This chapter is extremely similar to Mark 13 – which is not really surprising, since it describes the same speaker on the same topic! It is certainly possible that both the gospel writers derived material from a common source, or else one writer began with the other’s gospel in front of him. Both chapters are a good example of ‘compressed prophecy’, with some events occurring relatively soon, some in the far, far distance, and some perhaps being fulfilled more than once at different points in time. Here we listen to predictions about the AD 70 fall of Jerusalem, coupled with the very end of this age, when Jesus returns.
Nations will fight each other and there will be earthquakes and famines; but these are not distinctive enough on their own. In addition, there will be large-scale persecutions of Christian believers, fuelled by betrayals and hatred within families. The “Abomination That Causes Desolation” would have referred to the desecration of the Temple in 70 AD, when the Romans deliberately placed idols in the Holy Place and sacrificed pigs on the altars. But it may also point forward to a truly last-days event too.
For then, and for a time still in the future, God will moderate the duration of that period of persecution to a fairly short time, “for the sake of the elect” – his chosen ones. Looking ahead, it must refer to us too. And if we are eagerly awaiting the Messiah’s return (as we will be), we must not be deceived by false messiahs and false prophets, even if they perform real miracles (but from a different power source!). There will also be cosmic distress and signs in the stars and planets just before the real coming of Christ.
During the time of the great persecution – or persecutions – it speaks of many turning away from the faith and turning on one another to betray them. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold”. Are there already signs of this occurring today? Are people becoming more self-centred or less so? Are we swimming against that tide personally? The big ‘plus’ of the love of many growing cold is that the love of God’s people will stand out more in contrast – if indeed we do continue to show love. Philippians 2:15 describes us as shining like stars in a dark sky; now is our chance!
The gospel of the Kingdom must be preached to all people-groups too. On the Day of Judgment, God will have left the whole world with no excuse; every cultural group, no matter how remote, will have had the opportunity to respond to the gospel in their own language. The “Joshua Project” (https://www.joshuaproject.net/) estimates that, of the 17,433 people-groups in the world, 7,398 are unreached at present. This represents about 3.27 billion of the 7.83 billion people on earth. There are 6,713 languages, so we see the damage that the Tower of Babel did! But thanks to the Internet – making more and more people understand English – this is becoming less of a problem to the spread of the gospel. Once this has occurred, then Jesus could return at any time.
The Return of Jesus will not happen ‘in a corner’; it will be visible and evident to everyone on earth at the same time. Don’t be deceived by scams! Don’t be taken in by charismatically deceptive preachers, self-proclaiming their divinity! We, his elect, will be gathered from all over the earth to meet him in the air. When? It will be a surprise, just as it was to the people in Noah’s time and to Noah himself. The difference is that Noah was prepared. Similarly, we will be taken in an instant, whilst others will be left behind. It is our own responsibility to determine our ultimate destiny by how we relate to Christ now; it is no good waiting until then!
Until thieves do the decent thing and text you in advance of when they plan to break into your house, you will have to rely upon old-fashioned locks and bolts. In the same way, don’t expect any warning from heaven on the exact time of Jesus’ return – other than the general signs of the times that wise people take careful note of. In the view of scripture, preparation is more valuable than prediction! Be ready all the time and then you will be ready at the time.
JOB 35, 36 and 37
These are the last set of statements by a man, before God at last enters the stage. It is important to realise that, even though the Book of Job is inspired by the Holy Spirit, that does not mean that every statement by every person is factually or theologically true! (Since many things that Job says contradict what his friends say.) So, we have to be very careful and discerning when we read the bible; ask yourself: ‘what kind of literature is this?’ – poetry, prophecy, history, teaching, wisdom…? We can only decide whether an individual statement is correct if we compare it with other scriptures that are more certain. It is a foundational rule of biblical interpretation that you use what is clear, explicit, and unambiguous to explain what is more obscure, implicit, and uncertain.
So, some questions for you to think about from these three chapters:
- 35:3 – What is the point of living a righteous life?
- 35:6 – If you sin, how does that affect God?
- 36:2,3 – Does anyone need to defend God?
- 36:11 – Does obedience always lead to prosperity?
- 37:1-12 – Is God the original weatherman?
Elihu ends as God begins in the next few chapters: looking at the great power and wisdom of God.