Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Matthew 24 - Part 7


Read Matthew 24

Jesus had bested the Pharisees and silenced the Sadducees and then went into an extended monologue chastising the religious hypocrites who should have been shepherding God’s Chosen People but who were spiritually blind and manipulated God’s directives to their own liking.

Then Jesus left the temple but the disciples sought his comments on the structures.  They were surely magnificent.  If Jesus was the Christ—if he was there before Abraham—then surely he had seen Solomon’s Temple as well.  He must have something to say about this temple made to glorify his Father.

Maybe he could do a compare and contrast paragraph or two for them.

Jesus did not admire the structures.  It was if he was indifferent to them.  There will come a time where not one stone will be left upon another.  Jesus had chastised the religious hypocrites.  Now he admonished his disciples for their Tower of Babble thinking. 

The disciples had not yet realized that their very bodies were much more valuable temples. Sometimes we get so fixated on structures that we forget relationships. God had previously presented himself in all his glory in a tent in the wilderness. 

The architecture of the temple and its courts was surely something that God’s people had wanted to do to honor God, but the greatest thing that his people would do would be to live in the way that God prescribed.

The greatest thing that we can do is to follow obediently the Spirit of the living God that resides within us. We put the words of our Lord into practice.  That’s the best building ever—the one built on solid rock.

There was nothing wrong with the temple.  Some had defiled it by their practices, but it was a structure build by humankind that would not endure.  Only God and his word will endure.

We are advised to build our lives upon him. He must be the cornerstone of our lives. No one will continue without him.

The disciples asked Jesus a question that prompted an answer that takes up the rest of the chapter.

What will be the sign of your coming at the end of the age?

Realize that in this question is some degree of acceptance that Jesus would go away.  The disciples had not yet wrapped their minds around this sacrificial death that was soon to come.  They seemed surprised at the resurrection even though Jesus had told them that he would rise from the dead, but this simple question indicated some level of acceptance that Jesus would not be with them  in this world all the time.

They do not yet understand the work of the Holy Spirit, but they have an inkling that Jesus will leave this world and come again.  They have some understanding that there will be an end to this age and an age to come.

Jesus began his answer with warnings.  Watch out!  There will be many deceivers.  You will hear rumors and your nature will be to believe that Jesus has come, but do not be alarmed and do not be deceived.

There will be wars and rumors of wars.  Nations and even kingdoms will be pitted against each other.  Famine and earthquakes will seem more and more common.  This is just the beginning of the end of the age.

We seem to think that Jesus will come in our time.  We think that the world could not get any worse.  We could be right or we could be thinking the same thing that disciples did for 2000 years.  Surely, it’s today or this year or this decade.

It’s good to know the signs of the times, but we are not to be alarmed.  We are not to be deceived.  I have witnessed many a credible person of God destroy his or her credibility by proclaiming to know what cannot be known—the day and the hour.

Jesus will not come in stealth mode.  It will be the biggest event in the history of history.  You will know it when he returns so if someone is walking this earth proclaiming to be the Christ, don’t be alarmed and don’t be deceived.

Keep watch. Be ready.

Jesus had described the prologue to the time of distress and tribulation that would come as the beginning of birth pains.  Something more intense was to come.

Think about wars and rumors of war.  Think about earthquakes and famine.  These impact everyone.  What would come would be targeted at believers. It would be more personal.

Jesus noted that his followers would be handed over—that means someone had to seize them first.  They would be persecuted.  That’s a wide-ranging term that could be anything from online bullying to physical attacks to being denied essential provisions and everything in between.

OBTW—and death.

Believers will be hated by all nations because they follow Jesus.

You will be hated by everyone because of Jesus!

This warning is not to be taken sequentially. Persecuted, killed, and hated are not the sequence of events.  Once they kill you, what do you care if they hate you as well?

Jesus gives us a buffet of things that the ungodly will do to his followers in these last days.  And some of the persecutors might claim to be godly for there will be many false prophets to follow, and some will follow them.  We will see this persecution not only from the godless but also from those who claim to be followers of Jesus.

Wickedness will be on the rise. 

Many will turn away from the faith.

The love of most will grow cold. 

That’s some stuff right there.  That’s some stuff that we probably don’t want interfering with our bucket list.  That’s not good stuff, but it will come in the last days.

OBTW—the gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth—to the whole world.  That’s a good thing.  Not everyone will respond in the age of wickedness and hatred, but the commissioned do canvass the entire planet.

It’s going to be an ugly time but the gospel will reach to the ends of the earth.  The work of the church will continue.  The work of the commissioned will continue.  God’s light will shine in the darkness.

And he who stands firm will be saved.

Do you remember the parable of the seeds?  Only the seed that took hold in good soil produced fruit.  Many who claim to follow Jesus will fall away, but he who stands strong to the end will be saved.

What is the message to us?

Stand strong.  Don’t be deceived.  Don’t focus on the storm.  There will be more distractions and trials than you thought possible, but stand strong.

Keep your eyes focused on Jesus and not on the storm of evil and wickedness that covet your attention and faithfulness.

Stand strong to the end.

There are a whole bunch of things that will happen in this world that may or may not signal the last days.  Tribulation is a continual thing.  Pressure and distress are a part of life.  We don’t have to let them control us, but they exist and on a wide scale. 

Jesus said that we would have trouble in the world.

But there will be one thing that will be like nothing else that says these are the last days. 

It is the abomination that causes desolation of which Daniel wrote.  So, what exactly is this abomination?

There is a wide range of discussion on the subject some including that this has already occurred, but let’s see what we might agree upon.

It will be standing.  It could be a person but more than likely an idol, possibly a talking idol or image of some sorts.

It will be dreadful and cause people to flee.  There will not be time to swing by the house, pack a bag, and book a flight. This part might be limited to Judea, but all believers will go immediately to red alert.

It will begin a time of great distress—more than anything that’s ever come before—and nothing this bad will ever come again.  For those among us afflicted by arid humor, you can’t say, “Could be worse.”

It will be more than you can handle but God will not abandon you.  For you—the faithful follower of Christ Jesus—these days will be cut short.

It will be a time of signs and miracles that are not of God.  Deception will reach the high-water mark.  Deception will be so intense that even the very elect will be vulnerable, but God will shorten those days before his true followers are faced with more than they can handle.

It is something of which Jesus warned us would come. 

There is another intelligence indicator in this scripture.  When you see standing in the holy place tells us that the Holy of Holies will be established again.  The scripture does not indicate which side of the curtain the abomination will be placed.  To be seen, it could not be in the Holy of Holies, unless that place was desecrated. 

It could just be that the altar is restored, but that lacks some fidelity to the instructions that God gave.  The Holy of Holies requires a structure.

Does that mean a third temple?  It would seem that way, but we should remember that God did not require a stone structure.  His first temple—tabernacle—place for the Spirit of God to dwell—was a tent. 

So, what do we take away from this section?  Distress and tribulation come and go in our lives and on this planet, but when the abomination that cause desolation is revealed to us, we know the end is near.  We must strengthen ourselves and our families and loved ones to stand strong to the end.

It’s leaving it all on the field in football terms.  It’s the beginning of the fourth quarter.  It will be a time to trust in the Lord and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus like never before.

As you continue to follow Jesus through the trouble and distress that the world holds, you will be hated by so many in this world.  The world will do its best to make your life miserable.

But we are not to be alarmed, not to be deceived, and we are to keep watch—to be ready at all times.

Christ is coming next Tuesday between 1 and 5 pm.  Great, it’s like waiting for the cable guy.  Guess, I will have to be sitting at home the whole time, just to get a call at 6 pm saying he can’t make it until tomorrow.

Christ is coming this Thursday. Let me see…  I think I can work him in just before noon.

Christ is coming late Saturday evening.  Great!  I spent all week preparing my messages, and now won’t even get to deliver them.

These are all tongue-in-cheek.  What would we do if we knew the day and the hour of Christ’s coming? 

Would we test the limits of grace until a month before his coming?  Would we see what we could get away with until a week before his arrival?

Better not cut it too close.  I don’t know if Jesus observes Daylight Saving Time or not.  Wouldn’t want to do a Maxwell Smart with this one.  Missed it by that much.

We may know the season of his coming but not the day nor the hour.  That leaves us a simple dichotomy.  We are ready or we or not. 

Most of the world will just be living their lives like they would any other day.  Some will go to work.  Some will go to Walmart.  Some will go to work at Walmart.

Only the Father in heaven knows the appointed time.  He didn’t share that with Jesus or the Angels, but they are ready to go at the Father’s command.

When Jesus comes with his angels to claim those who love him, some will be ready and others not so much.  The text says one will be taken and the other left.  We typically don’t interpret this as only 50% make the cut, but we should realize that not everyone will have lived in such a way to meet the desire of God’s heart.

Some claimed and gathered up by the angels and some left behind.

We who have proclaimed Jesus as Lord have a single option—be ready.  Keep watch.  Just like you would protect your family even though you don’t know when the intruder might come, so too we protect our family by being ready for the return of the Lord at all times.

Jesus used the analogy of the thief and of a servant left in charge.  The servant has a simple dichotomy.  The servant who takes care of his master’s business while he is away will be justly rewarded.  The one who abuses the trust will be punished.

We don’t know the hour.  We don’t know the day.  We can realize the season and most would agree we are in the season of the Lord’s return.  He is coming soon.  Will that be a week or a year or a century or two?  We don’t know, but we are called to be ready.

So, as we continue into 2021, we expand our parameters to include awareness of the things that come at the end of the age.  We will still  love mercy, be generous towards God, have Christ as the cornerstone in our lives and be ready to learn from him, not relying upon our own understanding.

And we surely want to walk humbly with your God.

When Jesus returns, we will be easy to spot.  We will be living lives of love and mercy and obedience and generosity as we walk humbly with our God, always ready for his return.

So many get fixated on the events that are to come at the end of the age that they forget how they are to live.  People panic.  People look for answers where they know the truth does not abide and people are not ready for the storm ahead.

Not so with you.  You are not to be alarmed.  You are not to be deceived.  You are to keep watch and be ready.


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