“The way things are going these days, you just have to think Jesus is going to return soon.” This is something I hear all the time. And while there’s a way in which this statement can be a statement of profound hope, more often than not, it’s a statement of despair, a statement made by people who look out at this world of sin and sorrow and conclude it’s all a lost cause, so Jesus might as well call it a day and bring us home to heaven. The statement of people who look out on a world of violence and perversion and lose all hope. But for such despairing hearts, let’s have a little perspective.
In our reading from Matthew today, Jesus weaves together prophecies about the day of His return and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD at the hands of the Romans. Jesus wants us to see these events as connected. So to understand the day of mankind’s judgment, let’s look at the day of unbelieving Israel’s judgment.
In 70 AD, the Romans utterly destroyed Jerusalem in an unfathomably vicious manner. They burned every building in the city but three to the ground, those three belonging to the Herodian, Roman-sponsored government. They raided the temple and tore it to pieces where it still stands in rubble today. The Jewish historian Josephus reports that, over the course of the siege over a million people died. Whether that number is accurate or not, it’s indisputable that an unfathomable number of men, women, and children were slaughtered. Likewise many other were sold into slavery where there were certainly victimized in countless ways.
All of this is to say, you think the world is a lost cause today? Imagine what it looked like then–more violence, more hatred, more bloodshed and idolatry and sexual abuse and exploitation at the hands of wicked people. And yet, when everything looked lost, Christ built His church. In many ways, through the destruction of the temple, the Holy Spirit accelerated the growth of the church, spreading the Jews throughout the Roman empire and then bringing them to faith in Christ through the seeds of the Gospel that men like St. Paul had been planting. From the embers of unimaginable destruction, God brought forth victory and brought salvation to countless saints of every tribe and tongue.
So when we look at a world filled with child drag queens and abortion-shouting celebrities, when we look at a world filled with church bombings and hatred, violence and persecution, should we repent? Of course. Should we cry out for God to show us mercy? Absolutely. When we look at the wickedness of this earth, should we conduct ourselves as though Christ is returning soon? Of course. But should we despair and conclude that everything is a lost cause, so Christ might as well get His return over with? Absolutely not. He has conquered greater evils before. He can certainly do it again.
So when you see the sorrows of this day, be vigilant. Be watchful. But don’t for a second be despondent. You belong to the God who has already won, already triumphed. Wait faithfully for His return and be at peace, knowing that there is no wicked world He cannot tear to pieces with His righteousness and His kingdom.