Covered: Matthew 24:32-51, 26:35-27:66; Luke 23:26-26; John 19
Scripture Memory: Dealing with Sin – Romans 6:11-12 / Ephesians 6:10-12
In this week’s reading, we begin the passion narratives, the parts of the gospels that talk about the last days of Jesus’ life, including his trial. Also included is the second half of Matthew 24, but not chapter 25. These two chapters (24-25) are collectively called the “Olivet Discourse” because it is a lengthy teaching Jesus did from the Mount of Olives.
Jesus loved this elevated olive grove that gave Him and those He was teaching a perfect view of the Holy City of Jerusalem. It still does today. In Matthew 24, the disciples, who were with Jesus, asked Him three questions that He then answered in detail in chapters 24 and 25.
The questions were prompted by Jesus telling them that the temple would be destroyed, an amazing and shocking statement by Him (24:1-2). They then asked, when would this destruction happen? What would be the sign of Jesus coming? And, what are signs of the end of the age?
Matthew wrote his Gospel to Jewish Christians. Part of what he was trying to address with his Gospel is why the kingdom had not yet come? At least it hadn’t come fully. See, the gospel was written after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, so the audience was Christian, but also Jewish. How had the King come and not set up this kingdom on earth? What happened?
He was rejected by the nation of Israel. Yet, in that rejection, the doors were open to the world, to Gentiles, to non-Jews. And this was part of God’s plan, to have Jesus die for the world, all peoples and all nations. And the Kingdom? It is in an “already, not yet” reality! It will be fully realized when Jesus comes again!
As you read Matthew 24 (and 25), there are two general ways people have interpreted the chapters. The events have past or that the events are still future. The first view is taken because the Romans destroyed the Temple in AD 70. However, Jesus hasn’t come back yet! So, His predictions help us know what to expect as we live, love, and wait.
The wars and rumor of wars, (v. 6) always set up the possibility that the struggle for this earth, and what is right is coming to an end. Famine often follows wars, as the earth is often scorched. Earthquakes represent cataclysmic chaos that has come to nature itself (v.7). Christ-followers will experience great persecution. This will lead to sin, a falling away from God – apostasy. False teachers will appear. Wickedness will begin to push out the love that should be evident in our community. There will be “great tribulation” (v. 21).
In addition to these signs, there is also the reality that all the nations of the earth must hear the gospel before Jesus comes back (v. 14). As a church, The Chapel is sending people to the unreached to proclaim the Gospel, knowing this truth. How gracious is God?
Many people have spent a great deal of time trying to identify these signs and their precise timing. It is natural to want to know. That is why the disciples asked. Obviously, no one has predicted Jesus’ return successfully. Even with all the descriptions, Jesus made it clear, that we will not know the day that He will come again.
When we read about how horrible it will be before his arrival, Jesus’ admonition, His charge to His disciples and to us is – be ready! Don’t be surprised. Be ready. Don’t be fearful. Be ready!
Generations before us, who have seen the world seemly being torn apart by wickedness and war, had prepared themselves, knowing that the forces of darkness are always looking to dominate this earth. Yet even those forces of evil don’t know the time – so they are always pushing!
How do we stay ready?
1. Make sure you’ve trusted in Jesus as your savior! Don’t put off that decision.
2. Stay mindful – alert–, that even with what we know, or think we know, Jesus can come back today! Wouldn’t that be great? Because that is a reality, are you ready? Would you welcome such a surprise, or would it feel like an intrusion?
3. Pray with the end in mind. When the times become what Jesus’ has described – if we’re there – we’ll need his perspective to keep our minds stayed on Him.
4. Give. Don’t hoard or stockpile. Serve. Don’t hide or fight. Love. Don’t worry. Jesus will be with us. Peter gave godly advice when he faced what he could have thought was the end of the age because of the extensive persecution Christians faced shortly after Jesus’ ascension. He gives it to us too.
7The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:7–9 (NIV)
Christians don’t need to fear the end of the age. We know who is the Victor. Clearly, the times will be extremely difficult, but even more so for those who don’t have the hope that comes through the gospel!
We need to live each day so that we can say with Paul what he said at the end of his life.
8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8 (NIV)
Live today longing for Jesus to come again! Love each other. Speak of Jesus as God gives you opportunity.
Written by: Kevin McKee
Photo Credit: Hasan Almasi