By the word of the Lord came creation.
The Bible says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God said, “Let there be an expanse separating waters below from waters above”; and there was such an expanse. God said, “Let dry land appear”; and there was dry land. God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation”; and there was vegetation. And so on and so forth. God said and then it was exactly as God said.
I really believe that. As I think about every other theory I have ever heard of the origins of the universe and of life none of them even compare with that one in reasonableness to me. I’ve heard the theory that all of this has just always been here, that there was no beginning. But that makes no sense, because the sun and the stars are still burning and the planets are still spinning and orbiting and galaxies are moving away from us. If it has just always been here then entropy would have already happened. The sun and stars would have already burned through their fuel and everything would have cooled down and become the same temperature. Everything would have already slowed down to a stop, everything would be motionless. There had to be a beginning that put things in motion and got things burning. And it makes no sense to say that it all came from nothing, that nothing after hanging out for who knows how long all the sudden decided “Hey, let’s become something.” If there was ever a time when there was nothing, then there would be nothing now. Many say, “Well, there wasn’t nothing. There was a highly compacted ball of matter and energy smaller than a pebble that for some reason exploded.” But that’s not enough something to account for this incomprehensibly huge universe! I know of no other explanation that even compares in reasonableness to the explanation that there is an eternal almighty intelligent transcendent being responsible for all this and for us. And I accept the testimony of this remarkable book for so many reasons that He spoke and things happened and came into being according to His word and His will.
By the word of God came the heavens and the earth and all therein.
By the word of the Lord came the Flood.
Roughly 2,000 years later, “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” He saw that “the earth was filled with violence“. And He was grieved in His heart over it. And God said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land… for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. And God said, “Noah, I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life… everything that is on the earth shall perish. But I will make a covenant with you. You build an ark according to the design I tell you, and you and your household and some of every kind of animal will be saved.” Noah got to work. And it appears that he didn’t keep God’s message to himself. II Peter 2:5 calls him a preacher of righteousness. But nobody aside from maybe his family believed Noah and what God had said. Though it was clear that Noah was absolutely confident that what God said He would do, He would do, because Noah spent 100 years of his life building this giant ark. When the ark was done, God told him, “Take your family and the animals I’ve brought you and get in.” That day people got up, got dressed, had their breakfast, some went to work, some went to play, some went shopping, some went to weddings, some went to exercise, like it was just another day in long series of many many more days just like it to come. But that day the fountains of the great deep burst open and the floodgates of the sky were opened and they stayed open for almost a month and half and every air breathing being on earth perished except those in the ark.
I really, no joking, believe the Almighty Creator who had the power to bring this world into existence really did say all that and then He really did do all that that He said He would do. Did you know that most ancient civilizations all over the world had legends of a huge, catastrophic flood that destroyed most of mankind, and that only a few people and animals survived? I mean there’s been discovered somewhere around 500 flood legends from around the world. The ancient Fijians, Hawaiians, Eskimos, American Indians, Australian Aborigines, Chinese, Greeks, Russians, Irish, ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Syrians, Persians, and the list could go on and on… they all have legends of a great flood that came upon the world. And most these legends have the survivors surviving by means of a boat. Many of the stories have the release of birds to determine if the water level had subsided. Various old world missionaries reported their astonishment at finding remote tribes already possessing legends with tremendous similarities to the Biblical flood account. It’s a remarkable phenomenon. Why do the ancient civilizations all around the world have legends of worldwide flood? And, you know, what we would expect to find on earth if there was such a flood is what we find. On every continent of the world we find fossils of sea creatures in rock layers way above sea level. Like we find marine fossils in most of the rock layers in Grand Canyon, including the top layer 7,000–8,000 feet above sea level. There are marine fossils found high in the Himalayas. There are fossilized graveyards all over the world in which you find both marine and land dwelling animals together, which could only happen with a watery catastrophe that washed them up together and buried them quickly with sediment.
By the word of God came creation. By the word of God came a judgment and destruction of the world by water.
By the word of God came many days of judgment and destruction on nations and cities throughout ancient history. Here’s one of my favorite examples.
By the word of the Lord came the destruction of Tyre.
Ezekiel 26, through the prophet Ezekiel God spoke about what would happen to the great prosperous coastal city of ancient Tyre. There are several things God said were going to happen to the city of Tyre in Ezekiel 26. One was that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, would attack the city (v 7-8). Not only that, He said, that many nations would come against Tyre, as the sea brings up its waves; one nation after another would come against it (v 3). He said also that the city would be leveled to the ground and scraped clean and made a bare rock (v 4). He said that the city’s stones and timbers and even the soil would be cast into the sea (v 12). He said that the area would become a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea (v 5). Pretty bold predictions, wouldn’t you say?
Now, the history books about ancient city of Tyre tell us that ancient Tyre was a city on the Mediterranean coast north of the land of Israel. ¾ of a mile offshore from it was an island and that they made into a kind of fortress. 586 B.C., as Ezekiel said, king Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the mainland city. About 13 years later his forces finally broke through the walls and got into the city. But Nebuchadnezzar was very disappointed, because he found that most of the inhabitants had already taken all their valuable possessions moved to the island ¾ of a mile offshore. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t have a navy adequate to take the island fortress and he got no reward for conquering the mainland city of Tyre. Well, that was one wave against Tyre. But Ezekiel said many nations will come up against it like the sea brings up its waves. In 380s B.C. a Greek ruler named Evagoras took the city. But then soon the Persians took it from him. Then in 332 B.C. there was another wave, a big wave. Alexander the Great came with his army and conquered the mainland city like Nebuchadnezzar did many years before, though it didn’t take him near as long, just a matter of months. And the people of Tyre did the same thing to Alexander that they had done to Nebuchadnezzar; they took their stuff and moved to the island. But Alexander did what Nebuchadnezzar never thought of. He took the ruins of the city, the stones and timbers and even its soil and dumped it in the sea and built a causeway over to the island, leaving the mainland city of Tyre just a bare rock, the very thing Ezekiel said would happen to it. And Alexander’s army destroyed the island city and killed most the men of Tyre and sold 13,000 into slavery. Then Alexander sort of rebuilt Tyre and repopulated it with Greek speaking people. But then more “waves” came up against Tyre over the next few centuries. It was conquered by the Ptolemies, then the Seleucids, then the Ptolemies again, then the Selucides again, then the Armenians, then back to the Selucides… one wave after another. Over the centuries the coastline has changed, perhaps due to what Alexander did to the landscape. And today many historians believe that where the mainland city once was is now totally buried in sand and under the Mediterranean Sea. In about 1170 A.D. there was Jewish traveler named Benjamin of Tudela who wrote a diary of his travels. Over 13 years he visited over 300 cities and kept a record of what he saw in each place he visited. In the section where speaks of his visit to Tyre he calls it New Tyre and talks what a nice city it was and some unique things about it and then he says that you can go up on the walls of New Tyre and look down into the sea about a stone’s throw away and you can see in the water Old Tyre. And if you like, you can take a boat out there and see the ancient castles and market places and streets and palaces in the bed of the sea. God said through the prophet Ezekiel hat Tyre would be a place for the spreading of fishing nets in the midst of the sea, and that’s exactly what happened to it.
By the word of the Lord came creation. By the word of the Lord came the flood. By the word of the Lord came the waves of nations against Tyre until it lied in the midst of the sea. By the word of the Lord came what happened to so many ancient nations and cities. By the word of the Lord from ancient times through the prophets came Jesus the Messiah, born in Bethlehem as God said, born of the lineage of Abraham and David as God said, born at the time God said, and He did all that God said He would do. When God says something is going to happen, it is absolutely going to happen.
I’d like us to look at the gospel of Matthew and notice one more thing that God said is going to happen and the Lord Jesus said is going to happen. Holy Father, I pray that You would open the eyes of our hearts to see that this day is coming as You have said. We believe, we talk of it and sing of it, but help our unbelief. We struggle to truly see this day on the horizon. Father, please help us to see that You have spoken and all that You have said will happen.
By the word of the Lord the great last day is coming.
Let’s look first at Matthew 13. There’s a parable Jesus told recorded in v24-30 called the parable of the wheat and the tares. It’s about a landowner who scattered a bunch a wheat seed in his plowed field. Then at night while he was sleeping his enemy came and scattered in the field a bunch tare seeds. That’s a weed but in its early stages of growth it looks just like the wheat. So it wasn’t until later in growing season that the servants of the land owner noticed that field was full of tares along with the wheat. They said to their master “Should we try to go pull out the tares?” And he said, “No, because when you pull up the tares you’re going to pull up the wheat as well. We’ll just let them grow together until the harvest.” Then at the harvest they reaped the whole field and separated the tares from the wheat, and threw the tares into a fire and gathered the wheat into the barn. Jesus’ disciples later asked Him to explain the meaning of that parable to them. And here’s what Jesus said, Matthew 13:37, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 “So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” We live in an age of time right now where we who are sown by Christ, in other words we who think and live according to His will, live among those who are sown by the evil one; we live among people think and live according to the will of Satan. Some are our neighbors. Some are out co-workers. Some are our members of family. Some we see at the gym and the stores. We are all, wheat and tares, mingled together here in the same field, the world. But Jesus says this age where it is like that will come to an end. There is coming a cosmic harvest day. Do you realize? The Lord has spoken. One day the Lord Jesus in His glory will come with His angels. And He will send out His angels throughout the entire world to separate all the wheat from the tares, all of the righteous from the unrighteous. And they will throw the unrighteous into some sort of fire. But the righteous will not only be kept from the fire, they will shine like the sun, they will be glorious, in the kingdom of our heavenly Father.
Matthew 13:47, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.” Jews could only eat certain kinds of fish, only fish with fins and scales. Other fish were considered unclean. So Jewish fishermen after dragging a net through the sea, would sit on the shore and separate the good fish from the bad fish, the keepers from the not-keepers. v49 the Lord Jesus says, “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 16:27, “The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”
Now, let’s look at…
Jesus and His disciples were walking through the temple complex, and the disciples were just wowed by the beauty and the size of the stones and buildings and they were saying, “Lord, look at these stones! Have you ever seen such stones? Look at how wonderful these buildings are!” (Mk 13:1). From what we know from Josephus and other ancient sources the Jerusalem temple complex really was probably the most magnificent construction in the world at the time. Remember John 2 when Jesus made the statement, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” talking about the temple of His body. But they thought He was talking about the temple in which they were standing and they said, “What are you talking about? It took 46 years to build this temple.” 46 years and it was still under construction. Some excavation in the temple area has revealed some of these wonderful stones of the temple that the disciples were marveling at. One stone that was recovered is estimated to weigh nearly 600 tons, not pounds, 600 tons. How did they move stones that size? I have no idea. The stones were white, and the exterior ones of the temple were covered with gold. I think Jesus blew their minds when He said, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” 40 years later, 70 A.D., it was the single greatest slaughter of ancient history. The city of Jerusalem had been filled several months before with maybe 2 million Jews from all over the world who had come for the Passover holiday. And that’s when the Roman army laid siege to the city. Josephus, who was eyewitness of the events, describes the starvation inside the city, the violence over food, the shoes and belts and nasty things people were eating, the cannibalism, and some eating their children. Those who tried to escape were captured, tortured and killed and then crucified. Then in 70 A.D. the Romans made their assault on the city. Josephus says 1,100,000 Jews were killed, and 97,000 were taken captive as slaves and scattered all over the Roman Empire. The Romans threw firebrands into the temple and burned all that could be burned and melted all the gold and it ran down the cracks of the stones. Then they literally over turned every single stone to get the gold. When the Lord says something is going to happen, it’s going to happen.
They went and sat up on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, and 24:3, “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” I think that in their minds they were asking just one question in 3 different ways. They were thinking, “The demolition of this glorious temple of God and the overturning of all these enormous stones, Jesus has got to be talking about the end of the world. He’s got to be talking about His glorious coming with the angels and the end of the age that He’s talked about before.” So Jesus addresses some of their confusion and what He knew about what would happen in the future.
In v4-14 Jesus mentions a bunch of major things that are going to happen that people will think are signs that the 2nd coming of Christ and the end has come upon us, but there are not. Jesus says, “There are going to be people who claim to be the Messiah. Don’t believe them. There are going to be wars, nations will rise against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms. In various places there will be famines and earthquakes. When these sort of things happen there will always be people saying, “The end is upon us!” But it doesn’t mean it’s the end. There’s going to be extreme persecution against the church. There are going to be many false prophets. There will be many who fall away from the faith. And the gospel is going to be preached to the whole world. I know all these things will happen. And then the end is going to happen sometime after that.”
Then Jesus talks specifically about one of those major things to happen before the end, which they were particularly concerned about, the destruction of Jerusalem. v15, “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place…” Luke’s account drops Daniel’s language and just states plainly what “the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place” is. Luke’s account has, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near” (Lk 21:20). Then Matthew says, “(let the reader understand)” I think because the book of Matthew was written before the destruction of Jerusalem and reading this could save their lives. v16, then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18 Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak . [When you see the armies moving into the area you get out of there as quickly as possible.] And early Christian writings tell us that the Christians did run because they knew these words of Jesus and believed Him. They say that not a single Christian was killed in this. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! [It’s hard to run with a baby.] 20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter [winter makes travel hard], or on a Sabbath. I think because on the Sabbath they shut the gates of the city so no one can come in or go it. It would make it difficult to escape. So don’t pray that it won’t happen, because it’s going to happen, but pray that it will happen at a time that will make escape easier. 21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” In other words if this onslaught of the Romans against the Jews was left unchecked, the Romans would wipe out the entire Jewish nation, even the Jews who are Christians. But God will cut these days short, so they won’t kill the Christians who are Jews.
v23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25 Behold, I have told you in advance. 26 So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” I think He’s saying that His coming is not going to be in a hidden or secretive way. You’re not going to need anybody to tell you where He’s at when He comes. His coming will be visible for all to see, like when lightning flashes way in the east, you can see it way in the west. v28, “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” It’s a proverbial expression saying the location will be obvious. Just as the location of a corpse in the wilderness is obvious from the crowd vultures circling over it, the location of the Christ when He comes will also be obvious and unmistakable. There will be no need for anyone to tell you where He is.
v29, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days…” I think He means the days, not just of the destruction of Jerusalem, but all the days of tribulation that He was talking about (v4-26), days of wars and nations rising against nations and earthquakes and famines and persecution and false prophets and false Christs and so forth. I think He’s wants us to realize that tribulations like that are going to go on until the end. This world, this age, is never going to be a peaceful utopia. It’s never going to be a bed of roses. There’s a lot of bad stuff coming, the destruction of Jerusalem will be part of that, days of bad stuff are going to go on and on, and then immediately this will happen. “THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (cf. v35; Heb 1:10-12; 12:26-27; II Pt 3:10,12; Rev 20:11) 30 “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” You see, that’s not something you’re going to miss. You’re not going to need anybody to tell you when Jesus comes or where He is. The universe will begin to be destroyed. He’s coming on the clouds with power and great glory and all will see Him. There’s going to be a trumpet and the sending forth of the angels to separate “the wheat from the tares”. You won’t miss it.
So that’s what’s going to happen. Then at v32 Jesus speaks of when things are going to happen. v32, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; [when you start seeing buds on the trees it tells you something. It tells you summer will be here soon.] 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” Underline “all these things” if you write in your Bible, and notice what it refers to and what it does not refer to. It does not refer to the coming of Jesus with the angels. Rather it refers to everything that Jesus said would happen before His coming. It refers to the wars and earthquakes and famines and destruction of Jerusalem and persecution and false prophets and all that. All of those things are like the buds on a tree. And when we see all those things happen, then that should tell us something. What should it tell us? It should tell us that Jesus and the angels are right at the door of this world, and that He can come at any time. Then look at the next verse. v34, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” I would underline again “all these things” and draw a line connecting it back to “all these things” in v33. It means the same here as it meant in v33. It means everything that Jesus said would happen before His coming. He’s saying all of that would happen before the generation of that day passed away. And it did. That 1st century had lots of wars, earthquakes, famines, destruction of Jerusalem, false Christ, false prophets, the gospel went to the world. All of that happened. The buds were on the tree already in the latter part of the first century. That means Jesus is at the door right now. Jesus can come at any moment. v35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Though it’s been 2000 years, when the Lord says something is going to happen, it is absolutely going to happen. Remember what Peter said (II Pt 3:8), “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” God has a different perspective on time than we do. So the length of time that has elapsed since Jesus’ promise should not cause us to doubt.
v36, “But of that day [What day? The day of His coming with the angels, the end age. Of that day]and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” On that day people will wake up, get dressed and have breakfast. Some will go to work. Some will go to play. Some will go to weddings. Some will go shopping. Some will perhaps go to church. Some will perhaps leave church to go to lunch. Jesus says, “I don’t know when that day is coming, but I do know it will be on a day when nobody will be expecting it.” 40 “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.” The angels will come upon people still in their places of work, in the fields and mills and shops and businesses. And the angels will separate even co-workers, because some are wheat and some are tares, they will take one and leave the other.
42 “Therefore be on the alert [Do not let yourself lose sight of the fact that Jesus is at the door and this day is coming and can at any time. Do not let yourself think like the world that this age is just going to go on like this forever, and we don’t need to be concerned meeting our Maker. Stay on the alert], for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. 45 Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?” Well, we’re all slaves. Jesus has authority over us. It’s totally up to Jesus what happens to us. And our master has given us responsibilities while He’s away until comes. But are we faithful and sensible slaves doing the will of the master while He’s away? 46 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. [That’s a cool thought to me, because our master has a lot of stuff.] 48 “But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ [What’s your mindset? Do you think that what I’m talking about this morning doesn’t really concern you? That our Master is not coming for a long time, if He’s even coming at all? That I don’t need to worry about that? That mindset will affect how you live, as it affected what this slave did in the story.] 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards [he takes advantage of his position and the things the master gave him to just do what he wants]; 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
It only makes sense, doesn’t it, that God has something more in mind than just this endless cycle of the solar system spinning and people being born, living for a little bit and then dying and pretty soon they’re forgotten. What’s the point of that? Doesn’t it make sense that God has more in mind than just this endless cycle? Doesn’t it make sense that the Creator would want His creatures someday to see and marvel at His glory? This day makes sense to me. And from all the evidence I see, God has spoken many times, and every time God says something is going to happen, it happens. This day is coming!
Now, what if you knew that Jesus was coming in 10 minutes? Is there anything that you’d repent of and ask forgiveness for right now? Is there someone you’d go to and say, “I’m sorry” and try to make things right with? Would you finally decide with a trusting penitent heart to be baptized into Christ? Is there anything you’d need to do if Jesus was coming in 10 minutes? Well, I urge you to do that now, because the truth is for all we know Jesus could come in 10 minutes. He’s going to come on a normal day just like this one when nobody is expecting Him.
– James Williams