Jesus and the future: The New Testament Age (Part 2)

Let’s continue to look at the future according to Jesus as found in Matthew 24.

To begin, Jesus described signs that occur every day. They are commonplace in a sinful world inhabited by sinful people, but are not indicators of the last days. This is called the New Testament Age (or Church Age), the era from Jesus’ time to our own. Matthew 24:4-8 records Jesus saying,

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

What can we expect to see throughout generations, stretching from the first century until today? Jesus listed false Christs, wars, famines, and earthquakes that only signal the beginning, not the end, because they are widespread in humanity’s sinful existence, often on a daily basis. 

Jesus said false Christs would be part of the New Testament Age. Since Jesus’ ascension, many have claimed to be God’s Messiah. For example, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon claimed to be the Anointed One. The Washington Times reported that “in 1935, he had a vision of Jesus Christ who ordered him to fulfill the unfinished task of establishing God’s kingdom on earth. ‘To us, the messiah is the one who re-creates the original ideal on earth, which is passing on the tradition of loving families,’ said the Rev. Phillip Schanker.”

In 1976, Hulon Mitchell, Jr. changed his name to Yahweh ben Yahweh, which in Hebrew means “God, son of God.” The New York Times reported that he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder because he told his cult members to prove their devotion by killing a random white person, usually a homeless one. He called himself the reincarnated Messiah.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda openly calls himself the antichrist and makes his followers tattoo 666 onto their bodies. He calls himself antichrist because he believes it is wrong to worship the “Jewish teachings” of Jesus. Miranda’s media director told The Seattle Times, “He is, after all, God himself.” And the list of other false Christs goes on and on.

Besides false Christs, Jesus mentioned wars and rumors of wars. As terrible as war is, its existence is not a harbinger of the end. In 2005, the Associated Press reported the number of major armed conflicts worldwide for the year stood at seventeen—and that was a new low. War, civil or across borders, takes place daily. Man’s sinful nature is brutally apparent when combat begins.

Humanity’s sinfulness is the reason for another sign that Jesus pointed out: natural disasters. “The creation waits in eager expectation” to be “liberated from its bondage to decay” because it “was subjected to frustration” by Adam and Eve’s rebellion (Romans 8:19-21). Not only do thorns and thistles infest the ground (Genesis 3:17), but natural catastrophes also assault our lives.

Earthquakes are the reason many people believe that Christ will return soon. They believe there is an increase in the number of quakes. However, the United States Geologic Survey reports differently. They say, “Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant.” In the last twenty years, there has only been an increase in the number of earthquakes due to the increase in the number of stations used to locate earthquakes more rapidly. They locate about 20,000 earthquakes each year, or approximately 50 per day. Whether it is earthquakes, snowstorms, or tornadoes, we record more because we monitor more. Furthermore, whether it is conflict or catastrophes, these serve as reminders of our sinful existence and the need to repent.

Using the current events of His day, Jesus explained that neither manmade nor natural calamities were an indicator of the victim’s sinfulness, but rather a call for all to repent. Luke 13:1-5 says,

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Again, note that these events occur throughout the New Testament/Church Age, not just the end. “Wars, famines, earthquakes, and anti-Christian forces were present in the first century AD, and they continue today…The church of every generation can expect to witness their occurrence.” Sadly, persecution is also part of the Church’s future, as it has been in the past.

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May 12, 2014

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