Key Sign of the End

SYNOPSIS - Jesus declared that the “end” will not come until “this gospel of the kingdom of God is proclaimed to all nations”Matthew 24:14

Sun Burst - Photo by Huper by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
When the subject of the return of Jesus is raised, the inevitable question arises - What “signs” will precede it? Will his arrival in glory be portended by wars, earthquakes, famines, and similar catastrophes – All “signs” of the rapidly approaching “end?” Most fortunately for his disciples, Jesus provided a most definitive “sign,” an event that must occur before the “coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven” - The completion of the mission of the Church.

After his final departure from the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus predicted its complete destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. Because Israel had rejected her Messiah, “All these things shall come upon this generation. Behold, your house is left to you desolate…Truly I declare to you, there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down - (Matthew 23:34-39, 24:1-2).

His prediction prompted the disciples to ask two questions. First, when would the destruction of the Temple occur? Second, what would be the “sign” of the “coming of the Son of Man and the conclusion of the age”?

His immediate response was a dire warning - Beware of false messiahs and false prophets that will deceive many. The disciples would hear of wars, earthquakes, international conflicts, and famines; however, such events were not indicators of the “end.” Indeed, such disasters would occur but the “end is not yet.” But deceivers would point to these very things to raise false expectations about the nearness of the end - (Matthew 24:4-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

Human and natural catastrophes occur regularly - Earthquakes, wars, famines, and plagues - Therefore, the disciple of Jesus must "not be alarmed" when they do transpire. Such events are NOT chronological markers by which one can calculate the “end.” At most, they constitute a “beginning of birth-pains,” harbingers of the inevitable “end.”

To the first question, he answered - Within “this generation.” That is, the generation that was contemporary with him. This occurred when a Roman army destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem in A.D. 70, exactly as predicted by Jesus – (Matthew 3:7, 11:16, 12:34-45, 16:4, 17:17, 23:33-36, 24:34).

To the second query, he responded – “No man knows the day or hour of his coming, except God alone.” Therefore, his disciple must always be ready for its unexpected and sudden arrival. Knowledge of the “times and seasons” belongs to the Father alone. Those who claim such knowledge arrogate to themselves the knowledge that even the Son of Man does not possess - (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32-24, Acts 1:7-9).

As to the requested “sign,” he gave one explicit goal that must be achieved before his arrival. This would be the “proclamation of this gospel of the kingdom in the entire world for a testimony to all nations.” Only “then will the end come.” The message of the kingdom is good news to all who hear and obey it. But it must be proclaimed to all nations before Jesus arrives in judgment - (Matthew 24:14).

This is the task assigned to the Church by him. His disciples must “go and teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you; behold, I am with you even unto the end of the age.” The Church must complete this mission before the end will arrive - (Matthew 28:18-20).

Prior to his ascension, the disciples asked him when he would restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus responded:
  • (Acts 1:6-8) - “It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father has put in his own authority.” Instead, the disciples were to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, then they would become “my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea, and Samaria, even unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
The present age must continue, “Until the full number of the Gentiles comes in; in this manner, all Israel will be saved” - (Luke 21:24, 24:46-49, Romans 11:25-26).
And how does one know when the task is done? According to Jesus - When the end arrives!
That the “end” has not arrived is irrefutable proof the task remains unfinished. No one can ascertain the progress of this mission. God alone knows that and only He will determine when the full complement of the elect has been gathered. Christ’s “logic” is circular but deliberately so.

His declaration is as much an exhortation as it is a prophecy, an admonishment to the church to engage tirelessly in gospel proclamation until he arrives in glory. The completion of the mission is the “sign” of the end but one that cannot be used to calculate its nearness.

The words of Jesus are clear - Only his Father knows the timing of the “end” and his arrival in glory. Not even the “Son of Man” has this information. In the interim, the Church must remain busy completing the task he assigned to it.

It is high time for believers to accept the clear teachings of Jesus on this matter, to get over the fact that we do not and cannot calculate the date of the end, and to get on with the task at hand. What matters is to be found busy about his business on the day that Jesus arrives in power and glory.


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