I feel that we are living Matthew 24 today.
“But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” -Matthew24:13
How many of you have ever thought about what the end of the world will be like? Some of you may have lived through the panic of the year 2000, when it was thought that the world would descend into total chaos as the computers would revert back to the year 1900. Or would world war three start and we would all annihilated ourselves with nuclear weapons? Could a mentor come to hit the earth, or would the sun explode billions of years later and engulf our world? Perhaps these don’t scare any of you and you know as the Bible says, that the end of the world will come when Jesus comes again. So now the question might be, are you ready for Him to come again? To be honest, I used to be unsure about this. Now I no longer doubt. When my faith was small, I realized that this is good news. I am growing everyday in the assurance of the truth more each day. In the passage of Matthew 24, the disciples has the same question about the end of the age, but Jesus makes it very clear the way of salvation. I pray that you may grow in faith, in hope, and in assurance of your salvation when Jesus comes again.
Look at verse 1 of Matthew 24, ‘ Jesus left the temple and was walking away when His disciples came up to Him to call His attention to its buildings.” The time was 2 days before Jesus would be crucified. Earlier in the day Jesus was in conflict with the religious leaders and the teachers of the law. He denounced them for their hypocrisy and indicated them for the murder of God’s prophet and messenger, but in the very same breath He held out His hands, longing to forgive them and take them to Himself, but there were not willing. Without the forgiveness of God, only judgement will remain. He warned them with the truth, “Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:38-39) After He had said this Jesus and His disciples left the temple to go back to Bethany, about 1.5 miles away, where they were staying before the Passover festival. The disciples must have pondered Jesus’s last words in the temple. The temple desolate? We will not see Jesus again? As they we leaving the temple the disciples said, “Look Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1) The must of thought, how can something so big, so beautiful become desolate? In Jesus’s time, the temple was still under construction, but King Herod made it a very ambitious building project. The eastern side of it adorned in gold, so the sun shone on it for miles away. The walls were made of white marble, so up close it looked like a sea, and from far away it looked liked pure snow.
Jesus responds to them, Do you see all these things? He asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down.” (Verse 2) The disciples must have been deeper in thought now, as they made their way out of Jerusalem. By verse 3, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives the disciples came to Him privately. “Tell us, ‘they said, when will all this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Mark tells us that is was Peter, James, John and Andrew who came to Him privately. Now look at their question. They connected the come of Christ with the end of the age. They had some idea that Jesus was the messiah who would come and establish God’s kingdom here on earth. They wanted to know when, and what would be the sign of that time. Their understanding of the kingdom of God was not perfect, however. They may have thought that the kingdom would have appeared right away, (Luke 19:11) and that Jesus would somehow disappear and reappear as the undisputed Messiah, but they really are not. He tells them in verse 6, “ You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come,” Jesus says, “see to it that you are not alarmed.” I think there can be some degree of fear when you hear about war. Jesus will even tell His disciples to flee when appropriate. What Jesus means here is “don’t panic,” Don’t lose you mind, and don’t become hopeless when you hear of wars and famines and earth wakes. I might seem like the end of the word, but it’s not. Jesus says such things must happen, but the end is still to come. They happen because of sin and the curse of sin. Because of sin, nations are at war. Because of the curse, the earth groans. But Jesus said these are birth pains. As we know with the birth of a child, the frequency of contractions increase and so does the pain, until the child is born. Likewise, we will see increase in the intensity and frequency of wars, famines and natural disasters right before God’s kingdom comes. In Christ, this should not cause us to panic but even be a little bit hopeful.
Jesus turns up the heat in verse 9, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. This just got really serious. Not only might your country be at war, but you personally will be persecuted, hated, and put to death because of Jesus. Persecution will cause many to fall away from their faith and betray one another. People will renounce their belief in Jesus in order to survive, and may even report on their fellow brothers or sisters. On top of that, many false prophets will appear and deceive people. They will try to lead people away from their faith, and instead lead people to themselves. We see in our time false prophets. There was a man who claimed to be Jesus would come again. Many people will sell their homes, some will lose the life savings because they will believe that man.
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love will grow cold.” This is a sad reality, and we also see this in our society today. People love their comforts and their pleasures. They care more about themselves that they will not help someone in trouble. When we see a man who is beaten, unconscious, that falls on the street and robbed and people pass by and no one will be bothered to help, or even move him off the street. We see this in our own cities, in how killings have increased. I was watching the news the other day and there was a beheading in our streets and people do not even feel guilty or any remorse.
Why do you think God has allowed wickedness to increase, and false prophets to arise? Why has God allowed persecution, war, and famines ? Part of it is to show the utter sinfulness of sin, and to show why these things must come to an end. It is to show that God’s wrath upon this sinful world is just. But what else is all the suffering for? How can Jesus tell His followers not to be alarmed at the threat of war! How could he tell the not to fall away in persecution or death? What is the believer’s source of strength? How can a believer not panic in uncertain times or fall away because of danger or temptation? It is faith. Suffering always refines and purifies faith. Why would God lead His church through such dark times? It is to test and show their faith, which is like pure gold. It is often the hard times that we draw closer to God, and help us to depend on Him more. Difficult times, more often than easy times, strengthens our faith. And that is what will save us in the end of the age: faith, faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells us in verse 13, “but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” The person who has faith in Jesus to the end, even in war, or famine, or earth wakes, or persecution, or even death will be saved.
Jesus wants to give everyone in the world an opportunity to know Him, and then trust and believe in Him.