Skip to main content

It's not about the Signs: Matthew 24

In Summary:
Jesus leaves the Temple, after lamenting that Jerusalem’s “house is being left…desolate” (Matthew 23:38). As He does this, the disciples point out the Temple buildings. Given that Jesus had been there more than once or twice, it is likely the implication is one of highlighting the impressive nature of the structure. Jesus is, well, not impressed. He is well aware of the future of the building. Not one stone will be left another (24:2).

The disciples are, understandably, distressed by this statement. As a result, they ask Jesus about when these events will occur. The answer from Jesus is not nearly as comforting as most of us would like. He describes a world that begins falling apart, tribulations, and judgment. Not exactly a pleasant picture.

The chapter closes out with a reminder to be ready because we do not know the day and the hour when Jesus returns. Actually, let us be very specific. He states it this way: “you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42, emphasis added). While other lords, like Caesar or Presidents, schedule their visits in advance, Jesus does not. There will be signs along the way, but they may be ambiguous.

In Focus:
The focal point of the chapter is Matthew 24:45-46, where Jesus highlights the need to be ready for His return. All the rest, while relevant, supports these two verses which address the disciples’ question from verse 3. Jesus’ return will be preceded by many signs and many false Messiahs, but then He will show up when He is not expected.

And judgment will fall. The more commonly cited parts of this passage, such as the idea of one man in a field, one taken, one left—the one who is “taken” is taken to judgment. Jesus provides this context around His statements, as He highlights the blessing on the slave who is doing the work he should be doing. That should remind us of our priority. After all, the obedient slave is honoring his Master, not calendaring his Master’s return.

In Practice:
What, then, does this look like?

First, it is a warning to many of us Bible nerd types. Yes, there are signs that will warn of Jesus’ return. No, it’s not our job to figure them out. And besides, what part of “coming at an hour when you do not think He will) (v. 24)” do we not understand? If we took all the energy expended in setting dates and poured it into evangelism and missions, amazing things might happen.

Second, it looks like a lifetime of obedience. Be ready? How? By consistently serving the master.

Third, it looks like a lifetime of service and compassion to others. Note that verses 48-50 highlight one of the not-to-dos: mistreatment of our fellow slaves. How are we behaving toward our fellow servants of Jesus?

Fourth, it looks like a lifetime of proclaiming the Kingdom. There is coming a day when the King comes back. When He does, all nations, all peoples will see Him (v. 30). What will be the response to His glory? Weeping by so many, but salvation for those who believe. How, though, can they believe in Him they have not heard (Romans 10:10)? Get to work, Church. The day is coming.

In Nerdiness: 
There is, of course, nerdiness to be found in trying to sort out the signs. One must keep in mind that the judgment on the Temple came through in AD 70, and so some of these signs related to that event. Same with some of the other warned events—they are about the collapse of Judea as a Roman province.

Another nerd point is a translation comparison in 24:41. “Two women will be grinding” is probably the most “literal” way to translate the phrase, but the verb carries the idea of “grinding grain,” and so “grinding at the mill” is accurate. It just uses more words.

Third, embedded in this text is the warning to watch for false claims of Jesus’ return. And that miracles and signs will accompany the false Messiahs. Actions don’t tell all..truth matters.


Popular posts from this blog

Book: By the Waters of Babylon

Worship. It is what the church does as we strive to honor God with our lips and our lives. And then, many churches argue about worship. I have about a half-dozen books on my shelf about worship, but adding Scott Aniol’s By the Waters of Babylon to the shelf has been excellent.

First of all, Aniol’s work is not based on solving a musical debate. While that branch of worship is often the most troublesome in the local church, By the Waters of Babylon takes a broader view. The starting point is the place of the church. That place is a parallel of Psalm 137, where the people of God, Israel, found themselves in a strange land. The people of God, again, find themselves in a strange land.
Second, in summary, the book works logically to the text of Scripture, primarily Psalm 137 but well-filled with other passages. Then it works outward from how the text addresses the problems submitted in the first chapter into how worship, specifically corporate worship, should look in the 21st century Weste…

Put Down That Tablet! Exodus 35

Moses assembles the people of Israel at Sinai one last time before they set out into the wilderness, headed for the Promised Land. He gives them a reminder of some portions of the commands of God and emphasizes the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 35 link).He also gives the one Biblical mention of tablet-type mobile devices in Exodus 35:3, where the command is given not to use your Kindle Fire on the Sabbath Day. Some of you just groaned. Some of you skipped the one-liner, and others just missed it. I’ll address you all in turn, but first let us address the person who thought this might be the hidden meaning of that command. After all, we are so easily distracted from our worship and commitment by all of the digital noise around us, why would we not take this text in this manner?The quite simple answer is: because it is not about digital devices. In total, the command to focus the day on Yahweh, Covenant God of Israel and all of Creation, and if your device subtracts from your f…

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…