My Bible reading recently included Matthew 24 and Psalms 2.
In Matthew 24 Jesus is telling his disciples about the times leading up to the end of this age. He lists signs of the times: wars, rumors of war, nation against nation, famines, and earthquakes. As long as I’ve been alive all of these have been happening. They seem more frequent, but maybe it is because of our instant news. Anyway, by these signs, we’ve already been in the last days for many years. I’m sure my parents’ generation thought they were in the last days with two world wars, the Spanish Flu, concentration camps, and starvation after the ravages of the wars.
Jesus then goes on to say there will be persecution of believers. We would be hated by all nations. We also see this in many places. Churches are burned, crosses pulled down, and worse, persecution so bad that whole communities flee their homes as refugees to other nations.
But, more important than all the signs, are the directions Jesus gave us as we live in these times and see the end draw nearer every day.
He starts with, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah, and will deceive many.’” (vss 5-5) We must not forget this. We must not get so caught up in the fear and dread of the news that we latch onto anyone’s claims of deliverance. There will not be another Messiah, there is only One who saves, the Lord Jesus. Even if others follow a leader like this, we should not be deceived.
Next, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.” (vs.6) We are not to dwell on these things and get afraid and spread fear. We should look to the Lord our God who says to us, “Do not fear, I will help you.” (Isa 41:13)
He warns that persecution will get bad to the point of being put to death. (vs. 9-10) Why would He say this? It doesn’t seem a very good way to encourage his disciples. Jesus was not trying to frighten His disciples. He was just stating a fact. Persecution would be part of the end of the age. Jesus never scares us into obedience or threatens us with punishment. He wanted us to know this would happen to many believers living through those dark days. He wanted them to know so they would not lose heart and fall away from faith. He wanted them to avoid questioning whether God is a good God. He wanted them to stand together and support one another.
Now I don’t believe there are many believers who can think about persecution without cringing. We have a normal fear of pain and death. But many of our brothers and sisters today are being persecuted. Their homes are being confiscated, churches burned, and some are being killed. Some of these Christians were very new believers and God did a mighty work in them to bring them through with a good testimony. So what does Jesus tell us to do about persecution? “The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” So for us who have time before facing persecution, we must know His Word, His presence, His comfort, His strength as more real than this world we live in now. That is who we will stand firm to the end. We will only be ready if we spend time with God and learn how to recognize His hand and help.
Jesus warns us not to be deceived by false prophets. (vs. 11, 23-24) And Jesus warns that because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold. (vss 12-13). One last warning in this chapter is that no one knows the day or the hour that the Lord will come. Our job is not to figure out the date and time, We are to keep watch, be ready, doing what the Master has planned for us to do. ( vss. 36, 42-46)
Now just after reading these verses and thinking about them, I turned to my Psalm for the day, Psalm 2. At breakfast, my husband played a modern rendition of this Psalm put to music.
It opens with, “Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’”
That sounds like the news we get from the media today! Mobs riot and tear down any reminder of good people who have done good for our nation. They rob and destroy churches. They want to wipe out any memory of good and righteousness and Christian influence.
But the next verse tells us God’s opinion of all their bluster and evil. “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’”
God has their end fully planned! They may seem to win for now. We have read the last page of this story. God wins! He rewards those who love and honor Him! He has a place for us to dwell in His presence with no more weeping and no more pain. We are not forgotten! We will not be left out!
If you have read this far, you may be concerned about your preparation for living through harder days before the end of the age. In some of my next posts, I will be talking about ways we can grow in our faith and dependence on God. I will provide links to different types of aids to build your strong foundation on our Savior and our Lord.