In case you missed it, America is in the middle of a highly publicized political season. The candidates are holding rallies all over the place. They're making promises to the people. "As president, I will make sure your families are safe." Or "as president, I promise to lower your taxes." These are promises that will affect Americans now. If a candidate offers to lower my taxes, I expect them to do just that. My taxes ought to be less in the coming years. If not, then they haven't kept their promise to me. When they look at me and say "your taxes", I have no reason to believe they're actually speaking about someone else's taxes and not mine. I don't then rejoice that the people of Paraguay will be receiving a tax cut in the year 2916. Nope. That tax cut was promised to me.
Jesus came to our planet and talked to people. He didn't blog. He didn't Tweet. He looked people in the eye and told them things that pertained to them. We have some of those conversations recorded in our Scriptures. One of these eye-to-eye conversations is recorded in Matthew 24.
Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Now 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 end of the age?”
The disciples just asked Jesus a question and He will now respond to it. This is a conversation between Jesus and His disciples. I wasn't there and neither were you. Keep that in mind as you read His response to them.
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.
26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
So, here we have Jesus telling His disciples things that would affect them. He told them they would hear of wars and rumors of wars. Did they? He told them they would be delivered up to tribulation, killed, and hated. Were they? He told them they would see the abomination of desolation. Did they? This is the issue that comes up when we consider the context of a passage of Scripture. Any passage. Who is speaking and who are they speaking to?
The Apostle Paul was brought before Governor Felix due to accusations from some of the Jews of his day. Paul had the chance to speak with Felix and he opened with this, "I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense." Now, when you read that verse from Acts, do any of you assume Paul is telling you that you're a judge over this nation? Hopefully, not. You understand that this conversation was between Paul and Felix and you weren't there. Can you carry that understanding to the conversation in Matthew 24? We weren't there. When Jesus says "you", He was looking into the eyes of His disciples. These were things that would pertain to them. If these statements are to pertain to me, it will be as well as them, not instead of them.
The statements Jesus made, as wild and "end of the world" sounding as they may be, were directed to His disciples. From this point on, they watched for the signs of His coming and the end of the age. Paul commended the church in Thessalonica with this: "For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." They waited with expectation and they taught the Early Church to do the same.
Here's a difficult question some theologians dance around with the skill of Fred Astaire. Were the disciples deluded? Did they mistake Jesus' words meant for a distant generation as being for them? When Jesus said "you" should they have understood "someone else"? Much of the resistance to believing this occurred resides in understanding the signs Jesus said would accompany His coming. We'll look at those in Part 5.
For those who did their homework (okay, and those who are just curious)...
In the most recent post in this series (www.thecrossingchurch.net/pastors-corner/i-dont-have-all-the-answers-and-neither-do-you-part-3), we looked at Isaiah 13 and added two new tools for studying prophecies in Scripture. Hyperbole and time statements. Your homework was to take those tools I'd applied to Isaiah 13 and apply them to Matthew 24. What did you find? Hopefully, you noticed Jesus' statement “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken." (Matt. 24:29) Doesn't that sound really similar to Isaiah's statement "For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine."? The similarity isn't coincidental. Jesus was using well-known hyperbolic language to speak to people about a coming judgment. They were going to be "knocked into next week", if you will. An exaggerated statement to emphasize a point. Prophets used hyperbolic statements to stress the damage that was coming unless the people repented. Jesus did the same thing in Matthew 24 when speaking about the destruction of the Temple and the "end of the age".
Jesus also said in Matthew 24:34, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place." There's our time statement. All those things were to happen before the generation of people He was speaking to passed away. There's a time limit on this prophecy and "all these things" Jesus had just listed were to take place within that time period.
Now, some have defined "generation" in this passage to instead mean "race" or "the generation that sees the signs" (a future generation). They will admit that Jesus never means it in that sense any other time He uses the word. Here's a list of every time Jesus stated something about "generation". Ask yourself, who is He talking to? As He spoke to them was He talking about someone else?
“But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, Matthew 11:16
But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Matthew 12:39
The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. Matthew 12:41
The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:42
Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” Matthew 12:45
A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed. Matthew 16:4
Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” Matthew 17:17
Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Matthew 23:36
Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Matthew 24:34
But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” Mark 8:12
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38
He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Mark 9:19
Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Mark 13:30
And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? Luke 7:31
Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” Luke 9:41
And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Luke 11:29
For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. Luke 11:30
The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. Luke 11:31
The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:32
that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, Luke 11:50
from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation. Luke 11:51
Dave became the Senior Pastor in April 2015 at TCC after serving as the Director of Children's and Praise Ministries for 9 years. He graduated in 2011 from A.W. Tozer Seminary with a Masters in Christian Leadership. He and his wife, Katie, live in Sequim with their 6 children, 2 dogs, 15 chickens, and 50,000 honeybees.
Current Sermon Series