Preparation: Two warnings

Two warnings

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

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 close of the age?”

Matthew 24:1-3

Note that there are two questions, and the answer could relate to either of them or both. But for this blog I am going to look not on what was going to happen in the predictions Jesus made, but on two warnings. One before and one after.

The first warning

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 rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. vv 4-6

“The end is not yet.”

False Christs will come – but this is not a sign of the end. The end is not yet.

There will be wars and rumours of wars – but this is not a sign of the end. The end is not yet.

It is simple. And yet when I talk to Christians I keep coming across Christians who have worked out when the end will be. When I became a Christian in the mid seventies there were some saying the end would be, taking what they saw as Biblical timing and saying the end would be 70 years from the start of the First World War, which made it 1984. Well a third of a century has passed since that date.

But when I doubted their prediction they told me I should always take the Bible literally (except when it says it isn’t literal). Well in those days I knew nothing about apocalyptic literature or that parables may not be factual (can you imagine a man having an actual beam of wood in his eye, or that poetic language is used in places. For a time I was sucked into dispensationalism for a time, until I was half way through my third Hal Lindsay book and realised it was a load of rubbish.

If you don’t know what dispensationalism is, don’t worry, you are lucky.

But while these people are taking apocalyptic and poetical texts literally they seem to miss that in their plans there is a bit where Jesus was talking literally. The actual literal text, quoted above, is to warn us about people like them.

“The end is not yet.”

False Christs will come – but this is not a sign of the end. The end is not yet.

There will be wars and rumours of wars – but this is not a sign of the end. The end is not yet.

The second warning

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Matthew 24:36-44

The second, irrespective of signs, is that nobody knows when Jesus Christ will return. The signs above, eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage sound like everyday life. That is because it is everyday life. In other words life goes on as normal until then.

The actual signs of the end includes persecution,  but how do we tell? Christians have been persecuted from the deaths of Stephen and James and the stoning of Paul in the book of Acts right up to the present day. Th sign of the end is business as usual.

But the end will come, and we have to be prepared for that to be soon but also be prepared to wait. It will come in God’s good time. There are some who are trying to hurry Christs coming along, it is what I would call Sixth Virginism, but that is my next blog.

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