Usually, it takes something like a comet in the night sky growing brighter and brighter as the days and weeks pass for people to begin wondering if the end of the world is upon us. Changing millennia prompts questions about “the end” as well (remember Y2K?). Really, any perceived natural or man-made disaster gets people running for the hills and contemplating Armageddon.
Sometimes, however, it’s the movement and direction of culture that spurs many to wonder if the end is approaching. I could go through a whole laundry list of things that have taken place culturally over the last 50+ years that has stirred the minds and souls of many to begin contemplating “the end” but I think two recent things have really accelerated serious-minded and sincere people to begin wondering if “that day” is fast approaching. One would be the recent Supreme Court decision to grant homosexuals the Constitutional right to marry and the other would be the horrendous Planned Parenthood videos that are currently streaming out to the public. The legalization and legitimization of a practice the Bible repeatedly calls an “abomination” and the callous trafficking of aborted babies’ organs has a lot of people thinking God is going to put into motion very soon any and all things that need to happen for the Second Coming of Christ.
Although the Gospels reveal Jesus alluding to the subject of “the end” quite often in parables and peripheral remarks there is really only one instance related where He seemed to intentionally address in a fairly comprehensive manner the whole issue of eschatology (study of end things) and parousia (a more specific study of the Second Coming of Christ). That being Matthew 24-25.
Most people just dive right into the heart of it by starting with 24:3 “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?’” But to do so is a great mistake. The things that led up to the discourse on “the end” are every bit as important as the discourse itself. The question that really needs to be asked is “What prompted Jesus to talk about the end?”
Christ’s time with the Apostles was drawing to a close. The Olivet discourse on “the end” took place in the midst of Holy Week. If you had been an Apostle here are a few things that would have been weighing heavily on your mind. According the Matthew, the first thing Jesus did upon entering Jerusalem was to head straight for the Temple and overturn the money-changers tables calling them “robbers.” The chief priests and elders immediately began to press Him on how He thought He had the authority to do or say anything in the Temple. Trick questions were arranged and put to Jesus. Animosity between Jesus and the city’s leaders began to increase exponentially. Plans were being made to get rid of Him once and for all.
Finally, it reaches critical mass as Jesus lambasted the “scribes and the Pharisees” pronouncing the seven woes upon them in chapter 23. He concluded the verbal lashing with the famous lament over Jerusalem.
Now, come the two verses (24:1-2) that both set the stage and prompt Jesus to sit down and talk at length about the end.
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.”
There is no “question” per-se and yet Matthew says “he answered them.” As I have demonstrated, there was surely a lot going on in the minds and hearts of the Apostles at this point. This trip to Jerusalem was not going well (from their perspective) and maybe there was finally some concern registering about Jesus’ repeated predictions that He was to be killed in Jerusalem.
What if the unthinkable (to them) actually began to take shape and substance in their minds and Jesus were actually taken away from them? What would become of them? What would happen to the movement? Surely, as long as those noble buildings which testified of the goodness and sovereignty of God remained standing God would continue to keep the Jewish way and customs intact…right?
Historians say the white marble, gold, and bronze that adorned the Temple in Jerusalem made it hard to look at during the day with the sun shining off it. The king’s palace. The wall surrounding the entire Temple Mount. Literally and truly jaw dropping and awesome. Surely, as long as the Temple Mount was adorned with such fantastic architectural structures and buildings symbolically pointing to God, He would continue to dwell in their midst. Right?
The first two verses of chapter 24 make a whole lot more sense if the Apostles were seeking for a little reassurance from Jesus following a really difficult week and a face to face verbal sparring match with the holy city’s religious leaders.
Read it again: Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple…
They were grasping at straws at this point. And rather than help their feelings or allow false hope He rather blandly predicted “there will not be left here [where they currently stood amid the Temple complex of buildings] one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
The last hope the Apostles had in living out a nice life wherein God was acknowledged and honored was mercilessly shattered by Jesus. “These buildings you put so much hope in? Razed to the ground…all of them…soon.” And history confirms that around 70 A.D. the words of Christ concerning “the buildings of the Temple” were fulfilled.
That, was the context for the question that prompted Jesus to begin a discourse on “the end.” Matthew 24:3 puts it this way: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”
When the religious leadership fails to reflect the character of a holy God and the cultural markers that affirm (at least symbolically) His blessing and presence on the nation are torn down…then it is time to start talking about “the close of the age.”
Are the light bulbs going off yet?
Yes, Christian, it is time to seriously begin contemplating that this age has just about wrapped up. The perversion of the Gospel and watering down of the Bible is as prevalent today as hypocrisy and arrogance were ingrained in the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. The stones that built a Christian nation that glorified God are being thrown down right before our eyes. The Bible is ridiculed. The Constitution is being ripped to shreds. The judiciary is redefining something as basic, foundational, and fundamental as marriage.
And now, because Planned Parenthood is in part funded by every American taxpayer we are all engaged (even if unwilling and indirectly) in institutionalized murder and trafficking the body parts of the innocent victims. When Jesus predicted the undoing of the religious and cultural icons of the people of God it was clearly time for the Apostles to ask about the end. Likewise, today, as we stand back and behold the breathtaking arrogance (toward God) and brutality (toward unborn human beings) that has become American culture…it’s time to ask the question about the end and prepare for it.
When sexual perversion becomes enshrined in culture and given legal status by government and profiteering from infanticide is nonchalantly discussed over wine and supper…it’s time to seriously consider that God’s judgment is fast approaching. The longsuffering and patience of God is surely (hopefully?) drawing to a close.
This blog was not about what to look for concerning the signs of the end or how close it may very well be. Rather, its purpose was to suggest that now is the time to read Christ’s discourse on the end. Our nation and culture are collectively dismissing the holiness of God and removing (stone by stone) all vestiges of the divine imprint on our society. For those of us who are concerned…its time we start asking Him the hard question(s) about the future.