Matthew Challenge Day 24
For the 28 days of February, a bunch of us are reading through the 28 chapters of Matthew (1 chapter a day). The purpose is to learn more about the life & teachings of Jesus ... and how those should be impacting our lives. We are going to post a short devotional guide each day on this spot so you can get a little help thinking through each chapter. Day 24 starts below.
Today we begin Matthew 24 & 25 which get as much attention as any chapters in Matthew (except maybe the Sermon on the Mount in chaps 5-7) because they deal with “The Second Coming.” Have you noticed how more want to know about that than what we need to be doing before then … like evangelizing the lost who have the most to lose when it happens? Up front, let me say that there a number of ways to interpret these chapters but I am going to look at them as describing the “near future” (“near” to that time period), the “interim future” (the time between the 1st century and the last days), and the “long-term future” (things preceding and encompassing the Second Coming). We won’t get all the way through chapter 24 today.
This teaching was “in private,” to his disciples, as they journeyed up the Mount of Olives (providing a view of Jerusalem and the temple). The disciples pointed out the magnificence of the temple and Jesus replied, “It is all coming down.” You can imagine that got their attention because they could only imagine something that cataclysmic would have to be associated with the beginning of the Messianic age when Jesus would come in great power! So they asked him, “When is this going to happen?” It is important to note that the temple (along with Jerusalem) was destroyed in AD 70; Jesus knew that event would be separate from his return and earthly kingdom, so he answered the question accordingly.
In 24:4-8, Jesus talked about things that would happen in the disciples’ lifetimes … some of which would be because they followed him. He told them to make sure they didn’t jump the gun and pack their bags too early. He said many attention-getting and noteworthy things would happen that would make the uninformed think the end was near—false Christs, wars & rumors of war, famines & earthquakes in various places, etc. Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of birth pains” meaning, they will be significant but they will not be of the frequency and intensity of things in the last days. (That’s when the “hard labor” would hit.)
In 24:9-14, Jesus gave them some personal warnings which, I imagine, they didn’t care to think about. “You will be hated, persecuted, and even put to death for following me.” He said that there would be some who wouldn’t stand up to the persecution, would turn away from the faith and turn on each other. But there were two promises he made: (1) If you stand firm to the end you will be saved, and (2) Even during this hard time, the gospel would be preached throughout the world. (Both still apply to disciples of Jesus!) “Then,” he said, “the end will come.”
In 24:15-28, I believe that, first, Jesus described the time of Israel’s downfall for rebelling against Rome and the destruction of the temple in AD 70. I also believe some of the things he talks about will be repeated in the last days before his Second Coming. (Some prophecies are like that; for instance Isaiah 7:14 was fulfilled in Isaiah’s day and again with the birth of Jesus.) “The abomination that causes desolation,” from Daniel 9:27, etc., referenced desecration of the temple. It had already occurred once [in 168 BC by Antiochus Epiphanes] and would in the near future [AD 70 by the Roman general, Titus] but will happen again in the last days with the antichrist. Did he refer to the second or third here? Probably both, but I think the second was his first concern because it would be in the lifetime of some of the disciples listening. He warns them not to hang around when trouble approached because Jerusalem would fall (remember, that is what began this Q & A) and not to be deceived with false reports of his return. He said that his return would be as visible and prominent as a great flash of lightening that crosses the sky; no one would need to tell them.
In 24:29-31 he finally gets to what the disciples (then & now) are most interested in—his return. There will be unmistakable cosmic signs that will precede the greatest sign (his return) when Jesus gathers his followers from the world. I am almost out of space, but need to say two things for today. 24:36 is clear—no one but the Father (not even Jesus as he was speaking then) knows exactly when everything will happen but disciples who know God’s word and are watching for the warning signs will know when it is close (24:32-35). We are to look at “the world” through the filter of “the word” … and be ready! Are you?