In the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus paints a glum picture of the future when he is pressed by his disciples to tell them about the “last days.”
In that passage of scripture, we learn that the world is going to be a nasty place to live…
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “Take heed 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 this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.
“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 wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
“So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
Matthew 24:3 through Matthew 24:22 (RSV)
In the apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica, he stresses that Christ will not return until such days come to pass…
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.
2 Thessalonians 2:1 through 2 Thessalonians 2:6 (RSV)
The rebellion Paul is referring to is called apostasy.
Apostasy; rebellion or abandonment of faith. It refers in the Old Testament to Israel’s unfaithfulness to God (Jer. 2:19; 5:6; cf. Josh. 22:22; 2 Chron. 33:19) and in the New Testament to the abandonment of Christian faith (Heb. 6:6). In Acts 21:21, the Greek root of the word ‘apostasy’ is used for Paul’s alleged rejection of Moses and, in 2 Thess. 2:3, for an expected rebellion before the end.
Many people wonder, "Why must it be this way? Why does all this bad stuff have to happen before Jesus comes back? Why doesn’t God reveal himself to us and tell us in person what he wants from us and why?"
Well, in response to the last question, he already has! He sent his son, Jesus, to live among us and to teach us what God desires of us and why. Then his disciples – the ones closest to Jesus – went and told others. Unfortunately, most people didn’t believe it. Those who did were “persecuted” – tortured and killed. Still others took the gospel message and distorted it for their own gain. Now two thousand years have passed without Jesus coming back, so most people think the whole thing was made up and /or is so distorted so as to be more myth than reality. But God knew all this would happen – long before he even created life as we know it. And he allows us complete freedom to live and think as we choose, because it glorifies him – that is, it proves God is good. For if we had no choice in the matter, we would simply be his puppets, doing exactly what he wanted us to do. How fair would it be if we had no choice – if we were simply his puppets? God wouldn’t be so great then, would he? He would simply be a dictator. Instead, God shows his love for us by revealing himself to us, making his will for us known, and then lets us choose to accept or reject him and his love for us.
EVERYTHING that has happened on this earth, from day one, has been for the glory of God and for our benefit. What we do with what he has given us is completely up to us. HOWEVER, there will come a time when God will ask us what we did with what he gave us – and whether we like it or not, HE IS our Creator, and has that right – just as a parent has the right (and responsibility) to teach their children and hold them accountable for what they did or did not do with the instructions they were given. If the children rebel and go against what their parents taught/told them to do, then the parents punish them accordingly. If the children did what their parents asked them to do, then they are rewarded accordingly.
So it is also in society. Each culture has its own set of guidelines (laws). When people break the law, they are punished. If they maintain the law, they have no fear of being punished. We believe and understand that justice must be served if we are to live peaceably in the world. When injustice prevails, people suffer. When justice prevails, people thrive. So it is within the kingdom of God. Those who desire to live in peace with God live according to his laws (teachings, Torah). Those who rebel, have no place in his kingdom. It really is that simple.
Where would you prefer to spend eternity; with God in his kingdom, or without him in eternal darkness? The choice really is all yours!