no selection of prophecy in the Scriptures seems so plain and yet causes such
discord as this. We shall attempt to tiptoe through the minefield, allowing
the student the choice of interpretations – but ending, as always, with the
warnings of the sure and certain return of our Lord.
of the Times
Mat 24:1-14 NASB
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to
point out the temple buildings to Him. (2)
And He said to them, "Do you not see all these
things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which
will not be torn down." (3) As He
was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately,
saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end
of the age?" (4) And Jesus answered and
said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. (5) "For many
will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. (6) "You will be
hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take
place, but that is not yet the end. (7) "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom
against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. (8) "But all
these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. (9) "Then they will
deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all
nations because of My name. (10) "At that time many will fall away and will betray one
another and hate one another. (11) "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. (12) "Because
lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. (13) "But the one who
endures to the end, he will be saved. (14) "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in
the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
you want the right answers, you must first ask the right questions. How so?
the prophecy of the destruction of the Temple. There is a short view –
the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 when the Romans sacked Jerusalem. They
set up their banners where the Temple stood. Is that what He’s talking
about, or is it some future Temple (perhaps as described in Ezekiel)? Or
is He talking about both (called dual fulfillment)?
verse 3, are the disciples asking one question, or two? If (like Hal
Lindsay) you say one question, you implicitly assume that this destruction
immediately precedes Christ’s return. If you say two, these events could
be separated by millennia. The use of quotation marks may be deceptive
too the phrase “all the nations.” In our minds this must mean all 200
plus nations on the earth. Christ’s hearer’s would have thought
differently. They would put “the nations” as the civilized part of the
earth (i.e., the Roman Empire); the others would be “tribes.” So is it
all, or all the Roman Empire? Historicists say the latter; futurists the
is not to accuse prophecy of casual inconsistency. We are the inconsistent
ones in our understanding. By way of example, compare the first five seals of
Revelation with this passage:
first seal shows a crown and conquest, the rider on a white horse. But as
Christ comes later in Revelation, this is assumed to be a false Christ.
and rumors of wars
second seal shows a sword and a red horse, the color of blood. Lindsay sees
this as a communist invasion of Israel; historicists see a time of civil war.
third seal shows a rider with scales on a black horse, usually interpreted as
weighing bread (not a giver of justice).
fourth seal shows a rider on a pale horse, carrying death.
fifth seal is a long passage about persecution, which could be the Diocletian
persecution of AD 303-313 (note the ten years). But it’s also the time
during which the Gospel conquers the Roman Empire.
of the end
how are we supposed to know? He tells here that wars, famine and earthquake
are not the signs to look for; they are just ordinary. But the real signs are
easy to read:
will be a time of Christians turning away from the church and betraying
their Christian brothers and sisters. Faith will grow cold.
prophets will arise to deceive the church. It is not by accident that
many televangelists advertise themselves as prophets.
the positive side, the Gospel will be preached to all the nations,
whatever that means.
there will be other signs as well.
Mat 24:15-31 NASB "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF
DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy
place (let the reader understand), (16) then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. (17) "Whoever is
on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. (18) "Whoever is
in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. (19) "But woe to those
who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! (20) "But pray that
your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. (21) "For then there
will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of
the world until now, nor ever will. (22) "Unless those days had been cut short, no life
would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut
short. (23) "Then
if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him. (24) "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and
will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the
elect. (25) "Behold,
I have told you in advance. (26) "So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,'
do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. (27) "For just as the lightning comes from the east and
flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (28) "Wherever the
corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (29) "But immediately after the tribulation of those
days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE
STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (30) "And then
the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of
the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF
THE SKY with power and great glory. (31) "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT
TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one
end of the sky to the other.
I draw your attention to two phrases? Both of these are examples of making the
prophecy fit the interpretation.
is “abomination of desolation.” The phrase comes from Daniel 9:27, and
virtually all scholars agree that its first fulfillment, or at least
foreshadowing, was done by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC. He
erected an altar to Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed a pig on it. But Christ
speaks of it here as being in the future, so we must look for another such
sacrilege. We find a similar event in AD 70; historicists say that this is
the event. Futurists say it is yet to come, but will be in the “Millennial Temple,” as described by Ezekiel. Both say that this passage conclusively
proves their point. You pick.
is the use of astronomical bodies (sun, moon and stars) in this picture. Until
the 19th century, no one interpreted this as literal stellar
objects. Rather, following Joseph’s dream (and others) they saw this as a
complete shakeup of the powers and authorities of this world. But if you make
the assumption that this is the end of the physical universe as we know it, you
can take it literally. And some do.
one thing is clear in all this. We should expect a time of persecution – and
we should pray for relief from that persecution in advance. The
American church is seeing the beginnings of this now, but we see no one praying
that the persecution be shortened. It is surprising that the most literal of
interpreters omit this point. Perhaps no one wants to believe that America, a nation founded upon God, would do such a thing. But consider the signs of the
times – again. False prophets? You can find them every day on religious
broadcasting stations. But do not worry; the real coming of Christ will be
unmistakable. In the meantime, prepare for the persecution, pray that it be
shortened – and prepare for His return.
for His Return
Mat 24:32-44 NASB "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when
its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that
summer is near; (33) so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He
is near, right at the door. (34) "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things take place. (35) "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words
will not pass away. (36) "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the
angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (37) "For the coming of
the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. (38) "For as in those
days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in
marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, (39) and they did not
understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of
the Son of Man be. (40) "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be
taken and one will be left. (41) "Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be
left. (42) "Therefore
be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. (43) "But be sure of
this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the
thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed
his house to be broken into. (44) "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of
Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
of the times
I share with you some of the signs of the times, as our Lord describes them
have the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, which many consider a portent of
His return. We will touch on this later.
Gospel is being preached around the world, like never before.
perhaps most telling of all: the church is in “business as usual” mode.
He tells us we will not know the hour, and we will not be able to predict
it. Therefore most of us simply ignore the possibility. Business as
return of the Jews is considered a sign by many. It is based on the phrase,
“this generation will not pass away.” It is a correct translation; however, it
would have been equally correct to replace “generation” with “race” or
“people.” The Greek word carries all those meanings, depending upon the context.
So this could mean the generation who were hearing Christ say this, and the
fulfillment in AD 70; it could mean the race of the Jews. If the latter, the
seventy years is then (rather confusingly) applied to mean 70 years since the
Jews returned to Israel, or since the capture of Jerusalem. Confused yet? Me
however, is a measure of agreement among all theories. All views agree on the
Seven Last Things:
The Tribulation. One theory holds that this has
already happened, but all agree that there will come a time when the
persecution of Christians will become very intense. Some hold this to be a
seven year period of trial.
Armageddon. The “last battle” to be fought is
viewed as being a battle between good and evil. The location for this battle is
known; it is in Palestine. The result of this battle will be an immense
Resurrection of the Dead,
or Rapture. All views
agree that at the end the dead will rise from their graves. Those Christians
still alive at the time will rise into the air with the resurrected ones. This
is usually (but not always) associated with the next event. There is vigorous
debate as to how many separate resurrections there will be, and for what
purpose (e.g., judgment).
Second Coming. All interpretations agree that Jesus
is returning in bodily form. He ascended into heaven after his resurrection; he
is returning the same way.
Judgment. Often referred to as the Great White
Throne Judgment, this is a time when all will be judged. Those who are true
Christians will be rewarded for their deeds; non-Christians will be judged for
Millennium. Literally “thousand years,” it is the
time when Satan is restrained. This is often connected with passages which
suggest that a golden era for mankind is coming. At the end of this period,
Satan is released for a little while.
New Heaven, New Earth. At the very end God recreates all
things; there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Contact with God will be
very close; death will no longer happen.
in the meanwhile? Be ready!