29 Mar 2020
This is a world filled with pain and difficulties. The Covid-19 pandemic is a reminder about the curse this world is put under because of sin. But the world will meet greater pains and turmoil during the end times before Jesus comes. And Jesus said that those who endure to the end (during this tribulation) will be saved. What does that mean? And how will we know if we are in or near the tribulation? The Bible is given so that you may know how to be saved. Check out this sermon here and may it help you to end up on the right side when Jesus comes!
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Dear brothers and sisters, we are presently in an event that is unprecedented in our 33 years church history. Now, many are surprised and some are discouraged. I want to encourage you today that we should not be surprised, neither should we be discouraged. On the other hand, we should be greatly encouraged that God is still on the throne, that His Word is still the truth, still the lamp to our feet and light to our path.
Now, we all know what the Bible says will happen. But most of us have believed by what the world has been telling us. The world has been telling us, we are on an upward spiral. Our economy is going to get better, our standard of living better, our environment better. Science can control nature, medical breakthroughs will give us cures, even conquering death.
You know all these, we have believed, but you know, the Bible tells us quite the opposite. We are probably entering a time where the Bible tells us, we call it, ‘the last days’ where there will be confusion, there will be calamities, there will be chaos.
And you know when we see all these things, we should say, “Wow!” Contrary to what all the world is saying, there is still a light, there is still a truth, Thy Word is truth. And so today as we gather together, I want to encourage you to know God, knows the future and He has revealed it to us.
Now, some of you, most of us are scattered today in our homes and we're sort of feeling like, “Oh my! We can't even worship God today. We are scattered!” Now, I want to remind you that in GLCC, we have a vision. Our vision is - an Acts church for today. And all of you know, the early church in the book of Acts was a scattered church.
So here we are, our vision to be an Acts church for today. And today we are scattered, thankfully not by Roman authorities’ persecution but just by pestilence. Alright, so all these things that we have seen, pestilences and all these, are all there, nothing to be discouraged about.
And as you sit in your home, maybe a couple, maybe a family unit and maybe just alone. But you can still connect to your friends, through this wonderful thing called, internet. And thank God for this wonderful thing that we can still be richly fed by God's Word, from our pulpit here.
But while you sit in your homes, please don't feel that, “Oh! This is some kind of inferior worship.” “Uh! There's a superior worship, called this, ‘big corporate worship’ in Punggol.” You are … of course there are benefits to corporate worship but there are also benefits to being scattered.
For one, after the message, you could sit down and discuss not come down into a crowd and get emerged into all kinds of other things. You could actually discuss with those around you, the message, the application. How do we use this to encourage one another? How do you use the message to reach out to a world that is struggling in fear now?
We could also at this time, sit together and have this wonderful time of sharing thanksgiving. I mean, in church, how do you share a thanksgiving? The pastor does it for you. But at home, you could share thanksgiving. At home you could share prayer requests. At home you could plan strategies how to reach out to the world, as a unit. Alright, and so I believe that home scattered worship can be a huge blessing to all of us.
I hope also that you don't forget that giving, our love offering is very much a part of our worship. Now, often we forget that, sometimes we don't even know how to give our offerings. But thank God for all the means that we can do so. So my encouragement to you is, please don't forget that giving of our love offerings to God is very much a part of this worship today.
Now, most of you know that I very seldom have preached on giving. I very seldom have made an appeal about giving. I think in the 33 years, I've served in this church, I've hardly ever mentioned or talked on giving, more than 10 times in 33 years.
Most of you know I have never taken 1 cent from the church in the form of a salary or love offering, never taken one cent. And so, when I stand here and make an appeal, I believe you all know, that this is a time where we have to be challenged.
Now, about a week ago or last week, the Elders had to meet on our financial situation. Now, normally, I don't like to talk about finances in an Elders’ meeting. Because an Elders’ meeting is about the spiritual direction of the church. But it was a sense an emergency meeting because our finances were really affected.
And so we had to as Elders, bring it up and tell our pastors and our staff that they would have to take a voluntary pay cut. And so, I'm so thankful today, that our pastors, our staff have taken this challenge and sacrificially volunteered to take a pay cut.
I have been given permission to share this by Pastor Jason. Pastor Jason himself has offered to take a 100% pay cut for 3 months and willing to take an additional 3 months of 100% pay cut if the circumstances are unchanged.
Now, Pastor Jason's not the only one. I am pleased to say, several other key leaders of the church, staff of the church have also offered to take a 100% pay cut for 3 months. Our missions … I’m part of the Missions Board, we have offered to take a 50% pay cut for our mission funds.
Now, you know our missionaries are also serving very sacrificially with very little, in often very dangerous areas, not just COVID. COVID is a minor thing for them, much more serious challenges. Even at this time they are willing to take the sacrifices. They are willing not even to be evacuated. Many of them have refused to be evacuated. Because they feel, “I've come here in a time of darkness, I can shine the brightest.”
So I want to appeal to all of you today and you know when I make an appeal for funding, it is a serious situation. We are in a critical situation. It’s ICU time! So I'm challenging all of you today as you worship God, worship Him with your offerings and give sacrificially.
I have no … I'm perfectly confident, I'm not saying this out of fear today. I'm not saying this out of panic - this appeal. I'm saying this confidently. I know in the 33 years God has always provided for us. God's always provided to His people. So today, I know that you will give sacrificially. Because most of you, in fact I hope, all of you have personally tasted the sacrificial love, sacrificial giving of your Savior.
So today, may God bless your day of worship, may be an enhance worship, not an inferior house worship. But may today be amazing day of worship for all of you. May God bless you and use you to be a salt and light in these dark times. God bless you.
Father, we thank You for this time. Thank you we are scattered. But Lord, we know this worship wherever we are is pleasing to You. You have already shown us that the church, the early church in the book of Acts was scattered churches, joyfully rejoicing and worshiping God sacrificially with their time, the talents and the treasures. And so God today where ever we are, help us to just lift up our eyes and worship the God who is worthy of all worship.
Father, this is our prayer, that as you scatter us, You will help us to be lights, not just in Punggol but everywhere. Lord, even at the dark … dark time, help us to just be lights of the world. And so God guide each worship unit today, each church today, wherever they are. And when we say, church, we mean where God's people, the ecclesia of God gather to worship God.
Lord, in this time we … we remember that there are many who are struggling. And Lord, we just ask You to comfort them. We ask You to guide them. We ask You to provide for them. And we ask You to protect all of us, Lord, from this unseen virus. We thank You, we can comfortably know You're still on the throne. There’s no surprise to You and we can all just rest under the shadow of Your wing.
Lord today, bless us Lord, that we may be a blessing. And we pray, dear God, for those who are in the front lines. Some of our own doctors are right in the front lines and we commit them to Your hands, bless them in a wonderful way. Bless our missionaries out on the field. Many Lord, really in very difficult situations and we pray, You will bless them and protect them.
Thank You God, that You can hear our prayer and now we commit Pastor Jason to You, that You will use him as he speaks Your Word to us. Lord, we pray that we will not just have a listening session, a lecture today, but we will listen and respond. As the early church in Acts did, they heard the Word of God first, and then they praise God. And they thanked God and they shared their thanksgiving in the prayer request. So Lord today, may this be our worship, not a ritual, not a format. Lord, but a heartfelt thanksgiving to a wonderful God. Hear our prayer Lord. Answer this prayer. Make us an Acts church for today. We thank You in Jesus Name. Amen.
Sermon Proper: Pastor Jason
Well, this morning I'm glad to be able to share God's Word with you. And I think again, this is an unusual season and I want to share some words that we spoke about last week. And just to recap very quickly before we go into the signs in Matthew 24.
1. Even When You Are Following Jesus, You may Go Through The Storms Of Life
I want to remind all of you that when we follow Jesus, we may go through the storms of life. Don't judge God's love based on the winds or the waves, but judge God's love based on the cross of Jesus Christ. Even when we go through the storms of life, let's remember God's love for us, remains strong and unbreakable because His Son laid down His life for us on the cross.
2. When In A Storm, The Best Thing To Do Is Cry Out To Jesus
Then I want to remind you that when in a storm, the best thing to do is to cry out to Jesus. This is so important! In this season, we are all very mindful about hygiene. We wash our hands. We put sanitizer. We do social distancing. We avoid going out there in the public. Now, all those are good measures but the best measure of life is to cry out to Jesus.
Let's be reminded that worship is not about a place nor about a particular time only. But we worship God everywhere and in every time. And I hope that our worship will be rich and meaningful as what Pastor Paul has shared. And not only in the sessions here on Sunday morning but every day in your life. Let's live our lives of worship!
One of the questions, I get frequently from people during this season is, “What do we do in COVID-19? What do we do as Christians?” I say, “Very simple. Three things. Three simple steps.”
A. Drink In The Gospel
Number one, drink in the Gospel. That is, drink in the Word of God. And pray to God that the Word would flourish in your life. So, help yourself drink the Gospel, help your children drink the Gospel, help your Care Group, help your discipleship drink the Gospel. This is a time where we need the nutrition, the blessing of God's Word even more. So number one - drink in the Gospel.
B. Live Out The Gospel
Then number two - live out the Gospel. What I mean by that is, that you obey God in living out the commands of Scriptures. To live lives of peace and joy that we will not be victims of fear and panic and anxiety. Live out lives of love.
I … I'm so thankful that our brethren in this church have had the opportunity to reach out in love. There were some community projects that we could be involved in here, in Punggol. This is a picture of some of our brethren volunteering for the hand sanitizer distribution effort. And not only this group of brethren out there in Punggol. But we also have brethren who went out, packing and hanging these sanitizer bottles in the lift lobbies here in the Punggol community.
This is a simple picture of what is the product that they have come up with. And these are some of our brethren just diligently going from lobby to lobby, lift to lift. And this is real cool! Because right after we did this, one of our members received a, a text from her friend who said, “Hey, your church right? Thanks for the kind thoughts.”
I'm just excited that we could in this season, do some good deeds, sow goodwill in our community, blessing the neighborhood here in Punggol. So remember that when you are going through a storm, don't give up on worship. Don't give up on drinking in, living out the Gospel.
C. Give Out The Gospel
And don't forget to give out the Gospel, meeting your friends online, on Zoom. Hey! That's an opportunity to share with them because this is the best time to do so as many live-in uncertainty, fear and confusion.
3. Before Jesus Calms The Storm In The Seas, He Wants To Calm The Storm In Your Hearts.
I remind you as well, that before Jesus calms the storm in the seas, He wants to calm the storm in your hearts.
The storm in a sea is no problem to Jesus! You will know that in a while. But the real issue is the storm in our hearts. So before Jesus calms this COVID storm, perhaps the greater attention needs to be given to the storm in our own hearts. Do we trust Him? Are we tossed in fear and confusion? This is a time for us to draw near and ask God to give us grace to live out that life of peace. Isn't it?
4. The storms Obey When Jesus Says, “Peace, Be Still.”
And then we remember that the storms obey when Jesus says, “Peace be still.” Everything that is out of your control lives under the control of the Savior, who loved you and gave Himself for you. Trust God that there will not be one more month, one more week, one more day, one more second of the storm than is necessary for you. He has every power and authority to calm the storms of life. So trust Him, hang in there, continue to believe and worship the Lord.
5. Storm Travels Are Faith-building Expeditions
And then finally, I'm so encouraged when I look at the story of the storm, that storm travels are faith-building expeditions. I … I'm worried, I'm concerned that after COVID-19 is over, there'll be less people who’ll worship God together. But then again, I thought about it, perhaps the church might emerge even stronger, better and purer. Because storm travels are faith-building expeditions. I trust that God is doing that in all our hearts.
So, I hope with this reminder of what we covered last week. You will continue to be … be drawing strength from the Lord and be encouraged in your journey of faith.
Now, today, I like then to switch over with the remaining time we have to look at the signs of the end times. It's in a sense, very appropriate for us as we go through hardship. This is sermon number 2. And if you'd like to have more information of this topic, you might want to recap on sermon number 1, preached two weeks ago.
This all started when the disciples asked Jesus, “Tell us when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” [Matthew 24:3] They were focused on the return of Jesus Christ and how that ushers the end of the age. Jesus then answered in a long way, telling them that many things [from verses 4 to 29] will happen before verse 30, “Will appear in heaven, the sign of the Son of Man.”
These are words all in so small fonts because I don't want you to be lost in a detail as yet. But I want you to realize that Jesus is saying, “Many things will happen.” The words in white [from verses 4-29], they must all happen before He will return.
And looking at big chunks, we see that there must be some things, such as the beginning of the “birth pains” [verse 8] and then there must be that “tribulation.” [verse 9] And then there must be that “abomination of desolation” [verse 15]. Then the “great tribulation” [verse 21] and the “cosmic signs” [verse 29] before Jesus comes.
So these are the big chunks. And so, He's saying, “These things must come to pass before I return.” So let me use my whiteboard and so just in a simple way, take a look here, we are looking at the end times. And it all begins with the Temple being destroyed. So let's put it here, the Temple being destroyed.
And then, the next event according to what Jesus is saying, is that, “there will be the beginning of “birth pains.”” That's what I'm seeing here! The Temple will be destroyed, the next event, according to the prophetic calendar is the beginning of “birth pains”.
Then you can follow along very easily the “tribulation”. Then you have the “abomination of desolation”. And then you have the “great tribulation”. And then you have the “cosmic signs”. And then, you will have the 2nd Coming. So that's very simple, that's what Jesus is saying.
Now, they asked a question like this, because they thought that the Kingdom of God would come immediately. Jesus said that, “The Temple will be destroyed.” And they assumed that the kingdom would then follow immediately after that. That's why they asked, “When will these things be” referring to the destruction of the Temple and what will this will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” [Matthew 24:3]
They're expecting all that to come together in quick succession, in this manner. But Jesus here, is telling them, “No! My coming is not so immediate as you have imagined. It is not going to come immediately after the destruction of the Temple. There must be the passing of these events.” [Matthew 24:30]
Then, we looked at a very important part of this whole prophetic calendar. We saw the phrase “abomination of desolation”. Wow! What's that? Well, the word, ‘abomination’ simply means something that is so repulsive, so ugly, so hideous, so offensive before God. So something very bad is going to happen that results in desolation. That means destruction.
So Jesus spoke about this “abomination of desolation”. This hideous, ugly, offensive thing that will result in some destruction. And we look at that in detail. We say that, “Some people thought that this happened in AD 70, some 2000 years ago, when the General Titus Vespasian conquered and destroyed Jerusalem.”
But I suggested to you, “No! Not really!” That destruction of the Temple took place, but this ‘abomination of desolation’ is not Titus Vespasian’s work. We believe, or I believe, that this “abomination of desolation” refers to something even later on. Something that has yet to occur. Something that will be done by the Bible's description of this man, called the - Antichrist.
1 John 2:18 tells us that this Antichrist, this … ultimate super villain is coming into this world. And this Antichrist is also called, ‘the man of lawlessness’. He is also known as the ‘son of destruction’ [2 Thess 2:3]. And he will do something terrible, hideous, offensive. Because the Bible says, “He opposes and exalts himself against every so-called God or object of worship.” He is so arrogant, so proud and then,” He will take his seat in the Temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” [2 Thess 2:4]
No! Titus Vespasian didn't do that! 2 Thessalonians tells us, that there'll be someone who will be so arrogant and proud. He will sit on God's throne, God's Temple, God’s seat and then say, “I am the one, the whole world is to worship.”
The Bible tells us that this lawless one, this son of position, or men of position, is going to be powerful because, “He will be doing all these things by the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders.” [2 Thess 2:9]
Now, if you're lost, I just want to tell you, we are looking at the end time, something that will happen in the future. It's about this Antichrist. This man who is going to do terrible things. And he is going to deceive the world into thinking he is the one to be worshipped.
Now, the Bible also tells us in Revelation 13:5-7 that, “He will be called the beast. He will utter blasphemies, blasphemies against God. And all authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation.” So I'm suggesting to you, that this “abomination of desolation” is not Titus Vespasian, but I believe it is the Antichrist, someone who will come in the future.
So, in other words, when the disciples asked Jesus, “When will these things be?” Meaning, when will the Temple be destroyed? And when will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age? They have sort of linked them up all together in quick succession.
I believe, however, that the reality is, Jesus is saying, “My Temple will be destroyed but the sign of My coming will be still a while longer and there will be a long gap in between.” You say, “How long is this gap?” I say, “The gap is maybe at least some 2000 years already because Jesus has yet to come back.”
So these events will take place in the future, I think. Because the “abomination of desolation” refers to the Antichrist who is yet to come. So we have a gap of some 2000 years. You say, “Wow! Huh! Is this normal in prophecy?” I say, “Yes, is quite normal in prophecy. That events that look very close together are actually very far apart.” Let me give you an example.
You remember Isaiah 61:1-2? This is a very popular text about Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Isaiah prophesied, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me …” the words of Jesus Himself, “… because the Lord has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God.”
Now, this is about Jesus. No question. Because Jesus spoke about this when He was in the Temple some 2000 years ago. But do you realize that when Jesus was in the Temple, He only read up to these yellow words [up to “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”].
And then He said, in Luke 4:21 “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He was very precise. He read up to the “LORD's favor”. And He says, “This scripture is fulfilled.” And He did not mention Isaiah 61 and the second part or the latter part that says, “… and the day of vengeance of our God,” He didn't say that! Because it's not yet time!
In other words, I'm suggesting to you that in the yellow words, Jesus is talking about what He will do at what He has done in His 1st Coming. But the “day of vengeance of our God” is His 2nd Coming. And between the 1st and 2nd Coming is a gap of at least 2000 years already. Now, this is what we call prophetic telescoping.
So, it's very simple! Imagine, this is 1st Coming, this is 2nd Coming. They looked very far apart but if I were to turn this around, and if you look at it from my or your camera or from your view, it looks very close together. That's how it is from your point of view. But if you turn it around, you say “Oh! There's a gap!” There's a long gap and that's exactly why Jesus prophesied, as He said in Isaiah 61, and that's exactly how I think we should understand this.
“Tell us when will these things be? When will the Temple be destroyed? And what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” [Matthew 24:3] They thought it happens all together, but re … really, there should be a gap.
According to Jesus, I think, there is a gap of at least 2000 years or more. Filled up by what? Filled up by the awaiting of the events that will come, that is the beginning of “birth pains”, the “tribulation”, and so on, and so forth. Now, what's the point? I'm actually just summarizing what we looked at last week. But what's the point?
I think the point is very important. And it is this: Jesus is coming back. We all know that. But He won't come back until these things happen.
So, a scholar like DA Carson, he would say, “…the New Testament focuses here on the soonest of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ while refusing to specify some any-second kind of notion.”
You get what he's saying? He’s saying, “Jesus is coming back soon. But it doesn't mean he’s coming any second.” Why? Because the things that are spoken of by Jesus have yet to come to pass.
He goes on to say, “I want to suggest to you this notion of imminency…” The imminent, the near coming of Jesus, “... is preservable if you understand it means something like, “He's coming back soon, and it could be in my lifetime.””
Could be anytime! Not any second, but any period of time, even in my lifetime.
He goes on to say, “I do not see anything of the events prescribed in Scripture that could not take place within my lifetime, nor do I see any of these events so narrowly focused that, if they start to unpack, I could then name a date.”
So … so, Carson is saying, he's saying, “All these things can happen within a lifetime, my lifetime, your lifetime. But even if all of them happen, you still could not quite pinpoint a specific day or hour.”
If you are lost with what Carson said, let me just suggest to you. This is my simple conclusion of the matter - Jesus is coming back. We all know that. Though He may not be doing so any second now, because the things that Jesus spoke about are yet to be fulfilled. He can come back at any period of time, even in our lifetime. That's the conclusion I want you to get.
You see, there are two extremes that you can go to. Two wrong extremes you can go to.
Extreme 1: He’ll come any second now!
Number 1, you can go to an extreme that says, “He'll come any second now!” So you know what happens when you think, “He's going to come any second now?” If you really, really believe it, this is what happened in the Early Church. 2 Thessalonians 3:11, “For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.”
So there are people, who absolutely don't bother to work anymore. Say, “Why, why bother to work? If Jesus is coming back any second, I might as well enjoy and do whatever I want to do. He's coming back, there's no reason to work.”
And Paul said that, “This is their problem”, in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2:1-2. Because he said, “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to Him, we asked you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”
So there are people, false teachers, false news, rumors, saying, “Oh! Jesus is coming back now!” And so, they're shaken in mind and alarmed. And therefore, Paul had to say, “No! Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” [2 Thess 2:3]
So, Paul is saying, “Don't you think that Jesus is coming any second. Because there must first be the man of lawlessness being revealed.” O! Jesus is going to come soon. He can come anytime but don't be deceived, that He can come any second now. And therefore, don't slacking off in your present responsibilities. Don't skive. Don't be a busybody but do diligent work.” See, that's one extreme that we are to avoid.
Extreme 2: He’ll never come!
The other extreme we are to avoid with regards to the coming of the Lord is this thinking that - He’ll never come! Very obvious extremes! “Oh! He's coming any second.” No! No! No! No! Then the other extreme is, “Oh, He will never come!” Don't think that because that's what people were thinking about in the early Church.
2 Peter 3:3-4, “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.””
So these are people who say, “Ah! He will never come lah! Things have always been the same.” The first group who says, “Jesus can come any second now” is saying, “Things will never be the same, so don't bother.” The second group says, “Things will continue to be the same, He is not going to come back.”
So these are the two extremes the Bible warns us about. The biblical balance is to believe Jesus is coming back. And even though He's not coming back any second now because there are events that are yet to be unfolded, He can come back any period of time, even in our lifetime because these events can unfold very quickly, actually.
Now, this is not easy! I understand that. But let me just end by focusing on these 2 events - the beginning of “birth pains” and the “tribulation”. That's all I want to cover for the remaining time I have. And we see here the beginning of “birth pains”. It will be characterized by a period of false teachers, wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes.
So there are people who will come saying, “I am the Christ.” [Matthew24:5] Now, I suggest to you, they are not saying, “I am Jesus Christ”. Because in a Greek, it simply means - I am the Anointed One. In other words, there will be false teachers in the last days, who would say that they are God's prophets., they are God's messengers, they have the anointing from God, they are the special ones.
They are the ones who will lead you to God. There will be many who say, “I am the chosen, Anointed One.” Not saying that they are Jesus, but they're saying, “They're messengers of God.” And they will lead many astray.
Now, I think this is not something unique only to the end times, it's also now. We have many people who claim to have special access to God, special revelation from God, as if they are the only ones who know God's will. They will be here to lead many astray.
“And then during this period of time, you'll hear of wars and rumors of wars, and then you will see famines and earthquakes.” [Matthew 24:6] Now I mentioned in the last sermon, these things have always been in the world. Nothing's changed! But during the beginning of “birth pains”, I think the difference is the intensification of it all. It will be more severe. It will be more frequent.
By the way, we also read in a parallel passage, Luke 21:10-11, something very relevant to us, “There'll be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences.” Now, we are in a pestilence. We are in a worldwide pandemic pestilence, COVID-19. “Oh! Is this the beginning of “birth pains?” I don't know. Maybe! It could be!
After COVID-19, it can come COVID-20 and COVID-21 or COVID-20A, 20-B. If that happens and if more earthquakes come, if more wars arise, it could be the beginning of ‘birth pains”. Today, we could already be in it. I do not know! Because these signs are not that specific, unless you looked back and see an intensification of it all. So we could already be in it, for that matter.
Then, “This is the beginning of the “birth pains”. [Matthew 24:8] A lady is about to deliver and the contractions have begun. It's intense! It's getting more frequent! And you know, the baby is coming!
Then we see secondly - the tribulation. The second thing that I want to touch on today, the tribulation. And in a tribulation, we see again, there will be people who will be persecuted. “Christians will be hated by all nations.” [Matthew 24:9]
In fact, “Some who seem to belong to the faith will fall away. There will be many false prophets, many false teachers. There will be lawlessness, people will grow cold and the Gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed.” [Matthew 24:10-14]
Now, one thing I'm not sure myself is whether the beginning of “birth pains” and the “tribulation” overlap? It might, it may not. I’m not exactly sure. But I know they will come together. So this ‘tribulation’ is something that intensifies and tells us that the end is coming.
Now, some of you read the Book of Revelation, you love that book. And I say, “It's a great book!” It tells you about what's going to happen in the end times. And you might always have wondered, “What is it all about?”
Well, in a simple nutshell, I would say Revelation 6 to Revelation 19, there are many other things there but generally, Revelation 6 to 19 speaks about the time of “tribulation”. And you will read in Revelation 6 to 19, about the 7 seals, the 7 trumpets, the 7 bowls. And they all are very scary pictures.
But they're all really describing the pain and the suffering and the ‘tribulation’ that will come upon the world during the end times. The 7 seals will open up to give you the 7 [sic:trumplet] trumpets. And then the 7th trumpet will open up to give you the 7 bowls.
But the summary is given in Revelation 6. The summary is given in Revelation 6. This summary is going to correspond very well with Jesus' Words, in Matthew 24. In Revelation 6:4, we read that, “The people would slay one another and he was given a great sword.” So there will be “great tribulation”, there'll be great deaths.
You can see that there is a sword, there is a famine, there is a pestilence. You see that? Matthew 24, Luke 21. Then you read also that. “Those who have been slain for the Word of God, they will be bringing of people to be killed, they will be hated by the nations, they will be slain for the Word of God.” [Rev 6:9]
Then we read about, “The sun becoming black as sackcloth, the moon become like blood, the stars fall to the earth and the sky vanished like a scroll.” [Rev 6:12-14] Isn't that Matthew 24, the “cosmic signs”? And then will be the coming of the Lord and you will see the wrath of the “Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand.” [Rev 6:15-17]
So Revelation 6 gives you a summary, just like Matthew 24 gives you a summary. Alright, I think that's all we can stomach today. Isn't it? So we see that this is where we end, the “tribulation”. But I end with this one singular thought before we close.
And I read here, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” [Matt 24:13] Now, I want you to be clear. We are not saying that, “Those who endure in their faith earns their salvation. No! But those who are truly saved will endure to the end. That's the miracle of God's grace. That's the miracle of the new life. That's the miracle of God's gift of faith.”
A real believer, the true elect, the true follower of Jesus, this is the evidence of his life. Even in intense pressure and persecution and pain and difficulty, he will endure to the end. And that's why we know he is the elect, he is saved.
I bring it back to our COVID-19 situation and season today. It’s a terrible time! Many people suffer. Many businesses suffer. Many countries suffer. But one thing COVID-19 will do, is that prolonged suffering in this season will bring out and show up who are those who are real and who are those who may not have really believed in Jesus?
This COVID-19 is a great separator. I quote you a writing by a Methodist Pastor. It's interesting! Last week, I quoted a Methodist Pastor. Today, I quote another one and this is about the great separator by Reverend Sng [Chong Hui].
He says, “Church services are suspended. Now I don't worry about skipping church anymore. No more guilt.” Maybe that's how you feel today. “The perfect excuse for those who aren't that excited about church. COVID-19 is a great separator. It separates the committed and the nominal. It reviews those who are serious about their faith, and those who aren't that committed.”
“COVID-19 separates the ones who would rather be at the greens to improve their swings and the ones who rather be in church to improve their walk with the Lord. COVID-19 is a great separator. It separates those who want to play more and those who want to pray more.”
“This … this Corona virus reveals the true state of our soul. It is as if a light was suddenly switched on and the hidden things in a darkness of our soul become clearly visible. COVID-19 reviews true worshippers. It draws the line between two kinds of online worshippers.”
“On the one side are those who think since no one is watching them in the privacy of their home, they need not be at their Sunday best. They watched a live stream service in a nightwear, hands holding a coffee mug and newspapers, slouching on their sofa with their feet up on the coffee table.” I can immediately see you put down your feet and put down your newspapers.
“On the other side, there are those who worship at home as if they are in the sanctuary of their church. They don't just watch, they participate. They stand to sing with the others in the screen. They bow in prayer when it was time to do so. They send their offering via the QR code. They don't talk. They don't snack.”
“They are not distracted by the noise and demands of their kids. They are focused on worship. They listen intently to the Word being preached online. They believe God is present in the sanctuary of their hearts, and He seeks those who truly worship Him in Spirit and in truth. [John 4:23-24] COVID-19 throws up those who are true worshipers. It separates those who speak the Word and those who live the Word.”
“COVID-19 is a great separator. It separates the selfless and the selfish. It tells us in no uncertain ways who are the considerate who think not of their own survival, but the survival of others even in their own country. COVID-19 is a great separator. It divides the faithful from the fearful, the devoted from the wayward and the selfless from the selfish. Which side of the divide are you?”
That's a great thought! And if that is what we would see, today in COVID-19, what a day it will be in a time of “tribulation”. But the great joy and hope is this - those who endure to the end will be saved. Because that's the miracle of the new birth in your heart.
If you today are on the wrong side of this divide, I want to encourage you today, to repent and to believe in Jesus alone, to save you from sin. Nominalism, a heart that is cold, a heart that does not love God is a dangerous way to live your life. Don't live with that doubt. Don't live with a doubt until you meet the Savior because it might just be too late. He will say to you, “I never knew you.”
Make sure you know Jesus today. Come to God in humility, in brokenness, acknowledge your sin, your sinfulness, your own helplessness. Recognize today that all your church going, all your seeming righteous works cannot change your heart. Ask God by His Spirit, to do that miracle in you. Repent and believe in Jesus. Cry out to Him that He will save you and grant you new life. That's the only way you can be saved.
Maybe this COVID-19 situation is a great wakeup call. A wakeup call to the Church of Jesus Christ. A great wakeup call to men and women who need to be saved. May God help us to be on the right side of the divide. Let's bow and pray.
Father, we are thankful for this time. That in a season of somber reminder about the fragility of life, we can have this Good News preached to us. We are thankful today, we can turn our eyes to look at Jesus. Even as the winds and the waves are howling around us, we thank You that Jesus is the Lord over the storm.
And He is the Lord who is gathering men and women to Himself, calling men and women out of sin, out of their own self-righteousness to look to Him alone to be saved. By Your Spirit today, would You call men and women to truly repent and believe in Your Son? Father, give us humble hearts that will be willing to admit our sinfulness, our pretense, our hypocrisy, may Jesus cleanse Your people from their sin.
And we pray today for Your church, that we will continue to worship You well. That even in these times of enforced prohibition of gathering together, we would regularly still drink in the Gospel, live out the Gospel, give out the Gospel. That we will continue to press on, and indeed step up in our worship - at home, in our families.
Lord, during this time, bring to our hearts and minds what's really important: our walk and our relationship with You. I pray Gospel Light, as we go through this storm travel, it will indeed prove to be a faith-building expedition. That we all will come forth, this church might become smaller, some may leave, but Lord, make this church better, purer, stronger.
And we pray still for those who are neither in nor out, Lord, please continue to give them the desire to study the Bible, hear Your Word, and to pursue You. Thank you this morning we can entrust all these things to You. Bring us near to Your heart, we thank You and pray all this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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