Evangelist Billy Sunday once told the story of an assistant who had been sent by D. L. Moody into a dangerous part of the city of Chicago to try to preach the gospel to a group of social anarchists. It was an unlikely audience. “Do the best you can,” Moody advised the man, “and some night I’ll come down and help you.” The man later told Billy Sunday that Moody’s promise had been an incentive to do his very best. “He didn’t know when Mr. Moody would come,” Sunday recounted, “so he looked for him every night, and the harder time he had, the harder he hoped and looked.”
This is the same incentive given to Christ’s followers as they approach the end of the age. Jesus warned His disciples that as the end of the age draws near, the difficulties facing the church will increase. False teaching, natural disasters, and wars will all mark what Jesus refers to as “the beginning of birth pains.” This metaphor implies that such troubles will only increase as the day of Christ’s return draws near.
According to Jesus, all of this was to be foreshadowed by the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. This was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus attacked Jerusalem in an effort to subdue a revolt. During the campaign against Jerusalem soldiers set fire to the temple chambers and the sanctuary. The entire temple area was soon ablaze. This tragedy prefigured even greater destruction to come shortly before Christ’s return. At that time the “abomination that causes desolation,” an event predicted in the book of Daniel, will appear on the scene and mark the beginning of the end (v. 14; see Dan. 9:27; 11:1; 12:11).
Although there has been much disagreement among believers about the exact timing of the events described in today’s passage, Jesus’ ultimate message is very clear. Since no one knows the exact day and time when He will return, those of us who belong to Christ should live with a sense of daily expectation. We must not be discouraged by the trials we face but should make every effort to proclaim the gospel while there is still time.
Make a list of all the events that Jesus mentions in today’s passage. Do you see any of them taking place today? While Jesus’ teaching about the things that will take place at the end of the age was never intended to incite idle speculation about the end times, a study of biblical prophecy can strengthen your faith and give you a greater sense of confidence in God’s word.
You may want to begin by reading the pamphlet The End Is Coming by Paul N. Benware (Moody Publishers).