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We often think about what will happen in the end. What do we have to be on the lookout for? Knowing what happens, in the end, is the thing that gives us the right perspective to live well in the meantime, totally unlike the world around us.

In this brief parable, Jesus uses a fig tree as a metaphor. He does it several times in the gospels for different reasons. But it’s something everyone would’ve been very familiar with because fig trees were everywhere, and Jesus paints a picture of the end.

He and His disciples just left the Temple, which was imposing and permanent. It was a religious symbol but also a cultural icon. It was impossible to imagine a world without it, like the White House or the Capitol.

One of the disciples is commenting on the buildings, and Jesus says that the whole thing will be destroyed one day. For those people, that would’ve been the ultimate cataclysm. So, they did what we would do. Brace for impact.

What do we need to be on the lookout for to get ready?

Matthew 24
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming an the end of age? 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.

We never think we’d fall for this. But it’s way more subtle than we could ever imagine. A false messiah is this: “I offer salvation from ____ if you’ll put your faith and trust in me.” This can be a person, a political leader, or a thing, like our pursuit of success, wealth, power, or control. We ALL fall for false messiahs time after time.

Matthew 24
6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
 9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
29 Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
30 Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

The peoples of the earth will mourn? We could read this as “the nations of the earth” or the powers of the earth. What are they mourning? The end of their reign. The end of their power.

Matthew 24
32 Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 36 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Soon, but only the Father.

 So, Jesus’ disciples ask, “When will this happen, and how can we know when we have to be on the lookout?” And Jesus goes on for a while but doesn’t answer the question.

And then, He says that no one can know. This is very unsatisfying for us, but it forces us to ask a better question: How should we live with the end in mind?

When you begin to see the signs, get ready, and make sure you’re living with the end in mind. And you can ALWAYS see the signs, so BE ready. Live ready.

Think about that verse about wars and rumors of wars. Whenever a war happens, we think, “This is it. This is the one.” But the truth is that there have always been wars and rumors of wars since the moment Jesus spoke those words.

We often think about living with the end in mind as being doomsday preparation. Build a shelter, bolt the doors, stockpile supplies, prepare to defend ourselves, and look out for ourselves and our own.

What Jesus has shown us in the other “in the meantime” parables is that living as a citizen of His kingdom in the meantime is precisely the opposite of that. Because instead of trying to figure out when the end is and when we should get ready, we have the opportunity to live with the end in mind all of our days.

Whether we are the last generation or there are many generations to go. Not as fearful, afraid, looking out for ourselves, but with open hands and hearts.

This is the reason Jesus tells us about the end.

When you know you have a limited quantity of something, you treat it differently.

So, here’s what we know about the end:

  1. Jesus will return, and it will be impossible for us to miss.
  2. Jesus gets the final word.
  3. Death is not the end.
  4. And because of all this, we don’t have to be afraid.
1 Thessalonians 4
16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Listen to that again… therefore encourage each other with these words.

So, we live with the end in mind: open hands, open hearts. We have the power and perspective to do that because of who Jesus is, what He has accomplished, and what He will be in the end. And we continually remind ourselves and each other of what is true because the difficulty of this world makes it easy to lose sight.

And that’s the story we find ourselves in.

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