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Jesus’ Discourse on End Times

 

Note: It is recommend that you study “The Introduction to Prophecy”, “The Biblical Covenants”, and “The Prophetic Chapters of Daniel” before beginning this study. You may click on any unquoted Scripture to link on an on-line Bible.

There are two schools of thought in interpreting what is known as the “The Mount of Olivet Discourse” as recorded in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew.  One school assumes that God has done away with Israel and assumes that all events stated below apply to the Church.  The other assumes that God has not done away with Israel and that events stated below apply to Israel.  This discussion assumes the latter.  Jesus confirms the prophecy of Daniel and looks forward to the end of “The “Great Tribulation” as later recorded by the apostle John in The Revelation.  Thus, this discourse bridges the gap between the books of Daniel and Revelation.

In the previous chapter, Jesus discussed the future destruction of the Jewish temple.  After their return to the top of the Mount of Olives, the comments and actions of Jesus confused the apostles.  Peter, James, John and Andrew (see Marks account) came to him with questions about the future.

In the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew, the thirteenth chapter of Mark and the twenty-first chapter of Luke, we have Jesus’ answer to these apostles. We must keep in mind that Matthew is writing to the Jews and is presenting the Kingdom of Heaven which was promised to them in the Old Testament.  Both Israel and “The Church” are referred to in scripture as the elect.  However, here Jesus is addressing the elect of Israel.  God’s programs for “The Church” and for Israel do not overlap.

“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age” (Matt 24:3)?  The first question, “Tell us when will these things be”.  They are talking about the destruction of the temple.   Luke records the answer to the first question in Luke chapter twenty-one.  The second part of the question was “What will be the sign of Your coming” and the third part was “of the end of the age”.  Jesus now answers only the last two questions that have to do with the end of the age. Here He is talking about the final days just before he returns.  At this time, Jesus is speaking of events in summary form which are not necessarily in chronological sequence.   Many years later, he reveals the details of this period to the apostle John and tells him to write them in the book of Revelation.  The book of Revelation is the direct revelation of Jesus Christ.

“And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matt 24:4-8).  There have been false teachers since the beginning of the first century and wars have prevailed since the fall of the Roman Empire.  The Jews have been persecuted for nearly two thousand years and as we begin the twenty-second century, wars have increased and so have all the other signs of the last days.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.  And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matt 24:9-13).  This refers to progressive tribulation ultimately leading up to and through the Great Tribulation.

The apostle Paul writing to Timothy gives additional warnings about the last days. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away” (2 Tim 3:1-5)!  We are continually seeing this scripture being fulfilled.

Now, let us return to Jesus’ last words in Matthew chapter twenty-four verse thirteen. We need to understand the words “But he who endures to the end shall be saved”.  Dr. J. Vernon McGee says “This verse has particular reference to God’s people, Israel, during the Great Tribulation, and it is an extremely brief period of time”.   Again, we must remember that this is not addressed to “The Church” because Christians have been promised eternal security.  Paul assures us of this by telling us that we have been sealed with and have the earnest of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:7-13).

Next, Jesus gives one of two major signs that assures us that the end is near.  “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matt 24:14).”  We are beginning to see this sign fulfilled for the first time in history as the gospel is now being preached through the use of radio, television and the internet to reach some of the most resistant areas of the world.  Many of these areas have been opened up because of the fall of communism in Europe.

Next, Jesus speaks of the Great Tribulation that is to come. “’Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened’” (Matt 24:15-22).  Jesus is speaking of the final days of the tribulation when the Antichrist will turn against Israel, desecrate her temple, and bring the nations against her in war.  These are key verses because Jesus is affirming the prophecy in the Old Testament book of Daniel, which applies to the future.  Many have tried to tie these verses to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD but The Revelation tells us that this is an end time event.

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be”. (Matt 24:23-27).  Again, Jesus is warning the people to be cautious of those who come as false messiahs.  When the Antichrist comes, he will deceive most of the world but when Jesus returns, in the clouds, the entire world shall see Him for He will come from the east and flash to the west.  

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt 24:29-31).

This is not the rapture of the Church where Jesus meets them in the air (1 Thess. chapter 4 and 1 Cor. chapter 15) but this is the Second Coming of Christ to the earth when He brings His saints with Him.  The prophet, Zechariah, spoke of this: ” Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You”  (Zech. 14:5b).  Jude, the brother of Jesus say, ” Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints” (Jude 1:14).   The apostle Paul says the same thing, “So that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (1 Thess. 3:13).

We recall that the prophet, Ezekiel, said that the Messiah would gather the Jews from all the lands where they have been scattered.  He will take them into the wilderness and enter into judgement with them face to face.  Each one will be required to make a decision whether or not they will enter into a covenant relationship with Him.  Those who refuse will be purged and eternally separated from God. (See Ez 21:33-39).

Next, Jesus gives us the second most important sign of his coming. “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.  So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near; at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” ( Matt 24:32-34).  The fig tree has long been a Biblical symbol for Israel.  In fact, on Monday, before Jesus had this dialogue, He condemned a fig tree because it was not bearing fruit.  A short time later the fig tree dried up – a picture of what was about to happen to Israel.  Jesus is saying that when Israel is reborn and becomes a nation, you will know that the end is near.  This prophecy was fulfilled when Israel became a nation in 1948. This is the first time, in all history, that a nation has been resurrected.

The Jews first began returning to Palestine before World War I during the days when the Turks controlled the land.  During World War I, after the defeat of the Turks by the British, many more Jews returned and the Jewish and the Arabic conflict began.  After World War II, these mounting conflicts resulted in the United Nations dividing the land between the Palestinians and Israel.  There have been many miracles during the conflicts between the Jews and the Arabs – only by God’s hand has Israel become a strong nation.  

Many believe the signs of the last days began with World War I.  Never before has there been a war like that one and there has been no peace since that war began.  We can clearly see that  other signs have increased significantly during the twenty-first century.  If we know the signs and the prophecies, how can we not know that we are living in the time leading up to Jesus return?

In chapter twenty-four of Matthew, Jesus completes the dialogue with a warning for the people to be prepared for no one knows the day or the hour when He will return.  This warning could be applied to both the Jews and the Church, even though the Church is not in view here.  

In chapter twenty-five of Matthew, Jesus gives parables and additional information relating to the end times.  The first parable pictures a wedding where the invited guests are called virgins.  Jesus is pictured here, at the second coming, as the Bridegroom coming with His bride, who is The Church.   The ten virgins symbolize the tribulation Jews who were invited to join the wedding party.   Five were prepared with oil in their lamps but five were unprepared.  The oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit living in their lives, thus, those with oil were prepared to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Many have tried to say the virgins were members of the church but when this is done the scripture is taken completely out of context.  The whole context of this parable is an event at the end of the Tribulation warning those living during this period to be prepared for you know not the hour when the Messiah will return.

The second parable is about a master, who, before going on a long journey, gave each of three servants a few talents to invest for him.  The first two invested wisely and earned a good return on their money but the third servant buried his talent because he was afraid he might lose it.  When the master returned, he praised the first two for a job well done but he was very angry with the third servant and cast him into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  This parable teaches obedience and faithfulness.   Since Jesus is talking about faithfulness during the Great Tribulation period, we should not read salvation by works into this parable.  

The last part of the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew tells about the judgment of the Gentile Nations after Christ returns and sits on His throne.  He will separate the nations into two groups, which he calls the sheep nations and the goat nations.  The sheep will go into the millennium kingdom but the goats will be destroyed.  This judgment will be based upon how the nations treated the Jews during the Tribulation.

Listed below are supplemental materials and supporting studies that I suggest you review. Just click on the subject.

1. Signs of the Second Coming of Jesus

2. Israel and the Fig Tree

3. Summary Outline of the History of Israel

4. Judgment of the Jews.

5. Judgment of the Gentile Nations.