Setting Dates for Christ's Return

Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 2:2
Date: 01/08/2011 
People over the years have predicted the exact date of Christ's second coming and have obviously failed. The Bible teaches we do not know the day or hour when Jesus will return, but we can know it is near. What is most important is for us to live in a state of being ready always.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

The content of today’s message, and I won’t always be doing this and I prayed about it, but I think it’s important and you’ll probably figure out pretty soon why I’m going down this road. It’s dealing with setting dates for Christ’s return or predicting dates for Jesus’ return. And this is something we need to talk about periodically and it’s very important for us to understand what the bible says about this practice.

Now how many of you, let me just see your hands, how many of you have either known somebody or you’ve heard before of somebody in modern times who has felt that they found the date when Jesus would come or the date for the rapture. Let’s see your hands. Okay, this should be relevant then. It covers just about everybody, right?

Probably one of the more recent episodes of that has been coming out of family radio in the last few months. I actually heard about it some time ago. You know, Jesus said in Matthew 24:11, speaking of the end of time and the last days, he warned us. As a matter of fact, he says in twice in Matthew 24, ‘Many false prophets will arise and deceive many.’ There would be a lot of this. And he said, ‘If any false prophets say lo here is Christ or there, believe them not.’

When it happens, you’re not going to need to have anyone announce it on the radio. Everybody will know when it happens. Now, I don’t want to be disrespectful, but I think if you get out on the radio and television and tell everybody you’ve found the date for Jesus’ return, then you’re sort of fair game. And more recently, Harold Camping, for the second time -- this is the president of Family Radio -- and I’ll tell you, Family Radio has some great programs. I was listening this morning. They read the bible on the radio. They have some good Christian music. They have some good programs on creation and even health. It’s a lot of good programming.

But one of the founders and the leader of Family Radio, Harold Camping -- and I don’t want to judge the man. I mean, I don’t know what’s going on in his heart, but this is going to be the second time now he’s set a date for Jesus’ coming and the end of the world. He’s an engineer, which automatically makes you suspect. Sorry, I’m sorry, any engineers that are here today, but they like to calculate things and measure things and figure things. And accountants do, I suppose. They both do that. And he’s now telling everybody that the world is going to end and the date that he set is May 21, 2011.

Furthermore, he tells everybody and -- this is their website. I just cut and paste from their website there, Judgment day, blow the trumpet and they’ve got people going around with vans saying the world is going to end and the rapture is going to take place and he’s figured it out. And I think the next slide uses some of the logic of how he’s come to this conclusion. It says, ‘God gives another infallible proof,’ very confident, ‘that assures the rapture will occur May 21, 2011.’ And then it says, ‘Years ago, we learned from the bible that the flood occurred in the year 4990 B.C. Now, where did he get that date? They just state that and there’s no real reason. That doesn’t make any sense at all, according to the Bible chronology.

‘More recently, we learned that the judgment day is to occur in the year 2011.’ The year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. I think he picked 2011 and just calculated back 7,000 years. I don’t know how he did that, but there’s nothing that I know of, anything in archeology or the bible or bible history that gives us that day for the flood. I think a drunk fortune teller on LSD can come up with better calculations than I’ve heard. And I don’t want to be disrespectful, but whenever I hear -- and furthermore, what makes it suspect is when some of these characters start setting dates; simultaneous with that, they begin to say the church has fallen, the church is Babylon, don’t go to church anymore, which Harold Camping is saying. On his radio program, he says, ‘If you’re part of any organized church, you’re part of the falling Babylon.’ So people say, well, what should we be part of? ‘Well, you could try my radio church.’ Where do we send our offerings? Hello. And it all becomes very suspicious.

And again, this is the second time. You know, when I first came to pastor here 17 years ago, he had been predicting that in 1994, September, that the world was going to end. And it kind of worked in our favor because that year we had an Evangelistic series right here and it was one of the best meetings we’ve ever had. A lot of people -- as a matter of fact, we had a baptism two weeks ago, Bill Hoshell, who came to that series. And it just took 17 years for him to make his decision, or 16 years. So there’s, you know, good things came out of that. Some people stirred up and they came. You would think that you’d lose all credibility. But, you know, people find out, enough time goes by and they can stir things up again and start setting dates and it gets folks all excited.

Now, you can predict the weather today a little better than you used to be able to predict the weather because, you know, now we’ve got satellites up in the sky and we’ve got buoys out in the sea and you’ve got aviation reports that are coming in. And the accuracy of predicting the weather is much better now than it ever has been. But I don’t know if you’ve noticed that even now with all of the modern technology we have, they still sometimes get it wrong. And so they try and cover themselves by saying, rain tomorrow or snow tomorrow, 50 percent, 30 percent, 60 percent. It’s like gambling, which means it’s an educated guess.

So when people start trying to predict the second coming of Jesus in light of everything that Jesus said about what we can know and what we can’t know, it’s very reckless. Now what leads to that? Oh, by the way, Ben Franklin said, ‘People thought more about the weather than any other subject and it’s one subject they can do almost nothing about.’ Isn’t that right? Why do people want to know the exact day of Jesus’ coming? Well, if you could know, would you want to know? If you could know the day you were going to die, would you want to know? Have you really thought about that? What if I told you that it was 100 years from now? Wouldn’t you like to know that? Would you feel a little better knowing that? If it’s going to be next week, would you want to know? Are you all ready? You’ve got your will all written and everything’s all ready? Some of you, the jury’s out. I can tell you’re thinking about it right now.

By the way, when we talk about knowing the day when Jesus is coming, we’re kind of talking about the end of the world, for us anyway, aren’t we? So some people want to know. There’s a certain amount of insecurity that we feel about what the future holds. When is the day of the Lord, or the day of the Lord for me, anyway?

They’ve got people out there that are financial planners that will help you plan for your financial future. And there are life coaches out there that will help you, coach you in your life. And there’s life planners now. And I know some people that have gone to visit life planners. This is probably a good thing. I think it’s good for you to talk to a good financial advisor and it’s not bad maybe to have a counselor sit down and say, ‘Have you thought about, based on what God’s will is, where you want to see yourself?’ It’s good to have some kind of a broad plan and be open to God’s leading, right? Now I can tell you now, that should I live long enough, I’m not going to keep up the pace I’ve got now forever. I’d like to scale back a little bit and spend more time teaching and writing and less time on airplanes. But the Lord might have a different plan, so you want to be open to it.

The bible tells us about attitudes we should have about the second coming and the future. There was even issues, there were issues, even back in the bible times with folks that were unsettling everybody about predicting times. Turn with me to 2 Thessalonians. Paul in his letters the Thessalonians, both 1 and 2, talks a lot about the second coming.

2 Thessalonians 2, and I’ll start with verse 1. The 2 Thessalonians 2:1, ‘Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ no mistaking who he’s talking about, our Lord Jesus Christ, coming again, ‘and our gathering to him, being caught up to him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled.’ Don’t be troubled or shaken too soon is what he’s saying. Well, you know, it seems like everything else we read in bible says, behold I come quickly, it is soon, it’s at the doors, and then yet Paul is saying, no, wait a second, you might be misunderstanding those statements. Don’t be soon shaken in mind, don’t be troubled, either by spirit. We had a vision, we had a dream. A ghost, spirit, came and talked to us. Or by word or by letter as if from us, some people say I can prove it from the writings of Paul and the writings of the Apostles, I’ve got the date calculated. So don’t be troubled. It doesn’t matter if they say they’ve had a dream.

We had somebody come through our church a few years ago, I won’t mention any names, shook hands with me at the door. I was introduced and they went on their way. Then they developed a website and said, ‘I’ve had this dream about the day when the Lord was coming back and I’ve met with…’ and this person listed Mark Finley, Doug Batchelor and different people as though we had affirmed this date. And I vaguely remember someone telling me they had a dream. And you, usually when people tell me that, I politely nod and smile. I didn’t know what they were talking about. And they began to circulate that somehow I was endorsing that this date that they had -- of course, it’s all come and gone. I don’t know if it was for the second coming of the Lord or some events leading up to it, but nothing happened. And you’ve just got to be real careful. You might have a dream, I might have a dream. Do we base our conclusions on dreams that we have? It’s got to go along with what the word of God says. Let no one deceive you by any means. The bible warns there will be a lot of deception on this subject, ‘For that day will not come unless there comes a falling away first and the man’s sin is revealed.’ Has that happened yet? Not to the world. ‘And the son of perdition who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or his worship so that he sits in the temple of God showing himself that he is God.’

You know, back to Family Radio and Harold Camping, I have a fleeting thought. It’s just the way that my mind works. I’d like to put an ad in the paper in San Francisco or Oakland where they’re based and say, ‘Amazing Facts will offer you $100,000 for Family Radio Network.’ It’s got a great station network all over the world. You can use it anyway you want, but if Jesus come by the 1st of June, you sign it all over to Amazing Facts. And my reasoning would be that if you’re right, you deserve our $100,000. If you’re wrong, you don’t deserve to have that radio network because you end up getting people all stirred up and then they lose faith in Christianity and preachers and the word of God and it does much more harm than good. So I’m still thinking about that. We don’t have that $100,000 offer yet, but I think we could get it. Anyway, just a thought.

You know, this is not the first time that people have issued false alarms. Let me give you a few high points. I don’t have enough time to cover all of the false prophets and prognosticators that have talked about when the second coming is going to be. And many of them were well-meaning. I’m not judging them. Some of them sincerely misapplied versus in the bible. It goes all the way back to the Apostles. Did the Apostles misunderstand Christ’s first coming? They did. Did Jesus give them times about when he said that he was going to die?

When Christ came the first time, how many were ready? They weren’t. Even back in the days of Jesus, were there many who rose up saying they were Christ? You read that in the book Acts. Ramalio (phonetic) said, oh, we’ve had others who have come before claiming that they were the Messiah.

We know as recently in the last couple hundred years, I think we all know about William Miller, Godly Christian man, well-intentioned, but he had a calculation wrong. He misunderstood something. He took the prophecies in the bible that talked about the cleansing of the sanctuary. He assumed the earth was the sanctuary and that it was to be cleansed by fire at the second coming. He may have had the date right, but he had the event wrong.

By the way, when Christ came the first time, the Apostles, they were right about his being the Messiah. They were wrong about the nature of the event. They got his first coming and second coming mixed up. They thought he was going to come like a lion the first time. He came like a lamb the first time and sacrificed and really confused the disciples at first.

William Miller said that the Lord was coming October 22, 1844. Had the great advent movement. Just for the record, a lot of people confused that with Seventh Day Adventists. Seventh Day Adventists did not exist at that point. They were not formed until 1863.

Then you’ve got Charles Taze Russell with the Jehovah Witnesses and they’ve set several dates. They taught in 1914 it would the year when the times of the gentiles ended. They thought that was synonymous with the second coming. When it didn’t happen, they said, well, Jesus did come, but it was a spiritual coming. That will work once or twice. And then in 1975, they said the great battle of Armageddon would take place. Of course, it didn’t, and they downplayed that and I don’t know how they take care of that. And then they said when they reached 144,000 Jehovah Witnesses, Jesus would come. Well, they surpassed that number. And so they’ve set several days and it didn’t happen.

Chuck Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel, may be very sincere, but he was certain that the rapture would take place in 1981. Well, have you checked your calendar? It did not happen.

And right along with him, Hal Lindsey wrote that bestselling book in the 1970s, the Late Great Planet Earth. Now, in that book, they believed that Israel being reformed as a nation in 1948 -- by the way, I do think that is a tremendously significant event. But then they said a generation will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled, bible generation 40 years go from 1948 to 1988. That’s when the Lord’s going to come back after the seven years of tribulation. It means that a secret rapture has to take place -- this is their chronology, eschatology, secret rapture has to take place in 1981 for the Lord to come back in 1988 and they put that all in the book, a bestselling book. Everybody got excited. None of it happened. Not in 1981, not in 1988. None of it happened. No retractions are printed. Keep selling books. Hal Lindsey still has a TV program where he explains prophecy.

And then you’ve got another fellow whose name was Edgar C. Whisenant, a former Nassau engineer. He sold 4.5 million copies of a book that’s called 88 Reasons Why the Lord is Going to Come by 1988. And as a matter of fact, I’ve got just a few more details on that. This -- he was using -- he was very sincere, evidently. He said, ‘Only if the bible is wrong am I wrong. I would stake my life that the Lord is going to come on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish Festival, 1988.’ And he evidentially got some evangelicals onboard with him. They sent out 300,000 copies of their book for free to all the different pastors to get everyone ready. Trinity Broadcasting Network, which of course, is still around today, they interrupted their programming, they accepted this. They interviewed the author and began to tell people how to get ready for the rapture; leave notes behind for your family so they’ll know where you went. The next day, of course after the Lord did not come, programming resumed as normal. I don’t know that there was any retraction printed. And Mr. Whisenant also predicted, he said, ‘Oh, there’s a miscalculation, it’s actually 1989.’ And then he printed another book and said, ‘Oh no, it’s 1993.’ And he said, ‘No, it’s 1994, 1995. The last one was 1997, but by that point, nobody was listening. He had his 15 minutes of fame.

Then there was a Korean group, South Korean mission for coming day is predicted October 28, 1992 for the rapture. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in their churches, they had given everything to these churches, a great sacrifice. And when it didn’t happen, there was a lot of outrage and they were fearing riots in the street.

Then in 1994, John Hinkle, Church of Christ in L.A., he predicted June 9, 1994. And then you’ve got Sir Isaac Newton. Now, he didn’t exactly predict the date, but he said the Lord can’t come any sooner than 2060. He’s probably the most credible one in the bunch. But I think that he’s actually going too far. I think he’s overshot it. You’ve probably heard other dates, haven’t you?

And then of course, how many have you heard about Brother Harold Camping? I’m really going to be -- a lot of people are going to turn on their radios the day after -- Family Radio, I think are going to have a lot of listeners. Everyone is going to want to know what are they going to say. Now you might be saying, ‘Pastor Doug, you better be so arrogant. How do you know it won’t happen then? Then what are you going to say?’ Well, I hope He does come, but I think there’s bible reasons why it will not -- He could come for Harold Camping on that day. He’s 88 years old. We don’t know, right?

But I think globally it won’t happen. Here’s a few reasons. One, Jesus said the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world for witness under all nations. Then the end will come. There’s still quite a work to be done among the Muslims of the world. There’s still quite a work to be done in China of people who really have not heard the gospel as a witness. And, you know, there’s also things that are supposed to happen with the governments and the powers and the religions of the world, some confederacies that will need to be formed that are not happening yet. And so, there’s just a lot of prophetic events that haven’t lined up and it’s hard to anticipate them all happening by May. I could be wrong, but you know what, I will be happy to apologize to Brother Camping if I am wrong. But he’s already shot and missed once and I have a funny feeling this is very suspicious. Especially, you know, you look at some of the other characteristics. When you tell everybody not to go to church anymore, those are dubious motives.

Then just forget about that for a minute. The world at large is asking questions about the end of the world and the second coming. How many have you heard of the Mayan calendar? The Mayan calendar. Well, according to this Mayan calendar, and by the way, the Mayan calendars, there are several of them, they all read a little different and they’ve got these hieroglyphics. Could you interpret that? And, you know, they’ve really lost a lot of history. But according to this, they’re going through a cycle. Let me read something to you, dealing with the Mayan calendar. ‘Authors disagree about what humankind should expect on December 21, 2012 when the Mayans long count calendar marks the end of a 5,126-year era. Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Florida, she said, and supposedly an expert on the Central American Indians, ‘For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to mark the end of the whole cycle, to render,’ notice this -- ‘to render December 21st, 2012 as a doomsday where a moment of cosmic shifting,’ she says, ‘is a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.’ Did you catch that? It’s not only some of the televangelists that are trying to cash in on setting dates for the second coming or selling books. It’s even movie makers that are doing it.

The idea of this is that supposedly, according to the Mayan calendar and maybe even some astronomers, on the winter solstice of 2012, the sun is going to be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years. That means whatever energy patterns typically make their way through earth, they’re going to be altered. What does that mean? Does that mean Jesus has to come? Oh, no, look where the sun is, I’ve got to come now. Is that how Jesus is determining when to come back? But how many have you heard of the Mayan calendar?

Karen and I were in Belize a couple of years ago. We’re going back again. And we’ve climbed around on the Mayan ruins there. At one point I sat in a van with a driver who was a Mayan Indian and I asked him about that and I said, ‘Have you heard about this Mayan calendar stuff?’ And he just laughed and he said, ‘Yeah, it’s so funny,’ he said, ‘It doesn’t mean anything.’ So even down there, they’re laughing at how we get excited about these things. And people get stirred up pretty easy.

Now what are some of the other favorite subjects, some of the other fodder, the ammunition, that’s often used in connection with setting dates for the second coming? Some of the favorite verses. Have you heard of the Jewish Jubilee calendar? You know, the Jews, in the bible, they’ve got a calendar where, at end of a 50-year cycle, after the 49th year, everybody was to be liberated. And so people try and peg, what is the best date for the Jewish Jubilee and Jewish rabbis struggle to figure out how to take the jubilees from the bible time, from Exodus and Leviticus, and apply it to our day. It’s not even clear to the rabbis. So any Christians that say we’ve figured out what the date for the jubilee is, that’s already suspicious and then they say that has to be when Jesus comes back. Really? I don’t see anything in that study that says that is going to be synonymous with the second coming. It had to do with giving land back to people.

Now Jesus may choose to align his second coming with one of the many Jewish feasts. Why not Passover or Yom Kippur or Feast of Trumpets. I mean, there’s several different feasts. So He may. And then there’s also those who say, well, you know, I began to wonder, will Jesus come 2,000 years from the time of his birth. Any of you remember that? Keep in mind, he was born about 4 B.C., so a lot of people, well, you know, if he wants to be right on time, 1996. Take four years away from the year 2000. A lot of people got excited about that. Planets lined up. I was still a new Christian, 1987, there was some alignment of the planets. I don’t know if anyone even remembers that anymore. Everybody got all excited and said this is going to be it.

Now people are saying not 2,000 from the birth of Jesus. It’s going to be 2,000 years from the death of Jesus. Could be, I don’t know. But I’m not going to be preaching that. That would be, he died 31 A.D., so that would be 2031. Some of you just went, ah, good, I can relax now, right?

Daniel 4, the vision of the tree, that could be interpreted as one of the longest time prophecies in the bible. If you make each of those seven times count for a prophetic year, that the tree is cut down and -- you ought to be in the Amazing Facts office and see some of the mail we get. Because we do teach prophecy and believe in prophecy and study prophecy, I must get one prophetic chart a week, at least, of somebody who has calculations that they want me to look at. And I don’t want to be unkind. I really don’t want to be unkind, but friends, whenever someone sends me a chart with a whole lot of really small writing and lines and arrows going in all these different directions and circles and triangles, I start becoming skeptical right away because somebody is using their math or their calculator to try and pinpoint the second coming of Jesus. Should we be doing that? Does the Lord want us to get our calculators out and look at all the times in the prophecies and see if we can figure out the day of Jesus coming? Why do you want to know that? It’s not like filing your taxes where you can say I’ll wait until the last minute and then I’ll send them in so I can earn interest on my money as long as possible, then I’ll send it to Uncle Sam.

Some people perhaps are thinking in their hearts, ‘if I know when Jesus is coming, I mean, if it isn’t until 2031 or someday decades off into the future, I can relax a little bit, live for the devil. And then as that day nears, I’ll repent. I’ll have an 11th-hour conversion experience. Should anybody have that attitude? Does the Lord give us a day so that we can postpone preparation until that date? Or does he say be ready, meaning always live in a state of preparation for His coming.

Now there’s some clear scriptures on the subject regarding can we predict the date and the hour of Christ coming. Now, maybe I should post my notes afterwards so you’ll have these, but I think most of you know these versus. I’m going to read several scriptures to you quickly.

Acts 1:6, Jesus tells us that, ‘Therefore when they have come together, they ask the Lord, Lord will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel.’ They not only misunderstood the time, they misunderstood the event. And he said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father put in his own authority.’ Notice that emphasis, the Father has this in his own authority. But he takes them from their focus on when he’s coming back and he focuses them back down onto earth. He said, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you so that you can decipher the prophecies and know when I’m coming back.’ Is that what he said? Are you reading with me? They’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria, even unto the ends of the earth.

The reason that he gives us the Holy Spirit is not so that we can untangle some mathematical secret that is buried in the prophecies and we can announce we’ve discovered the second coming and write a book and make it a best seller and then retire rich. Is that why He gives us the Holy Spirit? Or does He give us the Holy Spirit to live Godly lives and be witnesses for Christ to bring people to the cross? He dismissed their asking about the date. Did you catch that? He said the time and the season, He said, is not for you to know that. He swept it aside and He said, you’re going to get the Holy Spirit, I want you to be my witnesses. Be witnesses was the emphasis of Jesus.

Matthew 24, The disciples show Him the buildings of the temple, He said there is not going to be left here one stone upon another and they thought, wow, that must be the end of the world for the temple will be destroyed and they come and they tug on Jesus’ robe and say tell us Lord, when will these things be? What will be the signs for the time? We want a date. And you know, all through Matthew 24, which is synonymous with Mark 13, Luke 17, Luke 21, is where Jesus is answering that question about when is it going to happen. Listen to how Jesus punctuates the importance of not worrying about the day or the hour.

Matthew 24:36, ‘But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.’

Again, Matthew 24:42, I don’t have enough time to read it all. I’m just going to jump out some of the high points here. ‘Watch therefore, you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.’ Watch meaning be prepared.

Mathew 24:44, ‘Therefore, you also must be ready, live in a state of preparation, of preparedness, for the Son of Man is coming in an hour you do not expect.’ So no matter -- as soon as someone says it’s going to be May something, I’m going to say, so you expect that? Yeah, I expect it. Well, then you’re wrong. Because Jesus said you will not be able to expect it. It’s when you don’t expect. He might be coming a week later, because no one will expect it then. Everyone’s going to be laughing. An hour you do not expect. ‘Who then is a faithful and wise servant who His master made ruler over his household to give them their food in due season.’ Being ready is an ongoing thing of doing the work of the Lord. ‘Blessed is that servant whom his master, when He comes, will find so doing.’

What are we supposed to do as the day of the Lord comes, as the end of the world comes. He wants us to be what? So doing. Doing our work. Feeding our fellow servants the word of God. He wants us to be so doing. He doesn’t want us to be running off in some wilderness outcropping looking up like hermits waiting for the end of the world.

Now have you met people like that before? They want to calculate the date and in connection with their calculating the date, they want to be able to time liquidating their assets, running to the hills, planting their fruits and vegetables, storing up their dry goods so they can say let the world end, I’m ready now. Who are they thinking about? All they’re thinking about is them being ready. They’re not thinking about the Lord is coming. I’ve got to get in with all the lost people and get them ready. So why the mentality of this date setting is save yourself, run for cover?

Well, Christians ought to be just as motivated now to share the gospel. Christ has not withdrawn the great commission, has he? Why do we need a date to stir us up? I always kind of -- I think it’s interesting that after 911, we had our best attendance we’ve had in years. Although the Fountain of Youth (?) concert a few weeks ago was pretty good, too. I mean, we had people just spilling out the church. Maybe they thought maybe it’s the end, I’d better get back to church.

Again, Luke 12:40 -- oh, wait, I didn’t finish Matthew 24:50. It says ‘The master of that servant will come on a day that he is not looking for Him, an hour that he is not aware of.’ Notice day and hour.

Luke 12:40, ‘Therefore be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’ That was Noah. Jesus said as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the end of the world, the coming of the Son of Man. For Noah, God told Noah to build an ark. He said get it all ready and he spent all his time getting it ready. Did God ever, in his instructions to Noah, he gave a lot of measurements about the ark, did he ever give a measurement when he said on such and such a day, the rain will begin. No, finally when God was good and ready, he said, okay, Noah, get in the ark. Some things had to happen on earth before the flood came. Provision had to made to save as many as possible. When the maximum provision was made to save as many as possible, then he said, Noah, you’ve done everything you could do. You preach with your hammer, you preach with your mouth, you stored up the goods, time to get onboard. And even after he got onboard, the rain didn’t come for seven more days, right? So there will be a period of time when probation closes while we’re still here in the world and you’ll have the seven last plagues during that time.

Mark 13. This was our scripture reading, but I’m going to read it again. ‘But of that day and that hour, no one knows. Not even the angels in heaven.’ Notice what Mark says, ‘Nor the Son, but only the Father.’ He can’t be more explicit. Now, I’ve had people say Jesus cannot be God, because after all, God knows everything and Jesus did not even know the date of His return. Well, that was when He was on earth. I hope it’s clear to everybody, He knows now.

When Christ was on earth and he was a man, he laid aside a lot of his divinity because -- do you think Jesus, I always like to have people picture Jesus when he was in the manger or when he was toddling around learning to walk like other babies. Do you really think that he had all the wisdom and knowledge of God compressed in his little head, that he was thinking all these divine thoughts and had all this knowledge and Mary’s trying to teach him how to say rattle, and he says rattle, that he just knew all that stuff? Or was He a baby? He was a baby. He didn’t know anything. So Christ, when He was on earth, only spoke the truth and knowledge that the Father revealed to Him. He became a man. He laid aside his divinity. Does Jesus now know the day and the hour? I mean, do you really picture that up in heaven right now, they’re sitting next to each other and the Father’s got something like this and Jesus saying, ‘What do you have here, Father?’ ‘Well, I’ve got the day and the hour of your return.’ ‘Can I see it?’ ‘You might tell somebody. I can’t trust you.’ I mean, do you really think that he doesn’t know now? But I meet people and say, even the Son doesn’t know. It says it right there. Well, He didn’t know when He said that, that’s true. But know of course he knows.

What would be the purpose of the Father hiding it from Him? That He might leak it to the press? He might leak it to the angels and it’ll find its way into CNN or something and then the surprise will be ruined. Of course He knows now.

‘Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is.’ Can Jesus -- what words would you use? If you were Jesus and you wanted to communicate that you don’t know what the date is, what can you say, more than he said? You don’t know when the time is. It’s like a man going to a far country who left his house and gave authority to his servants, to each one his work and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming; in the evening or at midnight or at the crowing of the rooster or in the morning. And he gives all options there. Could be sundown, could be in the middle of the night, could be sunrise or anything in between. You don’t know. So when he says watch, what does he mean by watch? So that day doesn’t overtake you as a thief. It doesn’t mean you’re supposed to calculate the date. It means you are to be consistently in a consistent state of preparation and you watching, so you’re not surprised by the second coming. That’s all that means. We’re to be busy when Jesus comes, not to be out hiding in the hills. We’re to be working for the lost.

By the way, one more. Zachariah 14:7, it says, ‘He will be one day,’ speaking now of the prophecy about the second coming, ‘He will be one day, which is known to the Lord.’ Even in the Old Testament, it is a day known to the Lord. God knows the date.

Now, having said all that about no man knowing the day or the hour, I think when Jesus does come, I think that we’re going to look at the prophecies and go, ‘Ahhhh.’ It was sort of revealed. There was some timetable. There was some consistency. There was a pattern that we will understand then. As a matter of fact, I believe just before Jesus hits the ground, once probation is closed and the savior saved and the lost are lost, at that point, it may be announced and revealed. It’s not going to have any redeeming value at that time because the Lord doesn’t want us to get ready because we know the date. He wants us to be ready because we know Him. If you’re motivated to get ready because you know a date, that’s the wrong motive. And it’s suspicious when that’s what it takes.

Another principle on prophecy, biblically most prophecy is understood in hindsight. Jesus said John 13:19, ‘Now I tell you before it comes to pass that when it does come to pass you might believe that I am he.’ I’m telling you so that after this prophecy happens and you look back and you go, ‘Ah, he knew this.’ So you’re looking back.

Again, John 14:29, another one; ‘And now I’ve told you before it comes that when it does it come to pass, you might believe.’ You know, through history, most prophecy is seeing clearly looking back. Now there are a few exceptions. Daniel was reading the prophecies of Jeremiah when he was in Babylon and he said 70 years, we’ve been here 70 years now. It should be about time for the declaration for us to go home. So there were some who took advantage of the prophecies and they knew when the time was near, but even Daniel didn’t know the day of that declaration. He knew they were nearing the time when the 70 years were up.

Can we know when the coming of the Jesus is near? Should we study the signs? Jesus said, look, you look at the weather and you get ready because you can see it’s a red sky at night or a red sky in the morning and you that usually means something, so you can -- barometric pressure is dropping, you’d better batten down the hatches. If you look at the weather and you get ready, then you ought to look at the signs of the times and realize what’s happening. Now when we look at the general signs of the times, all the confluence of everything happening in our world, I tell you, it’s significant. I think I just shared with you a couple of weeks ago, you just look at the headlines that finished off 2010, things about North Korea threatens a nuclear war, cholera outbreak in Haiti, 2010 most natural disasters in a generation. Just all these different signs that tell us that if Jesus doesn’t come -- Christ said no flesh would survive. And if the world goes on the way it’s going -- by the way, I get questions every now and then; Pastor Doug, do you think this economic crisis that we’re in right now is a sign that Jesus is coming? Well, yes and no. Yes in that it shows there’s certain instability and we can’t be trusting in money. No in that when I read my bible, Jesus doesn’t say there is going to be great economic stress and then I’ll come. He actually says they’re building and planting when I come. In the days of Noah, were they still building and planting? In the days of Lot, were they out being industrious and investing the day that the end came? Jesus said, ‘As it was in the days of Lot, as it was on the days of Noah, so will it be…’ I think you’re going see different parts of the world, industry wheels will just be screaming. You’re going to see all kinds of things happening. Man is going to be busy, busy, busy right up until probation closes.

So the idea that an economic dip means the world has come, well, it sure feels like that for some people right now. If you’re out of a job or your losing your home, it can feel pretty bad, but now you have to be careful about saying that’s even a sign. So all the prophecies are better understood looking back.

As a matter of fact, Jesus prophesied his death to the Apostles in advance. How many times did he tell them plainly, ‘I’m going to Jerusalem, I will be betrayed, I’ll be crucified, I’ll rise the third day.’ Didn’t he say that? How much good did it do them in advance. Even though he told them, specifically, how many were ready Sunday morning?

Luke 24:6-8: The women come to the tomb, the angels say, ‘He’s not here, but He’s risen. Remember how he spoke to you while he was in Galilee saying the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of simple men, be crucified and rise the third day,’ and they remembered his words after it happened. Then they went, oh, yeah, he did say that. So typically, the truth is kind of dull when it comes to using prophecy to get ready for something. A lot of times, we look at prophecy and say the bible is trustworthy. The word of God is trustworthy. But now the idea that we’re going to know how to do everything, I think the idea is we be ready. That’s the key. Being in a state of readiness.

In the parable of the Ten Virgins, Matthew 25, Jesus said, ‘Watch therefore, for you know neither the day or the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.’ You’ve got to be ready.

Luke 21:34, ‘Take heed to yourselves, lest at anytime your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this life, so that day comes upon you unaware.’ Being in an attitude of preparation.

Hebrews 10:25, ‘Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, and all the much more as you see the day approaching.’ You know it’s talking about the day of the Lord; it doesn’t say the date approaching. Is the day of the Lord approaching right now? Yeah, we don’t know what the date is. We know that there is a day of the Lord that is coming.

1 Thessalonians 5, ‘But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you for you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. For when they say peace and safety,’ notice that emphasis on there’s a certain amount of prosperity, affluence. ‘When they say peace and safety, such an hour as you think not, then sudden destruction comes upon them.’ The Lord is not coming at a time when people are looking for a fire escape or religion. He’s going to come at a time when people love him and are serving him because they love him.

So if you are the kind of person that -- you know, whenever you’re going through a trial and you get close to Jesus, you’d better learn how to be close to Jesus during prosperity and peace, because He says He’s coming when they say peace and safety. ‘And then sudden destruction comes and they will not escape. But you, brethren are not in darkness so that day should overtake you as a thief. You are sons of light and sons of the day. We’re not on the night or the darkness, therefore, don’t sleep as others do. Watch and be sober.’

What does he mean when he says watch; figure out the date? Or does watching mean -- let me let Peter explain it, ‘Be sober,’ 1 Peter 5:8, ‘Be vigilant because your adversary the devil is walking around like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour.’ Watching to make sure you’re not overcome by the lion or temptation. If we’re living lives of consistent surrender and obedience, serving the Lord, looking for opportunities to share our faith, you’re ready for the Lord’s coming. You don’t need to worry about what the date is on the calendar because you’re ready every day for the Lord’s coming.

Why do people want a date? Well, I suppose we want it to happen in our lifetime. I’d like to know that He’s coming in my lifetime. Sometimes it gives a sense of urgency when we study the signs. You know, Family Radio is probably seeing a surge of offerings right now. I know they’re getting a lot of press, but it’s kind of like a sugar high. You know, if you get your energy from eating a big ‘ole candy bar, you might get a burst, but there will be a corresponding low afterward. You might be going along like this and you go, whoa, you know, when you get this big high, but because you’ve gotten an artificial high, it’ll be followed by a low. And so people who get excited about dates, they get all stirred when that date starts to come and then when it passes, there is a corresponding depression that follows.

You know, one of big dangers when Christians get caught up in date-setting and I hope that you’ll record this and share it with your friends, because you’ve not heard the last date. Did you know that? There are more dates that are going to be share before it’s over. And I hope you’ve shared this with your friends. How many of you know somebody that gravitates towards the charts and the arrows that they’ve figured out?

People love to use Daniel 12, because there are three prophetic time periods. I held up five fingers and said there are three prophetic time periods in Daniel 12. And people love to try and pinpoint the second coming by getting a calculator and manipulating those dates. We may find when we get to heaven there was something in the Bible. But the way I read the warnings of Jesus, don’t try to set the date or the hour. He wants us to be ready.

How would you live if you thought Jesus was coming in a month? Live like that now for the next -- until he does come. Just be that way because he is coming. Do you believe that? And, please, it’s always a little depressing to remind people, but whenever you die, as far as you’re concerned, He came. Your next conscious thought is the coming of the Lord, right? And so, you don’t know when it’s going to be. Don’t that day overtake you as a thief. Death can overtake you as a thief. You want to be ready now for that time.

You know, there’s a fascinating story in history. I read a book called Rescue at the Top of the World. I may have shared that with you at one time. It’s about the Point Barrow-Overland Relief Expedition. That’s the long title. The story, very quickly, is back in 1897, a group of eight whaling ships that were up near Point Barrow in the Arctic Sea whaling, they had been driven there because the Civil War, they were shooting whaling ships and so a lot of them went around South America and by this time they had started to discover all the whales that were in the West Arctic Sea up there and they had a very early fall and a number of the ships, eight of them, with 265 men, were trapped in the ice. They had anticipated getting out sooner, getting back to San Francisco. They did not have enough provisions to make it through the winter. Some of the ships that got away saw that they were trapped in the ice.

Word got back to President McKinley and he sent a message saying we understand there are some whalers that are trapped and they are in dire straits. Now, the problem is, they had no electricity back then. You can’t radio them. They had no roads, they had no airplanes. They can’t take a boat to rescue them. The sea is frozen. The only thing they can do is send an expedition by land, but they’re going to be starving. They are sure they are going to die of sickness, cold, starvation, cannibalism, something. You’ve got 265 men and no food, it’s going to be pretty desperate. By the way, the coldest place on earth in the winter.

And so McKinley sent a message to organize an emergency expedition. They took a ship as far north as they could and they put them off there in Alaska and there were three officers. This was the very primitive coast guard, you might say. Lt. David H. Jarvis, there was Lt. Ellsworth P. Bertholf, and surgeon Samuel Call. They had to organize a team of dog sleds, but they can’t carry enough food and themselves survive going across 1,600 miles of Alaskan wilderness in the very worst time of year. The Eskimos said, you’re crazy. And that ought to tell you something.

So what their plan was is that about halfway, there was a mission station where, fortunately, the government decided to start breeding reindeer to supply the ships a couple of years earlier. And there were about 360 reindeer. They said the only way we’re going to get food is to drive it on the hoof to these men, which means they’d have to drive reindeer like 800 miles across Alaska in December, January and February. It was the most amazing thing.

And, well, these whalers that were up there, things were getting pretty desperate. A few of them died of hunger and sickness. They’re in this broken down cabin with no heat. They’re trying to burn pieces of the ship. They’re trying to hunt for polar bear or anything they can to stay alive. It’s one of the most amazing expeditions. They knew help was coming, but they didn’t know when. So their job was to try to stay alive and keep everybody else alive while they did their best to cope. Well, finally they did make it. They got there I think in March. You can imagine what their circumstances might have been by then. They reached Point Barrow in March. They had traveled 1,600 miles by sled. These three men made the whole expedition and never lost anyone in the expedition.

You should read the story. It’s amazing story of what they went through and how providentially they were saved time and time again by some miracle so they could get this. They picked up the reindeer and had to drive reindeer. It’s dark most of the time, do you realize that? It was dark most of the time they were doing this, so it’s like either in the dark with these primitive sleds trying to drive reindeer, running ahead and pushing sleds. It’s just an incredible thing to get to these men. They were prepared to die to try to save these men.

The Lord hasn’t forgotten about us, has he? He’s coming back again and it often seems like it’s going to be at the darkest moment. We may not know the day and the hour, but we know he is coming and we know the time is near. We want to be ready for that time. Amen. You know, there’s only really one hymn we can sing during a time like this. It says ‘We know not the hour of our Master’s returning.’ So why don’t you turn with me to 604, We Know Not the Hour, But We Can Get Ready. Let’s stand together as sing. [Singing]

We’ll sing verse three in just a moment, but before we do, I want to give you an opportunity to respond. We always have visitors or maybe some who haven’t been to church in a while and there may be some who have not yet made a decision to be ready for the Lord’s coming. Maybe you haven’t accepted Jesus as your savior or you’ve been trying to wait until the 11th hour to get ready. Would you like to know that you’re ready now? If you’d like special prayer and you want to set something right with the Lord and you’d like to come to the front, why don’t you come as we sing verse three and we’ll pray together. [Singing] Praise the Lord.

Father in Heaven, Lord as we come before you now, we thank you that you’ve reminded us that why we may not know the exact date, we certainly know that you are coming for each one of us. We know you are also coming for the world, that you’ve not forgotten your promise that you will come and rescue your people and if that time were delayed, man would destroy himself. Lord, we know that the time is near, but we recognize that we don’t know the day or the hour. I pray that you’ll deliver us from our inclination to want to calculate it and fix it, remembering that these things are hidden in your perfect will.

I pray, Lord, you’ll bless us so that we live in a state of constant expectancy, that we are Adventists in our life, looking forward to the eminence of your return. And Lord I pray that you’ll help us to watch with our lives on a daily basis being prepared. Be with each person, be in a special way with those who have responded this morning. Fill them with your spirit. Help them to know that they can be ready and that you will embrace and accept them as your children and whatever needs or burdens they may have on their hearts, I pray you will address with your power.

Also, Lord, as we’re still at the very threshold of this new year, help us to experience revival and reformation in our lives. Bless this church, bless all the families, the people watching on television and work in their lives and help us to proclaim the truth that Jesus is coming soon and we must be ready. Thank you for this truth and we ask all this in Christ’s name, Amen.

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