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Living in the Age of Signs

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Hell is a very real place. We can try to ignore its reality, but those who reject Christ will spend eternity there, separated from God's love. As we read about the Battle of Armageddon and the final destruction of evil on earth, the reality of hell and the lake of fire become apparent. The following thirteen verses from across the Bible provide a glimpse of hell and what it means to spend eternity away from God.

Revelation 21:8

"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Matthew 25:46

"And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Psalm 9:17

"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."

2 Thessalonians 1:9

"These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."

Matthew 13:49–50

"The angels will come forth, separating the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Acts 2:27

"For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption."

Jude 1:7

"… as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."

Matthew 25:41

"Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' "

Revelation 19:20

"Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone."

Proverbs 15:11

"Hell and Destruction are before the Lord; so how much more the hearts of the sons of men."

2 Peter 2:4–5, 9

"For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world … then the Lord knows how to … reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment."

Matthew 10:28

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Ezekiel 18:20

"The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."

Daily Devotions

Today's Devotion: The Perils of Prominence

Pop star Justin Bieber told an interviewer, “I wouldn’t suggest being a child star. It’s the toughest thing in the world…. Look at the statistics on how many child stars have crumbled…. It might seem awesome from the outside, but I’m struggling."1

Few can withstand the temptations that come with power, position, fame, wealth, or prominence. In an egotistical world, our sinful natures don’t behave well in the spotlight. But when God gives us a platform for serving Him, He can supply the maturity we need. Instead of our head being inflated with pride, our hearts should be inflated with humility and servanthood.

The Old Testament patriarch Joseph is a good example. When he rose to prominence in Potiphar’s house, he didn’t lose his commitment to purity. And when he rose to fame in Egypt, he didn’t lose his commitment to maturity.

Whatever our place in life, it belongs to Him who does not share His glory with another.

Every tear of sorrow sown by the righteous springs up a pearl.
Matthew Henry

The Battle of Armageddon is the final showdown between good and evil on earth. After the Tribulation, Jesus will return to earth as a mighty King with the armies of heaven to destroy all those who have rejected Him as Savior. The forces of evil will rally the nations against Him. There will be no bystanders—the entire earth will be involved. Jesus will defeat the Antichrist and his False Prophet quickly, but the Bible describes the battle in detail.

The Location

After the Tribulation is complete, Jesus will return to earth from the same place that He ascended. The "Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south" (Zechariah 14:4).

The angels prophesied His return in the New Testament when He first ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives. "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.' Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet" (Acts 1:11–12).

The Mount of Olives lies just to the east of Jerusalem. Its location and historical significance have led to skirmishes between Israelis and Palestinians over the years. The site was controlled by Arab–ruled Jordan for nineteen years prior to the Six–Day War. In 1967, the Mount of Olives returned to Israeli control, setting the stage of Christ's return and final battle in Israel.

The Victor: Jesus and the Armies of Heaven

John's description of Christ's return can be found in Revelation 19:11–16:

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Nowhere else in the Bible do we find Jesus described with such might and power. In His First Coming, He was a Suffering Servant who sympathized with our weaknesses. In His Second Coming, He will be a powerful Warrior and King who will defend His people and forever destroy evil.

Jesus will not return alone. Verse 14 says, "And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses." When Christ comes back, He will have all His saints with Him. All believers in heaven who have been raptured or converted and killed during the Tribulation will ride in with Jesus, clothed in white. We will not need to fight. We will stand with our King and witness His power. Then we will rule with Him on earth for one thousand years.

The Adversaries: The Antichrist, the False Prophet, and Their Followers

"I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army" (Revelation 19:19).

The Antichrist (the Beast) will unite the world during the Tribulation. All those who have taken his mark and worshiped him will join his armies to battle against the Lord. Evil will make its final stand against the Lord and all that is good.

The Scene

Every human being will witness this final battle.

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30, NIV, emphasis added)

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. (Revelation 1:7, emphasis added)

The Antichrist will fight with all the strength of Satan and his evil ones, but they will be no competition for Jesus the King.

As the battle begins, an angel will cry out to the birds in the air: "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great" (Revelation 19:17–18).

The Antichrist and his False Prophet will be captured and cast into the lake of fire. With the sword from His mouth, Jesus will kill everyone that remains. It will be the largest, bloodiest battle in history. The Victor and His armies will remain unscathed, but the birds will feast on the bloody flesh of the nations.

After the battle, Satan will be bound for a thousand years (Revelation 20:2) while Jesus reigns on earth.

The Purpose of the Battle

God could destroy evil in any way He chooses, so what's the purpose of having a bloody battle?

First, Armageddon concludes Jesus' judgment upon Israel. The Tribulation period represents a time of divine indignation against the people of Israel, the people who rejected their Messiah, the people who repeatedly failed to heed the corrective and punitive judgment of God. It is no accident that this future period is often referred to as "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7).

Second, Armageddon marks the final judgment upon the countries that have persecuted Israel. With all the hostile nations of the world gathered together in the Battle of Armageddon, in the valley of Jehoshaphat, God will deal with them finally and decisively.

I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land. (Joel 3:2)

Finally, Armageddon constitutes a formal judgment on all the nations that have rejected Him. "Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Revelation 19:15).

God's activity and warnings are often missed by people pursuing ungodly goals. Because God "is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish," the nations do not believe He will judge them one day (2 Peter 3:9). But be assured, He is storing up wrath against a day to come when each person's deeds will be judged accordingly (Romans 2:5–6). The Bible is clear—one of these days God will have had enough, and His judgment will pour down like consuming fire against wickedness in earth's final battle.

Complete audio message as heard at Shadow Mountain Community Church

Arming for Armageddon

Complete audio message as heard at Shadow Mountain Community Church

The word "Armageddon" is used in modern cultures to describe doomsday-type events--or even a "meeting with the boss." Many people don't know it is the biblical name for earth's final great battle--when Israel is saved from annihilation and the rebellious nations of earth are defeated.

Unscramble the five words below and place the answers in the space provided.
Use the circled letters to unscramble the final clue.

Tryram

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Evangelists

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The sky is falling

God has used a long line of agents in earlier days who have passed their faith down to us. In biblical history, apostolic history, and the story of the Church are heroes of whom the world is not worthy. But who are God's agents in the world now? Who are His ambassadors today? Who can represent Him in these turbulent times?

It's us! You and I are His agents of the last days. As the apostle Paul told Timothy: "Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come…. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of … the Holy Scriptures … Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season" (2 Timothy 3:1 – 4:2).

Our English word agent comes from a Latin term meaning "to do." It refers to someone who does the bidding of another, who is authorized to act on another's behalf, like an ambassador. When the Bible says, "We are ambassadors for Christ," it means we're authorized to work on behalf of our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:20). We're His agents; and since we're living in the last days, we're God's special agents as we preach the message of a returning King.

I believe we're living on the crest of the times. We've watched the rising tides of history pushing forward, coming closer, foaming, and starting to crest. The Middle East is wracked with terrorism, regional violence, endless war, and proliferating nuclear armaments. Around the world, we're witnessing a moral collapse exceeding anyone's expectations. The growth of the Church is accelerating around the world, but so is global persecution. These are the days of Noah on overdrive because of the technological advances that both assist us and threaten us.

The Apocalypse is coming. But even during the Great Tribulation, God will have boots on the ground. From now until then, you and I are on a mission. We are God's agents in the last days. God uses His people to accomplish His work and His will.

We can face our times with either despair or determination. We're tempted to despair; we feel like we're buckled into a car hurtling down a mountain with no brakes. Every day the headlines bring us alarming stories of military threats and moral decline. But Jesus predicted all this, and God wants us to stand firm, to be biblical optimists, to be zealous evangelists, and to represent Him as His agents and emissaries in this world.

The Bible talks of this in 2 Corinthians 5:14–21, when the apostle Paul wrote: The love of Christ compels us… If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation… [God] has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation… We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Based on this passage, we can identify four assignments to carry out until Christ returns.

Be a New Person in Christ

First, we must be born again. We must be new creatures in Christ. Old things pass away; all things are made new. There are many good causes in the world, and lots of people find fulfillment in taking up a worthy movement. Celebrities lend their names to a host of interests. Philanthropists donate their fortunes to humanitarian crusades. But God's agents are the ones who can change both time and eternity, and we must be born again. As a young man, John Wesley sailed to Georgia to engage in religious and humanitarian works, but he faltered. Writing in his journal on his voyage home, he said, "I went to America to convert the Indians; but, O! who shall convert me?" Shortly afterward, Wesley was born again and set the world on fire. The revival that swept across England under his preaching reformed the morals of his nation, led to tremendous evangelistic and humanitarian ministries, and likely saved England from the kind of terror that occurred across the Channel during the French Revolution.

God wants to convert (change) your heart through Christ. That's the first step of being His agent on this planet.

Be Compelled by His Love

Having been reconciled to God through the blood of Christ, we become agents of reconciliation. Our hearts are compelled by the love of Christ, and we want to reach others. One man who grasped this was Griffith John (1831–1912), a Welsh missionary to China. He once told a group of college students why he pursued his work with such passion, saying, "The love of Christ to me, personally, constrains me to live to Him and for Him. He died for me; and I will die for Him. He lives for me; and I will live for Him. I will work for His sake; I will suffer for His sake. There is nothing I would not do to please Him … All I can do is to lay myself on the altar and say: ‘Lord Jesus, take me as I am, and use me for Thine own purpose and glory. The love of Christ constraineth me.' "1

When we encounter the anger, arrogance, and vanity of our times, we're tempted to respond with disdain. Instead, let's envision a world needing a message of reconciliation. Let's lay ourselves on the altar to be used for His purposes and glory, compelled by His love.

Be an Ambassador for Christ

In what practical ways, then, can you and I share the love of Christ today? How does Christ plead with the world through us? Sometimes it's with unspoken acts of kindness. Sometimes it's by supporting others engaged in certain specialized ministries. We often find service within the tasks and programs of our local churches. But at some point, every ambassador and agent needs to speak up. Paul used the word pleading.

The Meloon family, which has been manufacturing powerboats since 1925, is known for their vibrant Christian witness. One of the brothers, Ralph Meloon, printed his personal testimony on business cards and tracts and freely distributes them. Once, after flying to a conference in tourist class, Ralph was asked by his friend Van Thurston why he didn't fly first class where he could rest and feel better. "Oh," Ralph replied, "There's only twelve people up front. There's 100 in the back. I can walk up and down those aisles and give out tracts all day."2 And he does.

We're all commissioned to walk up and down the aisles of this world and share our testimony about the love and power of Christ as though God were pleading through us.

Be the Righteousness of the King

Our constraining love and compelling message must be reinforced with personal holiness. In a filthy world, we should remain clean. In a polluted culture, we should strive to keep ourselves pure. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. It's our privilege to do what the world doesn't do, and to refrain from doing what the world does. The Bible tells us to come out from among them and be separate. Is any habit in your life hindering your witness today? Agents live in a different manner from others. Everything centers on our operation, our assignment, and the glory of Him who sends us.

Make sure Christ is your personal Redeemer. Let His love grip your heart. Think of yourself as His agent in these days. Preach the Word however and wherever and whenever you can. And live a life of righteousness for Him as an example to all who are watching. We're here to be busy until He comes, to do His work, to warn of the coming Apocalypse, and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are agents of the last days—preaching a returning King. There's no more exciting task, and there's never been a more urgent time.

1Rev. Griffith John, "Motives in Foreign Missions," in The Intercollegian, Volumes 25–29, published by Young Men's Christian Associations of North America (New York: The Bancroft, 1902), 198.

2James Vincent, Parting the Waters (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1997), 171.

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