In Jesus’ Words: Heaven and Good Deeds (final part of Olivet Discourse on End Times)-Matthew 25

I read a statistic recently that said about 75% of Americans think “being good” will get them to heaven. That must include a lot of church-going people in that statistic! In response, my analytical mind always wants to ask, “How good do you have to be?”  Is one really good heroic deed enough?  Or does the good have to outnumber the bad – and if so, what is considered bad, because that is equally important to the equation. And do little white lies count as bad?  You get the idea.

Ironically, the statistics on charitable giving and doing is far less than the 75% who think being good will get them to heaven.  Do most people generally think they are a good person, and that in itself will be enough?  If people truly believed good deeds are the way to heaven, then there would be a lot more of it in the world.  I think most people intrinsically know there is something more than just that.

In Jesus’ message below, we should definitely take to heart what He says about caring for the hungry and the sick, but it is to be done as an outcome of our belief and love in Jesus Christ – the One who saves us and genuinely cares for all – and not as a means get to heaven.

Every word and statement in the Bible has meaning, and not a single world is carelessly placed. Right before Jesus’ tells his example about caring for the less-fortunate, He makes this statement in Matthew 25:34: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  The kingdom of heaven is a gift from the beginning (salvation), and not based on anything we do ourselves.

~ Matthew 25:31-46  Final part of Olivet Discourse (End Times) preached by Jesus ~

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!

For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’

“Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’

“Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

*If you are interested in knowing more about who Jesus really is, or how you can have Jesus as a personal friend and Savior for your life, check out the Jesus Booklet series from Godlife.com.

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In Jesus’ Words: The Olivet Discourse (End Times Part 2) – Two different statements

 

“I assure you: I do not know you!”

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Which would you rather hear? 

 

 

Jesus tells us two parables about the end times in the second part of his speech known as the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25.  Jesus delivers this speech on the Mount of Olives at the end of his ministry, and it is considered to be some of the most prophetic messages of the entire Bible.  It is not from Revelations, which is controversial to some, but this comes directly from Jesus.  Two parables are told; both with very different statements on the outcomes.  There doesn’t seem to be any room in the middle.  God is not a grey area, and the Bible and Jesus give us all the information we need to know about Heaven and end times.

~ Matthew 25: 1-30  Part 2 of Olivet Discourse – Parables about End Times ~

The Parable of the 10 Virgins

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.  Five of them were foolish and five were sensible.  When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them.  But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.  Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

“Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.  But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

“The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

“When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.

“Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’

“But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’

“Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.

The Parable of the Talents

“For it is just like a man going on a journey. He called his own servants and turned over his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one—to each according to his own ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately  the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more.  In the same way the man with two earned two more. But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. Look, I’ve earned five more talents.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’

“Then the man with two talents also approached. He said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. Look, I’ve earned two more talents.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’

“Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, ‘Master, I know you. You’re a difficult man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’

“But his master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy servant! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, then you should have deposited my money with the bankers. And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest.

“‘So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has 10 talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. And throw this good-for-nothing servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

*If you are interested in knowing more about who Jesus really is, or how you can have Jesus as a personal friend and Savior for your life, check out the Jesus Booklet series from Godlife.com.

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In Jesus’ Words: The Olivet Discourse (End Times Part 1) – Matthew 24

In 2012, it was predicted by some that the world would end on December 21, 2012 according to the end of the Mayan calendar.  It was a big discussion at my workplace, and some people were genuinely concerned.  I spoke up and said rather directly, “The world is not going to end on that day.”  “But how do you know?” came the response from my co-workers.  “Because the Bible says no one knows the day or hour.  If someone is predicting it, you can be certain it is not going to happen then.”

Now, 5 years later, we have completely forgotten about that while we have other concerns – worldly tensions, nuclear threats, disease, persecution, earthquakes.  Just like my co-workers were then, some people may be concerned now.  But the Bible also tells us that “the Good News will be preached to all the world.” (Matthew 24:14)  There is good news and there is hope!  “Those who endure (have faith) will be delivered.” (Matthew 24:13)  And that is what we should remember.  We will all die and face God someday, whether it comes through the end times or not.  The main point Jesus is trying to tell us in his speech about the end times is that we should take our faith seriously, and not be unconcerned or indifferent as they were in Noah’s time.  It is not the sinners that Jesus is directly speaking of here but the hypocrites – those who know better but do nothing. (Matthew 24:51)

~ Matthew 24:  Olivet Discourse Part 1 of 2 – Jesus talks about the end times ~

Destruction of the Temple Predicted

As Jesus left and was going out of the temple complex, His disciples came up and called His attention to the temple buildings. Then He replied to them, “Don’t you see all these things? I assure you: Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!”

Signs of the End of the Age

While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”

Then Jesus replied to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many. You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these events are the beginning of birth pains.

Persecutions Predicted

“Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. 14 This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.

The Great Tribulation

15 “So when you see the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place”, 16 “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains! 17 A man on the housetop must not come down to get things out of his house. 18 And a man in the field must not go back to get his clothes.19 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days! 20 Pray that your escape may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For at that time there will be great tribulation, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again! 22 Unless those days were limited, no one would survive. But those days will be limited because of the elect.

23 “If anyone tells you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Over here!’ do not believe it! 24 False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Take note: I have told you in advance. 26 So if they tell you, ‘Look, He’s in the wilderness!’ don’t go out; ‘Look, He’s in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.28 Wherever the carcass is, there the vultures will gather.

The Coming of the Son of Man

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days:

The sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not shed its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the celestial powers will be shaken.

30 “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

The Parable of the Fig Tree

32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near—at the door! 34 I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.

No One Knows the Day or Hour

36 “Now concerning that day and hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son —except the Father only. 37 As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 38 For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. 39 They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. So this is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be: 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this: If the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he would have stayed alert and not let his house be broken into. 44 This is why you also must be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Faithful Service to the Messiah

45 “Who then is a faithful and sensible slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time? 46 That slave whose master finds him working when he comes will be rewarded.47 I assure you: He will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked slave says in his heart, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and starts to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 that slave’s master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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In Jesus’ Words: Lamentation over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39)

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” – Matthew 23:37-39

In the final days of Jesus’ ministry, he expresses his sorrow and immense desire for the repentance of the nation of Israel.  And with this statement, he announces that his public teaching ministry is over – no more arguments with the Pharisees or teaching in the synagogue.  What is about to follow, which we will see in the next chapter of Matthew, is called the Olivet Discourse, where Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives and speaks about the end times.  This was also amazingly predicted by the prophet Ezekiel when he spoke to the Jewish exiles in Ezekiel 11:23: “The glory of the Lord rose up from within the city and stood on the mountains east of the city.” (Mount of Olives)

Jesus ends his lamentation to Israel by quoting from Psalm 118:26:

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

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In Jesus’ Words: Do as they say, not as they do. (Matthew 23:1-36)

How many times have we heard the use of the words, “Do as I say, not as I do.”?  That expression actually came from one of Jesus’ speeches where he is talking about the Pharisees and scribes, the religious hypocrites of his day.

Where did these Pharisees and scribes come from and why was Jesus so against them? They are not mentioned as part of the religious order in the Old Testament.  These new groups came about during the 400 year period of silence between the last prophet of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament.  The Old Testament tells about Levite Priests, Judges, Prophets and Kings, all appointed by God, but has no mention of the religious orders of Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, and many of these other groups.

These new groups produced so many restrictions and rules that made it almost impossible for anyone to come to God.  No wonder Jesus was angry.  In this speech, Jesus is talking to the crowds who are following him and to his disciples, not the Pharisees; and he is telling the crowds, “Do as they say but not as they do.”  Note that he is not rejecting what the scripture says, just how they are acting on it.  Jesus is coming to the end of his ministry here, and is starting to make his final and closing statements.  It’s a long speech, but worth the read.  Read it slowly, and let it sink in.  It is wise advice for all of us.

~ Matthew 23:1-36  Religious Hypocrites Denounced ~

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries (small boxes containing Old Testament texts worn around their necks) and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.

“But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven. And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You lock up the kingdom of heaven from people. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.

[“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses and make long prayers just for show. This is why you will receive a harsher punishment.]

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte (convert to Jew), and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the sanctuary, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by his oath.’ Blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that sanctified the gold? Also, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the altar, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gift that is on it is bound by his oath.’ Blind people! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore, the one who takes an oath by the altar takes an oath by it and by everything on it. The one who takes an oath by the sanctuary takes an oath by it and by Him who dwells in it. And the one who takes an oath by heaven takes an oath by God’s throne and by Him who sits on it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn’t have taken part with them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ You, therefore, testify against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ sins!

“Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell? This is why I am sending you prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and hound from town to town. So all the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. I assure you: All these things will come on this generation!

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In Jesus’ Words: Questions about the Messiah (Matthew 22:41-46)

If someone truly has ultimate authority, and they know without a doubt who they are, what their mission is, and what the outcome will be, then they do not need to “prove themselves” to anyone.  Politicians prove themselves.  Experts prove themselves.  Even false Messiahs have tried to prove themselves.  God does not need to prove Himself. But He is interested in what we think.

~ Matthew 22:41-46  The Messiah ~

While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?”

“David’s,” they told Him.

He asked them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord’:

The Lord declared to my Lord,
‘Sit at My right hand
until I put Your enemies under Your feet'”?

If David calls Him, ‘Lord’, how then can the Messiah be his Son?”

No one was able to answer Him at all, and from that day no one dared to question Him any more.

Most people will agree that a man named Jesus lived around the time of 30 AD.  And history tells us that the Pharisees did everything in their power to kill him.  After the stories of Jesus’ resurrection came to be known and belief in the Messiah was spreading quickly, it seems plausible that those same Pharisees would do everything in their power to find the dead body and shut this down.  After all, if it had been a hoax and Jesus was not the Messiah and Son of God, then there would have been a body. With all the publicity, the Roman guards and the heavy stone in the way, somebody would have seen something, said something, or produced some evidence.  It would have been too big of a story to hide. And eleven disciples would not spend the next 30 years being tortured and martyred for a hoax.

If God is unable to raise someone from the dead, then He is unable to give us eternal life after death.  What do you think?

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In Jesus’ Words: The Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) –

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?

Jesus answered the man, who was an expert in the law, by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37-40)

This is one of the few questions Jesus answers directly and succinctly.  It’s pretty clear, and not many can argue with its validity.  Why then is it one of the hardest for us to follow?  We define many types and names for love, argue over it in our court systems, write endless poetry and songs about it, and divorce it when it is no longer convenient.

We don’t need more definitions and rules about love.  Instead, here are some beautiful thoughts on what it means to show God’s love and greatest commandment.  This is the one time I say we should not try to over-think it.

“Gift from the Sea”, Anne Morrow Lindbergh –
“How does one learn this technique of the dance, the joy of living in the moment?  Why is it so difficult?  What makes us hesitate and stumble?  It is fear, I think, that makes one cling to the last moment or clutch greedily to the next.  It can only be replaced by love.  When the heart is flooded with love, there is no room in it for fear, doubt, or hesitation.  Living in the present ebb and flow of the tides – not owning or possessing or demanding, but freely, not looking back or forward in dread, but the present.”

“Crazy Love”, Francis Chan –
“Love sets us free from hate, guilt and fear.  When we focus on Christ, this seems more natural.  Love is the only thing that can defeat all.”

St. Augustine of Hippo, Christian theologian and philosopher –
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

Love is the reason God created us, why God cares for us, why we are free to choose, why Christ died for us, and why we can receive eternal life.  Love explains everything.

Happy Easter!  It is the greatest love story of all time.

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