1As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. 2But he told them, “Do you see all these buildings? I assure you, they will be so completely demolished that not one stone will be left on top of another!”
3Later, Jesus sat on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and asked, “When will all this take place? And will there be any sign ahead of time to signal your return and the end of the world?”
4Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you. 5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will lead many astray. 6And wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must come, but the end won’t follow immediately. 7The nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. 8But all this will be only the beginning of the horrors to come.
9“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because of your allegiance to me. 10And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. 11And many false prophets will appear and will lead many people astray.12Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13But those who endure to the end will be saved. 14And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then, finally, the end will come. (Matthew 24:1-14, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
Last weekend at Saddleback Church, there was a Rick Warren sighting. If you didn’t know, Rick Warren stepped down as the Lead pastor of Saddleback Church last August (2022) after more than 40 years at the helm of one of the largest churches in America. I wrote about Pastor Rick’s replacement in a blog post here.
Pastor Rick showed up in a video at church sharing about some of the current needs of the Finishing the Task initiative of which he has taken oversight.
Finishing the Task is a network comprised of hundreds of churches, denominations and missions organizations that are all committed to “finishing the task” that was given to the church 2000 years ago when Jesus commissioned his first disciples to “go and make disciples of every nation…” This task is commonly referred to as the Great Commission.
Matthew 24 is one of the few passages where Jesus speaks prophetically about future events. In this passage, the disciples point out to Jesus the various temple buildings and Jesus uses this as a launching pad to share with his disciples about future events.
The first thing Jesus points out is that the Temple buildings that his disciples are so fondly admiring would one day be completely demolished. This actually happened not long after Jesus’s death and resurrection as the Temple was completely destroyed in 70 A.D. and has never been rebuilt.
Later, at the Mount of Olives, the disciples ask Jesus the question of timing: “When will all this take place? And what signs will accompany your return?”
Jesus responds with some general information about the state of the world that would precipitate His return. He says the following things will be true before His return:
- There will be many false prophets…many who will claim to be the Messiah and will lead many astray
- There will be wars and rumors of wars among the nations
- There will be famines and earthquakes
There is no doubt that this list so far has been fulfilled as these conditions have been true for many years. Yet Jesus says that these conditions are only the beginning of the horrors. In other words, these signs alone aren’t enough to signal that the end is near. There are additional signs that will signal the nearness of Jesus’s return:
- Christians will be arrested, persecuted, killed and hated for their allegiance to Jesus.
- Many followers will fall away and more false prophets will lead others astray
- Sin will be rampant everywhere.
These additional conditions begin to bring more focus to the state the world will be in before Jesus returns. One only has to take a cursory glance at daily headlines to see that Christians are being persecuted and killed around the world. Sin is rampant everywhere and many Christians, in an effort to placate the culture, are compromising on Biblical standards of morality and ethics.
Still, whether or not the stage is set for Jesus’s imminent return is still somewhat of a subjective evaluation. One could claim, in just about any decade since Jesus uttered the words of Matthew 24, that these conditions have been met.
Yet Jesus gives one more condition that must be met before His return will be imminent, a condition that is not subjective but can be objectively evaluated . That condition relates to the spread of the gospel around the world. Jesus says that this gospel of the kingdom will be preached around the world so that all the nations will hear it, and THEN the end will come.
So even though all the conditions seem ripe for Jesus’s return we know that His return is not imminent until this final condition is met – the gospel must be preached so that all the nations (people groups) hear it. Once that happens, we know that Jesus’s return is imminent.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus will return the instant the last people group hears. It simply means that the stage is set and we have no reason to doubt that he may come at any moment.
What’s exciting is that the Finishing the Task initiative, which was launched in 2000 as a cooperative, collaborative effort between hundreds of churches, denominations and missions organizations, has made amazing progress in taking the gospel to the remaining 3500 people groups that were previously unengaged. This YouTube video from 2020 not only gives a history of the Finishing the Task initiative, but also highlights the progress made in the 20 years since the group was formed.
And now, Rick Warren has made it his remaining life mission to give leadership to this network as they push to reach every remaining unengaged people group within the next 10 years. As he says in this short video, “it’s time for Finishing the Task 2.0”
We are living in exciting times as we are quite possibly the generation who will be alive to see the fulfillment of Jesus’s command to take the gospel to all people groups and make disciples of all the nations.
Lord, may you mobilize your people and empower us by your Holy Spirit to fulfill the command that you gave to your initial disciples 2000 years ago!
Are you familiar with the idea of the Great Commission? What has been your experience in making disciples and going to the nations?
What thoughts and feelings do you have when you think about the idea that Christ could return, possibly in your lifetime?
One of the things Jesus says is true of the world just before he returns is that there are many false prophets and many will fall away. What do you think makes someone a false prophet? In other words, how can you tell if someone is a false teacher?
What steps can you take to ensure that you are not one of the faithful followers who is led astray?
What do you think are some practical ways you could be involved in helping to “finish the task”?
Logo from the Finishing the Task website