In the Bible, the phrase “wax cold” appears in Matthew 24:12, where Jesus says:
“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (NKJV)
This verse comes in the context of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, where He is prophesying future events, including the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and His second coming. In this section, Jesus is responding to the disciples’ question about the sign of His coming and the end of the age (Matthew 24:3).
- “Wax cold” refers to a cooling or decline of the love among believers in the end times.
- This cooling of love is tied to an increase in lawlessness and sin in the world.
- Jesus uses this phrase to warn believers to persevere in love despite surrounding evil.
- Maintaining love for God and one another is key to enduring until Christ’s return.
- All true believers must guard against temptations to sin and lawlessness.
- God will preserve and reward those who remain faithful to the end.
The Meaning and Context of “Wax Cold”
The phrase “wax cold” has the sense of losing heat and fervency. Just as a candle flame can burn low and weak, Jesus warns that the ardent love among His followers can grow cold and faint.
Some key points about this verse:
- The subject is “the love of many” – meaning the love among believers, not God’s love for us. Our love for each other is in view.
- This decline in love is tied to lawlessness abounding. As sin and evil multiply in the world, it leads to a cooling of love in the church.
- Jesus says this will happen in the end times, in the period leading up to His return. Difficult times will come, threatening our love.
- This is a warning to believers to persist in love despite encroaching sin and hardship. Tribulation can weaken our love if we aren’t watchful.
- Jesus isn’t saying love will be completely snuffed out, but that it will “grow cold.” The assumed comparison is to an earlier warmer, more fervent love among Christians.
So in this verse, Jesus is foretelling that the love that believers have for one another will become cooled, diminished, and weakened in the final days before His return. Trying times have a way of straining the mutual love and unity of the church. But Christ exhorts us to stand firm and not allow it to grow cold.
Why Would Love Grow Cold?
Jesus says this cooling of love is directly tied to a rise in “lawlessness” in the end times. The Greek word here is anomia, which conveys contempt for God’s laws, being without law, iniquity and wickedness. So as sin and rebellion against God’s ways increase, it leads to weakened love in the body of Christ.
Times of persecution and hardship can also test our faith and love. So the conditions Jesus describes – tribulation, persecution, false prophets – may create a context where maintaining fervent love is difficult. When believers face severe trials, it can be easy for love to falter if we don’t guard our hearts. Faith under fire has a way of revealing our weaknesses and need for God’s grace.
The Apostle Paul also warned that the end times would bring “terrible times” (2 Timothy 3:1). He goes on to describe people becoming lovers of themselves, lovers of money, abusive, unholy, without self-control and hating what is good. Clearly, these sinful attitudes can invade the church and quench mutual love, if we are not watchful.
As lawlessness abounds, our human love may fail, but God’s love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). His grace is sufficient to sustain those who wait on Him (Isaiah 40:31). But the temptation to compromise with the surrounding culture and diminish our devotion to one another will be great. This is why Jesus exhorts us to stand firm to the end.
Examples of Love Growing Cold
While only the end times will fully manifest the scenario Jesus describes, there are ways we may see a cooling of love even now:
- Believers becoming consumed with the cares of this world rather than the things of God (Luke 21:34). Pursuit of wealth, status, pleasure can compete with our first love for Christ (Revelation 2:4).
- Division, conflicts and lack of forgiveness among believers. Holding grudges, bitterness, disunity, refusal to reconcile are clear signs of cooling love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Ephesians 4:32).
- Compromise with sinful practices of the surrounding culture. Lacking courage to be set apart and hold to moral convictions will quench holy affections (Romans 12:2; James 4:4).
- Seeking to please people rather than God. Fear of man and wanting acceptance can lead to muffling God’s truth and conforming to the world (Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4).
- Laziness and complacency about spiritual growth and serving others. Failure to be vigilant in using our gifts and caring for others allows love to drift (Hebrews 2:3; James 4:17).
- Prayerlessness and lack of weeping over sin. As our prayer life cools, so does our heart for the things of God (Luke 22:40; Psalm 86:3-7).
- Experiencing prolonged hardship or persecution. Trials can wear us down and cause us to withdraw unless we rely on the Spirit (Galatians 6:9).
These are just some examples of how our love for God and one another can erode if we don’t keep our lamps filled with oil, spiritually speaking. It requires intentional abiding in Christ.
How to Keep Our Love from Growing Cold
If Jesus warns that tribulation and lawlessness will threaten to cool our love, what’s the remedy? How can we keep our love fervent even in difficult times? Here are some biblical preventative measures:
- Abide in Christ through God’s Word and Prayer. Jesus said apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15). Only as we walk in close fellowship with Him can we bear kingdom fruit like loving others (John 15:5). Immersing ourselves in God’s Word builds faith for trials (Romans 10:17). Consistent prayer equips us to love and do good works (Colossians 1:9-12).
- Be Alert and Sober-Minded. We must be vigilant against temptation and compromise that will undermine our love (1 Peter 5:8). Sinful desires war against our soul (1 Peter 2:11). Practicing self-control and sobriety in all things guards us from the enemy’s schemes (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).
- Exercise Mutual Encouragement and Exhortation. We must look out for one another and build each other up regularly (Hebrews 10:24-25). This includes comforting those who are downhearted and weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14). It means caring enough to confront sin gently (Galatians 6:1).
- Focus on Eternity Not Earthly Troubles. Keeping our mind’s eye on the glory to come helps present troubles fade (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). This world is not our home; we eagerly await an imperishable inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-9). This hope inspires us to live godly lives.
- Remember Christ’s Love Compels Us. As we grow in understanding Christ’s selfless love for us, we are moved to love others (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). God’s love in Christ equips us to love even enemies (1 John 4:10-11).
- Exercise the Spirit’s Fruit. As we walk in the Spirit, He produces His fruit in us including love, joy, peace (Galatians 5:22-23). This fruit nourishes our love through all storms.
Our love will face threats, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we can shine as lights in the darkness until our Lord returns. May we take Christ’s warning seriously and actively keep our love burning bright.
Maintaining Fervent Love Until Christ’s Return
As we’ve seen, Jesus’ prophesy that “the love of many will grow cold” serves as a warning for believers facing end times tribulation. When wickedness abounds and persecution arises, our love will be tested. Temptation and hardship have a way of cooling our affections if we are not watchful.
But Jesus does not make this statement to condemn His followers but rather to stir us to vigilance. He wants His church to be prepared for the trials ahead and withstand them with grace. Though oppressive times will come, the light of God’s people can still shine brightly amid darkness.
How? By maintaining fervent love for God and one another until the end. Clinging to Christ and His eternal promises sustains us through suffering (Romans 8:18). Laying our lives down for the sake of the Gospel expresses greatest love (John 15:13). And loving each other with deed and truth confirms God’s presence in us (1 John 3:16-18).
No matter what the enemy throws against us, the flame of God’s love can continue burning through the empowering Holy Spirit. Darkness cannot extinguish light. So we must encourage one another and keep fanning the flames of love until our Lord appears.
On that day, may Christ find us faithful – loving Him above all and loving His people with an undimmed passion. May we say along with the Apostle Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Then we will hear our Savior’s sweet voice say:
Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ (Matthew 25:23 NKJV)
Blessed hope! Come Lord Jesus!
In summary, when Jesus warned that “the love of many will grow cold”, He was exhorting believers to vigilance as lawlessness increases in the end times. Though sin may abound, our love for God and one another must never waver. This requires intentionally nurturing our relationship with Christ through Word and prayer. It means encouraging our brothers and sisters, keeping an eternal perspective, and walking in the Spirit’s power.
Trials will surely come, but God promises to reward those who endure to the end with eternal life. By clinging to Him and loving one another to the end, we have full victory in Christ. Our love may be tested by fire, but the true Light within us can never be quenched. So dear friends, let us persevere in faith, hope and love until our Savior appears. The world awaits the unveiling of Christ’s holy ones – those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes, shining brightly with undimmed love.