Matthew 24:1-51 – It Ain’t Gonna Be Pretty! The End!

Posted: March 17, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 24:1-51 (Part 3)

Jesus Teaches about Being Watchful for His Return

 

You have heard me speak of it before. When my wife says, “Somebody needs to take the trash out!” I know that she means me. By the mere fact that she is making the comment, she is excluding herself from the activity. That leave me since we do not have any kids in the house. And, well, Flash, my cat, is not really good at all at carrying the trash out for two reasons. One is that, he doesn’t care and, the other is that he doesn’t have opposable thumbs. So, Flash is out as a viable possibility. It’s me she is talking about. She knows it. I know it. We all know it. But she says somebody like there is another option available. So, understanding that she does not want to give me a direct command, I take the meaning, understand it, and go take the trash out. We often read books that are set in one place but are really a commentary on another. Remember the book, the movie, and the early parts of the television series, M*A*S*H. It was set in the Korean War but we all know that the satire and political commentary was aimed at our nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War, a war that was dragging on for 6 years by the time MASH the movie came out. The Vietnam War was a war with no purpose, no advantage to the US, and no clear objectives, and we were propping up a government that was even unpopular among its own people because of its corruption and greed. America had just come out a world war, a regional conflict in Korea, and we were just tired of war. MASH was a commentary on all that, but it was not directly that so you could not say it was directly that.

 

Those layers of commentary are things that I see in this passage for today, Matthew 24:15-29, when we read:

 

15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’[a] spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

 

22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

 

26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

 

There are two levels of commentary in this discourse by Jesus about the end times. First there is the immediate and then second there is the long-range future. In the immediate since, Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem some 40 years shortly in the future from this scene that we are observing through Matthew’s eyes. What we Westerners who are becoming increasingly illiterate about history forget is the siege and destruction of Jerusalem was ugly. It was nasty. It was cruel. Titus laid siege to Jerusalem for six months. Vespasian, the other general in the area, had already quelled the widespread rebellion of Israel in the rest of the country and now all that remained was the taking of the capital city, Jerusalem. The siege began in February 70 and ran all the way til the final conquest of the city in August 70. In the meantime, the city was starved to death. There are stories of the rebels and citizens eating leather toward the end of the siege because there was no food. Finally, when the Romans felt they had weakened the population and the rebel forces enough they entered the city and slaughtered everyone who could not get away and escape the city. Jesus is commenting about the judgment that was coming for the city of Jerusalem and it would be better to be a pregnant woman in the height of birth pains that to be in the city at the height of the Roman siege and eventual destruction of the entire city. That was the immediate context. I am sure that the Jews during the end time of the country as they knew it during the rebellion against the Romans between 66-70 AD that there those who claimed to be the savior of Israel. There were probably those who actually thought that they were the anointed one who would save Israel from destruction. But they were not the true Messiahs and could not save Israel from God’s coming judgment through the Roman army.

 

Jesus was also talking about the long-range future too. The end of the world as a whole will not be pretty. There will be judgment sent upon the earth. As a result of the chaos, men will turn against men in ways that will make the world now seem like a civilized place. There will be great dictators that arise that will claim to restore order to the world and will be seen as the savior of the world but will simply be just another way to oppress people. The end of the world will be as ugly as the siege of Jerusalem in 70AD but on a worldwide scale. All of the things of this world that we hold dear will become meaningless at the end of the world much like it was for those who were caught inside Jerusalem during the siege. The things that they held dear were meaningless when you are starving to death. Many of them wished for death quickly but rather died slowly and painfully from starvation. At the end of the world, many will desire death but it will come slowly. It will not be pretty.

 

But the good news is that Jesus says that the Lord will protect His own. Those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord – in reality and not just in name – will be protected from the calamities that will occur. How that will happen is up to conjecture among the premillienial, amillenials, and postmillineals, but regardless, God will protect His people. Of that we know. While most people fear the end of the world, and look for signs of its coming, and dread it. We should not as Christians. We know that we will be protected. Many people see Revelation as the worst and most scary part of the Bible. But to me, it is the most beautiful. There is nothing more beautiful and more promising that the picture painted of the reward to God’s people in Revelation 21-22. We win in the end. No matter how bad this thing gets, we win in the end.

 

That’s the assurance that I take from all the apocrophal books of the Bible such as this passage in Matthew, the Book of Daniel, and the Book of Revelation is that God’s people will be rewarded for their holding hard to their faith in God regardless of the circumstances that surround them. We do win in the end. Let us not worry so much about the signs of the end times. Let us not fear them. Let us be aware that things will end one day sure but these are not things to fear. We are God’s chosen people through our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. We will be rewarded. The end of our own life is nothing to fear and the end of all things is nothing to fear. We win in the end. Living in the presence of God for all eternity. This life is nothing compared to that. We win in the end. Let us be a light to the world and lead others to know the comfort and security of knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior so that they can be among those who win in the end. We win in the end!

 

Amen and Amen.

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