"What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3)
Are you ready for TEOTWAWKI?
That's an acronym for The End Of The World As We Know It. Pronounced "Tee-ought-walk-ee," it refers to some catastrophe (natural or man made, such as global war or some other doomsday scenario) that causes the total collapse of the world system. That phrase at the end sticks in the mind.
"As we know it."
That's huge because it envisions a day when the world "as we know it" will cease to exist. The Bible predicts a time in the last days when God will shake the nations so that so those things that cannot be shaken will remain (Hebrews 12:26-27). When Eugene Peterson paraphrased the last part of verse 27 in The Message, he said that God will shake the earth, "getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered."
Unshakable essentials. That says it all. God is shaking the earth so that we will figure out what matters most.
A brief glance at the first few verses of Matthew 24 helps us see what that "shaking" involves:
International Conflict (vv. 6-7a)
Natural Disasters (vv. 7b-8)
Fierce Persecution (v. 9)
Widespread Apostasy (vv. 10-12)
Worldwide Evangelism (vv. 13-14)
These "signs" are present to some degree in every generation and they will be especially visible as we approach the end of this age. The crucial question involves how close we may or may not be to those end-time events and ultimately to the return of Christ to the earth. Verse 8 warns us about the dangers of too much speculation. No one can say with certainty what the future holds.
Both the disciples (v. 3) and Jesus refer to "the end" (v. 14). That means that there is a time appointed by God in which the world "as we know it" will come to an end. The terrifying events of the Last Days will usher in the glorious Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth (Matthew 24:29-31). (For those wanting more detail, I wrote about this in The Last Days According to Jesus).
If we take no other comfort from the words of Jesus, we ought to rejoice that he clearly is the Lord of history and the master of all earthly circumstances. Because he is the Son of God, he could see clearly into the distant future. He knew about the wars that would ravage mankind, and he knew that his followers would be brutally attacked. He knew that many false messiahs would claim his name, and he also looked to a day when the true gospel would be spread across the earth. No wonder he could say, "See to it that you are not alarmed" (Matthew 24:6). That's a good word for times like these. The very next sentence reads: "Such things must happen." This is not a promise that we will be spared from suffering, but it is a declaration that hard times are foreknown by the Lord. They "must happen" because Almighty God has willed it so.
The world "as we know it" is coming to an end.
There are many things we know and many things we don't know about the future. This much is certain: Jesus is coming again. And his return may be sooner than we think.
Jesus is coming. Are you ready?
Our Lord and our God, we are
glad that this world as we know it will not last forever. We look
forward to a better day when Christ himself shall reign on the earth.
Until that day comes, help us live with our hearts lifted toward heaven,
waiting and watching for Jesus to come again. Amen.