Matthew 24 is a dramatic chapter to read, about the climax Jesus said would come on the Jews and then on the world because of godlessness. Much of it has two applications; first to the Jewish people because they had not recognised their Messiah but had killed him, and then on the world as a whole because the message of Christ after “being proclaimed … as a testimony to all nations” (verse 14) had become corrupted “for false Christs and false prophets will arise … to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (verse 24).

Just as “there will be great tribulation” at the end of the Jewish nation (there was), there will be great tribulation at the end of the times of the Gentiles, “such as has not been from the beginning of the world … And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved” (verses 21,22). The tense of the language reflects how God sees things, “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10).

Jesus continues, at that time “he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds …” (verse 31) out of “the great tribulation”. These words are familiar to most of us and there is a possibility our “hearts have grown dull” (13:15). Surely all the present troubles in the Middle East centred around Israel should be making us think and become as mentally prepared as possible. Jesus said, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but the Father only … For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying … they were unaware until the flood came … so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (verses 36,37).

Matthew 24 ends with a telling parable about servants not being ready for the return of the Master. But Jesus says, “blessed is the servant whom his Master will find so doing” (verse 46) when the angels are sent forth to “gather his elect”. Are you a servant who has responded to the Master’s call? May we all be found among those who are seen as “faithful and wise” (verse 45).