Matthew 24:1-14; Mark 13:1-13; Luke 21:5-19
The End Is Not Yet
The next several devotions take up one of the more difficult passages in all the gospels. Please bear in mind, these are devotional thoughts based on Scripture, not a running biblical commentary; there are others far more gifted than me who can do that. But it is an extremely important passage in that each of the gospels but John records it. It deserves careful attention.
It seems to me that much of the difficulty with interpretation has to do with the fact that Jesus is answering two different questions here. All three record the disciples asking about when the destruction of the temple will occur. Matthew adds that the disciples further ask “what will be the sign of your coming.” It makes sense that the disciples would put these two events together. Understand that the destruction of the temple would represent to these twelve Jews the most cataclysmic event of the age. Yes, they knew that it had been destroyed before, but Herod’s temple was HUGE. And so this whole discourse began with the disciples saying, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And so there is a sense in which the destruction of the temple would represent for these men the “close of the age.” Thus, much of interpretation concerns disentangling what part of the passage has to do with the destruction of the temple and what part with the second coming of our Lord. But I must also say that I believe that the passage has an ever present meaning to it; that is, what we read isn’t only about the past (destruction of the temple) or future (second coming of Christ) but about living in the present in the light of past tribulations which will certainly return and future tribulations which are sure to come – and all of which are experienced by our brethren in other parts of the world as I write these words.
In sum, these verses deal with just that: living in the present. There will be wars; there will be earthquakes and famines; there will be false prophets and false christs. There have been since Christ ascended (1 John 2:18), which is why all three record Jesus saying, “But the end is not yet” or “will not be at once.” So we are not to be alarmed by these things. Indeed, Jesus explicitly says that we shall be betrayed even by family to the authorities. Other Christians will grow cold by falling to the temptations of “lawlessness.” But we are promised his presence, even to the point of not worrying over what to say as the Spirit will speak through us in that hour. And because he will not abandon us, we shall endure to the end and receive our reward. We shall be persecuted; we shall bear witness; and we shall be saved.