Read: Matthew 24
If you have a red letter Bible, or like me, you have “red letter” turned on, chapters 24 & 25 are nearly all red (initially I thought I would cover both chapters). The words of Jesus are carefully transcribed here as part of the last discourse in Matthew’s gospel account. The prophetic voice of Jesus himself addresses the end of time with an emphasis on preparation, on doing, more than observing and talking. It’s time to get out of our comfort zone and into our calling zone. Lord, help us to hear that call clearly!
As I was reading chapter 24 and highlighting verses, a funny thing happened: the verses I picked were 10 verses apart: 14, 24, 34 and 44. Weirdness. Not contrived, just fell that way.
Jesus’ prophecy about the end of time comes with clear warnings:
- And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14
- For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. Matthew 24:24-25
- Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Matthew 24:34
- So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matthew 24:44
Reading this in September of 2017 is radically different than sitting in the room with Jesus when the words were spoken. Ted Dekker’s recent books (A.D. 30 & A.D. 33) help me to appreciate what it must have felt like to be in that room and how difficult it must have been to understand what Yeshua was saying.
Back up a few verses and grab a glass of context, this is a private conversation for the world to hear:
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3
The rare, non-red letters in this chapter describe how Jesus delivered this discourse. It’s absolutely amazing! We only read the important words, but I wonder how many times the disciples raised their hands, scratched their heads, or simply said, “wait, stop, pause, say that again!” This wasn’t a sermon from the pulpit given during the hour of power, this was a conversation where Jesus sat down with his chosen few and painted a picture of what was to be. I truly believe there was a lot of interactive discussion at the time and I further believe Jesus repeated the words so many times so that Matthew, Mark and Luke were able to take notes and provide their perspective on the discourse.
Imagine the first time these fishermen, plus others, heard this statement:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14
The whole world. All nations. That had to be something which needed some clarification. No one was checking to upgrade their MailChimp account or update their Facebook status with the hopes of going viral. Jesus is sitting there with them saying the entire world will hear this gospel that they are hearing for the first time. As we read in the previous chapters, the Pharisees and Sadducees are not the ones who will convey this message; rather, it’s these handful that answered the call. All will hear as a result.
But don’t be deceived, it won’t happen without the Tempter himself trying to screw things up:
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. Matthew 24:24-25
Jesus is speaking in prophetic terms and clearly wants to tell all of us to be aware of false teachers. For the disciples, this provided incredible insight into how they should live out their days. John invests a lot of time reminding us this world will not accept us and Paul would later write about being in the world, but not of the world (Romans 12:2).
When the end comes, it will come with a fury.
Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Matthew 24:34
In one generation God will bring about the end of time as we know it. Will this be the generation? This year? Next year? In our lifetime? Don’t be too quick to say no.
So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matthew 24:44
Stop expecting to be the only one that gets the secret message! Instead, be prepared! I’m sure we agree that the type of readiness that Jesus is describing as “be ready,” is a very active state of spreading the good news of the Gospel, but how we go about this business is multifaceted and tied directly to our Spiritual Gifts and personal wiring. The better we understand our calling, the better we will be at serving the body of Christ. However, let’s not get so inwardly focused that we are outwardly useless! This post is already too long, you’re probably not even reading at this point! The next chapter gives us some great words of wisdom to help in the preparation.
We’ve been given the Bible to continue this conversation. When we meet and talk about life, the ups and downs, joy and sorrow, if we’re deeply considering the words in the Bible, these kinds of thoughts just naturally arise — this is a good thing! We should discuss things like, what did he mean by ‘this generation’ and how can we be prepared and act at the same time? We can only do this if we make time in our busy schedules to sit and chat about things beyond football.
Lord, help us to get excited about the journey that is before us, the mission of your church, the Gospel for all nations, for all people, and especially to understand our role in the process.