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Troubled Times Coming

Troubled Times Coming

Two Sundays ago, we celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion.

The entry was accompanied by thousands of people praising Him. At the same time, some religious leaders tried to convince Jesus to silence the praises, which He did not do.

The entry was followed by Jesus becoming violent as He cleansed the Temple of people cheating those who had come to the Temple to pray. That was followed by Jesus healing some blind people and some who were lame.

Last Sunday we celebrated one of the teachings Jesus gave a day or two following His dramatic entry into Jerusalem. A teaching using The Parable of Ten Maidens. A teaching about the need to be spiritually ready for whenever Jesus would return following His upcoming ascension to Heaven, which would follow His resurrection, which would follow His crucifixion, which would follow His arrest, which would follow a few days after this parable.

What is needed to be ready? First and foremost is accepting Jesus as Savior. After that, reading the Bible, praying, fellowshiping with other Christians, and worshiping the Lord.

May we be ready! That was the challenge in last week’s message. May we stay ready, always remembering that it will be too late to get ready when Jesus returns.

Today, a consideration of another teaching of Jesus. A teaching directed to His disciples. One that came before the teaching we thought about last week, this one recorded in chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew, beginning with verse 3. A teaching about troubled times coming.

There are seven paragraphs in Matthew 24, verse 3 through the end of the chapter. Let’s think about each paragraph, seeking what we can find that will help us to be prepared for Jesus’ return, despite whatever troubles come our way.

I dare say we could spend weeks on each of the paragraphs,  which  we  will  not  do. This  will  be more of a summary of what Jesus taught. 

And let me admit this is not a happy topic. However, preparation is needed so we can be ready whenever Jesus returns.

Verses 3 through 8. This teaching of Jesus happened right outside Jerusalem. Jesus was with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, across a narrow valley from the city. The teaching was in response to a question by the disciples. Jesus had, just before leaving Jerusalem a bit earlier, told the disciples the city would be completely destroyed, which, by the way, did happen 37 years later.

Not knowing the time frame, Jesus’ disciples asked Him when the destruction would happen. They had just admired the Temple in Jerusalem. It was no doubt unthinkable that the Temple and all the rest of the city would be ruined.

The disciples asked when was it to happen and if there to be some kind of sign of impending doom.

Jesus sat down and answered that there would be some early signs. Here they are.

Many will come and claim to be the Christ. The Savior. They will not be the Savior. That is the role of Jesus. But they will lead many astray, their goal being the gathering of followers for themselves rather than for Jesus. Huh. There are some in our recent history who have done that. Reverend Moon. David Koresh. Reportedly the leader of the United Nations a couple decades ago.

There will be many wars, with rumors of more wars coming. Does that sound like news reports or what?

Nations will rise against one another, kingdoms against kingdoms.

There will be famines. They are common even now in places like Africa and North Korea. In some places there is food nearby, but political leaders keep it from getting to those who need it, their purpose being to try to consolidate their power.

There will be earthquakes.

It will seem as if the world is falling apart, both humanitarily and in nature, but, Jesus taught, all that is just the beginning of the birth pangs. As mentioned, that is not a happy scenario, but we need to be aware that all that is happening and will happen was known ahead of time by Jesus.

Verse 9-14. The troubles of the world will become personal. Christians - we who are believers in and followers of Jesus, which is very sobering for me since I do not want to suffer - will be delivered up to non-religious leaders. Many will be put to death.

It has happened that countless Christians have been killed over the years because of their faith. 

When some of us were in Rome during a Steps of the Apostle Paul tour, some of us walked through the catacombs, which are underground chambers which housed many Christians centuries ago trying to escape death. We also saw the Coliseum, in which many Christians were forced to fight lions, the lions always victorious.

In our world today, there are reports of Christians being put to death. In the church mail recently was a booklet listing the 50 countries around the world where it is most dangerous to be a Christian. The countries range from those we suspect, like North Korea and Myanmar, to those that are surprising, at least to me, such as Mexico.

As it has happened that countless Christians have been killed because of their Christian faith, so it will continue. In the midst of such turmoil, many will fall away from their faith, which will lead to betrayal and hatred. That will, according to Jesus, cause even more false prophets to rise and lead even more astray.

Again, that is not a happy scenario. However, there is hope presented in this same paragraph. Two rays of hope.

First, those who endure to the end - those who stay faithful to Jesus even in the midst of the threats all around - will be saved.

Second, listen to this. The Gospel of Jesus will be preached, I assume by those who will face death before they are martyred. Jesus will be preached throughout the whole world.

Verses 15 through 28. The prediction of gloom and doom continues. Jerusalem, including the Temple, was to be destroyed. Which, by the way, had happened before. Almost 200 years earlier the king of Syria to the north, determined to wipe out the Jewish faith, attacked Jerusalem. One of the targets in the city was the Temple, in which the king built an altar to the Greek god Zeus. The king sacrificed pigs on that altar. He also turned the priests’ rooms and other rooms in the Temple into places for prostitution.

Destruction, Jesus predicted, would happen again, then by the Romans, which it did less than four decades after Jesus gave this teaching.

In the teaching, Jesus foretold that the people of Judea - the area around Jerusalem - should be prepared to flee for safety, which, history reports, they did not do. Records tell that instead, people fled to Jerusalem, the result being starvation. A condition that killed over a million people. Too many to be buried.

It was, according to records of the time, such a horrible scene that when when the Roman soldiers finally took the city, they refused to touch anything because of the death throughout the city. All that was left to do was destroy the city, stone by stone.

Even then false teachers would rise. This is the third time Jesus made this prediction. And again He warned to not believe it when others would claim to be Savior. Instead, we are to rely on Jesus, trusting Him to shorten the days of suffering so we will be able to survive.

Verses 29 through 31. Other natural events will occur. Earlier, famines and earthquakes were predicted. In this paragraph, the sun will be darkened, the moon will be dark, the stars will fall.

Those will be very scary things, but then Jesus will return. He will come with power and glory. He will be accompanied by angels, who will announce His coming with a loud trumpet call. 

All of which will bring two reactions. 

Some will mourn. Listen. This is critical. The ones who will mourn are those who will not be prepared for Jesus’ return. They will mourn because they will, in an instant, realize it is too late to be ready for Him.

But others will rejoice as Jesus will gather His elect. His people. Those who are His followers. Those who have stayed true to Him, overcoming all the problems listed earlier in the chapter.

How important that we be among those who will rejoice!

Verses 32 through 35. What has been described are signs that the end is near. But there is hope, Jesus - His words, decrees, laws, promises - will not pass away. As they have always been true, they forevermore will remain true. Including the hope of Heaven for those who remain true to Jesus. Including Jesus’ offer to help His people remain true. Both of which are important parts of being ready for Him whenever it is He does return.

Verses 36 through 44. When He will return is not known. Of that day and hour no one knows. Not even the angels of Heaven. Not even Jesus Himself at that time. Isn’t that interesting? 

But God knows, and it is certain Jesus will return someday. Again the challenge, at least implied in this paragraph, is to be ready whenever it happens.

The added challenge is to not be like the people at the time of Noah, when life went on as normal, as in not heeding the call to follow God. For us, following God is accepting and staying true to God’s Son Jesus. All the time Noah built the ark, he preached the need to follow God. No one listened until the time the flooding started. Then it was too late. All those who did not follow God were swept away by the waters.

And listen to what will happen when Jesus returns. Two men in a field? One will be taken when Christians are gathered. The other will be left. Two women at a mill? One will be taken. The other will be left.

Remember last week when we talked about the foolish maidens? The ones not ready for the wedding feast? How sad they were when they were not allowed into the feast. Think how spiritually sad the unprepared man and the unprepared woman will be when they see - when they know - that some will be in Heaven with Jesus forever, but not them. What anguish they will feel.

So again the challenge. Watch! Be ready! That needs to be the case all the time because we do not know when Jesus will return. His coming will be at an hour we do not expect.

Verses 45 through 51. A parable to further make the point of the need to be ready. A parable that tells of two types of people.

The type that is ready. The type Jesus will find ready when He returns. What good news for those people. “Blessed are they.”

And the type that will not be ready when Jesus returns. An unreadiness caused by things like being violent and carousing with the unrighteous. What horrible news they will receive. News of punishment. Punishment so severe there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

*       *       *       *       *

For Jesus in Matthew 24, times were about to become very difficult. He knew what was coming - the arrest, the trials, the crucifixion.

For Jesus’ followers - not only His disciples at that time, but His followers even now - things were and are going to be difficult. There would and there will be terrifying things in nature and personally. Personally, those things would and will include persecution.

However, just as Jesus was about to stay true to His mission of becoming the Savior, so are we to stay true to Him through any and all times. We are to continue to stay true, doing so all the time, always being ready for whenever He returns. We do not know when He will return, so yes, we need to be in a constant state of readiness.

That is the challenge given in Matthew 24, which seems like a very daunting prospect, which it is. However, let’s also consider in this message some hope as we think about one more thing Jesus said as He was on the cross.

The last two Sundays, we have thought about two things Jesus said as He was being crucified, both the statements centered on forgiveness.

He first prayed for those responsible for His crucifixion, along with those who were mocking Him. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What a remarkable display of love.

He then granted forgiveness to one of the men being crucified at the same time Jesus was being killed. The man asked for forgiveness. Jesus granted it.

About that same time, Jesus - this is John 19:25-27 - looked down and saw, in the crowd around Him, a small of people who were not mocking Him.Some who looked very, very sad. One was His mother Mary. The other was His disciple John, known for his loving spirit.

Seeing the sadness of Mary and John, and knowing they would need encouragement - in the context of today’s message, encouragement to stay true to Jesus in spite of all that was happening and would happen - Jesus spoke first to Mary, saying, “Woman, behold your son.” He then said to John, “Behold, your mother.”

With those words, Jesus gave Mary and John to each other. Not as mother and son in a natural sense, but in a spiritual relationship. A relationship in which they could encourage each other to stay strong in their acceptance of Jesus. An encouragement that began right away. From that very hour John took Mary to his home, where he watched out for her and she watched out for him.

Do you suppose that is why Jesus saw to it that there are, even now, congregations? Not a family in a biological way, but groups of people who can help each other in being spiritually ready for whenever He returns.

We are a spiritual family. Let’s continue to watch out for each other and encourage one another, the goal always and forever being that we will all live up to the challenge to be ready in good times and in difficult times for whenever Jesus returns. How good it will be for all of us to hear the words, “Blessed are you.” A condition that, for those who are ready when He returns, will last forever.

Today’s closing song Be Ready When He Comes, verses 1, 2, and 4.

Would you flee from sin and serve the Lord?

Be ready when He comes;

He will soon appear with His reward,

Be ready when He comes.

Be ready, be ready,

Be ready when He comes;

Be ready, be ready

Be ready when He comes.


It is not His will that you be lost,

Be ready when He comes;

Would you save your soul at any cost?

Be ready when He comes.

Be ready, be ready,

Be ready when He comes;

Be ready, be ready,

Be ready when He comes.


There is awful danger in delay,

Be ready when He comes;

Will you cast your only hope away?

Be ready when He comes.

Be ready, be ready,

Be ready when He comes;

Be ready, be ready,

Be ready when He comes.

Verse 3 of the hymn is the basis of today’s benediction.

Do you know the end of time is near? When that moment will occur, you and I do not know, but it is coming. Soon the Lord will return. How important - how critical - to be ready when He comes.

There is an awful danger in delaying being ready. Do not delay. Be ready by accepting Jesus as your Savior. Be ready by reading His word and praying to Him and fellowshiping with His people and worshiping Him.

Be ready. Be ready. Be ready when He comes. Do we hear it? Be ready. Be ready. Be ready when He comes.

Amen.




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