Thank you. Hey, today I want to start off with a little riddle, okay? I'm going to give you a list and I want you to see if you can figure out what every single thing on this list has in common with everything else on the list. So are you ready? Okay, here we go. Here's the list.
Ready? Oldsmobile, Fleetwood Mac, Seinfeld, Friends, Pan Am Airways, Lou Gehrig's consecutive game record, the Berlin Wall, Woodward and Lothrop, Jordache Jeans, and Tom Daschle. Now what do all these things have in common? Well, what they all have in common is there was a point in time where everything that I just named seemed like it was going to last forever. And then, in a moment of time, they were all gone. Now we live in a world like that, don't we? Where things just don't last.
I mean computers crash, printers fail, cars conk out, shoes wear out, appliances break, friendships dissolve. And this fact is what makes the statement of Jesus that we're going to look at today so radical and so outrageous. Remember, in a new series entitled Jesus's Most Outrageous Sayings, we're taking 12 of the most radical things that Jesus ever said, and we're spending a week on each of them answering the question, well, so what? What difference does this make to me? Last week we did, before Abraham was, I am.
And if you missed that, I encourage you to get the tape or the CD from our bookstore. Today we're going to move on to outrageous saying number two, which is found in Matthew chapter 24. And we're going to begin right at verse one.
So here's here we go, Matthew 24, verse one. As Jesus was walking out of the temple, his disciples began to call his attention to the temple buildings. Now, of course, this is the temple in Jerusalem. And the temple that existed there in Jesus's day was actually the second Jewish temple. In 586 B.C., the first Jewish temple built by King Solomon was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. In 536 B.C., Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, allowed the Jews under Zerubbabel to rebuild the Jerusalem temple. But this rebuilt second temple was paltry by comparison to the majesty and the grandeur that had been in Solomon's first temple.
As a matter of fact, the Jews with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this second temple being laid because it was so much smaller and so much less glorious than the one that they remembered that used to be there. Well, things remained this way with this paltry temple kind of being there in Jerusalem for the next 500 years until 37 B.C., when Augustus Caesar, the ruler of the Roman Empire, appointed Herod the Great as king of Judea. This is the same Herod that appears in the Christmas story. And Herod, you need to know, was not a Jew.
He was an Edomite from down around the area in Petra, modern day Petra in Jordan. And so to win the favor of the Jews as their king, Herod launched a massive rebuilding program, a massive beautification program on the Jerusalem temple, which at the time of Jesus had been going on for 46 years, we find out from the Bible. Herod used only the most enduring building material, all white marble and white stone and gold, which made the temple in Jerusalem not only one of the most impressive structures in the world, it also made it one of the sturdiest structures in the world.
And this is what the disciples of Jesus were referring to when they pointed out all these buildings there that Herod had built over the last 46 years. One stone here will be left upon another. Every one of them will be torn down. Jesus said, hey, fellas, as enduring and as permanent as all of this looks, I'm here to tell you it's all coming down.
It's not going to last. And indeed, 40 years later, in 70 A.D., General Titus and the 10th Roman legions fulfilled the words of Jesus by ripping down the second Jewish temple and leaving it in ruins, which is exactly where it's been. For the last 2000 years. But Jesus's comments about the temple being torn down led to a long discourse here in Matthew 24 about the future. And it's part of this discourse. Jesus told his disciples that not only wasn't the temple going to last, but he even told them that this planet itself wasn't even going to last. And all of that sets Jesus up for one of the most outrageous things he ever said. In the first chapter, Jesus said, the heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words written down in the B-I-B-L-E, my words will never pass away. They are the only thing on this earth, Jesus said, that's going to last forever. Friends, with these words, Jesus takes that book that many of you have open in your lap right now, the Bible, and he exalts that book to a position of authority, to a position of significance, to a position of permanence that surpasses everything else in this world.
Now that's what we want to talk about today. We want to talk about this book that is going to outlast the world, the nature and the character of this book. What does the Bible really claim for itself? Well, in 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 16, the Bible says that all scripture is inspired by God. What does it mean to be inspired? Well, the Greek word literally means to be God-breathed. In other words, the exact words that God wanted written down in the Bible, he breathed those words through the writers of the Bible and then down on the paper.
That is what the Bible is claiming for itself. Friends, inspiration means that if God himself had written the complete Bible and handed it to Moses on the top of Mount Sinai to bring down to the people, the Bible that Moses would have brought down is the exact same Bible that you and I have today. Inspiration means that if Jesus himself had sat down at a desk in Nazareth and written out the entire Bible just the way he wants it, what he would have handed Peter, Paul, James and John is the exact same Bible that you and I have in our hands today. You say, well, Lon, exactly how did this process work? You know, this process of God breathing his word through these people.
Well, I don't know. The closest thing we've got is 2 Peter chapter 1 verse 20 where Peter writes, no part of scripture ever came about by the writer's own imagination. In other words, Peter one day just didn't sit out and say, I think I'll write the Bible today. No, the Bible goes on to say Peter does, that these men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. All the Bible tells us is that the men who wrote the Bible were in some kind of a supernatural condition when they wrote it that is described by the Bible as being carried along by the Holy Spirit.
We don't know exactly how this process worked, but we do know what the result of this process looks like. It looks like a collection of 66 books which contain God's direct communication to the human race. Now, not only does the Bible claim to be inspired, but it also claims to be inerrant.
Think about it now. If Almighty God personally breathes something out, then if it comes from God by its very nature, it has to be perfect, it has to be impeccable, it has to be flawless. This is why Psalm 19 says, verse 7, the law of the Lord is perfect. Inerrancy means that the Bible is without error, period. Inerrancy means that the Bible is just as correct when it speaks to areas of science, geology, geography, astronomy, cosmology, and history as it is when it speaks to areas about religion per se. Inerrancy, friends, is the linchpin of biblical Christianity. Rob the Bible of inerrancy and all of biblical Christianity crumbles with it. This is why John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said, and he'd roll over in his grave today if he could see what's going on in most Methodist churches when it comes to the Bible, but he wrote and said, and I quote, if there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth, end of quote. In other words, if Jonah and the fish is untrue, then how can we be sure that the resurrection of Jesus isn't untrue? If what the Bible says about Adam and Eve is wrong, then how do we know that what Jesus said about heaven and hell isn't wrong?
Friends, this is a package deal. You know, I was out in the lobby last week just kind of chatting with people, and I had this young lady come up to me, and she said, you know, Lon, I'm trying to bring my friend to a decision for Christ in her life. And so I told her she needed to start reading the Bible. And she came to me a few weeks ago and said, I've been reading the Bible like you told me. She said, but how do we know that the Bible is really reliable? I mean, how do we know for sure that the Bible really comes from God?
How do we know for sure that the Bible is really trustworthy? And this young lady said to me, so, Lon, what do I tell her? So I walked this lady in the bookstore, and I got a few resources for her, and then I said, you know what, young lady, you need to be here next week. Today, because that's exactly what I'm going to talk about, and if you come next week, hopefully the next time after being here next week, you know what to say to your friend when they say something like that to you.
And so that's what I want to talk to you about today. How are we going to answer the question that that young lady's friend had? How do we really know the Bible is reliable? How do we know it's really from God?
Well, to answer that question, there are really three issues we've got to deal with today. Issue number one is the historical accuracy of the Bible. You say, well, why does that even matter? Well, friends, because critics of the Bible attack it at this very point, they say, hey, the Bible is historically inaccurate.
That's their claim. And if that's true, they say, then it's so facto, it must also be spiritually inaccurate. Well, I'd like to turn that around and say, yeah, well, okay, but if we can show that the Bible is historically accurate to a fault, then isn't it reasonable to postulate that the Bible must be spiritually accurate too?
So let's find out. What about this? What about the Bible's historical accuracy? Well, over the last 100 years, archaeology has given us an unbroken string of discoveries that confirm the historical reliability and the historical trustworthiness of the Bible in an amazing way.
I could fill the rest of today and go into tomorrow talking to you about this. But first, let me give you a few examples. Critics of the Bible used to say, you know, the Hittites that are mentioned in the Bible, having a huge empire, well, the Bible's wrong. They never even existed.
We have no record of these people in history. Well, that was until 1906 when Hugh Winkler excavated Bogoskoy, a city in central Turkey, the capital city of the Hittite empire, and found that the Hittite empire was a massive empire that spread through Turkey and Syria and much of the Middle East in exactly the time when the Bible said it existed. So for all of these centuries, historians had been wrong and the Bible had been right all the time. Hey, critics of the Bible used to say, you know all that gold that the Israelites supposedly in silver that they brought out of Egypt at the Exodus and they built the Ark of the Covenant out of it and the tabernacle and all that stuff, you know, that's preposterous. There was never that much gold in Egypt. Well, people said that till 1922 when Howard Carter uncovered the tomb of King Tut-Ankamun, you know him today as King Tut, and found so much gold and silver in that tomb that according to his own records, Howard Carter couldn't even go in.
He had to sit down and catch his breath before he could even walk in. Do you know the coffin in which the mummy of King Tut was found? It was 243 pounds of solid gold. The coffin. And that was just, again, one little thing in this whole tomb. You should know King Tut was a small potato's pharaoh. He only ruled for nine years, about 90 years after Moses was around. He was a shrimp. He was a pipsqueak pharaoh.
You understand what I'm saying? And if there was this much gold in his tomb as a pipsqueak, you can only imagine how much gold there must have really been around 90 years earlier in Moses' day when we had a big potato's pharaoh on the throne like Yul Brynner. Of course, the Bible was accurate on that point. Hey, critics of the Bible used to say, you know what, we don't even know whether that guy David even existed. The only reference to David we've ever found is in the Bible. We've never found his name anywhere outside of the Bible in any inscription. Well, until 1993 when archaeologists digging up in the north of Israel near the Lebanese border around Tel Dan found a slab that had an inscription on it from King Hazael of Damascus.
And on this inscription written, I might add, not by a Jew but by a Syrian king is the name of David just as big as you please. Hey, critics of the Bible used to say, you know Pontius Pilate, he never even existed at all. While we've never found his name in a single inscription outside of the Bible and Caiaphas, the high priest that sent Jesus to die, we've never found record of him anywhere other than in the Bible.
The Bible's just making up people. Well, that wasn't until 1961 when archaeologists in Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea in Israel found this big old slab of stone and big as life on here is the name Pontius Pilatus. Pontius Pilate's name, big as life on this stone. And then in 1990, there was a construction crew using a backhoe in Jerusalem and they accidentally broke into a tomb they didn't know was there. And inside this tomb was an ossuary, a bone box full of a person's bones and written on the side of the ossuary is guess whose name? Caiaphas, the high priest.
I mean, how cool is this? The guy who condemned Jesus to death, Jesus rose from the dead and we got the bones of the guy who sent him to the cross. God's got a sense of humor.
That's all I got to say. And you know, I could keep going like the energizer bunny thing and do this all day long, but just let me give you one more example. An example of how the historical accuracy of the Bible actually led a guy to Christ. His name was Sir William Ramsay. He was a professor in the late 1800s at Oxford University in England.
He was a professor of classical Greek and classical Greek archaeology. And he was an atheist, had no interest in God, made that perfectly clear, but he had a bunch of students in his classes who were witnessing to him and trying to share Christ with him. These students had actually come to Christ as a result of Dwight L. Moody's evangelistic crusades in England 10 or 12 years before and they were trying to get their professor to consider the claims of Christ. And Sir William Ramsay became so angry at these students that he said, all right, all right, all right. He said, I'm going to fix their wagon once and for all. So he took a one-year sabbatical, took the Bible, the book of Acts, and went to Turkey and Greece and decided he was going to follow the book of Acts, Paul's journeys using the book of Acts as his roadmap and being a classical archaeologist and being an expert in classical Greek, he said, I'm going to prove that there are so many mistakes, so many historical inaccuracies in the account of the Bible that I'm going to come back, show them all to my students and tell them to shut up and never bother me again about this Jesus thing. You know what happened?
He found out that the book of Acts was so historically accurate that while he was on the trip, he gave his life to Christ and came back to Oxford to become one of the greatest defenders intellectually of the Christian faith in the late 1800s and the early 1900s and what led him to Christ was simply the historical accuracy of a fault of the book of Acts. You know what I love to say? The more we dig out of the ground, the more the Bible proves to be right. And do you know Time Magazine actually agrees with me?
I'm flattered. Here's what Time Magazine said and I quote, Over the past 200 years, the Bible has been subjected to the most rigorous examination of any book in history. It has been looked at archaeologically, historically and text critically. Not only has the Bible withstood the test, but it has actually emerged better for all the fracas. End of quote. Historically accurate?
You bet. Now the second issue that we have to deal with to answer this young lady's friend's question is the issue of the transmission of the Bible. We have to admit we do not have a single original copy of any book of the Bible and that's left us open to the criticism of critics who say, you know, the Bible's been copied so many times, over so many centuries, why you don't even know if the Bible you have today is anything close to what the original was. All that changed though, friends, in 1947 with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Suddenly we had manuscripts of the Bible, of many of the Bible books going as far back as 250 B.C. Let me show you a picture of the great Isaiah scroll found in the Dead Sea Caves. This scroll is dated by liberal scholars to between 100 and 150 B.C. Here's the Psalm scroll from Cave 11 dated to 50 B.C.
Here's the Jeremiah scroll, one of several dated to 250 B.C. And when we look at these manuscripts, what we find is that they are practically letter for letter, the same as the Bible that you have sitting in your lap open right this minute. And what this tells us is that the transmission of the Bible from ancient times to today has not been some kind of haphazard willy-nilly process. It tells us that in every age the people who were entrusted with the transmission of the Bible considered that a sacred trust and they carried out that sacred trust with a level of integrity and with a level of precision that is mind-boggling. So friends, is the Bible you have today corrupted?
Is it distorted after centuries of transmission? Absolutely not. No way, Jose.
You say, well, Lon, okay, okay. But you know, I'll give you maybe the Bible's historically accurate. And I'll even give you that maybe it hasn't been corrupted in transmission. But neither one of those points proves that the Bible is a supernatural book directly from the living God of the universe.
You're right. And that brings us to our third issue, which is, is the Bible really a supernatural book? The greatest objective proof that I can bring to the table on this is the issue of fulfilled prophecy. Isaiah chapter 46 verse 9, God says, I am God and there is none other and I declare from ancient times things that haven't happened yet. I wrote down in the Bible things that haven't happened in time and space and I wrote them there centuries before they were going to happen so that when they did happen exactly the way I told you they were going to happen, you would know this is not a natural book because nobody could naturally predict that.
You would know that I wrote this book. Isaiah chapter 13, the Bible predicts the fall of the city of Babylon 200 years before it happened in a way that is so precise to the way the events occurred, it is phenomenal. In Daniel chapter 2 and Daniel chapter 11, over 500 years of the political fortunes of the ancient Near East are predicted in the Bible, the rise of Persia, the conquest of Alexander the Great, the death of Alexander suddenly, the splitting of his empire into four kingdoms, the rise of the Roman Empire. In fact, it is so precise in its predictions of what were going to happen politically across the Middle East that the only way that critics can deal with Daniel chapters 2 and 11, the only way they can answer this is to accuse it of being a hoax written 400 years later and being attributed to Daniel as a fraudulent book because there's no other way to explain the unbelievable precision of these prophecies. Finally, we've got all the prophecies related to the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament, all of which were written at least 500 years before Jesus ever lived on this earth, the prophecies of his virgin birth, being a descendant from David, being born in Bethlehem, John the Baptist preceding him, his using Galilee as his headquarters, Judas betraying him, 30 pieces of silver, the potter's field, all the events of the cross, the resurrection being buried in Joseph's tomb. Richard Park, a member of our staff, wrote me a letter about this and said, quote, Lon, during the past week I was talking with a research scientist and mathematician formerly employed at the Pentagon who researched 30 of the clearest Old Testament prophecies referring to Jesus and she calculated that the probability of one in the same person fulfilling all 30 prophecies is one chance in 10 with 100 zeros after it. Now, friends, you can't be wrong with 10 to the 100th power.
You can't be wrong. And so what that means is that the Bible is exactly what it claims to be. The Bible is exactly what it says about itself. It is not only a trustworthy document, but it is a spiritual document directly from the hands and the mouth of Almighty God because God can predict the future as easily as you and I can look back and predict the past. And he did it in this book to show us that the real author of this book is not Isaiah or Moses or Matthew or Mark.
It's God. May I say that if you're here today and you've never trusted Jesus Christ in a real and personal way, one of the reasons people hesitate is because of this very issue. Can the Bible really be relied upon to tell me the truth? And we have people all over our world that are waiting for somebody to prove to them that the Bible is the Word of God beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Friends, I can't do that for you. But I have given you here today compelling evidence to support the fact that the Bible is what it claims to be. And if that's true, then what Jesus said is true.
I am the way, the truth, and the life. Nobody gets into heaven unless they come by way of me. If that's true, it means you're not getting into heaven with your good works. You're not getting into heaven with your religious activity. You're not getting into heaven by trying to keep the Ten Commandments. You can only get in by trusting what Jesus did on the cross. And if the Bible is what it says, friends, then that's true. I would urge you, I would beg you to give your life to Jesus Christ and take advantage of God's offer to give you eternal life. The Bible's telling you the truth.
And I hope you'll take it to heart. Well, that's as far as we want to go today because we've got a real important question to answer. And you know what our most important question is, don't you? Yeah, yeah? All right, so here we go.
One, two, three. So what? Right. You say, Lon, so what?
Say, okay, okay, okay, the Bible's all that stuff that you said. What difference does that make for my everyday life, huh? Well, let's see if I can answer that question for you. You know, the first week of February, I took my wife away for a week for her birthday and we went south to some beachy area, you know, because that's where we wanted to go. And my wife's always saying to me, you know, I never get any time alone with you. And so I said, okay, I'm going to take you away and we'll have a week alone. And after you have one week alone with me, you may find you like it better the way it is in Washington.
So we'll go away and we'll do this. So we went away for the week and we had the same routine every morning. We'd get up early in the morning, we'd go out and watch the sunrise and come up. We'd have our devotions on the beach. And then when the sun got up really high in the sky, we'd go get breakfast.
And so I would always get the local paper because I liked reading it over coffee. And one morning we were sitting there and I started reading this article in the paper entitled Should the Bible be Taken Literally? And the more I read it, the madder I got. And I started huffing and puffing and slamming my hand and going, ugh.
And Brenda's like, what is wrong with you? And I'm like, you should read this article. And the madder I got, finally she said to me, well, look, if you're so upset about it, why don't you write a letter to the editor? So I did. And they published it. So I want to read part of it to you today. Here's my letter to the editor.
Hold on, let me read it to you. Dear sir, I was quite interested to see the article under your theological commentary section on February 4, 2005 entitled Should the Bible be Taken Literally? by Father Shawn Major Campbell. Now he was a bishop of several denominations in this area. So he's a church leader, okay? I was hopeful that Father Major Campbell would strongly advocate the position of biblical inerrancy and divine inspiration. But in reading the article, I was sadly disappointed. In his article, Father Major Campbell stuck together a rambling litany of liberal thinking regarding the integrity and veracity of the Bible. In the end, however, his rambling point was simply that we should not take the Bible literally. To hear this coming from a clergyman doesn't shock me anymore.
It simply saddens me. I came to faith in Jesus Christ as a senior in college at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1971. I was a drug addict, an alcoholic, and a profane womanizer. I was led to Christ in 71 by a street preacher who had the courage to present the claims of Christ to me in the context of the Bible being God's true and accurate revelation to all mankind. And when I believed in Jesus in the straightforward way that the Bible described my entire life was transformed, I became a completely new person in Christ. I would like to remind the readers of the claim of the Bible for itself, that it is the inspired, literally in Greek, the God-breathed revelation of the living God to mankind. Numerous archaeological studies over the past hundred years have confirmed the historical reliability of the Bible in contrast to Father Major Campbell's insinuations to the contrary. Furthermore, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which I have had the privilege to actually see and study personally, clearly prove that the transmission of the Bible was not a haphazard and sloppy process, as Father Major Campbell implies. Rather, we now know that it was a precise and scientific art that resulted in the accurate and dependable transmission of the biblical manuscripts from their originals.
I'll skip to the end. So, let Father Major Campbell keep his cut and paste Bible if he wants. Jesus told us in Matthew 7 at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, that people who build their lives on the Bible are like people who build their house on a rock. Therefore, I urge the readers to rely on the Lord Jesus' view of the Bible instead of Father Major Campbell's, and when all the smoke clears in eternity, we'll all be very glad that we did. Now, they published that.
How cool is that? Well, friends, you never take a vacation from representing Jesus Christ. That's how I see it. Now, let me tell you, the whole issue here is the Bible. The Bible claims to be a supernatural book from a supernatural God giving a supernatural truth about a supernatural Messiah who died on the cross to give us a supernatural relationship with God so that we can live a supernatural life that has a supernatural destination in heaven. And there are people all over our world who are going to do everything in their power to shake your confidence in the Word of God. If you're in school, elementary school, high school, college, graduate school, there are professors there who, in order to justify their own godless and profane lifestyle, are going to try to undermine your confidence in the Bible. And even if you're in the workaday world, there are people out there who, in order to justify their ungodly behavior, are going to do everything they can to shake your confidence in the Word of God.
And I'm here to tell you, don't you let them do it. Friends, until they can find a way to unconfirm world history, until they can find a way to undiscover everything that archaeology has discovered, until they can find a way to undo one times ten with a hundred zeros after it, you stick with the Bible as the inspired Word of God. You plan to get to heaven the way it tells you to.
You live your life, your everyday life, the way it instructs you to, and you learn to see the world with the worldview that it presents to you. And I promise you, when the smoke clears in eternity, you're going to be glad you did. The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock. The rains came down and the floods came up, but the house on the rock stood. You're off key, firm.
Got to be on key, firm. And you know what? Years ago I adopted a little motto, God said it, I believe it, that settles it. I didn't make that up, but I heard it and said, that's a good way to live life.
And I've tried to live that way for the last 35 years. I've learned that this is not simplistic. This is wise. God said it, I believe it, and that settles it. And people who depart from this just get stupider and stupider the farther they move away from it.
Don't be stupid. We want you to be wise. We want you to build your life, build your eternal destiny, build your family's eternal destiny, build your everyday lifestyle around the truth of the word of God. And I'm telling you that heaven and earth may pass away, but you, if you build your life on the word of God, what did Jesus say? Your house on the rock stands firm. Your house will stand firm. And one day in heaven you'll turn around and say, thank you, Lord, that I had enough sense to follow that simple, okay, I don't mind being called simple as long as I'm right, as long as I'm right.
Call me anything you want. But if I'm right, that's where I want to be. And this is right. Let's pray together. Heavenly Father, thanks for reminding us today that heaven and earth may pass away, but your words never will. Thank you for providing us this solid foundation on which to build our lives, our world view, and our eternal destiny. And, Lord, I pray that you would make us wise enough to adopt as our motto, God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.
Lord, people get stupider from that point on. Help us not to be such people, but to be wise people who take our stand on the word of God and build our lives on the word of God. And as Jesus said, when all is said and done, our house will stand. Lord, thanks for talking to us today about real life. May the Bible be our guide, and may it be the book that provides our sense of reality.
May it be our gyroscope as we go through life. And thank you for giving us the Bible because you loved us so much that you wanted us to have a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Lord, we give you much thanks for that and pray that you would give us the wisdom to use the Bible the way you created it and gave it to us. And we pray these things in Jesus' name. And God's people said, Amen. Amen.
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