As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Resting in God When the World is Ending
When my son doesn’t know when something will happen he sometimes tries to hold my head, because he thinks I am ignoring him. “When?” he’ll ask repeatedly, like a broken record. “I don’t know.” I reply. You’d think that I didn’t know on purpose. He can’t contain his need to know. Many Christians feel like this with the end times. I sometimes think these are the same people who need to know exactly what will happen on their vacation before they can enjoy it. Jesus’ disciples were told by him that the temple would be destroyed. It had become irredeemably corrupted. It no longer acted as a bridge between God and man. People relied on its traditions and rituals without any heart change, so it had to go. For the disciples this was huge. It would be like a prophet in Chicago telling us that the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) would be destroyed in the same way the Twin Towers of New York went down. Jesus’ response is curious, he does not give them a date – he gives them a stance or an attitude.
Jesus is often vague and uses apocalyptic technique to disguise his answers when asked about future events. His disciples associate the destruction of the temple with the end of time, but Jesus tells them of tumults and persecutions that will last through the ages. First century Rome was not as peaceful as we may assume. There were wars on the borders and there were revolts. It would be a Jewish revolt in 70 A.D. that would see the temple destroyed. Jesus prepares his disciples for that event, but he also here prepares his disciples for the chaos that has ravaged our world through the ages. He specifically prepares Christians for persecution. The key to enduring all of this tumult is to cultivate a faithful dependence on God. If one focuses on the storms and tries to predict the future, one will be swamped by fears and anxieties. If one rests in the arms of God and trusts in the work of the Holy Spirit, one will have what one needs for each moment and each age of mankind.
In our world today we look for signs, we make elaborate charts and fall out over whether we are Dispensational or Covenantal, pretrib or posttrib. These issues need to be talked about, but they are secondary to a calm assurance that God is in control. They are secondary to a personal relationship where we trust and curl up in the arms of God our Father knowing that he holds all things and that he loves his children.
I would like to know when the world would end. However, I think if I knew I would waste my time worrying or try and do something to delay the appointed time. It is your world and you can do with it as you like. As your child, Father, I want to rest assured and be vigilant at the same time. I want to be unpreturbed by events in the Middle East (Syria and Egypt), but prayerful and vigilant for Christians in the region. I want to see your power bring peace to that region. I want Muslims to know you and Jews to find you in a personal way. However, let me be a light by cultivating a relationship that is based in peace and trust in a world of chaos and darkness.
- What causes the disciples to ask about the end of time?
- How does Jesus both answer them and avoid an answer?
- What is the point of Jesus’ response?
- What difficult times are there in our age?
- How do you rely on God in the ways that Jesus advocates?