The Fundamentals of Our Faith;
What We Believe Sermon Series
“We Believe that Jesus Will Return”
“Both the Old and the New Testament contend that history is moving to a climax and that the sovereign God is in control.”
In the Bible, God has revealed many things about the end of time. But if we don’t believe what God has revealed about the future, we may be fearful or depressed at the evil in the world, wondering how good can ever triumph. We may also, be tempted to live a sinful lifestyle, not believing that you will ever be held accountable for our actions. Also, if you don’t have heaven to look forward to, you may have little reason for joy in life and you lose a major reason for hanging in there when the going gets tough.
Bible prophecy matters the most, when things are the worst. It tells us that God is going to make everything all right, that justice may seem deferred but will not be denied, that the good and gracious purposes for which God created the world will all be fulfilled.
Bible prophecy helps us get a glimpse of the certainties of God’s future so that we may live wisely, righteously, passionately, and boldly today. If we know with certainty that Jesus is returning, then we will constantly be asking the question, 2 Peter 3:11 “what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness. . .”
Prophecy and End Times (A Few Things To Consider)
There is considerable disagreement among Christians regarding the end of time (the rapture, the millennium), nevertheless, among those who believe that the whole Bible is the inspired word of God, there are a number of things which we can all agree:
- Jesus is coming again, and when He does, God will set all things right. In the end all will be well for God’s people. In the meantime, we must live in light of His return.
- Jesus is the ultimate focal point of all prophecy. The Old Testament looked forward to His coming; the New Testament looked back at His coming; unfulfilled prophecy looks forward to His coming again.
- Holiness should be the end result of prophecy. The Bible was not given merely to satisfy our curiosity, but to tell us how to live.
- We must be personally committed to the Great Commission. If the end is coming, must we not warn others?
- God is sovereign, and, in spite of seeming evidence to the contrary, is guiding history to a meaningful conclusion, just as He said He would.
Terms To Understand Regarding the End of Time (Nine Terms)
The first appearance of Christ is the nativity and his 3-year ministry on the earth. “at the second coming of Christ, he will come as the Reigning King: Isa. 9:6-7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, . . .”
Acts 1:10-11 “And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
When we discuss the end of time there are some key terms that we need to know and understand:
The Second Coming: this is the return of Jesus to the earth at an unknown time in the future, John 14:3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
The Rapture: this is the sudden departure of all Christians to meet Christ in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17). For more on this topic click here.
The millennium: This refers to a period of time in which Christ reigns on earth in righteousness (Rev. 20:1-10).
The Great Tribulation: this is a period of time in which there will be unprecedented suffering (Mark 13:19). “Satan’s longtime and persistent opposition to God’s work will accelerate to an extreme and be seen by all.”
The Antichrist: This person embodies evil and is the key agent of Satan’s resistance to the plan of God in the last days (1 John 2:18-22). “Satan will empower the Antichrist to act supernaturally with a view to deceiving and persuading men.” Those that oppose him will face trouble so great that unless God shortened the days no one would survive (Matt. 24:21-22).
The judgment seat of Christ: this is the place where all Christians will receive their reward for the quality of their life on earth (2 Cor. 5:10). “This is a judgment, not for destiny, but for adjustment, for reward or loss, according to our works, for position in the kingdom: every man according as his work shall be.”
The great white throne judgment: this is the place where all who have rejected God receive punishment for their unbelief and their life on earth (Rev. 20:11-15). “The purpose of the final judgment will not be to ascertain the quality of an individual’s character, but rather to disclose his character and to assign him to the eternal place corresponding to what he is because of his trust or lack of trust in God.”
Hell: this is the ultimate destination of all people who did not truly believe in God and commit their lives to Him (Matt. 10:28). “The word translated “hell” in the NT comes from the Greek word Gehenna. It is derived from the name of the valley of Hinnom, located just south of Jerusalem, which was a city garbage dump that burned twenty-four hours a day every day.
In this dreadful place, human sacrifices were once offered to the god Molech (2 Kings 23:10). It was used as a burial for criminals and for burning garbage. It came to be a metaphor for the everlasting state of the unsaved.”
The literal truth behind the horrible imagery created by the prophetic language is that hell is a place or profound misery where the unsaved are separated from the presence of God forever and suffer whatever is the opposite of God and heaven for eternity. The unsaved will be cast from God’s presence forever, without any hope of restoration experiencing an eternity of no peace, no love, no joy, no fellowship.
Hell is a place described as everlasting fire (Mark 9:43; Matt. 25:41). It is spoken of as a lake of burning sulfur (Rev. 20:10). It is a place of darkness (Matt. 8:12). It is described as a place of eternal punishment and torment (Rev. 14:10-11). “If figurative language is involved, it is obviously symbolic of something so awful no one in his right mind could be indifferent to avoiding it.”
Jude 13 “. . . for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”
Some tend to shy away from these descriptions of hell by holding to annihilation (where we cease to exist at some point), or that over a period of time someone will cease to be in hell, but the same word, eternal, is used to describe both punishment and life. Matthew 25:46 “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
God’s justice requires that sin be punished. Your sin must be punished – in His grace He provided through Jesus’ death on the cross the way for a person to be freed from that punishment (Jesus took the full brunt of God’s wrath against sin).
But a person is not made to receive this gift, he is presented with a choice – just as Adam and Even in the Garden were presented the choice to honor and obey God. But we only have the few days on this planet to make the choice – we are locked into our state in eternity (saved or lost, righteous or unrighteous). Therefore, God does not send anyone to hell – each person chooses it when they reject Christ’s gift of salvation.
Heaven: this is the ultimate destination of all people who truly believe in God and committed their lives to Him (Acts 1:9-10). Heaven is where God is. It is a place of rest (Heb. 4:9), of glory (2 Cor. 4:17, or purity (Rev. 21:27), or worship (Rev. 19:1), of fellowship with others (Heb. 12:23), and of being with God (Rev. 21:3).
Revelation 21:3-4 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The Bible uses the word heaven in different ways. One is in reference to creation, or the entire universe. Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:18, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
Another way the Bible uses the word heaven is a synonym for God. When the prodigal son confesses his sin to his father, he says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you” Luke 15:18. When Jesus questions the Pharisees, “The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” Matthew 21:25.
The third way heaven is used, is to indicate where God lives. Jesus instructed the disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Angels come from and return to heaven, and dwell in heaven. They are also referred to as the heavenly host.
Heaven is also the ultimate place where followers of Christ will end up. Jesus even went to heaven to prepare a place for those that follow Him, John 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Heaven is also a place where believers can store up treasure now, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matt. 6:19-20.
Heaven is also the place where, as children of God, they receive their inheritance. 1 Peter 1:4-5 “. . . to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,”
Believers will receive crowns – the crown of life (James 1:12), the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4), and the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). Those who have been won for Christ through our witness become our crown of rejoicing (1 Thess. 2:19).
Eventually, those around the thrown of God will cast their crowns before the Lord. Revelation 4:11 “They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Also, everything in heaven will be new, 2 Peter 3:10, 13 All that we know in this world will be burned “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. . . But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
God’s kingdom will be established when Philippians 2:10-11 “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
It’s hard for us to comprehend heaven in all its’ glory, but John Newton once said in his song Amazing Grace, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun.”
Ultimately, heaven is intended to be a word that helps us understand that it is where the presence of God dwells, and that those that place their faith in the Son of God, Jesus will have an rightful place with Him there (an inheritance, a job there, a special name will be revealed, gathered treasure, a place for you to dwell, etc.)
All of this revolves around a relationship – “God’s intention from the beginning, to have fellowship with man, led first to his creating the human race, then to his dwelling in the tabernacle and temple, then to his coming in the incarnation, and finally to his taking humans to be with him (heaven).”
 Paul E. Little, Know What You Believe, A Practical Discussion of the Fundamentals of the Christian Faith (Colorado Springs, Colorado; Cook Communications, 1999) 137.
 Anders, 172.
 Little, 140.
 Little, 146, quote by William Evans.
 Little, 146.
 Max Anders, New Christian’s Handbook, Everything New Believers Need to Know (Nashville, Tennessee; Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999) 166.
 Anders, 177.
 Little, 147.
 Matt. 28:2; Luke 22;43; Luke 2:15; Mark 13:32, heavenly host Luke 2:13
 Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House, 1985) 1228.