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Pragmatic Encouragement

Matthew chapter 24

Written by David Steltz on .

Notes

Introduction

Good morning!

Today we’re going to move on in the book of Matthew, to the beginning of chapter 24.

It’s not a very cheery section of Matthew, is it? We’re going to see the themes of judgment and prophecy continue from chapter 23. There is a logical continuity of thought; it flows well from the scene in the temple to the scene on the Mount of Olives.

But otherwise, it is a major scene shift.

The speaker is still Jesus, and the subject matter is still heavy, but the setting changes, the audience changes, and the topics shift from focusing on Jerusalem, the Temple, the Jews, and the Pharisees, to broader scope: global, even cosmic.

Passage

Matthew 24:1–14 LSB
1 And coming out from the temple, Jesus was going along, and His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He answered and said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” 3 Now as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one deceives you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 “And you are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “And at that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will deceive many. 12 “And because lawlessness is multiplied, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in the whole world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

‌Now…it’s really hard to stop reading here, and not go on to verse 15, and read about the “Abomination of Desolation!”

That just sounds really interesting, doesn’t it! But Mike said he really wanted the opportunity to cover that passage so I’m going to stick with focusing on the first fourteen verses this morning.

Survey of Chapter 24

‌These verses set off a pattern that we’ll see repeated throughout this chapter, as is often the case with prophetic discourse. And you’ll find this same discourse recorded in the parallel passages of Mark, chapter thirteen, as well as in Luke 21. 

‌It presents some bad news, and it presents some good news.

‌The promise of the Messiah was the promise of a new Eden, a new Kingdom, of peace and prosperity! And indeed, Jesus claimed to offer just that!

‌And yet, Jesus describes reality with his eyes wide open to suffering, and the pain that the world endures because of sin.

‌While his disciples may be tempted to look at Jerusalem as the “end game,” Jesus certainly sees it as just the beginning.

‌He doesn’t want them to lose hope, to lose heart, to think that somehow Jesus had lost. That the kingdom had been defeated. 

‌He still describes the kingdom as a victorious one, declaring victory to the entire world!

‌New Location

‌Chapter 24 begins with a change of location, which indicates a new theme in the discourse, like a new “scene” in a narrative.

Verse one says he left the temple, and in verse 3 he is sitting on the Mount of Olives, which is just outside of the city, overlooking Jerusalem, with a view of the temple.

This new setting sets the stage for the final “sermon” or “discourse” from Jesus in Matthew. And it signals to us that same new themes, or shifts in themes and topics are happening.

In a way, getting out of the temple, and up on the hill, corresponds to Jesus’s focus on the Pharisees and Jews, to the whole world. 

That broader focus is a shift that’s good to keep in mind as we get into this chapter.

Pragmatic Encouragement

The overall message is one of pragmatic encouragement. That is, it does not shy away from the harsh reality of what’s to come, while also never losing sight of the thread of hope inherent to everything Jesus taught…the hope inherent to the gospel.

It’s a message of encouragement, to look forward to “the end” of wars and tragedies, to the return of Christ.

Not About Timing

‌It’s a message to look forward with anticipation, and readiness, to the final consummation of the new creation under Christ’s kingship.

‌ It is NOT an invitation to try to determine the exact timing, or timeline of when the events described will take place, or did take place!

‌You’ll find a variety of different perspectives and interpretations of this section of Matthew, as the natural tendency we have whenever we look at prophecy is to try to see if they correspond either to any historical events, or to any current events, and sometimes they clearly do!

‌Other times, they may refer to events that have yet to take place, and still other times prophecies may describe multiple events that take place at different times throughout history, using a single image or metaphor.

‌For example, the “Day of the Lord” prophecies that we looked at back in Isaiah, especially, can be seen as having partial fulfillment even in the old testament, as well as in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as having a future significance not yet realized from our perspective.

‌ think many of the concepts in this chapter of Matthew could possibly fit in that category. That is to say, I think it has relevance regardless of when you read it. Regardless of when these things did or will take place.

Stories

‌Jesus makes it very clear that the “when” of the “end” cannot be predicted. 

B‌ut it seems to be that hasn’t stopped us from being fascinated with trying to predict it, has it?

‌The Wikipedia List of dates predicted for apocalyptic events has almost 200 examples of dates people have chosen as predictions for “the end of the world.”

‌Here are a few examples, from Brittanica, of failed “doomsday” predictions:

https://www.britannica.com/list/10-failed-doomsday-predictions

76-70 - Simon bar Giora

One of the earliest recorded predictions of the end of the world came from Simon bar Giora, a member of the Jewish Essenes sect. The Essenes predicted the second coming of Jesus only a few decades after his death, in the years AD 66-70. During this period, the Judean rebel leader Simon bar Giora was organizing an armed resistance against both the Roman Empire and the Judean government. The Essenes saw this conflict as the final battle foretold in Revelations. When Simon was captured by the Romans, taken back to Rome, and executed, the Essenes must have been very confused.

1524 - Johannes Stöffler

Johannes Stöffler, a respected German mathematician and astrologer, predicted that a great flood would cover the world on February 25, 1524, when all of the known planets would be in alignment under Pisces, a water sign. Hundreds of pamphlets announcing the coming flood were issued and set in motion a general panic; Count von Iggleheim, a German nobleman, went so far as to build a three-story ark. Though there was light rain on the day of the predicted flood, no actual flooding materialized.

1806 - The Prophet Hen of Leeds

In 1806, a domesticated hen in Leeds, England, appeared to lay eggs inscribed with the message “Christ is coming.” Great numbers of people reportedly visited the hen and began to despair of the coming Judgment Day. It was soon discovered, however, that the eggs were not in fact prophetic messages but the work of their owner, who had been writing on the eggs in corrosive ink and reinserting them into the poor hen’s body.

1843 - William Miller

‌Religious leader William Miller began preaching in 1831 that the end of the world as we know it would occur with the second coming of Jesus Christ in 1843. He attracted as many as 100,000 followers who believed that they would be carried off to heaven when the date arrived. When the 1843 prediction failed to materialize, Miller recalculated and determined that the world would actually end in 1844. Follower Henry Emmons wrote, “I waited all Tuesday, and dear Jesus did not come … I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain—sick with disappointment.”

1994 - Harold Camping

Among the most prolific modern predictors of end times, Harold Camping has publicly predicted the end of the world as many as 12 times based his interpretations of biblical numerology. In 1992, he published a book, ominously titled 1994?, which predicted the end of the world sometime around that year. Perhaps his most high-profile predication was for May 21, 2011, a date that he calculated to be exactly 7,000 years after the Biblical flood. When that date passed without incident, he declared his math to be off and pushed back the end of the world to October 21, 2011.

2012 - Mayan Calendar

December 21, 2012, marked the end of the first “Great Cycle” of the Maya Long Count calendar. Many misinterpreted this to mean an absolute end to the calendar, which tracked time continuously from a date 5,125 years earlier, and doomsday predictions emerged. End-of-the-world scenarios included the Earth colliding with an imaginary planet called Nibiru, giant solar flares, a planetary alignment that would cause massive tidal catastrophes, and a realignment of Earth’s axis. Preparations for the end of the world as we know it included a modern-day Noah’s ark built by a man in China and extensive sales of survival kits.

Honorable Mentions

  • ‌Halley’s Comet (1910)
  • Y2K (2000)

‌All of this is to say: keep those stories in mind as examples of what this passage is NOT about! As we spend time over the next few weeks in these chapters, let’s try not to fall into that trap.

Trying to predict the end of the word, or being afraid of impending doom, or disaster, none of that has anything to do with what Jesus is talking about, and frankly it’s a waste of time and energy!

That being said, I should say for the sake of any preppers listening, that, like anything, prepping can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. But it’s my opinion that it can also be a fun and practical skill-building hobby. I don’t participate in it, but I can appreciate it. 

‌Focus on 1-14.

‌Alright, back to Matthew!  Let’s zero-in for just a few minutes on the first fourteen verses of this chapter.

‌Temple

‌Again, it starts with them leaving the temple, in verse 1, which also says his disciples were “pointing out” the temple buildings to him.

Matthew 24:1–2 LSB
1 And coming out from the temple, Jesus was going along, and His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He answered and said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

Let’s talk about this temple!

The Works of Josephus: New Updated Edition Chapter 11: How Herod Rebuilt the Temple, and Raised It Higher, and Made It More Magnificent than It Was before; and Also concerning that Tower Which He Called Antonia
So Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others, and erected the temple upon them, being in length a hundred cubits, and in height twenty additional cubits, which [twenty], upon the sinking of their foundations, fell down: and this part it was that we resolved to raise again in the days of Nero. (392) Now the temple was built of stones that were white and strong, and each of their length was twenty-five cubits, their height was eight, and their breadth about twelve; (393) and the whole structure, as also the structure of the royal cloister, was on each side much lower, but the middle was much higher, till they were visible to those that dwelt in the country for a great many furlongs, but chiefly to such as lived over against them and those that approached to them. (394) The temple had doors also at the entrance, and lintels over them, of the same height with the temple itself. They were adorned with embroidered veils, with their flowers of purple, and pillars interwoven: (395) and over these, but under the crown-work, was spread out a golden vine, with its branches hanging down from a great height, the largeness and fine workmanship of which was a surprising sight to the spectators, to see what vast materials there were, and with what great skill the workmanship was done.

According to Josephus, the temple was made of blocks of white limestone that measured thirty-seven and a half feet long, twelve feet high, and eighteen feet wide. Some of the remaining foundation blocks weigh nearly four hundred tons!

Later, he calls it: “the most marvelous edifice which we have ever seen or heard of, whether one considers its structure, its magnitude, the richness of its every detail,”

[WATCH VIDEO]

‌ It was a substantial, impressive structure, and if you include the courtyard areas, took up a massive amount of space in the city.

Notice too, that they’ve gone away from the city, but not far. As they leave the temple, they are talking about it, and as they come to settle on the hill, the city and the temple would still be in view while they discuss it.

Signs

‌So, what do they discuss exactly?

‌Well, Jesus has predicted the destruction of the temple! Naturally, the disciples want to know when such a thing would happen! They also want to know when Jesus will return (which means they finally understand to some extent that he’s leaving) and when the end of the age will be.

‌Matthew 24:3 LSB
3 Now as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”

‌The “end of the age” terminology is very similar and very closely related to the “day of the Lord” terminology, and we will probably talk more about this in the weeks to come. 

Notice that the “end” in this phrase is NOT the end of the world, but simply an age, a temporary, finite, state of the world.

Whether or not they understand what “the end” means, Jesus’s disciples want to know when it will happen.

When Jesus replies, he doesn’t directly answer their question. Instead, he gives them a warning, some signs to look for, and promises that his followers will face heavy persecution.

Matthew 24:4–8 LSB
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one deceives you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 “And you are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pains.

‌Alright, pausing here…I just want to take a poll and see my show of hands, does any of this sound familiar at all? Think about everything you know about current events, and world history from the last two thousand years.‌

Has anybody ever rose to prominence doing things in the name of “Christ” and “Christianity” who in reality ended up deceiving and manipulating many people?

How about wars? Have you heard of any wars happening, or any rumors of wars happening, over the last couple thousand years? 

Soldiers, please tell us about the peace and love that is completely covering the globe right now! There are no conflicts or rumors thereof anywhere, are there?

How about famines? Anybody hungry in the world? Actually, historically, war has often been the cause for famine.

Here are some statistics for you:

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that we entered 2022 with 828 million hungry people This number represents an increase of approximately 150 million hungry people since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • In July of 2022, the World Food Programme warned that, of the approximately 828 million people facing hunger, 345 million were experiencing acute hunger (more on that below)
  • The number of acutely hungry people in the world increased by 25% in just three months. This increase in global hunger is attributed to the conflict in Ukraine. At the end of 2021, approximately 193 million people experienced acute hunger.
  • That 828 million isn’t the largest figure for world hunger: The FAO estimates that there are 2.3 billion people facing less extreme, but still dangerous, levels of food insecurity. That’s roughly 29% of the global population.
  •  9 million people die from hunger every year

‌And that’s just hunger! Some manuscripts include the word “Epidemics” which we wouldn’t know anything about, would we?

How about earthquakes?!?

We just had one here, the other day, did anybody else feel it?

Ellie and I were at home, and I heard it while working in my office, and it was the strangest thing, because they aren’t very common to experience around here! 

It was hardly anything, but I heard it! Everything else was quiet enough that I could hear the entire house vibrating, and it was just a little different from anything I’d ever experienced before. Apparently, it originated somewhere around Adams, and was felt from Syracuse into the Adirondacks! 

It’s pretty impressive that even a small quake can be felt so many miles away…I can’t imagine the devastation left by larger, more violent earthquakes.

But of course we never see that happen anywhere around the world, do we?

My point isn’t just that these things are happening now, but they have been happening the whole time. 

The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) Chapter 24
Wars, earthquakes, persecutions, and false prophets are all signs of Jesus’ coming, but they indicate only the certainty of judgment, not its timing (vv. 6, 8). Such signs characterize the entire period between His resurrection and His coming in judgment. Knowing when Jesus will return might lead His disciples to laziness and laxity in their watchfulness. The “when” (v. 3) that Jesus gives is task-oriented: it is after the gospel has been preached to the nations by His disciples (v. 14).

 Persecution

‌And Jesus just continues right on with the cheery rhetoric, doesn’t he? In verse nine, he shifts from describing general, large-scale tragedy to more personal, direct predictions.

‌Matthew 24:9–12 LSB
9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “And at that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will deceive many. 12 “And because lawlessness is multiplied, most people’s love will grow cold.

‌This actually isn’t the first time Jesus has said something like this, is it?

He’s warned them before, back in chapter ten, about the possibility of this happening.

Matthew 10:17–18 LSB
17 “But beware of men, for they will deliver you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.

Matthew 10:21–22 LSB
21 “And brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 “And you will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

Jesus himself would soon experience betrayal at the hand of one of his closest friends. He knew that message of the gospel would be met with resistance. His disciples should not be surprised to be faced with similar treatment, or when some people “grow cold” and give up; abandon their faith when the going gets tough.

Application/Conclusion

‌It’s when we come to the last 2 verses of today’s passage, verses 13 and 14, that we finally see a glimmer of hope:

‌Matthew 24:13–14 LSB
13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in the whole world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

‌What does that mean?

Well, it does NOT mean that salvation is a “reward” for those who do well enough to make it through to the end.

It’s clear elsewhere that salvation depends on Christ, that we are saved by grace through faith, not by our own works of righteousness. It’s a gift from God:

John 3:16–17 LSB
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

‌However, true faith is proven through endurance, in the midst of whatever happens. Faith requires action and perseverance. That’s a theme we’ll continue to see in these chapters.‌

Whether “the end” is the end of one’s own life, or the judgment on Israel in 70 AD, or the ultimate end of this age, Jesus is calling his followers not to waiver in their allegiance to him, even when it may not always be evident that he’s in control.

James 1:2–4 LSB
2 Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith brings about perseverance. 4 And let perseverance have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

‌Not only are the hard times worth enduring, James reminds us that they actually forge our faith into something stronger, and more complete. Through them, our true priorities and motives are revealed.

So, back to the disciples question, again, they asked “when” to expect the next big development. You can imagine that in the years after Jesus left, his disciples may have started to wonder how long they would have to wait for him to return!

Which is why Peter writes this:

2 Peter 3:8–10 LSB
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some consider slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be found out.

‌Peter here assures followers of Jesus that while it may seem like God is delaying from our perspective, the reality is that he is patient, gracious, and compassionate enough to allow further permeation of the gospel across the globe.

To step back, as we wrap up for today, I want to ask: Why did Jesus tell them about all this?

He’s replying to their comments about the Temple, and then their question about when he’ll return. But he didn’t exactly tell them the answer to their question, did he? So,  why did he tell them what he did?

Keep your wits about you!

Well, for one, it was a warning…it was a reminder that they needed to keep their wits about them and be ready to discern between truth and deception.

Don’t be Discouraged!

It was also an encouragement; that although the world is presently in a fallen, corrupted state, full of suffering, we can rest assured that Christ is, in fact, risen and victorious over sin and death, and that we have the ultimate hope in eternal life in him.

In the meantime, we are called to bring others into that light, and yes even enjoy life together!

Let us, as Romans 12 12 says,

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

‌Benediction


Pragmatic Encouragement