by, Isam Itson III
Matthew 24:9-14 – “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The disciples asked Jesus about the signs of the “End of the Age.” That is the time of Jesus coming to rule and reign on the earth. It marks the end of our struggle against the forces of evil in our own hearts and the hearts of others. It is the day of our reward as faithful servants of God and his Messiah.
We often forget that Jesus’ proclamation of the coming of God’s kingdom was a political statement. He was calling people to live every aspect of their life in submission to God. His miracles were reminding people that they could trust God with all of their earthly concerns and needs. His coming as the fulfillment of God’s messianic promise to Israel was seen by his followers as the sign of God’s promise to rule all of the nations of the earth from Jerusalem. In their minds Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, was the leader of a righteous and glorious political and cultural revolution that would extend the peace and justice of God across the face of the earth. Jesus would fill the whole earth with the glory of God and the twelve disciples would rule at his side.
The heart of Jesus’ answer is profound and not exactly what they were expecting. In essence Jesus said, don’t focus on the social, political, and environmental turmoil you see around you. In fact, things are going to get worse for you. Stay faithful to God and God’s love for others. Cultivate a close relationship with God so you are not deceived by the claims of false prophets and messiahs. Don’t get caught up in multiplying political turmoils and natural disasters. Live in light of the knowledge that God himself gets the final word and that Christ’s return to rule and reign on the earth is certain. Just keep doing your Father’s business. That is Jesus’ answer to his disciples.
By extension it is also Jesus’ encouragement to his followers today. We should live in submission to God’s word as the expression of God’s heart. This honors God’s authority in our lives. We should live trusting that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has made us right with God. We should look to the Holy Spirit to fill us and strengthen us to honor God’s love for others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter the cost to ourselves. We do this in light of the certain hope that Jesus Christ will return to deliver his people, reign over the nations of the earth for 1000 years, and bring an end to sin, tyranny, and death once and for all.
But until that day, we must commit ourselves to nurturing our love for God and others, not wringing our hands over the shortcomings of our political leaders and social institutions. If we want to change the hearts and minds of people to place their trust in God and bow to God’s authority, we have to place our own trust in God and bow to God’s authority for ourselves. When people ask us why we live with so much hope and love we tell them that we know Jesus. We tell them that he loves us and that he loves them. We tell them that he gives us the strength and courage to trust God with every aspect of our lives. Some will turn around and follow Jesus with us. Others will dismiss us and continue following their own path, as if their life is in their own hands rather than God’s hands. They will continue to live under the delusion that everything depends upon them rather than God. This is the heart of human sin, shame, and death. This is the root of our social ills and political turmoil.
Our hope and the hope of our children and grandchildren is in personal submission to Christ alone, not a temporary, human, political ideology or a surface level shift in popular culture or civic life. Apart from trust in God there is no hope for the people of this world. With God we have an absolute and certain hope in the ultimate victory of God over self righteousness, injustice, and immorality. Our hope in Christ endures through social persecution, material loss, personal betrayal, and physical death. The followers of Jesus Christ are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven first, last, and always. No matter what, God is with us and God’s Spirit lives in us. We are not alone. That is Jesus’ response to our political, social, and personal anxiety in relation to the godless tyranny, corruption, and vice of our political and social leaders that corrupts our societies and breaks God’s heart.