Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
This week my personal devotions are in Matthew 24. And I have been struck by a number of things that Jesus said in this chapter about the last days. I am aware that what I am writing may be disturbing to some of us. And that is not my intent. God is in control no matter what we face in these times. I have joked in the past that in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 where Paul says, “Comfort one another with these words,” we misread it, “Scare the life out of one another with these words.” However, these things need to be taken seriously.
Matthew 24 begins with Jesus caught up in His sadness over the destruction that was going to come upon Jerusalem because His own people rejected Him. Like excited tourist the disciples point out to Jesus the wonderful buildings of the temple. And Jesus shoots back at them, “Do you see these stones? I tell you that there will not be left one stone upon another here that will not be cast down.”
Now, this was shocking to the disciples of Jesus. The Temple was the largest building in the Eastern Mediterranean. It had taken 46 years to build. So the disciples came to Jesus asking when this would happen, and what would be the sign of the second coming of Jesus, and the end of the age. They could not imagine that the destruction of the Temple would not mean the end of the world. From our perspective, we know that the Temple and the entire city were destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD. That was a terrible time for the people of Jerusalem. Thousands and thousands died at the hands of the Romans.
Interestingly enough Jesus did not correct His disciple’s misconception. He rather used the comparison of the two events to teach about the end times and His return. Let's look at this passage beginning with verse 3. I have emboldened the text in three places to highlight what Jesus gives us to do in these days.
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The first thing that Jesus tells us to do is, “See that no one leads you astray.” The point and purpose of all the false rescuers, false teachers, and false teachings is to lead astray those who will and can be led away from Christ. Later in this chapter Jesus said that the false teachers and christs will perform signs and wonders that would, “if it were possible, deceive even the elect.” Not being led astray depends upon God keeping us safe. Relationship with God is crucial to endurance to the end. We must depend upon Him. Only God can keep us safe.
The second of these assignments is, “See that you are not alarmed.” Jesus’ words should disabuse us of the notion that everything will get better and better, possibly more and more Christian, right up to the end. I do believe more and more people will probably continue to come to faith in Christ right up to His return. But I also believe it will cost us more and more to follow Him. The Bible does not teach that it will be easy for us. Jesus says, “See that you are not alarmed when you see all the things happening on the Earth.” How do we keep from being alarmed? Well, we need to recognize that God is sovereign in the midst of school shootings, airplanes being flown into buildings, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, floods, famines, climate change, and pestilence. Jesus told us ahead of time that these things would happen. And He has told us that He will be with us to the very end. We need to focus on Him. And He will minister through us to the world that He still loves and weeps over.
The final assignment is not given here as an admonition, but as an assumption. This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in the whole world as a witness to all peoples. But make no mistake. We are the ones who must carry this out in the power of God. Elsewhere Jesus gives this to us as a command. And if you are anxious for Jesus to return in His glory, tell people that Jesus died for their sins, and rose again to give them new life. And pray for His power to break their hearts and transform their lives through the gospel.