Back in the olden days, before one could binge watch television, one had to wait until next week to see what happens next. It could be Batman and Robin being dangled over a boiling cauldron, it could be Matt Dillon laying in the street, it could be JR getting shot…
Who Shot JR was the end of the season cliffhanger for the primetime drama Dallas. Americans waited until the fall to discover the culprit. There were bumper stickers, t shirts, news reports, interviews with cast members; it was a cultural phenomenon.
The audience still had to wait to see what happens next.
Jesus informed us what happens next. In Matthew 24 the disciples come to him and inquire the very question. Jesus tells them key elements:
- false messiahs will rise up
- wars and natural disaster will occur
- the church will be persecuted, and many will turn away from Christ
- the gospel will be proclaimed in all the earth
- the temple will be desecrated
- greatest tribulation ever will be upon the earth
Then Jesus states that at the close of of these signs, he will return.
There is much speculation and argument regarding the timeline of these events; both the preamble to the return of Christ, and the specifics of his return. One thing is certain, and this is essential; Jesus is coming again. That’s what happens next.
The eleven apostles stood with Jesus on the Mount of Olives before He ascended to heaven. This is recorded in Luke 24 and Acts 1. The apostles so believed the words “I will return” that an angel had to come down and remind them that He will come back again, but to continue to do what He had told them to do in the meantime.
What happens next? In Matthew 24, everything that Jesus said actually happened before the close of the first century CE. Some suppose that this means Matthew 24 is past tense, and that Jesus’ return is not be taken literally. This is a faulty supposition.
Whenever God fulfills a prophetic word, it has immediate and future implications. For example, when God said “let there be light” it happened at that moment, and has continued to this day… and will, until the Lamb is the light (Revelation 21). Another example is that the promise of the Father was to send the Holy Spirit. This promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in the first century. The Holy Spirit has been on the earth ever since, (John 15, 16).
Therefore, when Jesus explained “what happens next” we continue to see these things unfold. We see people claiming to be Christ. We see the church persecuted. More than 100,000 people will die for the cause of Christ this year. This does not include the 1.5 aborted images of God who never are given an opportunity to breathe. We see wars and violence on the increase. We see the intolerance of the exclusivity of Christ growing increasingly.
What happens next? Jesus is coming again, and with power and great glory.
No one knows the day or the hour. Jesus underscores this in Matthew 24. He even confesses that only the Father knows this, (and infers this again in Acts 1:8). Jesus admonition to His followers is, “watch and be ready.”
Watch. Be Ready. It could be today.