Introduction: We rejoiced last week to see how God could bring salvation to us though His own people Israel’s rejection of that salvation for themselves. The Gentiles were to be “gathered under” Christ’s wings in place of Israel (Matthew 23:37 compared with Romans 11:7-15)! That means our salvation. Because God’s people Israel rejected Christ as their Savior, the message of Good News was sent to find us! How humbling – that we who had not sought God should be found by Him and gathered under His wings of grace! But oh what a cost to Israel to turn away from Jesus. In Matthew 23:29-36, their blood guilt would stretch 100 generations – from the Old Testament right to the day of Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70! May God therefore give us grace to tremble before His Day of Judgment in this week’s notes. But in contrast to Jerusalem’s facing destruction after Christ’s crucifixion in Matthew 24, may that Day dawn for us as a Day of great hope!
Monday: read Matthew 24:1-2. When it comes to the judgments of God, there are always two points on the horizon that we are to focus our eyes of faith upon, without losing sight of either. These points are:
- The immediate judgments which God sends on the wicked in this life: “I saw the wicked man flourishing like a green tree… then I looked, and lo, he was no more” (Psalm 37:35-36). This is the proximate judgment of God in history, which Jerusalem endured in A.D. 70 as a direct consequence of their rejection of Christ. It is this judgment to which Jesus refers in Matthew 24:1-2 when the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans: “not one stone will be left on another.”
- The final judgment of God when the wicked will call on the rocks to hide them from the face of “Him who sits on the throne and the face of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:15-17).
Both these judgments are to be kept firmly in front of us, and are to be a great influence on our daily behavior and our attitude of watchfulness (Matthew 24:42) – like a telescope that focuses on both the closer forefront of God’s work in history, and at the same time also on the far-away goal of Christ’s Second Coming.
Tuesday: read Matthew 24:1-3. As we hear Jesus speak about the judgments of God on Jerusalem, the disciples ask Him a two-fold question in verse three: “When will these things happen” (the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24:2 and the judgment on the religious leaders in Matthew 23) “… (and) what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” They were taught well by Jesus, and understood that their Master was speaking about both near-term judgments and the Final Judgment at the end of time. In this way, the stage is set for Jesus’ great ‘Discourse on the Last Things’ in Matthew 24.
Meditate and Pray: Do you have both a calm trust in God’s Judgment in the moment (entrusting yourself to His will when the slights and barbs of a wicked world break your heart), as well as a future hope when you know all will be put right? May God enable us to “entrust ourselves to the One who judges justly” even as our Lord did at His moment of greatest pain (1 Peter 2:23).
Wednesday: read Matthew 24:3 and Acts 1:6. The Disciples of Jesus are at a crisis point in Matthew 24. Soon they will see their beloved Master crucified and then risen. Victorious and joyful as their Easter reunion with Him will be, they still face a world that hates the Gospel, and rejoices to silence their Apostolic witness. No wonder given the prospect of persecution after Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, that they are still asking Matthew 24:3’s question in Acts 1:6: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Meditate and Pray: Lord, give us patience to not be concerned with times, dates and seasons. We submit to the fact that your Second Coming will come “as a thief in the night,” and that for those living in darkness, Divine judgment will come on them unawares and unprepared. But thank you that we are not of the night, but are children of the day. Help us to live like children of the day, and by deeds of light and a living faith to get ready for when that day dawns. Amen.
Thursday: read Matthew 24:3-8 and Romans 8:22-25. The question about the time of Christ’s return may include some impatience that the kingdom had not yet visibly come. But the disciples’ looking forward to that day is to be commended. Would that many today cared enough about Christ’s return to be impatient for it! Many alas are absorbed with the things of this world, and seldom look up to ponder the coming of Christ in glory. What a contrast to a living faith, which waits expectantly for Christ’s return! As Romans 8 reminds us, the Christian is to groan along with all creation, waiting for the “redemption of his body” (Romans 8:23)! True hope, therefore, means feeding one’s soul by faith on the glory of Christ’s return when we do not as yet see it! As Paul concludes, “Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24-25).
Meditate and Pray: Ask the Lord to help you to live in the tension of the ‘already and not yet.’ May the Lord protect us from being like those who have such fervor and obsession with ‘the Last Things’ that they fall prey either to those who falsely claim to be the Christ, or to a ‘rapture fever’ that makes them so concerned about Christ’s imminent return that they fail to live industriously while down here. Just as there were those among the Thessalonians who had decided that working in this life was no longer necessary given Christ’s rapid return, so there are always false teachers who can distract us from living the daily Christian life of love and service.
Fri/Sat/Sun: read Matthew 24:3-8 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1-13. There are many pressures against a balanced Christian life. Nowhere is the need for balance more needed that in handling the ‘eschatology’ of the Bible, a word which refers to the ‘Last Things.’ We see Christians tempted to mishandle this most crucial of doctrines about Christ’s return in the following ways:
Consider how many fearfully conclude in our day that the return of Jesus “must be soon.” Their reasoning seems to be: “It can’t get much worse in the world than it is today. Surely such tumult and wickedness means that the end is nigh.” Yet surprisingly, some of these believers who speak most about Christ’s return fail to translate their concern into practical preparation for that day – functioning instead with an escapist attitude to life, obsessing more over what they call the prophetic passages in Scripture than in living the daily Christian life. They therefore fall into the error of being so feverish for Christ’s return that they flit from one Christian gathering to another as if the Christian life means simply being busy in the ‘ghetto’ of church activities instead of being salt in the world. This error led some to quit their jobs waiting for Christ’s imminent return. Paul warns such sternly in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12:
“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”
Meditate and Pray: Lord, please give us a new discovery of joy in even the lowliest task which we do in your Name. Thank you that you have always promised your church that there would be room and opportunity to live significant lives for your glory down here. Thank you that we can do our daily, hum-drum jobs while in reality working for you as our boss. Help us then, to obey 1 Corinthians 10:31 in its exhortation for us to work for you in our every activity: “For whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all for God’s glory.” Help us to realize that the best way to be ready for Christ’s return is to be found “busy” in our earthly callings. May we thus experience the blessing of Matthew 24:45-46 when Christ finds us on His return:
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.”
For further reflection: George Herbert writes about the domestic glory of the Christian life as follows in a famous poem entitled ‘Elixir’:
Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.
All may of Thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture—”for Thy sake”—
Will not grow bright and clean.