Everyone wants to see the future…
- Astrology/horoscopes, tarot card, and psychic readers claim ability to see the future and share with you… of course for a price.
- Politicians portray future if they are or their opponent are in office.
- Shows/Movies: The Jetson cartoon, Back To The Future, etc.
- Planning during a pandemic – ha!
- Everybody wants to know the future… marriage, family, career, decisions, happenings, death.
Only God, who lives outside of time, can see the future, which is why we must put our faith in Christ not future-tellers. Today’s message will encourage Christians toward a greater sense of urgency to believe in and live for Jesus Christ.
EXAMINE Matthew 24 Jesus & Urgency
1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.
2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
- Matthew 24 known as “The Olivet Discourse” based on the location of Jesus speaking from the Mount of Olives.
- Text is used for all sorts of end time views of the return of Jesus.
- Jesus left the temple and predicted its judgment – “there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mt 24:2).
- This statement was used against Jesus in trial (Mt 26:61) and again at crucifixion (27:40). Clearly, the Jews were opposed to Jesus’s rejection of Jewish nationalism symbolized with the temple and its rituals.
- Jesus further was predicting what would occur a few decades later where the Romans would obliterate Jerusalem and destroy the temple in 70AD. Yet, it was also a statement that God’s kingdom and the Messiah’s first coming was not about an earthly government superpower or even a religious resurgence, but rather a new way of life in God’s kingdom.
34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
- Christians cannot fully predict the future because Jesus says, “No one knows the day or hour” (24:36). In the original Greek this phrase means “stop acting a fool and making stupid predictions!” Seriously, the key to the message Jesus intends is about urgency for eternity. No one is promised another minute, day, or month – so how can we live with the end in mind?
3 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 end of the age?”
Notice how these two occurrences are tied together and not separate events. In the present text, the coming of Jesus and end of the age are governed by a single definite article, thus indicating descriptions of the same event. The phrase “end of the age” occurs in Matthew’s Gospel (13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20), and each time refers to the actual end, not just an interlude before the end. Therefore, IMHO, with a full biblical discussion, Jesus is referring to His return following these tribulation signs; indicating a post-tribulation eschatology.
Signs of urgency before Christ’s return.
- Spiritual Deception
4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.
5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
Multiple times in Jesus’s ministry and in this passage (24:4-5, 11, 23-26), he warns against deception. The NT writers warn against spiritual deception as well (Gal 1:6-9; 1Tim 4:1; 2Pet 2:1; 1Jn 4:1; Jude 1:4). This deception will climax when the Anti-Christ mimics Jesus with “power and signs and wonders” but actually is the activity of the adversary (2Thes 2:9-12). The adversary will be so deceptive that the masses will follow him as a helping voice of reason and rescue, but it will be to their ultimate and eternal destruction.
à Avoid deception by immersion in the truth and surrounding yourself with trusted faith community.
- International Conflict.
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,
There has been no historical generation where there have not been wars and rumors of wars. The last generation has experienced wars in China, Japan, Germany, Rwanda, Somalia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia, Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, Kuwait, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, America. Undoubtedly I’m missing several. And Jesus said, “don’t be alarmed, this must take place.” In other words, with every international conflict and war, we cannot associate the end of the age or return of Christ. Human perspective is too narrow, human depravity is too wide, and God’s timetable is too sovereign to predict end times based on international conflicts.
The horrors of war are those experiences that most men who have endured battle do not wish to speak.
à While Christians long for the day when we will beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, and not train for war (Isa 2:4), but that day is not here. Until then, Jesus calls us to be peacemakers; notedly not peacekeepers bc sometimes making peace means conflict and war. Let us pray and work together for our nation’s leaders along with its military, police officers to have the wisdom and resolve of peacemaking.
- Natural Disasters
7 there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
War, natural disaster and earthly tragedy have been present in each generation. Famine and earthquakes are noted, but many manuscripts also add the word pestilence (NKJV, also cf Lk 21:11). A pestilence is a contagious or infectious disease on an epidemic or pandemic level. The viral effects are devastating and deadly. Jesus predicted natural disasters, so they are part of our history, unfortunately part of today, and will occur in however many future years this world has. The point is, as bad as these tragedies are, are merely “birth pains.”
Just as a pregnant mother may experience painful contractions, leaving her and the father to think a baby delivery is near, sometimes those genuine contractions are known as false labor pains. As time passes and in the right moment, those labor pains will increase in frequency and intensity with a final great rupture for the miracle of childbirth. Likewise, we cannot predict the return of Christ with every painful contraction. The Gospel writers and the book of Revelation through Jesus describe His return following a time of Great Tribulation on earth that will include tragedy of great lengths. In the last days before Jesus returns, the world will tremble, chaos will spread, riots and violence will erupt, and the systems and leaders we have placed way too much trust and hope will demonstratively disappoint and fail us. In those confusing, frenzied, and anarchic times, a man of supposed peace will promise deliverance for all who follow him, but it will be to their eternal regret.
à One of most powerful habits you can practice is the discipline of praise and prayer.
- Job / Psalms
- Following the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, heavenly worship is incited, saying,
- “We give thanks to you Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth… Then God’s temple in heaven was opened… there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (Rev 11:16-19)
- During 7 bowls of wrath, angels praise
- “Just as you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve… Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments” (Rev 16:5-6)
- Following the Fall of Babylon – this great nation of industry yet immorality – the saints cry out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just… [he] has avenged on her the blood of his servants” (Rev 19:1-2)
- Christian Persecution
9 “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.
Jesus reminds His followers that God’s prophets were persecuted, He was persecuted, and the same will be true of Christians (Mt 5:11-12; 10:16-39; Php 1:29; 1Tim 3:12). Few people embrace reading or memorizing these passages or call these their life verse! Yet, such reminders are fresh on the lips of Jesus and evident in His death on the cross and call for followers to take up the cross. In many places, persecution and hatred of Christians has been expanding with a trend that will only continue and climax until the return of our Lord.
Early church slogan (Tertullian): “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Christians today should have no reason to think our relative freedoms will continue, and every biblical reason to think they will not. Persecution is unavoidable for those who truly live for Jesus Christ. So, short of substantial revival, persecution against Christians and the church will increase.
As it did in history and does today, persecution has a way of refining genuine faith. Many Christians do not pray against persecution but instead pray for exponential boldness when it comes (cf. Ac 4:29-31). Christians should be reminded when one part of the body suffers, we all do. Let us pray for the sustaining faith of believers around the world, especially in areas hostile to Christianity.
- Christian Apostasy
10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Here again is the result of an earlier sign of spiritual deception – apostasy. Apostasy is the abandonment or renunciation of a previous held belief. Bible students can trip up on this topic, thinking that faith is something that can be lost – conditional security doctrine rather than unconditional perseverance of the saints (“once saved, always saved”). Christians get confused on this subject because they have too casual a view on the doctrine of conversion. Many view conversion something like: God loves us and if we believe in Him and go to worship, and try to be kind, then our worries are removed and we get to go to Heaven. However, that’s a low and faulty understanding. Christianity is not about making mean people nice but making dead people alive and new. Conversion is God’s saving action to convict us of sin for repentance, which transforms our heart and mind to have faith that perseveres to the end, where faith becomes sight.
*Matthew 13 – parable of sower with some seed received but grows up and is choked by deceitfulness of world.
*Hebrews 3:14 “we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end”
*1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.”
Throughout the history of the church there have been leaders and lobbies who turn away from the authority of Christ and the inerrancy of the Scriptures. There are individuals and groups who doubt the virgin birth, dismiss the reality that hell is humanity’s default, and deny the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross or His resurrection. These movements renunciate orthodox Christianity in the name of ecumenism and political correctness – supporting the murder of unborn babies, redefining marriage, promoting greed and immorality to achieve power, preaching a gospel of tolerance rather than the truth; having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people! (2 Tim 3:1-5)
à Jesus references, “because of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold.” Friends, we cannot stop feeling sympathy for the hang-ups of the world and sorrow for the heartache in the world. It is easy to get annoyed and angry at the senseless acts of human depravity. But, remember our Lord and Savior: whether it was hypocritical religious leaders or immoral sinners, His heart was grieved at those w/o a shepherd (Mt 9:36) or chicks w/o a hen (Mt 23:37). Realize the same Savior who extended grace to us when it was undeserved, is the one who calls us to reflect and relay that grace to others.
- Missional Advance
14 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 previous signs of the Lord’s return are undesirable to the Christian. Yet, this last sign is one we eagerly strive toward. The proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all peoples [ἔθνεσιν; Not geographic or political entities, but people groups/ethnicities].
- God’s desire is to bless all the nations through the seed of Abraham, of which the Gentile church has been linked (Gen 12: Rom 9-11; Gal 3:29).
- Jesus has commissioned the church to spread the gospel to all nations (Mat 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).
- God is patient, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:8-10; 1Tim 2:4).
- Heaven will be populated with people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev 5:9-10; 7:9).
- Jesus promises His return will not come until all peoples have a gospel witness (Mt 24:14).
- Does not mean every person will hear the gospel.
- Does not mean every person will become a Christian.
- Does mean the end times will be marked by Christ’s church united and urgent around the gospel of the kingdom and fulfilling the Great Commission.
- Currently, according to JoshuaProject.net, there are 17,423 people groups with 7,402 left unreached (no gospel witness); side note: in population of 7.75 billion with 3.22 billion people unreached.
- Wycliffe has a legitimate goal for beginning a bible translation project in every language by 2025.
à Giving of time, talents, and treasure towards the Lord’s causes will never be in vain and are investments for treasure in heaven (Mt 6:20). Two practical applications for personally applying missional advance: 1) Practice hospitality with neighbors/co-workers and let them see you practice and speak of faith. 2) Practice financial generosity. When we examine stuff in our houses and how we spend, what will last for eternity?
Jesus’s answer to the disciples’ questions of when will the temple be destroyed and what are the signs must have left them briefly confused. Jesus kept talking about when the end was not and how everything that looks like a sign is just the beginning. But, the final sign of Jesus’s coming was seeing Jesus coming in the clouds with angels and a loud trumpet call (24:30). He will return when he comes; stay awake and be ready (24:42).
The point isn’t to eagerly watch for signs of world events but to enduringly watch your soul and relationship with Jesus, so your faith is genuine, fresh, and focused on right actions. In times of crisis, Christians should be some of the calmest people because they know God’s prophecies and Christ’s promises.
- SPBC has new parking lot to enjoy, but we must not stand holding onto our asphalt. We must engage and be known in our community.
- Small Groups & Neighboring
- SP Youth Collective
- 2nd Sat NOGH Outreach
 See R.T. France, Tyndale: Matthew 24:1-2.
 See Craig Blomberg, NAC: Matthew 24:3.
 See Blomberg, and also France; additionally lengthy discussion by D.A. Carson Expositors Bible Commentary on Matthew 24.
 See my article: https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2019/11/14/a-post-tribulation-perspective/; see also specifically point #5 in https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/9-reasons-we-can-be-confident-christians-wont-be-raptured-before-the-tribulation/