“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 Christ and will deceive many. 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. There will be famines, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.’ “ Matthew 24:3-8
The context for the above verses was Jesus pointing out to the disciples that the vast Temple complex in Jerusalem was soon going to be destroyed to such an extent that not a stone would be left on another. (see Matt. 24:1, 2) This prophecy was fulfilled when the Roman general, Titus, captured the city in 70 A.D. and in the fighting the Temple was set on fire and totally destroyed.
However, Jesus told the disciples, “such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” In other words, the prophecy, though having its fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem, still has an application for the end of time. The question is; are we living in that end of time?
Jesus goes to on tell the disciples, “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 he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:9-14
These verses could be pulled right out of the morning news. More people have been killed for their faith since 1900 than in the entire time span since the birth of Christ. Persecution of Christians is so deep in many countries of the world that you can’t help but wonder if there isn’t an absolute hatred of the Gospel by the leaders of these countries.
Later in the chapter Jesus goes on to say that when you see these signs the people were to flee to escape the violence that would accompany the destruction of the Temple. Just before Titus put his final push to capture Jerusalem, there was a short period of time that his army pulled back from surrounding the city, and it was at this time that the Christians fled Jerusalem and were spared the destruction that fell upon the Jews when Titus returned.
Once again we are seeing a fulfillment of this prophecy in countries like Iraq where Christians are fleeing before the onslaught of radical anti-Christian forces. The sad part of the whole prophecy of Matthew 24 is that when all these things take place regarding persecution, wars, famines and earthquakes, the majority of people in the Christian world ignores them and goes about their business as if nothing is happening at all.
In North America the church is not much different from the population as a whole. As long as what is going on in the world doesn’t affect us personally, then out of sight out of mind. In our spiritual arrogance we tend to believe that the Bible was only written for us in the West and if we are not seeing the prophecies fulfilled in our own nations then they are not yet being fulfilled. If Christians were being drug off the street and shot in California or Ontario then we would sit up and take notice, but as long as nothing like that happens here we go about our business and carry on as usual.
But here’s the kicker. The very fact that we are so indifferent towards what it going on in the world is one of the big signs regarding the end. “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. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding 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.” Matthew 24:37-42
Jesus says that most of the world will be taken unaware. We will be so busy living out our lives in contented bliss that we will miss the signs going on in the world around us. There are many other places in scripture where Jesus talks about the end, but this post is not about listing all the signs of the soon return of Christ or interpreting prophecy.
I would just like us to be aware that the prophecies in the Bible about the end of time don’t all have to focus on United States and Canada in order to be fulfilled. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters are facing persecution, displacement and death as I write this post. Matthew 24 is happening right now in many countries of the world. Instead of looking for future applications of the chapter maybe we need to be looking at present realities concerning these words of Jesus.
Here at The Beggar Danced we have begun a new series of posts under the title, Nine-O’clock Club, Prayer for Persecuted Christians to encourage prayer for the persecuted church. Each day at nine-o’clock we stop whatever we are doing and pray for these brothers and sisters in Christ. We are posting stories, current events and videos that help us understand the extent of the persecution as well as give us something concrete to zero in on in our daily prayers. Thanks for praying.
Be courageous, be strong, no regrets, no retreat. We are one in Christ.
* Don’t forget to check out http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians.