Did that title get your attention? It usually does. We all want to know when it will happen, don’t we? “Enquiring minds want to know!” This, despite what Jesus told us – that no one knows, not even the Son, but only the Father (cf. Mt 24:36). But Jesus did tell us quite a few things about the end times. They are found in what is called the “Synoptic Apocalypse” – Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21. I have picked out three key words or topics that, for me at least, make a reasonably good summary of the Lord’s teaching here. The key words are: Deception, Persecution, and Watchfulness/Preparation.
BE NOT DECEIVED!
It seems that Jesus spoke a lot about deception, especially when talking about the end times. He warned us to “take heed not to be led astray” (cf. Mt 24:4; Mk 13:15; Lk 21:3). He said that many would come claiming to be the Messiah, but to be careful not to be taken in. They would lead astray, if possible, even the chosen ones (cf. Mt 24:24; Mk 13:22). The Lord said that many (note: many) false prophets would come and lead many (note: many) astray (cf. Mt 24:11). Jesus said that if there is a claim that there is a Messiah in the “wilderness” or in the “inner rooms”, “do not go out…do not believe it…do not follow them” (cf. Lk 17:23-24).
These strong words from the Lord Jesus should put a healthy caution in us about the danger of being deceived and led astray by every spiritual “craze” that may come along. It is interesting to me that the Lord spends so much time warning us against being deceived! Obviously, it’s because it’s necessary. Only Jesus is Savior, Messiah, and Lord. Don’t follow counterfeits! Don’t be deceived! And let’s face it – as a human race, we are easily deceived.
Jesus gave us several warnings about persecution in the end times. There have been persecutions throughout the history of the Church. I have heard that there were more martyrs in the 20th century than in all the other centuries combined! So it comes as no surprise that there will be persecution at the end. There are predictions of being hauled before councils and governors and kings (cf. Mk 13:9-10). Also, there are particularly chilling prophecies of family members betraying one another (cf. Mk 13:12; Lk 21:16-17).
Within the warnings about persecution, three very important words come up. They are: Trust, Endurance and Encouragement.
Jesus tells us to trust when we are delivered up to authorities and brought to trial, because the Holy Spirit will speak through us (cf. Mk 13:11; Mt 10:19-20; Lk 21:14-15).
Jesus exhorts us hold on, to persevere, to endure (cf. Mt 10:22; 24:13; Mk 13:13; Lk 21:19), promising salvation if we do. The only way to lose is to quit. With God’s grace, we will endure and keep standing.
In the midst of all the turmoil and darkness of the end times, Jesus tells us to be encouraged, to lift our heads and look up, because “your redemption is drawing near” (cf. Lk 21:28). Remember that one of the purposes of judgment is to “vindicate the righteous” (cf. Malachi 3:18).
WATCH, TAKE HEED, BE PREPARED
At least six different times when Jesus talks about the end times, He tells us to watch and take heed because we do not know the day nor the hour, which He assures us will come “suddenly, like a snare” (cf. Lk 21:34). Along with the command to be watchful is a corresponding exhortation to be prepared. Jesus even compares His coming to that of a “thief in the night” (cf. Mt 24:42-44; Lk 12: 39-40).
In this connection, Jesus told the Parable of the Ten Maidens (cf. Mt 25:1-13). We know this parable better as the “Wise and Foolish Virgins” going out to meet the bridegroom. The wise ones brought oil for their lamps; the foolish did not. Jesus says that since we do not know the day nor the hour when the bridegroom will come, we have to always be prepared.
In another parable which seems to be addressed to pastoral leaders (cf. Mt 24:45-51; Lk 12:42-46), Jesus says, “Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing,” that is, doing his job of distributing food at the proper time. The wisest thing for any of us, Jesus says, is to be found working at our God-given task when the master comes.
TO SUM UP
So what do we have to do to get ready for the end times?
- Be careful not to let ourselves be deceived.
- Pray expectantly for the grace to stand firm in persecution.
- Be on the watch, be prepared, don’t slack off and “cut corners” in our Christian lives.