3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
While wars, famines and earthquakes have been happening to varying degrees throughout history, they seem to be increasing in intensity in our own time. And usually these are the things that bring the believer’s attention to Jesus’ words quoted above.
But overall, there is not much the Christian can do about these things. We can pray and we can contribute to aid appeals, if we have the skills and the opportunity we can personally assist those who are suffering. If we are in an affected area we can trust God for the safety of ourselves and our family.
And of course we can note them as the signs they are.
However some of Jesus’ predictions don’t attract so much attention, maybe because they are not always so obvious, and they don’t get the same kind of media coverage given to political and natural disasters. While it is understandable that the world pays no attention to these things, for the church to ignore them is foolishness. In fact Jesus has more detailed things to say about these than He does about the wars, earthquakes and famines. These are things that believers can do something about, things that we can avoid falling victim to.
Jesus starts his discourse with this warning:
“Watch out that no one deceives you”.
But why is it necessary for Him to say this?
Because many deceivers will come in the name of Jesus and they will go unnoticed if there is not due diligence; they may not be as obvious as we expect and clearly we need to “watch out” for a reason: so “no one deceives” us.
Jesus says they will come proclaiming Jesus as Messiah or maybe they will be promoting themselves as being messiah, “the anointed one” coming in His name (or likely both). They will convey an image of Christian legitimacy.
Jesus also warned there will be persecution against the saints leading to martyrdom – not only in localised areas but ALL NATIONS will be involved. That many will turn away from their faith and betray others and false prophets will arise deceiving even more people.
Wickedness will increase and the love of MOST will grow cold. But whose love will grown cold? Is this a broad sweeping statement about mankind in general or is it referring to those who had been believers?
Look at the context in verses 10-13, the statement is sandwiched between “many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” and “but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Surely there is at least a strong hint contained there?Also a person needs to have love in the first place in order to have it grow cold. And the word used for love here is agapē, which seems to imply that it refers more to the believer than a non-believer.
While the wars, earthquakes and famines get so much attention – how many are paying attention to the other things, the subtle deceptive things that Jesus warned about that could have very personal consequences for the believer’s relationship with the Lord?
All of these latter signs are portrayed as being interrelated: deception, falling away, persecution. Many who are deceived and fall away will be the ones who persecute and even kill those who stand firm in the faith. This may be hard for the Christian to comprehend or even accept as truth, but this is what Jesus reveals as some of the signs preceding His return.
If this section of scripture went no further than the “signs” mentioned above it would seem very discouraging, but praise God it doesn’t end with doom and gloom. It ends with important promises.” The one who stands firm to the end will be saved”, and “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”. Along with the increasing problems and apostasy - the gospel of the Kingdom WILL be preached in the whole world prior to the end. The true church WILL be effective, and the bad times WILL be brought to an end by the return of Jesus.
We have been given signs that point to the coming of Jesus and the end of the age. But while these signs increase in the world today, they are only SIGNS of something bigger and much more important. They are not intended to draw attention to themselves but they do help to point us to the right direction. If we heed the directions Jesus gave we will remain secure on His path (on the Way) and that path will take us to the correct destination.