Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jesus' Final Lecture: The Last Days

The temple in Jerusalem in the early 30s AD was a magnificent structure.  Herod the Great planned it to be one of the great man-made wonders of the world and after 40 years hard work by thousands of laborers, it was just that.  There were many buildings, but the center building—the Temple itself—was an amazing structure with stones as large as the ones that built the pyramids.  Not only was it a beautiful building, but it also displayed the power and wealth of Judea.  It was once the jewel in Herod’s crown, and now it is the glory of the High Priest who, with the Jewish council called the Sanhedrin, led the second largest people spread throughout Rome—only the Romans had more authority.  And it was this very High Priest—ruler of the Jews throughout the world—who was plotting to have Jesus executed.

At the end of the fourth day in Jerusalem, Jesus was walking with his disciples through the various buildings of the Temple.  The disciples, blue-collar workers from Galilee, were stunned by the presence of the Temple and mentioned the magnificence and marvelous, huge stones.  Jesus replied, “You are noticing the stones, are you?  Not one of these stones will be left on each other.”

            That night, they stayed within Jerusalem, resting on the Mount of Olives.  Peter and his brother Andrew and James and his brother John were disturbed at the earlier saying, and they approached Jesus that evening, after the formal teaching time was finished.  They asked, “Lord, we are surprised at the destruction of God’s Holy Temple.  When will this take place?  Is it close to the coming kingdom?  When will you rule?”

            Jesus sat down and told them, “Be very careful—there are so many liars.  Many will claim to know much about the Messiah and claim that the end is coming here or there.  You will hear about this war or that war and think that perhaps it is the final war.  There will be many earthquakes and famines and various uprisings—but none of these are the end.  Instead of these misleading signals, just look for the signs I will tell you.

            “I am going to send you to the whole world to preach the gospel.  And many people in many nations will bring charges against you and try to kill you.  Many people will hate you.  Brother will rise up against brother and father against son.  You will stand before governors and kings.  But just be patient and stay with the gospel.  If you remain with the gospel until the end, then you will be saved.

            “You will know the end, because of the armies that will surround Jerusalem.  And when the powerful persecutor of God’s people is in the one place he should not be—even as Daniel said he would—then it is time to run to the hills.  Once this happens, leave everything you have, don’t go back!  Remember Lot’s wife!  She turned around and was destroyed by judgment.  Don’t be like Noah’s neighbors who were marrying and eating and drinking without any expectation of judgement and then were destroyed in a moment.  This is how it will be in Jerusalem when it is destroyed. 

            “In those days there will be a time of terrible tribulation for all of God’s people.  They will be chased by armies and tested severely.  Unless God would have shortened those days, perhaps not even the chosen ones would remain with God.  But for their sake, God has shortened the days of this tribulation.

            “Then, after that period of tribulation, the Gentiles will rule over Jerusalem.  No one knows for how long, not even I—only the Father knows how long.  They will trample the great city with armies.

           “After that time, the powers in the heavens will be set aside.  The authority of the sun will diminish and the power of the moon will be set aside.  The rule of heaven itself will be upset.  And then look for the Son of Man, coming in the clouds.  This will not be hidden—he will be like lighting flashing from one end of the sky to the other.  All the powerful angels will come down to earth with him, and he will send them out to gather his people from all over the world, and all over heaven.

            “Then the angels will gather all other people in the world—all of the Gentiles of all the earth.  They will stand before the coming King, ruling in Jerusalem.  And the King will have them divided into two parts, one to his right and one to his left.

            To those on his right, he will say, ‘Be happy!  You will enter into my kingdom and live there eternally!  For I was hungry in your presence, and you gave me food and water.  I was without clothing and you gave me clothing.  I was sick and in prison and you came to visit me and help me.  Come and enter my joy!’  They shall reply, ‘Lord, when did we do these things?’  The King will reply, ‘When you did it to these, my disciples—even the lowest of them, you did it to me.’

            “To those who refused to help the least of these disciples, they will be punished eternally with fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  But the righteous will gain the true life, eternally.”

“The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' “Matthew 25:40

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