Matthew 24:3-14 (ESV)
3 As he sat 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?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The disciples came to Jesus privately and asked him two questions. First, “When will these things be?” referred to Jesus’ previous prediction of the destruction of the temple. Second, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The disciples believed these two events would happen at or around the same time. Their questions led to the next two chapters of text in Matthew, known as the Olivet Discourse, named after the place where Jesus’ teaching occurred, on the Mount of Olives. The disciples knew the words of Zechariah the prophet, who foretold that Jerusalem would be destroyed and the Lord would return on the Mount of Olives – just where Jesus happened to be at the time. Nevertheless, Jesus’ response to the question of the end of the age was “not yet.” Many things needed to occur first, including the gospel being proclaimed throughout the world (v. 14). It is interesting to note that up to this point in Matthew’s biography, Jesus is the one who preaches the gospel. Now, Jesus hints to his disciples that his followers would be the ones to finish the work he began in bringing the good news to all the earth’s inhabitants.
What must it have been like for the disciples gathered with Jesus as he proclaimed these words? Can you imagine the shock they felt when Jesus said things wouldn’t wrap up until the gospel is proclaimed throughout the world? They were just a small band of followers, waiting for the Messiah to establish his kingdom. They may have thought, “Are you kidding, Jesus? How are we going to get the gospel to the entire world? This is a task no one can handle!” And yet two thousand years later, we live in a world where the gospel has spread throughout the earth and changed countless people, families, governments, and groups. Still, there’s more to be done! God wants his people to preach the good news of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ to those who would turn to him in repentance and faith. If you haven’t been very successful in evangelism, pray that God would bring you someone to share with today! And if you are thinking, “How will I do this?” Remember it’s his work, not yours! If we are willing, God can do wonderful things through us, his followers.