It’s Jesus’ final week on earth. He and his disciples were leaving the temple, which prompted this conversation:
One of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down.”
Later, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew came to him him privately. They asked him when this would happen and what the sign would be of “his coming and of the end of the age.”
Jesus’ response blew their minds and still boggles theologians today. Few people have read this critically important passage — known as the Olivet Discourse — all the way through in one sitting. Don’t be one of those people. Please read it right now, asking the Spirit to help you dive deeeeeply into each word:
Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near,” and will deceive many. Do not follow them. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
You must be on your guard. They will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in the synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will be witnesses and bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
At that time many will turn away from the faith. You will be be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. But not a hair of your head will perish. The one who stands firm to the end will be saved and win life. 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.
So when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation,” spoken of through the prophet Daniel — let the reader understand — and when you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people, unequaled from the beginning when God created the world until now — and never to be equaled again. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Messiah!’”or, “Look, there he is!” do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
So if anyone tells you, “There he is, out in the wilderness,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
Immediately after the distress of those days,
“the sun will be darkened,
and the moon
will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies
will be shaken.”
On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that the kingdom of God is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.
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. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, “My master is staying away a long time,” and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.
It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!
(Matthew 24:1-51; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-38)
Jesus previously gave his disciples lots of clues about the coming of God’s “already-but-not-yet” kingdom here. It’s already among us through Jesus’ coming but won’t be fully realized until his return. He continues that theme in the above passage. His words were fulfilled by the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. and will be fully realized by his future second coming.
Let’s look at our 2 BIG Questions:
1. Who exactly is Jesus?
He’s the ultimate Teacher giving the ultimate lesson.
2. What exactly does he want us to do?
He uses lots of exclamation points to ensure that his listeners don’t miss the point. “Be on guard!” “Be alert!” “Watch!”
He tells his followers “everything ahead of time” to ensure they’re prepared:
- Don’t be deceived. Don’t follow false messiahs. There’s only one Jesus. Follow him.
- Don’t be frightened. If you’re with Jesus there’s no need to fear. Everything’s going according to plan and he’s working for good.
- Don’t worry about what to say. The Spirit will give words and wisdom that our adversaries won’t be able to resist or contradict.
- Don’t let your love grow cold. Ask the Spirit to warm your ♥.
- Jesus’ return won’t be secret. It’ll be obvious to all.
- Only the Father knows. Ignore those who try to predict the “day or hour.” No one knows but the Father.
- Be faithful and do God’s will. Don’t be lazy or weighed down by all the “carousing, drunkenness and anxieties of life.” Those who stand firm will “be saved and win life.”
- Pray. Pray that you’ll be able to “escape all that is about to happen” and stand before him when all is said and done.
(Image credit: Shutterstock.com / Flik47)