Passion Week 2015 – Wednesday

Wednesday – A Day of Rest and Silence

For Jesus, Wednesday was a day of rest and he most likely remained in Bethany throughout the day and also spent the night there again. The Gospel accounts are mostly silent in regards to any activity by Jesus on Wednesday – although Luke tells us that Jesus was teaching at the temple each day of the final week of his life – Luke 21:37-38.  Jesus, knowing what was ahead probably spent time in the company of his friends only two days before he is to be crucified.

It’s difficult for us to imagine what was going through Jesus’ mind on this apparent day of rest. In two short days, the light that came into a dark and fallen world would be crucified. Jesus would take on the sin of the world and suffer a painful and agonizing death on the cross at Calvary. As I write this today, I am reminded of how much pain and suffering Jesus endured so that my sins and your sins could be forgiven. It gives me greater strength to approach my daily life differently, to live a life that is focused on following my Lord and Savior without hesitation and with an ever increasing faith. Jesus reminds us that we are to take up our cross daily and follow him. That is a calling that we as followers of Christ should take very seriously and faithfully.

There was much activity going on by those who were plotting to kill Jesus. It could have been on Wednesday that Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests with an offer to betray Jesus. Matthew 26: 14-16: Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ  – only two days from the cross at Calvary.

 

Passion Week 2015 – Tuesday

According to the Gospel accounts, these events took place on Tuesday of Passion Week.

A day of controversy and parables: In Jerusalem, Jesus eluded the traps set by the priests. On the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, Jesus taught in parables and warned the people against the Pharisees. He predicted the destruction of Herod’s great temple and told his disciples about future events, including his own return.

 

Jesus’ disciples see the withered fig tree on their return to Jerusalem from Bethany: Mark 11:20-25: In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”  “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Jesus engages in conflict with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem: Mark 11:27-33: They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”  Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)

So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”   Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Jesus then began to speak to the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders and he spoke to them in parables. Jesus tells them the parable of the tenants, a parable that exposed the planned attempt on Jesus’ life, and God’s judgment on those who were planning it. After Jesus told this parable, the gospel writer Mark tells us: “Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away” (Mark 12:12).

Luke 21:37-38: Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

It appears that Jesus again spends the night in Bethany. This concludes the events of Tuesday of Passion Week

Passion Week 2015 – Monday

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day which Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Mark 11:1 tells us that after Jesus entered Jerusalem he went to the temple and “looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve” (Mark 11:11).

Monday of Passion Week:  Jesus curses a fig tree: Mark 11:12-14: The next day (Monday) as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

Many scholars understand the fig tree to represent Israel. God’s chosen people had the Messiah in their midst but they did not recognize or accept him as their Lord and Savior. A fig tree full of leaves should have produced fruit but this tree did not. Israel had the opportunity to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah but they did not, consequently they could not bear fruit in taking that message to the Gentiles.

Jesus clears the Temple: Mark 11:15-18: On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”  The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

In the evening, Jesus and the Twelve leave Jerusalem and return to Bethany (Mark 11:19).

According to the Gospels, these events took place on Monday of Passion Week.

Palm Sunday

Zechariah 9:9(NIV)
The Coming of Zion’s King

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Mark 11:1-11(NIV)
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

On this Palm Sunday, we celebrate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, which inaugurates the beginning of Passion Week. Jesus’ final week of ministry will take place within the boundaries of the Holy City. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is significant for two reasons: 1) It is a purposeful action taken by Jesus to fulfill prophecy. 2) As Jesus offers himself as Messiah to Israel for the final time, the Jewish leaders will be forced to take action against Jesus. John’s Gospel confirms this in John 12:19: “So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

The prophet Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would enter the holy city of Jerusalem “on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus instructed two of his disciples to retrieve a donkey which “no one has ever ridden.” The significance of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey is important. In the Old Testament, animals that had never been ridden or harnessed were considered appropriate for royal or religious purposes. The donkey serves as a symbol of humility as well as a fulfillment of prophecy.

John’s Gospel tells us that the crowd “took palm branches and went out to meet” Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem (John 12:13). The crowd celebrated the coming of the Messiah, but many in the crowd and even Jesus’ disciples, did not fully comprehend the significance of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into the Holy City. Many of the same people in the crowd who shouted, “Hosanna!” will shout “Crucify him!” in just a few days.

Mark’s Gospel story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry ends with Jesus in the temple courts, “looking around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” This concludes the events of Palm Sunday.

Just Read Your Bible!

Psalm 119:105 (ESV): Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 1:2 (ESV): But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Matthew 24:35 (ESV): Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

I was absolutely dreading for this past Monday to arrive because I knew that it was not going to be an easy day. I was having a difficult time trying to enjoy my Sunday because I was worried and already stressed about Monday. I turned to Matthew chapter 6 and read the words of Jesus: “Do not worry about your life.” “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Scripture just didn’t help because I had already made up my mind that Monday was going to be a terrible day! So God let me wallow in my misery but during the night He began the work of restoring my mind and my faith.

As I woke up on Monday morning, I kept thinking about this one scripture from Psalm 118:24 (KJV): This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. I knew that God is bigger than any problems that I must face so I made the decision to turn my fear, worries, and doubts over to Him. And instead of logging onto my computer and seeing how badly I had fared in my NCAA brackets, I opened up my Bible and began to read.

It’s sometimes so easy to fall out of the habit of daily Bible reading and when you start doing it again, you become amazed at how much better your quality of life can be. I’m not suggesting that you won’t face challenges and difficulties, for you certainly will. But you will be able to face those trying moments with the peace of Christ and the assurance of God’s Word. By being grounded in God’s word you are better equipped to face the many snares and fiery darts of the evil one and this fallen world. Starting the day by reading my Bible certainly helped prepare my mind for the day ahead and it turned out to be a pretty good day, a day that “the Lord had made.”

And the day just kept getting better. I was reading and studying late on Monday night when one of my daughters came into the room and we started to talk. We discussed her day at school and how she had responded to several kids who held atheistic beliefs. She and I talked about how unforgiving and condemning Christians can be and we thought about how we could better respond to people in society that need to know the love, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ. We talked about different religious groups in our community and we also discussed some hot-button issues in our society today. And the more we talked, the more we committed ourselves to trying to become more understanding, merciful and kind to others, regardless of whatever background they come from. Those are the qualities that we must show to an unbelieving and lost world if we are to call ourselves followers of Christ.

So the day that I dreaded turned out to be a blessed day from God. And it all started with opening up my Bible and letting God begin to change me from the inside out.

Glorious Appearing

Matthew 24:14 (NIV): And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

In my four previous posts, I have written about the signs of Jesus’ second coming: False teachers, wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, persecution and hatred of believers, a turning away from the faith, false prophets, increase of wickedness, betrayal and hatred. What will the world look like before Jesus returns? According to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus plainly tells us what the world at that time will be like: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37-39). These signs from Matthew chapter 24 will increase in intensity as we approach the Second Coming of Christ.

Matthew 24:14 makes clear that the true gospel of the kingdom – that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah – must be proclaimed to the whole world. We must be careful how we interpret this scripture passage. Some take this passage to indicate that every person on the face of the earth must be exposed to the Gospel message. Others simply believe that the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world is the mandate and that it does not necessarily indicate to every individual person. Regardless, our mission as followers of Christ is to make every attempt to carry the Gospel message to the ends of the earth.

While we wait for the return of Christ, how should we live out our lives as followers of Christ? One of the clearest examples is from Paul’s letter to Titus: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14 NIV).

We live in a time where people are in search of personal pleasure and achievement. Many people live out their daily lives thinking only about themselves and considering only the things of this world. They do not take the time to consider that Jesus could return at any moment. They fail to think about what that means to them in terms of their own personal salvation. Our mission as followers of Christ is to help those who do not believe to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We must do so by preaching the true “gospel of the kingdom” (Mt. 24:14) that Jesus referred to in our scripture passage today. The church today must not compromise on this message that is given to us by Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and granted us as believers, eternal life.

How we live out our lives as Christians is important. We must not only preach the Gospel message, we must live out the true Gospel message. It is only by showing the love of Christ to others that we will be able to reach those who do not believe. Instead of judging and condemning, we must offer the grace and mercy of Christ while staying true to the message of the gospel of the kingdom. As a follower of Christ, will you be committed to proclaiming the true gospel message wherever you go?

Christ will come again. We know this because it is what our Lord and Savior himself said to his disciples before his crucifixion. Jesus told his disciples that he was going away to heaven, to “prepare a place” (John 14:2) for them, but promised that one day he would return. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).

The last promise that Jesus gives his followers can be found in Revelation 22:20: “Yes, I am coming soon.” Again, we do not know when Jesus will return, we are only commanded to be ready for His glorious return at any time. As believers, we must live out our lives being watchful and ready for his glorious appearing, whenever that occurs. As we see the signs of the end of the age increasing in intensity we should strengthen our resolve to living out and carrying forth the gospel message of Christ. Our concern should be for those who do not know Christ’s love and forgiveness. Our goal should be to make disciples of all those living in our world who do not know or believe in Christ as Lord and Savior for all.

Revelation 22:21(NIV): The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

 

The End of the Age – Persecutions, Hatred, and Wickedness

Matthew 24: 9-13 (NIV)
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

In the first eight verses of Matthew chapter 24, Jesus has spoken about false teachers, wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes. He referred to these things as the “beginning of birth pains” (Mt. 24:8). Now beginning in verse 9, you can begin to feel the intensity increasing in regards to various trials and world conditions that followers of Christ will face. It is clear from Matthew’s Gospel that those who believe and profess Christ as their Lord and Savior will face persecution and will be hated by everyone (all nations, Mt. 24:9).

At the end of verse 9, Jesus says, “…and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” Jesus is unmistakably telling us that there will come a time when the world will hate you because you are a Christian. Could that ever happen? Well, it’s happening today throughout the world and here in our own country. There is a growing sentiment of aversion, or even hostility, to the Christian message. The world that we live in tells us that we must be tolerant of the views of others. However, when it comes to expressing our God given biblical beliefs as a Christian, we are called judgmental, intolerant, unaccepting of others, ignorant, and the list could go on and on.

Remember from Mt. 24:8, Jesus talked about how wars, famines, and earthquakes would be the beginning of birth pains. Now in verse 9, it appears that the contractions of birth pains are becoming more intense. When worldwide persecution against Christians begins to occur, the end will be near.

Some additional signs that Jesus reveals are the “increase of wickedness” and the “love of most will grow cold” (Mt. 24:12). There will be a turning away from the faith by many. Betrayal and hatred will take the place of faith in Christ. A general increase of wickedness will prevail over the entire world and Christians will be hated by “all nations” (Mt. 24:9).

The question most on my mind is, “Will the church be around to experience this terrible time?” This of course brings to light another question that Christians struggle with: “Will there be a rapture of the church and if so will it occur before, during, or after this time of tribulation?” I will write about the rapture of the church in greater detail in a later post, but for now let me just state what I believe.

The word “rapture” comes from the Latin term rapturo and it essentially means to be “caught up.” The word “rapture” is not found in the Bible, but I believe it is what Paul spoke of in his first letter to the Thessalonians. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). According to Paul, this will be a public event.

I believe that the church age believers will be spared the time of tribulation that is to come upon the earth. There are others who believe that the church will be on earth during the time of tribulation but I do not believe that to be the case. The scripture that I use for the basis of my belief, that the church will be spared this terrible time, is found in the words of Jesus from Revelation 3:10: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” I believe that the church will be raptured, or taken away, before the time of tribulation begins. And I also believe this to be a public, not a secretive, event.

As I have stated repeatedly, Jesus did not give us these signs of the end of the age so that we could predict when he would return. We are given these signs so that we will be ready when Jesus does return. Since Jesus could return at any time, will you be ready to “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and to be with him forever?

The End of the Age – Famines and Earthquakes

Matthew 24:3-5: As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.

As we continue to look at the signs of the end of the age that Jesus gave us in Matthew chapter 24, let’s review the first two signs. First, Jesus tells his disciples that many false teachers will appear and deceive many people. Jesus warns that many of these false teachers will come “in my name” (Mt. 24:4), which indicates that many of these false teachers will be those who pretend to preach the Gospel message of Christ. This danger is clearly observed in those teachers and ministers today who water down the Gospel message in order to not offend anyone or those who believe that prosperity is somehow linked to faith. Jesus clearly teaches that the Gospel message is counter-cultural, and as followers of Christ, we should not compromise our beliefs in order to be accepted by the world that we live in.

Matthew 24:6-7a (NIV)
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

The second sign was that of wars and rumors of wars occurring across the globe. Jesus teaches that such things must occur but it should not cause us to worry excessively or to try and predict that a certain war points to the end of time. There are other prophecies or conditions that must exist before the “end will come” (Mt. 24:14). Christians must remain level-headed and committed to leading others to faith and salvation through Christ.

Matthew 24:7b-8: There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

The BBC reported in an article from February 1, 2014 that a third of South Sudan’s population is in urgent need of food, according to the UN. The ongoing civil conflict/war there has resulted in 3.7 million people trying to avoid starvation. There is obviously a connection between war and famine, especially in South Sudan and many other countries around the world. 

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26004268

These numbers however, pale in comparison to some of the largest famines in world history, some of which number between 20 and 36 million people dead of starvation. As Christians, our efforts and focus should be on how to best help those people in need. Remember the commandment of Jesus from Matthew 24:35? “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”

The following link is to a map of world famines in the 21st century. Countries such as North Korea, Somalia, Burma, Guatemala, Niger, Darfur, Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan are mentioned. We also again notice the connection between war and hunger.

http://www.mapreport.com/century/subtopics/d/0.html

While we can certainly point out large numbers of deaths due to earthquakes and tsunami’s in recent years, we also must realize that these things have been occurring throughout time and we must be careful to not read too much into events of the present day. Just today for example, 54 earthquakes have already been logged around the world ranging from a magnitude of 1.6 to 6.0.

http://www.emsc-csem.org/Earthquake/world/

Are famines and earthquakes increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same during our present day and age? I could cite different statistics that could make an argument for both sides but I don’t think we really need to concern ourselves with any of those arguments. There were earthquakes and famines in Jesus’ day, in Antioch and Palestine. Luke writes about a famine during the reign of Claudius in Acts 11:28: One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) There are also references to earthquakes in AD 37,42, and 115 in Syrian Antioch, where Matthew may have written his Gospel. (Source: Matthew: A Commentary, Frederick Dale Bruner, p.481)

Are famines and earthquakes increasing in intensity? If they are, it should serve as a reminder to Christians to be even more urgent in declaring the Gospel message of Christ to a lost and dying world. While we will never to able to end all of the world’s suffering, we must be resolved to lead others to the saving grace of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation through Christ will lead to eternal life – a blessed life free from war, hunger, pain, and suffering.

Matthew 24:8: All these are the beginnings of birth pains.

This statement from Jesus helps us to understand that wars and other natural and social disasters are going to occur throughout the course of time. It becomes dangerous to read too much into any one event as a sign of the end of time. It seems to me that Jesus is trying to give us the encouragement and comfort that we need to face such things. Although things may get worse before they get better, Jesus wants us to know that there will eventually be a day when all things will be brought under God’s control. There will be a day when God’s kingdom will be the only kingdom left and peace will reign forever – throughout all eternity.

Our faith in Christ and our willingness to profess our belief in Christ are the most important actions that we can undertake as believers. The Church must continue to teach, preach, and live out the Gospel message of Christ. We must remain true to Christ in every aspect of our lives as we carry the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. Will you be ready to meet the Lord at that unexpected moment of his Second Coming?

 

 

The End of the Age – Wars and Rumors of Wars

Matthew 24:6-7a (NIV)
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

Matthew 24:36 (NIV)
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Wars, rumors of war and the activity of terrorists strike fear in the hearts of many people, both believers and non-believers alike. The business of war and terrorism always play on the emotion of fear. The government uses our fear and concern for our homeland security to justify war. Sometimes that fear is completely justified, other times it is not. Terrorists use the worldwide media to quickly spread their message of senseless violence and utter brutality. Their goal is to strike fear into the hearts of people across the globe.

If you read verse 26 closely you begin to understand that Jesus is telling his disciples and us to “see to it that you are not alarmed” (Mt. 24:6). Jesus doesn’t want us to stockpile canned goods and countless rounds of ammunition and lock ourselves away in a doomsday shelter. Jesus is warning us to not fall prey to those who say that the end of the world is coming because of war. Instead, our Lord and Savior wants us to preach and live out the Gospel message, showing others the way to Christ and saving them from eternal separation from God.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be aware of what’s going on in our world today. Jesus gave us these signs so that we could interpret the current time we live in, but he seems to caution against our tendency to read too much into any one war or conflict. It is our duty as citizens of this world and citizens of heaven to be aware of the many ongoing conflicts and wars and act accordingly. We are to speak up when Christians are being killed by terrorists and our own government will not acknowledge the fact that those martyred were in fact Christian. As followers of Christ, we are to stand up to those who murder innocent people, especially women and children, and be clear in our condemnation of these horrific acts of murder. Most importantly, we are to pray and pray continuously, for God to protect and comfort those who are in harm’s way.

“Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (Mt. 24:6b).
Although we may not realize or understand it, Jesus is reminding us that God is in control. We tend to view the world as chaotic and we often fail to remember that God “has the whole world in his hands.” As we desperately try to figure out or make some sense of the constant reality of war in the world, we must trust in God’s divine plan. God revealed to Isaiah the prophet a coming day of judgment and peace when God’s divine plan will finally be realized.

And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:4).

Jesus warns against overreacting to wars and rumors of war. It’s difficult for us to not overreact because we are exposed to wars as they are occurring, thanks to today’s 24/7 media coverage. And there are those who make a great profit through the media and publishing industry predicting when the end will come. Jesus plainly tells us to be about the business of disciple making instead of doomsday predicting. If the end is indeed near, Christians need to devote all their time and energy living out and preaching the Gospel message of Christ to the lost and unsaved. Our focus must be on bringing the lost to accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior before the unexpected and unannounced glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Therefore keep watch (be ready), because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).

The End of the Age – False Teachers

Matthew 24:3-5: As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.

As Jesus gives his final sermon before his death, he does so from the Mount of Olives, where his disciples “came to him privately” (Mt. 24:3). That they came to Jesus in private, in contrast to the Sermon on the Mount where great crowds gathered, indicates that this is a message for only the disciples and the future church. Matthew chapter 24 is Jesus’ Sermon on the Signs of the End of the Age.

Over the last month, I have been reading and studying Jesus’ teachings on the signs of the end of the age, especially Matthew chapter 24. I have read and studied this subject in the past, but the events that are unfolding in our world today, have made me even more committed to hearing again these words from Jesus. We live in an age where many of the prophetic signs revealed in the Bible are coming true.

Before I go any further, let me give you a word of caution. By studying this end of time passage, I am not attempting to make any predictions on when the end of the age will come. There have been many throughout history that have made predictions about when Jesus would return and over time they have been proven wrong. Jesus makes it clear that we are not to know or attempt to predict exact times of the end of the age. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mt. 24:36). Our mission, as followers of Christ, is to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). Spreading the Gospel message and showing people the way to Christ should always be our primary goal and mission as a Christian.

Jesus instructs his followers to “keep watch” (Mt. 24:42) and to continue being the “faithful and wise servant whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household” (Mt. 24:45). Because the day and hour of Christ’s return is unknown, we (the church) must be busy doing his work of spreading the Gospel throughout the world and bringing people to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. The church is called to be a faithful steward by correctly presenting the Gospel message of Christ.

The first warning that Jesus gives his followers (the church) is to be aware of those with false teachings. As the church today, we are to be constantly aware of any teaching that is not in line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This passage warns us that false teachings are something that we must be constantly aware of as we live out our mission of leading others to Christ.

The false teachers that first come to my mind are those who proclaim the prosperity gospel; that if you follow their teachings you will prosper in every area of your life. False teachers attempt to take our focus away from the truth of the Gospel and entice us with a message that appeals to our materialistic and selfish desires. That seems to stand in stark contrast to the very words of Christ from Luke 9:23: Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” As faithful followers of Christ, we will, and can expect to face opposition in doing the work of Christ and spreading the Gospel message. We will be attacked by the forces of evil for trying to shine the light of Christ into a dark and sinful world. Following Jesus will not always be easy but it is the only way to eternal life.

There are many false teachers in the church today. When the church strays from the central Gospel message of Christ, be aware of false teachers. The problem with many leaders today is the desire to somehow preach the Gospel and yet conform to the world as well. The Gospel of Christ stands in direct opposition to the ways of the world that we live in. When church leaders preach a message that doesn’t match up with the Word of God, that person is a false teacher. Many teachers today are aware of the lack of scriptural knowledge of their followers so they distort the truth and tell people what they want to hear. Just because a congregation is large and growing doesn’t indicate the true teaching of the Gospel. It could be a sign that something other than the Gospel is being presented.

The first words from Jesus in this sermon are, “Watch out that no one deceives you” (Mt. 24:4). We are to be alert and know the Word of God in order to avoid being deceived. As the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy: For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). And in Matthew 24:5, Jesus cautions that many will “come in my name.” Jesus is warning us that this deception will come from within the church, from those who claim to be proclaiming the Gospel in Jesus’ name.

Understanding and reading scripture is the best defense against false teachers. As I stated earlier, many teachers today prey on the fact that many believers are scripturally incompetent. With so many things competing for our attention today, the daily reading of the Bible is something that many faithful Christians fail to do on a regular basis. Paul again tells us that we can know who the false teachers are by knowing and applying the Word of God. 2 Timothy 2:15: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Any believer that “correctly handles the word of truth” and regularly studies their Bible, can identify false teachers.

In the next post, we will look at the next sign from Jesus: wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes from Matthew 24: 6-8.