Summary: An exposition of Matthew 24 and Jesus’ teaching regarding the end of history.
Ready and Waiting
Matthew 24:1-4, 36-51
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: A lot of folk thought that I had lost my mind. It probably wasn’t the first time. It probably won’t be the last. People were sure of it when I announced that I was going to spend Y2K in the Holy Land. Most of you remember the hysteria that surrounded the beginning of the year 2000. Lots of people were convinced that civilization as we know it was going to end. Planes, elevators, computers, and nuclear power plants were all going to crash. Some expected the world to end.
Several of the couples who signed up to go with us to Israel backed out when they realized that we would be there over December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000. I half jokingly told everyone that if Christ came back then, I wanted a front row seat. Where better to find that than Israel!
Actually we spent New Year’s Eve (December 31, 1999) in Northern Israel. At the stroke of midnight we were in a prayer group on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. On New Year’s Day morning 2000, we sailed across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberius to Capernaum. We spent the day touring the places where Jesus called his disciples to be “fishers of men,” taught the Sermon on the Mount and fixed breakfast for the disciples after the resurrection. At sundown on January 1, 2000, we reenacted our baptisms in the Jordan River near the point where it flows out of the Sea of Galilee. Most people remember Y2K as the time nothing happened!
Y2K wasn’t the first time for such foolishness. I have in my hand a little booklet titled “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988.’ Edgar Whisenant, a NASA engineer, calculated the Jewish Feast of Trumpets (September 11-13, 1988) as the date the world’s last days count down would begin. That wasn’t the first time someone got it wrong. I remember the Jehovah’s Witnesses setting a date in the late sixties and then again in the early 70’s. Many sold their homes, quit their jobs, and gathered in prayer meetings to await Christ’s return. William Miller, the father of various Adventists groups, set April 3, 1843 as the date. Businessmen abandoned their shops. Farmers left their fields to wait for the end. The day came and went.
Countless religious folk through the centuries have thought they had it figured out. People continue to try to predict Christ’s Second Coming. Rest assured. That’s not where we are headed in our study of Matthew 24-25 during this month. We will, however, take a long, hard look at what Jesus actually had to say about the future and his return in glory and judgment. His words offer a counter-balance to the hype that gets so much attention. They also provide a wakeup call to those who might be tempted to dismiss the whole discussion.
Today, I want to walk you through Matthew 24. (Parallel passages are found in Mark 13 and Luke 21). Over the next three weeks we will look at the three parables in the next chapter. Together these two chapters offer Jesus’ most concentrated teachings on the Second Coming. Jesus explains where the future is headed with a handful of simple lessons.
1. The End Is Not Uncertain. The end will come. This world is headed for a meeting with its Maker. No one can prevent it. No one will escape.
Jesus’ discussion was prompted by his disciples’ questions. Late in the afternoon, they left the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem for the three mile walk to Bethany where they would spend the night. They crossed the small Kidron Valley and walked up the Mt. of Olives. Bethany was just on the other side. The top of the large hill stood a couple hundred feet above the temple area of the city. Anybody walking up the steep path would naturally pause for a brief rest at the top. Even today the spot offers a spectacular view of the city. In those days, the view was breathtaking.
From the Mt. of Olives, the Jewish temple was right there! It was huge, nearly 500 yards long and 400 yards wide. It had been under construction for forty years. It wouldn’t be finished for another thirty. The Jewish historian Josephus says that the reflection from the gold plating that covered much of the outside of the temple was almost blinding in the afternoon sun. Where not covered with gold, the white marble glistened like snow.
The disciples pointed out the sight. “Wow. Isn’t that magnificent,” they said. Jesus responded. “Yes, but the day will come when not one of those stones will be left standing.” Imagine the disciple’s shock. That temple was the most majestic thing they had ever seen. It represented the best of human building skill. It also symbolized man’s greatest offering to God, his highest spiritual achievement. “None of it will last,” Jesus said. “It is all doomed!