“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:35-36)
We all hear from time to time that the world is about to end. The most famous case in recent years might be 2012, when the Mayan calendar ended and thus many thought the world would end in that year also. (Yet we’re all still here.) I can also remember hearing that this was it back in 2008 when the economic crisis was happening. The person who was sure the recession was a sign that the end was near cited Revelation: “…I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand” (6:5). Since the verses following this passage speak of obvious economic hardships (6:6) and then “an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him” (6:8), the conclusion is made that we will know that the end of the world is about to happen when hard economic times were upon us.
Without going into a deep study of the symbolism of Revelation (which would take a whole year’s worth of articles), and without pointing out in detail that there have been far worse economic hardships that the world has gone through than what this country experienced over the past few years, it would be good to point out that in order for us to know that Revelation 6 is teaching us that these economic hardships mean the end of the world is nigh, we should see if this interpretation contradicts any other plain passages found in God’s Word which speak of the end of the world. After all, “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Therefore, if any conclusion we reach about a difficult-to-understand passage in Revelation (or anywhere in the Bible) contradicts something that is made plainly clear in other parts of God’s Word, then we know that our conclusion is not correct.
Keeping this in mind, let’s examine Matthew 24:35-36. After saying that, Jesus then went on to describe His coming as similar to when the flood came, when no one was prepared when the flood suddenly came upon them (vs. 37-41). After giving that analogy, He then warned, “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think he will” (vs. 42-44).
Does it sound like Jesus thought there would be signs to let us know that He was about to come back and end the world? Obviously not, so we know that the symbolism of Revelation 6 (as well as the rest of the symbolism contained in that book) should not be interpreted as signs that the end of the world is coming soon. If God was going to let us know that the end was near, His Son would not have compared his coming to a thief surprising an unsuspecting homeowner.
Some will say, “But what of all the signs mentioned earlier in Matthew 24? What about the talk of ‘wars and rumors of wars,’ and how ‘that is not yet the end’? What about the gospel being preached to the whole world before the end comes? What about the ‘abomination of desolation’? Aren’t these signs which Jesus is giving us to let us know when he is close to coming back?” These are understandable questions, especially in light of the clear references to Christ’s second coming alluded to earlier in the second half of Matthew 24. Lord willing, we’ll study those questions in next week’s column. Hope to see you then!