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?” 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. 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, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 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. 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.
Jesus had been pointing the disciples to future events and His inevitable return. In verse 3 of Matthew 24, they are at the Mount of Olives, and the disciples ask a logical question: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus’ response was for them not to be led astray, not to be alarmed, and to endure until the end. He then backs up his statement with teachings on being ready and being productive.
The response that is solicited from discussions of the end times and return of Christ fascinates me. The return of Christ for the believer is the thing we are instructed to point to with great hope and anticipation. It is part of the culmination of God making all things right. We are inheriting eternal life.
Pastor Don pointed out last week that the first century church had a real expectation for the return of Christ and lived with that on a daily basis. It was an anticipation that governed their behavior. We live with anticipations that govern our behavior all the time. If I am planning on getting married, it causes me to act a certain way. If I am planning on attending college, I will act accordingly. The irony with end times and more specifically the return of Christ is that we stopped anticipating it and in turn started to fear the very thing that was to give us hope. Current events have elicited a fear response instead of a holy confidence that God is with us and we are ready with a heart of anticipation. In this atmosphere Jesus instructs the disciples.
1. Do not be led astray.
It is not possible to be confident about what is coming unless you know what has been said about what is coming. The Bible is our source of strength. It is the inspired word of God written to reveal God to us. It establishes our future and the hope we have in Christ. It is imperative to know what it says and be around other people that know what it says.
5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
The Internet does not trump the Bible. We are living in an age when people will believe a massive amount of information that has never been vetted or researched just because someone we know shared it. Being skeptical in today’s culture is a gift from God.
1. Does it line up with what scripture says will happen?
2. Does it line up with how scripture says I should respond?
3. Does it line up with how scripture says I should treat others?
1 Timothy 6:2 - 4 ...Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.
2. Do not be alarmed.
The church is encouraged over and over not to be fearful or alarmed.
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place.
We as the church are not instructed to be indifferent to the pain and suffering that the world will find itself in, but we are also not to be paralyzed by fear. Confidence should blossom in the church. We know these things must happen. We are not shocked or surprised but stand with a holy confidence that Jesus is the answer and our hope. What good is the church if we only serve to multiply people’s fear?
Covid gave rise to every conspiracy theorist to stand and proclaim things that are not in scripture. Were you led astray? Did you end up treating people differently because they did or did not wear a mask because they did or did not get vaccinated? If we are not careful, the church becomes alarmed when the world needs us at peace.
We are to endure two things: persecution, or attacks from others, and tribulation, or hardships. Jesus is associating quitting or not enduring with being led astray. We have heard all the false prophets of our time: “If God was for you, why did he let that happen?” “If God was with you why did you have to endure that difficulty?” Over and over again, we are bombarded with messages challenging God’s love and faithfulness towards us and Jesus’ message that was to know intimately who He is and endure to the end.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
We are instructed to be prepared at all times, make preparations that will last for the entire journey, and look forward to it.
10 Virgins - If you are not ready, you will miss it. The modern-day church has been lulled into a constant state of procrastination. He’s not coming today, so I can live without anticipation. When Jesus is presented the question about the end, he follows it up with a story about being ready in anticipation.
5. Productivity to the end
The parable of the talents is tucked into Jesus’ teaching about the end. What will the master find them doing when he returns? This parable is often plucked out and used to teach on our responsibility to use the resources God gave us wisely to produce a return. While that is true, it is also true that we should be developing a return up until he returns.
There is no situation where the church is instructed to freak out and live in a bunker away from humanity because things have gotten bad. We are not instructed to save ourselves at the expense of others; we are instructed to put off fear and invest.
19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
At the end, God will look to see if we have produced or recoiled in fear and wasted what He gave us. Don’t run, don’t hide, don’t live in fear, don’t believe false teaching.