Summary: Jesus is coming again, but first the gospel must be preached to all the earth.
His Commission is Our mission
As a young believer on the campus of West Chester State, I remember how excited I was at the news that Jesus Christ was coming again. Even though I had been in church my whole life, I can honestly say that it never occurred to me that Jesus was actually going to return to earth, and that it could occur in my lifetime. I read with great eagerness books like Hal Lindsay’s classic: “Late Great Planet Earth”. I remember getting into long discussions with my bible study group on campus about who the anti-Christ might be. Most of us thought it was Henry Kissinger (something having to do with the number 666 and his name – which I can’t remember right now). We were convinced way back in 1972 during the Vietnam War, and the Cold War with Russia, and the 6 Day war in Israel that Jesus would certainly return by the year 1980. I even remember walking the campus and joking about Rapture practice (We would jump up and down).
Once again hope in the second coming of Christ is at an all-time high. The “Left Behind” series of books are best sellers on the NY Times lists of books. I just recently received the movie – and it is even better than the book. See me if you’d like to borrow it. Prophecy classes are well attended and there are workshops and lectures going on almost constantly. National and International events seem to be moving us closer and closer to a confrontation between Israel and the Arab Nations. Immorality is rampant in the west. Weird weather, weird science, and the shrinking globe all point to some kind of showdown.
But Jesus warned about trying to place dates on His return. He also challenged his disciples that our focus should not be on “Digging in” and “Holding out” for His return like some cult groups have done. Instead we are to be preparing ourselves through Holy Living, and through faithful witnessing. There is a mission He has given us to do, and He has said He won’t come back until that mission is completed.
Read with me the words of Christ found in Matthew 24 beginning with verse 1.
In this discussion with his disciples Jesus had two subjects in mind. One had to do with the destruction of the Temple (which occurred in 70 AD). The other had to do with the signs leading up to His return to earth. Like many other prophecies these two ideas are
intermingled, much like mountains that are miles apart but appear to be joined together when viewed from a great distance.
In His description of the end times, He speaks of many signs that will occur as birth pangs. Events that will occur throughout the whole period of time, but which will increase in intensity and regularity as the time of delivery approaches.
The signs include:
- false prophets and messiahs
- wars and conflicts among nations
- famines, earthquakes, and great natural disasters
- persecution of believers
- growing hatred towards Christians
- growing apostasy from the church (people will walk away from the church in increasing numbers)
- hatred and animosity between Christians
- an increase in wickedness
- people will become callous and hart hearted
Now these things have existed in various degrees throughout history. The church has always had to deal with persecution, false teachers, and apostasy. The world has always had wars and famines and natural disasters. But no one can deny that these things have greatly increased over the last 100 years.
Half the people who have ever lived throughout recorded history are alive today. In fact the number of people alive is 30 times greater than the number of people alive during the time of Christ. Europe and the west have seen tremendous changes in the last 100 years. Atheism, materialism, and humanism have pulled many people away from the church. 2 World Wars have left horrible spiritual scars on the people in Europe. And the rest of the world has seen dictators who have killed millions. It is estimated that more Christian’s were martyred during the last 100 years than all the centuries combined before – nearly 100 million.
Even natural disasters seem to have increased with some of the greatest earthquakes, typhoons, and tornado’s ever recorded having occurred recently. Some of that is simply due to the fact that areas that once were uninhabited are now crowded with people.
Never before has there been a push for a world united by money, industry, and even politics like there has been in the last 50 years.
The birth pangs are definitely increasing.
But that is not what I want to focus on today. I want to focus instead on the job that remains. Jesus told us in Matthew 28:19-20