November 27 I Tuesday
1 Peter 4
“Look, your house is left to you desolate.” —Matthew 23:38
Among Christians today, few topics cause more confusion than the end times. The subject matter is dense, the imagery vague, and the opinions on what each sign or prophecy means is varied. Passages about the end times often leave us with more speculation than certainty, but as with the rest of Scripture, knowing a passage’s context will help us discern the truth.
When Jesus spoke about the end times in Matthew 24, we must not separate it from His teaching in the temple courts in the previous chapter. Jesus had just finished denouncing the Pharisees and teachers of the law for their hypocrisy and religiosity. As He was leaving, His disciples called His attention to the temple building. This may seem a mundane change in topic, except that one of the last denouncements Jesus made was against Jerusalem and its “desolate” temple. Perhaps the disciples were trying to defend the temple by pointing Jesus to its magnificence and marvelous masonry, but Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).
To all appearances, the temple was functioning properly. It was going through its rites and rituals, and its priests were fulfilling their various obligations, but the system had become devoid of its true spiritual function. Jesus denounced the religious leaders as spiritually bankrupt, and for many Jews, religious ritual had become a means to an end detached from the spiritual realities they were designed to represent.
What God ordains and blesses as an expression of His purpose becomes redundant when it becomes a substitute for His purpose. The temple was the glory of Jerusalem, but because it had ceased to fulfill the purpose for which God brought it into being—to house and worship His glory—it was now fit only for destruction. Though not the whole context of the discussion that followed, this is what introduces Jesus’s prophetic discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end times.
With the coming of the Holy Spirit, God now lives in us so that we are His temple. But like the physical temple in Jesus’s day, we can have the appearance of spiritual functioning without the experience of spiritual reality. Reading Scripture, attending church, being baptized and participating in communion are all good, God-given practices, but when we treat them as ends in themselves, we replace God as the all-important thing in our lives. The Christian life is not about buildings, rituals or even understanding the end times; it is about living in obedience and dependence on the Spirit of God within us, letting Him be the source of our activity and spiritual life.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for living within me and for being the source of my spiritual life. Forgive me if I have treated rituals, however valuable, as more important than You.