First Things @ First
With all the changes occurring in our lives currently, some have wondered if this could be the end of the world as we know it? It might help to know that others have been concerned about that, including the first century disciples. The disciples asked Jesus directly while He was with them, “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
And Jesus gave them the answer. In His response, Jesus describes the events leading up to His return to this earth in glory. Remember when you read that statement that Matthew is writing to the Jews and portraying Jesus as a ruler, as Sovereign.
In this text, Jesus is referring to His second coming, not the ‘catching away’ of the saints that Paul refers to in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. These are two different events with two different intents. The intent of Jesus' covert return is to snatch away His church as a thief in the night (the Rapture). And the Bride will be joined to the Groom in marriage. This is the next BIG event for those in the Church to look forward to. There should be nothing that is of greater importance in one’s life than being prepared for it. You simply must not miss this! During this event, the Bible tells us that the dead in Christ will rise first and those who remain will be ‘caught up’ to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we (Church) be with the Lord. Our Deliverer will have delivered on His promise to save to the uttermost those who are being saved! Hebrews 7:25
However, the intent of the event that Jesus is sharing with His disciples in Matthew 24:3-14 is different. It is a different period and a different people group. In Matthew 24, Jesus is giving His disciples information in response to their question concerning what will be happening on the earth when Jesus returns to the earth for all to see. Jesus' disciples would eventually come to fully expect this event to occur in their lifetime. The event Jesus references in Matthew 24 occurs after the ‘catching away’ of the Church. And between the two events there will be many opportunities given to those who remain on earth to respond to the Word of God. However, (and this is important) those to whom His Word is directed during this period will be those who have never heard or been exposed to the gospel of truth during their lifetime.
In the Bible, there is a distinction made between those who have never heard the gospel and those who have and refused it. For those who have heard the gospel and remain, Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 that God will send a strong delusion that they should believe the lie of the lawless one described in verse 8-9. God will supernaturally cause those who have heard His Word during the age of grace and denied it to be carried away by or caught up in deception concerning what is shared during this period. These may hear it, but they will not embrace it because they think it to be erroneous. What that means literally is that those who were exposed to the Word of God, convicted of sin, convinced of truth, and given the opportunity to choose life in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit but did not, will not be given a second chance. Therefore, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 describes those who have sinned away their day of grace. The Father will not draw them to Himself. Instead, He will drive them away because they refused the gospel they were exposed to earlier in life. While they are left alive for the time being, they are left behind on earth at the catching away of saints, the Church. The days of these who rejected the offer of grace are numbered concerning the wages of sin which is death and judgment. Romans 6:23
However, for those who have not heard or had the opportunity to respond, they will be given that choice because God is long-suffering and not willing that any perish, at least any who desire to be saved from the wrath to come. 2 Peter 3:9 What is difficult to grasp here in our home state of Oklahoma is that there could be that many people in our world of around seven billion who have not heard the gospel. What is even more difficult to grasp is this, by some estimates the number could be close to five billion people who have not heard about the good news of Jesus offer of life. Even if that number is somewhat inflated, say it is only one or two billion, that is still many souls that will have the opportunity to embrace grace.
So, in preparing His disciples to help others be prepared, Jesus speaks of some really difficult times on earth prior to His second coming in Matthew 24. Here, Jesus is referencing the BIG event the world will see firsthand concerning who is in control. However, in the 'spin up' to that final BIG event, Jesus speaks of many imposters who will come out in His name, saying ‘I am the Christ.’ (By the way, you can rest assured that anyone who says something similar today is a fraud because the next time anyone sees Jesus, He won’t be standing on a street corner or in some church house with a book or basket in His hand requesting a following or funding.) Yet, Jesus tells His disciples, ‘many will be led astray’ by such deception.
Then Jesus tells His disciples that there will be wars and rumors of wars. But do not be alarmed for this must take place, but the end is not yet. (Verse 6) Unrest will abound between nations and kingdoms. How real is that today? Famines (plural) and earthquakes (plural) will occur in various places across the globe. And then Jesus tells His disciples, ‘these are but the beginning of the birth pangs.’
In verse 9 Jesus tells His disciples, ‘then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death (for righteousness sake) and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, (meaning within the Christian community) the love of many (concerning Christ) will grow cold. The word ‘cold’ literally means ‘to be extinguished’ or ‘snuffed out.’ It illustrates a fire or flame that has gone out. When Jesus speaks of love growing cold, He speaks to the failure of love, not the weakening of love.
The Apostle Paul wrote about what Jesus is referring to in 2 Timothy 3:1-2, “But know this, that in the last days perilous (dangerous) times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”
As you read those verses, you will see many references to love but not one of them is directed toward God. And even though these verses were penned almost two-thousand years ago, do they not describe some recent practices of people in America?
So, the question of these disciple's generation is appropriate to ask in our generation. Are we living in the last days? The answer is YES! In fact, we have been since Jesus got up from the grave and ascended into heaven. And His promised return is closer now than it has ever been.
Speaking of the lateness of the hour, it reminds me of story I read the other day about an elderly couple that had spent the evening with some friends and time passed rapidly. When they saw that it was past eleven, they said goodnight and drove home. Some years before, they had purchased a cuckoo clock which they took great pride in. The couple, not being home at eleven, did not know that as the clock sounded eleven a little chip had broken off the gear drive which would result in sounding two different hours back to back.
They entered their home just as the cuckoo began sounding the hour. They stood there listening as the cuckoo sounded the midnight hour. They counted each cuckoo. One, two, three…and finally twelve. But then the cuckoo sounded the thirteenth time. The old man looked at his wife and said: “Bessie, it’s later than it’s ever been!”
That is a reminder for anyone and everyone in matters of life on earth.
Jesus said, “In the hour that you think not, the Son of Man comes!” Matthew 24:44 Jesus could come today or even some day this week!
Yet, by His own word, Jesus is more likely to set in motion the next BIG event for the Church which begins the countdown to the following BIG event for the world when patterns once again return to ‘normal.’ As consideration of Christ is once again left out of the thoughts of most consistently!
Many are coming to faith in Christ today through the present travails of life on earth and for that we praise the Lord!
So, ‘First Thing’ on this Monday morning, remember Jesus said, “Be ready!” And ready we must be! For then it matters less when He comes and more that He comes!
“Even so, Lord come quickly!!” Revelation 22:20
John states those words at the end of The Book and with it comes the end of the beginning. What follows is the rest of His Story! I pray that no one reading this is written off or killed off in the story line before the rest and best of life is revealed.
'Tic Toc'--Salvation is offered to anyone today, but not everyone tomorrow.
Live prepared and live helping others prepare also! OnMission365