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!’ “
Okay, almost done with this passage, I promise! Just one more devotional that has two themes:
You remember the months following 9/11/01, how the department of Homeland Security would issue these color coordinated alerts that cooresponded to the domestic terror threat level? After a few of those, most of us just started tuning out, not paying attention to the alerts because nothing ever seemed to come out of them! For all I know, the terror alert level could be orange right now, and I would have no idea!
That’s how this passage can sometimes come across to us – how long are expected to keep guard and watch?? From when Jesus shared this, it’s been nearly 2000 years!! How long can we be expected to live like this, on the edge of our seats? For many of us, we know in our minds that Jesus might come at any time, but deep in our hearts…we figure we have a few more centuries at least. We are not keeping guard though.
So what can stop this sense of complacency from setting in? I think what really helps is to remember what exactly we are waiting for. Although it’s easy to get the wrong impression from this passage, we are actually not waiting for some terrible disaster. What we are really waiting, watching, praying for is this:
“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And 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.”
We are not waiting for a disaster, but for Jesus’ return, where he brings new life and restoration and redemption with him! The Kingdom of God right in front of our very eyes! And you see how this changes the character of how we wait: we are not waiting for a catastrophe, but for the greatest thing our eyes have ever beheld! And how much easier it is to wait actively and anxiously when you know you are waiting for something very good, rather than something very bad!
1. What is the difference between waiting and watching out for something bad, and waiting for something good? Which one is easier for you to do, and why?
2. When you think about Jesus’ return, do you tend to focus on the turmoil and persecution, or the restoration and redemption? Why do think that is?
3. How can we practically be on guard and prepared for Jesus’ return? What do you think that looks like?