This past week’s chores involved ‘repetitive stress’ and put kink in my neck. A physio-therapist gave me an exercise to relieve it but one set of reps made it much more painful. I had a bad night and work up wanting to ‘go home.’ Today the pain has subsided but I’m feeling like a wimp. Being with Jesus should be about love for Him, not an escape for the discomforts of living in this world!
Today’s reading is about the end, not of my life but this world. The disciples wanted to know and as the news, weather, political decisions, and so on continues to dismay us, many also want to know, “Are we in the end times?”
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:3–14)
The world is experiencing much of what Jesus said: wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution of Christians, and false prophets. I’ve not heard of many falling away, betraying and hating one another but lawlessness has certainly increased. Are we entered a time of great tribulation? And what comes next?
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”. (Matthew 24:29–31)
This is what the people of God are longing for — the return of Jesus Christ. However it plays out, the world will see it and His people will be gathered. The big question is when? Lots of speculation and guesses, but Jesus said:
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:36–39)
Jesus set aside His greatest powers to become a man and live here, die for our sins, and rise from the dead. He returned to the Father, but still depends on His Father for His orders to return. If He does not know the day or the hour, how can we expect to figure it out? The best we can do is be aware of the signs He told the disciples and be ready . . .
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:44)
In this last discourse in the book of Matthew, Jesus describes ways to be ready, summing them up with paying attention to the commands of God and being obedient, showing love to one another and to those in need. Those who live selfishly are warned:
Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it (lovingly care for) to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:45–46)
Jesus, when I say I want to go home, sometimes it is a selfish desire to simply escape my current problems. Forgive and strengthen me. Sometimes I want to get out of the mess that this world has become. Give me courage. Sometimes I want to avoid the trials of going through the ‘great tribulation’ described in the New Testament. Increase my faith. However, the bottom line is wanting to see Your face, give You a hug, smile and laugh with You, and just be with You forever because I love You. May Your words always deepen that longing in my heart.