Sermon delivered January 4, 1997

by Pastor Don J. Gettys

McDonmald Road SDA Church, McDonald, TN

Heaven in '97

79 years before Jesus was born something happened at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. Mount Vesuvius went off as a huge volcanic eruption. And as that thing went off the ash and lava came down and instantly buried the whole community of people who were living near it. These people were shopping in the store. Archaeologists have discovered that some people were cremated standing up. Some wealthy people were cremated in their luxurious hot-tubs where they were relaxing. Some people they found were eating their meal, and the food was still in their mouths. Instant death.

The saddest part is that all these people did not have to die. There were warnings. Scientists confirm that the ancient historians have written, that there were warnings weeks ahead of time. The ground rumbled, the earth shook. A dark ominous plume of smoke was clearly visible days before the disaster. And just two days before that thing erupted, there were tremendous plumes of smoke and ash ascending from the crater. People had all kinds of warnings, and as far as we know, they didn't do much about it.

Today, I am here to tell you that we have similar warnings that the end is about to happen. I believe in the nearness of the second coming of Jesus Christ, don't you? I believe that Jesus could come in 1997. Do you believe that? Some of you might say that we can't set any dates, and that's true. We're not here to set dates. But I am here to tell you that Jesus could come this year. I hope He will come this year. I hope we're all ready for His coming this year. Any tome you turn on the television, any time you see the warfare, you see the earthquakes, you see the extremes in weather from the east coast to the west coast, people in Europe are freezing to death. All of these things are signs of the nearness of His coming. The breakdown of moral values in our country, killings, crime, breakdown of the home, the collapse of moral standards---all these and more point to a coming day of destruction and judgment. I believe we need to turn to our Fire Escape. And our Fire Escape is Jesus Christ. Jesus is not only the reason for the season, but Jesus is the reason for our hope. Jesus provides an escape to those who will heed the rumbling signs.

Come over here to Luke 21. This is the great chapter of the signs of the second coming of Jesus, our Savior. I want you to notice beginning with verse 25. We're going to read several verses, excellent verses. Fortunately like the people of Mount Vesuvius we can heed the signs. We don't need to be lost.

Luke 21 (NIV): 25-"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26- Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27- at that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28- When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Praise God for that. Jesus' coming is soon. We don't have to worry that we are years and years from His coming. We believe His coming is soon.

Could it really be that we could all be in heaven later this year? That is possible. Heaven in 97!? The ultimate future looks very bright. We don't belong here. We belong to the future. We belong back in the presence of God. Every Christian inhabiting this earth is a refugee. You hear about the refugees in Africa and the eastern countries. I feel sorry for those poor folks. Millions of them are being killed. We do not belong here. Our spiritual state is very much like the physical state of the poor refugees in Eastern lands or Africa. Heaven is our permanent address. We are just refugees. We're passing through. We're in trouble here. We're in all sorts of problems. When will Jesus come and take us all home?

It will be soon. Jesus soon Advent is spoken of in the Bible. There are 1800 passages about Jesus coming. One verse out of every 25 in the New Testament speaks about Jesus coming. For every prophecy on the first coming of Jesus there are 8 on the second coming! Jesus will come and take us home. His coming is certainly a theme of the Bible. Jesus will come. He will take us home.

John 14 (KJV): 1- "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in Me. 2- In My Fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3- And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." Great words, aren't they?

Jesus is coming! He will come in peace. Not like some 15 mile wide alien space ships hovering over the major cities of America. Earth will not be invaded by 8 foot tall green ugly aliens with weird tentacles on them. When Jesus comes, it will be the true Independence Day for all of us who have been held hostage by Satan for so many years.

As Adventists we look for the second coming. That's why we're called ADVENTISTS. Our emphasis should not be on the coming of the end of the World. Our emphasis should not be the coming of the end of all things. Our emphasis should be on the coming of our beloved King. We should focus on a person. In other words, looking for the train to arrive is OK, but looking for the arrival of someone we love who is on that train is a much greater matter. Do you see the difference?

The public return of Jesus is overdue. Let's look at Revelation the 11th chapter. We're living on borrowed time. I want to focus a little bit on verse 18. I want you to know the topic of today's sermon is; The Signs of the Times of Jesus Christ's coming. We need more sermons on the second coming of Jesus Christ. WE believe He is coming soon. REVELATION 11:18- "The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets, and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great, and for destroying those who destroy the earth."

God says some of us are destroying this earth! It's terrible what we are doing to our orbiting home. This globe is being destroyed by us. We are doing it. In the coming 50 years the population of planet earth will reach its max. That's in most of our lifetime. Billions of humans have heaped massive destruction upon this world. Scientists now agree that the global climate is getting warmer.

Recently in a brief heat wave in Chicago over 700 died. The climate is changing. Grain supplies are running low in more and more lands because the crops don't grow because it's too hot and too dry. Most of you have been to the doctor and gotten these little bumps removed, these little pre-skin cancers. We are changing things. The world is not the same. The greenhouse effect is caused by carbon DIOXIDE among other things. This largely produces the greenhouse effect. Your car, when you burn one gallon of gasoline (about 7 or 8 pounds), it produces carbon dioxide that comes from the tail pipe of our cars. When you burn a gallon of gasoline which weighs about 8 pounds, you release 5 pounds of carbon dioxide, Your car will release its weight in carbon dioxide by the end of December, 1997. (Christianity Today, December 9, 1996, p. 20)

We do not seem to grasp the implications of what we are doing. This old world is being destroyed. We are not only the culprits but we are suffering from our actions. It's sort of like we're in a boat. We're going downstream in the fast churning water just above the rapids. The waterfall is ahead. We've lost our paddle. We cannot reverse our what has been done. Maybe it is time that we stop giving each other motorized tie racks for Christmas and that we start concentrating on Jesus Christ and getting ready for His coming.

Is it any coincidence that we are now just over 1000 days from the next millennium. 1095 days to a new century!

This is not evolution, it is DE-Creation. We are rapidly undoing what God did at the beginning 6000 years ago. The United States is a great nation. Billy Graham said in May, 1996-- "The greatest nation in history stands on the brink of self- destruction". We exist in the suburbs of Sodom.

The filth of Hollywood is not making it any better. It's bringing our kids to the brink of a new Dark Age. TV's flow of filth into our living rooms is polluting us with permissiveness, sloth, illegitimacy, smut, crime rot and wild, horrible, satanic music.

The United Nations has now taken over the Great Smoky Mountain National Park along with 46 other of our National parks. The Smokies are now an International Biosphere Reserve under the guise and control of the UN. Their authority supersedes that of our US Government. (Reference: January, 1997 issue of 4WD & Sport Utility Magazine, p. 42-43)

We are destroying the liberties that we have. We're destroying this planet and God says in Revelation that before we bring it all to an end, He will come. That time is now overdue.

Now is the time for all Adventist Christians to hold fast to Jesus. Now is not the time to veer from the straight and narrow way of Matthew 7:13-14

Matthew 24:37- "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38- For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the time that Noah entered the ark;" And they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away and that is the way it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. It's going to be just like it was in the days of Noah. Genesis 6:1 says that in the days before the flood, "When men began to MULTIPLY (KJV) on the earth..." When the antediluvian population started to sky rocket God laid plans to destroy the world. Again in the last days this will be repeated.

God says that when the world begins to multiply in population as it was in Noah's day the plans for its destruction will be laid. We are growing by multiplication again.

Come over to Daniel, the twelfth chapter. An amazing prophecy: God told Daniel, the aged prophet, some amazing things that would signs of the end of the age. Notice in Daniel 12:4 (NIV)- "But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will run here and there to increase knowledge." Knowledge will be increased in the last days.

More than 90% of all the scientists that have ever lived are alive right now. 8000 scientific articles are written every day! There's no way anybody could keep up with them. The sum total of all scientific knowledge is doubling every 5 years. Certainly Daniel's word are true.

If ever there was a time for us to be close to Jesus it is now. If indeed we are living in the year that Jesus and all of heavens angels will gloriously fill the skies with fire and thunder, it could be this year that we need to be ready. If we're really ready to go home...then we should have our ticket ready and our spiritual suitcase packed

Let me tell you what the ticket is. Our ticket is Jesus. Even Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."--John 14:6 Jesus is the ticket. He is the ONLY way. If you want to go to the super-bowl you must have a ticket. If you want to go to heaven, you must have a ticket, and that ticket is Jesus Christ. Without Him we cannot enter heaven. Most of the world do not have that ticket. Let me ask you a question. What is 750,000 miles long, reaches around the earth 30 times and grows 20 miles longer each day? Answer---The line of people who are without Christ. Without the ticket to eternal life. That's a horrible thought to think about.

How do we get that ticket? I'm so glad the Bible makes it clear how to get the ticket to eternal life. John 1:12- "To ALL who RECEIVED Him, to those who BELIEVED in his name, He gave the right to become children of God..." To all those who received Him and to all who believed in His name. WE RECEIVE JESUS BY BELIEVING IN JESUS.

So it's not by works (doing some religious act) but by belief. By trusting in Jesus. By accepting Jesus as our Saviour. By accepting His forgiveness for your sins. And by having Him in your heart. That's how we're saved.

ROMANS 5:10- "For if when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life." That's how we're saved. Not by our life but by His life. The perfect life that Jesus lived is our ticket to heaven.

Then what are our works? Are they the boarding pass? NO. Jesus is not only the ticket, Jesus is the boarding pass. Jesus is everything. He doesn't say, "I'm the partial way." He says, I am THE way to eternal life, the entire way. It's either Jesus all the way or you're going to go somewhere else. Our works are the grateful response to the free ticket and the free boarding pass. God is willing to give to each of us complete forgiveness and to cover us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. By God's rich grace He regards us as if we were already righteous, even though we are not. It is given as a free gift to anyone who accepts Jesus as their personal Saviour.

I want you to go over to Ephesians, the second chapter and I want you to listen with all your heart to these words. If this has never dawned on you let these words sink deeply into your heart.

Ephesians 2:5 "God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace that you HAVE BEEN saved." When were we saved? In the past. How far in the past? About two thousand years back there. verse 8- "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9- not by works, so that no one can boast for we are God's workmanship to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." We are totally God's workmanship. We are crafted by His hands totally. we don't enter into the process except to be willing to submit as clay in the hands of the Master Potter.

As last day Christians, I believe we aught to have Jesus; we aught to have Him as our ticket: we ought to keep our ticket in our hand and our spiritual suitcase packed. The early Christians were not looking for a cleft in the ground called a grave but for a cleavage in the sky from which Jesus was coming! They were not looking for the undertaker but watching for the UPPERTAKER! Jesus is our Uppertaker. He is the Way out of this world.

How do you pack your spiritual suitcase? Let me list just four points. If you can concentrate on these here in 1997, I think you will have your spiritual suitcase all packed and you'll be ready to go.

    How do we pack our spiritual suitcase?
  1. -- Pack as much time every day as you possible to read and feed on the scriptures. Seventh-day Adventists aught to be a people of the Book because this Book will point you to Jesus. We need to read this Book
  2. --Pack as much time every day for prayer. Spend time in meaningful prayer, special prayer, praying and God will give you an answer. Do you have some big problems in your life? Do you have some things that you really need answers for? You turn to Jesus; you'll find the answer in His Word and you'll find a power through prayer.
  3. --Pack the tools for witnessing about Jesus into your program of helping others ready for His soon return. That's how you pack your spiritual suitcase. If you're discouraged, if you're disheartened, and you think life has no meaning, go out and help somebody else who is struggling and you will find yourself revived.
  4. --Pack assurance into your life. I believe that we as Christians we need the assurance that we HAVE eternal life. Can we know if we're saved or not? Absolutely we can. Beautiful words over here in 1 John 5:13. Here are the concluding remarks; here's the cream on the cake; the frosting. It says, "I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may KNOW that you have eternal life." That's special, isn't it? And the second volume of the Testimonies (by EG White) page 319, "There is peace in knowing and believing that we have eternal life." If you want peace in your heart in 1997, then you need to have that knowledge in your heart that you are saved. You can know that you have eternal life. If Jesus is in your heart you can know.
You are ready for Jesus to come when you are born again, when your sins are forgiven, when Jesus lives in your heart and He shines out His life through and you have accepted Jesus as your personal Saviour. Don't unpack your suitcase. Don't lose your ticket. Keep hold of your boarding pass. Keep close to Jesus, and you can finish this year with great confidence.

Maybe Jesus will come this year. We have all the warnings, all the signs. Any time you turn on the TV you can detect that the time is near. So let's get ready, let's be ready and stay ready and get others ready. It won't be long and we'll be home. Scripture Reading: John 14:1-3 Opening Hymn: 20 O Praise Ye the Lord Closing Hymn: 431 Over Yonder Reference # 1...Christianity Today, December 9, 1996 page 20.

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