How Near is the End?

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 end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [1]

 

This will be the text for the sermon on Sunday morning at Church on the Hill in Desoto, Texas.  It is a text that should give all Christians pause.  Jesus is talking about a definite relationship between the Parousia (Rapture) and the completion of the mission of the church.

 

Although various preachers have attempted to persuade us that there will be an increase in earthquakes and an increase in wars, those don’t seem to be the increases we should be looking for as to when the end will come.  Keep in mind, the events of wars and earthquakes and famines will be happening in post resurrection life, but the persecution is what seems to be the area which causes Christians to turn from their faith and to be deceived.  The only thing in the text that increases is lawlessness, and this will cause the love of many to grow cold.  It is in this context that the mission will be completed and then the end shall come.

 

Matthew gives such a central role to the universal mission that he can link the timing of the end to its completion: the wars and rumours of wars of verse do not proclaim the end, but the completion of the mission does. Once again, there is nothing here that is intended to have predictive power. The concern is rather to assert the understanding that Matthew gives us of the significance of the period between the resurrection and the rapture of the church as a period defined by universal mission. It is precisely universal mission that prepares for the universal scope and significance of the end.

Therefore the focus of Christians in these times should on the mission we have to accomplish.  Clearly, the more we realize our tendency will be toward growing cold in our love, the more effort we should be making toward accomplishing the mission of proclamation of the gospel by worshipping together, being equipped for the task by the leaders of the church and using that equipping to proclaim the gospel.

The signs are everywhere of the return of Christ.  Let’s make sure we are looking at the right ones and doing what we can to proclaim the gospel.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 24:3–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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