People have always been interested in the future. The publicity of people like Jean Dixon, Nostradamus and Edward Cayce are just a few examples that show how much interest there is in knowing what is to come.
Some people treat Bible prophecy the same way. It often is driven by curiosity about the future, the feeling of superiority of knowing something someone else does not or a just plain vindictive nature that others will get what is coming to them. Is any of that really what it’s all about, though? Why does God write us a book about Him and His relationship to us, but devote between 1/4th and 1/3rd of it to prophecy?
Matthew 24 contains one of the key prophecies in the Bible. Often, it is called “The Olivet Prophecy”, as it was given on top of the Mount of Olives. The Book of Revelation holds the key to links in Matthew 24 and the Book of Daniel in order to create a more clear picture of the future. Please notice I said “more clear”. We only see as through a glass dimly (1Co 13:12), but that does not mean we do not see!
There is an interesting passage in Matthew:
37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Now, some will interpret that to mean that the way they were eating, drinking and marrying was wrong and sinful. I have no doubt that was the case, but is that the main theme of this passage?
I tell you, no, but it means they were carrying on their lives – oblivious to the danger that was coming upon them. This is backed up because Jesus commands us to “watch” in v 42. In fact, we are told to “watch” also in Mt 25:13; Mk 13:33, 35, 37; Lk 21:36; etc. If something is in the Bible once, it is important. If it is in the Bible twice, it is very important. How important, then, is it to watch?
That begs the question, though, of “Why watch?” Please take a look at Lk 12:36-46. We see two servants. One is faithful and watches, but the other parties as though his master isn’t coming soon. One was prepared, and the other was not. We see the same theme in the Parable of the 10 Virgins. Five were ready, and five were not.
What are we to be ready for? We need to be ready for two things:
1. The return of Jesus Christ to the earth. All of these parables point to “the master” returning. Either the servants (or virgins) were ready or they were not. The ones who were ready entered the Kingdom, and those who were not ready were shut outside.
What does it mean to be “ready”? We must repent, we must believe the Gospel, we must be baptized and we must be growing in holiness every day! Nothing less will do!
Jesus used two contemporary events in Luke 13 and then made a prophecy concerning the fate of those who do not repent. Pilate slaughtered some Galileans who were sacrificing. The other event was the crumbling of the Tower of Siloam, where 18 were killed.
Instead of blaming the victims, Jesus asked, “Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” His reply was, “Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (vv 4-5). This is a warning!
Indeed, many of those listening to Jesus’ words undoubtedly died in 69-70 AD when Jerusalem was besieged and fell. They were not ready! It should be a warning to us to be ready. The first step in being ready is to repent.
When we read Revelation, we should be mindful of repentance. We should realize that since the Garden of Eden, mankind has not done a very good job of ruling itself nor of taking care of the earth. This is the lesson human beings need to learn.
Adam and Eve chose self-rule. We must choose God’s rule. Ironically, even at its worst, we don’t see that many in Revelation repenting. We see only 144,000 out of Israel and an unnumbered mass of people coming out of the tribulation, but most, and especially the rulers, do not repent.
No, instead, the rulers, the great men, etc., say, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne” (Rev 6:16). This is the opposite of what God intends.
2. Give ourselves and others hope. Why do some repent during the Great Tribulation? Someone is there to interpret events for them! God doesn’t want people to be in despair.
Some, like the great men, rulers and rich men will be in despair. They will have a greater responsibility for the calamities that are occurring. However, some people will have heard the truth or might even know someone who knows the truth (but will probably be in hiding at that point).
When Christians go through these events, they will know their redemption is near (Lk 21:28). They will “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1Pe 3:15).
God wants to build His family. God wants everyone to have a chance at eternal life. In order for that to happen, believers have to be ready. They must repent and put their old lives behind them. They must be able to share their hope with others.
Even if others will not listen now, we don’t know how many will remember during the Great Tribulation, repent and believe.