Big Idea: Be ready! The King is coming.
Matthew 24 and 25 are called the Olivet Discourse: a sermon preached by Jesus about the end of the age. He predicted the destruction of the Temple, which would happen in AD 70, and His disciples assumed that such a thing must mean the end has come. So they asked Jesus what the sign will be that He is coming in glory and ending the world? Jesus warns them that persecution and false christs will come, wars, famines, and earthquakes, too. Many people half-jokingly think the same thing about 2020. Surely, if things are this bad the end must be at hand. But that is not the way the world ends: it is just the beginning of birth pains.
War can cause great suffering, but no human conflict will complete history. Plagues and famines may take a tremendous toll on human life, but they will not be the world’s death knell. Jesus’ disciples will be persecuted, attested, and hated for following Jesus, but never finally overcome. God is waiting on something different: the gospel to be preached to all nations. When that has been accomplished, then the end will come. This is no slight distinction: the end of the age is not the defeat of God’s plan and people, but His triumph! When the message of the Kingdom has permeated to every place, then the King will come.
He warns us to be ready because His return may seem delayed, but it will happen suddenly and unexpectedly. It will be like the flood in Noah’s day, when “[people] didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away.” There was no time to get ready once it began to rain. The Lord is waiting now while the gospel message brings salvation to those who believe in Him, but He will not wait forever. There is a last chance to accept Him, whether it is because of His return or our own deaths. There is a last chance to share the gospel with someone, too.
Eschatology is not an abstract academic pursuit. It should motivate us to be prepared. Not by building underground bunkers or stockpiling food, but by finding the safety that only comes in Jesus and bringing others in. If we have found safety in Christ, then the final judgment is not something to fear, but to celebrate.
Discussion Idea: When have you had to do something quickly because you knew that your parents/boss/spouse would be there soon? If we know that Jesus will come, but not when, how should we be prepared?
Prayer Focus: Go to JoshuaProject.net and find an unreached people group to read about and pray for. This video (just under 7 minutes long) is a great introduction to the work taking place in Indonesia to take the Bible to the Yetfa people.