Summary: Another message on the end times as we work our way through the 24th chapter of Matthew. This is is meant to help us face the end times by hearing Jesus’ words to not be deceived and not be alarmed.
Getting the Right Perspective on Facing the End Times
March 8, 2009
NOTE: THE ME/WE/GOD/YOU/WE FORMAT IS BORROWED FROM ANDY STANLEY’S BOOK, "COMMUNICATING FOR A CHANGE."
One of the issues that comes up when discussing the end times – those times that are coming to bring ultimate fulfillment to God’s plan and the return of Jesus – is that there is a lot of mystery involved, and when we look at some of the stuff Jesus describes it can cause some people to become scared.
And it can cause others to simply ignore these parts of Scripture altogether because they think they’re too hard to figure out.
“What’s ‘the abomination that causes desolation (v. 15)?” “Is this stuff only going to happen in Israel or will it be worldwide?” “Will the sun really be darkened and the stars fall from the sky?”
All sorts of questions arise, and it can cause us to either be afraid or to ignore it entirely, neither of which are in our best interests.
I believe Jesus has something to say to us to help us through all that. I think He has something to say that cuts through the confusion and the clutter and gets to the heart of where we need to be in looking at all this end times stuff.
Before we get into the passage itself, let’s throw a little context in here, okay?
This conversation is taking place as Jesus is leaving the temple area to head back to Bethany, where He and His disciples were staying during Passover.
Bethany was a small city just outside of Jerusalem, within easy walking distance.
Jesus had just spent the vast majority of that day, which we think is Tuesday of what we call Holy Week today, teaching, debating, and preaching to the religious leaders.
At this point, it’s probably late afternoon, and they need to get back in time to eat and rest.
It’s during the walk back that we find the disciples asking Jesus a couple questions and Jesus responding.
1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 "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."
In this first paragraph, Jesus is specifically prophesying about the coming destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
This temple was a big deal. It was the center of worship to God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God of Israel.
And it wasn’t just the center of worship, it was the source of national identity for Israel. This was where all the nation came to worship and give offerings to God.
The temple had been originally rebuilt after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, and the first King Herod decided it needed to be improved on – basically rebuilding it again.
He started it somewhere between 18 and 21 BC, with the main part of the building being finished in about ten years. But work on the outer courts and other embellishments were actually still going on during Jesus’ time on earth.
All told, the whole shebang wouldn’t be finished until 64 AD.
Even during Jesus’ time the temple was huge and beautiful and magnificent. It was the pride of the nation.
So can you imagine what the disciples must have been thinking when Jesus tells them it would be destroyed?
And some of them would live to see it destroyed in 70 AD, just 6 years after it had been completed. Let’s pick it up in verse 3 –
3 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?"
4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ’I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
This kinda paints a bleak picture of what’s to as a prelude to the end times, and it gets bleaker as we look at other parts of the chapter.
I agonized and prayed all week about what direction I felt God would want me to go with this message.
Should I focus on the destruction of the temple? Should I simply try to take each of these other specific things and try to flesh them out, discussing how some of them are mentioned later in the chapter?