So today we finish up our look at the last things, and with that we finish up our study of systematic theology. If you have missed any weeks, then you will have to get with Richard to schedule a time to make them up. If you have missed any of our topics, we started off talking about the importance of doctrine. That if we do not have a firm understanding of what the Bible teaches, and if we just run around trying to follow every new personality that comes along claiming to be speaking biblical truth just because they happen to be the most popular name at your Christian bookstore, we can find ourselves following doctrines that are flat-out unbiblical. The names that are popular today are men like TD Jakes and Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and Brian McLaren. These are men who—yeah, they quote the Bible, but what they have to say about it is a long ways away from the truth. And the reason people fall prey to these kinds of teachers—and the reason so many people who claim to be Christians get sucked into Mormonism or Jehovah's Witnesses is because they have no sense of doctrine.
That was week 1. Then we spent a week talking about God the Father. The immortal, invisible Father. We talked about how He reveals Himself through creation. Atheists don’t believe in a self-existent God—a God who is not dependent upon anyone for anything, but who is in fact the source of all things. But the fact that there is a creation is a stumbling block for the atheist because it puts him in a bit of a bind. Either the things that make up this universe were created by someone who existed before the universe began. Much like this podium—someone existed before this podium was created in order to put it together—unless they had a big explosion in the lumber department at Home Depot. Or the things that make up this universe were just always here, on their own, making those things self-existent—which, of course, throws cold water on their arguments against a self-existent God. Then we spent a couple weeks talking about God the Son, Jesus Christ. We saw that while many false religions say they believe in Jesus Christ, it means something different to them than it does to us. The Muslim believes in a Christ that was nothing more then a prophet. Mormons believe that Jesus was Satan's spirit brother. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that He was nothing more than an exalted angel. But we know Him to be the Son of God, one with the Father, sent to glorify the Father here on earth, to offer His life to atone for our sins, and by His resurrection, giving us a guarantee that we too would be raised with Him in that last day.
We then looked at the Holy Spirit, how He is indeed a Person. That what we believe about this Holy Spirit can affect our knowledge of many things. If we misunderstand His role in the Trinity and in our lives, it can lead us to believe some things that aren't quite right. We saw that when God saves us, He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, as another guarantee—an earnest, as it is called in the KJV—that if He has saved us, He will keep us. Then we talked about angels. They're not babies with wings. We do not become angels when we die. Then we looked at man. That if we do not understand who we are in relation to God, we can miss the gospel completely. Because there is so much teaching out there that says something like, “God created you to be a champion!” And that we are essentially good people who just kinda need a hand up in order to be good enough to go to Heaven.
And then we got to salvation. That was a big one. About 5 weeks there. Salvation is not something you can phone in. You don’t just go into a room, learn 4 spiritual laws, pray a little prayer and ask Jesus into your heart, and have your pastor declare a dominus omnis over you and receive automatic admission into the Kingdom of God. It takes knowing who Christ is, believing He is who He says He is, and committing your life to Him. It means seeing the Law of God for what it is—basically a mirror that we hold up to our lives and it shows us where we fall short of His perfect standards for allowing us to walk in His kingdom. That led us into sanctification—that we are to separate ourselves from the things of this world. that when we walk in this world—we used the illustration of a UT fan walking into Rupp Arena, and how you could pick out the orange in that sea of blue. And how the world should be able to tell Christians from non-believers from the way we live our lives. Which led us into the doctrine of the church. that is was built upon Christ alone—and not the apostle Peter. That the church is made up of those whom God has called out from the world, to be separate from the world.
And then last week we began to wrap things up by beginning a study of The Doctrine of the Last Things. We spent the day looking at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. And many people think it strange when you try to talk about the end times by using OT Scripture. I kinda compared it to those old “Magic Eye” things, where you hold it right up to your nose, and you stare real hard at one spot and suddenly you see Mickey Mouse waterskiing. And that many people study endtimes prophecy in the same way. They take the book of Revelation, they hold it up to their nose and stare real hard at one verse and all of a sudden you realize that your zip code is the Mark of the Beast®. Or Steve Spurrier becomes the antichrist. Of course around here, many people think that way regardless.
But when we are talking about the end times, and what God’s word says about those times, consider this one example. Here was God giving Daniel a vision about things that would happen over the next 500-800 years. Now, here’s a question: whenever God gives someone a vision, does He usually have a reason for giving that vision to a particular person, at a particular time? He’s on His own timetable, and He does not do anything without a reason. So when He gives this vision to not only Daniel, but Nebuchadnezzar as well, there was a reason He gave it at that particular point in history. Was Daniel or Nebuchadnezzar going to be around to see the Greeks come to power? In fact Babylon did not fall to the Persians until Daniel was in his 60’s and Nebuchadnezzar had died. But God gives this vision to this young man who will not live to see it come to pass—so he can explain it to a king who will not live to see it come to pass. Why?
To show the generations that would follow over the next, now 2500 or so years, that when God give a prophecy, it will come to pass. And not only prophecies about Christ—which we looked at on Resurrection Sunday—but also in terms of human events concerning kings and empires. It’s one thing to tell a skeptic that there are all these prophecies about Christ—but if they don’t even believe Christ was real, and they believe this book is nothing but a bunch of Jewish fairy tales, they will just brush them off. But when you show them prophecies about the history they read in their precious history books, it’s a little harder for them to brush away those things. And by the same token, it gives us who do believe yet another reason to believe that this truly is the word of God written for us. So with that in mind, let us move on from Man’s Kingdoms to The Messiah’s Kingdom. Singular. After man has had all kinds of opportunities to rule the earth, doing a horrible job at it, with no single empire that could stretch to every corner of the earth, God will give man what he wants—complete ownership of planet earth.
But before He does that, He will remove every restraint He has placed on it. The first thing He will do is to gather His people up out of this world. 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17—The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and 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 this is of course The Rapture. The Lord Jesus Christ will descend, Michael will be blowing the horn and shouting, calling all of God’s people out of their graves and out of the world. Living, dead, it don’t matter. Even if someone was cremated—God made them one body, He can make them another one. Then this Revived Roman Empire will come that we talked about last week. All these countries will be scrambling to make treaties with each other, these loose confederations won’t hold, and they will need one central body to keep things together. Daniel 2:34—you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay…but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. The salt and the light will be removed from the earth. Things will fall into decay and darkness. And man will worship man even more than he does now.
God will remove truth from the world, 2nd Thessalonians 2:9-12—The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Think about that! God will make people believe a lie. Does that make God unfair? People want to believe a lie, He’s saying, “Fine! That’s what you want—here ya go!” And the world will see 7 years of misery, torment, anguish, death, disease—many people today ask, “Why does God allow so much pain and suffering?” WRONG QUESTION. The real question is, “Why doesn’t He allow more?” Because right now God is holding back and restraining the evil hearts of men and denying us what we truly deserve for our rebellion against Him. But when He takes His church up out of this world—just listen to some of the things that are going to happen.
In Revelation 6 we read about the 4 horsemen, bringing famine and disease and war and death—so that ¼ of the world’s population—by that time, probably close to 2 BILLION people—will die in a very short period of time. There will be there will be things happening in space that the greatest scientific minds won’t be able to explain.
Then in Revelation 8, we see that fire will fall down and burn up trees and crops. Something like a meteor shower will rain down on the oceans, killing 1/3 of the marine life and destroying ships. One third of the world’s drinking water will be contaminated. Then the antichrist will come, and give his mark to all those who worship him. He will sit in the temple that will be built in Jerusalem as though he were God Himself.
Then skip to Revelation 16, and those who take the mark will suffer some sort of disease that covers them with sores. Every living thing in the seas will die. Then every source of drinking water will be poisoned, there will be great heat poured out upon the earth, probably some kind of nuclear exchange—and those people who remain will still curse God. The Euphrates River in what we now call Iraq will dry up, and there will be earthquakes all over the world.
Then this New World Order, which is called Mystery: Babylon, or the great harlot in Revelation 17-18 will be judged by God and destroyed. That’s the bad news. Now, here’s the good news. Revelation 19:11-13—Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. Next time you hear somebody say that Christ Himself came and spoke to them, ask them if He looked like this. Revelation 19:14-16—And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. This will be Armageddon. That word is the Anglicized form of the Hebrew Har Megiddo. This is where the armies of man make war with Christ and His saints. This not going to be pretty. There will be more blood spilled here than at any other time in history.
How bad is it going to be? Revelation 19:17-19—Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.” There will be so much carnage that all the birds of the air will think they're at Golden Corral®. And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Guess who’s going to win?
This is where things get good. First we see Christ’s kingdom is A Supernatural Stone. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, look at what it says in Daniel 2:34—"You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces." Who is the cornerstone of the church, the one on whom it is built? (HINT: It ain't Peter!) This Stone will come and smash every single power that man has upon the earth. Man’s kingdom’s will come to an end. What about Christ’s kingdom—will it last a while? Daniel 2:44-45—"And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure." God said it. That settles it. It’s gonna happen. Period, paragraph. What’s gonna happen after that? The Beast and the False Prophet will get first dibs on lakeshore property. Unfortunately for them, that lake will be the Lake of Fire.
Then Christ will set up His kingdom on earth and reign for 1000 years. Revelation 20:1-5—Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus…they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. Will Christ be a King that will put up with any opposition? Four times the Scriptures tell us He will rule with what? A rod of iron. He will destroy the kingdoms of men, and there will be no opposition to His reign for 1000 years.
But then what will happen? Satan, who has been sealed in the bottomless pit for those 1000 years—God’s gonna let him out to make one final battle. Think the Pittsburgh Steelers versus your local high school team. Your high school team has a better chance than Satan. Revelation 20:7-10—Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations…They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Anybody who does not think Hell is eternal does not believe the Scriptures. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Period, paragraph. Write it in stone, it is FOREVER!!
This will be the final destruction of Satan. God made him lick the dust of the earth in Genesis 3. He defeated Satan at the cross. He will put him in a pit for a thousand years. And He’ll STILL make war against Christ. He just never learns. Kinda like us. He shows us foolish humans time and time and time again that He is God. And people still like to say, “No you're not—I am!” And there will be people in these VERY last days who will live during the rule of Christ, who will see His power and might—and STILL take sides with Satan. And what will happen to them? This is the part so many people don’t like to hear. That there will be a final judgment, where all those who EVER despised God, who died in their sins—those people who thought they were “good”—will stand before Christ to settle their accounts. Revelation 20:11-15—Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
See where it says, Books were opened. I believe—and I'm not going to argue over this, it’s not a hill worth dying on—is that there will be at least 3 books besides the Book of Life. There will be the book of there “good” works. There will be another will all their sins. And there will be The Book of the Law—God’s Law. Romans 2:14-16 (NASB)—For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do the things of the Law…they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts accusing or defending them, on the day when…God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. Those who never knew Christ—small, great, no matter what kinds of “great things” they did in the eyes of men—will stand before Christ, and be found lacking. It doesn’t matter if it’s Albert Einstein or Mahatma Ghandi or John Lennon or the guy that lives across the street. Anyone who does not know Christ will be judged by Christ, and against Christ and His righteousness. But I'm not going to end on a sour note. Here’s the good news.
Anyone who knows Christ, who has been given Christ’s righteousness—they will receive reward. They will hear the words that mean more than anything this world can offer. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into thy rest.” Revelation 21:1-4—Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” There is an old song called “I Bowed My Knees and Cried ‘Holy!’” And this is only a microscopic sliver of what it’s gonna be like:
As I entered the gates of that city,
My loved ones all knew me well.
They took me down the streets of Heaven;
The sights, too many to tell;
I saw Abraham, Jacob and Isaac,
I spoke with Mark and Timothy.
But then I said, “Timothy, I want to see Jesus,
For He's the One who died for me.”
So that wraps it up for our study of Systematic Theology. Next week we’re going to pick back up in Philippians. We finished chapter 1 a while back. We’ll review a little bit for a couple weeks and start chapter 2 the following week.