Matthew 24 - The Return of the King

Matthew 24:1-3

1As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. 2But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

3Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”

 

We Human beings have always been curious about how everything is going to end.

How will the movie end? How will the novel end? How will my life end? How will human history end?

Will it all end well or badly?

So we sometimes fast forward movies, or jump pages to get to the end.

But we can’t do that with our life, or with the whole of human history.

Every philosophy and religion offers a story about the end.

And we are so curious about it because we feel that if we know the end, then we can live our life well now. That somehow, knowing the end will give us a sense of clarity and urgency.

There was a novel about the end of times called Left Behind Series that was really popular in the 1990s. It’s popularity was grounded on the story of end times that most Evangelical American Christians believe, that there will be rapture, followed by tribulation, followed by the return of Christ.

The popularity of the series only goes to show our great fascination with the end times.

And every generation had self-proclaimed prophets prediction the return of Christ in a particular time. So far, all their prophecies have failed. How do I know? We are still here.

But it is a continuing fascination.

This is what the disciples are asking Jesus. So how is it all going to end? Is it now?

Today, we are going to talk about the end times. Not it detail, but I think that is where we go wrong, we get too detailed about the end times, parsing parables as if they were physical descriptions. It is like trying to understand who won the baseball game by looking only at the stats of one individual player. Stats of an individual players will not tell you who won the game. You need the whole thing, and you can get the real story behind a game without having to know the stats of your centerfielder.

So this is what we are going to do:

-Basic Jewish understanding of end times

-How to read passages about the end times

-How Jesus reinterprets the basic Jewish understanding of end times

-How we are to prepare for the end times

Basic Jewish understanding of end times

We speak of Jewish understanding of end times because Jesus and his disciples were Jews, so they though of end times within their narrative. And in that narrative, the city of Jerusalem, and specifically, the temple was paramount.

The basic story is that when the messiah comes, he will establish Jerusalem as an eternal city on the hill, a city that is unconquerable because in it will be the temple. The heavenly temple, the blueprint from which Moses got measurement of the first temple.

So there is the first temple, and there is the second temple, and there is this temple of Herod.

God will rule from the temple and the messiah will build that everlasting temple. Then history will have come to an end, for all warfare would cease, all conflict ended, lion and the lamb napping next to each other. And there will be shalom, because God’s glory will fill the whole earth from the temple in the city of Jerusalem.

This is the skeleton of the Jewish end time.

This is the basic plot of John’s revelation. Inone sense, John’s revelation is not new, just the reinterpretation of Jewish end times with Christ as the center and the alph and the omega.

So at the end, Jerusalem comes down, and measurement is given, not that the literal measurement is important but symbolic nature of the measurement, that this was the blueprint of Moses’ temple. And the temple comes down into the center of the city, except it is not a temple of bricks, or silver or even gold. The temple is actually Jesus himself.

So John brings his writing into a full circle, his gospel begins with Jesus is God’s tabernacle dwelling among us, and his book of revelation, Jesus is God’s temple finally established, just as there was the moving tabernacle with Moses’ wilderness and the temple built by David & Solomon.

This is why when the disciples marveled at the temple, it leads to a lesson on the end times.

So far, Jesus has been doing everything by the playbook as far as his entrance.

Entered like a king. He challenges the temple authority who are corrupt. Still, for country bumpkins the disciples are, the temple is massive and very impressive. You could see the temple miles away from Jerusalem.

So they are thinking that this is the end, everything is coming to a conclusion in few weeks, for they are with the messiah, and they are in Jerusalem and here is the temple, and the messiah has already begun reforming it

But what they hear surprises them. “Not one brick will remain standing.”

What they hear is that this temple which has been built by the hands of the false king Herod is going to be destroyed, and Jesus himself is going to build the true temple.

So naturally they ask him about the end times. Anytime you talk about the temple, you are talking about the end times.

When will you return?

At this point, I think Matthew has two audiences in mind. He is telling the story as he experienced it, but he knows that what Jesus told him was meant to be overheard, by those who would believe him. Matthew knows that as he is writing this gospel after Jesus ascended, people are asking, when will he return, and he remembers asking that same question.

Of course when the disciples asked, they thought returning mean, Jesus would go to Galilee and then return to challenge the temple.

But as he is writing the story, he realizes that the story was also meant for those who would hear his story and believe, for us.

There is always two time lines in all of gospel story, but especially in the end times. Matthew is telling the story as it happened, but like all stories, you always have the reader in mind, and the reader has another timeline.

So Jesu talks about the end of times that will be signaled by the destruction of the temple. And in 70 AD, this is exactly what happened. Romans came. There was others who claimed to be messiah.

(Revelations)

The zealots seized control over the temple. There were 3 charismatic zealot leaders, John, Simon & Ezra. They fought amongst themselves which gave the Roman Empire chance to lay a siege around Jerusalem. They did it just after Passover when many pilgrims where in the city. As a last attempt, the zealots actually destroyed their own food stock, hoping God would intervene by seeing their plight. But God did not. Romans entered the city, then made their way up to Jerusalem. And seeing how the Temple was the ground of their hope for the God’s rule, they tore it down.

This was the immediate history that Jesus is speaking to, the readers will be familiar with. This how the first Christians understood Jesus.

Now many take this teaching to extend to even us. So the end times still revolve around Jerusalem, literally. This is why it has always been such a place of conflict.

I do not think the physical location is all that important when it comes to the return of Christ. In fact, what is interesting in this teaching is that Jesus

Yes, there will be false prophets, yes there will be false rumors. False leaders will prey on the human desire to know how it will end, for them to be the conclusion of human history.

Now when Jesus answers, it is not any different than your typical Jewish end times, but one, but a very significant difference.

24:4-14

4Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 5for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. 6And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. 7Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. 8But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

9“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.#24:9 Greek on account of my name. 10And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other.11And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. 12Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations#24:14 Or all peoples. will hear it; and then the end will come.

 

 

All Nations

This wasn’t so Jews would crush all nations, but that God would include all nations. It would be a good news to all nations. This was a minor theme in the Old Testament. But Jesus shows that what everyone thought was minor was major. The verse starts with the judgment of all nations. But when it gets to the chorus, the verse has a different meaning because the chorus makes it clear, it is about the salvation of all nations.

This is so important. Because for many people the end times was always the time when finally my enemy is going to get it, when finally, I am going to be rewarded, and they will not be rewarded.

 

How To Be Ready for the Return of the King

Be Always Ready

No one knows the times, not even the Son

42“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 

All the divining of the end times, and how it supposed to looks like, and how many years. Whether there is 7 years of tribulation. All this is actually not the point of Jesus’ teaching of the end times.

Many people were interested in the end times. Many people wanted to figure it out. But it was all for the wrong reason. It was a way to escape responsibility for this life.

To escape the responsibility for this life because life is too difficult.

To escape responsibility because fighting for justice is too difficult.

In one sense, Jesus is teaching about the end to have people not so much think about how it will all end, but always be ready for the end.

This is the first important thing about the end times, you don’t have to worry about the end times, just be ready for it.

It is like a test. The only person who worries about when the test is and what is on it, is the person who has not been doing the work. But if you have been reading, and studying. Then you don’t have to worry. You are always ready.

And to bring these two points, he then begins to teach in parables. He has spoken to them in the type of language they understand when they think about end times. Army gathering. Temple. Jeruslam. A great big war.

Then chapter 25.

25:1-5

1“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids#25:1 Or virgins; also in 25:7, 11.who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, 4but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. 5When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

 

The five foolish were foolish because they were living their life according to their exposition of end times. They knew when Jesus would come back. The point is not that they did not prepare enough, but that they prepared only for the return, only for the wedding.

The wise ones were not people who did not think about the details of the end times, only because its most important to always be ready. That is they lived as if the Jesus was coming back any day.

In one sense, this is true, I mean literally true. For all of us, the end times is in our generation. That is, we are not going to our live the life of our body. And when we die, that is the end of history for us, that is when Jesus returns, even if human history goes on for another 2,000 years.

But the one who is ready for Jesus return now is the one who is always living with fullness.

And don’t all those who have faced death but spared it, say this. That they have not fully lived their life. That they have wasted it.

Don’t we say that, that those who live the fullest are those who live their days like it was their last?

The one who know it’s now, is the one who has extra oil.

Use Your Gifts

Talents

14“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15He gave five bags of silver#25:15 Greek talents; also throughout the story. A talent is equal to 75 pounds or 34 kilograms. to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

What is important then is what we do with the talents we have. Not what we have done is comparison with others, but what we have done with the talent, which is the whole context given to us. Now what we did for Christ in the world, but what we did for Christ, with the talents I have, in the city, in the school I teach, in the company I work, in the department. What have I done with my talents.

Not judging others. But simply with what I have.

 

Help the Weak

How will the Nations be Judged?

25:31-33

31“But when the Son of Man#25:31 “Son of Man” is a title Jesus used for himself. comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32All the nations#25:32 Or peoples. will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

But there is still a lingering question, perhaps the most important question. If the judgment is not against the nations but the acceptance of all nations, then where is the judgment. What is the judgment. If everyone is accepted. If my Jewish heritage is not the marker, then what is? So how can we live as if the end is now, how shall we use our talents? And for what purpose?

Jesus addresses it with a parable. And there is judgment. And Christ uses a familiar image of the sheep and the goat. The sheep as those loved and good. The goat as those who are disobedient.

And though we might have heard it so much we don’t appreciate it, Jesus totally redoes the end times. And this is what must get us. What will we be judged by?

How we loved the least. This is central to the gospel. At the end, the judgment of our lives, will no come down what my nationality was, what my ethnicity was, what my religion was, what my creed was, what my religion was if by religion if we simply mean a membership to an institution, but how we treated the weakest.

Jesus born to a peasant, without an inn, born in a manger, whose people were murdered by King Herod, this Jesus is the King of Kings and will judge us by what we do when a peasant couple comes knocking on our doors.

 

 

Frances de Sales

Jane Frances de Chantal was born in Dijon, France, (on 28 January 1572,)the daughter of the royalist president of the Parliament of Burgundy. Her mother died when Jane was 18 months old. Her father became the main influence on her education. She developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament.[1] She married the Baron de Chantal when she was 21 and then lived in the castle of Bourbilly. Baron de Chantal was accidentally killed while out shooting in 1601. Left a widow at 28, with four children, the broken-hearted baroness took a vow of chastity. Her mother, step mother, sister, first two children and now her husband had died. Chantal gained a reputation as an excellent manager of the estates of her husband, as well as of her difficult father-in-law, while also providing alms and nursing care to needy neighbors.

During Lent in 1604, the pious baroness met Saint Francis de Sales, the bishop of Geneva who was preaching at the Sainte Chapelle in Dijon. They became close friends and de Sales became her spiritual director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision.[1] Later, with his support, and that of her father and brother (the archbishop of Bourges), and after providing for her children, Chantal left for Annecy, to start the Congregation of the Visitation. The Congregation of the Visitation was canonically established at Annecy on Trinity Sunday, 6 June 1610.[2] The order accepted women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. During its first eight years, the new order also was unusual in its public outreach, in contrast to most female religious who remained cloistered and adopted strict ascetic practices. The usual opposition to women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community following the Rule of St. Augustine. He wrote his Treatise on the Love of God for them.[1] When people criticized her for accepting women of poor health and old age, Chantal famously said, "What do you want me to do? I like sick people myself; I'm on their side."

Henri J.M. Nouwen

It is not surprising that many young men and women from all over the world want to come to Daybreak to be close to these special people. Yes, they come to care for them and help them in their needs. But they stay because those they came to care for have brought them a joy and peace they had not been able to find anywhere else. Sure, the handicapped members of Daybreak put them in touch with their own handicaps, their own inner wounds and sorrows, but the joy that comes from living together in a fellowship of the weak makes the sorrow not just tolerable but a source of gratitude.

 

 

Reading

Matthew 24:1-3

1As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. 2But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

3Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”

24:2

42“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 

 

25:1-5

1“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids#25:1 Or virgins; also in 25:7, 11.who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, 4but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. 5When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

 

25:14-15

14“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

25:31-33

31“But when the Son of Man#25:31 “Son of Man” is a title Jesus used for himself. comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32All the nations#25:32 Or peoples. will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.