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What To Do While Waiting For The End (Matthew 24:1-14) by Dr. Richard Lee Montgomery

What To Do While Waiting For The End
Matthew 24:1-14
by 
Dr. Richard Lee Montgomery

Text: 1Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." 3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" 4And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. 5"For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. 6"You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8"But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9"Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10"At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11"Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. 13"But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Now that we are moving into Matthew 24-25 – the great teaching of Christ regarding last things – we have some important questions to ask. Are you pre-, post-, a-, or I-don't-know? Do you hold a preterist, partial-preterist, or full-preterist view? Do you subscribe to a pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib position? Do you go for a rapturous two-return of Christ – before & after Rapture – or a single parousia (coming)? I find it interesting that the study of the last day – this system of eschatology – showed up around the 1830s.

Well – if you feel thoroughly confused – or befuddled by all of this – well – don’t feel alone or strange. Welcome to the world of modern eschatology. We have seen plenty in our own day. World War I – the so-called "war to end all wars," saw a rise in predictions – about the return of Christ – and the ushering in of an age of peace. The reestablishment of Israel as a state – in 1948 boosted even more predictions. The word "generation" in Matthew 24:34 – has grown increasingly longer – in many eschatological views since that time. In the early 70s – Hal Lindsey led the pack of end-time books with his – The Late Great Planet Earth. It sold millions upon millions of copies. Lesser-known books sold plenty with many of them – guardedly or blatantly – making predictions – of when Jesus would return. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have been the latest – to profit from the end-times' craze – with their series of novels, movie, and Left Behind knick-knacks.

Now – in our text – these twelve men – in Matthew – who had been walking with Christ – and listening to His talk of death, resurrection, triumph, judgment, destruction, and the end. They sought to fit all of His talk – into their own picture of eschatology – the study of last things. Christ had stunned them with the prediction in 23:38 – "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!" Now they tried to put it all together – but in all likelihood – within the framework – of their own preconceived notions. Our Lord's response is not a neatly laid out – carefully defined eschatology. His great emphasis – is on persevering. New Testament teaching on eschatology – is never to satisfy curiosity – but to motivate us ethically — and evangelistically – and Jesus does just that. In other word – we all have some things to do – while waiting for the end.

A. Preconceived Notions (1-3).

Let me begin by saying – I do not think that our study in Matthew 24 will answer all of your questions about the last days – or agree with all of your own preconceived notions – or satisfy your curiosity about eschatology. In no other field of Christian study – do we have as many ideas, theories, dogmatic assertions, and perplexing questions.

Here are my ground rules – for considering Matthew 24. First – my concern in studying this portion of God's Word is pastoral not theoretical. I am much more concerned – with how we are living as Christians – than crossing our eschatological "tees" together. Second, this is not an area – to break fellowship over – if we disagree with one another. So with this in mind – I want us to see – what it is that Jesus is teaching on last things.

First – what were the disciples thinking? Jesus had spoken in the temple area with such sternness – and forcefulness that probably all felt blown away – by His rebukes of the spiritual leaders of Israel. He ended His prophetic denunciation of their hypocrisy – with a heart-wrenching lament – over the state of Israel – her unwillingness to respond to the message of the kingdom – and the kingdom's King – and a prediction of desolation. As they walked away – the disciples certainly had in mind – what Jesus had predicted in  23:38 – "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!" It’s likely – that seemed strange to their ears – since every Jew held the temple – in highest regard. Look at verse 1, "Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him." In Mark 13:1 it says, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" And you know what? – it was a wonderful sight. This temple was known as Herod's Temple – and it's white marble stones – grand columns –  and golden roof – attracted the eyes from miles around. That’s why the disciples – had trouble thinking of this magnificent structure – being torn down.

So what were the disciples thinking? Well – I think that it’s fair to say – that the disciples' eschatological views – did not include the destruction of the temple – or the end of Israel – or the bitter hatred – that they would soon experience from the world. They looked for the 'Golden Age of Israel' – with the Messiah on the throne. That’s most likely what their eschatological view was.

Second – what was Jesus implying? Jesus begins His response with a pointed question in verse 2a, "Do you not see all these things?" This  question pointed beyond the temple – to the whole picture – of what He was about to unfold. Though the disciples loved Him – and followed Him – they were still shaped by the popular notions – common among their fellow countrymen. They had no thought for – what would take place in less than forty years – as Jerusalem was utterly destroyed – and left desolate – just as Christ predicted.

Now – look at verse 2b, "Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." In 23:38 – the word desolate is used and means empty, barren or waste – just as Jesus declared. Now He amplifies it’s meaning – predicting the utter destruction of the temple and the city. As I have said before – Flavius Josephus observed that the Roman General Titus – finally conquered Jerusalem after four years of assault – and that the leveling was so severe – that Jerusalem's city wall "was so completely leveled with the ground that there was no longer anything to lead those who visited the spot to believe that it had ever been inhabited." So – Christ's comment in verse 2 focused on the destruction – that would be completed in 70 A.D. But that brought even more thoughts – into the disciples' minds.

Third – what did the disciples want to know? In verse 3 it says, "As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" They asked two questions – first – when will this happen – the destruction of Jerusalem? – second – what will be the sign that lets us know – of Your coming into Your kingdom – and the judgment with the end of the age?

Now notice – they were not asking questions – related to pre – mid – post tribulation or pre – post – a – millennial views. That did not fit their eschatological framework. They had no thought of the rapture of the church – or whether there would be – two returns of Christ. Modern eschatological talk – had no place with them. They were thinking about reigning with Christ as the Messianic King. They wanted to know – when to anticipate their positions – in His kingdom rule – and when the rule of Rome would end.

As Jesus begins His discourse – it is important to keep in mind – that the disciples did not realize – what was going to take place – or how difficult it would be – for them as Christians. So – before answering their questions – and correcting their views – and rearranging their frameworks – Jesus focuses on first things first. What did they need to know – while waiting for the end? And what is important here – is that it's really – the same for each of us, too.

B. First Things First (4-14).

The important thing – was not for the disciples to satisfy their curiosity – on when these things would happen – or what the signs would be. Instead – Christ had other things as priorities.

First – discerning the times. In verses 4-5, 4..."See to it that no one misleads you. 5"For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. Our generation is not the only one – that has had the likes of David Koresh – and Jim Jones. Messiah-figures have sprung up in every generation – to offer new revelations – or new religious twists – all moving people away from the sufficiency – that is found only in Jesus Christ.

Then in verse 6 it says, "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." The history of humanity is the history of wars – as someone has rightly pointed out. What Jesus is pointing out to His disciples – is that wars – rumors of wars – and nations and kingdoms fighting one another – will inevitably be part of human existence. So don't be frightened by them. As long as sin is in the world – so will be war and fighting. It is spawned by the jealousy, greed, and the lusts of people. So – please hear this – the continuation of wars does not serve as sign of Christ's return – but rather it serves – as a reminder to keep persevering – as Christians – in the midst of difficult times.

The in verse 7b it says "and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes." Just mark it down anytime that we have a major natural disaster – the "end-time boys" – go into action. The same happened in first century Judaism. But notice what Jesus stated in verse 8, "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs." It does not mean – that the end has come – it simply means that the divine clock of judgment – continues to wind down – to the point of the end. It is only part of human history – all serving as reminders – that judgment is coming – so we must be prepared – to stand before the Judge and King of the universe. It further reminds us – of how temporal our existence is in this world – and that only the kingdom of God stands forever. This is discerning the times.

Second – facing the facts. Look at verse 9, "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name." More and more countries continue to tighten the vise – on open displays of Christianity. But our Lord told us ahead of time not to be surprised by this. Christians – for 2000 years – have been handed over to tribulation – or trials – or pressure situations. Some are killed – all will be hated. The aversion of the world toward the gospel and toward Jesus Christ – as the only Savior and Lord – has not and will not go away.
Then in verse 10 Jesus warned, "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another." You need to catch this – even some that professed to be Christian – will turn against believers – betraying them to authorities – out of hatred. Then verse 11 it says, "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold." Now – you need to catch this as well – Love for God and love for fellow man – will decline because of the increase – of "lawlessness." The presence of God's people – living in faithfulness to Him – offers restraints on a society – because salt and light affects the community. But when people fail to pay attention – to their doctrine – and begin to follow the teaching of false prophets – then sin and unconcern for the law of God increases – love for God and man declines – and true believers face greater persecution.

So rather than a rosy picture – Jesus painted a realistic picture for believers – in every century. If you complain because you continue to meet – with the world's animosity – due to your faith in Christ – pay attention. Jesus has foretold us – that it will happen – until He comes.

Third – triumph will come. We better be aware – to what is going on about us – to notice the changing religious climate – so that we are not caught unaware. We are to face the facts of the world's hatred – and even the reality – of what it might cost us – to live as Christians – in an unchristian world. But Christ's direction – is not for us to hide or move to a commune – in some remote place. Look at verse 13, "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." Do you see that? – Jesus Christ calls for endurance, perseverance, and continuing on – as a Christian in spite of the circumstances. Perseverance gives evidence of genuine faith. To endure means – that we bear up – even in difficulties – and times of suffering. The word literally means, "to abide under." You continue to abide in Christ – even when under the intensity of persecution. Jesus does not call us to merely make a decision for Him. He calls us to be disciples – to be His followers through thick and thin. 

And now – look at verse 14, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." What a triumphant statement – this was to the disciples – especially as they considered the gospel – going into the Gentile world! They would face many difficulties – but they were to persist – in proclaiming the gospel. We're not to grow slack because of persecution and opposition. We're not to withdraw into some safe cocoon or retreat. We are to push forward with the gospel of Christ. Proclaim the good news – to every people group. That is the divine agenda – as we wait for the end. Comfort and ease and self-security are not our rights as Christians. We have a King to proclaim – let us be about that work to glory Him and Him alone!

Whatever your preconceived notions may be – concerning the end-times –  I hope that you will see – that the greater priority must be on keeping first things first. 

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