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Towards The Great End
Key Verse 13:31
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Last week we studied about the story of the poor widow whom Jesus admired and immortalized as a woman with a keen sense of history. In other words, she did something that shaped and molded history in a direction that glorified God. One seemingly insignificant widow molded history with an act of faith that gave a new meaning to, and set a new standard for the word “offering”. And thus, she made history and was counted among the spiritual giants in God’s history whose lives have shaped God’s history in the direction which best glorified God. May God also help us to be history makers for his kingdom.
In chapter 13, Jesus gives his disciples an overview of the end times. It is a glimpse at where history is going. Why did Jesus spend time in explaining to his disciples about events that will be signs of the end times? Why did Jesus spend time to coach his disciples about events in history which seem to be difficult to understand? Because Jesus wanted to help his disciples and all future Christians to understand history from God’s point of view, the purpose of history and the ultimate destination of history. Jesus, the creator of the universe, had to help his disciples put history into its right perspective so that his disciples would live their daily lives in preparation for the great end.
What is the great end? Let’s read verses 26 and 27. The great end is the second coming of Christ our Lord and savior. The great end is the time when God would put an end to the world and to history and bring all things to a conclusion. The great end is the time when God would sift out from human history everything honorable which contributed to God’s history and putting them together, God would bring to a conclusion what all history had been purposed for, that is, the coming of the kingdom of God. In other words, the great end is important to every Christian who understands that all things on earth, even life, even a day’s events, even our very actions cannot be significant unless they serve God’s history in a way. Jesus explained the great end to his disciples so they would not waste their precious God given lives, but use their lives in the making of God’s history and in the building of God’s kingdom. In this chapter there seems to be many detailed accounts of what would happen in the end times. But it was not Jesus’ intention for us to dwell on such details. It was his intention, however, that each disciple of Jesus understand how to identify the coming of the end times, and therefore, to also identify what would be important during those times.
Now let’s read verses 1-4. As they were leaving the temple, it would have been the proper thing to do for the disciples to consider what Jesus had just finished teaching them about the widow’s offering. It was a teaching that would be immortalized in Bible history for as long as the world endures. But the disciples were not too interested in learning from the widow’s action, nor in meditating on Jesus’ teaching in regards to the widow’s offering. They seemed to be more interested in the magnificence of the temple. It was probably like standing in front of the Willis Tower in downtown. You look up and say, “Wow! What a magnificent building?” But Jesus was still marveling at the widow’s deed. To Jesus, what she did was more impressive than the magnificence of ten temples and the glory of ten cultures. To Jesus, what she did was immortal, while both temple and culture were temporary. To Jesus, any human work, regardless of its purpose and grandeur, is irrelevant if it does not endure. Jesus once said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27) To Jesus, the only work that is worthy is the work which will endure for all time. In other words, a christian must do the work that will endure to eternal life and the kingdom of God.
Let’s read verses 3-4 together. There were four disciples who were beginning to understand Jesus’ view of history, that understanding God’s history is important. So they asked him about it. Specifically they wanted to know when the end would come, and how would they know when the end was coming. But Jesus did not answer their question directly. Jesus began by telling them of the importance of being on one’s guard. What then must they guard against?
Let’s read verses 5,6 and 21-23. “Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many.’” (21-23) “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ !’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect —if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.” Jesus begins with a warning against deception in the end times.
Though the devil may have countless deceptions to deceive the world by, Jesus mentions one supreme form of deception in chapter 13. It is the deception regarding the Savior. Everyone is in need of a savior. Some believe that they are in need of a social savior or a political savior. But the reality is that everyone is desperately in need of a spiritual savior to save them from their sins. But there is no human savior who could do this for our world. So God in his love, sent his Son Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins. He sent his Son to die on the cross so that all who put their faith in him might receive eternal life and not perish in hell. There is but one Savior and his name is Jesus, there is no other. Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” But in the end times, Jesus said that many false messiahs would rise claiming that they have the key to the door of salvation, and the way to the kingdom of God. Jesus warns Christians to be on guard.
Let’s examine verses 7-13. They describe times of social and political chaos in the world in the end times. During those times of trouble, many will be swallowed up by the fears and doubts that assail the heart. Famines and wars and persecution are no small things. During such times, the people of the world will tremble and shake in fear. Many will try to do something to ease the pain of suffering. They will be times of such suffering that no one would know what to do except to panic. But in the midst of all this, Jesus does not want his people to behave like worldly people. Let’s read verse 10. “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” While others are only running around trying to solve the imminent problems of life, Jesus wants his people to do what is most important in life. He wants us to be preaching the gospel. Persecution and trouble will follow, but Jesus advises of the urgency of preaching the gospel. If we do not preach the gospel during our life, in good times and in bad times, we will be caught up in the fear and trouble awaiting the world. It is the wisdom of God to his children to be servants of the gospel. It is the wisdom of God to be entrusted with the most important and most urgent thing to do in the dark times awaiting the world. Romans 10:15b says, “As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”.
Let’s examine verses 14-23. In these verses Jesus describes times of inconceivable human suffering. They will be times in which Jesus says, had God not decided to cut them short, no one would survive, not even God’s own people. But the question is, what will bring about such times of terrible suffering on the human race? Verse 14 sheds light on this. God is the Holy God. He alone must be worshipped and served. God’s altar, is God’s dwelling place, where God comes to be with his people. Sometimes the altar is the church, at other times the altar is our hearts. Wherever God comes and meets personally with his people, there is the altar of God. That place must be holy and reserved only for God. But Jesus says that in the end times the holy altar will be defiled. It will be defiled by unholy things which will occupy the place of God on the altar and in the heart. Whenever something replaces God on the altars of our lives, then that place is defiled. When we survey our times, we see that many things have taken the place of God on his altar. Today, there are people who exchange God with vile things in their hearts. As followers of Christ, we must be very careful to guard our hearts and minds with daily repentance, the word of God and prayer.
Now let’s examine verses 24-31. These verses talk about foundations. Human beings build everything in their lives on foundations. Every human being begins their life building foundations upon which they measures their lives. Some foundations are good and some are bad. Nevertheless, human beings lives are built undeniably on foundations. Therefore, foundations are essential in our lives. But regardless of how strong the foundations we build upon, according to Jesus, all foundations some day will crumble and fall. There is no foundation whose origin is human which will stand on the last day. Now, the sun rises every morning and sets every evening. The rain falls in the proper season and the flowers bloom in the right months. Everything seems to be stable and secure in the events that shape time and history. But Jesus says that the day will come when the foundations of the earth will be shaken, the sun will become dark and the stars will fall from the heavens. Probably like that asteroid that landed in Russia a few months ago. We may not be able to conceive of such things. But they will happen as Jesus prophesied them and they will shake the very foundations on which human beings seem to be secure. What must we do on that day? In reality what must we do even now before such events take place? According to Jesus we must build our foundations on things that last, on foundations that will never be shaken. Let’s read verse 31. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Indeed there is one foundation which will never be shaken. It is the word of God. If we build our lives on the word of God, then on that day, even if the sun is darkened and the stars fall from the sky, the word of God in our hearts will stand and we will stand and nothing will be able to shake us. It is a simple teaching. If God is for us who could stand against us.
Let’s read verses 32-37. In the last days when all these things are happening, there seems to be no hope for anyone. But there is hope for the person whose foundation is built on the word of God. There is hope for the one who believes that in the midst of all that will happen, the Lord will come on clouds of heaven with great power and glory to gather his people and to take them to be with him forever in his kingdom. For this reason Jesus does not want us to be afraid. He wants to encourage us to hold on to his glorious promise that he is coming again. Meanwhile, while we wait, we must know that the most important thing to do in life is to build our lives on the solid foundation of the word of God. We must know that God our father in heaven wants us to love, serve and honor Him with our hearts and lives and that he will be with us forever.
Let’s read the key verse. Verse 31.