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Matthew 24

July 3rd, 2011 by Vic

Matthew 24

July 3, 2011

“The End of Time”

 

Everyone has an opinion about Jesus’ teachings in this chapter.  Most agree when they discuss what Jesus is teaching about God.  Few agree when they ask what does this mean to me?

 

Next week in chapter 25 there are 3 parables that Jesus gives to help us understand His teaching here in chapter 24.  We will see next week that the parables have a common thread regarding attitudes.  The foolish women are the ones who do not plan ahead and assume they can use their charm to talk themselves out of any crisis.  The man given one talent was too insecure to take a risk.  The goats were too self-centered to help someone unless it benefitted them.  They all have bad attitudes.  Today you will have to think.  But even the best thinkers have not found answers to all their questions in this chapter about the end of the age.  The intent of this teaching was to encourage the disciples.  They are encouraged to be faithful and have an attitude of expectancy.

 

As we read through this chapter, I’ll try to focus on the things we can know for sure and some statements that are controversial.

24:1-14

According to Mark’s gospel, the disciples were really impressed with the beauty of the new temple that Herod had rebuilt.  It was 70’ high to the peak.  Some stones were as big as a school bus and fit so tightly that a knife could not be inserted.

 

While they were walking up the other side of the valley from the Temple Mount, the disciples apparently looked back and told Jesus to notice how the light was striking the white marble stones.  Some of the stone was plated with gold.  Jesus looked and saw what the temple was going to look like in 40 years.  When Jesus looks at you, he sees you as you will be.

 

In 40 years the Emperor Titus decided to eliminate the Jews, but he did not want to waste a lot of man power so he chose to starve the city to death.  Josephus writes about the condition of the city when the Romans finally marched in.  They found families dead in their homes, streets cluttered with the unburied, and yet some Jewish fanatics still tried to fight.  Josephus says over 1 million Jews starved and 97,000 were taken captive.  Someone shot a flaming arrow into the Temple.  The tapestries and cedar lined walls burned quick and hot.  The gold melted off all the items that were gold plated and flowed into the cracks in the stone.  When the fire cooled, the Romans messed up a lot of stones trying to collect the gold.

 

Jesus reminds his disciples that the things that are seen are temporary.  This temple will soon be destroyed.  Life is not about big temples, big houses, and big cars.  When the disciples find a nice picnic area on the Mt of Olives, they ask Jesus a couple questions (3).

 

Jesus had just said the temple was going to be destroyed.  The disciples were processing that.  All the Jews knew that the first temple was destroyed in the time of Jeremiah.  It was a judgment of the Jewish nation for its sin.  The nation was dispersed and abandoned.  The educated and leading Jews were taken as slaves into Babylon.  The disciples now believed that when the Temple was to be destroyed the next time, it would be the final judgment at the end of the age and Jews would become part of the Messianic kingdom.  The disciples had already declared their belief that Jesus was the Messiah.  “When should we start preparing for the end of the world?”

 

That is the question that Jesus is speaking to in chapters 24-25.  He does not give a specific timeline, but warns them about being deceived by answers that other people might give.  Look ahead to verse 32 and 36.  Jesus’ answer is that the times and seasons you will recognize, but the day and the hour no one knows.  Preparation for that event requires an attitude of expectancy and a life of faithfulness.

 

When a woman becomes pregnant, she often experiences morning sickness before she feels any feet or fists.  The end times are like a bad pregnancy.  Jesus teaches that in the routines of life, many things will remind you of the coming of Christ and the end of the age when things will get miraculously better, but that event still is not yet.  Many cult leaders will claim to have all the answers to your questions (5).  Wars and rumors of wars are not part of some divine timetable (6).

 

Don’t be alarmed (6).  This was written for your comfort.  The Christian knows that God is in control.  The Christian believes that God will create a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3).  Jesus is reminding us, warning us, and encouraging us to be faithful.

 

The shock jocks on the talk shows are not of God.  They fail to offer comfort.  Don’t be alarmed.  The TV prophets are not of God when they try to predict the day and scare you into heaven.  Don’t be alarmed.  When the end comes our lives will be better.  This life is as bad as it gets for the Christian.  I enjoy this temporary life a lot, but I know there is something better.  I’m living with a temporary visa in this world, but my citizenship is in heaven.

 

1 Thes 4:13-5:1-11 was written to encourage us about the end of the age and the coming of Christ.  Man does not offer comfort.  Evil does not bring comfort.  Drugs and altered states of consciousness do not bring lasting comfort.  Real comfort is in knowing that we belong to Jesus and He cares for us.  History is going somewhere.  At the end of history, we may get a chariot ride like Elijah.  We will be taken up.

 

Wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution, false prophets, and increasing wickedness should all remind us that God is in control and He has prepared a better place for us.  The Christian is pregnant with the expectancy of the promise of God.  One of the greatest temptations in times of tribulation is to follow anyone who claims to have all the answers and promises to make life easier.  Like our presidential election campaigns.

 

24:15-36

Many feel Jesus is warning the Jews here about the Fall of Jerusalem.  And many feel He is also describing the Great tribulations before the antichrist comes.  Jesus is teaching that this is not a perfect world.  There will be a time or times of great distress.

 

The abomination that causes desolation was predicted by the prophet Daniel (9:24-27).  200 years before Christ, the Roman emperor Antiochus, who called himself Epiphanes, the shining one, butchered a pig on the sacred altar in the Temple and smeared the blood all around.  He filled the temple with idols and required idol worship.  The abomination is usually associated with idolatry.

 

Jesus warns them when something like this happens immediately run for the hills.  What happened 200 years ago will happen again, but this time the Temple will be destroyed.  Josephus tells us that when the Romans came in 70 A.D. the people ran into Jerusalem rather than running to the hills.  That is why so many died in the famine and captivity.  Jesus warns them not to pack the diaper bag.  Don’t try to be kosher and just run a Sabbath day’s distance.  Run as far as you can.

 

We have seen that history often repeats itself.  Prophecy often is also fulfilled in different ways.  The ‘elect’ mentioned in 22 & 24 usually refers to the Jews.  It may also refer to Christian preachers who are deceiving many with a focus on signs and miracles.

 

Jesus warns us, “Don’t be deceived!”  When Christ comes, you won’t mistake it.  It is no secret.  If some secret group is writing “The Watchtower” in a secret room in a secret place, don’t believe them.  If someone offers a secret way of meditating and receiving enlightenment, don’t submit to their procedures.  If some holy book teaches that killing Christians will please god, don’t call them a brother.  It is pointless to look for the Messiah’s return in some desert monastic community or some mystical commune.  The coming of Christ will be like lightening.  When you hear about it, it will have already happened (27).  In thunderstorms it is wise not to find shelter under tall trees.  The signs of the times suggests that lightening could strike.  When you see buzzards circling, you know something has already died (28).  You can’t miss it.  You will have eyes to see it.  You live expectantly.  You can see the weakness in the animal that is about to die.  So you can see that Christ is about to appear.

 

The world will mourn when they see some unusual sign in the sky (30).  This coming in the clouds and gathering of the elect seems different from the rapture described by Paul in 1 Thes 4:17.  Some feel this is the Jews who are saved after the rapture in the middle of the tribulation period.  The time line of all this is not really as important as our attitude and commitment to being faithful.

 

The fig tree can point to the promised summer, but not the exact day.  Some years are like this year and things are ripening much later than usual.  But when Jesus comes, the world as we know it will be changed.  Heaven and earth that seem so permanent shall pass away.  God’s Word and the things that are not seen are eternal.

 

24:36-51

In the days of Noah, rain was a new thing.  It was a surprise.  People were living their lives as they always had before.  Wickedness was increasing.  Righteousness was rare.  So when Jesus comes again, the righteous will be taken unexpectedly.

 

The warning to us is to stay alert.  Don’t be seduced by the wide road that leads to destruction.  Don’t neglect to honor God.  Be ready (44).  Knowing that Christ is coming again should affect my behavior.

 

Be a wise servant (45).  There are some responsibilities you have.  Do them.  You have made some commitments.  Keep them.  Prophecy conferences will not prepare you for the 2nd coming.  Their declared timeline is not God’s timeline.  All present day self-proclaimed prophets are in for a big surprise.  We must be wise servants knowing this could be the day when Jesus returns so we will continue to do the things that please God.  It is very dangerous to assume there is plenty of time.

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