WATCH FOR CHRIST’S RETURN
Guard against deception by false messiahs. (23–25)
Why do books like “The Da Vinci Code,” TV shows like “The X-Files” or movies like “National Treasure” garner people’s attention? The idea of hidden information “out there” that will make us rich, explain the universe or take us to a new level of existence is a powerful drive.
Jesus warned His disciples the same drive for secret, hidden knowledge will fool people into following false messiahs. Every few years, someone makes predictions on the end of the world, the return of Jesus or the rise of the Antichrist based on obscure information they believe they found in Scripture or some personal revelation they say came from God.
It has been noted the best way to detect counterfeit currency is to study genuine currency so you know it by sight and feel. Likewise the best way to guard against messianic pretenders is to study Scripture and to know Jesus as Lord. It is also helpful to know the kinds of mistakes counterfeiters make. Jesus gave His followers clues to discerning false messiahs.
He cautioned false messiahs would come from remote or hidden places. Those out in the wilderness or cloistered in unknown inner rooms would not be accessible to the common people.
Creation itself will announce the return of Christ. (26–29)
Much of the imagery is figurative. Yes, there may be lightning, but lightning could be a symbol for how quickly it happens or that it will cover the entire arc of the sky.
The image of vultures is an illustration of death and decay. It likely refers to a sign most first-century Jews would understand. When you see vultures gathered, you know something has died. In the same way, when these signs appear you will know Jesus has returned. Alternately, it could be a double entendre alluding to the eagle image that appeared on the standards of Roman legions.
The stars falling from the heavens do not mean the stars will rain down upon the earth. More likely, Jesus is using understandable terminology to describe an event that will be beyond our imagination.
The return of Christ will be unmistakable and obvious. (30–31)
Unlike the false messiahs who have obscure origins or concealed operations, the return of the true Messiah will be clear to all.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus often asked people not to share information about Him with others (Matt. 17:8–10; Mark 3:11–13, 7:35–37; Luke 8:55–56, 9:20–22). When He returns, everyone will know.
Again, the imagery is figurative. The four winds are a symbol for the entire world as is “from one end of the sky to the other.” Will there be actual trumpets blasting majestic notes, or will there be sounds for which we don’t have accurate words to describe? Will everyone on all parts of the globe be able to see Jesus descend from the sky? We simply don’t know how, but everyone will know without a doubt that He is returning. Jesus will announce His return in dramatic ways.
As we live in the age between Jesus’ first coming and the Second Coming, all we need to know is He will return, it will be obvious to all and He will come in all His power and might to bring this “in between” age to a close.
By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.