The Importance Of Knowing Christ
THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING CHRIST
This chapter is one of the most discussed, and I believe one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible.
- Many people want to apply what is said here to modern day events or events that have not even taken place yet.
I believe that these words spoken by Jesus were intended for His disciples in the first century and were intended to prepare them for an event that will take place in their lifetime.
- And like all of Jesus teachings this passage has some very important lessons for us today.
Now, what I am going to do is cover the first 36 verses of this chapter and then this evening I am going to show a video that shows the historical fulfillment of what Jesus is talking about in this chapter; and that video will help us understand why Jesus says some of the things He says here.
Now, as we go into this keep in mind that Jesus has already touched on the idea that the Jewish nation and religious system was heading for impending doom.
- In chapter 21, He used a fig tree to illustrate the destruction that was coming on the Jewish nation because of their “un-fruitfulness.”
- At the end of chapter 21 Jesus told the “The Parable of the Tenants” where the religious leaders of the nation were unsuitable to lead…and as a result they would be destroyed and the vineyard taken away.
- And in the 3 verses just before this Jesus says that “Jerusalem’s house is being left desolate.”
- So several times now Jesus has already mentioned an impending judgment that will come on these people because of their failure to be faithful to God.
- And with that in mind, let’s begin in verse 1.
Matt 24:1-2 And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.
Mark says that “One of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!
Now we don’t know for sure what prompted one of Jesus’ disciples to make this statement about the temple.
- Maybe he is simply expressing part of the problem.
- You see, it could be that the people marveled more in the buildings than they did the God who was supposed to be worshipped there.
- We see that sometimes even today…people taking more pride in the building than in honoring God.
But at any rate, one of His disciples says, “Jesus, isn’t this an impressive place. Look at how huge and grandiose these stones and buildings are.”
Now, look at Jesus’ answer; vs. 2. And He answered and said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
- Jesus’ answer had to have shaken them to their very roots.
- When Jesus speaks of stones here he is not talking about what we might call “rocks” or bricks.
- He is talking about some huge stones here.
- And Jesus says, “Someone is going to come and tear every single one of them down.”
Now that is amazing and probably a better term would be “shocking!”
- To the Jews the temple is where God’s presence on earth was.
- And to the Jewish mind, the day the temple no longer exists is the day the world ends.
- The Jews could not conceive of a history beyond the temple.
- In fact, the question the disciples ask next indicates that their concern is that their world is going to come to an end.
- Look at vs. 3:
And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
- In other words, “When will the temple be destroyed…thus ending the Jewish dispensation…or the time in which the Jews were God’s people.
- When will that happen…and what will be the signs?
- This is the event that Jesus discusses here.
- The destruction of the Temple and the Jewish system of religion.
So, look at what Jesus says…and as we go through this, I want you to notice that what Jesus says here is more exhortation than it is future telling.
- He is going to say, “Go here, do this, watch for this.”
- This is a chapter telling disciples how to behave and act and live.
- And the most obvious purpose of the discourse is to safe guard Christ’s followers from the terrible events that are to come when the temple is destroyed.
- But beneath the obvious lies the primary purpose and that is to promote faith and obedience in times of distress and upheaval.
- To promote faith and obedience when your world seems like it is literally falling apart.
- This chapter was never intended to promote intellectual speculation about when the world was going to end.
- The purpose of this chapter is to tell us that “when your world seems like it is falling apart, the only way you are going to survive is by knowing where true security really is.”
Let’s read 4-14. Now, keep in mind, the disciples have asked about “when the temple is going to be destroyed…and what the signs of that destruction will be.
Matt 24:4-14 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 “And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. 10 “And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. 11 “And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. 12 “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved. 14 “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.
Now in this text there are three calls for these disciples. Number one is a call for Perception.
- He says, “See to it that no one misleads you.”
- Jesus says that “there are going to be a lot of false prophets come up.”
- There are going to be wars and rumors of wars.
- And there are going to be earthquakes and famine.
- Jesus puts all those kinds of things in the category of non-signs and says, “That is not what you are looking for.”
- So there is a call for Perception here to his disciples.
Second, there is a call of Persecution.
- He says, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.
- And the reason for their suffering will be their association with Jesus.
- He says, in vs. 9, “on account of My name.”
- But, in verse 14, God is going to use this time of hardship and persecution to spread the gospel to all the nations.
And that brings us to the third call to the disciples and that is a call for Perseverance.
- In verse 13 He says, “But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.
- In other words, it is a call to remain faithful regardless of what happens.
So here in these verses Jesus tells these disciples that prior to the time that the temple is destroyed they are going to see all these false prophets…there is going to be a time of persecution…
- And when this persecution does come…use it to testify of Christ.
- And no matter what they do to you…remain faithful.
Now we come to a warning that I think was specially intended for the saints in Jerusalem. Look at verse 15-25.
“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; 17 let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; 18 and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. 19 “But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days! 20 “But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; 21 for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. 22 “And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. 23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24 “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25 “Behold, I have told you in advance.
Now it is amazing what people can find in these verses.
- A lot of it hinges on that little phrase, at the beginning of vs. 15: “the abomination of desolation.”
- What does that mean?
But before we start answering that question, look at the three words that come before: “When you see.”
- You ought to underline that.
- What Jesus is talking about is going to happen in the lifetime of the people He is talking too.
Now what does He mean by the “abomination of desolation”?
- Well, “Abomination of Desolation” comes from the book of Daniel.
- And in the book of Daniel it refers to “a detestable thing that destroys.”
- And if you will turn over to Luke 21 and look at verse 20, Luke will clear this up for us.
- Look what he says in Luke 21:20:
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.
And look at what they are supposed to do: 21 “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
When they saw Jerusalem surrounded by “armies” then they would know that the temple was soon to be destroyed.
- And did you know that less than 40 years after Jesus spoke these words the Romans came into Palestine and they surrounded the city and the city was completely destroyed in AD 70.
- In fact, as the temple was burned, the gold in the temple melted between the cracks of the great stones and the soldiers literally tore every stone apart just like Jesus said they would so they could get every last piece of gold out from between the cracks.
- The event that Jesus is talking about here in this passage is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Army.
Now go back to Matthew 24 and look at verse 15 again.
- Jesus says “When you see the “abomination of desolation”…when you see “a detestable thing that destroys”….when you see the “armies surrounding the city”…Jesus says, “Let those who are in Judea flee!”
- “Don’t go back and get your valuables. If you are in the city, get out.”
- “If you are out of the city, don’t go in.”
- “If you are pregnant or if you are nursing when this happens it will be even more difficult to escape.”
- “And pray that it does not come in the winter…because the cold will make it more difficult to travel.”
And in verse 21 Jesus says that the “tribulation” that is about to fall on the city of Jerusalem that nothing before or since has ever been like it in terms of suffering.
Eusebius, a church historian, says that the Christians did exactly what Jesus said here.
- When the Romans started to surround the city, they remembered the warnings of Jesus, and the got out of town.
- And they went across the mountains to a city called Pella and they were spared.
But that is not what most of the people did.
- What most of the people did was they got all of their valuables and they ran into the city.
- The Romans surrounded Jerusalem.
- They set up a blockade keeping all food and supplies out of the city.
- And what happened next was the most horrible case of starvation and persecution and famine that the world has ever seen.
- And the video that I will show this evening will confirm this.
Now let’s read on.
- Now remember, they had asked how they would know this was going to happen. And He told them. But then He says something else. Vs. 29-36.
“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, 30 and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
32 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away. 36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
People try to make these verses say all kinds of things.
- But everything we have just read is still talking about the destruction of Jerusalem
Look at verse 34. He says, ““Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
- Remember back in verse 4 they asked Him, “When will these things happen?”
- Here He says, “These things, all of these things will happen in your generation.”
You say, what about this cosmic imagery in verse 29, “the sun and the moon and the stars and all of that?”
- What you will find is, that imagery is “language of judgment.”
- In the O.T. God used that kind of language to tell a nation that they were about to be judged.
- And what He was telling them is that their “world…their universe as they know it, would be dismantled.”
- So, when Jesus spoke these words, these disciples understood that Jerusalem and the Jewish nation was coming under the judgment of God…and that their whole universe as they knew it was about to be shaken.
It is the same with verses 30, where He says, “The Son of man coming on the clouds.”
- That is another image common in Jewish writing to talk about judgment. You find it in Isaiah 19:1…… in reference to Egypt.
In this passage Jesus is describing the destruction of Jerusalem.
- Because of the Jews’ unfaithfulness to God…and because of their rejection of the Messiah…of Christ…God will and has destroyed the temple …as well as the Jewish dispensation.
For centuries God’s presence was in the temple.
- The temple had been the gathering place for all the scattered chosen people of the world who were seeking God.
- But the temple is about to be destroyed.
- And God is not going to work through one nation any more.
- God is now going to reach out to all the ends of the earth.
- And the gathering point is not going to be a building.
- The gathering point is going to be the “Son of God.”
- It will be “Christ” who unites them together.
- People will not seek the presence of God by going to Jerusalem and looking for a building.
- But they are going to find God’s presence in Jesus Christ when they worship and adore him.
These are hard things to understand. Even so, there are many lessons found in this chapter. Let me quickly share two with you.
- First of all, this passage stresses once again how important it is to know Christ and trust in His word and the advantage that comes with knowing His word.
- Forty years after Jesus spoke these words some of these disciples would be in Jerusalem when the Roman armies would come.
- And because of Christ and the knowledge of His word…they would know what to do to be saved.
- They would know what to look for.
- They would know to “get out of the city” and not go back.
- And when destruction came on Jerusalem and the temple…they would know what was really going on.
- Everyone else would just see all that would happen as an act of cruelty by the Romans.
- They would just see the surface of it all and see it as nothing more than man against man.
- But these disciples would see more than that.
- They would see God fulfilling His plan.
- They would see God making changes.
- And they would know what to do.
And it is the same for us.
- A knowledge of Christ and His word gives us a completely different perspective on things than what the world has.
- A knowledge of the word helps us to see death as a beginning….while the world sees death as an end.
- A knowledge of the word causes us to see hardships and trials as a consequence of sin and a call to repentance, or a test of faith, or a building of character or an opportunity to preach Christ….while the world sees it as “bad luck”.
- A knowledge of the word causes us to see the sun and moon and stars as a proclamation of God and His power…while the world sees them as the result of a coincidence…
- A knowledge of the Word helps us to understand sin and its many consequences…while the world doesn’t understand it at all.
- A knowledge of His Word will keep us from being deceived by those who are in the world.
- A knowledge of His Word will tell us Who it is that saves and what we must do…while the world foolishly tries to save itself…only to perish.
- A knowledge of His Word affords us peace and hope, and comfort, and understanding while the world has none of those things.
This passage once again reminds us of the importance and benefits of knowing Christ and His word…and believing what His word tells us.
- Because these disciples did…they were saved.
- And if we do the same…we will be too.
- It is so important to know the Word of God.
- The second lesson is: “Don’t delay.”
- Jesus says in this passage that “when they see the Abomination of Desolation”…when they see the impending destruction coming…flee!
- “Don’t wait…don’t go back…don’t hesitate.”
- “Go as fast as you can.”
- “The slightest delay could cost you your life.”
Well, today the slightest delay could cost you your soul.
- Often people say, “Well, I will wait to come to Christ tomorrow…I have some things I want to do first.”
- Unfortunately for far too many “eternity” comes before “tomorrow” ever does.
- You never know when you will step into “eternity.”
- Like some of these people you might think you still have some time.
- Well, the door may shut sooner than you think…and your “delaying” could cause you to be lost forever.
- “Don’t wait…don’t hesitate…an hour from now may be too late.”
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023