Human fascination with the end of the world remains strong. One day as Jesus walked with his disciples through Jerusalem, he spilled the beans about the end. Not only did he describe the final day, but he gave his disciples the inside scoop on how to be ready.
The trigger for divulging all of this information was a disciple’s seemingly innocuous comment about the temple. Jesus’ response shocked them. Everything they beheld would be destroyed.
After describing the dark and dreadful nature of Jerusalem’s destruction and the events leading up to it, Jesus looked toward the end of all things.
He depicted that last day arriving unannounced, like a thief (Matthew 24:36-44). Inevitably love for his disciples led him to reveal how they could be prepared.
In his typical fashion, Jesus told a story. When the end comes, he would sit on his heavenly throne separating people one from another. Those people who provided food, drink, lodging, clothing, cared for the sick and visited prisoners would be welcomed into their heavenly inheritance (Matthew 25:31-46).
His words cause us to experience that ubiquitous vinyl record scratching we hear in movies indicating something is dreadfully wrong. Paul’s instruction immediately jumps to mind.
“God saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy” (Titus 3:5). Did Jesus contradict this? We discover clarity when we examine the greater context of Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus’ words, “No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6) and his assertion he “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), indicate Jesus understood our salvation depends upon him. So, why then did he associate salvation with acts of love? Perhaps an analogy can help.
Imagine an orchard where the owner is cutting down the dead trees. Whenever the owner sees fruit and leaves growing on a tree in his orchard, the tree is spared. The fruit and leaves do not make the tree alive, but they are evidence from the tree that it is alive.
In a similar way, demonstrations of love and good deeds do not cause us to be spiritually alive or belong to God, but they can be evidence of whether God’s person is living for God or if he or she has fallen away.
In writing to Christians about those claiming to be members of the Lord’s community, John noted, “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Or in Peter’s words to God’s chosen people, “If you do these things you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10,11).
The end is coming. Jesus has shown the way. We can be prepared. To those who are already his disciples, Jesus’ instructions are to be the loving people God desires. To the rest, he calls them to become his disciples.