Signs of the Times?
Be Strong, Be Well — Tuesday, April 21
Whenever some great catastrophic event comes around, like this pandemic of the coronavirus, some religious people begin talking about the “signs of the times.” They sensationalize the event and cause people to become fearful about God’s wrath upon us and how the end of the world must be near.
This common misunderstanding is taken from Matthew 24 when the disciples asked Jesus a series of questions. He answers them with talk about signs, the Lord’s return and Judgment Day. However, the background of the story and the context of Jesus’ words are extremely important in understanding what day and time He’s talking about.
The Lord and His disciples were leaving the temple area. The disciples were admiring the buildings of the temple and pointing this out to Jesus. But, He “...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" (Matthew 24:2).
The idea of the complete destruction of this magnificent temple came as a shock to them. After all, this was God’s house. This was the place He designated for temple worship which the Jews had done for hundreds of years. In their minds, if what Jesus said was true, the destruction of the temple must point to the great day of judgment and the end of the world.
“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?" (Matthew 24:3).
Jesus answered all three questions in detail through the end of this long chapter. Let's not miss how He begins. He told them not to be fooled by false christs, and false prophets, in the context of times and events (24:4-7, 11, 24). We must take heed to the same.
In answering the first two questions, Jesus tells them what’s going to be happening when the temple is destroyed. First, there will be tribulations (24:3-14). Second, Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed. But there will be a way to escape that destruction, if they pay attention to the warning signs (24:15-35).
There are three difficult verses in this context (24:29-31). Don’t get thrown off course by the highly figurative, prophetic language Jesus used of judgments of the past. Similar language is used in Isaiah 13 and 34, as well as Ezekiel 32.
There’s a major shift in verse 36 when Jesus answers the third question. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” “That” day will not be like the previous days and the signs given for them. That day will be like the time of Noah and the flood. That generation, “did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (24:39).
Two more times He emphasizes the idea of not knowing. “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming...Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42, 44). Jesus continued in chapter 25. Pay attention to the message of the parable of the 10 virgins. It is, be prepared to meet the Bridegroom. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13; cf. Revelation 21:9ff).
There have been so many catastrophic events since Jesus left this earth. This would include many plagues and pandemics that killed millions upon millions of people worldwide. With these events, there’s always an increase in the number of false prophets who point to the signs of the times and the end of the world in final judgment.
Don’t fall for it. Be confident. Take comfort in our knowledge of the truth. Believe and trust the words of our Lord.
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming...Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” —Chris