What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?
Matthew 24:1-28 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
15 “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18 Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25 Behold, I have told you in advance. 26 So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
The most important thing for believers to remember and to declare to the world about the terrible times of tribulation that Jesus describes is that it is not the end of the world or the end of time, but rather it is the end of the age. Jesus says: “The one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” The great tribulation marks the end of the age when lawlessness and sin reign on earth. It is the beginning of the age when the kingdom of heaven will be on earth. The times Jesus speaks of are really the culmination of the prayer He taught us to pray: Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus says: “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Many people ask how or why a loving God would bring such harsh judgment and destruction upon the earth and against people. Look though at what the conditions and the circumstances of the tribulation are. It is war, nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Understand that this is not being repetitious. The word translated nation is the Greek word ethnos, from which we get the English word ethnic. So nation rising against nation refers to racial and tribal conflict. It is war within the borders of countries, even the wars which we are seeing in the streets of our cities and the halls of our schools. It is the war which is being stoked by those on the right and those on the left and those in the media, who seek to divide people against each other. It is a war that has existed for as long as man, but one that is escalating in our day. The kingdom against kingdom, refers to the wars between political entities, the wars fought for territory, control of resources; wars fought for power ego and greed. These too are escalating around the world and the potential for catastrophic damage and loss of life increases as rogue regimes join world powers in obtaining weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Jesus says: “in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.” We could potentially add other natural disasters, storms, volcanic eruptions, extended periods of severe heat or cold; droughts and floods. Again people question God’s love and ask how or why a loving God would allow or cause such things to happen. What if the key to all of these things, the conflict, the wars, even the natural disasters, is in that God doesn’t cause them. He merely allows them. What if God’s judgment is not really the hand of God coming against the world, but rather God’s hand of grace being removed from the world? What if all of the conflict and war is a result of God allowing people to do as they wish? Jesus says: “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Isn’t war the result of man against man? Isn’t the violence that runs through our streets and in our schools caused by the hands of people not God? Regardless of any other underlying cause, it is the result of lawlessness or sin. It is the result of the cold imperfect and conditional love of people as opposed to the perfect, unconditional love of God. Many people want to give no credit to God for the beauty, the splendor, the magnitude and the intricacies of creation. Yet they would challenge His love in the face of the devastation wrought by natural disasters. What if they too, natural disasters, are God simply temporarily removing His hand of grace, His hand of protection and provision. Man cannot maintain the proper rotation of the earth on its axis or the exact time and distance of its orbit around the sun. Man cannot accurately predict, let alone curb storms or earthquakes. Only the hand of God can and has for all the years since creation. What if all the natural disasters are not God’s judgment, but rather Him simply removing His hand of grace?
What then is the answer? What should we declare and proclaim to the world in light of the situation and circumstances we see? Jesus says: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance.” What has He told us in advance? He says: “The one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” In Psalm 91, the psalmist has the answer for how to stand and navigate these difficult times. May his words be our declaration and prayer for ourselves and to the world.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes And see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the Lord, my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down. “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. “With a long life I will satisfy him And let him see My salvation.” Amen. Thank You for Your hand of grace, protection and provision. Thank You for salvation through the cross of Christ. Your kingdom com, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. I will proclaim the gospel, the good news of the kingdom, until the end of this age. Amen.