I started a young adult school, typically positive. Then I was given this advice: “Under-promise, over-perform.” I needed that!
A successful pastor said to staff, “I don’t want a negative eschatology.” Okay, but if it isn’t truth, it does not fit Jesus. Sometimes Jesus may sound negative, or is he simply speaking truth? “The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13,14). Jesus was more likely to warn than welcome potential disciples.
It had been quite a week. Jesus had set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). He tried to tell his disciples repeatedly about dying, but they were clueless. He rode into the holy city proclaiming himself king. Then He cleaned out his Father’s house and followed with a healing service. The next days he cursed a fig tree, did some teaching, and showed his wisdom before nervous Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, who normally hated each other but ganged up on Jesus. They finally quit trying to trick him. Then he turned on them and pronounced seven sober woes before lamenting the coming desolation of Jerusalem for missing its time. He left the temple brokenhearted–for the last time. It brought him to tears.
Hey, fellas! Not the time to talk about stones and buildings. Herod was the greatest builder of that day, insane but brilliant. “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mark 13:1). His response: “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mark 13:1,2). People don’t move those stones. Armies could–maybe.
The shock of silence. They had just heard the worst news ever, like the end of Judaism. They finally had the nerve to speak. “As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately (for fear of starting a riot), saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3).The Prophet Jesus could see the dismantling of Jerusalem in that generation and at the close of the age. Prophecy sometimes comes with a double fulfillment. (Think Isaiah 7:14). Jesus needed to prepare his disciples for a potentially paralyzing truth. And he is preparing the church for an even more colossal devastation.
He starts with a warning: “See that you are not led astray” (5). If the first words out the Son of God’s mouth are a strong word of caution, we best take heed. Then he says “For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” “Many” is a lot of people. This will be a day when truth has never been so elusive. Why? Paul says that “God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11,12). If you want pleasure more than truth, then truth will be almost impossible to find. (Part 2 next).