DUNCAN/The end is not yet
Please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 24:1-14. In this passage, Jesus is explaining to the disciples and to us what we are to expect in this world, between the first coming of Christ and His ascension, and the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The disciples are looking around the temple mound and Jesus has already said some things to them that bother them and so they begin asking Him questions. And He says to them something that shakes them up and so they ask two questions. And so, verses 1-3 give you two questions which are asked by the disciples to the Lord Jesus. And those two questions actually reveal to you some mistaken thinking on the part of the disciples themselves, and we'll talk about that in a minute. The second part comes in verses 4-14, you see the response to the Lord Jesus Christ to these two questions. In that response, Jesus gives some very important pastoral council, not just to his disciples, but to every believer in every nation, in every generation between then and the second coming. And I'd like to look at these two parts in two points with you. First, that Christians must submit all their thinking to Christ. Second, that Christians must prepare for opposition not triumph until the coming of Christ.
I. Christians Must Submit all Their Thinking to Christ
First of all, let's look at verses 1-3: The disciple’s mistaken understanding is shown in the very questions that they ask. And let me just propose to you that as we look at verses 1-3, one of the things we learn is this: Christians must submit all their thinking to Christ.
You see, Jesus had just said in His final public sermon, that God is going to leave the temple of Jerusalem desolate. This astounded those who heard it, including the disciples. Now here they are, and the disciples are walking amongst the temple mound. And so, they asked Jesus two distinct but related questions: They asked "when is this going to happen?" And, "what are going to be the signs?" And in this passage, we see Christ’s response, and in that response, Jesus is concerned to correct their faulty understanding, but also to set forth his positive teaching about the end times.
So let me come back with what I said that we learned from this passage among other things. Christians must submit their thinking to Christ. There is nothing more important in living a healthy Christian life, than for us to deliberately submit our thinking to Christ. The disciples were mistaken in their thinking about what was just about to transpire. And so, it was vital that their thinking be corrected. If Jesus had allowed them to go on with their misunderstandings without attempting to correct them, they would have been utterly discouraged and totally despairing when the things came about that were going to come about.
And so, when our thinking is out of sync with the Scriptures, we are in no less danger than the disciples. When our thinking is out of sync with the Scriptures, we are vulnerable to discouragement, to despair, to temptation and to sin. And so, it must be among our great priorities to see that our thinking, our believing, is conformed to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. And there's nowhere more important for that to be the case than our thinking about the 'end times', because there's always someone peddling to you their version of the 'end times'. We must submit our thinking to what Jesus teaches.
II. Christians Must Prepare for Opposition Not Triumph until The Coming of Christ
We see, in verses 4-14, Jesus' response. But in this response, He not only tells the disciples something that is important for them in the next few years, and He not only tells them about things that will happen in years to come – hundreds of years to come – He gives them an authoritative pastoral council which is immediately relevant to their daily living in their present time, and is immediately relevant to our daily living of the Christian life in our present time. It is authoritative pastoral council to Christians, all Christians, in every generation, in every nation between the two advents of Christ.
Now, I'd like you to see in these verses this grand theme: that the Christian must prepare for opposition – not triumph – until the coming of Christ. Christ has told us to prepare for opposition until He should come again. Let's look at the passage together. In verse 4-14, Jesus corrects the disciples' mistaken notions and He offers them some sober anecdotes for their false triumphs. They thought, "Okay, if Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, that means the judgment is going to come and if the judgment is going to come, that means that Christ is going to set up His glorious kingdom, and we're going to reign as kings with Him! Victory is come! Triumph is come!" The Lord Jesus wants to say to these disciples, "You have no idea what you are about to step into, and if you go into what you are about to step into, thinking that triumph is just around the corner, you're going to be utterly despairing." Jesus warns there will be opposition, persecution, and even wars. But that these things are to be expected.
He also says, 'the gospel is going to be proclaimed, this gospel, My gospel, the gospel of the kingdom'. The gospel that the reign of God has been brought into our hearts and lives through the rule of Christ, it’s been established by grace, it’s been received by faith, that gospel is going to be preached to the nations. And therefore, we ought to take encouragement – encouragement that there will be victory in the end.
And of course, it also means that we ourselves, if we are going to take encouragement of that, must be a part of that proclamation. The Lord Jesus, of course, before He ascends into heaven, will explicitly say to his disciples, "you are to preach My gospel to every creature." You are to go out into all the world proclaiming this gospel. And so, these four important practical pieces of instruction are embedded in the midst of this passage about the end times. Now, all of our end time thinking ought to be governed by the clear teaching of Scripture. It ought to be governed by Jesus' practical emphasis. We ought to take courage from the assurance of the final promise. We, ourselves, ought to determine to allow our thinking to be guided by Jesus' focus, by Jesus' emphasis, as we prepare for the end of time. We must simultaneously have a full and firm hope in his coming, His bodily, His physical return. May we be prepared to follow his directives in the meantime.