As we talk about standing firm and remaining faithful, especially in talking about the end of the age, the bottom line is that the Messiah is coming, and we need to watch and be ready. Jesus said nearly those exact words in the most famous prophecy conference ever — the Olivet Discourse. Matthew recorded Jesus’ words in chapters 24 and 25 of his gospel which begins with the disciples asking what were the signs of the end of the age.
For us today, the end of the age projects all kinds of images in our minds from the Left Behind books to Mad Max, from Star Wars to The Walking Dead, and so on. But for first-century Jews, the image was standard — the coming of the Messiah, the promised Davidic King, who would rescue Israel and usher in the eternal kingdom. Therefore, based on their view, they were asking about what we know today as the Second Coming or Second Advent.
Following their question, Jesus then walked them, step-by-step, through the events that would happen at the end of the age. It’s uncanny what we have in terms of details about His return there in Matthew 24, but most of what Jesus talked about was being ready. The end of Matthew 24 and all of Matthew 25 deal with the life application aspect of the Second Coming, with Jesus saying explicitly:
• “Therefore, keep watch…” (Matt. 24:42)
• “You also must be ready…” (Matt. 24:44)
• “Therefore, keep watch…” (Matt. 25:13)
Not only do we see it said explicitly, but every illustrative story given in those chapters points to being found prepared for the coming King. The life application of all regarding the end of the age is to be ready — to be watching, aware and prepared.
Obviously, we can take the Word for itself; but in case we’re not convinced, we can go back to the first advent or first coming of the Messiah. Just as the instruction for us today is to be watching for the signs of the coming Messiah and be ready, so was that of God’s people in the first century. The story of being prepared for the coming of the Messiah isn’t a new story, it’s one that has already played out once. Therefore, we have the game film. We can look back at how the forewarned people of God were to be ready and see how they did.
You’re familiar with that game film because you’ve read it in the gospels and the game film reveals that most missed it.
In the first advent, most of God’s people missed it — they weren’t ready. Estimates of the population of Palestine in the day of Jesus vary, but it seems to be safe to go with the estimate of 500,000, even though most conservative scholars place it at 1-3 million. This was the population Jesus was born into and ministered to — this was the population of that first advent. Yet, it seems like there might only have been 120-500 Christ-followers before Pentecost. In Acts 1:15, we read there were 120 believers in the upper room — most seem to believe that was likely all the believers. In I Cor. 15:6, we read that Jesus appeared to up to 500 following His resurrection. These may or may not have all been believers. We also must realize that there must have been significantly less than 3,000 believers since that number proved to be such a major move of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
Let this soak in. After having the written Word beginning 1,400 years before and having the witness of the prophets over and over again, at best only 0.001% of the population of Palestine believed.
Most missed it — even with the Messiah being in their company for over 30 years. More than that, only a handful caught His birth. Anna and Simeon seem to be the only ones who were expectantly awaiting the arrival of the King.
Not only did God’s people of the first century miss the first advent, but they missed it majorly. Therefore, if they missed it, we could miss the second advent, the second coming. No one will miss seeing it if they are on earth at that time, but we definitely run the risk of missing being on mission and being found faithful at the return or even more applicable — at our last breath.
I don’t want to miss it. I’m sure you don’t either. Let’s learn from that first advent and stand firm and live epic now.
Jake is available for revivals and preaching learn more at standfirmministries.com.