18 June 2009

Systematic Theology--Lesson 9 (Doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ, part 1)

The first of our last two studies in our Systematic Theology. Since this week and next will be our last two weeks in this study, we will be talking about the last things. The end times as they are called. There are people who spend years studying these things. What we’re going to do over the next couple weeks is to take a step back in order to look forward. Remember those 3-D puzzles that you put up to your nose and suddenly those little dots turn into Mickey Mouse, or the Eiffel Tower? Some people tend to do that with Revelation. They see this one little dot and all of a sudden your Social Security number is the Mark of the Beast. Meanwhile, they ignore the other hundred little dots that make it impossible for that to be true. We’re not going to go real deep into end-times prophecy because we could get bogged down in so many details that we’d be spending three weeks figuring out who the third toe of the Great Beast is going to be. Today we will look back at an OT prophecy about the endtimes, then next week we can plunge into deeper water.

First, we will look at The Emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ.

Did you know.....prophecy occupies 20% of Scripture? God spends most of His time preparing us for something before He actually does it. He knows that we foolish humans need a clue or…a hundred. He spent 4000 years preparing mankind for the Messiah—and many people who actually saw Him and heard Him still missed Him.

Did you know.....There are 1527 Old Testament Scriptures that talk about His second coming. Not only was God getting the people ready for the FIRST time Messiah would come. He was getting them ready for when He would COME BACK. One of the clearest is Zechariah 14:2-5For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then YHVH will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus YHVH my God will come, and all the saints with You. Another clue in here about the Trinity. Is it going to be the Father’s feet that will stand on the Mount of Olives? Whose feet will it be?

Did you know.....one out of 25 verses in the New Testament refers to the 2nd coming of Christ?
Did you know.....next to faith, the subject of Christ's second coming is the most dominant NT subject?
Did you know.....there are 8 times as many prophecies about Christ’s SECOND coming as there are about His FIRST.
Did you know.....over 50 times we are exhorted to be ready for Christ’s return. Not to LOOK for His return. Don’t bother LOOKING for it. Nobody knows when it’s going to happen. But be ready for it. Do firemen try and predict when the next house fire’s going to be? No. But are they ready for when they get a call to a house fire? Don’t bother looking for it because it’s going to come like THAT. Be ready for it—because it’s going to come in the blink of an eye. Luke 12:45-46“But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the [other] servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”

We were all young once, weren’t we? What happened if mom and dad left us alone in the house? We did exactly what we were supposed to, didn’t we? What happened if mom and dad came home early? We got a whoopin. Or we at least got grounded. That’s nothing compared to what will happen to those who are not ready when Christ returns. Look at what He says He will do. See, the first time Christ came, people heard Him and saw Him, they had three years to decide whether He was real. Next time—in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

Next, The Essentials of the Second Coming. First, Man’s Kingdoms. Let’s take a look at Daniel for the remainder of our time today. In Daniel 2, we find that the young man is an interpreter of dreams, much like Joseph in Egypt back in Genesis. And the king at the time was a man named Nebuchadnezzar. He was a pretty powerful guy. In fact, Daniel refers to him as a king of kings. Not to be confused with Christ, THE King of ALL Kings. Nebuchadnezzar was a king who ruled over other kings. And here is Daniel, a man who loves and serves God with everything he has, serving under this king whose rule stretches for literally, thousands of miles in all directions. The Babylonian empire stretched from Iran and Iraq on the east, through Saudi Arabia, over to Egypt and Ethiopia, up through Israel and Jordan and Syria, into Turkey and up into what we now call southern Russia. Yet this most powerful ruler on earth is having a horrific dream that will not let him sleep at night. So he calls his magicians and seers to interpret his dream. “O king, tell us what your dream was!”

And he basically tells them, “If you're such great wizards, you tell me what it was.” But God told Daniel what the dream was. Here is the dream, Daniel 2:32-35“You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” Daniel, who was born some 600 years before Christ, and died about 530 BC, served under some of the most wicked—yet most powerful—kings in the history of planet earth. Daniel has told Nebuchadnezzar, “I know what you have been dreaming; now I'm going to explain it.” This image, this dream, was of course about the various kingdoms who would rule on earth at various times in history. The first four have, at our point in history, come and gone.

The first was The Babylonian Empire. And in verses 36-38, he explains it. "This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold." Babylon was an empire known for its vast wealth of gold. And here, Daniel is telling the king that he is the mightiest of all the rulers of the earth at that time. That who gave him his power? In verse 37? "The God of Heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory." Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn’t Babylon one of the most wicked and corrupt and despicable empires to ever exist in history? What was it that they did to the people of Israel? In fact, Daniel wrote this book during this 70-year period when Israel was captive and slave to Babylon.

Why would God give a man like Nebuchadnezzar such power? He did it to punish Israel for their disobedience. We Christians, in this country, think that God owes us a president who believes like we do. But make no mistake, God will raise up an authority to persecute His people when they go astray. It has happened before; I believe it is happening now. The church in America is drifting away from the truth of Scripture to serve physical needs at the cost of the gospel. So, God is punishing her by giving her what she wants. And one day, and it will happen again when God takes His hand off of men’s evil hearts and lets people do what they desire to do and this world falls into chaos and wickedness and death—much like Babylon.

Next there was the breast and arms of silver. The Medo-Persian Empire. Verse 39a. "But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours..." This second kingdom was not as glorious—in man’s terms—as Babylon. Yet Persia—or as we call it today, Iran—defeated Babylon in the year 538 BC. And in terms of land ruled, was larger geographically and in terms of wealth than Babylon. So what does this “inferiority” refer to? It was said by one man that “The kings of Persia were the worst race of men that ever governed an empire.” As wicked and evil as the Babylonians were, the Persians were even worse. And militarily, they suffered some very embarrassing defeats. The most famous being depicted in the movie “300” that came out a couple years ago. It told the story of Persia trying to invade Greece at a place called Thermopylae. A battle in which it took over a million Persians--and not a little treason on the part of a Greek local--to defeat a force of about 5000-7000 soldiers. It wasn’t just the 300 Spartans; they had a couple hundred from here, 1000 from somewhere else. None the less, it was a rather humiliating effort on the part of the Persian king Xerxes.

The Persian Empire was seated, primarily, in what we now call Iran. Off the top of your head, can you think of any crazy, out-of-his-mind, whack-job lunatic that is running around Iran right now? What kind of love does he have for Israel? Any ties with Russia? So there’s the head of gold and the breast and arms of silver.

Next we have the thighs of bronze, a reference to The Grecian Empire. They were known for their bronze. Here’s the thing about bronze. Is it a pure metal? No. It’s copper, and usually mixed with tin, or some other metal. And as such, the fact that bronze represented Greece is actually kind of interesting. For one, they used bronze in their weapons and their armor, and for good reason. Unlike iron, bronze only oxidized on the outside. It did not allow the layers underneath to fully rust. So not only was it easier to mold and shape, it was more durable--although it’s not as pretty and shiny as silver or gold. The Grecian Empire was known for their excellence with weapons and warfare.

And while they were rather wealthy, they really prided themselves on their military prowess. The most famous Grecian general was, of course, Alexander the Great, who was more famous than his brother Alexander the.....Eh-Not-So-Much. He lived from 356-323 BC, he was educated by Aristotle, and his goal was, quite literally, world domination. And during his rule, the Grecian Empire stretched from Greece in the west to as far east as the Himalayas.

Then we have the legs of iron, this being The Roman Empire. This was the number one superpower that ruled and reigned during the time of Christ. They occupied Israel, they set up their own governors over this little piece of land that was, to them, no more than just another victim of their superiority. And they did, in fact, conquer and crush nearly every army that got in their way. “Inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces.” The Roman Empire did indeed rule over many of the lands which had once been held by Babylon, and by Persia, and by Greece. In fact, at the height of their power, Rome controlled all of Greece. They conquered every nation that bordered the Mediterranean Sea, to the extent that they called it Mare Nostrum, literally, “Our Sea.”

There was a long period of peace under Roman rule, and that was referred to as Pax Romanus, meaning "Roman Peace." Of course, the only reason there was peace during this time was because they submitted to Roman rule rather than be obliterated. Kinda like a protection racket. You know, when Louie the Hammer shows up at your business and tells you, “Hey, ya know, if you wanted to pay us $1000 a month, we’ll make sure nobody burns down your store. Ain't dat right Rocco!” Back then it was, “Pay your tribute to the Caesar, and we’ll make sure that no little band of miscreants attacks your homes.”

Rome ruled with an iron fist. There was not a lot of mercy when it came to worshipping the Caesar. It was like Islam is today. The word Islam means “submission,” and many people—especially those who have their head in the sand—have bought into the lie that Islam is a “religion of peace.” Well, it is, so long as you don’t go ticking off the local Imam, and you don’t say or do anything to offfffend the Muslims. If you do offend them, then things won’t be quite so peaceful. But, if all of us dirty kafirs and infidels pay our dhimmi tax to make sure that nothing happens to, say, the World Trade Center or the Pentagon—then it will be a religion of peace. And although we do not have a Roman Empire right now, we can still see the influences that Rome made on our education, our language, and many other areas of our lives.

Which, in fact, brings us to the feet of this statue, The Revived Roman Empire, in verses 41-43. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. This also refers to a Roman Empire, but one which has not come yet. This empire will not be come about by military means, but it will come about from nations trying to make peace with one another—not out of a desire for peace, but for what they can get out of it.

Most of these countries would probably have had no prior agreements or foreign relations before signing a bunch of treaties that will make them all buddy-buddy with each other. But what’s gonna be the problem with these treaties? “As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.” Melt some iron, throw in some clay, let it cool and what’s gonna happen? Yeah, it's gonna fall apart into a big old pile of stuff. And in much the same way, you'll have countries like Iran making a treaty with Pakistan; China with India; Great Britain with Syria, and so on and so forth. Everybody making treaties with everybody else. One problem—these nations won’t mesh. They’ll kinda get along, but just on the surface. They will need some kind of mediator between them to keep peace with each other and with the nations they hate already. And who will be that one that will keep peace between all these nations? The one we call "The Antichrist."

You see, the real Christ did not come to bring peace on earth. He came to bring a sword (see Matthew 10:34-35). This false Christ will come, and he will bring peace between all nations—but they will make war with God. So this antichrist will rise up during this time, and bring peace, and as a token of that peace, he will give his number to anyone who will take it. And so long as you have that number, you can go one about your business, you can buy and sell. But if you don’t.....you're going to die.

Now, real quick, I do want to bring Israel into this, and if we’re not careful we could take up more time than we have. Suffice it to say, these nations won’t want anything to do with Israel. For a time, anyway. But this Beast will make a treaty with Israel, let her carry out her sacrifices in the temple, and he will in fact occupy the temple in Jerusalem as though he is God (see 2nd Thessalonians 2:4). I don’t know the exact timeframe this will take place, but it will happen. Because, as we have seen so many times, if God says something is going to happen, is it going to happen? If you want to know what’s gonna be in the newspaper tomorrow, read your Bible today.

So that’s Man’s Kingdoms. That kinda sets us up for next week. We’re not done with Daniel. Next week we’ll use Daniel to study The Messiah’s Kingdom—singular. We will see that He is the stone that dashes this whole bloomin’ statue to bits. That while He builds kingdoms up, He also tears them down once He’s done with them. And we will see what the fate of this antichrist will be. I'll give you a hint—be glad you ain't him!

No comments: