Scripture: Matthew, chapters 23-25
Matthew 24:1-14 (MSG) – Jesus then left the Temple. As he walked away, his disciples pointed out how very impressive the Temple architecture was. Jesus said, “You’re not impressed by all this sheer size, are you? The truth of the matter is that there’s not a stone in that building that is not going to end up in a pile of rubble.”
Later, as he was sitting on Mount Olives, his disciples approached and asked him, “Tell us, when are these things going to happen? What will be the sign of your coming, that time’s up?”
Jesus said, “Watch out for the doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities, claiming, ‘I am Christ, the Messiah.’ They will deceive a lot of people. When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. This is nothing compared to what is coming.
They are going to throw you to the wolves and kill you, everyone hating you because you carry my name. And then, going from bad to worse, it will be dog-eat-dog, everyone at each other’s throat, everyone hating each other.
In the confusion, lying preachers will come forward and deceive a lot of people. For many others, the overwhelming spread of evil will do them in – nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes. Staying with it – that’s what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll be saved. All during this time, the good news – the Message of the kingdom – will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come.”
Observations: The phrase that caught my attention this morning is this: “This is routine history; this is no sign of the end.” I fear that a lot of people don’t really understand this passage and ones like it; they quote the more familiar translation, “wars and rumors of wars,” as though that were a sign that the end is near. Peterson’s rendering makes it clear that this is not a sign of the end; it’s routine history.
It’s routine history because ever since sin entered the equation, people have fought against each other. Greed, power, lust – it doesn’t matter what lies behind it, the fact is that people fighting against each other is routine history, not a sign of the end.
Jesus goes on to say that some other things that people today often fixate on – famines and earthquakes …Christians thrown to the wolves and killed… the world becoming dog-eat-dog, everyone at each other’s throat, everyone hating each other – are still not the signs that the end is here. Those things, too, are routine history. Throughout history, there have been famines and earthquakes. We may hear more about them today, because our technology alerts them to us and our media make us aware of them, but those things have always been a part of living in a fallen world. Christians have always faced persecution – first from the Roman Empire, at times from each other, today at the hands of ideologies that seek to stamp out the Christian faith – but that too is routine history. That doesn’t mean that we should welcome these things, of course, nor does it mean that we should stand by and do nothing while they happen. But we shouldn’t read too much into them, because they are not in and of themselves a sign of the end.
“Staying with it – that’s what God requires. Stay with it to the end.” Rather than looking for the end to come and “bail us out,” we should be striving to be faithful each day, because we don’t know when the end is coming. Jesus may return today; he may not return for another thousand years or more. But today may be the end for any one of us; thousands of people meet their end each day. We need to stay with it, doing all that we can to proclaim the Message of the Kingdom and bear witness to the real life that comes from knowing Jesus.
Application: God is reminding me today that too many people get caught up in looking for “signs” instead of living faithfully this day that is before us. If I stay focused on staying with it, I’ll be ready for the end no matter how and when it comes. The conflict and strife and bitterness and anger that we see in our world is regrettable, of course, and it seems to be getting worse – but in reality, this is just routine history, the predictable by-product of people who are self-focused and self-absorbed. The answer is to live a God-centered life, allowing him to direct us and fill us with the joy and peace that will show the world that there is another way to live.
Prayer: Father, I thank you today for your faithfulness. I thank you that in the midst of the world’s turmoil, you remind us that this is just ‘routine history.’ Help us to walk in obedience today, ‘staying with it’ so that we may bring honor and glory to you. Amen.