ‘abomination of desolation’. This description was used around 600 years previously in a prophecy by Daniel (chapter 9) as the people of God were exiled in Babylon. Was the prophecy fulfilled in 168 BC? According to Jesus the answer was it was still to come.

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation, ’spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equalled again.” (Matthew 24 v 15-21)

In AD 70 Titus and the Roman Army moved in to Jerusalem. They reduced the Temple to rubble and took the holy artefacts back to Rome. During this ‘abomination of desolation’ over 1 million Jews died. However the Jewish Christians heeded Jesus warning and when the Romans were approaching fled the city.

Luke’s gospel details this prophecy of Jesus in referring to AD 70. Matthew and Mark indicate that it has more than one event in mind. Was the holocaust an abomination of desolation? It certainly was for those going through it. Is Paul referring to this prophecy regarding his ‘man of lawlessness’ (2 Thess 2)? Again does John have this in mind in his vision of the beast (Revelation 13)?

It would seem that there is an abomination to come, for many, they are currently experiencing it. The spirit of the Anti-Christ is in the world increasing in every generation its abhorrent acts against God’s people. Yet there is one last abomination to come, ‘unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again.’

Many write their interpretation of the end times using this and other passages. It is a minefield of understanding. Do we have a detailed plan of what will happen and what to look for? No. The variants are many. Over the next few days we will walk slowly though the verses.

But to close note one thing Jesus calls us to do. ‘Pray’. In the time of the escape, in the time of fear and wondering what exactly is going to happen, make sure you are talking to God. Jesus says pray that you will be able to escape easily, not in winter or with religious restrictions. The encouragement is to talk to God throughout this difficulty.

And so today, whatever you are facing and it won’t be the abomination, but for some in our world it will feel like it as they plan their escape, pray. If you can talk to God then He is there with you. If you can talk to God then there is hope.

A sign = the gospel!

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matthew 24 v 14)

There are many debates over what Jesus actually meant in this verse. Some mission agencies use it to hasten His return by strategically going to every unreached people group as quickly as possible. In every generation there seems to be a new UPG so the mission continues. Some missiologists attribute a percentage of converts to a certain group which then equals them having been reached. So that group is able to be ticked off and we go onto the next. The end becomes the focus.

This morning my simple thoughts are based around the power of the gospel. Since the moment Jesus spoke this sentence till now the world has been hearing the beautiful sound of the good news! But as the generations have continued and travel has been made easier and then with the rise of the internet and technology then more of the world is hearing about Jesus than ever before.

The end of the world is not only going to come at a time of deception, falling away and difficulty, it will come during a time of mission.

Can you imagine leading someone to Christ at the time when He comes?!

A sign = many walk away.

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday a quote from Johnny Cash, “Being a Christian isn’t for sissies. It takes a real man (I presume he meant a woman also) to live for God – a lot more man than to live for the devil.”

“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24 v 10-13)

Many will turn away into betrayal and hatred.

Many false prophets will come.

Many will be deceived.

Most will experience their love growing cold towards Jesus because of the rise of evil.

But the one …

Jesus prophesied a numerical decline.

But the one … can you imagine what it is like for the one?

Standing alone, watching your faith-friends walk away, worse, betray you, can you imagine what that is like? Can you imagine what it is like when they fall under the spell of false leadership? So they still believe in something but it isn’t what they started out with the one. They are not with the one in the pews singing and praying anymore. That’s where they started but their passion dwindled. Can you imagine what it is like to lose your best friend because they walked away into a complete different lifestyle because they wanted to have it all now?

But the one … remains. The above is maybe many but it isn’t everyone! The one will get to the end of their life and will have resisted the deception and the temptation. They will be saved.

Johnny Cash didn’t live a sinless perfect life and he had many battles within the industry he worked in. However, he was one who made it to the end and was saved.

“I’m thrilled to death with life,” Cash told Larry King. “Life is – the way God has given it to me – was just a platter. A golden platter of life laid out there for me. It’s been beautiful.”

A sign = paying the price for following a Person

Two-thirds of the 2.5 billion Christians in the world live in dangerous places for the practice of their faith.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” (Matthew 24 v 9)

The Open Doors World Watch List for the 12 months of 2020 reported that 4,488 Churches were attacked; 12 congregations and 5 Christians every day faced the nightmare of kidnapping; every month 356 Christians go through the trauma of persecution; 340 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution right now.

It is horrendous for us to read of these statistics.

Look at the verse again however. What stands out to you? To the persecuted it is not what we in the West focus on. We only see the first part of the verse and not the last 3 words. For them it is definitely, ‘because of me.’

The cost of discipleship is being paid. But it is worth it. The persecuted don’t often talk of their persecution but they do talk about Jesus, ‘because of me’.

I have been many times to a certain nation in West Africa. Only a few years ago everywhere was safe to travel except the northern part. It was known as the red zone. Now the whole country is the red zone. My friend who is a Church planter sent this message last week:

“Our church hired a Christian roof patcher to fix again with some tar and the use of fire (gas), the holes in the corrugated iron roof of the village mosque today. Last time we did it was 4 years ago as a result then, 8 members of the chief family decided to follow Christ and we baptised them. Also the 3rd wife of the Imam decided to follow Jesus.

Today we prayed and fasted the whole day while the roof patcher was up on the roof of the mosque working and praying and then he fixed also the roof of the house of Imam. Please now pray with us for a greater harvest of souls this time. For all the people coming to pray at the mosque to reconcile to God through Jesus. For dreams and visions leading to sincere, authentic and determined decisions to follow Jesus.”

‘Because of me’ is worth the persecution. When Jesus is everything then the price is worth paying, even if it costs your life.

A sign – when it is necessary that God doesn’t step in.

Ever asked yourself why God didn’t stop Covid-19? Or any other disease for that matter?

When He sees so much pain and suffering why is He silent?

“You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24 v 6-8)

The answer is in a very short word I have been thinking of this week: Dei. A short word but powerful. It means ‘it is necessary’. “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”

Luke 17:25 “But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” – Struggles are eased when you know there is purpose.

Acts 14:22 “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” – We long for the rule and blessing of God in our lives but there is only one way to that place.

Acts 23:11 “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” – The Lord has plans that are definite for our lives.

When you hear of wars, nations and kingdoms rising against each other, famines and earthquakes, this isn’t the end, it is just the beginning of the end. Those who are actually going through it must think it is the end of all ends. But it isn’t.

As the world progresses there will be times when God doesn’t step in and bad things seem to happen. Where is He? Why is He silent? Dei.

The temptation to follow a Messiah at that time will be with us; the temptation to be alarmed and fearful will be with us and the temptation to think this is the end of the world but Jesus tells us to resist.

Dei.

A sign – leaders that don’t point to Jesus.

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24 v 4-5)

There have been many since Jesus spoke these words.

I hadn’t realised till this morning that actually I have missed the big return! I think perhaps you have also! March 28th 2021 on Palm Sunday YiChen Messiah revealed the forecast and solutions for the future of the world. Just tap in his name into a search engine if you actually have time.

Every day over 10,000 subscribers will watch Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson reveal more of his findings from deciphering the code in the first 5 Old Testament books. He has predicted that the end of the world will happen in 2021.

Of course we could go on as it’s not difficult to find someone claiming something.

But maybe these ‘Messiahs’ are not going to deceive you. Do you really know you are deceived if you are?

Perhaps we just need to be careful with the human personalities that we can so easily follow.

It is easy to follow people with huge personalities and over inflated egos. Confidence is a magnet but do not follow the ones who draw people to themselves and not to God.

Not everything that you see and hear is what you think you see and hear.

Look out for the signs of leaders that point away from Jesus and not to Him.

Private conversations in uncertain times

More than we realise we need to have that private conversation with Jesus which brings assurance to us over many situations of our lives.

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24 v 3)

The disciples link the 2 questions: the Temple’s destruction and the second coming of Christ as the same event. In Luke’s account he seems to focus on the AD70 destruction event whilst Matthew covers the end-time which accounts for the 2 linked questions.

It was playing on their mind, they were probably discussing it amongst themselves and so they approach him in private.

The response of Jesus in this long passage reveal that what was on Jesus’ mind was definitely certain difficult events that would happen in history towards God’s people; how we should live in the waiting period of His return and then what would happen at that end-time coming.

These words have proven to be of enormous comfort to those who have faced constant persecution and suffering as followers of Jesus since the resurrection.

On the day of Stephen’s martyr in AD34 a great persecution broke out against the Christians but it certainly wasn’t the greatest. In AD64 Rome had a huge fire break out that lasted nearly a week and burned three quarters of the city. The people blamed the Emperor Nero for the fire and he in turn blamed the Christians. The Romans rounded them all up and in a savage and brutal way killed them. But the persecution and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was the pinnacle. Can you imagine how these words of the gospel would encourage the believers?

But the instructions contained within the prophecy have comforted and encouraged many throughout the persecuted history of the Christian Church, not just the Jesus’ generation but even today.

What’s the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

The Bible, the Gospel, the words of Jesus have and still bring great strength into our darkest days.

Go to Jesus privately today, take your questions, take your Bible and let Him comfort you even today in 2021. You may be going through a difficult season or you may be fearing tomorrow. Have that private conversation right now. He knows the end from the beginning.

The significance of the Mount of Olives

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately.” (Matthew 24 v 3)

He spent a lot of time on this mountain and as he was sat there on this day I wonder what he was thinking? It has been a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and at the centre of conflict many times. From this vantage point the vista over Jerusalem is breath-taking.

From this moment he would begin to prophetically warn the disciples of what is to come. But take a step back a moment before they arrive. The Son of God is sat on this mountain again. We know from Luke’s gospel that it was here that he had previously wept over the city. It would be here that he would be left alone as even his closest friends left him. This would be the place where he would descend into a personal dark hell that he had never experienced before and he did it to take our place.

One thousand years previously, King David had made the journey up the same mountain. The story can be found in 2 Samuel 15. This broken man who had sinned before God and whose sin had been passed down generationally within his own family was a king in need of a Saviour. “But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up.” (2 Samuel 15 v 30)

David was rejected as king, pursued by his own favourite son, betrayed by his close friend who would later hang himself (sound familiar?). The whole story is a sad one.

Today, we all escape up a mountain at some point in our life. Rejected, heartbroken, pursued and in fear we look to some higher place, a vantage point of a new perspective that we might understand or gain perspective. We all need a Saviour.

He is here. He came and sat on that mountain for you and me. He is waiting. It is easier now than for King David because not only did Jesus sit on the Mount of Olives, he descended down it for all of us.

Your Weeping Wall

“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.” (Matthew 24 v 1-2)

If you have ever visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem then you catch a glimpse of the reaction of the disciple in verse 1. In AD 70 Titus and the Roman army totally destroyed the temple and yet this 150 foot long wall was preserved under all the debris. Jews from all over the world go there 24 hours a day to ‘wail’ for the lost glory of the temple and for the peace of Jerusalem and the nations of the world. When I was there I saw many posting their own personal prayers into the crevices of the wall. The wailing is the constant noise of people praying.

The Wailing Wall tells me:

Life is filled with magnificence but it doesn’t last forever so enjoy and appreciate every moment, every relationship and even every conversation. Slow your life down, go to a vantage point and breathe in the magnificence.

Nothing is ever totally destroyed. Wailing walls can be found in photographs, letters and personal belongings. These can become holy relics which keep us connected to God.

The remnant can be used to spur us on to believe again that there is a future hope to hold on to.

The beauty of today can be the wailing wall of tomorrow. The wailing wall of today can be the hope for tomorrow. Where is your wailing wall?

Distance from Jesus

I was longing for the person to apologise; every ounce of my being for them to show some humility; I had the words for them to say and I wanted to put those words in their mouth; I sat with them and went through the whole story and told them that it would be good to apologise for this and that; and they did, they apologised but a few days later they took it back, they killed the apology.

Do you know this feeling? You are longing for someone to change, to show humility or to come to Christ. How much more does God’s heart ache?

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. (Matthew 23 v 37-39)

We see the heart of God. The longing of Christ who reveals He is God by saying it was Him who sent the prophets, “how often I have longed to gather your children …”

Jesus is the mother bird, the hen, being driven away from the chicks and the nest, but is refusing to do so. Jesus remains but it is the chicks who are fleeing the nest.

THE ENEMY OF OUR SOUL IS CONTINUALLY TRYING TO DISTANCE US FROM JESUS. HE COULD NOT TEMPT JESUS FROM HIS MISSION SO HE CONTINUES WITH US EITHER THROUGH TEMPTATION OR PRESSURE TO RUN FROM JESUS. THERE IS ONE SAFE PLACE AND THAT IS WITH JESUS WHO LONGS TO GATHER US TO HIM. RUN TO HIM TODAY.