Every night I read to my 3 year old daughter, and whenever I turn the page she loves to make this comment, “It’s not the end yet.” To the casual observer this might seem strange, but I can assure you it’s literally the cutest thing. It’s as if she’s comforting herself with the hope that the story is going to continue by reminding herself that’s it’s not over. Now my daughter doesn’t know it, but Jesus used the exact same method to comfort his disciples.
When he was asked how they would know when the end was coming, Jesus responds, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 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.” (Matthew 24:4-6)
So according to Jesus things are going to continue to get worse but that shouldn’t be cause for concern for us. You’ll hear of wars and rumors of wars, see that you are not alarmed. Jesus knows that our natural inclination will be to fret, to worry and to completely lose it when we constantly hear of the horrible things happening all around us. We’ll convince ourselves that this must be the end, that it can’t possibly get any worse than this, and to that Jesus responds, “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matthew 24:8) See that you are not alarmed.
And the truth that Jesus gives to calm our nerves is this: the end is not yet. Jesus clearly has a warped since of comfort. You think things are bad now? Don’t worry, they’re only going to get worse! As Donald Grey Barnhouse says, “These words are either the words of a madman or they are the words of God.”
How can we possibly not be alarmed when we turn on the news and hear of the atrocities being committed every day? I find several truths at work in Jesus’ words here to his friends.
These events haven’t surprised Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t want us to be alarmed at the unhinging of our world through all sorts of wars, famines, natural disasters and corruption. These things are not only possibilities, but necessities, “for this must take place.” Jesus isn’t surprised, and that in of itself is very comforting. Just as we trust the pilot of a plane who calmly tells us not to worry but turbulence is on the way, we can trust that Jesus knows what the disciples will face and yet wants to comfort them. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
These events haven’t overwhelmed Jesus.
Wars without worry, famines without fretting, disaster without distress. Jesus’ words of unnatural comfort in the midst of unrelenting conflict are a stark contrast to our own desires for self-protection and self-preservation. But with the promise of problems comes another guarantee: the end is not yet. Jesus doesn’t want us to feel overwhelmed by the troubles of this world, because they haven’t overwhelmed him. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) No matter what happens in this life, no matter what pain you experience or what problems you face, Jesus wants you to know that he is greater still. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
These events haven’t delayed Jesus.
The world sees our problems as a sign that God has simply given up, but according to Jesus they’re actually proof that he’s still saving, “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 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.” (Matthew 24:12-14) It turns out that Jesus has this ambitious desire for his kingdom to be proclaimed in every nook and cranny of the earth. And so the end hasn’t come yet because Jesus is still busy bringing comfort to the afflicted. He’s not delaying his return, but pursuing each and every one of his children to the ends of the earth. Peter makes this clear, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) So hear the comfort found in the words of Jesus: our current conflicts are reminders that this is not the end. May we be quick to care for and comfort the hurting, and yet quicker still to share the good news of the gospel.
And in the midst of our conflicts may we embrace the words of Jesus: See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.