Signs of the End of the Age
1As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2″Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4″Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
9″You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12″Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14″When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 17How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. 20If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible. 23So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
24″But in those days, following that distress,
” ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
26″At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
28″Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
The Day and Hour Unknown
32″No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35″Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ “
To review – we first saw how temporary things of this world are, that everything is subject to enormous change. Second, we talked about deception, that there is an active deception at work in the world that we must be able to guard against. Now, let’s look at the next theme: persecution.
I’ve highlighted some of the verses that relate to persecution, and they are more than a little frightening – a time of such great suffering that people run into the hills with nothing but what they have on their back. Naturally, we ask ourselves, “When is this time coming, and how can I get as far away from it as possible?” And the answer, surprisingly, is that it is already here. Although this description is such a foreign idea for Americans, much of the rest of the world is quite familiar with suffering of this magnitude. I remember seeing photographs from the 60’s of naked Cambodian children screaming, running from their burning homes. In Sudan, armed militias and attack helicopters have been slaughtering entire villages. In Rwanda and the Congo, entire ethnic populations of people flee into the jungle to escape mobs yielding machetes. Perhaps some of your parents have childhood memories of war, carrying little sisters on their back through the dead of winter. That’s not far off from what Jesus described, is it?
I know that this description that Jesus gives seems so foreign and far-fetched, but we should remember that this is the painful daily reality for many people in the world. We should always remember this fact, and daily pray and work to ease their suffering. Wouldn’t we wish for the same, if we found ourselves in these terrible situations?
Also, just like before, Jesus is not just talking about a distant reality to come thousands of years later, but at the same time, is giving a specific prophecy of near events. After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples go through exactly what Jesus talked about: they are arrested and flogged by local leaders throughout the region. But what is so amazing about this description is that Jesus also hints at the reason behind it:
“On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.”
Because of the persecution of the early church, the disicples were able to stand and testify before leaders of all levels – how else could the message of Christ be spread to such high levels of government? And through the persecution, the church is scattered to Judea, Samaria, and even to Africa and Europe – how else could the gospel be spread so widely, across such vast stretches of geography?…except by persecution!
I know that this is a hard lesson, and one that we are uncomfortable with, but God uses persecution powerfully. He uses it to do things that can’t be accomplished in any other way. He uses it to shape and mold our character, to break our hard hearts. He uses it to spread the gospel to the far flung corners of the world. He uses it to grab the attention of people who have worldly influence and power. Now, I’m not some kind of masochist who says we should LOVE pain and suffering, that’s just not natural. But if you find yourself in the midst of persecution or suffering, I hope that this will give you some encouragement and perspective: suffering does not mean that God does not love you or is not in your life – it means he is at work, doing something big!
1. What is one way you can actively intercede and help people who are going through the type of extreme suffering that Jesus describes here?
2. Think about the most important, lasting, eye-opening, and life changing experiences you have had – have any of them come out of situation of difficult or suffering? What was it?
3. Do you feel like you are being persecuted in any way currently in your life? Has any good come out of this circumstance?