God's truth for today's world

Last Days Message Introduction

Today we begin a new message series entitled “Understanding the End Times.” We live in perilous and dangerous times. Two thirds of voters in the US think our country is headed in the wrong direction. The last few weeks, we’ve seen headlines about the deadly virus Ebola and continued reports of the Islamic ISIS barbaric practices. The Middle East seems to be perpetually in the news, with conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Iran and other players. We are concerned about terrorism coming to our shores by the hand of Islamic violence.

In our own country, we are confronted with increasing acceptance of sinful practices such as abortion, homosexual marriage, gambling, pornography, divorce, adultery, violence and racial issues. Just in the last few weeks, pastors in Houston were ordered to hand over their sermons to the lesbian mayor’s office to see if they made any negative reference to homosexuality. In Idaho, a pastor was being threatened with jail for refusing to marry a homosexual couple. Right here in St Louis, threats of rioting are being made depending on the outcome of the grand jury deliberations on the Ferguson shooting.

Is this just more of the same? Or is something unusual going on in our world? If you’re over 30, you have been around long enough to realize that our country is in a downward spiral. Does God’s Word speak to the times that we are living in?

Today, I’ve entitled the first message in this series, “When are the Last Days?” The Bible does speak of what is going to happen in the last days. If we are living in the last days, than these passages would speak to our situation, here and now. So, the important question that we are going to ask this morning is “Are we living in the last days?” To answer that question, let’s look at the seven major historical and supernatural events that are given to us in Scripture. The historicity of each of these events is under attack today.

  1. Creation – God created the heavens and the earth and people in the beginning by His Word.
  2. Corruption – The fall of mankind into sin through the temptation of Adam & Eve.
  3. Catastrophe – God destroyed sinful mankind with a world-wide flood but rescued Noah.
  4. Confusion – The nations of the world were created by God confusing the people’s languages at the Tower of Babel.
  5. Christ – God became human in the person of Jesus Christ and who lived a perfect life.
  6. Cross – Jesus died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead and ascended back into heaven.
  7. Consumation – Jesus is going to return to this earth, judge the wicked, bring all believers into His perfect Kingdom in a new heavens and new earth.

So, where are we at in relation to these seven events? We are between the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven and His return at the consummation of all things. As we’re going to see today, the Bible clearly teaches that we are living in the last days, the time between the first and second coming of Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)  First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

Many do not believe in the return of Christ. They think that everything will continue just as they’ve experienced in the past. They do not believe in the supernatural intervention of God into history. This is one of the characteristics of scoffers, those who are not true believers in Jesus Christ. As believers, we believe in the supernatural intervention of God in history, in the past, in the future and in these present last days.

Today, we’re going to look at a passage in Acts 2 to answer the question of when the last days began. Immediately before Jesus ascended into heaven, He instructed His disciples.

Acts 1:4-5 (NIV)  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So, the disciples, who had already received the Holy Spirit and been born again, were instructed by Jesus to wait and pray for the empowerment of the Spirit through the baptism in the Spirit. I’d encourage you to read the entire second chapter of Acts this week, as we’re going to have to just highlight the main thoughts regarding the last days.

The last days are days of the Spirit

Acts 2:33 (NIV)  Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Peter preaches that when Jesus ascended back into heaven, He received the Holy Spirit that He had promised His disciples and poured Him on upon them. This happened on the day of Pentecost, forty days after Jesus ascended into heaven. The disciples were waiting and praying for the Holy Spirit to come, in obedience to Jesus’ command to them. Finally, after 40 days, the Spirit was poured out in power upon all the disciples gathered in that upper room.

As we’ll see with the passage today, the last days which began with Jesus ascension are days of the pouring out of the Spirit in an unprecedented manner. In the Old Testament, just a few leaders had been anointed by the Spirit, but now during the last days, every believer is elgible.

The baptism in the Spirit is for all

Acts 2:4 (NIV)  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Every person in that upper room who was waiting on God was filled with the Holy Spirit. This was the baptism in the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised. It was not just some or most, but all were filled. Not only were all filled with the Spirit, but the sign of their baptism in the Spirit was that they spoke in other tongues by the enablement of the Spirit. All these disciples were already born again and had received the Spirit in a new birth experience recorded in John 20:22. This baptism in the Spirit was a separate and subsequent experience of empowerment for the last days.

Now, let’s look at something else that the Spirit does in the last days.

The Spirit brings revelation

Acts 2:17-18 (NIV)  “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

People were questioning what was going on with all the disciples speaking in other tongues. Some mad fun of them and others thought they were drunk. Peter said, no, we are not drunk, but what is happening was prophesied hundreds of years ago by the prophet Joel. What the people were seeing with the speaking in tongues, which was the only visible sign that the disciples had been baptized in the Spirit, was that the last days had arrived.

The prophet Joel had looked ahead at things that were going go come on Israel and prophesied in Joel 2, Afterward, God says, I will pour out my Spirit. Peter changed the quote to say, In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit. In other words, the last days were the time in which God would make available the baptism of the Spirit to every believer. Those who were baptized with the Spirit would prophesy, see visions and dream dreams. In other words, the Spirit would bring supernatural revelation of God’s will to them. This would be a characteristic of the entire last days, not just the day of Pentecost, as we see throughout the entire book of Acts.

The last days are the days of the Spirit. As people living in the last days, what implications do the days of the Spirit have for us? First a little bit of history. Many truths of God’s Word were lost by about the 3rd century after the early church we see in the book of Acts. The truth of salvation by faith alone was recovered by the Reformation in the 16th century and led to the Protestant denominations of Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists.

However, the truth about the baptism in the Holy Spirit was only recovered in a revival in Topeka, Kansas in 1901 and subsequently spread around the world. The Assemblies of God, of which Life Church is part, was born in the revival of the Spirit in 1914 and is the largest Spirit-filled denomination in the world, over 60 million strong and rapidly growing.

What should we do? Seek to be baptized and filled with the Spirit. Be open to the supernatural working of God through His Spirit in these last days. Secondly, understand the older denominations do not teach the truths about the Spirit. They are cessationists, teaching that the days of the Spirit ended with the apostles. Just the verses that we’ve looked at today, as well as many others, will help you share the truth of the Spirit with them. The last days are days of the Spirit.

The last days are days of harvest

Acts 1:8 (NIV)  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Here we see the main reason that Jesus poured out His Spirit on the early disciples and makes Him available to us today. The power of the Holy Spirit is given so that we can be Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth. The power of the Spirit gives you the boldness, the knowledge, the courage and the words to be an effective witness for Jesus. The day of Pentecost in the Old Testament was a great festival in which the first fruits of the grain harvest were presented to God. On the day of Pentecost in the New Testament, the Spirit empowered the disciples to see the first fruits of the last days harvest with 3000 people saved.

People from all nations will be saved

Acts 2:21 (NIV)  And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

People from every nation were represented at Pentecost in Jerusalem and everyone that called on the name of Jesus Christ were saved. So, in the last days in which we live, God is reaching out to people from all nations to be brought into the Kingdom of God. What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord? Peter gives more detail at the end of his message to the people.

Jesus is the only way to be saved

Acts 2:38-39 (NIV)  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Peter describes three essential steps to becoming a Spirit-empowered believer in the last days.

  1. First is to repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ, calling on the name of the Lord Jesus.
  2. Secondly, every believer should be water baptized, following their belief in Jesus.
  3. Thirdly, every believer should receive the gift or baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Peter then makes clear that the promise of the Holy Spirit was not just for the disciples, not just for those who believed at Pentecost, but for everyone of all time. Jesus is the only way to be saved.

The last days are days of harvest, when many people will be saved. How is it going to happen? Through the power of the Spirit. That is why Jesus made the power of the Spirit available to every believer. Seek God for each person you know who you’re not sure is saved. Ask God how you can be a witness to them. Ask God to empower you by His Spirit to share the Good News with as many people as you are able and bring them into the church. Be a witness for Jesus in these last days and help bring in the harvest.

The last days are days of signs and wonders

Acts 2:22 (NIV)  “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.

In his message, Peter talked about the ministry of Jesus, which was marked by signs and wonders. After Jesus ascension, the ministry of signs and wonders continued through the ministry of the early church.

Signs and wonders will continue

Acts 2:43 (NIV)  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

The apostles continued the ministry of Jesus through signs and wonders. What type of things did they do? The same things that Jesus did. The two main signs and wonders they did was to heal the sick and cast out demons. Signs and wonders were done by people who were not apostles, such as Philip. Signs and wonders are mentioned by Paul in his letters as being some of the gifts of the Spirit, available to all believers. Throughout the last days, signs and wonders will continue for those of faith until Jesus returns again.

Celestial signs and wonders will come before the end

Acts 2:19-20 (NIV)  I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

Peter quotes the prophet Joel and speaks of a different kind of signs and wonders. These signs and wonders will be seen in the heavens and on the earth. These celestial signs and wonders signal the beginning of the judgment of God coming upon the earth as the day of the Lord draws near. From other prophetic teaching in the Scripture, we can expect an increase in the frequency and magnitude of these signs of judgment as the second coming draws nearer. The last days are days of signs and wonders.

So what can we expect in these last days? When will the day of the Lord come? Scripture warns us not to try to predict the day of the Lord’s coming. Yet, we can safely say that the second coming of Jesus is 2000 years closer than it was when the book of Acts was written. The last days will be marked by the advance of the kingdom of God with many being saved. And yet many will fall away from the faith, Jesus tells us.

Even as the kingdom of God advances, there will be fierce resistance from the domain of Satan. We can expect to see increases in warfare, violence and natural disasters. Jesus says that these things are like birth pangs. When are birth pangs the greatest? Birth pangs increase in intensity as the birth nears. Pray and believe God to do signs and wonders through your prayers and your church, so that many more may be drawn to Jesus in these last days.

When are the last days? The last days are the time between Jesus’ ascension and his second coming. We are in the last days and have been in them for 2000 years. I do not believe it will be another 2000 years before Jesus returns. The last days that we are in are days of the Holy Spirit. Seek to be baptized in and continually filled with the Spirit. The last days are days of harvest. The number one priority of every believer’s life should be to be a witness for Jesus and see your friends and relatives saved. The last days are days of signs and wonders. Our God is a supernatural God and He hasn’t changed. As people of faith, let’s believe God to do signs and wonders through us. Pray for the sick to be healed and those bound by Satan to be freed. Our best days are before us as we walk with God at the end of the last days.

Message Audio, Outline & Study Guide

Understanding the End Times Message Series

Defeating Worry (Luke 12)
Jesus Will Come Back (John 14)
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