Jesus tells us about the signs to watch for that will indicate the end of the age. He also says that it will take some people by surprise.
As Jesus was leaving the Court of the Gentiles through the east gate, one of us went to him and exclaimed, “Master, look at those magnificent buildings and the huge blocks of stone they’re made of!”
Jesus responded, “Look again at those wonderful buildings. They will all be demolished; not a single block will be left in place.”
Later Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley from the temple and four of us (myself, James, John, and Andrew) came to him in private. I asked, “Tell us, When will all this happen? What sort of sign can you give us so we’ll know that they are about to take place?”
Jesus warned us against those who would try to deceive us. He said, “Many will claim to speak for me, saying, “I am he,” and lead many astray. Don’t be alarmed when you hear of wars, both real and threatened. These things must happen but that doesn’t mean that the end has finally come. Nations will continue to war against each another, kingdoms will attack one other. There will be earthquakes in various parts of the world, and a scarcity of food. These are the beginning of birth pains. You must be on your guard! The authorities will turn you over to local Jewish law courts and you will be beaten in their synagogues. You will stand trial before provincial governors and kings, but this will provide you the opportunity to tell them about me. But before the end comes the gospel must be preached to all people. So when you are arrested and taken to court, don’t worry ahead of time about what to say. In situations like this God will tell you exactly what to say. In fact, it won’t be you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (1-11)
“Brothers will hand over their own brothers to be killed, and fathers their own children. Young people will rise up against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everybody because of me. Only those who never turn back will be saved. The day will come when you will see the ‘abomination of desolation’ standing in the sacred place where he should not be. (Pay careful attention to this.) That’s when those in Judea should go quickly to the hill country for places to hide. If someone is up on the roof, he shouldn’t waste time going down into the house to gather his belongings. If he is out in the field he shouldn’t come back in to get something else to wear. It will be terrible for women who are pregnant or nursing when all this happens. And pray that your flight for safety won’t be in winter.
“Those will be days of distress greater than the world has ever known since the beginning of God’s creation. And there never will be anything like it again. Unless the Lord shortens the number of those days, no one will survive. However, for the sake of those he has chosen, the Christian community, he has shortened that time. In those days if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’ don’t believe him, for false messiahs and false prophets will show up and perform signs and wonders. Their goal is to deceive, if possible, the very ones God has chosen. So be on your guard! I have told you ahead of time what will happen. (12-23)
“But something even worse is yet to come. In the days that follow that time of suffering, the sun will grow dark and the moon will give no light. The stars will fall from the sky and the heavens will be shaken. At that point everyone will see the Son of Man descending on the clouds with great power and glory. That is when he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“Here is a lesson you can learn from the fig tree. When its branches become tender and begin to sprout leaves, you know that summer is just around the corner. In the same way, when that period of great distress begins (and I’ve just described it), you will know that the temple is about to be destroyed. What I tell you is true. Everything I have told you will happen before the people who are now alive, die. Heaven and earth will disappear, but what I say will remain forever. However no one will know the exact time, not even the angelic hosts or even the Son himself. No one but the Father knows that. So stay on watch; we simply do not know when the time will come.
“This entire scenario is like a man who took a long journey, leaving his affairs in the hands of his servants. He gave specific instructions to each one and told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. Like the gate keeper, you too must keep watch. You never know when the Son of Man will return. It could be in the evening, or later around midnight, or perhaps before dawn or daybreak. If you don’t watch, he might arrive and find you sleeping. What I say now to you, I say to everyone: Stay awake.” (24-37)