As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
“As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
It sounds like there are bad times ahead. “The night is darkest before the dawn,” as the old saying goes. Jesus never explains why, but before God’s Kingdom can come to earth, things have to pretty much fall completely apart. But it is reassuring to know that no matter how awful things get, it’s all part of God’s plan, and it will get better someday.
Now, people have been seeing the signs Jesus talks about since the first century, and God’s Kingdom hasn’t come. So it’s pretty foolish to read the signs and say that doomsday will be here NOW. After all, Jesus doesn’t say how long things will be bad for. But we also can’t ignore that these things are happening. Many will come pretending to be Jesus, leading people astray? Check. Bizarre cults and online Jesuses have been no rarity in the last fifty years. Wars? At least twenty checks just this year. Rumors of war? The cold war is a big giant check, but all this stuff with the Islamic State comes to mind too. Nation against nation? We’ve had two world wars. Earthquakes? How many natural disasters have we had in the past decade? Earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, volcanoes, everything imaginable. And Jesus says it’s just going to get worse. But, again, when we see these things, we shouldn’t despair. God’s Kingdom is coming, and we can endure to the end and be saved.
More frightening to me is this prediction of persecution. This business about families betraying one another and everyone hating the Christians sounds pretty awful. But we can’t let that (or any of this other stuff for that matter) keep us from spreading the Good News! Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will be there with us, telling us what to say. So we must be sure we’re listening to our hearts, not worrying about finding the words ourselves.