He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
One of the things I’ve noticed about studying history is that you start to understand the inevitability of destruction. No civilization has ever not fallen. Rome, Jerusalem, Greece, the Maya, the Aztecs, the Inca, the Chinese Empire, they’re all gone. Some still live on in some fashion or another, but the great bustling empires of ancient times are ruins at best, and many are completely gone in all but writing. One day everything we know and love will be ruined too. The Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Vatican City, all of it. Whether our civilization and government fail, descending into anarchy, whether natural disasters wipe out our technology, or whether it’s not until the sun expands and engulfs us all, one day we will be gone.
Jesus doesn’t tell us not to fear this. On the contrary, His words inspire fear rather then alleviate it. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, He says. Look toward that and rejoice.
Sometimes when I’m faced with all of these doomsday thoughts, I wonder what the point of it all is. Why build a legacy when someday it will be gone? Maybe there’s no point in monuments, art, or having a beautiful home with a large collection of books. Maybe civil rights are a temporary and relatively pointless battle in the face of oblivion. So why bother? I don’t really have an answer. But Jesus makes it clear at the beginning of this chapter that there is one legacy that will live on. When you do the right thing and when you love God with all of your heart, He will remember it long after everyone else is gone. We will spend eternity in Heaven with Him inheriting the legacy we build while on earth. And that is something worth working for.