The Monday morning “bible” study initiated with the topic: “What are some of the signs that tell us we are in the last days?” I love introductions like this, because they can be filled with hope. However that was not the case this day. Immediately we were presented with the following scriptures: Matthew 24:14; Matthew 24:33, and Matthew 24:42-44.
Let's start where they started.
Matthew 24:14 And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world for a testimony to all the nations, and the end will come.
Try to imagine where your thoughts go, when you have this verse thrown in your face by some legalistic “brother”, trying to prove that Jesus cannot come back because we know with a certainty that there are 114 people groups that do not have bibles in their language. That is what I heard about a year ago. Fascinating how Iran made the bible illegal probably since 1979, and yet Jesus himself still shows up at people's doors or in their dreams, and they know who he is. In the case of one man, Jesus showed up over the course of eight years. That man, finally getting his family out of Iran and into Rome, was handed a bible in the Persian language. The first thing he read when he opened it was Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and I am knocking. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him and I will dine with him, and he with Me.” That man told me, that this is exactly what Jesus had done all those years and I would not receive him because I was a Muslim. He did come to know this Jesus and is an on fire evangelist for God now. It was not the bible that spoke to him, it only served as a witness. It was Jesus himself doing the evangelism.
What does this say about our demand that every man gets a printed bible in their hand before the Lord can come back?
Are you not aware that an angel, or angels, will preach the gospel around the globe?
Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
Revelation 1:7 Behold, he comes with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall because of him. Even so, Amen.
And although it does not speak about the angels spreading the gospel message, in Colossians Paul tells us this:
Colossians 1:23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
Paul certainly did not go every creature, and there had not been enough time for the disciples to reach the ends of the earth by the time this letter was written. There is certainly the possibility of an exponential explosion in the number of salvations since the day of Pentecost, but we don't see that. What then does this say about personal responsibility, for every man has the knowledge of good and evil. What does that mean?; does that imply that God has imprinted his life and character in every man? Certainly it does, but sometimes it seems we are only a shade above rocks on the evolutionary scale, because - having both been made by God - we humans have the ability, with our free choice, to worship, yet we reject him, while the rock, fully understanding that man corrupted the existence God put it in, can and does cry out to God for its redemption.
Look at what we see in Romans 1:18-20:.
Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (19) Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. (20) For the invisible things of him from the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
We hold the truth unrighteousness. That has nothing to do with a bible, it is what we are doing with internal truth. Did Cain, one of Adam's sons, have a bible? No, and yet he had a responsibility to hold the truth in righteousness. Did he do that? No, and out of selfishness and jealousy killed his brother Able. So, whether you have a printed copy of the scriptures in your hand or not, you will be without excuse.
The second verse that was tossed at us was this:
Matthew 24:33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.
This is great, but we (although we have been allegedly looking at this for several weeks) never touched the signs or things. Let's do a quick break down.
- Who is the “you” Jesus was talking to?The disciples. He is of course also speaking to us. Remember all scripture is given for our benefit. 2 Timothy 3:16
- And they were what?Jews first, disciples second.
- What was their motive for asking the questions that prompted the answers?The context begins in Matthew 22 where Jesus had entered triumphantly into Jerusalem, riding on the colt. The people were shouting Hosanna, and the hope was that this would be the time He would show himself as the Messiah they had longed for. However he did not do that, He made a whip of cords, and threw the vendors out the court of the gentiles. And raging at the Chief priests and elders about how they had defiled his house. This battle lasted for two days until finally they were all leaving toward the mount of Olives. It seems the disciples were a little undone by it all. Not sure what to say, one points out the structure of the temple and the massive stones by which it was built. Thus begins Jesus responses. Matthew 24:2 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."
There are definite signs, and Jesus spells out almost all of them, but I will get to that later.
The third verse the leader threw out was Matthew 24: 42-44.
() Watch therefore, for you do not know in what hour your Lord is coming. (43) But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief was coming, he would have kept watch, and he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. (44) For this reason you also must be ready, for at an hour that you think not, the Son of Man comes.
The group leader then focused on this for a moment and asked, why does God not want us to know the exact day, time, or hour? This kind of thinking is comparable to living in the dark ages, and we are no longer there.
- First, the question is filled with false belief, and assumption.Assumption, because even leaders will not take the time to find out if there is something that contradicts their inference; false belief, because when confronted with the truth (and I have confronted them on previous occasions) they refuse the truth and try to make a work around so that they can keep their beliefs intact.
- Secondly, if this is really the way God feels, then the answer is:Most likely because we have a natural tendency to be slackers. This is probably the reason that the church cannot handle talking about the freedoms we have in Christ. Think about it. If I told you how very simple it is to have this life in Christ, and that you have already been forgiven, you might choose to live a wild life with no restraints, and perhaps even not go church. What is the problem with all that? How is religion supposed to control you?The mornings “discussion” even ended with a loud rant about how there is not enough preaching on sin and personal responsibility these days.
In light of this, why do we foolishly take passages like Matthew 24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” A passage that was meant to explain to the disciples what the end time salvation of the Jews would look like, and apply it to ourselves?
There is a direct answer to this fallacy:
1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 (1) Now the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. (2) For are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (3) While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (4) But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. (5) For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
darkness - - From the base of ; , that is, obscurity (literally or figuratively): - darkness.
We are capable of knowing and we are not in the dark. As matter of fact, we are not even in the shadow. Jesus himself gave us two huge clues, or signs , about when we might expect him.
Matthew 24:32-34 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. (33) So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. (34) Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Israel is that fig tree and it was transplanted in 1948 (1917 if you want to use the Balfour declaration). A generation has no firm understanding of time frame. The dictionary states: A single succession in natural descent, as the children of the same parents; hence, an age. Thus we say, the third, the fourth, or the tenth generation. But it also applies to the people of the same period, or living at the same time. So a child born in 1948, would today be 67 and would not have lived out all their attributed years. However, if born in 1917 they would be 98. My girlfriend's mother is 97. Fortunately, or not, God does not seem to be to wrapped up in precise time frames (we have lived in Daniel's seventieth week for two thousand years). I suppose since he created time that he can do what he wants with it, including making it fit his scheme of things.
If you really want to understand Matthew 24 and 25, then you need to think context.
- Jesus was talking directly to Jews/his disciples, but he was also speaking toward a future audience, US.In talking to Jewish ears he said things that their training in synagogue would have immediately caused them to associate with scripture. Therefore is was not all mystery as we think. We just need to adjust our thinking.You also need to understand that prophecy to a Jew was pattern, and therefore Jesus told them things that the prophets like Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Jeremiah had already declared.
You, as a believer, should be aware, of what "all these things" are.
- Matthew 24:5 False messiahs will come.
- Matthew 24:6 Wars and rumors of wars
- Matthew 24:7 Nations will rise against nations,
kingdom against kingdom,earthquakes in various places,and famines.
- Matthew 24:9 ..they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death,
and you (the Jews and Israel) will be hated by all nations for my name's sake.
- Matthew 24:10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.
- Matthew 24:11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
pseudoprophētēs From and ; a , that is, or religious
- Matthew 24:12 ... lawlessness will be increased,
the love of many will grow cold.
This is a short list, but you should get the idea. One aspect that keeps coming up, is the idea of apostasy. It means an abandonment of what one has professed; a total desertion, or departure from one's faith or religion. This can apply to government as well. Look around you, can you see this happening? I can.
If you have a desire to know this Jesus that I speak of, merely ask him into your life. He gave his life so that you could have a restored relationship with him again, and we have the promise that we will spend eternity with Him, in the presence of the Father forever. If you ask him, he will come into and wash you, heal you, and fill you with the power of his Holy Spirit. All you have to do is ask.