Summary: Jesus' disciples asked a question about 'End Times'. But before answering, Jesus warns them that 'End Times' will be tough.
We want to know if God could be behind coronavirus. Could it be connected to God’s judgement or to ‘End Times’? To answer that we want to know what judgement from God looks like and what ‘End Times’ will be like. We started in the Old Testament and we’ve now moved on to the New Testament – specifically, to Matthew 24.
D.A. Carson, who is a highly-regarded New Testament scholar, made the following comment about this chapter:
Why is there disagreement? Yesterday I quoted the question Jesus’ disciples asked: ‘what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?’ But I didn’t quote their entire question. Jesus had been speaking of the destruction of the temple. His disciples then ask him, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?’ Jesus’ disciples probably imagined that the destruction of the temple (which happened in 70 A.D.) and ‘End Times’ were all part of the same event. So, their question concerned both the destruction of the temple and Jesus’ second coming, and it would be natural to assume that Jesus answered both questions. But which part of Jesus’ answer concerns the destruction of the temple and which part concerns ‘End Times’? There are many opinions on this. Carson believes that verses 4-14 concern ‘End Times’ and that makes sense to me. In v.6 Jesus says, ‘but the end is not yet’. In v.13 he says, ‘the one who endures to the end will be saved.’ And in v.14 he says, ‘then the end will come.’ So surely, Jesus is talking about ‘End Times’!
Yesterday, we looked at verses 6-8. Jesus warns against seeing conflict, famine and earthquake and imagining that ‘End Times’ have come. ‘All these are but the beginning of the birth pains’, he says. He continues (verses 9-11):
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Such things have been true throughout the history of the church. But since Jesus is telling us these things in the context of a discussion about ‘End Times’ then we may assume they will especially characterize ‘End Times’.
We may feel this doesn’t help us very much. We want to know if we are in ‘End Times’. But in this area, the change as we enter ‘End Times’ may be a matter of degree – and that may be difficult to sense.
Even so, I think Jesus’ instruction here is very helpful. He is saying that ‘End Times’ – whenever they come – will be tough.
I mentioned previously that Priscilla and I lived in Azerbaijan for a time. After we moved there, we started to learn Azerbaijani. I was never good at languages at school. At the time I was learning Azerbaijani I thought it was the hardest thing I’d done in my life. But one thing that helped me was the fact that I expected it to be hard. I knew that you can’t reach a good level in a language like Azerbaijani in just a few months.
If we expect ‘End Times’ to be tough then it will help us to press on as and when difficulties do come.
Have a good rest of the day!