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What Jesus Really Predicted About the World’s End

“And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be announced to the whole world, as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14 Based on this verse, many believe that “the end of the world” will not come until the Church has witnessed to every people group on planet earth. I’d greatly love to see this task accomplished, and when it is, something additionally amazing might take place on earth (just completing that task is wonderful enough!). But in Matthew 24, Jesus is not giving us conditions for His return nor the world's end.

First, the Apostle Paul says that the Gospel “has been preached to every creature under heaven.” (Colossians 1:23). Paul said this in the past tense: the Gospel “has been” preached to every creature. Either Paul is wrong, or we were wrong about how we understood Jesus’ prediction. (I will share a few more thoughts on Colossians 1:23 in a minute.) Secondly, Matthew 24 is not about Jesus's second coming but His first coming. The events Jesus predicts in Matthew 24 would vindicate Him as Messiah to the first-century Jewish world and generations to come. Thirdly, the goal of the Law, the Torah, the story God was writing in and through Israel, was not the destruction of the planet but the redemption of the Cosmos. If the world ends without being renewed, God has failed to keep His promises. God said to Abraham, the patriarch of Israel: “In you and in your family, I am going to bless all nations.” (Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 26:4). He didn't say, “one day, I am going to blow this whole thing up and take you all to another place called Heaven.” Heaven and earth were made for each other like a woman is made for man; they are two complementary halves of God’s creation. To destroy the earth is to rob Heaven. What Jesus did predict in Matthew 24 was His vindication as Israel’s Messiah. Jesus had upstaged the Temple at every turn during His three-year campaign and ministry. Do you need healing? Don't go to the temple; go to Jesus. Do you need forgiveness from God? Jesus has the authority to grant that too. Do you want to belong to the true Israel of God? Jesus claimed that He was redefining Israel around Himself, even ritually baptizing Israelites into His movement! This upstaging was radically dangerous for Jesus as it made the public claim that the Temple and all its activities were redundant and unnecessary. This claim is fighting talk for those who wielded their power and influence through the temple and its pageantry. This claim is why the leaders in Jerusalem so sharply opposed Jesus and why the power and authority of Jesus to cast out demons and heal the sick is so vital to His movement. Anyone attempting to upstage the Temple had better come equipped with proof of their authority from God. Jesus provided the needed evidence. But the final evidence for Jesus’ vindication would be the destruction of the Temple and the sacking of Jerusalem. When these horrible events took place, every honest Jew would have to acknowledge that God’s presence was not in the Temple or it couldn’t be destroyed as it had been.

Furthermore, the non-believing Jews would have to reconsider Jesus’ claim that “something greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6) because the healings, forgiveness, and exorcisms are continuing in the community of Jesus' followers. Now, it would appear that if you want to get what the Temple used to offer, you would have to find the Jesus people. And thus, the events of 70 AD, which Jesus predicted in Matthew 24, vindicated Jesus as Messiah and Lord, the center of the community of God’s people. But what about the preaching of the Gospel to all tribes and tongues? The Apostle Paul doesn't seem to flinch when he claims that the Gospel has been preached “to every creature under heaven.” Colossians 1:23 RSV. Paul could not mean that every individual had heard an explanation of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for them. Paul makes a point in his letter to the Roman Church that he desires to preach where the Gospel has not yet been heard (Romans 15:20). So, what can Paul mean when He says that all creation has heard? Jesus reminded Israel that God called Her to be “the Light of the world” and “a city set on a hill” for all the world to see. The prophet Isaiah prophesied that “in the last days” (meaning, at the culmination of the story God was writing with Israel), “The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; So that He may teach us about His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.” Isaiah 2:2-3 NASB When Jesus died on Calvary, He became that light to the nations and the city on the hill, saying, “This is Your God. Come and know Him.” Something happened in the Cosmos on the cross and through the resurrection. The keys of death and Hades were taken from the devil and given to Jesus (Revelation 1:18). All creation knows that Jesus is Lord at some level and can appeal to Him and lay hold of Him wherever they are. The child of God can set the captives free in the bush of Africa and the streets of Manhattan just the same because Jesus is Lord, and the whole cosmos knows it. The “end” Jesus predicted was the fall of Jerusalem, and that end did not come before the Gospel was preached to the whole cosmos through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Mission accomplished. God established His Kingdom on the temple mount in Jerusalem as promised and now “the end” of natural Jeruslem would come and Jesus would be vindicated.

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