“Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?’”
Many believe the world is going to end very soon. It’s always been this way. Whenever economic troubles come, some connect them with economic symbolism in Revelation. Others look at such things as 2012’s end of the Mayan calendar and conclude the end is here. Christians need to be ready to show what the Bible actually teaches about such matters (1 Peter 3:15), which is why last week’s article talked about Jesus’ prophecies concerning the end of the world and how He very specifically said no one but the Father knows when the end will come (Matthew 24:35-44).
Some will say, “But what of all the signs mentioned earlier in Matthew 24? What about the talk of ‘wars and rumors of wars,’ and how ‘that is not yet the end’? What about the gospel being preached to the whole world before the end comes? What about the ‘abomination of desolation’? Aren’t these signs which Jesus is giving us to let us know when he is close to coming back?” These are understandable questions, especially in light of the clear references to Christ’s second coming alluded to earlier in the second half of Matthew 24.
Studying the entire chapter shows that Jesus was answering two questions (Matthew 24:1-3): first, when the Jerusalem temple would be destroyed, followed by “…What will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” Those questions were answered in the order in which they were given. Study Matthew 24:4-34 carefully and you’ll see that the signs mentioned in those verses herald the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. Verse 34 especially makes this clear: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” If the signs mentioned in vs. 4-33 dealt with Christ’s second coming, verse 34 would not be true since the generation in which Jesus lived was thousands of years ago. Yet, we see the truthfulness of this statement when we remember that the Romans destroyed the temple just a few decades after Jesus made that statement that it would happen within His generation.
Not until verse 35 does Jesus begin to answer the second question about the signs relating to His second coming and the end of the age. Verse 36 and following makes it clear that His second coming will come like a thief in the night. Yet in spite of the lack of signs signaling to us that the end is near, there is one thing we CAN learn from this. Remember, Jesus wants us all to be ready for that day…especially since we don’t know when it will be. His brother James and His apostle Peter wanted the same. James told us our lives are like mists, here one minute and gone the next; we don’t know if tomorrow will come (James 4:13-16). That’s why he said we sin if we know to do good and don’t do it (v. 17). Peter described the end of the world (2 Peter 3:10) and then asked us this important question: “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” (v. 11) That’s an important question.
Are you ready for when Jesus comes back? The Bible says salvation comes through grace to those who believe and obey the gospel (Ephesians 2:8; Mark 16:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). We must believe and confess our faith (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10), repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) and be baptized in water into the body of Christ which is His church (Mark 16:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 1:18), of which there is only one (Ephesians 4:4-6). Afterwards, we must remain faithfully obedient (Hebrews 5:8-9; 10:26-31).
Have you done this? If Jesus returned today, would you be prepared?