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Persecution and Proclamation

Matthew 24:9-14

The story of the church has often been one of persecution, and still is. Although the early phases of Christ's ministry and the first days of the Early Church were sweetened by the crowds' approval, hostility against them increased and most of the disciples died through violence. So this briefing by Jesus was to prepare them, and us, for the hard realities of life in a world that rejects His authority.

Religion Cannot Save

Matthew 24:15-22

These verses have excited all kinds of prophetic discussion. But we need to remember that their context is of the disciples viewing the walls of the Temple, when Jesus told them that it would be destroyed. They asked Him when it would happen (Matthew 24:1-3), and what would be the signs of His coming as King. The rest of the chapter answers the questions, more or less in that order.

Faith Or Gullibility

Matthew 24:23-28

Belief which does not bring people under the Lordship of Jesus Christ is not true faith in God's Word, but gullibility. The world, our own fleshly instincts and the devil intrinsically resist the idea of submission to Jesus. In the Last Days, especially when there is trouble in the world, messiahs and saviours of any and every description will lure people into their den and lead them further astray from the truth. These false prophets will not only seduce the unbelievers but will attempt to distract and divert people who have trusted in Jesus Christ.

Cosmic Consequences

Matthew 24:29

The world does not revolve around human beings, or their social, business, economic or political ambitions. The world and all the planetary systems were created through Christ and sustained by Him to serve His purpose (Hebrews 1:2-3).

The Unique Return of Jesus

Matthew 24:30-31 

The purpose of prophecy is to bring people back to honour God's covenant and to declare His intentions, so that when He acts in power people will know that it is His hand at work. Those who trust His Word in advance will rejoice, and those who have resisted His Word will mourn.

Obvious But Ignored

Matthew 24:32-35

Fig trees, like all other plants, have a recognisable cycle of growth and producing the next generation. Fruit, although we like to eat the fleshy parts, is really the container of the seeds which will eventually grow into new trees. In an agricultural community, getting the timing right would make the difference between a commercial profit and a loss. So growers became expert in predicting the maturing stages of the figs and therefore the time when they could be harvested and taken to market.

Unprepared For Disaster

Matthew 24:36-39

Jesus was telling His disciples about His Second Coming. They had asked when it would happen (Matthew 24:3). It was a sensible question: if we know when something important is going to happen, we get ready for it; we can make a special effort, look good for an evening, be fresh in the morning, prepare an excellent presentation at work … some of the time. But God wants us to be ready to welcome Jesus every day.

The Great Separation

Matthew 24:40-42 

When Jesus returns everything will change. There will be a division between the righteous and the wicked (Matthew 13:49). Of course, no one is righteous; all are sinners, except they receive forgiveness of their sins and the righteousness of Christ (Philippians 3:9). And so the separation will be between those who have received Christ and those who have resisted His rule over them.

Unpredictable Arrival

Matthew 24:43-44

House holders are shocked to find that they have been visited by burglars when they return home. Why are they shocked? Do they not know that thieves exist and have operated in their town? Of course they know, but they do not believe that it will happen to them. Jesus makes this paradoxical scenario into a parable of His Second Coming. It is paradoxical because Jesus is not a wicked thief, but His arrival will be as unforeseen as a thief in the night.

Faithfulness Is Rewarded

Matthew 24:45-51

In this parable, Jesus appeals to the disciples' sense of justice as He describes the two different outcomes for all people when Jesus returns, but particularly for the disciples who were given spiritual authority in His Name. In the story, the master of the household is Jesus and the servants are all the people in the world. In case it seems demeaning for people to be servants, stop and think: who is the boss, us or God?