Our message today is entitled “Understanding the Times.” God desires for us to understand or interpret the times in which we are living. We are living in a unique time in history. Although there may be parallels to other times, nobody has ever lived in a time just like today in the history of the world.
1 Chronicles 12:32a (ESV) Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, …
This verse tells us that the men of Issachar had an understanding of their times. Why was it important to understand the times in which they lived? Because that understanding showed them what Israel ought to do. In other words, understanding the times gives us insight on how to live wisely. What are the times in which we are living today? The Bible teaches us that the era of time we are living in is called the last days.
Acts 2:17 (ESV) “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;
In the context of this verse, it shows us that the last days are the time between when Jesus ascended into heaven and when He will return. So we are living in the last days, 2000 years closer to Jesus’ return than Peter was on the day of Pentecost which we just read. What’s going to happen in the last days? There’s a lot of arguments about that. Is it going to get better or worse? According to the Bible, the answer to that question is both. It’s going to get better and its going to get worse. This is very important to understand so let’s look at what Jesus tells us.
Matthew 13:24-26 (ESV) He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
The kingdom of heaven in the last days may be compared to a field in which two types of plants are growing. There are wheat plants growing which will yield a great harvest. And there are weeds, often translated as tares, which are very difficult to distinguish from wheat when immature. This is the world in which we live. The wheat represents believers who are growing and maturing in the Lord. At the same time, the weeds represent unbelievers who are growing and maturing in evil. Both are happening at the same time and this will continue until the judgement.
Matthew 13:30 (ESV) Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Only at judgment day will the weeds be removed and burned in hell. And the wheat will be gathered into the kingdom of heaven. So, those who predict that everyone will be saved before Jesus returns are wrong. And those who predict that everyone will fall away before Jesus returns are wrong. Things are going to get better and things are going to get worse at the same time. Those who are walking with God will grow stronger, see more miracles and more people saved. At the same time, the evil in the world will grow stronger and more wicked all around us. When we understand the times we will …
Luke 12:42-43 (ESV) And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.
In this story that Jesus tells, the master is Jesus and believers are like the manager. The manager is supposed to server the master when he is away. He serves by helping others, here illustrated by feeding the household. When the master, Jesus returns and find the manager doing what he as instructed to do, the manager will be blessed.
Luke 12:45-46 (ESV) But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful.
But if the manager, who is a servant of the master, treats others violently, gets drunk and does not fulfill his duties, something else will happen when the master returns. You see the master, that is Jesus, will return on a day and hour in which he is not expected. Jesus’ return will be a surprise visit for everyone. When Jesus returns, there will be no time to repent. What Jesus finds will determine a person’s eternity. In the story, the punishment of the servant is cutting into pieces and putting with the other unbelievers. This is simply another description of being sent to hell. Two other scenarios and described by Jesus.
Luke 12:47 (ESV) And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.
What’s this all about? This verse describes the different levels of punishment in hell. Hell is eternal for everyone, an existence apart from God forever. Yet, within hell, there are different levels of torment. Those believers who knew what they should do, but don’t do it, receive a severe punishment, less than being cut to pieces. Those who didn’t know what they should do but did wrong will receive a lesser punishment. When you understand the times, you will be ready for Jesus’ return.
Do you understand the gravity of what Jesus is saying here? You could serve God well in life for awhile, but then you decide it’s too much bother. Maybe, you’ll just take a break for awhile and enjoy some sin. And when Jesus returns and discovers you in sin, it’s too late to repent. All the good you did in life was forfeited by not being ready for Jesus’ return.
And the same could happen if you meet Jesus through death. Not everyone has a chance to repent before dying, so you must be ready to meet Jesus. One day everyone will face God’s judgement. Those believers who continued to serve Jesus throughout life, will be judged for their degree of reward in heaven. Those unbelievers who didn’t serve Jesus will be judged for their degree of punishment in hell. Be ready for Jesus’ return every day.
Luke 12:49-50 (ESV) “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
This is meek and mild Jesus who was all about love and would never say anything offensive according to some who haven’t read their Bibles. The fire that Jesus is going to cast on the earth is the fire of God’s judgement at his coming. God’s judgement will remove all evil and evil people from this world and Jesus looks forward to it, as should we. The baptism Jesus mentions is the baptism of suffering and death that He will undergo on the cross, dying for our sins. What will determine who is affected by this judgement fire that is coming?
Luke 12:51-52 (ESV) Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.
Jesus is surprisingly saying that he did not come to bring peace on earth, but rather division between people. He speaks of a household of people, possibly parents and children, two parents and three children. The household he speaks of will not be united, but divided, two against three. What is Jesus talking about?
Luke 12:53 (ESV) They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
So, what is this division that Jesus brings into the world? The division is simply the division between believers in Jesus and unbelievers. A believer is a child of God and an unbeliever is basically a child of Satan. There can be no real peace, not real unity between a believer and an unbeliever. For the believers, Jesus brings peace into their lives, peace between them and God. However, there will always be division between believers living for God and unbelieving friends and relatives. When you understand the times, you realize that Jesus brings division.
Sometimes believers tend to beat themselves up, thinking that they are at fault for the division in their relationships. Now, believers can cause problems by not being loving to unbelievers. But Jesus wants you to know, that even if you are loving, Jesus still brings division. And that division is not a bad thing, it’s a sign that you are a true believer. And over time, God can use that division to draw the unbeliever to himself.
As a believer, you should live life very differently than an unbeliever. If there seems to be no difference between your life as a believer and the lives of unbelievers around you, something is wrong. We should be different, in how we think, how we act, how we believe. When you understand the times, you realize Jesus brings division.
Luke 12:54-55 (ESV) He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens.
Jesus is talking about how people forecast the weather by signs they see in the sky. Clouds of a certain color coming from a direction meant rain is coming in the future. Winds from the south desert in Jesus’ day meant that hot days were coming in the future. When we understand the times, there are signs that point to what is going to happen in the future.
Luke 12:56 (ESV) You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
God desires for us to be able to interpret the spiritual signs of the present age. To understand what is going to happen in the future, as we compare the Bible with the signs that we see all around us. The crowds that Jesus was talking to had seen many signs and miracles that Jesus had performed. Yet, many still did not understand the times, that the Messiah had come. That they must believe in Him in order to be saved.
Luke 12:57-58 (ESV) “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison.
In this short parable, Jesus talks about a person who is accused of a crime and is compelled to go before the judge. Jesus is saying that you know you’re in trouble, you need to settle with your accuser before you get before the judge and end up in prison. In this story, the person is meant to represent us. Going to the judge is the final judgement. Prison is hell.
What Jesus is saying is that we need to get our lives in order before the final judgement. While we are alive on earth is our only opportunity to be forgiven of our sins and crimes by God. Make sure that you are forgiven and no longer guilty before facing judgement. When you understand the times, you understand the time is short.
People have a great tendency to somehow think they’re going to live forever. Now, we all know that that’s not true, but many people live like they’re going to live forever. Many people say that they’re putting off getting right with God until the near the end of their lives. They want to enjoy of life of sin and living for themselves and then get things right just before the end. Rarely works that way.
Others have bought into the increasing amount of false teaching with respect to eternity these days. The teaching that hell is not eternal, you ultimately will get out, is false. The teaching that there is something called purgatory that doesn’t last very long, is false. There is nothing like purgatory in the Bible. The teaching that just being a good person will get you to heaven is false. Realize the time is short, get right with God today, don’t put it off.
God wants us to be people who understand and correctly interpret the times. You are living in a time when Jesus’ return is closer than ever before. You need to be ready to meet Jesus at any time. Live as though He could appear any second and life as we know it would be over. When Jesus appears, everyone’s eternal destiny is sealed.
You must realize that Jesus brings division between people, between believers and unbelievers. Division is not bad. The difference can be used by God to draw unbelievers to himself. Understand that time is short. Don’t assume that you have all the time in world to do what God has asked you to do or to get right with him. The time is short. Get right with Jesus today. Get busy doing the things that He is calling you to. Ask God to help you understand the times and know what to do with your life.