SIGNS OF THE END OF THE AGE
Key Verse: 24:14
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world
as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
1. Read verses 1-3. How was Jesus' view of the temple different from
that of the disciples? (Cf. Mk 13:1) To what future event(s) was
Jesus probably referring? What was the disciples' response? (3)
2. Read verses 4-8. What did Jesus teach about the climate of the world
at the end of the age? What warnings did he give his disciples? What
was Jesus' attitude toward these things? Why? (6,8)
3. Read verses 9-14. What other things will happen in the last days?
How will many people react under such pressure? What should Jesus'
people do? What did Jesus promise?
4. Read verses 15-22. What does this "abomination" refer to? (cf. Da
9:27; 11:31) When abominable things happen, what must God's people
do? Why might worldly attachments ensnare people? (16,17,18) How
will God help his own?
5. Read verses 23-35. How will false prophets try to deceive God's
people? How can we not be deceived? Who will mourn and who will
rejoice when the Son of Man comes? What lesson can we learn from the
6. Read verses 36-51. What does it mean to be ready? What can we learn
from the faithful steward? What happens to the unfaithful steward?
Human history seems to be nothing but a vicious cycle of fallen
man. Many people agree that the last part of the 20th century is the
end of the age. The phrase, "the end of the age," alludes to the most
tragic destruction of the earth, partly because of the exhaustion of
natural resources, and mainly because of man's immorality and violence.
But this is not the case. Matthew 24 teaches us that the future of the
world is not dark, but glorious. All the bad things happening at the
end of the age are actually signs of the beginning of birth pains for
the glorious new age to come. In this chapter we learn several things
we must be careful about, and we learn what kind of attitude we must
have while living in this chaotic post-Christian era.
First, the startled disciples (1-3). Look at verse 1. "Jesus left the
temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call
his attention to its buildings." As we know well, the disciples were
mostly rural Galileans and fishermen who knew the fish market. But they
did not know much about the people in the higher classes or about
elegant buildings. After looking at the temple, some of them were
fascinated by what they had seen. The Jerusalem temple had been built
at the summit of Mount Zion. It was built of white marble stones,
plated with gold, and it shone in the sun. No wonder the Galileans were
overwhelmed to see it. Immediately they turned to call Jesus' attention
and expressed their amazement. In Mark 13:1b they said, "Look, Teacher!
What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" They really spoke up
to express their feeling. But what they said only revealed their hidden
love of the world. Since they were Jesus' disciples, they should have
had a spiritual value system. But they did not.
What did Jesus answer? Jesus did not respond to their curiosity at
all. Instead he taught them the future things to come. Look at verse
2. "'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'I tell you the truth, not
one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown
down.'" Jesus' prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70, when the Jerusalem
temple was completely destroyed by the Roman army until not one stone
was left on another. Jesus' prophecy is also a warning that the people
and nations who do not practice God's laws are destined for complete
What was the disciples' response? As Jesus was sitting on the
Mount of Olives, from which the temple could be seen in full view, the
disciples came to him privately and said, "Tell us, when will this
happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the
age?" (3) To the Jews, "your coming" or "the end of the age" was
understood as "the day of the Lord"the day of great joy and victory,
the day God himself would intervene in history.
Second, the characteristics of the end of the age (4-8). Jesus did not
answer their question concerning the end of the age directly; rather,
he told them several things to be careful about. Look at verse 4.
"Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you.'" Jesus warns his
disciples to watch out, because the end of the age will be a season for
false messiahs and a time of great deception. As history proves, at the
end of one civilization after another, people become extremely violent
and immoral. Most of all, people become ungodly. People who live among
violent, immoral and ungodly people become very fearful.
Then many sorcerers and magic artists like 'Koresh' arise,
claiming, "I am the Christ" (5). They deceive weak-minded people and
empty their pockets. Especially, they empty sorrowful widows' pockets.
These days, to most people, secular humanists are false messiahs. They
see the things of the world without the absolutes of God. They see
everything according to situation ethics. One father once looked at his
daughter and said, "She is my precious daughter." After he was drunken,
the father said, "Wow! She is a beautiful woman." His relativistic idea
caused him to commit incest.
Jesus also said that people will hear of all kinds of tragic
events happening, such as nation rising against nation, famines, and
earthquakes in various places. We should not be alarmed. It is because
these things are the beginning of birth pains for the glorious new age.
The world is not easy to live in because of the increase of wickedness.
Wicked people are selfish people. Because of selfish people the love of
most grows cold.
But Jesus' way of thinking is different. In verse 6b Jesus says,
"...but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen,
but the end is still to come." Jesus says here that Jesus' people
should not be fearful on account of the world situation and evils in
the world, because God rules the world. The world is not heading for
destruction, but for the day of the Lord, the day of eternal victory.
All kinds of troubles, trials and tribulations are nothing but birth
pains for the day of the Lord. Verse 8 says, "All these are the
beginning of birth pains." So we should not be alarmed by the world
situation, but rejoice, waiting for the day of the Lord.
Third, "Stand firm to the end" (9-13). In the last days many God-haters
arise. These people persecute Jesus' people in proportion to their
demon-possession. They hate Jesus' people because they hate Jesus, for
he is holy (9). In the last days, many people turn away from the faith
and betray and hate each other, poisoned by the devil's doubt (10).
Look at verse 11. "...and many false prophets will appear and deceive
many people." Here, "false prophets" refers to the Pharisees or secular
In this situation, what can Jesus' people do? Look at verse 13.
"...but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." How can we "stand
firm to the end"? First of all, Jesus' people must be faithful to
Jesus. Revelation 2:10b says, "Be faithful, even to the point of death,
and I will give you the crown of life." Jesus' people must love one
another fervently, until the devil flees away from them with raving
speed. Jesus' people must live a life of victory. St. Paul is our
champion in this. He said in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
Fourth, the good news of the kingdom of God must be preached (14). Look
at verse 14. "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the
whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
Jesus' people are chosen people. They are chosen to proclaim the good
news of the kingdom of God. God made a plan of world salvation. God
started to fulfill his plan first with Abraham; next with King David.
Finally, God fulfilled his plan through his one and only Son Jesus
Christ. Now this gospel must be preached to the whole world before the
end comes (14). When we preach the gospel to the whole world, God is
most pleased, because the salvation of the whole world is God's utmost
desire. When we obey God's world salvation purpose, we are going to be
persecuted. But there is a final victory. For example, under the Roman
Empire the early Christians were persecuted simply because they lived
pure lives, while the Romans lived very corrupt lives. Later, the
Romans faced severe marriage problems for their sons and daughters, for
from among the Romans they could not find anyone who had not contracted
the Roman version of AIDS. Because of this, Jesus' people who had lived
pure lives were accepted and honored. Finally, Rome became a Christian
country. Praise God who uses our struggle in evangelizing the whole
Fifth, abominable people (15-18). Look at verses 15,16. "So when you
see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes
desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader
understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." The
abomination that causes desolation refers to Daniel's prophecy in
Daniel 9:27. A king of Syria who was disgusted by Judaism determined to
stamp out Judaism and introduce the Greek religion in Judea. He
captured Jerusalem and destroyed the temple and placed the head of a
swine on the altar. The temple in Jerusalem was the place where God was
present, as well as where the ark of the covenant, the word of God,
was. But when the temple was desecrated, the head of a swine was placed
on the altar. What a great inversion! Where God should be present, the
head of a swine was placed! Figuratively speaking, this is the
inversion of the order of the universe. This was a disaster to the
Judeans. Jesus warned his disciples that the same thing would happen
again (15,16). The abomination that causes desolation is an allegory
of the chaotic world. Those who have no personal commitment to Jesus
are all abominable people. Most men worship money instead of God; most
women prefer stinky macho men rather than noble men. They are indeed
Jesus told his people to flee to the mountains when they see "the
abomination that causes desolation." Here, "mountains" stands for a
place where God's people can worship God quietly. But most people
cannot flee to the mountains because they do not want to give up a
handbag or a pair of gym shoes. Instead of fleeing to the mountains,
they come back home; next, they go to the place where they can get
something or enjoy sinful pleasure (17,18). Finally they are caught by
the inverted world. People who live in an inverted world are always
full of fear and anxiety. They have no peace in their hearts.
Sixth, "when the Son of Man comes" (19-31). In the last days there will
be great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world until now
(21). What shall we do in such days? Verse 20 says that we must pray
for God's help. It is amazing to know that God will shorten the days of
distress for the sake of the elect (22). Here we learn that a handful
of Jesus' people who struggle to keep the life of faith are most
beneficial to all mankind. On the other hand, false messiahs, saying,
"Take it easy," can be most deceptive. We must not listen to them
(23-26). If we listen to them, we become like vultures that eat a
This distress is nothing but a prelude of the coming of the Son of
Man. When the Son of Man comes again, the sun and moon and the stars
that have given light and energy won't be necessary, because the coming
of the Son of Man himself will be sufficient light for his people and
the new world.
When the Son of Man comes, there will be two kinds of people. One
kind will mourn, and the other kind will rejoice. Look at verse 30. "At
that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all
the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man
coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." All
peoples of all nations despised and rejected Jesus because they hated
God, who is holy. They ignorantly nailed Jesus to the cross, thinking
that they would never see him again. But they shall see the Son of Man
with their own eyes, whether they want to or not. It is a great
punishment for them to see Jesus, whom they crucified. More than this,
they have to stand before him to be judged according to what they have
done to him and his people (Ro 2:6-11). On the other hand, the Son of
Man will gather his people who have been faithful unto death and say,
"Well done, good and faithful servants" (31). May God help us to be
worthy of his praise.
Seventh, God's people must have spiritual insight to interpret the
times (32-35). Look at verses 32,33. "Now learn this lesson from the
fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you
know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you
know that it is near, right at the door." Each generation has its own
characteristics. So it is not easy to interpret the times. But Jesus'
people can do so because they have the word of God--the universal canon
of everything. Let's read verse 35. "Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will never pass away." During the first century, Jesus'
people had to live under fiery persecutions. They had to overcome all
kinds of trials in order to defend the gospel of Jesus. Jesus' people
in the last part of the 20th century have to live in times like those
of Sodom and Gomorrah--very immoral and violent. Jesus' people should
be sacrificial in order to advance the gospel of Jesus. It is possible
for us to do so when we have spiritual insight to interpret the signs
of the times. These days many people say in their bewilderment, "What's
going on?" or, "What's up?" They have no insight to see the world. But
Jesus' people must have keen spiritual insight to interpret the signs
of the times and lead his people to God.
Eighth, "keep watch" (36-44). There are many people who say, "I want to
be a Christian, but not now." Such people are deceived by the devil,
who says, "You can do it tomorrow." Jesus' people must awaken from
complacency because no one knows the day or hour of Jesus' coming, not
even the angels (36). The people of Noah's times only engaged in eating
and drinking and giving in marriage. They never imagined that God will
judge those who are only eating and drinking and mating. The flood came
suddenly, but their swimming ability was too poor. So they all drowned
(38,39). Therefore, Jesus' people must keep watch through prayers and
Bible study (42-44).
Ninth, "be a faithful servant" (45-51). Who is the faithful servant to
Jesus? He is the one who faithfully distributes spiritual daily bread
to the Son's children. In the last days, corrupt people eat too much
food and become sick spiritually. They need spiritual food. Who can
give spiritual food to his sick children? Jesus' people can do that.
Teaching the Bible seems to be a losing business. But we must do so,
because our Lord Jesus wants us to do so (45-47). There is a danger
that we calculate too much and come to the conclu sion that he will not
come soon (48,49). A habit of calculation only makes men wicked and
unfaithful. What happens to them? "The master of that servant will come
on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.
He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (50,51).
In this passage we learn that we should not be afraid of the world
situation. We must believe that all the troubles of the world are the
birth pains for the day of the Lord. In this troubled world, in order
to be faithful to our Lord Jesus we must struggle hard to teach the
Bible to God's sheep. Let's not despair. Let's be faithful to God,
standing on his promises.