What following Jesus at the end of the age will look like, and one reason Jesus gave this snapshot of kingdom life at the end of the age prior to the consummation:
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. (Matthew 24:3-8)
Jesus is warning his disciples, both his disciples sitting before him that day (yes, this meant something to them as well) as well as all his followers throughout the rest of the time that would live between his first coming and second coming, to be prepared. To gird up their loins, that things are going to get tough. That the in-between time, the time between the in-breaking of Christ's kingdom in the world and it’s finals consummation, while we his followers are to be on mission in the world is going to be tough. Both because the effects of the fall haven’t been reversed yet, and also because Satan is not going to just roll over and give up his claims on this world without a fight.
And you can see this, looking back in church history, there has never been a time where being a follower of Christ has been easy. The world has never been in love with us. Yet, the truth of God has endured. Light has penetrated dark places, and the gospel has spread to much of the world in the hearts of men, through the mouths of men, but the power of the Spirit. But nevertheless it has never been easy. And will continue, unless God’s word has changed, to not be easy.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:9-14)
Yes, Satan is defeated, and in a lot of ways, Jesus’s second coming is going to be more of just a clean up operation. But still a defeated Satan is no foe to take lightly. And a fallen world is still very painful.
Yet, in the midst of these signs is found hope, for these are but birth pains, and birth pains always means a pushing towards something that is full of life, something that is grand and glorious.
A new birth, a new creation. What a promise!
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:28-29)
Yes, we who know him are the first fruits, but one day, all things will be made new. What a grand and glorious day!
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23)
Yes, tribulation is the promised lot for the children of God, who have been sent into the world by Jesus, in like manner in which he was sent into the world (John 20:21)
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:21-22)
But we are also promised that all of the trials, all of the tribulations, all of our strivings, all of our self denials, all of our obedience, will not only be worth it all, but we will also be supplied the power to endure because of and for the one who gave himself for us.
This is a glorious reality for those in Christ, even right now, but awaiting us is a full blown reality of it. Read Ephesians 1 once. We have been seated in heavenly places. In Christ, it is as good as done. Because it is. But everyday we still have to wake up and put our boots to the ground.
Philippians 4:13 says, “ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
We can face imprisonment. We can face death. We can face hardships. We can even face prosperity being obedient to Christ.
So be prepared, following Christ in this world will not be easy. Jesus is not puling a bait and switch on his disciples. He is telling us right up front what it will be like. It will be hard. But it will be worth it all.
The cross of Christ is power and proof positive that the trials we go through now is light compared to the judgement coming to those who don’t repent (Acts 17:30), and lite compared to the coming fulfillment of the promises to those who do.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)