TO THE END OF THE WORLD
Good morning. I hope you are having a great day. Today we will continue looking at Matthew's gospel. Soon we will be into the Gospel of Mark. I think you will enjoy that study. My goal is to be in the birth narrative of Luke's gospel in time for Christmas. Yesterday, we looked at the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The crowds gave Jesus a tremendous parade. Now that he is in Jerusalem, Jesus continues his teaching.
"Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.' 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 24:1-3)
In the beginning of our study of the Gospel of Matthew I said that there were five teaching discourses found in the gospel. This is the beginning of the final discourse and it is known as the Eschatological Discourse. Eschatology is the study, or a set of beliefs, about the future, particularly concerning such things as the end of the world as we know it, and post-mortem rewards and punishments.
While we have not yet looked at Mark's gospel I will tell you that Mark's apocalyptic discourse and Matthew's are very similar. One key difference is that Matthew adds problems within the church to his: "At that time many will turn away from the faith..." (Matthew 24:10) Remember, Matthew is the only Gospel to mention the church. The writer is writing to instruct the church.
Well, the disciples are curious to know just when these things will take place. They want "a sign of thy coming." The Greek word used here is Parousia which is the term for the official arrival of the emperor. Even today, people are still asking the same question. But, let's look at some of the things Jesus says will happen before he comes. "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come on my name...and deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars...There will be famines and earthquakes in various places..." (Matthew 24:4-7) Well, guess what? These threats are nothing new today. War is a constant threat and has been a deadly reality from the day Jesus spoke these words. Jesus warns of a time when "because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." (verse 12) The interesting thing here is, Jesus did not specify to whom the love was lost. Was he speaking about love for God? Most likely he was, because he was directing this towards the church. Then Jesus said something most interesting: "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (verse 14) What did Jesus mean by this statement? Well, preacher, he meant that once the gospel has been preached to every nation he will come back! Duh! Well, I still think this is interesting. How do we know that it hasn't been proclaimed to every nation? Why, if all those who are supposed to be missionaries and who have traveled to those little places in the most inhabitable parts of the world have really preached the gospel, then I would think that most every place has in some way heard the gospel. In our world where technology is more advanced than ever, how can anyone not be able to in some way hear the gospel? Then, I give this argument: In biblical times, where was the end of the world? Or, where did they understand the end of the world to be? Well, they didn't have the same understanding of the world as we do. They believed the world ended on the farthest coast of Spain. (We will discover this in Paul's letters) Now, I would also propose that Paul believed that he was the one called to deliver the Gospel to the end of the world.
My argument is: everything has happened at some point. Yes, history can, and often does, repeat itself, but the events that Jesus has spoken of have in some way occurred. Therefore, everything is in place for his return at any moment. Oh, preacher! You are so wrong! I just know that someone is saying that. The argument would be: "So when you are standing in the holy place, the abomination of that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel..."(Matthew 24:15) Again, I'm not saying that these events will not continue to occur, or will not happen again. This event regarding the temple has already been played out. History gives horrific detail as to the destruction of the temple. What I am saying is: everything is in place for the return of the Lord.
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36) Oh my! Many people have failed to get this message. How many people in our lifetime have predicted to the day and hour the coming of the Lord? Some have even convinced their followers to sell everything because of the coming of the Lord on a specific day. How many books have been written about the coming of the Lord? In other words, how much money has been made by "experts in the Second Coming?" Most of these books are now found in the discount bins. But, don't worry, the latest, most up to date edition will be out any minute. It's amazing to me how many of these people think they know more than Jesus and the angels.
Now, here is what we really need to get from this whole passage: "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:42) Tomorrow, I will continue with this particular thought as we look at Chapter 25. Please join me. -Pastor Rick