Devotional Thoughts: This is the end ...
This passage is one of those controversial "end of the world as we know it" teachings by Jesus.
I hope it doesn't sound too horribly sacriligious to quote a vile yet haunting song when writing Christian devotional thoughts.
Many years ago, I saw the film Apocalypse Now and it begins with the song, "The End" by the Doors.
Since then, when the subject of eschatology, the fancy word for the theological study of the end times, comes up, I sometimes think of that famous song by the Doors. Lyric excerpt:
This is the endJesus leaves the Temple and says to the disciples, you see all these buildings? One day they will be utterly destroyed!
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again
As they sit on the Mount of Olives they would have an excellent view of the Temple. The Mount of Olives is East of Jerusalem. Between the mount and the city is the Kidron Valley. As they ponder the magnificent Temple, the disciples naturally wonder, when will all this take place? They also ask, will there be any sign ahead of time to signal your return and the end of the world?
Grammatically, that is THREE questions.
However, I wonder if in their minds they are all one question?
Afterall, they were Jewish and the idea that the visible symbol of their faith would be destroyed would seem like the end of the world. I simply don't know if in their minds the three questions are three separate issues or perhaps only two issues mixed in some fashion or perhaps all one thing.
However, Jesus appears to answer all three questions. There seems to be a separation topically in the following verses though the separation can be a bit blurry and it isn't clear to me whether there is a separation temporally.
(1) Matthew 24:4-14 - the end of the world.
Jesus says there will be those who claim to be messiahs and mislead people, wars, famines and earthquakes. Jesus says those things are only the beginning and not yet the end. 2000 years later, we are still seeing those things. It has been "not quite the end" for a long time. I suppose we could say, we are 2000 years closer to the end!
In verse 14, do we get a hint as to when the beginning of the end might be, "And 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."
Has this been fulfilled?
I don't know.
If it is meant literally, then the answer is, no. There are still people groups in the world that have never heard about Jesus.
On the other hand, if this is figurative as in, "the good news of the kingdom will also become available to Gentiles and then the end will come," then this verse has been fulfilled.
(2) Matthew 24:15-22 - destruction of the temple
Jesus makes reference to the prediction of temple desecration in the book of Daniel. Some feel the temple desecration already took place when Antiochus imposed pagan worship in the Jewish Temple in 168 BC.
However, in Christian theology, the Daniel prophecy might have fulfilment also in the Temple destruction of 70 AD by the Romans and possibly a future fulfilment at the hands of an anti-Christ figure.
(3) Matthew 24:23-31 - the return of Christ
Jesus speaks of false messiahs and false prophets as he did earlier. He then says in verse 29, Immediately after those horrible days end, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.
Is this literal? Or is this figurative?
Supporters of a literal interpretation say that it could be descriptive of actual condtions. They would cite the darkened skies after a massive volcanic eruption or the anticipated conditions with the onset of nuclear winter or the devestation caused by a meteor/comet impact as large as the one that may have resulted in the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
A figurative understanding relies on the fact that as humans we think of the sun, moon and stars as the ultimate in stability and regularity. Thus, this phrasing would be a very vivid way of saying, "the end of the world as we know it."
What happens after the "end of the world as we know it?
And then at last, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the nations of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with the sound of a mighty trumpet blast, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.In the last analysis, I don't think the exact details of how the end times will unfold is knowable. A handful of years ago, I heard Darrell Johnson say that the Book of Revelation, with all its details which we can't be sure of, can effectively be summarized, "JESUS IS GONNA WIN!"