Summary: The first in a series of messages on Matthew 24 & 25, this message focuses on understanding that Matthew 24 is primarily pointing to the destruction of Jerusalem and warning us not to waste time predicting the time of Christ’s return. Rather, be prepared at all times.

Because Jesus Is Returning . . .

"Understanding Matthew 24"

You can’t read the article that appeared in the Atlanta Journal, June 5, 1997 without some remorse and sympathy for Clarence Jackson. "The clock struck midnight and Clarence Jackson didn’t turn into a millionaire." Jackson, who is 24, works in a small cleaning business in Hartford, Connecticut to help support his elderly parents. He won the Connecticut Lotto jackpot in October 1995. It was worth 5.8 million dollars. He submitted the ticket three days after the one year deadline.

He had given the ticket to his ailing father and didn’t realize it was a winner until fifteen minutes before the deadline. He didn’t know he could verify the ticket at his local lotto dealer. Instead, he waited until Monday to redeem the ticket at lotto headquarters. It was too late. The Connecticut House of Representatives voted 82-63 to award Jackson the money. Senator Alvin Penn refused to allow the bill to come to the floor of the Senate, and thus the bill died. Representative Michael Lawlor said, "Give the guy the money . . . You say we can’t change the rules. That’s all we do here is change the rules! We’re the Legislature." Jackson left the Connecticut State Capitol a dejected man.

What’s it like to be too late and lose 5.8 million dollars you could have had? I don’t know - but it would be devastating. I would be awfully hard to live with after that. Not that I’m easy to live with now. But it wouldn’t be nearly as devastating as being too late for the return of Jesus.

- Titus 2:11-13 says, "For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed."

That’s our theme for this series of messages - anticipating and being ready for the return of Christ.

When you think of the second coming of Jesus, what comes to mind? The rapture, the tribulation (7 years of intense persecution), the Beast, the Antichrist, the mark of the Beast? We tend to think of things that deal with WHEN we think He will come. We like to be informed, not surprised. That is human nature. We want to be in the know.

I want to propose to you this morning that God has intentionally prevented us from knowing WHEN Jesus will return, so that we will live like we are ready all the time. Human nature is such that we would likely get ready right before He came if we knew when it was. We do that all the time.

- school - write that paper or study for that test the night before.

- home - clean up the house right before guests are due to arrive.

The disciples of Jesus were like the rest of us. They wanted to know when Jesus would bring in the fulness of His kingdom. What would be the signs they could look for to tell them the time was near? We find a passage about this in Matthew 24,25.

What I want to do this morning is set the stage for this series. To do that, I want us to take a careful look at Matthew 24. Let’s be careful students of the Word this morning, carefully exposing this text. This will be different than my typical sermon. We will spend most of the time finding the meaning of the text rather than how it applies to your life. The following weeks will be mostly application.

- Read Matthew 24.

Bible passages that deal with prophecy and images of the end times are often difficult to understand for several reasons. For instance, much of the stuff could easily describe more than one event in history. Second, prophecy is often shrouded in figurative language - tempting some to look for these images to be literally fulfilled instead of symbolically fulfilled. That makes for good movies and books but poor exegesis or Bible study. The people of the ancient world were very familiar with what was called "apocalyptic" literature. We are not. Apocalyptic literature was filled with prophetic images that were not literal. It was not written so much to give a chronology of events to come as to encourage suffering saints to remain faithful even through tough times. With that in mind, let’s look at the questions the disciples ask and the answers Jesus gives.

It’s been a wonderful day in the temple for the disciples. Their Master has answered every question thrown at Him and has stumped the Jewish leaders with questions of His own. Jesus had just berated the Pharisees more harshly than ever before. The day was coming to an end now, so they were returning to Bethany for the evening.

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