9 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
[Instead of just a picture today is a short video of the Persecution of Christians in Sudan- which has divisive elections coming up.]
Video of Persecution of Christians in Sudan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Klf12SJN7X0&feature=player_embedded
Thoughts: If these things are signs of the end, then we are much closer to the end than we were. In terms of persecution (vs. 9)- more people have died for their Christian faith in the last hundred years than all the other centuries combined (in part because of the atheistic communist persecutions in China and the former USSR and Vietnam). As people turn away from a firm belief in the Bible they turn toward false prophets (Sun Myung Moon, Joseph Smith, David Koresh, New Age gurus et al.). Verse 12 is especially cutting for our culture. There is a definite increase in wickedness. Sexual immorality- sex outside of marriage- is rampant in our society. There is a marked rise in gang activity as people lose their moral moorings. As it is more fashionable to be evil than good, many turn away. As noted many times there has been a ten percent decrease not only in attendance, but in affiliation with Christianity in the lst 12 years in America. This "love growing cold" has already happened in Europe- where for too many the faith is generally staid, cold, and meaningless. Verse 14 has been fulfilled within the last generation. Some say 1984, but certainly by 1988, for the first time in all of history, every country on the face of this earth has adherants of one religion (Christianity) in it. All nations have a testimony in them to the faith. While not every tribe has been reached yet, every country has. So what are we called to do? We are called (vs. 13) to stand firm to the end, and thus be saved. We cannot dismiss the teaching of the second coming as if it were secondary or irrelevant. There are 316 prophecies of the second coming in the 260 chapters of the New Testament. There are over 1,800 references in the Old Testament of the Messiah's coming in power.
Prayer: Lord, give me grace to put my hope in your coming, adn to stand firm to the end.
John Calvin abridged: Christ foretells another kind of temptation the disciples will face (9)- that they will be hated and detested by the world. The children of God are not only afflicted evenly with the ungodly but even more so that we may be conformed to the image of his son (Rom. 8:29). The doctrine of the gospel, of which they were to be messengers, would never be pleasant or agreeable to the world. This is written so we would not be suprised and fall from the faith. Here (11) he says that false prophets will not only come, but will come at every age. We should not be dismayed that they come, but expect it as another temptation for our faith. A third temptation (12) is that love grows cold and even good minds lose their ability to be kind and generous. Paul warns us not to be weary in performing benevolent deeds despite the sin of many around us (2 Thess 3:13). Yet despite all the afflictions and temptations believers face, the gospel will be spread throughout the whole world (14). The end does not "come" (14) when the Temple and Law are destroyed, but only after the Church has endured a long period of testing and the Gospel is spread to the entire world. Christ was not setting an exact time- for such signs have happened throughout history. Rather Christ was encouraging his followers to be patient - as their redemption was not as close as they had imagined it to be- but they must go through a long, winding journey.