In my Bible, each of three Gospels have a section with the same heading: Jesus Foretells the Future. Isn’t that what we all want to know? What’s going to happen between now and the time Jesus comes back? What are the signs that we’re almost there? How will we know that we are living in the very last chapters of this earth’s history?
The disciples wanted to know, too. Jesus had told them He was leaving. Well, when can we expect you to be back? they wanted to know.
If you’re looking for an answer here, I do not have it. We are given much prophecy about the future from Jesus Himself, from the Old Testament prophets, and from the apostles, but Jesus said explicitly that no one knows the day that He will again appear here. No one except the Father.
In many ways, we are like the Jewish nation who waited so long for the Messiah to be born, looking into prophecy, waiting, looking forward to the day when the Redeemer would arrive. We are doing the same now.
But to know the exact time? If we try to sort it all out, we quickly run into seeming contradictions and confusion. Even those who devote their lives to studying prophecy cannot agree. I suspect that is because there are many things we simply will not understand until the events actually play out. Then we will be like some of the folks we read about in Scriptures who suddenly said, “Aha! That’s what was prophesied long ago. And now it’s happened!”
I used to avoid reading those prophecies of what we call “end times.” I saw it only as grim, scary stuff. I didn’t want to have to think about what was coming.
But, of course, now we’re reading about all of it in the newspapers and on the Internet. The things Jesus foretold are happening today. And for many generations, people have been reading prophecy and looking around at the world and seeing everything Jesus foretold come to pass.
Jesus did not know when He would be back. But He could look ahead at the world’s history and tell His disciples what we can expect. His foretelling is recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.
And when we sit with the Spirit and read these three passages carefully, we find them full of hope.
In the midst of natural disasters, man-made horrors, and severe persecution of Christ’s followers (I don’t need to elaborate. You can read these chapters or look around at the world today), we find hope.
Where is there hope in all of that?
As Jesus talks of these hard times, two of the three Gospel writers record these words from Him: “But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.” (Mark 13:8)
Birth pains. The beginning of the new!
As Jesus looked ahead into the future human eyes could not see, He wanted to prepare His followers for what was coming. But He also saw events on earth through an even longer-range lens; He saw our history within the scope of God’s eternal plans.
And thus He saw the birth of the new—the birth we wait for and are counting on. He looked beyond the terror and agony of these times to the coming birth of a new world.
He said that when we see these things come to pass, we can know that these are birth pains, increasing in intensity (and pain) until at last, at last, the new is born.
Yes, we are looking forward to the new, but…it’s hard, isn’t it, to look beyond all the terrible things Jesus foretold? How do we live through the birth pains?
Come back tomorrow.
I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.