Matthew chapter 24 is full of a lot of heavy truth. If you remember from your reading yesterday in Chapter 23, Jesus has just finished declaring God’s judgment on the scribes and Pharisees and the city of Jerusalem. It was after this moment of intense correction that Chapter 24 begins and we see Jesus leaving the temple with His disciples, walking toward the Mount of Olives. As they journey together they pass by the temple, at which time Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple. With this in mind and, as they find a place to sit on the Mount of Olives, with the temple in view, the disciples begin to ask Jesus more about the coming destruction of the temple and, ultimately, “the end of the age” or the end times. The remainder of Matthew 24 as well as Matthew Chapter 25 is Christ's response to their questions.
If you know even a little about what life will be like in the end times then you know that it will be anything but pleasant. Scripture tells us in verses 7 and 8 that:
“...nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”
Friends, though this era will bring about great suffering, this level of pain, and loss, and death, and destruction is only the beginning. As Jesus continues He begins to describe a time when followers of Christ will be persecuted and murdered. This hate will be due to the world’s rejection of Christ. Those who seemed sincere in following Jesus but did not have a firm foundation or deep roots in Him will fall away under the pressure from the World around them. Liars will rise up and lead many away from the faith. The rejection of morality and law will continue to grow and the influence of Godly love and character will continue to fade from the world.
Does that description of the signs of the end times seem somehow both terrifying and yet relatable all at the same time to anyone else? It’s almost as if we are no longer reading the prophecy of things to come but are, instead, simply reading the daily news headlines.
This revelation of truth can have one of two effects on those of us who proclaim to be followers of Christ. It can insight fear or it can rekindle hope. And, having been someone who grew up my whole life in church, I can vividly remember spending much time in each of these camps.
If you grew up in church during the 80’s and 90’s then you likely encountered more than one “turn or burn” gospel presentation in your lifetime. It was a season in time when the church operated out of the mindset that “If we can’t convince them to go to heaven then we will scare them out of going to hell.” This philosophy is erred on many levels and for many reasons, the first and foremost being that the focus was on heaven and hell rather than a true, deep, lasting relationship with Jesus. So, though the underlying motivation was admirable - get to heaven and take as many people with you as possible - the method was completely wrong and missed the step of actually introducing others to Jesus - the One who offers healing and grace and hope and guidance in navigating this messy thing called life.
However, as a child and then later a teen growing into adulthood, I did not have the personal biblical knowledge or spiritual maturity to understand and recognize those gaps on my own and so found myself constantly in fear of the end times and the coming rapture of the church.
If I ever got home from school and no one else from my family was home I would, first, have a moment of freak out - “Oh no! I think I forgot to pray this morning! Have I been left behind??” And then I would immediately call my Mema, because if she was still here then there was no way the rapture had taken place and I knew I was safe. Now remember, this was pre cell phones so if my Mema happened to be out of the house or in the yard working or even just taking a little afternoon nap and didn’t hear the phone ring then she didn’t answer and so my “I’ve not been left behind” measuring stick could not be employed and the anxious wait began to see if she called me back.
Friends, that is a whole lot of fear and anxiety wrapped up in a simple moment when, in reality, I simply beat my family home for the day and my Mema wasn’t available to answer her phone. And I promise you, this is not the response Christ desired for us when he laid out the reality of what the end of the age would look like in Matthew 24. How do I know?
Because 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
There was definitely nothing powerful or sound about my thinking in those earlier years in my Christian walk. So why did Christ lay out all of these terrifying truths if not to scare us? He did it to prepare us. To equip us for what is to come. To encourage us to cling to Him and, as we do, we will one day receive that beautiful heavenly reward.
If we continue reading there in chapter 24 verse 13 we read that:
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
My friends, salvation is coming! One day, without warning, as Matthew 24: 40 & 41 states:
“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.”
So how do we ensure that we are living on the side of hope of what is to come and not fear of it?
The first step is to ask Christ into your heart and life as Savior and Lord! If this is not a step you have yet taken it isn’t something that requires a ceremony, a church building, or even a Pastor to be present. It is simply you taking time right there where you are - whether that be in your car, in your living room, or even your cubicle at work - to say:
“God I admit that I am a sinner in need of a Savior and I choose to turn from my old way of living and follow You and Your plan for my life instead. I believe Jesus came to this earth as a baby and died on the cross for my sins. And I confess that Jesus is Lord over all, which He proved when He rose from the grave three days later, overcoming death itself on my behalf.”
If you just prayed that prayer for the first time or you prayed it again as a recommitment to serve the Lord today let me be the first to say “Welcome to the Family!” For a s Romans 10:9-10 declares:
“...confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you are saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”
Once you have accepted Christ into your heart and life as Lord and Savior the next step in living life on the side of hope for and not fear of Christs second coming is to make the choice daily to seek Him first (Matthew 6:33), follow His plan for your life over your own (Isaiah 55:8-9), and continually build your life on confidence and faith in who He is, not who you are or what the state of the world around you may appear to be.
Matthew 7:24-25 says:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
As I close out our time together today I want to take a moment to share with you a portion of the song “Firm Foundation” by Cody Carnes, which mirrors this truth so beautifully. The first verse says:
“Christ is my firm foundation.
The rock on which I stand.
When everything around me is shaking
I’ve never been more glad
That I put my faith in Jesus.
Cause He’s never left me down.
He’s faithful through generations.
So why would He fail now? He won’t.”
So friends, today as you once again step into this world full of loss and chaos and destruction, shortcomings, disappointments, and failures, I pray that you are reminded that when you, as a Christian, are stepping out IN HIM - you are stepping out on a firm, lasting, and strong foundation. And to echo the words of Cody Carnes, “So why would He fail now? He won’t”