In my previous post I talked about the Apostle Thomas and how he doubted the reports from the other disciples that Jesus was alive. I discussed why Thomas was probably just being very cautious because of some things the Lord had spoken a few days earlier to the disciples. I want to talk more about this passage because I believe it is important for us to understand the signs of the end times today. You can refresh your memory by reading the previous blog. Today I want to continue from where we left off in Matthew last time.
“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.’ “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. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
“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 it 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. Matthew 24:29-35, (New International Version or NIV).
What is interesting to me is that Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-32, and Luke 21:29-33 all record the parable of the fig tree. If you have the time perhaps you will want to read all three accounts as they are interesting. The basic jest of these passages is that the disciples knew how to read the signs of spring into summer by watching the fig tree going through the changes. We can all identify with this, can’t we? I love to watch the seasons change. Right now in Nebraska it is the autumn season and the flowers and trees and grass are preparing for the coming winter. Tree leaves are changing color and beginning to fall from their branches, flowers are beginning to die and the weather is getting colder. It is a beautiful time of the year in Nebraska. I’m sure that wherever you live and whatever season it is that you will also know how to read the signs of the seasons. Yes, we can all understand those signs but Jesus wants us to also see the signs that judgement is coming and that the time is getting closer.
There are some signs in nature to look for as Jesus describes. The sun will stop shining; the stars will fall from the sky. The moon won’t give light and the whole galaxy will be shaking. And then the first sign of Jesus returning will be seen by everyone who lives on earth and they will not be glad to see Him, rather they will mourn and grieve. I believe that even the Christians will grieve because we will know that there is no more grace given to those in our family, in our circle of friends, in the mission fields where we have labored because the time for accepting Christ as Savior has come to an end. What is coming or more to the point who is coming and what will happen? We can read similar passages of scripture in the book of Revelation (14:6, 8:13, 5:9, and 10:7). Jesus tells His disciples and us today as we read the account in Matthew that He will not be coming alone, there will be a whole host of angels who will gather the elect from every corner of the world to join Him in the sky. The elect are you and me if we are followers of Christ. How exciting that day will be, how wonderful to have an angel tap you on the shoulder and say, “Come with me!” I can hardly imagine how wonderful that will be for us Christians. But there is more to know about the timing of Christ’s return.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 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. 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. Matthew 24:36-51, (NIV).
I am rather surprised to know that there are some things that Jesus does not know and that only God knows. But according to what Jesus told the disciples the time of His return to earth is something only His Father knows. In fact this is such a secret that even the angels don’t know when that time will be. Jesus compares the time to the days of Noah which was a time of great wickedness upon the earth. Jesus also says that the Christian will be working next to the non-Christian and when the time comes for the angels to come for the elect (Christian) that only the Christian will be taken. This is comforting to me, to know that my Heavenly Father knows where to find me among the world’s population.
What can we learn from these passages? First of all I think that Jesus reminds all of us in this passage to remain watchful for the signs of change that are coming. We are to continue to work for good and to not slack off as we wait. Secondly He explains that the world will be quite wicked before His coming. Is our world as wicked as in the days of Noah? I know that there are many wicked things going on here but I like to think that the Christians are continuing to make some difference and that our light for Jesus is still shining in this darkness called earth. Yet every year that passes I also see more of the wickedness advancing and less of the light shining. I think that the signs are there for us to see even though we don’t know the exact time of the return of Jesus to this earth. I think that we must not become complacent or jaded rather we are to keep God’s love alive in our hearts and to continue to do good to all that we can. It is better for us to be doing good works when Jesus returns than to be slacking off and lazy in our faith and good works. How can we keep God’s love glowing in our hearts? The best way is to study the Bible, apply it to our life, and pray for opportunities to do good things. I am thankful that I see many of you already doing these things. We cannot know the time but we can see the season of change coming and work all the more for good, for Christ is coming. What a joyful time that will be for those who have remained faithful and obedient.