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The Second Coming of Christ
A study of the Olivet Discourse

Question: "How should we live our lives while we await the return of Christ?"

Answer: We live in a very wicked day, similar to the days of Noah. People today ignore the warnings, just as the people living in Noah's days ignored Noah, and also as the people living in Judah during the ministry of Jeremiah the prophet ignored him. The warnings were ignored. But the flood came to those living before the flood and destroyed them all. Nebuchadnezzar came and the people of Judah came under captivity. People today live as if God does not exist and go about their daily business in such a manner. The Bible says "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be"(Mt 24:38-39, NIV). Jesus in this passage of scripture is not saying that everyday activities like "eating and drinking" or "marriage" are sinful. Nor is he trying to focus on the degree of wickedness of those during the days of Noah. The point is that those in the days of Noah were only concerned with sensual pleasures or hedonism. Their god had become their own pleasure and their pleasures made them blind and apathetic to the things of God. Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Pt 2:5) and obviously his building of the ark was no secret in his town. Noah gave them many verbal warnings all of which they ignored. Noah was politically incorrect and what he preached was not what they wanted to hear. Noah did not preach prosperity and fulfillment, but rather a coming judgment by water. The people had no evidence and so thought Noah was crazy and mad, but in the end they all drowned and perished, and Noah was spared by God. How sad it was and depressing I can imagine for Noah not having a single convert. But needless to say, Noah remained faithful to his calling and no matter the outcome he was going to continue to build the ark and preach. Just as it was in those days, so it will be prior to Christ's return.

In Matt 24:8 in Jesus's teaching often referred to as the Olivet Discourse (of which I am taking the premillennial dispensationalist interpretation) He speaks of birth pangs, and identifies six birth pangs or signs of his coming return. The birth pangs or signs are as follows.


1.   
Deception
2.    Wars and rumors of wars
3.    Famines, pestilences,
and earthquakes
4.    Persecution of the righteous
5.    Defection of false converts
6.   
Gospel proclaimed to the whole world

In spite of all the birth pangs people's hearts are hardened and they will not heed the truth. People will have every opportunity to repent but will not do so. People think that they do not need God, for their gods are their sensual pleasures and appetites. I greatly appreciate evangelists and missionaries that continue to proclaim the gospel despite the results. So many these days think that evangelism must always have visible results to be effective. Many have told me that they will not participate in street evangelism as to them it is a waste of time because they see no "visible fruit." The other day I received an email from a leader at church who says he does not see much fruit in street evangelism. This leader has watched some videos on YouTube and perhaps gone out a few times, but his view on street evangelism is not unusual in today's society. The problem is, people do not read their Bibles or they do not understand The Olivet Discourse and its teachings. For one, it is God who brings the converts and not man (Acts 13:48), and second, many will reject Him just as many rejected Noah. It is not my responsibility to produce converts but God's.

Deception

In the last days there will be lots of deception as Jesus indicated in Matt 24:23-23. False teachers, religions, and cults are all around us. Joseph Smith, David Koresh, Jim Jones, and the Jesus Seminar are but a few of many. When the church is taken out of the world, and when the Holy Spirit's restraining power is removed (2 Thes 2:6) all hell will break loose. The best defense against false teachers and doctrine is sound Biblical Discernment (1 Pt 3:15), but sadly we live in a day when few have discernment, and few seem to care. Books on mystical experiences and self-help are very popular in our day, while books on discernment are not. We live in a day were people want to promote a social gospel that is about love, and not about God's judgment on sin. People today believe in a "new tolerance" that has the lies of relativism as its core and people stop holding to absolute truth. Among the most heretical of groups is the so called Jesus Seminar. The heretics posing to be followers of Christ dressed in sheep's clothing, attack the deity of Christ, his lordship, the authority of the Bible, and his return. People are deceived because they are not Biblically literate, and have no discernment between truth and error. I think it's important to realize who is behind all the lies and deceptions that have run rampant today, and it is none other than Satan and his army of demons. Rev 12:9 says that Satan deceives the whole world, and in Genesis he is described as being very crafty.  Satan's deceptions are not easy to spot, and so often deceive many. I for one have sometimes been deceived by the lies of the self-help career authors. These authors often have good things to say, however a common lie that they preach is that peace, happiness, and the like can be found in a career, and the way to create change is by looking inward. A career is not our peace, Christ is. Many Christians throughout the centuries have had to face persecution, suffer, and die. Did they have their dream job? Was their fulfillment in a paycheck or in Christ? Self-help authors preach that security and peace comes from a paycheck or a career. Biblically speaking, Christ is our sufficiency and our peace (Phil 4:7).

Wars, Famines, pestilences, and earthquakes

In Matt 24:7-8 Jesus says "For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains" (ESV). Our country has been through many wars: the world wars, the cold war, the civil war, the Revolutionary war, and even today the war on terrorism. As we draw closer and closer to the return of Christ, things will get even more violent. For example, in recent days a man James Holmes, walked into a Batman movie on July 20th, 2012 and opened fire. Many lost their lives and many more were injured. Plenty of copy-cat wannabees have been arrested for conspiring to do the same thing. These are signs of the times as individual citizens launch one man wars against society. Jesus also predicted there will be famines in various places. Today this is indeed happening. Chronic water shortages plague eighty countries according to the World Bank. Many are poor, starving, and have barely a bed to sleep on in many third world countries. For more insight into this check out the book Radical by David Platt. Jesus also predicted that there would be pestilences, and this is mentioned in Luke 21:11, but not in Matthew's gospel. In the past the bubonic plague affected much of mankind. However the biggest of all pestilences that continues to infect people is the plague of AIDS. AIDS may be an example of a worldwide disease that Jesus was speaking of. In 2010, 34 Million people had AIDS, which resulted in 1.8 million deaths.

AIDS was first discovered in 1981, and due to the nature of the disease people may not know that they are infected until eight or so years later. The worldwide number of people infected with aids is around 34 million by the estimates of one website and the infection rates may continue to increase. The Bible teaches that sin has  consequences and I believe that AIDS is a result of man's sin. Earthquakes have increased throughout the centuries and continue to do so today. In the 10th century there were 32 earthquakes
, in the 15th century there were 147 earthquakes, and in the 
19th century there were 2119 recorded earthquakes. 
It is no secret that earthquakes have increased over the years and will continue to do so indicating that Christ will soon be returning.

Defection of false converts

Our day is loaded with people who say they are saved but are not. For example many false converts attend church in the Bible belt and are cultural Christians, but they have no relationship with him as their experience is intellectual only. An intellectual faith will not save, for even the demons have that (Jas 2:19, Mk 3:11). Our day is filled with people who come to Christ only for what they can get out of the relationship or to experience miracles. Perhaps  deceptive demons use their power to do miracles, and so people think that it is God that is doing the miracles, when it is in fact Satan! When persecution comes, the false converts flee, because they are not saved and cannot handle the pressure. They are only in church for themselves anyway. There were many that followed Christ only for the miracles but were not true followers. When persecution comes, the false converts will flee, for they are not of the flock of God. "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (1 Jn 2:19, NIV). 

Gospel proclaimed to the whole world

In Matt 24:14 the text reads “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (NIV). This passage may be directly referring to the events during the tribulation. During that time, God will use both natural and supernatural means to proclaim the word. He will use his 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the two-witnesses and many others to proclaim the truth. I believe that the time and days we are in now is preparing for the days during the tribulation. Many today are evangelizing the world as missionaries serving in other countries and as local evangelists. God is not bound to one method of evangelism but will use many to proclaim the truth to the lost.

How should we live until Christ Returns?

The doctrine of Imminency states that Christ can return at anytime and as we await the return of Christ we need to spend our time in evangelism and building the church. In Luke 19:13 in the NKJV Jesus uses the phrase do Business till I come which I believe very accurately describes how Christ desires every true follower to live. The parable of the talents (Mt 25:14-30) warns us against laziness and passivity. The slaves that used the Lord's talents He had entrusted them with were rewarded, while the one slave that had the one talent did not do anything and so was punished. This parable is a warning against those Christians that do nothing with their time, talents and treasures for the kingdom.

While we wait for His return, it is important for Christians to discover their Spiritual gifts and use them for the Lord's work. There are a number of ways to discover spiritual gifts but whatever gifts you have you need to use them for the Lord and your goal should be building His kingdom and not your own. Sadly the church of today is filled with people that use their gifts to build their empire and so often compromise the Word. Refer to Romans 12 and 1 Cor 12 which speak on the gifts. One of the most important things we can do while we await the return of Christ is evangelism. Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8 speak about the importance of evangelism. In Acts 1:8 (ESV) the text says "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." A witness is someone that is called to testify in a court of law, but in this case it's someone who represents the Lord Jesus and tells everyone of him. There are multiple methods of doing evangelism, and while Christians often debate vigorously over methods, I think the main idea is that we share the love of Christ, and God's judgment on sin via whatever method we choose. While I believe there is more than one method to reach people, I think the most powerful and biblically supported methods are open and direct presentations of the gospel, which is sadly on the decline in our day and age thanks to privatization of religion. Some evangelism methods are below:

1. Passing out gospel tracts
2. Open air preaching
3. Volunteering in community organizations to influence others for the gospel
4. Hosting discussions regarding religion and philosophy
5. Having dinners for your neighbors
6. Joining clubs like an Amphibian club, a bicycle club, a dance club, a dog club, a paintball club, a hunting club, etc..

I believe the Bible teaches that those that use their gifts and lives to the full while awaiting the return of Christ will be pursuing eternal rewards and treasures in Heaven. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 speaks about a judgment before Christ and at that judgment, believers will be judged on how they lived their lives after salvation. Some will stand before him and everything will be burnt up and they will have no reward in Heaven. The ultimate goal of the Christian life is not to be as one that builds only for himself, but as one that will build for Christ and eternal rewards.  


Recommended Resources:
 

Until Christ Returns-David Jeremiah
The King is Coming-Erwin Lutzer
The Second Coming-John MacArthur
Radical
--David Platt

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