Jesus told us that he was going away to prepare a place for His people, but that he would one day come again. The Prophets Daniel, and John had visions of Jesus coming again. Even Enoch who lived before the flood had a vision of Jesus coming again and taking vengeance on his enemies. A cardinal doctrine of the Christian church is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Many live in anticipation of His coming, as we see the events of the world unfolding before our eyes it is fitting for us to expect that his coming will be very soon. However, the Lord also put things into his Word to alert us and bring clarity to the events of the Last days, when there would be so much confusion. The reality is there are still many things that have to happen before we can see Jesus coming in the clouds. Many Christians live in a state of uncertainty thinking that he can come at any moment, but this is not really the case. In one sense he can come at any moment if we were to die, but that is not the Second Coming of Christ or the rapture. The purpose of this lesson is to show the Believer from the Word of God the things that must take place before Jesus can come for his Church.
Matthew 24 is the Lord’s teaching on His own second coming. Now, think about this for a minute: who knows most about Jesus’ coming (besides the Father)? It is Jesus himself. He gives us the most definitive order of the events of the last days; more than any of the other apocalyptic books. Revelation, for example, is not written in a chronological sequence, but many of the events of that book are happening simultaneously. Whereas, Matthew 24 the Lord uses words such as “and then” giving us a sequential order. Therefore, Matthew 24 is the foundation for understanding. Dr. Bailey used to tell us it is like a skeleton of the events of the last days, and many of the other prophecies from other places are like meat that can be hung as, it were, on the skeleton, in their appropriate chronological place. I hope I am explaining that clearly. Many of the things that Matthew 24 discuss have dual fulfillments. Some things Christ says had a fulfillment in 70 AD when the Romans invaded Jerusalem, other things have a fulfillment in the last days, and some things have a fulfillment in both – this is an important aspect of interpreting prophecy.
Vs. 1-2 – The temple – This is an important beginning of the chapter because the temple that was standing at the time of Jesus was Herod’s temple. This temple was a renovated and expanded version of the restoration temple built under the leadership of Zerubbabel. Jesus clearly predicts that temple’s destruction. He said “not one stone shall be left on another.” This was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when Titus destroyed the temple. The temple has not been rebuilt to this day (2016), though there are ongoing plans to reconstruct one in the event the Muslim Mosque of Omar should fall. This is important to note because later in the chapter Jesus is going to make reference to an image standing in the Holy Place of the Temple. Meaning there must be a temple in place. As I am writing this (2016) there is no temple, and the Mosque of Omar (The Dome of the Rock) is standing in the location of the temple.
Vs. 3 – The disciples ask him three questions, these three questions are the topic of the following verses. 1) “When will these things be?” What things? The destruction of the temple. 2) what will be the sign of your coming? And 3) of the end of the age? Therefore, Jesus is going to answer these three questions throughout the rest of the chapter.
Vs. 4 – he warns us of deception. Deception is one of the hallmarks of the last days. The apostle Paul warned about deception in 2 Thess 2 – “let no one deceive you by any means.” There are a lot of people who will be deceived in these last days. Remember, beloved, that the unbeliever is already deceived. The one who needs to be warned is the Born-again Christian. Beware, lest someone swindle you out of your inheritance.
Vs. 5- for many will come in my name, saying ‘I am the Christ…’ The last days will be marked by men and women claiming to be Jesus, or some other god. In one sense this has been happening, but a greater fulfillment is yet to be fulfilled. Not only will there be many that will come, but there will be one particular man who will rise up – commonly referred to as the Anti-Christ. He will be discussed more below.
The Beginning of Sorrows
Vs. 6 – 8 – wars and rumors of wars….
A hallmark of the end times is wars and violence. Nations rising against one another, and even from within themselves. Nations are dividing and becoming separate nations. This is happening all around us today. I truly believe that we are living during these times. The Lord, tells us not to be troubled, because they must come to pass. This is a sign of the times, but as believers we are not to lose our peace though the earth is losing theirs.
Vs. 9 – for many years Christians in Western countries have enjoyed freedom and no interference to practice their faith. This is changing. The world has grown darker and darker and is becoming antagonistic to the Christian message. This will continue to increase and many Christians will be persecuted and lose their lives for following Christ. This is not to be something that we fear, because martyrdom is for those whom it is appointed. God will give special grace in the time needed to pay that kind of a price – it is nothing to be anxious about. God is sovereign and in complete control through all of the events of the last days.
Vs 10-13 –
- Many will be offended, betray one another, and hate one another. People become offended because things have not worked out according to their expectations, and they have failed to receive grace from God to endure a bitter situation. This concerns me, especially about the last days, because there has been a lot of false teaching going around about the end times. Most western believers have this idea that they are going to be caught up to God before any of the difficulties come upon the earth, but the timing of this “rapture” cannot be definitively pinned down from scripture. What if it does not happen the way that you think? Many will be offended if they are left behind and don’t feel like they should be. This could cause some to question other things they have learned, and even abandon their faith. Betrayal and hatred to those who taught them wrong are the natural result.
- Many false prophets shall arise and deceive many. Here we have another warning about deception. There are prophets who will rise up, some of them will even be doing great miracles. This will test the faith of many. The message and the fruit of a messenger need to be observed more closely than his gifts. Satan can perform miracles too, and he has his own anointed ministers as well. There is a particular false prophet that will rise from the dead in these last days and perform miracles and cause men and women to worship the Antichrist who we will talk about in verse fifteen. We have to be very careful about who we are listening to and whom we are following. The miracle does not necessarily confirm that a person is from God, nor does it confirm that his message is true. God does use miracles to confirm His word, but Satan also uses them to deceive people.
- ….the love of many will grow cold…This is an interesting concept for those who believe that once you are saved you are always saved. Here the Lord is warning about people who have had the love of God in their hearts, but because they loved iniquity and lawlessness as well, it eventually puts out the fervent love for God in their hearts. We have to be careful about the things that we love. We live in a very rebellious, and lawless society where men feel that they should be entitled to do as they please. This has carried over into the church and authority is not feared nor honored as it should be. These are the signs of the times. “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” It is not those who start the Christian life that are saved, but those who endure to the end. There are many trials, toils, and snares along the road; but God is with us to overcome everything in our way. We must endure, and finish the race, by His grace.
Vs. 14 is a key verse that many do not understand. A lot of the church world today has no vision for revival, but are merely hoping for a rapture to take us out. Verse fourteen speaks of the Gospel of the kingdom being preached in all the world. This literally means a true witness of Christ needs to be proclaimed to every ethnic group in the world. There are still hundreds of ethnic groups that have not heard the Gospel (in India alone). Just as the first century church had a mighty Holy Ghost revival that empowered them to take the Gospel to the nations, so we must have one. The prophets and Apostles spoke of this in various places.
James 5:7-8– the Husbandmen (the Father) waits until he receives the early and the latter rain before the Lord Jesus can come again. Joel interpreted the early and latter rains to be outpourings of God’s Spirit (Joel 2:23-32). When the Holy Spirit moved on the Day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and proclaimed that it was a fulfillment of what was spoken of by the prophet Joel (vs. 32), however, there were some key elements that were missing. Joel spoke about the moon turning into blood, fire, and smoke. Those signs did not accompany the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. In other words, the prophecy in Joel was only partially fulfilled at that time. The fullest fulfillment has not yet come to pass. Many prophetic scriptures have two or three fulfillments.
What does this mean? Remember that James spoke about an early rain and a latter rain. Prophetically the early rain refers to the outpouring of God’s spirit that took place in the First century, beginning on the Day of Pentecost. This rain was a light rain that softened the ground for the planting of the church. The latter rain, in the agricultural cycle was estimated to be 7 times greater in magnitude than the early rain. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. There is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that has not yet come that will greatly exceed what the early church experienced. This will empower the church to fulfill the Great Commission, and it will bring the church to maturity preparing it for harvest (and the Coming of the Lord).
To be continued….