Intro: I wonder how many people are afraid to die today? Perhaps when one is young the thought does not even come to mind. What about when one is getting older and in the vicinity of the dying age? I remember where we used to live in the Philippines that every time I have to leave quite early in the morning I see old people coming out of the Catholic Church after hearing the daily mass, but I did not see younger people coming out with them. They are not yet in the dying age.
Recently the world was troubled with the scary prediction that doomsday was to come last May 21. Because of this a California woman slashed the throat of her two daughters ages 11 and 14 then herself for fear of the suffering that will come upon them. An elderly man in Taiwan jumped to his death from a building. A teenage girl from Russia committed suicide for the same reason – fear of having to suffer the judgments on doomsday. So what did that false prophet cause? Fear that led people to commit suicide. They did not fear dying but feared suffering before they will die.
Then there are the suicide bombers who do not fear dying, and are willing to die because of a religious belief that there is great reward in heaven by killing the infidels and assures them of going to heaven. Jesus said of them,
“All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.” John 16:1-4
Isn’t this happening today? How many died at the World Trade center? How many are killed because of suicide bombers and terrorists? Victims are not necessarily all Christians. But what are we to expect as Christians?
“What and Whom do you Fear?”
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony, and then the end will come.” Matt. 24:9-14
When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, He was speaking to them of two events. First, he was telling them what would happen to the temple.
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its building. “Do you see all these things?” he asked, “I tell you the truth not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be torn down.” Matt. 24:1-2
This was fulfilled in the year 70 AD when the temple was burned and all the stones were torn down. Soldiers and people who were around were getting the gold that melted in between the stones, so they had to turn them over. I saw these big blocks of stone myself all scattered below the temple mount.
Then Jesus talked about a second event that will happen in the distant future.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of age?” Matt. 24:3
What made them ask this question of His return? Did they know already about this and who told them? Jesus did.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
So now Jesus gave them the signs.
Jesus answered:“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nations will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matt. 24:4-8
The other gospel writer Luke, added what Matthew and Mark did not write.
“There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry before hand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you the words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.” Luke 21:8-19
Many of the signs Jesus warned his disciples has already happened and are still happening. They are occurring more frequently and at closer intervals.
It is now confirmed that Jackie is pregnant. Praise the Lord for this is in answer to prayers. She is still far from delivering her baby. When will she know she is about to give birth? Her doctor will give her instruction that when she starts having birth pains she should take note of the intervals. When the intervals get closer between pains she should be ready to go to the hospital. She is about to give birth. This is what Jesus said will be the sign that He is about to return and the end of the age.
However, His bodily return and the rapture when all true believers will be caught up to meet with Him in the air are two different events. The rapture happens before the great tribulations. This is not yet the end of the world. There will be seven years of God’s judgment of the people that will be left behind because they have not believed in Christ. There is a description and the sequence of events found in the book of Revelations. The calamities that are happening today are not yet the judgment of the last days. This is only a preview and warning.
Should Christians be fearful of these events? The first Christians that Jesus called and saved were fearful of death. We read of Peter that he would go to prison and die with Jesus. But when the time came and was becoming real, what did he do? He feared death. But because he was chosen by God and called by Christ, he was spared until God’s purpose for Peter was fully accomplished. Here’s God’s purpose in sending His Son to save His people from the fear of death both physically and spiritually.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Heb. 2:14-16
Who are the children referred to here? I believe they are those who were saved are being saved and will be saved. Many people today come to Christ and receive Him only as their Savior but not as their Lord. They come for healing especially when it is a dreaded disease. They need Him to save marriages that are in danger of breaking up. Fear of uncertainty of the future and people who are in need of financial help. One thing in common is their need in life while still living on earth. The fear that is missing is the fear of death. Not just physical death but spiritual and eternal separation from God.
After I graduated and finished my training to become a military pilot, I had no fear of death. I would do unsafe maneuvers when I would be flying alone for proficiency as I prepared to become a flight instructor. Even though a couple of my colleagues have just died, it did not affect me. Just like those thrill seekers who are defying death for thrills and some for fame and money, that’s where I was. Many years later I encountered a close to death experience and I trembled in fear of the reality of dying, not knowing where I will go, to heaven or hell. This is when I started to seek the Lord. My seeking was to the best I knew how, by being serious with my religion. As I look back, I know now that it was Christ who was seeking me and sent a missionary to tell me the good news. When I heard the truth that I was a sinner and the wages of sin is death that defined what my fear was. Do I still have that fear now? Not anymore for I have eternal life and the certainty that when I die I will be with Jesus in heaven. I have testified before when I was flying in Angola, that we were hit by a guided missile. Yet, I experienced peace that did not come from me. I had no more fear but the expectation to be with my Lord Jesus. God spared me from death for it was not my time.
How come there are suicides and people are dying from calamities and natural death today and everyday. Jesus said that He came to destroy the one who holds the power of death. Jesus said this is what the devil does,
“The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroys.” John 10:10a
According to Jesus, he has the power to kill but is limited only to those whom God allows him to do so. In the account of Job, God restrained the devil from killing Job. He destroyed all his property and even allowed him to kill all of Job’s children, but on Job he was not allowed to kill him. When I was a young child I was taught that we have guardian angels. I did not fully understand what he does and how they guard our lives.
“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Heb. 1:14
Now I know why I did not die in my near death experience. God kept the airplane from crashing because my guardian angel lifted the plane from hitting the ground. So if one is a Christian, does he have no more fear of anything? There are many things we fear. I don’t know how many “phobias’ they have named. But should a Christian fear of “being handed over to be persecuted and put to death?” Jesus said, “I have told you this so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.”
Then, what more did Jesus say? “Because of the increase of wickedness the love of many will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” First question we ought to ask ourselves, is my love for Jesus growing cold? Or am I growing more and more in love with Jesus now? How do I know I love Jesus? He gave us this test to test ourselves.
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” John14:21
Jesus does not beat around the bush. This is a very clear test of a genuine believer and follower of Jesus Christ. The next question is, will a true believer stand firm to the end? Answer. Only if Christ alone saved him?
“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever more! Amen” Jude 24-25
So then, is there anything or anyone whom we should fear?
“I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him, who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Luke 12:4-5
There is only one fear that we ought to have just as Jesus had.
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse: from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” Isa. 11:1-3