Burdens on the People

By John J. Blanchard

April 28, 2012

Good morning, brethren.  The title of today’s sermon is “Burdens on the People.”

Most Christians today accept the idea that Christ will be returning very soon.  Of course, we believe in former and latter fulfillments of prophecy, so we tend to look at the conditions that surrounded Christ’s first coming and compare them to the conditions that will be existent when Christ returns.

We have looked at those conditions many times, so we will not spend a lot of time on that today.  But it would be a mistake to look at those conditions and apply them to the world, when God is actually talking about His people.  It is the condition of ancientIsraelthat Christ was concerned with when He came the first time.  Of course His life and death was for all mankind, but He dealt specifically with His people in and around Galilee andJerusalem.  When He returns, He will start out with His main concern being the Church.  There is the resurrection of the saints.  There are things that the Church has to do, and of course there will be salvation for all mankind with an innumerable multitude.  We understand those things.

We are focusing on the fact that there were conditions extant when Christ came the first time, and they will be very similar in the Church, spiritual Israel, when Christ comes for the second time. We call that former and latter fulfillments.

Another way that mankind or secular society deals with these things is history repeating itself, which is a principle.  If you do not understand history, they say, you are doomed to repeat it.  We want to understand history and what it was like at Christ’s first coming.  Why was He so upset with the Pharisees and the Sadducees?  What will it be like in our time?  Then we can hopefully deal with the issues and be found on the correct side of history, as they say.

Former and latter fulfillments can be looked at as history repeating itself.  It can also be looked at as cause and effect.  In history when you have an effect, something had to lead to that.  It could have been war, the spread of a disease, or whatever.  Whatever it was, something caused the resulting problems.

You could also say that similar results today were initiated by similar causes in the old days, so we want to look at the causes in the old days and compare them to today.  We can then draw valuable lessons.  That is the focus of today’s sermon:  What is the Church doing today that has led to its condition—this fractured condition?

We can look at Christianity in general with the many different sects and denominations with various doctrines that are sometimes in direct opposition to each other.  We can look at the Church group we have come out of in history and say, why have we dissolved into so many small factions?  Why do we seem to keep breaking up?  Why is there so much animosity within the Church today?

We have to compare the conditions of the past and see why we are in the situation we are in today.

For the conditions in Christ’s time, I want to focus on one chapter in particular in the New Testament.  If you would, I want to turn to the gospel of Matthew. We will be looking at Matthew chapter 23 quite extensively, so if you have a marker in your Bible or something you want to stick in there, put it in Matthew 23.  We will be returning to it frequently.

PRIDE IN THE MINISTRY

I want to read Matthew 23:1-12 to start with, and then we will come back and make some comments.  Read Matthew 23:1-12.

Before I start commenting on these few verses, we are going to come back in a few minutes to the idea of heavy burdens put on the people and talk about that more extensively.  The concept of teacher has confused some people today.  They think nobody is to be their teacher.  They are going to be self-taught.  That word should actually be translated “master.”  Call no one else your master.  Christ is our Master.

Of course, there are teachers.  I could show you many Scriptures where Christ talks about being apt to teach and able to teach, and that is what His ministry is for, so that is a moot point.  It has become a source of argument in some circles.

We see here a problem right away that is being described in these first twelve verses.  It is a problem of pride and ego in the ministry.  People wanted to be called father or rabbi or master.  People in high positions within the Church wanted to be looked up to in every circumstance, and they wanted to be singled out in the marketplace and at Church for high regard.  Yet Christ we are told was humble.  That is why in verse 12 He said, “Whoever exalts  himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  The information I want to get from these first twelve verses is that there was a problem in Christ’s day with high up ministry thinking too much of themselves.  They had big egos, and that is a problem in the Church today as well.

HYPOCRISY IN THE MINISTRY

Now I want to look at verse 13 of Matthew 23:  “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

It says, shut up the kingdom of God.  What is He talking about here?  We are going to see in a moment by looking at another Scripture.  You have hypocrisy.  That is why He starts out with the word “hypocrites,” and they are not keeping the law themselves.  But they are forcing other people to keep even minute details of the law and adding to these burdens upon the people, while demanding all of this praise and glory from the people.  He is saying, you hypocrites.  You are not entering the kingdom with this attitude, and you are stopping others from finding the kingdom of God as well.  This is very common as well today.

Keep your finger in Matthew 23, and go back to Matthew 5 for a Scripture that will prove this point.  They were not keeping the law, so they were hypocrites.  They wanted everyone else to be in obedience not only to the law but to every dictate that they placed upon people.  Another Scripture calls it “keeping the commandments of men.”

I want to look at Matthew 5, beginning in verse 17 where Christ says:  “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.  Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

This proves exactly what Christ was talking about in Matthew 23.  They were shutting up the kingdom of God to people, because of their hypocrisy and teaching others to be hypocritical.  They were not keeping the spirit of God’s law.  We could continue through that vein and prove that solidly, but I think that shows enough.

We can actually prevent people from going into the kingdom of God by our hypocrisy and by teaching people not to observe the law properly.  I am speaking of the spirit of the law, as well as the actual law itself—one jot or one tittle.   We can actually prevent them from going into the kingdom of God, as well as ourselves.  It is a very important point to observe.  If we are not preaching this properly yet we claim to be a minister of God, Christ says that is hypocrisy.  That is being a hypocrite.

GREED IN THE MINISTRY

Let’s go back to Matthew chapter 23 and drop down to verse 14.  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”  Once again He calls them hypocrites.  “For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.  Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.”

What does He mean, devouring widows’ houses?  That is a poignant example of preying upon the helpless.  Today we have the same situation.  I know many elderly people are constantly deluged with requests for money from all the various churches, because they are such tender hearts and they are so innocent in some ways.  There is hardly an exception.  They have lived a long life so they are not necessarily innocent in that way, but they want to do what is right and good.  Any appeal that looks like it is wrapped in the mantel of the Church; it tugs at their heart strings.  Though they are very broke in many cases, they will get out their purse or their check book and write out a check they can ill afford.  A lot of ministers and churches know this, so they are constantly sending out appeals for money and preying upon the poor among us.  Really the Church is supposed to take care of widows and orphans, as we know, and help them, but it is kind of a reverse situation.  Christ said at that time, that was a problem.  We know it is a problem today.

Verse 15 of Matthew 23:  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

Isn’t that the truth today?  It must have been the case back then, or Christ would not have said it.

When you look around, there are churches that will spend thousands and thousands of dollars sending their missionaries around the world.  They send out their literature and do whatever they can to get the Church to grow and to gain members.  You will see in a minute it has a lot to do with income.  But He says, here you make them twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.  In other words, they are preaching to people what they want to hear in order to get them within the fold.  They confirm a lot of the same problems they have.

The situation I am going to talk about a little bit later in the sermon is that a lot of people are fearful today, and they sense this overwhelming doom and gloom of what is wrong with the world. That is a very good way to get them excited and to join their cause.  They confirm that in their minds.  That is what I am saying.  You make them twice as much a son of hell as yourselves, in a way, just preaching to itching ears, as Timothy was told.  They are preaching to itching ears and giving them what they want to hear, so that they will join the fold and increase the size and increase the income.   As a matter of fact, when you drop down to Christ’s next condemnation, you will see that it has a lot to do with money.

Let’s read Matthew 23:16-22.

Here Christ is saying, it’s all about money with you guys.  We know God today is building a spiritual temple made of living stones, human beings, but He says you are focusing on the money, on the offerings, on the cash flow.  He says, this is absolutely wrong.  This is absolutely wrong.

We can go back to Matthew chapter 21 by just turning a couple of pages over.  It is speaking of the temple once again.  Christ was very angry here.  Matthew 21, verse 12:  “Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  And He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” But you have made it a “den of thieves.”’  Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.”

I want to draw a comparison later in the sermon, so remember the fact that after Christ drove the moneychangers out of the temple, healing took place.  I think that is very significant.

What we are noticing here is that the temple of God had become a den of thieves.  If God is comparing that time to this time and saying, the conditions that were extant on My first coming will also be so in a former and latter fulfillment when I return, then the Church—the spiritual temple—has also become a den of thieves.  There is buying and selling.  Revelation talks about the buying and selling and trading in the bodies and souls of men.  This is for cash flow once again.  It is for membership.  It is for size.  It is for financial support and for donations.

We often hear Christian programs on the radio, for instance, often followed up by:  “….and for a donation.”  They call it a donation so it would not necessarily be like selling, although sometimes they mention a price.  They will say, for a donation of thus and such, we will send you this Bible study, or we will send you this CD.  Yet Christ says, buy the truth and sell it not.  It is not for sale.  This is something that is for all mankind that Jesus Christ paid for.  If people want to support you with tithes and offerings, they are really under their own compunction by God whether they want to support any particular work or not.

PROPER TITHING

We could go into a long debate about tithes once a person becomes a member.  There is tithing.   It is mentioned here a little bit in verse 23 of Matthew 23.  I will read that to you again.  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law:   justice and mercy and faith.  These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”

We do not have to harp on that.  The Scripture is there.  People argue back and forth about tithing, but the Scripture is there.  Christ says actually He is more concerned about justice, mercy, and faith.  Inside when you feel somebody has contributed to your life by preaching to you or teaching or helping in some way through life’s trials and guiding you, then you should respond to that if you feel that you have run into the truth, and you are being preached the truth.  I think it is incumbent upon you.  That is enough.  We do not have to hound people for money.  You do not have to be constantly seeking donations.  That is the focus of too many Church groups today, and it was the focus of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Christ’s time.  Christ said, it is way too much.  The temple is far more important.  The sanctity of God’s people is far more important than money.

We read about tithing here, so we will drop down to verse 25 of Matthew 23:  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.”

Those are very harsh words:  extortion and self-indulgence.  There again, self-indulgence means taking care of themselves with income.  But He says, you cleanse the outside of the cup and make it look pretty good, but inside you are full of extortion and self-indulgence.

We talked a little bit about them putting burdens on the people that they will not lift with a finger.  This He calls extortion.  We will get into that a little bit more.

Continue reading in verse 26 of Matthew 23:  “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to me, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Those are heavy, heavy words that Jesus Christ is using here!  He says, lawlessness, because the Pharisees and the Sadducees really felt they upheld the law.  God says, you are not doing the spirit of the law.  You are trampling over the widows.  You are extorting money from people. You are full of self-indulgence.  You are very selfish, yet you have this appearance on the outside of being very righteous and holy.  This is a common problem today, and Christ says, this is hypocrisy.  We see people clean up very nice for the Sabbath and very nice for services.  We can hear a sermon from someone who is dressed to the nines, yet extorting the people.  They are full of self-indulgence, and this is hypocrisy.  These are Christ’s words.  They are not mine.  We can tell by looking at society, looking at Christian churches in general, and of course the services we have attended, and we see this really is a problem.  God calls this hypocrisy.

I want to look at verses 29-36 now of Matthew 23 because Christ finishes this off in a powerful way.  Verse 29:  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’”

We would never have done the things they did!

Verse 31:  “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”

In other words, they could look at history and say we would never have been like our forefathers.  They were hypocrites.  They were hard on the widows and orphans.  They cheated each other.  We would never do that.  Christ said, if you can recognize that sin in the past and you see that you are doing it here and I am exposing you, that is hypocrisy.  You are doing the same thing that has always been done.

Continuing in verse 32 of Matthew 23:  “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.  Serpents, brood of vipers!  How can you escape the condemnation of hell?  Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes, some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the wrath, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.  Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

This is speaking of His time.  But we are drawing comparisons for our time today.  Christ said, all along I sent people to warn.  They warned the leaders.  They warned the priests.  They warned those in charge, the teachers.  He said, you were not without.  People I sent told you, you are going down the wrong road.  You are treating people incorrectly.  You are trampling the Sabbath.  You are trampling God’s Church.  You are trampling the holy temple.  He said, I warned you, and you scourged these people.  You persecuted them! You killed some of them!  He said, you never paid attention to this very day.  Christ was there doing the same thing.  He was warning them, and they killed them Him, too.

We look at our time today and we say there are ministers and lay members who have had the courage to stand up and say there is something wrong in the Church.  There is too much selfishness.  There is too much intrigue.  There is too much slander and too much attacking.  A lot of times that is looked at as being critical.  Those people at this very time are persecuted for doing that.  They are trying to do the right thing and get the Church to turn course, to get right with God, and the thanks for that is usually persecution.

Jesus finishes off this particular chapter in Matthew 23 with these words, beginning in verse 37:  “O Jerusalem,Jerusalem, the one 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, but you were not willing!  See!  Your house is left to you desolate…”

That is what we are looking at in the Church today.  It is getting more and more desolate all the time.  By and large, the Church is a graying institution.  We are all dying off.  We are also a scattered flock with people dividing more and more.  People are getting into separate groups and throwing stones at each other and attacking each other.  There is a sense that something is so terribly wrong in the Church that it is devouring itself!  Christ said that was true of His time.  It was true of the prophets before Him in their time, and it is going to be true at the end of the age.  We see it happening in spades all around us, but we are not helpless.

We will realize that we are being left desolate for a reason, and I believe it is the abomination of desolation in the spiritual Church of God and not an abomination of desolation in the Middle East in a sandstone temple. God is building a spiritual house today.  When we see this happening and when we recognize it, we can be like the twelve apostles or the 120 that did change course, all except for Judas.  On that first Pentecost when 3000 were baptized, there were people who responded when they saw what was wrong.  We could be among that group today.

Now we are going to spend a little bit of time looking at the circumstances that surrounded the original abomination of desolation back in Jeremiah’s time.  I want to start first by rereading Matthew 23, verse 4 while we are there, and then we will go to the Book of Jeremiah.

Matthew 23, verse 4:  “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

That is where Christ started this whole dissertation about hypocrisy.  He says you men have just put huge burdens upon My people.  How many times has He said, My burden is light and My yoke is easy?  I came here to relieve men’s sufferings.  We know that!  But these people who sat in Moses’ seat should have known that as well.  Instead of making the people’s lives easier, they put burden after burden upon them.  Christ went through that whole chapter we just read calling it hypocrisy.

Turn to Jeremiah chapter 17.  When you get into this particular study of putting burdens on the people, we could spend all day here going from Scripture to Scripture, but we do not have time.  We are going to look at a few key ones.  I want to get the feel for Jeremiah 17, the ambiance of the time, so we are going to read quite a bit of this chapter.  We will start in verse 14, and then we will come back and talk about it.  We could say here is Jeremiah praying about the situation his country is in, and then what God had to tell him in response.

Jeremiah 17, verse 14:  “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed [notice the connection to healing]; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.  Indeed they say to me, ‘Where is the word of the Lord?  Let it come now!’ As for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd who follows You, nor have I desired the woeful day…”

Jeremiah did not want to see people suffer.  He did not want that to happen, but he had the unenviable job of telling them in advance what would happen if they did not change their ways.  It was a very difficult assignment that Jeremiah had.

Let’s continue reading again in verse 16:   “As for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd who follows You, nor have I desired the woeful day; You know what came out of my lips; it was right there before You.  Do not be a terror to me; You are my hope in the day of doom.  Let them be ashamed who persecute me, but do not let me be put to shame; let them be dismayed, but do not let me be dismayed.  Bring on them the day of doom, and destroy them with double destruction!”

Jeremiah said, they are persecuting me.  I am miserable.  I am doing what You told me to do.  I am warning them.  I am being a shepherd, and all I am getting is stones thrown at me.  That is just like what we read in Matthew 23.  He ended up in a well and almost died.  He had to be rescued over and over.  There was constant persecution.  To this very day we tell someone who bears bad news they are like Jeremiah, or it is a Jeremiah they are bringing me.  That is how this man’s life was for him.  It was a terribly difficult time.

MAKING THE SABBATH BURDENSOME

Continuing in verse 19 of Jeremiah 17:  “Thus the Lord said to me:  ‘Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, by which the kings of Judah come in and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; and say to them, “Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. Thus says the Lord:  ‘Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem…’”’”

Notice the phrase here, “bear no burden.”

Verse 22:  “‘…nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.  But they did not obey nor incline their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction.  And it shall be, if you heed Me carefully,’ says the Lord, ‘to bring no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day, to do no work in it, then shall enter the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, accompanied by the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain forever.’”

In other words, he says if you will refrain from bringing these burdens into the city on the Sabbath day and refrain from carrying burdens out of your house on the Sabbath day, I am going to bless you.

Verse 26:  “And they shall come from the cities of Judah and from the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin and from the lowland, from the mountains and from the South, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, bringing sacrifices of praise to the house of the Lord.”

That is to the physical temple of God back then.

Verse 27:  “But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.”

In other words, the city and the temple will be destroyed.  Of course, we know through history that’s exactly what happened.  Babylon surrounded the city, destroyed the temple, killed most of the people, and hauled off the rest as slaves.  Jeremiah had the unenviable task of warning them ahead of time.  He was persecuted for it.

Taking that example and knowing that there is an abomination of desolation in the last days and knowing that God is building a spiritual temple, we now connect the dots.  We say, oh, oh, maybe everything that is happening in the Church is because we repeated the sins and the faults of the people back then!

Did we carry burdens on the Sabbath?  The simple explanation is yes.  There are a lot of people trampling the Sabbath day.  They are buying and selling and doing their grocery shopping.  They are going to football games or whatever on the Sabbath day.  They are watching TV.  I am not talking about the Discovery channel or watching a nature program.  I am talking about watching violent programs and trampling God’s Sabbath day.  We can say that is true, but I do not do that and neither does my Church group.

That word “burden” there is a little different from what you might be thinking.  It does encompass buying, selling, and carrying of physical burdens on the Sabbath day, but it is also much more than that.  The word “burden” is massa (#4853, Strong’s, 1995) in the Hebrew, and it means a burden.  But it means specifically tribute or in the abstract porterage.  In other words, carrying something for someone else and paying tribute.

When we bring an offering to God in His temple, that is a tribute to God.  When we carry something as porterage for someone else, we are carrying what someone else wants us to carry.  We could go look at buying and selling in Revelation 13 (but we won’t right now), but it is the same thing we are talking about there.  It is the buying, selling, and trading in other people’s messages because, low and behold, the figurative definition of massa is an utterance, chiefly of doom.  It is an utterance, something you say, chiefly of doom.

When we have the complete definition of that word, and we look at what happens in too many pulpits across the country and from too many podiums around the world, we can identify a problem.  The Sabbath day has been turned into a day of gloominess and despair.

The Sabbath day pictures the rest of the Millennium.  It will be a comforting time when the world will be at peace.  There will be no more implements of war.  There will be plenty of food.  People will be prospering.  People will live lives of joy and be developing fruits of the Spirit.  That Sabbath day is supposed to picture that.

Yet from pulpit to pulpit across the land we hear sermons about prophetic doom.  We hear political commentary about what’s wrong with the nation and what’s wrong with the world.  We hear a lot of self-righteous proclamations about how “our” group is not like that.  We are going to a place of safety or we are going to get raptured, but the rest of the world is condemned.  Your families and friends are going to die in a horrible conflagration.  There is a tribulation coming.

The Sabbath has been turned into a real downer.  I have actually heard in announcements before a sermon of 45 minutes of doom and gloom followed by a sermon of an hour or hour and a half of more doom and gloom.  They talk about bloodshed and torture, and it causes fear and anxiety in the people.  It takes a day that should be a blessed relief from the trials of the week, and it turns it into a downer where people get more anxious and more fearful.  This is very common.

It is not just the church denominations we are familiar with which have a little more fundamental approach to the Bible, but we could go to other churches that use the fear of hell or purgatory.  It is the same difference.  It is fear religion and fear preaching.  Or there are those who talk about the tribulation and the rapture to escape it.  There are those who talk about national decline and how we are like the Roman Empire.  We are all going to fall apart!  You don’t want to be left behind in that!  You had better increase that offering today.  I am being a little facetious.

Or we hear about the false signs and lying wonders that we have identified.  We will look at that a little bit here of drought, famine, pestilence, and war.  In other words, it is what is said, what is taught, and what is written in the name of God that becomes a burden to the people too great for them to bear. There are people whom I have personally met and know who have had nervous breakdowns and anxiety attacks.  There have even been some suicides that I am aware of because of these messages constantly being pounded into people’s brains.

There is a lot of depression even among Christians.  There is depression, worry, and fear so that they are taking medication.  That should not be necessary for a Christian.  It is the message that they are constantly hearing that is contributing to it, if not the primary cause of it.

SIGNS IN THE CHURCH

Let’s go now to Matthew chapter 24.  Christ warned about this very clearly right after Matthew 23 as a matter of fact.  I just want to read verses 1-7.  Matthew 24, verse 1:  “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things?  Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’”

He was speaking about what would happen to that generation, but that is a former fulfillment of what would happen to the Church in our time, the spiritual temple of God.

Continuing in verse 3 of Matthew 24:  “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be?  And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’  And Jesus answered and said to them:  ‘Take heed that no one deceives you.’”

He says clearly here what to be concerned about.

Verse 5:   “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

He goes on to say in verse 7, you will see nation rise against nation and famines.  They always have been in existence.  He said, these are not the signs of My coming.  Watch what happens to the Church in our time.  In His time what to watch for was what happened to these buildings of the temple, when in that case it was Titus of Rome who surrounded Jerusalem.  In the first abomination of desolation it was Nebuchadnezzar’s armies from Babylon.

Christ said, you have these physical examples from the past.  Now I am warning you!  It is not going to be physical.  It is not going to be wars and rumors of wars and famines.  He goes on to say many signs that we have talked about in the past that you would see occur in the Church.  I want to show you that it is what they “say.”  He says this is what you will “hear.”  In other words, it is the doctrines being preached that cause this.

Let’s drop back quickly to Daniel chapter 7.  It is speaking of our time today.  It is referring to this beast here who is, of course, Satan who speaks through people.  Daniel 7, verse 25:  “He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law.  Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.”

We are not going to talk about the time, times, and half a time today.  That is a separate subject.  The saints of God have been attacked for 2000 years from Christ’s time until now.  But toward the end of the age, the Church gets overwhelmed causing an abomination of desolation in the Church.

Turn to Revelation chapter 13.  If we are looking for physical wars, rumors of wars, and famines, we are looking for the wrong signs.  We are missing what is happening in the Church that is causing us to self-destruct and causing us to destroy the Church of God and to harm our brethren.

I want to start in Revelation 13, verse 5:  “And he [the dragon and the beast] was given a mouth speaking great things [these are pompous words] and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.”

This is the same as the 1260 days or the time, times, and half a time.  That is from Jesus Christ’s time until today.  We are not going to examine that, like I said.  Satan has been attacking the Church, but toward the end of the age, he overwhelms the Church.

Continuing in verse 6 of Revelation 13:  “Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.  It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them.  And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.  All who dwell on the earth will worship him…”

The Church will be preaching wrong things about wars, rumors, and famines as the signs of Christ’s coming.  Once this happens and they rob people of hope by putting these heavy burdens that cause fear and anxiety and they rob people of faith, He says it is going to be overwhelmed.  The entire world will be without hope for a little while.  That will be for a very short time.

Verse 8:  “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.  If anyone has an ear, let him hear.  He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword.  Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”

It is not the physical sword of war.  It is the sword that the Bible is.  The Bible is the sword of God.  God says, if you use the sword to lead people into captivity or kill people with doom and gloom and false signs and lying wonders, you will go into captivity.  It is all by this preaching, what is written, and what is said in the name of God.  It is not physical warfare.  That is why it is so important not to be looking for physical war and other physical signs as the signs of Christ return.  Don’t be deceived by those things.  Watch what’s happening within the Church of God.  Watch what’s happening in the larger sense to Christianity in general.

All of these conditions are reversible if you know what is happening.  If you know what to stop saying, it can be reversed.  Let’s go to Revelation 3 where it is speaking of the Church era that we are living in, the last Church era, the Laodicean era.

In Revelation 3, verse 16 Christ tells our time:  “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

That is being desolated and being pushed right out.

Verse 17:  “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…”

These self-righteous people get up and say all these are the warning signs of Christ’s return!  Listen to these things!  They put these other burdens that we saw in Matthew 23 upon the people, getting them to believe that this is how they are going to escape the destruction at the end of the age.  They use these hypocritical means and these selfish means.  But God says, you don’t know that you know nothing!  You have no spiritual wealth from Me.  You are wretched.  You are miserable.  You are poor and blind.  This is often the case throughout Christendom.

REVERSING THE CONDITION OF THE CHURCH

Continue reading in verse 18 of Revelation 3:  “…I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed, and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Christ tells us here it is reversible if we admit our faults, listen to Him, and if we trim our wicks. In other words, it is how we let the Bible shine in our lives.  We need to start giving people hope instead of despair, and we need to stop putting these burdens upon people.

There is a cause and effect.  In God’s Church and throughout Christendom there is misery and a lack of confidence that God exists and that He is truly good.  The fear of God as this vengeful Being can be reversed if we get the right picture in our minds and preach the right doctrines.  This can be turned around, so that we reap the benefits of a beautiful doctrine that the Sabbath portrays.  We can get these burdens off the people’s back.  We can take off the fear and anxiety that so many Christians live underneath.

It is time, my brethren, to help lift the burdens off the people.  If we do, I guarantee you there will be more healings.  There will be more miracles.  There will be more answered prayer if we lift the burdens off the people.

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