Jesus continues his teaching on the end times: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6), a day when street fights, racial crime, and national wars are too many to put in the morning paper. “See that you are not alarmed,” Christ’s second warning in three verses. He is wanting to get them ready for hard times, not for a glorious take-over. “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (7). Suffering could make people susceptible to any quick fix or false prophet.
A friend into dominion theology said to me, “We are dealing with hunger. It is at a new low. We are making great progress and the church is on the move.” That was before Somalia and southern Nigeria, where starving children are dying daily. His statement reflects people who over-promise and under-perform (see part 1). Jesus has given us truth so we can go through difficult times with blazing hope. He does not have an inferiority complex. The leaders of Israel were optimistic about Israel’s immediate future when Jeremiah was not. He was seen as a traitor. Who were the real traitors?
So many earthquakes that you don’t want to go on a vacation for fear of what you enjoy collapsing under you. The Prophet says, “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (8). I’ve seen birth pangs up close seven times. Not anything near fun but a sign that something wonderful is coming.
“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” (9). The Prophet gets personal–”you.” Many martyrs in the last days. They will be killing Christians like in the first century. Doesn’t sound like God’s people are winning a popularity contest.
“And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another” (10). Brothers and sisters will turn on each other, parents and children, a deterioration of family. You don’t know whom to trust. Jesus uses the word “many” six times in eight verses. This is worldwide, not a small cult in New Mexico. John says that “the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast” (13:3).
“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many (some translations say “most”) will grow cold” (12). I’ve already seen the apostasy in the ELCA and some other mainline churches. Picture new-agers healing a two-year old of blindness and a whole church saying, “They have to be right if they are doing miracles.” Lawlessness–that describes the times more than any single word. Paul writes, “That day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3). He uses the word “lawless” four times in describing the antichrist who seduces cooled off Christians with unrestricted freedom. The antichrist stands against all moral law. Everything goes, and it goes fast. (Normal length)
But Jesus does have positive news in the midst of total collapse. He says that “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (13). The end-time quality most emphasized by Jesus, Paul, and John is endurance, not conquest. “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” (14). So persecution and proclamation go hand-in-hand. While the family is being shredded, the spirit of Elijah turns the hearts of fathers to children and revival happens in the midst of devastation. The church has thrived under persecution. Listen to the Good Shepherd comfort his sheep: “See, I have told you beforehand” (25). He is giving us truth so we endure.
Jesus speaks the same truth to the churches of the Revelation. Those who have remained obedient are urged to “be faithful even to the point of death,” so that they will be given the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). The Philadelphian church is commended for enduring patiently in spite of opposition (Rev. 3:10). Then we are given two chapters of the throne of God, the Great I Am and the Lamb, followed by fifteen chapters of unrelenting judgment poured out on unrepentant humanity. The judgment does not turn their hearts as the King prepares for his descent. Instead, they call for the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. The call in the book of Revelation is “patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints” (13:10; 14:12). When Christ returns, he will come to a world ravaged by judgment and to a Bride beautifully prepared for a wedding.
Three truths surface:
- Revelation is the only book starting with a blessing for those who read it and ending with a curse for those who tamper with it.
- Leaders prepare people not “the great escape” but for the great harvest–with suffering.
- Having been told about end times, “Set your hope fully on the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13), and be about extending the influence of the king. Happened in underground China. How about here? ”Even so, come Lord Jesus!”