End Times November 14, 2021
1 Thessalonians 3:7-13
Worship Supplement 2000: #764, 64, 29, WS: #761
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (NKJV)
In the name of Jesus Christ whose second coming we look forward to with eager anticipation, dear fellow redeemed;
What will it be like as we draw closer to Jesus’ return when He brings an end to this world and ushers in eternity? This question is not a matter of idle curiosity, but is of special interest to us as Christians. This is important to us, because we don’t want to lose heart should any evil befall us, but rather be equipped to deal with anything we are called upon to face. Also, we want to be prepared for the coming of the Lord, being found in the faith at His return.
When Jesus spoke to His disciples in His Olivet address about the coming destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, they associated this judgment with the coming of the Lord at the end of time. In order that they might not be caught unawares and unprepared they wanted to know what they could expect to happen in the days preceding it.
While the destruction of the temple and the end of the world were to be two separate events, still in Jesus’ answer to their question He spoke of similar conditions being found both in the days leading up to the temple’s destruction in 70 AD, as well as the final day of this world.
To help us in our wait for the coming of the Lord, we consider what Jesus reveals about the conditions that will be found in this world until His return.
In verses 6 and 7 of our text, Jesus tells of the unsettling strife and conflict among the nations of the world, saying to His followers of every age, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”
The threat of attacks from enemy forces and the fierce battles between nations during times of war are very distressing things. When we observe Veteran’s Day each year, we are reminded of such sad realities.
Oh, how our hearts yearn for a time when there wouldn’t be conflicts, but only peace. For then we wouldn’t have loved ones going off to war and be threatened with injury or death.
Some have raised false hopes of a future time when worldwide peace will prevail on this earth. We have had world leaders musing about such a peace. There are also religious leaders in Christendom twisting God’s Word to say that there will be a golden age of world peace in a millennialistic kingdom. These churchmen point to Old Testament passages which speak of swords being turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. However, these references are not speaking of a worldwide peace, but rather are symbolically picturing the spiritual peace that Jesus establishes even now through His Gospel message.
Since humankind possess a sin-corrupted nature that will hang on until the end of time, the human heart will continue to be a breeding ground for human pride and hatred, as well as a lust for power and riches—all of which can give birth to wars. And so, it is a vain and empty dream for anyone to think that there will be a day in this world when there wouldn’t be any more wars.
The wonderful comfort we possess as Christians when we hear of wars and rumors of wars is that all nations and armies are subject to God’s almighty power and His providential rule. Also, since Jesus paid the price for our deliverance from the control of sin, we can experience a measure of peace between peoples through the love of Christ working in human hearts. And at the end of time Jesus will bring into being that new heavenly world where there wouldn’t be any more wars, not even a minor argument.
In our text, Jesus speaks of disastrous conditions in nature that will continue to occur as long as this present world exists. He declares in verses 7 and 8, “And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
One of the harsh realities of our environment is that we are living in a dying world. Students of science know this from the Second Law of Thermodynamics which involves a gradual degeneration and deterioration of all things in this world. As students of Holy Scripture, we know that this is due to the curse of sin that came as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve.
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul writes of nature being held captive and suffering under the bondage of corruption. All around us we can witness the travail, as well as the groans and sighs of nature. Besides the famines and earthquakes Jesus speaks of, we can also point to the tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, monsoons, floods, and volcanoes.
For those earth dwellers who fantasize about discovering a way to prolong their lives and this earth indefinitely, the prospect of this happening is nil. This “pipe dream” will not be realized, because we will all continue to age and decay along with the world we live in.
While none of us will escape this reality, unless Jesus comes before we die, as Christians we can hear those groans and sighs in nature, and find reason for a sure and certain hope of a brighter day in the glorious world to come. Paul alludes to this in Romans 8:23 where he writes of creation being delivered from bondage to a glorious liberty on the last day. In the realm of human life, we know that birth pangs result in bringing forth new lives. And while the world is gradually passing away with its groans and sighs, yet after its demise, new heavens and a new earth will replace it in eternity. In this new world, there won’t be a trace of the curse of sin and its ill effects. So then, as we await the Lord’s return, the groans we hear in nature can bring to our minds labor pangs that will finally result in the birth of the new world that we will have because of our Savior Jesus.
As Jesus speaks of other conditions that will prevail until His return, we are alerted to spiritual and physical dangers to Christians. He tells of those who would rob us of the hope of heaven, saying in verses 5 and 11, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many…Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”
In the days preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, there were false christs like Simon Magus spoken of in the book of Acts. Over the years there have been numerous imposters who claimed to be the Christ. However, we are not taken in by such impersonators, because they haven’t proclaimed the pure Word of God nor have they ushered in eternity according to Scripture.
Jesus also warns of many false prophets misleading many until the end of time. These spiritual dangers are far more insidious than the false christs, because their deceptions are very cunning. They twist Scripture in such a way to make it sound convincing to our sin-darkened minds and appealing to our sin-corrupted hearts. While their changes in teachings may start ever so slightly, yet the final goal of Satan’s lies is to rob us of the Gospel truths which alone can save.
Still other dangers relating to our faith which we can expect as we await the Lord’s return is religious persecution. Jesus forewarns His disciples, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.” (Vv.9,10)
Because unbelievers, even those who are “religious,” hate Jesus and His teachings, they will direct their hatred toward us as we confess our faith. Their hatred is manifested in different forms and degrees of persecution, even to the extent of killing Christians. Many are the reports these days of severe persecutions being directed against Christians in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
A final note of warning is revealed in these words in verse 12, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
The prevalence of wickedness and lawlessness can have the effect of desensitizing and reshaping human thinking and behavior. As a result, human hearts grow cold. May God preserve us from being sucked in by the evil influences of the unbelieving world and abandoning the paths of God.
May God help us from losing a hunger for the Word of God. His Word keeps us spiritually alive and well. His Word keeps us from losing an interest in kingdom work so that we do not become useless to the Lord. And His Word keeps us from losing love for our Savior who sacrificed His life for us so that we could be blessed with the priceless treasures of God’s pardon, a heart set free from a slavery to sin, and the glorious future of heaven. May God’s redeeming love for us in Christ Jesus continue to work in our hearts so that we embrace Him in faith, worship Him in sincere devotion, and faithfully follow Him in love.
Looking over all the adverse conditions found in this world until the end of time, and then hearing Jesus say to us in the Bible, “Surely I am coming quickly,” may we all respond with the prayer, saying, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” In the meantime, may God ever keep us in His saving grace so that when Jesus finally arrives, we will be ready and welcomed into the eternal realms of glory. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.