If you have a Bible with you, turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 24 in the New Testament. There's no better place to go over the teaching that Jesus gave to His disciples on the Sermon on the Mount than on the Mount itself, excuse me the Olivet Discourse, upon the Mount of Olives. So open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 24. We'll look at the verse eight verses. I believe there's a longing deep inside every one of us to know the future. If we could only know what tomorrow's headlines were today, we'd love that. In fact, if there were a newspaper called USA Tomorrow, I think everybody would buy that just to find out what's gonna happen. Recently, I had the privilege of going into a doctor's visit with my daughter-in-law, Janae. She's pregnant. We're gonna have our first grandchild and we wanted to find out what the gender of the baby was. Was it male or female? Well when we got there, the ultrasound wasn't clear enough but the doctor warned us. He said even if you get high-quality ultrasounds, you still may have a different gender. And he gave me an example that he had a friend of his, they had three high-quality ultrasounds and they determined that, in all three, it was definitely a baby girl they were going to have. And then he smiled at me and he said and I later on delivered a very healthy, normal baby boy. So those predictions don't always work. When it comes to knowing the future of the world, we need something better than an ultrasound or a weather forecast, even that is simply a good guess. I heard about a man who was driving through West Texas and he stopped at a gas station and he saw an interesting sign with a rope dangling from the sign that said weather forecaster. So he asked the gas station attendant: how on earth can you tell what the weather's like with a rope hanging from a piece of wood? And the gentleman said well, sonny, it's pretty easy. When that rope is dangling back and forth, it's windy. When it's wet, it's raining. When it's frozen stiff, that's snow. And when it's gone, it's a tornado. Well that's all fine and good for West Texas, perhaps, but it's not good for knowing what the future events are going to be.
Jesus gives us a very interesting insight with detail as to what the future's going to be like. In fact, one of God's trademarks is that He knows absolutely everything about the future. It's called the quality of omniscience--being able to tell everything in advance. Listen to what He writes through the prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah 46 the Lord says: Do not forget the things that I have done throughout history for I am God, I alone. I am God and there is no one else like Me. Only I can tell you what is going to happen even before it happens. Everything I plan will come to pass for I do whatsoever I wish. That's the God we serve. He knows the future and He tells the future. Let's say that I had in my pocket 10 pennies and I numbered them all from 1 to 10, then I made a prediction that I was gonna reach in my pocket and select penny number 1. What would the odds be for me to do that? Well if you answered 1 in 10, that's the correct answer. I have a 1 in 10 chance that I can reach in my pocket and select the penny. And then let's say I did that and I said now I'm gonna reach in my pocket and select penny marked number 2. What would my chances be? Now it's 1 in 100 that I could select penny number 2. And if I made the prediction that I was gonna select penny number 3, 4, 5, all the way to 10, in sequential order, my odds would decrease to 1 in 10 billion. The exponential odds decrease with the more predictions made.
And yet the Bible gives so many predictions about who the Messiah was, when He would come, and about the end of the world. I would even say that, in the Bible, God stacks the odds against Him with Bible prophecy. Well, you're gonna hear some things in this chapter that are both frightening and very exciting. I believe this is the most exciting time to be alive and here, being in the land and reading some of these Scriptures, for those of us who are here, is even more exciting. Now if you're a Christian and you're watching this, you should know that the culmination of all of our hopes is the coming of Jesus Christ. We anticipate Him very soon. It's the culmination of all Christian hope. When Jesus does come back, it will be the fulfillment to what Christians have prayed for generations, as our Lord taught us to pray: Thy kingdom come. Now part of that prediction is called the Rapture. And the Rapture of the church is when Jesus comes to take us away, when we're all going to be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and we're gonna get the ultimate extreme makeover when that happens. We'll all be changed physically, dramatically, and eternally. There were two men who were from the South Pacific, that's all they knew their whole lives was the jungle of the South Pacific. Well they were there and they were converted by a missionary who brought them then to the United States of America. Now these men had never traveled outside of their home village and they had never seen the United States so it was a shock for them to see tall buildings and busses and cars, modern streets. And so everywhere they looked their jaws dropped in just excitement and unbelievability. Once they walked into a hotel lobby and they had never seen an elevator before. All they could see is there were two big steel doors that opened up sideways and in walked two rather large elderly women and then the doors closed behind them and the dial atop moved one direction and then the other and a few moments later those steel doors opened up once again and out walked two young beautiful ladies. And the man said to his friend oh man; we've got to bring our wives here to ride in that machine. Well that's sort of like what the Rapture's gonna be like. It's gonna be an ultimate eternal spiritual transforming machine where we're all going to be changed.
In Matthew 24 verses 1 through 8, we read this: “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives,” which is the very site we're looking at right now, “the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Let's consider first of all the place that they were at. The place that Jesus was with His disciples when this conversation took place was right here: the place you're looking at. Atop the Mount of Olives in Israel in Jerusalem. Did you know that Jerusalem is mentioned 821 times in the Bible? So it occupies a very significant place. The Scripture that we're reading from is a little small section of a larger section known as the Olivet Discourse or the sermon that Jesus preached to His disciples on the Mount of Olives because they asked Him a question about His return, about His coming. In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus predicts the future very accurately. The future of the Jewish nation, the future of Jerusalem, the future of the world, as well as His own future coming. And so Jesus and His disciples were 2,000 years ago in the very place that is in question and dispute and conflict even today. That's right. Things haven't changed. This part of the world still sees a lot of animosity and a lot of conflict. And why is that? Well that's because Israel is the very center of God's program. And if that's true, then it would make sense that Israel would also be the very center of Satan's spiritual attack. Listen to this little quip that comes from the Jewish Midrash, one of the holy writings and commentaries: The land of Israel is at the center of the world. Jerusalem is at the center of the land of Israel and the temple is at the center of Jerusalem. Now just behind me you're looking at a 35-acre flattened complex with a golden dome upon it, a temple once stood there, and that is the very center of the earth, so says that Jewish commentary. Think of it this way. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the center geographically of the earth biblically. It's the geographic center of the earth from a biblical perspective.
Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord said in Ezekiel chapter 5 verse 5, I have set Jerusalem in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her. If you were to look at a map, you'd discover that Jerusalem is situated on a land bridge. The land bridge connects three major continents and brings them together. That's why there's been a lot of conflict in this area. But in Scripture, North, South, East, and West is all from the reference point of Jerusalem. So it's the geographic center of the earth biblically. Number two, Jerusalem is the spiritual center of the earth from a salvation standpoint. There's only one place that God ever purchased salvation for people and made that happen and it was just outside the Damascus Gate at a place known as Calvary or Golgotha. It's the only place salvation was ever procured. Number three, Jerusalem is the storm center of the earth prophetically. Even the Bible predicts that. Zechariah said I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples. World leaders, pundits, those who sit in Washington or Europe or Tokyo or Russia or England, all know that what happens in Ireland or in Europe isn't as significant as what happens in the Middle East, especially with the city of Jerusalem.
The Jewish Talmud used to say the ten measures of beauty were given to the world. Nine of them descended upon Jerusalem and one was taken by the rest of the world. But it also said ten measures of suffering descended upon the world and nine of them were taken by Jerusalem and one of them was distributed to the rest of the world. And this city has seen a lot of suffering in its history, all the way back from the beginning. Some of you remember the movie in our country Fiddler on the Roof and in that movie the Russian patriarch of the family, Tevia, knows that he's part of the chosen people and he lifts his head toward heaven and he says God, I know that we're Your chosen people, but once in awhile couldn't You choose somebody else? I think it feels that way sometimes for those who are living in this very controversial land. But number four, Jerusalem is the glory center of the earth ultimately. Isaiah the prophet predicted the Law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, there is a kingless throne. It hasn't been occupied for over 2500 years. That's the throne of David, even though God said that his throne would be perpetually occupied forever and ever. Also in heaven is a throne less King. The One we're waiting for to return--Jesus Christ. When the throne less King comes and sits upon the kingless throne that will be fullness, not only for this land but for the entire world.
Now you should understand that when it comes to any race of people that God has selected for anything at all, that God's calling is irrevocable. As the Bible says the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. If you look to your Bibles and you'll notice in the tribulation period that God will select 144,000 Jews and seal them for His protection. Then later on in the millennial kingdom, the thousand years when Jesus rules and reigns from the earth, He's gonna do so from here--from Mount Zion. And then later on there's yet another phase of eternity called the new heaven and the new earth, the eternal state, and the capital city is the New Jerusalem that descends out of heaven from God. I like what William Norman Ewer once remarked upon. He said how odd of God to choose the Jew. But not so odd as those who choose the Jewish God but not the Jew. And that's why we as Christians stand with Israel: simply because of the covenant that God in heaven has made with this land and the people of this land. So that's the place and we're in the place.
The second thing to note, in the big picture here, is the prediction that Jesus makes to His disciples. He said this: Do you not see all of these things pointing at the temple that stood on the real estate behind Me? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone will be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down. I believe that as soon as Jesus said this, His disciples dropped their jaws in utter amazement. The temple? The place we worship at is gonna be destroyed? Now why would they think that? Because it was believed among the Jews that the temple standing was a sign of God's favor. God had blessed them and He blessed them with a central place to worship. now the temple, when Jesus made this prediction, was still in the process of being built. It took a number of years. In fact, it took 180,000 workers all put together 80 years to finish the temple before it was destroyed. It's a massive structure. You can see it behind me and some of us have walked on it in the last few days. From the platform itself of the Temple Mount, the temple that once stood there was 90 feet higher than the Temple Mount itself. It was made out of white marble and had a gold cornice that went all the way around the building. In fact, the Babylonian Talmud, remarking on this, said he that has never seen the Temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building. Some of the stones are massive. The retaining wall itself has some stones that weigh 400 tons. But Jesus made a prediction that the stones of the temple itself would all be thrown down. And do you know what? Every single stone of that temple is gone. No remains whatsoever can be found of the temple proper. Sure, the retaining wall is still there but the temple is gone. As Jesus predicted, every single stone would be overturned.
Now history records that a Roman soldier, drunken, threw a torch into the temple that caught that great veil on a fire that melted the gold cornice into the cracks of the stones and the soldiers came in greedily and overturned each stone to get the gold out, to get as much gold as he could for himself, thus fulfilling what Jesus predicted. It happened in 70 AD when the Romans came in and sacked this city. Josephus, commenting on that event, said a person visiting after the destruction would never believe that anyone inhabited the place or where the temple stood. Now the Scripture predicts that what happened with the Romans in 70 AD and the animosity that would come against this land would come again in the last days. Zechariah chapter 12 says all of the nations will send their armies to besiege Jerusalem. And all it takes is a glance at the newspapers or a visit to Israel to hear and see it yourself and you can see that tension in this land is building once again as many nations in this region have great animosity toward Israel even being here. Sometimes I hear people say boy I wish we lived in Bible times. Well guess what? You are living in Bible times as you're seeing some of these things unfold before your very eyes.
So we've looked at the place, we've looked at the prediction, now I want you to consider the greatest part, and that is the promise--the promise of His coming. That's what the disciples asked Him. What is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age? And throughout this chapter, Jesus talks about His coming. He says in verse 42 to watch, for you do not know what hour your Lord comes. That's the good news here. The good news that supersedes any of the bad news is that Jesus Christ is coming back and I believe He's coming back soon. Now from our vantage point, we're looking for two future events. Number one, Jesus coming toward the earth for His church. We call that the Rapture. I'll explain more in a moment. And then number two, Jesus coming to the earth with His church. That is at the end of the tribulation period. It's helpful if you understand the difference between what we call the Rapture of the church and the Second Coming. The Rapture of the church Jesus comes to the air, the atmosphere above the earth, and we who are on the earth and believe in Him will be caught up together with Him. It's not a full coming of Christ. Think of it as a fly by or as a near pass. That's different from the Second Coming. At the Second Coming, Jesus will leave heaven, come through the air, come to the earth, and at that coming, the Bible says, every eye will see Him. It will be unmistakable.
At the Rapture, Jesus comes to claim His bride. At the Second Coming, Jesus comes with His bride. At the Rapture, the focus is on Christ and the church. At the Second Coming, it's Israel and the kingdom. Now the Rapture's gonna be sudden. It's gonna be unpredictable. It's what the Bible says in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. However, the Second Coming, unlike the Rapture, is very predictable. It will be after seven years of tribulation called by Daniel a time of Jacob's trouble. And so, for us, the Rapture could occur at any moment, which makes future events very, very exciting. Now in Matthew 24, Jesus didn't explain an eschatological roadmap and tell us the scenario of events that are going to take place. But through the writers of John and Peter and Paul we can piece things together and get a pretty good idea of the rundown of what's gonna happen. I'll give you a thumbnail sketch. First event: Jesus Christ, who's now seated at the right hand of His Father, will come bodily to the atmosphere above the earth. Number two, He will bring with Him the souls of all those Christians from the past who have died and who believed in Him, who are with Him in heaven. He will bring them with Him and He will resurrect their bodies and rapture the church and it will be a total transformation known as the resurrection. That's when the physical resurrection of the body takes place. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. This mortal must put on immortality. So just like those two men in the elevator who said we've got to bring our wives to ride in that machine, that's when that machine will happen when He comes to resurrect our physical bodies.
Then after that, once we meet all those saints from the past and Jesus Christ in the air, resurrected and changed, then comes a triumphant procession back into heaven and that's when the tribulation will occur. And for us, the judgment seat of Christ will occur. Now what does that mean? Does that mean you're gonna be judged for your sins? No, that's where you're gonna be rewarded for your service. The faithful use of your time and your talents will all be rewarded by Christ at that moment. 2 Corinthians chapter 5: We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body. So while we're up there, down here on the earth will be a period of seven years called the tribulation period. The last three and a half years will be the worst period in human history. Now when that's done, that's when the Second Coming occurs. We'll come back with Christ all the way to the earth. At the end of the Second Coming will be a thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ ruling and reigning from Jerusalem over the entire earth. And then after that will be the eternal state.
And the best part... is home. It's home. Jesus called it My Father's house. In My Father's house there are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. So I want you to think about heaven not as some nebulous place where angels are flying around and strange songs are being taken place, but think of it as your home because what makes home precious and special? It's not what you have in it; it's who you have in it. it's the relationships that you have. You're gonna be together with Jesus. You're gonna see the Father and there's gonna be a reunion of those precious loved ones who have gone before you and are waiting for you. You're going to see them again. That's why Charles Spurgeon, when he trained his young men for the ministry and he was priming them about preaching on heaven, he said whenever you speak about heaven, let your face light up and radiate with a heavenly glory. And then he said, and when you speak about hell well, your ordinary face will do, I suppose. Just remember that you're talking about the place of glory and your future home where there'll be no broken homes, no broken hearts, no rehabilitation clinics, and the best part of all--no hell.
So as we're looking around today, there's lots of warnings. They're all over the newspaper. They're on the news programs that you watch. There's a lot of things that are happening in terms of natural events like earthquakes and storms and volcanoes that Jesus predicted in this chapter would come. Let these serve as a wake-up call and be excited as to where this leads. Jesus put it this way: When these things, the things that He wrote about and predicted, when these things begin to take place, lift up your head and rejoice, for your redemption is drawing near. I want to close with a little story and think about this. It comes from a book by Billy Graham called Approaching Hoof Beats. Mount St. Helen's belched grey plumes hundreds of feet into the blue Washington sky. Geologists watched their seismographs growing in wonder as the earth danced beneath their feet. Rangers and state police, sirens blaring, herded tourists and residents from an ever-widening zone of danger. Every piece of scientific evidence being collected in the laboratories and on the fields predicted the volcano would soon explode with a fury that would leave the forests flattened. Warning! Blared the loudspeakers on patrol cars and helicopters hovering overhead. Warning! Blinked battery-powered signs at every major crossroad. Warning! Pleaded radio and television announcers, short-wave and citizen-band operators. Warning! Echoed up and down the mountains and the lakeside villages. Tourist camps and hiking trails emptied out as people heard the warnings and fled for their lives. But not Harry. Harry refused to budge. Harry was the caretaker of a recreation lodge on Spirit Lake, five miles north of Mount St. Helen's park. The rangers warned Harry of the coming blast. Neighbors begged him to join them in their exodus. Even Harry's sisters called to talk sense into the old man's head. But Harry just ignored the warnings. From the picture postcard beauty of his lakeside house reflecting the snowcapped peak overhead, Harry grinned on national television and he said nobody knows more about this mountain than Harry. And it don't blow up on him. On May 18, 1980, as boiling gasses beneath the mountain's surface bulged and buckled the landscape to its final limits, Harry cooked his eggs and his bacon, fed his 16 cats scraps, and began to plant petunias around the border of his freshly mowed lawn. At 8:31am, the mountain exploded. Did Harry regret his decision in that millisecond that he had before the concussive waves traveling faster than the speed of sound flattened him and everything else in a 50-square-mile radius? Did he have time in his stubbornness, as millions of tons of rock disintegrated and disappeared into a cloud reaching 10 miles into the sky? Did he struggle against the wall of mud and ash 50 feet high that buried his cabin and his cats and his freshly mowed lawn? Well now Harry is a legend in the Pacific Northwest, where he refused to listen. From there he smiles down on us from posters and t-shirts and beer mugs. Balladeers sing a song about old Harry, the stubborn man who put his ear to the mountain but would not heed the warnings.
My question for you is this: with all the warnings given to us in the Bible, the very warnings that we see happening every single day, are you listening to those warnings and are you listening to the voice of the Lord calling you to Himself? I love the story about the little boy who went into a pet store with his dad. It was the boy's birthday. And the father said son you can pick out any dog you want as your pet. The boy was so excited. He meandered through the pet store, looked at every single dog, but there was one little puppy that caught his eye. It was the puppy whose tail was wagging ferociously as he looked up at the little boy. The little boy got a big smile on his face and he said daddy, I want the one with the happy ending! That's the kind of life I think everybody wants. They want the life with the happy ending. It can be yours. In fact, it's promised to you by Jesus Himself. I have come, He said, that they may have life and have it more abundantly. I urge you today to receive Christ as your Savior and make Him your Lord and take the life with the happy ending so that no matter what comes down on planet earth, no matter what the headlines run on a daily basis, your trust is unshakeable because your trust is in Him. So a final shalom from Jerusalem. Happy Mother's Day to all you moms and we trust that God will bless you and your family. See you back in New Mexico.