Matthew 24: Signs

How many of you would like to know the future? The truth is, many of us would like to have an understanding of what is coming. As Boice points out in his commentary on Matthew, we are driven to know the future out of fear, a desire to be prepared or simple curiosity.

In fact, there is a fairly large interest in the future in our society. The use of horoscopes, palm-readers, fortune tellers and tarot cards have all experienced a resurgence in popularity over the past decade. The Bible teaches us pretty plainly that these things are not for Christ-followers, but we would be foolish to assume that the same hunger to know the future does not drive even some Christians to explore these avenues.

There are many disagreeing views about what Jesus talks about here in Matthew 24 (the parallel chapters Mark 13 and Luke 21). I have no desire to try to unpack all of those disagreements in this short blog post.

I do want to make mention of something that J.M. Boice writes about that really grabbed my attention. He mentions that Jesus’ disciples essentially ask two questions of Jesus: “when will this happen?”(referring to the destruction of the temple from the first two verses of the chapter) and “what will be the sign of your coming?” They make the assumption that the two things are linked.

When Jesus answers them, though, he answers the two questions separately. He shows them that the destruction of the temple, along with all of the other grim things he outlines (false messiahs, wars and rumours of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution, apostasy and false prophets) are things to be expected to characterize history. Boice writes: “We will always have these things. They are painful, and Jesus likens them to the ‘beginning of birth pains’, but they are not signs that the end of the world is near…But the followers of Christ are not to be deceived by false teaching on this subject: ‘the end is still to come (vs.6)'”

I have heard, on many occasions throughout my church experience, people using these verses as a compass of sorts, pointing us toward Jesus’ second coming. But what Boice points out in these verses makes me wonder about that. Is Jesus really giving a list of things that point to his 2nd coming OR is he simply outlining to his disciples (and us) what history will be like between his ascension to heaven after his resurrection and his 2nd appearance?

I’m not completely sure about the answer to that question. It is definitely something to ponder. But there are a few of things for us to learn from this chapter either way:

1) Jesus return and the end of the world are always imminent, meaning that they can occur at any moment.
2) Because of this imminence, we are not to be deceived by false teachers or false messiahs
3) We are not to be distressed or fearful in the face of the events Jesus lists in this chapter.
4) We must stand firm to the end
5) The gospel must be proclaimed to the entirety of the world before the end will come.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 25

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