Do You Want to Know the Future?
To some degree, all of us have a desire to know the future. Just think of how better prepared we could be if we knew what was about to happen! When we started dealing with the effects of COVID in March of 2020, I don’t think any of us would’ve imagined that the world would still be dealing with it more than a year later.
Well, the disciples were no different from us. They wanted to know the future as well.
One day, while the disciples were admiring the beauty of the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus made a baffling prediction about the future of this magnificent structure:
“Do you see all these things?” He asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down… “Tell us.” they said. “When will these things happen?” (Matthew 24:2,3).
Jesus’ words dumbfounded the disciples. They didn’t really know how to respond.
To put it in our terms, it would be like looking across the Hudson Bay on the imposing Twin Towers of the World Trade Center the morning of September 10, 2001. Then, a person walks up and tells us that the towers would one day be demolished one day in the near future.
We would think they had lost their minds!
The disciples, trying to fully comprehend what Jesus was saying, pressed Him for a little more information (24:3).
So, Jesus responded by giving 3 clear signs of His coming and the future of the world.
- Increase of False Teachers (Matthew 24:4)
Over the centuries, numerous people have claimed to be the Messiah. For example, in the late 20th Century, Korean leader Sun Myung Moon was believed by members of the Unification Church to be the Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ, fulfilling Jesus’ unfinished mission.
Jesus doesn’t want us to be misled by Thais or others who will emerge on the scene in the future.
2. Increase in Wars and Hostility Between Men (Matthew 24:6,7a)
While it’s true that the absolute numbers of deaths in war have been declining since 1945, (ourworldindata.org/war-and-peace), did you know that there were more casualties in the 20th century than all previous 19th centuries combined?
What does this say for what’s ahead in the 21st century with an ever-growing population and an incredible capacity to kill with modern-day weaponry, which literally began with 9/11?
3. Increase of Famines & Natural Disasters (Matthew 24:7)
2020 surpassed 2005 as the year with the most named hurricanes on record with a total of 30 (scientificamerican.com). As devastating as the last hurricane season was, hurricanes are only one kind of natural disaster. Rampant wildfires, flooding, earthquakes, and cyclones, etc. continue to ravage the world. And many scientists are already sounding the alarm about potential famines that certain regions of the world will face due to the ongoing effects of COVID. Who knows how much climate change is impacting natural disasters?
Up to this point, Jesus hasn’t painted the most uplifting picture of the future. He’s starting to sound a bit like a ‘Debbie Downer,’ the popular character from Saturday Night Live, who was always quick to bring up depressing information at the most inopportune time.
Truthfully, all of this really can sound a little discouraging. But Jesus doesn’t want to discourage us. He is trying to give us a realistic idea about what’s to come. The good news is that even with all of the tribulations, there is joy ahead because the signs indicate that His second coming is drawing nearer.
Jesus likens these signs to “birth pains” (24:8). Obviously, I don’t have first-hand experience at giving birth, but I was there as my wife Anne went into labor with our three sons. Birth pains gradually intensify and become more frequent as the woman gets closer to delivering the baby.
In a similar way, what is happening in the world today are birth pains. We see a time of great intensity and then things settle down for a while. After a period of relative calm, signs progressively intensify again only to gradually diminish. Ultimately, this pattern will repeat itself with ever-increasing intensity until the glorious return of Jesus (24:30). Just as the mother of a newborn quickly forgets the pain of childbirth, rather focusing on the joy of new life – so will the followers of Jesus be so filled with joy at His coming that the tough days will be quickly forgotten.
As Christians, we don’t have to be alarmed as we watch the world seemingly fall into chaos. Why? This is what Jesus told us was going to happen. The good news is that we don’t have to allow the chaos around us to steal our peace within because we belong to Him.
But it’s crucial that we grasp the point of why Jesus tells us (and the original disciples) about these future signs. Look at what he says in verse 14:
“This gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14
We have a limited amount of time before the end will come. Jesus gives us, His Church, a very specific assignment. It is our responsibility, as well as a great privilege, to carry the good news of Jesus Christ to all of the nations of the world.
While it’s only natural for us to be curious about the future, may we never be satisfied with mere curiosity.
May all of the signs and birth pains that are occurring in the world today serve as a wake-up call to rouse the Church from its slumber. It’s time to get busy fulfilling the mission of Jesus.
The stage is set. The plan has been in place since the beginning of time.
Will you be ready?
*Adapted from a book by Bryant Wright, The Stage is Set – Israel, the End Times, and Christ’s Ultimate Victory.