Here are my sermon notes from Sunday morning just gone for those that wanted them. Apologies to those that were not at the service they will only make limited sense.
The End Goal
‘Should the Lord tarry...’ even but a few more minutes... we are going to begin the final chapter of the biblical grand-narrative, we are going to start looking at end times.
A subject that for literally 20 years I just found plain scary and haven’t wanted to look at.
All because of one old song written by Larry Norman in 1969. Which didn’t actually sound like this but may as well have to my 7 year old ears.
“There’s no time to change your mind, the Son’s come back and you’ve been left behind!”
That combined with a movie you may remember called Thief in the Night... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6xmDRwcjv4
That movie which again as a 7 or 8 year old, I can only describe as a Christian horror movie, scared me to death when it came to end times.
I’ve just written myself off from receiving two particular blessings the bible talks about.
- Blessing for those that eagerly await the return of the Lord
- Blessing for those that read and heed the book of Revelation
Not for me.
Stay away from that stuff it’s just plain freaky!
The actual truth is...
When we talk about endtimes we are not speaking about doomsday and the end of the world, we are speaking about the divine intent and goal that lies behind God’s activity and actions in the lives of individuals, communities, and creation throughout history.
It’s fully mysterious, but it is massively exciting as well!
I want to begin this morning though by very quickly again summarising the big story.
I just don’t think we can do this too often.
It is THE big story and it must be THE framing story of OUR lives.
The Story so Far...
Chapter 1 – Creation:
In the beginning God created the entire cosmos; a good and pleasing creation, without sin or evil. Unique in creation was humankind, created in the image of God for special relationship with God, self, each other, and creation. Humankind was to reflect the nature of the Triune God, who exists eternally in perichoretic community (a differing, loving, giving, dance of perfect relationship) and relate to one another in like manner. For a time all was as God intended, however humankind fell short of what it was created to be.
Chapter 2 – Sin:
Sin, meaning to miss the mark or to fall short, resulted in a failure of relationship. Humanity was left alienated (from God, ourselves, each other, and creation), condemned (guilty before a righteous God), enslaved (in bondage to sin and its effect on every area of our lives and societies), and depraved (powerless to overcome our sin problem). There is hope though.
Chapter 3 – Israel (redemption initiated):
God chose Israel as a special people to dwell with in covenant relationship, his intention always being that through Israel all nations might find reconciliation with God. At times Israel lived as the people God intended them to be but continually they turned away from God.
Chapter 4 – Jesus (redemption completed):
God then sent his Son Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God and to deal with humanities sin problem once and for all. Through his sinless life, death upon the cross, and resurrection from the dead, Jesus defeated sin and death. Through faith (knowledge, belief, and continuing or ongoing trust) and repentance (a turning away from a previous way of life), all may find forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, hope, and freedom from sin.
Chapter 5 – Church:
Jesus also established the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that is now, but not yet. A kingdom that begins with the rule and reign of Christ in our hearts and from here impacts every area of society. A kingdom with principles that are often upside down and back to front to the ways of the world. A kingdom that will advance and is established through the church; believers living according to kingdom principles, in authentic relationship and committed community, governed by the Word and led by the Spirit.
This is where we live today, as Christ followers and participants in the community that is the church; God’s number one plan to reach and impact a lost and broken world.
We live now in this chapter of history. The church. Today we are going to look forward at the last chapter in the story. Which aren’t so much end times but rather God’s end goal.
By the way, that little blurb in the bulletin. That’s gold right there. That’s Genesis through Jude in one hit! About 40 sec of reading!
This isn’t just any old story though.
Like I said before...
This is THE big story that must be THE framing story of OUR lives.
What does that mean?
It means that you think of any area of life...
How to live?
What to do?
Which choice to make?
This story should and will inform your regarding that choice or question.
· Environmental Issues
o Christians should be on the forefront
o Image of God, special responsibility, right relationship with creation
o Govern and steward the planet
o Whole individuals and societies are in wrong relationship with the planet
o Animism – spirits and souls in everything, plants and trees, worship creation
o Pantheism – everything makes up God, plants and trees, worship creation
o Western Society – abuses the planet, strips of resources, not sustainable
o Restore right relationship
o Impact you lifestyle and actions massively
· Justice Issues
o Documentary on Close up the other night
o Slaves used in producing coco
o Grand-narrative teaches about perichoretic community
o Loving on another, not abusing one another
o Sin is all consuming, individuals, societies, systems
o We cannot participate in those systems
o Change our habits
· Challenge seems too big
o Story tells us that through the church God will establish his Kingdom
o Will be done on earth as it is in heaven
o Not just our church, the universal church, all and every community can make a difference
· Personal problems seem too big
o How can God understand?
o One person two natures
o Fully God
o Fully human
o Challenges, temptations, loss, obedience & consequence, heartache, pain, forsakenness
o The same as you and I
Throughout the series we have tried to show applications and implications of the story.
Ultimately though: each of us is responsible personally to know the story, to know the truth of God’s story and to reflect on it personally in our lives, discovering the implications and applications to life for ourselves. We are each responsible to build community with others to journey together in light of the story, discovering truth together and letting that mould and shape our lives.
The story has radical radical implications for life today!
As does the final chapter which we are beginning this morning.
So here we go...
Chapter 6 – Re-creation / The End Goal / Happily Ever After / End Times:
· We look at end times with caution and with openness.
We are reading as we look at end times is called apocalyptic literature.
Probably the most difficult and tricky type of literary type in the bible.
- Parts are literal
- Parts are figurative and illustrative
- Lots of pictures or types being used to describe things
- Prophecy that has been fulfilled mixed with prophesy that hasn’t been fulfilled mixed with prophesy that but nature can be fulfilled more than once
Revelation 19 talks about Jesus returning on a white horse with flames of fire coming out of his eyes and a sword coming out of his mouth.
It’s a picture, a description, a metaphor; Jesus isn’t literally coming back like that.
What does it actually mean then? Can be tricky stuff to work out.
So we have to look forward and read forwards carefully.
Appreciating the tricky nature of what we are looking at I trust you’ll be generous with me this morning as I try to summarise some pretty deep issues.
Actually more that we can’t say than what we can say.
You may end up with more questions than answers as a result of this morning’s message.
If you were looking for a sequence of events, sorry...
· The bible does not give us any data for dates or even a detailed sequence of events when it comes to the future.
Any this then this then this, and this is exactly what it is going to look like is fanciful/interesting/fiction at best and misleading at worst.
Thief in the Night, series makes massive leaps of assumption to make the series it does.
Left Behind Series, the authors have to make up all sorts of stuff and make huge assumptions and read all sorts of things that are not in the bible to tell the story the way that they do.
We can’t watch these movies or read these books thinking that they are accurate interpretations of scripture telling us how the future will unfold.
There just not.
Personally I prefer the Chronicles of Narnia as a better series in painting a picture of how the future may or could unfold.
The reality is that the future is full of mystery.
This morning I’m going to use a few scriptures but not that many.
End times really needs its own 10 week series if you wanted to get stuck into every verse and scripture.
Again because the scriptures are apocalyptic there are all sorts of reading rules and stuff to try and understand them.
Each passage simply takes too much explaining and is too technical for me to be able to explain with any clarity.
I’m going to kind of sum up the thoughts of respected and trusted theologians in regards to end times.
For those that are interested my sources are...
Theology for the Community of God – Dr Stanley Grenz
In Understanding be as Men – T.C.Hammond
The Gospel of the Kingdom – Dr George Ladd
Systematic Theology – Dr Stanley Horton
The Drama of Scripture – Dr Craig Bartholomew and Dr Michael Goheen
My goal is really just to talk about the main things that we need to be aware of regarding the future.
There aren’t a whole lot of details that can be given with certainty but I want to try and cover what can be said with certainty.
The End Goal:
What can we say with certainty...
While the bible does not give us the data for dates or a sequence of events in regards to end times, what it does give us is massively important.
1. History is meaningful and will reach a climax!
The bible allows us as Christians to assert that history is meaningful.
That history will reach a climax.
That God’s work in individual lives and communities and in creation has purpose.
It allows us to assert that divine intent lies behind God’s actions in the world.
That is why we don’t so much look at end times, rather we look at God’s goal, we look at re-creation, we look at happily ever after.
GOOD WILL TRIUMPH OVER EVIL.
GOD WILL REIGN
Justice will be done.
Sin and sickness and evil and oppression and hopelessness and death will be dealt with.
End times are not something we should be sacred of.
We should look forward to the end to the consummation of all things.
The next thing we can say with certainty is that...
2. Jesus Christ will return.
This is what will bring about victory.
The transition from the old age into the age of the kingdom which is now but not yet was the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The transition from the now but the not yet into the new age will come about through the return of Jesus.
It will happen not through cosmic evolution, not through human progress and scientific breakthrough, not even through the church getting bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger.
Victory will come at the return of Jesus Christ and through his righteous judgement bringing justice to the world.
- Jesus’ return is a fact that we can look forward to with anticipation.
- The return of Christ is what will bring about the resurrection, judgement, the renewal of all things, and it is the return of Christ that we look forward to and forwards to.
- The return of Jesus is what will usher in the new age in its totality.
- This would appear to be a process (with several stages) rather than a single event.
- Jesus’ return could happen at any time. Nothing to stop Jesus returning before this sermon is completed.
- Jesus’ return will happen in like manner to his ascension. Careful not to read too much into that.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
- It will literally mean we will see him in a manner comparable to natural sight.
- We don’t need to know dates, times, and places, we need to occupy until he comes.
T.C.Hammond warns – In regards to ‘times and seasons,’ a rigid systemization dependent on veiled allusions in scripture, which are also capable of meaning other than that which is arbitrarily selected to fit a particular theory, is to be discouraged.
We are to live every day as if the Lord is going to return tonight. Explain.
We are to live every day as if the Lord is not going to return for another 10,000 years. Explain. (Parents generation uni, house, washing machine).
We have to live in the tension of and / both.
3. The righteous will be resurrected and transformed.
1 Corinthians 15:15-21
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being.
At the return of Christ the dead in Christ will be raised and they will receive a new and glorious body.
A new body the same as Christ’s glorified body.
1 Corinthians 15:35-36
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
- Human likeness continuity and discontinuity, new but recognisable
- Powers unknown today
- Spiritual, incorruptible, and immortal
- Careful not to over spiritualize or to view too materialistically
4. There will be a judgment.
- Something to be looked forward to
- Through God’s righteous judgement things will be put right
- Individuals will be judged
- Our works and deeds will be judged
- Sin in its entirety will be judged
- Not just the judgement of individuals and individual sin
- Systems will be judged
- Injustice will be judged
- First will be last and last will be first
- Oppressed will be lifted up
- Sick will be restored
- Sin will no longer have sway
- Truth will be declared
- Principalities and powers will be judged
- Through judgement recreation, renewal and restoration will take place
Elena is going to look more at this next Sunday morning.
5. All things will be made new
1 Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," [a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' [b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
There are three consummations evident in the bibles record of human history...
- Ordering of the world before the creation of humankind
- The events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ
- The cessation of the present world system
Each of the first to consummation ushered in a new era.
So to the final consummation of all things will usher in eternity.
‘Behold I make all things anew.’
Scripture seems to imply not annihilation of the old, not a new creation, but rather a recreation.
There will be a complete destruction of all that is sinful and a conversion of the old into a new world never to know sin and corruption.
Again the bible paints a picture of continuity and discontinuity.
Recognisable but made right. No longer the same.
In once sense our story has come full circle now.
We started in Genesis with paradise lost through sin.
We now see paradise regained in Revelation.
- Where there was once a missing of the mark a falling short through sin
- Where there was once a failure of relationship – God, self, others, creation
- There will now be complete and utter restoration to the image and likeness of God
- There will be no mourning, death, crying, pain, sickness, suffering etc.
- Where once Adam walked with God in the cool of the evening, once again the dwelling of God will once again be with man. No separation.
- The entire planet, galaxy, cosmos will be renewed.
I don’t know the extent of the discontinuity and the continuity.
Our resurrected bodies will be recognisable, in a practical way, not a supernatural way.
The new earth will also be recognisable as well, I don’t know if it will be recognisable in the sense land, animals, water. Or recognisable in the sense of, ‘wow look there’s the Sistine Chapel, I never got to visit that before, I’m glad I can now.’
N.T.Wright suggests in his book Surprised by Hope, that perhaps more of what we do in this life may carry over to the next than what we think.
6. Eternity will be spent either in heaven or in hell.
Shane is going to do a whole sermon on heaven and hell in a couple of weeks time.
Eternity spent in hell – a state of complete absence of the presence of God.
Eternity spent in heaven – a state of humankind and God dwelling together
It seems to me most likely that the heavenly realm, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the recreated, renewed earth come together and eternity is spent here.
Shane will discuss this fully though in a couple of weeks.
Hell – complete absence of God
Heaven – dwelling with God
7. We have a great HOPE!
Psalm 25:3No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of [f] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
Hebrews 6:19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
· History is moving towards a climax
· Jesus will return
· There will be a resurrection and a transformation
· There will be a judgment that sets things right
· All things will be renewed
· We have great hope as Christians
Need not get caught up in trying to work out dates, times, sequences.
Live as if Jesus was returning tonight.
Live as if Jesus will not return for another 10,000 years.
There is a happily ever after to the story provided that we...
- Know the story (God has been at work throughout history to reconcile humanity and the entire cosmos to himself)
- Assent to the story being true (It’s not a fairy tale, it’s not fantasy, its true!)
- Continually and daily put our trust in Jesus Christ (that he made relationship possible, we can be forgiven and reconciled)
- Repent and turn from our former way of life and live in light of the big story, live in light of God’s story.
I want to encourage every person here this morning, those that profess to be Christians, those that perhaps are looking but would not yet consider themselves to be a Christ follower.
Have you responded to the grand-narrative as I have just outlined?
Make that response in your heart, life, actions, words, lifestyle!