Today’s reading was really heavy! The Olivet Discourse is a very sobering picture of what’s to come – and of what came shortly after Jesus answered the disciple’s questions.
Jesus had lamented over Jerusalem and withdrew to the Mount of Olives to talk privately with his disciples. Jesus predicted that nothing would remain of the temple, and Andrew, Peter, James and John asked for details. Jesus answered them, but gave them far more information than they expected.
The temple Jesus referred to was begun in 20 BC, and construction was still going on when the Romans destroyed it. It was one of the world’s most impressive structures. Some of the stones were 40’x12’x12’ (without any kind of electricity or power tools. Wow!). it was constructed of marble, and the eastern wall was covered with gold. No wonder the disciples asked how this magnificence could be made desolate!
True to Jesus’ words, the temple was destroyed. In AD 70, the Roman general Titus built scaffolds around the walls of the temple and set them on fire. The heat was so intense that the stones crumbled and the rubble was sifted to retrieve the gold. The ruins were thrown into the Kidron valley.
The disciples still didn’t get it. They thought Jesus would come back right away to build His kingdom. Jesus tells them what will happen and then discusses the when.
The signs Jesus mention will increase like birth pangs. We are to always be watchful and to remember that (a) NO ONE but God knows the hour and the day, and (b) NO ONE sign will signal His coming.
· False Christs – don’t believe it. There is only one Christ, and when He comes again, the entire world will witness it.
· Wars and rumors of Wars (the end is not yet!). We see much unrest worldwide, and some teachers would have you believe that this conflict or that argument will be the beginning of the end. Remember, only God knows. We are to be vigilant and know how the signs fit into the prophetic scheme of things.
· Famines and earthquakes – these are the beginning of sorrows. But we also see that there will be those who say everything is going well and that we are secure (we see that today, of course), but the Bible disagrees:
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. 1 Thess 5:3 (ESV)
Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. Rev 6:1-8 (ESV)
· Persecution. We see Christian persecution all over the world. We are beginning to see it in our country as well. It’s more and more difficult for a Christian to have a Bible at their workplace, or to wear a cross, or to have a favorite Scripture on their desk. Some military pastors are grappling with whether or not they should “marry” same sex couples, and Biblical preaching against homosexuality is discouraged or even prohibited. We are seeing Christians accused of “hate crimes” when they speak their convictions and cite the Bible as proof. Jesus promises us that we aren’t alone! When persecution comes, we are to be unafraid and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our words.
And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:11 (ESV)
· Many will fall away. Those who fall away are not true believers; they are the “tares” and the “goats”. Those who endure – the saved – will be saved. Those who fall away prove they were never true believers in the first place (1 John 2:19). Believers are kept through their faith, and we are called to hold fast to that faith (Hebrews 10:23; Revelation 3:11)
I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. Rev 3:11 (ESV)
· The Gospel will be proclaimed to the world. God will proclaim the gospel from heaven if necessary (Revelation 14:6)! This is the first time in human history that the Gospel can go to [nearly] every nation via technology, and to every nation by those called as missionaries. However, we can’t wait for “them” to spread the Gospel. In light of the tribulations to come, who do you plan to share God’s saving grace with? Or to give a more vivid word picture:
Which of your friends do you want to see go to hell?
If you are offended by that question, then you need to do something about it. Someone cared enough for you to give you the Good News of the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. You need to do the same. You don’t need to “Bible thump” to witness. If you need to know how to share Christ’s love, talk with a pastor or email me privately and I will help you. Friends don’t let friends go to hell.
· The abomination of desolation. Some suggest this prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 (they are called Preterists). Some think it referred to the desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC. But the apostle Paul saw it differently, as did John (2 Thessalonians 2:3,4; Revelation 13:14,15). They saw the Antichrist setting up an image for worship in the future temple.
· Great tribulation. Praise God that He plans to “shorten” the days of this devastating period in history. We will receive more details about the great tribulation as we study the bowl judgments in Revelation.
Jesus tells parables and lessons to help us understand the timing of His return.
We can tell when it’s nearly summer as we watch the fig tree put on its leaves. Likewise, we can see that it’s only a short time until Christ’s return by following the increase in the signs He has given us.
Noah’s time was nothing special – until the flood came onto the earth. People were enjoying life, eating, drinking, marrying, and carrying out the mundane day-to-day tasks that snare us all. Noah and his family saw the signs of impending doom and were saved.
The servants, although a believer and a non-believer, are both accountable to God for the time they spent on this earth. Everyone has possessions and abilities given by God. those who don’t use them for God’s glory will be cast into darkness.
Ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom, who had traveled to his home to build the martial residence. Some of them failed to remain vigilant and had no oil for their lamps. In that culture, no one knew exactly when the bridegroom would appear to bring his bride home. Likewise, we are to wait for Christ to return, remaining vigilant even if His return is a long time in the distance. Once He arrives, there will not be a second chance to be caught up with Him (unbelievers will have the opportunity to accept Him during the tribulation, but after He returns, the earth will not be an enjoyable place to live).
Jesus tells us of the talents, which was a weight and not a specific coin. A gold talent was more valuable than a silver talent, but both weighed the same. This parable tells us of the sadness of wasted opportunity.
Finally, our reading takes us to the judgment of the (individuals within the) nations. It’s not the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20. It’s before the Millennial Reign. Jesus separates individuals into “sheep”, placed at His right hand, and “goats” who are sent to the left. I look forward to hearing these words:
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Matt 25:34-36 (ESV)
The goats, or unbelievers, will be sent into everlasting punishment. What an awful place! It’s described through Scripture:
Everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41)
Unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:12)
Shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2)
Torments and flame (Luke 16:23-24)
There are many more references, but I’m sure the picture is clear. It’s not a place where people party endlessly. It doesn’t contain eternal sexual gratification. You won’t have everlasting keg parties. You will be hot. You will be tormented. You will feel shame.
If you are waiting until the last minute to come to Christ so you can pursue earthly pleasures, are you sure that’s the right choice? Accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. Turn from your sin now. Tomorrow may be too late.
Much to think about today, friends. May you meditate on Christ’s holy word and decide to share the Gospel with your friends and families before it’s too late. If you or someone you know are not Christians, you will spend eternity in hell. Is that your desire? Pray about it.
See you tomorrow.