Signs Of The End Of The Age (II)
[My Words Will Never Pass Away]
Key Verse 24:35
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
This chapter regarding the end times is pretty long and detailed that it seems almost impossible to cover it in one lecture. So, we are doing it in two parts. The passage we already looked at was verses 1-14, where Christ predicts the destruction of the temple and he warns us against deception with these eerie words: “Watch out that no one deceives you For may will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” And “Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” God only knows how many are being deceived by false gospels, false teachers and false prophets who preach messages that gratify the sinful desires of the human heart! But what the Lord says is serious since deception can destroy the souls of those who let themselves be deceived. During those times, Christ tells us that the love of— not many but— most will grow cold! This means that in the end, love and compassion will be near extinct. And when love becomes such a rarity, you can be sure that God is no longer there. And for this reason, Christ admonishes us that while many turn away from the faith, that we should rather stand firm to the end! Finally (14) the Lord reveals to us God’s hope and vision for a world about to be consumed by its own wickedness. He says: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” That’s exactly what the Lord wants us to be doing while the world is embroiled in its own evil— preaching the gospel of his kingdom until it reaches the far corners of the earth. In this next part however, the Lord continues his discourse on the end times, and warns again against deception.
Read verses 15-26. One of the main subjects the Lord talks about here is the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Romans. That tragic event was bound to happen! So many sentimental Christians think that God would never bring about a destructive force against anyone, let alone against his own people, since he is a loving God. But history clearly shows us that God, although a loving God is also a God of his word. He is a God of truth and of justice as much as he is a God of love and grace. Sentimental Christians forget that God annihilated the world at the time of Noah because of their horrendous sins as they abandoned God for pleasure. They forget that the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their perversion. They forget that many times, the Lord gave his people up to their enemies who carried out God’s wrath on unrepentant and wayward people! Listen to what the Lord tells his rebellious people in the olden times: “Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.’” (Jeremiah 35:17) “Therefore I will stretch out my hand against you and give you as plunder to the nations. I will cut you off from the nations and exterminate you from the countries. I will destroy you, and you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 25:7) It happened more than once in history. But the sentimentalists say that the God of the New Testament is different; he will not punish; he will not destroy. Yet, when you read the New Testament, you will find out that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. When he saves the faithful, he literally saves them from his own wrath. Jesus predicted that Jerusalem, the jewel of nations, would be utterly destroyed because they refused to welcome the Son of God. Why is this relevant to us? Because although we deliver a message of God’s love and grace to all people, we mustn’t dilute the message of God’s truth and judgment on those who refuse to believe.
In these verses Jesus speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. This happened nearly forty years after Jesus spoke these very words. If you want, you can read the full account of this tragic event in the writings of the famed Jewish historian called Josephus. What he writes of the destruction of this city and its temple by the Romans is the best commentary on the Lord’s very words, giving proof of how accurate Jesus was in his predictions. They tell us of the horrors and miseries the Jewish people endured during the siege of the city, and later the breach of its walls and consequent destruction. They speak of such misery as has never been felt or recorded in all of history. It was truly a time of terrible sufferings unequalled to since the beginning of the world! But here’s something we ought to consider. While some believe that the events Jesus was talking about hadn’t happened yet, let’s be sure that Jesus’ words were definitely fulfilled through the Roman invasion, and that they will probably also be fulfilled again sometime in the future! But why is it important that the devastating destruction of the city and its temple had already occurred? Because before they did, Jerusalem and its Temple were at the heartbeat of the Old Testament religious practice. And upon their destruction, the whole religious system based on the Law came to an abrupt end. The daily sacrifices, the yearly feasts, the altar and what it stood for, the Holy of holies, the priesthood and such— all these were vital to the Old Testament religion— at least up till the coming of Christ! His death, resurrection and ascension to heaven as our High Priest brought in the New Testament age of the Holy Spirit and the church. No wonder then that the passing of the old was marked with such a historical, catastrophic and memorable event which served to herald in the age of the New Covenant which Jesus made with all who believe in him.
Look at verses 15-26 again. Look at verses 15-16. “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel— let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” I want to draw your attention particularly to these words, because Jesus defines for us here what one of the greatest evils of humankind is— which in turn will mark the end of the age. Of all the evils that exist in this world, we should know the kind of evil Jesus talks about here— an evil we will be able to recognize as its happening. And this kind of evil seems to have also spanned two millennia so far. “When you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation”! That’s the sign that the end is coming soon. Let me explain what this abomination that he’s talking about is all about. Jesus says that Daniel spoke of it, and it happened once already in history way before the coming of the Lord. It happened when the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes, who governed Palestine from 175-64 B.C. in his attempt to quell a Jewish rebellion, entered the temple and put up an idol of Zeus and sacrificed a pig on the holy altar. He defiled that sacred place of God. In the place of God, he set up a pig. How is this significant to us today? God’s sacred altar is the human heart. Every human heart is a sacred altar reserved for God alone to worship. It’s our sacred duty! But look at what’s happening at the end of the age. Jesus tells us that the sacred altar of people’s hearts where God alone ought to be honored and worshiped will be violated and defiled by something unholy. In Jesus’ time, the altar of people’s hearts was defiled by greed and it reeked of sin and the love of unholy things. But I think that our own generation takes the gold medal in defiling what is sacred to God.
Look at what our world has come to! People’s hearts and lives are like abominations to the Holy God. Most people don’t worship God anymore. They worship other things. Their speech and actions, their lives and attitudes, their desires and wants— are all unholy abominations to God who created our hearts that he might reside in them, and that they might be places of worship to him. No wonder the Lord Jesus said: “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24) It means that God is not looking for worshipers who pretend to worship him in ceremony and fanfare and ritualizing in black robes inside pretty stained glass edifices. He is looking for those who worship him in love— with every bit of their heart— worshiping him in spirit and in truth. That’s what the heart is for. And how many there are those who still don’t understand what God is really desires and seeks! He seeks you and me that we should give him the sacred altar of our hearts. As said, when we look at what’s in the heart of today’s people, we see so many abominations there, unholy things ruling many hearts! It’s hard to talk about these things! But we have to. The Lord himself warned us about them.
Today there’s so much unholiness and unrighteousness in the hearts of those lost in their sins. Strangely however, everything about them— their lives, their thoughts, their actions— all seem so normal to them— as normal as day in the sun. But nothing they think or do or feel is actually normal. When God or his word are no longer welcome into one’s heart, nothing in that person’s life is normal. Listen to what Jesus describes as normal when he speaks of the end of the age in Luke’s gospel: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-29) It all looks and sounds so normal! People then thought that their lives and actions, their thoughts and feelings were all normal. But they were as far away from normal as can be, and a step away from destruction— and they didn’t know it! Only Christ’s forgiveness and his cleansing blood can cure people’s illusions of normal, and bring them into what is actually normal in God’s eyes instead of in people’s eyes. There is nothing normal about the way the world is or behaves. It wasn’t normal back them and can never be normal again as long as it is blinded and deceived by the devil. What is normal about dark thoughts and sinful behavior and unholy desires that only seem normal to a deluded person deceived by the devil! They aren’t normal but they’re in every way an abomination to God! It’s the devil’s deception that tells people that what they love and what they do and say is normal. When a heart which should be filled with God and love for God is filled instead with lust and greed and indifference, with insecurity and guilt, that heart isn’t in any way normal. It is a deceived heart— an abomination to God! And when the abomination spreads, the Lord tells us in these verses that the consequences will be unbearable because God will judge the heart of every man and woman. If those days aren’t cut short for the sake of Jesus’ people, he says no one would survive.
Jesus also tells us to flee with our lives at the time of these events, leaving everything behind. That’s so hard to do for many a people. When one’s heart is deceived and captivated by the glittering things of this world rather than fixed on God and his kingdom, it will be very hard to flee and not to remain to guard one’s property. Yet Jesus tells us to run far and never to look back! Why? I think we know why! Because your soul and mine are worth a whole lot more than anything we possess in this world. Don’t you think so? And when the time comes to leave everything behind, Jesus also says to be careful of false saviors who will pop up everywhere to try to comfort people in their troubles. They encourage people to be selfish, to uphold their pride and self righteousness. They will urge them to compromise the word of God for the sake of gaining temporary benefits. They will offer the weak and needy an easy way to be relieved of their burdens. Yet these false messiahs never tell people the truth— the most important of message in times of trouble— that we ought to always repent and turn our hearts to Christ in faith and trust. I believe that whatever our situation, whether now or in future, in good times and in difficult times, we must always go to Jesus for grace and counsel! Only through him can we remove any abomination that’s found its way into our heart and worship him as we ought. Only then can we also understand and share in his world mission vision for the gospel to reach the hearts of all who would listen. For: “The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) When we know this and believe it deeply, we can then be the ambassadors of Christ to a troubled world.
Look at verses, 27-51. What Jesus is doing here is not only relating what will be the signs of the end, but he is also shining the light of hope on the terrible times he tells us are sure to come. He is promising all of us that he will surely return to this world to take all his people to be with him. And it will happen in such a way that the whole world won’t be able to miss what’s going on in this heavenly event. They won’t even miss who he really is— as the victorious King of heaven. He will return on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And when he does return, the Lord himself tells us that all nations— the whole world— will mourn for him. Now this is really interesting. The world has every opportunity to mourn now, while the gospel is being preached to them. God gives every human being an opportunity to hear the gospel, and so to mourn for their sins which grieve God in heaven, and to ask for forgiveness from the Lord Jesus who shed his blood for that purpose, so as to save us from the coming wrath. What use will it be when he returns again and the world mourns! It will be of no use at that time. Incredibly, people don’t take their sins seriously, nor do they consider that their sinful lives offend God, nor do they for a moment consider how they might reconcile with God before it is too late. But too late it will be when the Christ returns on clouds of heaven. No amount of mourning at that time will justify a life lived in mockery of the gospel and of the Christ who suffered to save the unworthy! No amount of mourning will excuse lives lived in pride and in outright rebellious against the Lord and his word! “Blessed are those who mourn” Jesus had said, “For the will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Now is the time of mourning for one’s sins. Now is the time when a man or woman humble themselves before the Lord and commit to life in him. The time to prepare for Jesus’ coming isn’t something we do in the future when things become difficult. It is really now! For those of you who mourn now, there is every blessing reserved for you at his return.
Look at verse 35. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” What’s the Lord saying here? If you remember, the whole dialogue began when the disciples expressed awe at the seemingly indestructible temple. And then Jesus began to explain to them that everything manmade will perish. And here, it seems that Jesus is concluding with that same teaching, only he adds a last exhortation to everyone who belongs to him. He assures us all of something you must never forget; that while everything in this physical world and universe will one day perish at God’s command, the one thing that will forever endure and live eternally are his words. That’s, the Bible— his teachings— the Living words of God you have in your hand, and hopefully in your hearts as well! So he says: “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (42) Sure enough we don’t know when he will return to bring us home to himself. But sure enough we must keep watch! How? He has already taught us that we ought to stand firm on the faith making sure that the gospel goes out to all people. (13-14) But even more than that, in the last few verses Jesus talks about “The faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time.” (45) What’s he talking about? He’s talking about his eternal words as food for the soul! What you read— and study— and reflect on— and take to heart in this great Book aren’t dead words as in all other books. They are living and active words, able to make you wise— able to equip you with what you need to stand firm even in the worst of times. But only if you give your hearts to them! What we have here in our hands, the Bible, his teachings, aren’t only what you need, but what those God entrusts you with also need to sustain their souls— if you and I feed them properly with these words. It’s a great responsibility and charge that Jesus has left you and I with. What will you do with this word he has given you?