Expecting the End

Posted: February 24, 2013 in Matthew

Matthew 24:1-14, “Expecting the End”

There is a popular book for nearly every first-time mother: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  For women going through an incredible change such as pregnancy, it’s only natural to have loads of questions, ranging from what to expect for themselves, to what to expect for their baby’s development in conception to birth.

In Matthew 24, Jesus had told the disciples about their own version of change that they would be going through, and they had their own series of questions regarding what to expect.  What were the things that they could expect, as they were expecting the end?  And actually, Jesus used the analogy of a birth in His response: there would be growing pains along the way, but the people were not to panic.  They were to be patient & endure.  Just like a mother giving birth, eventually the end would come – and those final moments would be unmistakable for the time of the end.

What we’re about to spend the next several weeks studying in Matthew 24-25 is known as the Olivet Discourse. “Olivet” referring to the Mount of Olives on which Jesus sat.  This is the last major teaching (“discourse”) recorded by Matthew in his gospel account, and it is an incredibly detailed series of prophecies and parables regarding the end-times.  As a result, it’s highly debated among believers.  There are all sorts of viewpoints and timeframes that Bible scholars have in interpreting the words of Jesus.  Although there is room for disagreement among Bible-believing Christians, you need to know from the outset that we are going to look at this from a pre-tribulational, pre-millennial view of the end-times. To look at the words that Jesus spoke, and the historical context in which Jesus spoke them, in light of the other passages of Scripture that teach about these same events, then seemingly the most logical interpretation is to understand that Jesus is primarily referring to the time period known as the Great Tribulation, in which the Church (us) will have already been raptured away & the prophetic focus will have returned to the Jews who will (to a great extent) have massively turned to Christ by faith.

As Jesus answers a couple of questions about the end times, He begins by giving two sets of expectations: (1) What to expect in things leading up to the end, (2) what to expect during the days of the end.  In doing so, He addresses both the questions and patience of the Church throughout the age, as well as addressing the needs and the expectations of the Jews in Jerusalem who be living through the very days of the Great Tribulation.

Matthew 24:1–14
1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.

  1. This seems to be such a strange turn of events.  As Matthew 24 begins, the disciples go sight-seeing.  Say what?!  Jesus has publicly lambasted the scribes and Pharisees, proclaimed the desolation of Jerusalem, and declared He would not come again till they were ready to receive Him as Messiah.  No doubt this left a lot of people in shock, including the disciples.  Remember that the disciples were Jews (just like everyone else who had been listening), and they loved their nation and Jerusalem just like anyone else.  They looked forward with great anticipation to the restored glory of Israel and the kingdom of Messiah Jesus.  As recently as Ch 19 (just prior to the triumphal entry), they were asking about the kingdom and the things that they would personally receive.  Sure, Jesus had clearly told them about His own coming suffering and death, but they never seemed to really understand it, and what little they did understand was only short-term.  They were looking forward to a very near kingdom of glory in Israel, serving alongside the victorious King Jesus. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that they would have been confused by Jesus’ final words in the temple.  Perhaps they could understand why Jesus said what He did to the scribes and Pharisees, but how could Jerusalem be condemned?  How could they reign with Christ in a city that would be left desolate?  Perhaps this mindset explains why the disciples had been showing Jesus the various buildings of the temple as they were leaving.  To be sure, the architecture and craftsmanship of the building were spectacular.  This was the 2nd temple, originally built by Zerubbabel and the Jews who had returned from Babylon, but it had been undergoing extensive renovations for over 40 years by this point (as part of the building projects of Herod).  Even these renovations would not be fully completed for another 30 years (+/-), so surely the temple was a sight to behold.
  2. Yet this wasn’t the first time Jesus and the disciples had been there.  They had visited the temple on numerous occasions to this point.  So why would they be so astonished now, even taking in a bit of sight-seeing after Jesus had condemned the city and said He would be leaving Jerusalem for the last time?  It seems so incongruent.  And that’s the point.  Something didn’t quite match up for the disciples.  What Jesus had just told them was definitely NOT the sign they were looking for in regards to a glorious kingdom with a glorious temple at the center of it all.  They were confused – and Jesus was about to blow their minds even more.

2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

  1. Jesus was not impressed by the architecture.  He basically tells them, “Take a good look around.  Not only will Jerusalem be left desolate, but this glorious construction project will be taken apart brick-by-brick.”  Historically speaking, this turned out to be exactly the case.  When the Romans devastated the city in 70AD, they tore down the temple.  After the horrific fires had melted the overlaid gold into the massive quarried stone blocks, the Romans ripped everything apart to take every ounce of gold possible.  The temple was so destroyed that not a single part of its structure remains today.  The famed “wailing wall” is not part of the temple; it’s part of the one wall that is all that’s left of the extended foundation that the temple sat upon.  We don’t even know the precise location of where the sanctuary would have been.  The Romans effectively all but wiped it off of the map.
    1. This brings up a good point concerning buildings.  The disciples (like all of the Jews) were proud of their religious building, and according to the Law, the temple was indeed the center of their worship.  Not so for the Christian Church.  The Church is not a building; it’s people.  Buildings are just places were the Church comes together to worship.  Obviously it’s OK to have nice buildings (and we want to be good stewards of what God gives us), but our faith does not revolve around buildings.  The moment buildings (and other “stuff”) become more important than people, we have a huge problem.
  2. The problem for the disciples and all of the Jews was different.  If there would no longer be a temple, how would they worship?  If the troubles that were to come to Jerusalem were that severe, what would happen?  WHEN would all of this happen?  Jesus’ statement raised far more questions than answers, and the disciples needed to learn more.

3 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?”

  1. The location is interesting: “He sat on the Mount of Olives.”  When Jesus left the temple, He left Jerusalem as a whole.  Almost like the prophet Jonah, Jesus went to a mountain right outside the doomed city and took a seat that was overlooking the whole thing.  (Unlike Jonah, Jesus did not want to see the city destroyed!  Yet the ancient Ninevites were willing to do what the Jews were not: repent.)  Prophetically speaking, the Mount of Olives is significant.  It’s the place where the Messiah is supposed to appear at His coming in judgment. Zechariah 14:1–4, "(1) Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. (2) For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (3) Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. (4) And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south."  []  Remember that Jesus had introduced the idea of the suffering of Jerusalem, and now He goes and sits on the Mount of Olives.  Surely this parallel was not lost upon the disciples.  This is serious stuff.  Jesus is not talking about just any battle, or a siege upon Jerusalem like many of the other sieges of the past.  Jesus is talking about the Day of the Lord – the end of the world as they know it.
  2. Before we look at the questions of the disciples, notice the setting: they were in private.  The rebuke of the Pharisees was very public, but the Olivet Discourse was not.  This teaching was only for the disciples.  (And it’s possible that not all of the disciples were present.  Mark only lists four of the 12 disciples who were there: Peter, James, John, and Andrew – Mk 13:3.)  Why would this be private?  After all, this is some of the most detailed prophecy in all of Scripture regarding the end-times.  Would it make sense for Jesus to shout this from the rooftops in Jerusalem?  Wouldn’t this be the very thing the Jews needed to hear?  Not necessarily.  The Jews were not willing to receive Jesus as the Christ, and that was far more important!  Without that foundation, nothing of what they believed about end-times prophecy would really matter.  They wouldn’t understand it if they had heard it – it would have fallen upon deaf ears.
    1. That said, the Church needs to know these things!  Too many Christians ignore end-time prophecy, thinking: “It’s not all that important to me.  Everything is going to pan out in the end, anyway.”  Jesus thought it was important enough to ensure that one of the last extended teachings He ever gave to His disciples was on the topic of prophecy.  He certainly thought we ought to know it.  The last book we have in our NT is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which is entirely dedicated to end-times prophecy, and given with a promised blessing to those who read and keep it (Rev 1:3).  Prophecy is important to the Christian!
      1. Prophecy helps us keep perspective of the things that are really important.  When we remember what is destined to happen to all of the materialistic stuff of the world, and what awaits us in eternity, it helps us hold on to these things with a much looser grip.
      2. Prophecy helps us trust God.  As we see prophecy being fulfilled, it underscores God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.  There’s not a single thing that is outside the control of God, nor is there any promise that God has made that He will not fulfill.  He has a perfect track-record.
      3. Prophecy helps us be patient.  We don’t have to jump and panic at every little thing that happens in our nation or in our world.  We don’t have to wonder if Satan is ever going to get the upper-hand.  We can endure many things of this life when we know how the story is going to end.
  3. The disciples asked two major questions (broken up into three parts). (1) “When will these things be?”  This is referring to the desolation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple.  The disciples were simply asking how soon they needed to expect these trials.  (2) “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”  By this point, the disciples have accepted the truth that Jesus will be leaving them (though they don’t necessarily understand all of the ramifications that go with that).  If Jesus will be leaving, then it must mean that He will come again.  (And that is very good news!)  Because Jesus is God, they understand that Jesus’ coming will be associated with the end of the age.  Again, remember where they are: Mt. Olivet.  In Zechariah, the trials of Jerusalem and the Day of the Lord are all associated with each other.  No doubt the disciples had all of this tied up together.
  4. What may have been a singular series of events from the perspective of the disciples are actually different events separated by nearly 2000 years (and counting).  The trials that Jesus specifically prophesied about Jerusalem and the temple became historical reality in 70AD.  Yet those trials were only a shadow of the trials that are still to come during the years of the Great Tribulation.  What the disciples didn’t understand becomes clearer as Jesus teaches them throughout the Olivet Discourse.  Interestingly enough, Jesus takes a while to answer the first question, and when He does, He actually doesn’t say too much more than what He already said (though Luke’s gospel goes a bit more in-depth with it).  Back with the Pharisees, He had already said that God’s judgment would come upon that particular generation, and it seems that information was to be sufficient for the time being.  What the disciples most needed was patience as they awaited Jesus’ return, so that is the period that Jesus chose to teach.
  5. Question: “Why would Jesus teach the disciples about events that (for the most part) would not directly affect them in the 1st century?  After all, we are still awaiting the fulfillment of much of what Jesus taught in the Olivet Discourse.  Shouldn’t we expect Jesus to have personally addressed the needs of the apostles in front of Him?”  Answer: the 12 disciples (or 4, as the case may be) were not ALL of Jesus’ disciples.  Anyone who believes in Jesus as Lord is a disciple of Jesus.  Jesus obviously knew that His words would be recorded in the Bible.  He knew that later Jews who come to faith during the Great Tribulation would need to know these things, so Jesus didn’t hesitate to teach them 2000+ years in advance.  In addition, Jesus knew that ALL believers during the Church age would need patience to await His coming, and so He lovingly gave us very clear instruction on what to look for, in order that we would not panic nor be deceived.

4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

  1. The first thing to expect: there will be deception.  There will be false teachers & false Christs.  People will come in the name of Jesus, preaching a different gospel & people will pretend to come AS Jesus, preaching a lie…don’t be deceived.  “Take heed” – be careful not to believe just anyone who claims to represent the Lord Jesus because there will be wolves among the sheep.  No matter what era of history in which we live, there has been an enemy of Jesus looking to steal, kill, and destroy the people who belong to God.  The devil has used the tactic of deception from the beginning of human history, and found that it works – there is no reason for him to change his strategy now.  Thus deceivers will rise up among the Church and attempt to lead people astray.
  2. One bit of an obvious fact: deceivers deceive.  They generally don’t come announcing, “I am a false teacher looking to lead you away from Jesus Christ…”  They come speaking a lie, hoping that some people will believe the lie to be truth.  IOW, false teachers aren’t always obvious to people who aren’t looking for them.  The nice young men who knock on your door to tell you about an additional revelation of Jesus are not going to outwardly tell you that they are preaching a gospel that is different than Christianity.  They are going to label themselves as “Christian” and talk about the “Savior” and His “atonement” for our sin…and they are going to mean something totally different than what the Bible means as they share a false gospel.  If we are supposed to “take heed,” that means we need to be aware of the fact that deceivers exist, and that it is very possible that we might have our own faith tested as we come in contact with them.  Obviously we don’t have to BE deceived, but we need to be aware if we are going to avoid it.  “Many” will not be aware, and they will fall into delusion, pulled away from the truth of the gospel.

6 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. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

  1. The second thing to expect: there will be destruction.  To be sure, it seems that times of peace upon the earth have been the exception, rather than the rule (if there has ever been a time when no war existed anywhere on planet earth at a given point in time).  Wars are something to be expected (not desired, but expected).  When there isn’t an outright war, there will be a fear of war – and while that might be the norm, it’s not the end.  Jesus even seems to imply a growth in world-wide wars as nation rises against nation & kingdom against kingdom.  Imagine massive empires fighting against one another.   That may have been somewhat difficult for the disciples, but it’s recent history in light of WWI, WWII, the Cold War against the Soviets, etc.  All these things would come & go & they were to be expected.  At the time of WWI (which was called “the Great War”), people believed that it was going to be the war to end all wars…obviously they were mistaken.  Wars continued, just like they do to this day.  And not only would death and destruction come via warfare, it would come through natural disaster.  Famines would rage across whole continents, diseases would ravage millions of people, and earthquakes would occur all over the world. 
  2. In the midst of all of this, what does Jesus tell the disciples?  Don’t panic. “See that you are not troubled.”  Don’t be alarmed or frightened – don’t cry out at the latest outbreak of whatever it is that you see.  There will be all sorts of terrible trials come into the world before even beginning the phase in which Jesus can be expected to return in His 2nd coming.
  3. Sadly, that’s not often the message Christians tend to hear from many teachers looking at prophecy.  Instead, we read our Bible with one hand & our newspaper in the other (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), and we get jumpy.  Any possibility that might fit the category of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes sets off a flurry of activity and speculation that this might actually be THE end.  Whatever latest turn of events to the worse in our culture puts people on edge, nervously looking about & wondering if this is the time of which Jesus spoke, etc.  Let’s be very clear on this: this is precisely what Jesus did NOT want us to do. “See that you are not troubled.”  Yes, there will be all sorts of terrible things in our culture & surrounding world.  We can expect things to get a lot worse before they get better.  We may even see our own nation turn into something we dare not imagine…but Jesus still tells us not to be troubled.  Don’t panic at these things.  Obviously we’re not under any pretense that these trials are good (they’re not!) – but they aren’t unexpected, either.  There have been trials for 2000 years of Christian history, and things are only going to increase prior to the time that Jesus calls us home.  Our response is not to panic, but to be faithful.  Be faithful with the time that we do have – be faithful with the things that God has entrusted to us, in the time period in which God has sovereignly allowed us to live.  God will take care of the end – there is not a thing we can do to either push it along faster, or cause it to slow.  So don’t be troubled by it; continue to trust God in the middle of it.

8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

  1. As bad as all of those previous things might be – that’s not all that there is.  Those things are just the “beginning” of the end.  Certainly deception and destruction are not desirable, but that’s not as bad as it will get.  Those things are just the first of the “sorrows.”  The word here actually implies birth-pangs.  Just as contractions can start early & be relatively light, they eventually increase in frequency and intensity.  Jesus implies that is how it will be with these signs of the end.
  2. Actually, we can see that in our world today all around us.  Looking around in our culture, there ought to be little doubt we are living in the end-times, extremely close to the time that Jesus was describing to the disciples 2000 years ago.  Because of the existence of the nation of Israel, the world scene is set in a way that has not existed for centuries for some of these things to take place.  All the while, false-teaching, wars, disease, and natural disasters take place on a seemingly increasing scale.  Yet even in the midst of all of THIS, it is still not quite the time that Jesus is leading up to.  What we see are the ever-increasing birth pangs, but we do not yet see the beginning of the Great Tribulation (which Jesus is about to describe).
  3. Interestingly enough, the book of Revelation describes the beginning of the period known as the Great Tribulation in similar terms as what Jesus teaches here.  After John has seen an incredible vision of the throne room of heaven & the glory of God the Father & God the Son (as the Lamb), Jesus begins to open up seven seals on a scroll, ushering in the Great Tribulation.  The first seal shows a man on a white horse with a bow ready to conquer, signifying Antichrist – a great deceiver and false teacher (vs. 5).  The 2nd seal shows someone on a red horse who takes peace from the earth, and causes much war and murder (vs. 6-7).  The 3rd seal shows someone on a black horse who speaks of economic turmoil and famine (vs. 7).  The 4th seal shows Death riding on a pale horse who was given power to kill in various ways (vs. 7).  The 5th seal shows those who are martyred for the name of Christ, hated by the world (vs. 9), and the 6th seal ushers in massive earthquakes and cosmic disturbances.  It seems possible that the birth pangs that have occurred throughout the centuries in growing intensity might find their climatic fulfillment in the opening days of the Great Tribulation.

9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.

  1. Notice the “you.”  Who is Jesus speaking to?  His disciples, who were Jews that believed in Jesus Christ as Lord.  This becomes a pretty critical distinction at this point.  After all, the disciples had asked about the sign of Jesus’ 2nd coming, and the end of the age.  In answering them, Jesus tells them about all the things that are going to happen through the ages, which are all the beginnings of sorrows.  Now there is a deliberate transition from generality to specificity.  After all these things that can be considered birth-pangs & the beginning, “then they will deliver you up…”  IOW, these are now the things that the Jews who will be in Jerusalem prior to the coming of Jesus Christ (those who have faith in Jesus) can expect will happen to them.  At this point it becomes clear Jesus is not speaking to the Church; He’s speaking to the Jewish Christian.  There is a different group of people in mind here because there is a different phase of history (dispensation) in process.  From the day of Pentecost to today, we have been in the Church age.  This age will continue until the moment that Jesus calls us to Himself through what is known as the rapture.  Paul writes of it to the Thessalonians when comforting them of the truth of how Christians who die await a glorious resurrection. 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, "(16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."  []  This is the blessed hope!  This is the moment that we await, in that all of the Church (both those who have died, and those who are alive) will forever be in the presence of the Lord.  This is also the precise moment that the Church age ceases, and the focus of prophecy shifts back to the Jewish nation.  This seems to be the event that kick-starts the period known as the Great Tribulation, and during that time Jews will come to faith by the bucket-loads as they finally recognize Jesus as their Messiah.  Through their witness, multitudes of people from every race and nation will come to faith, though they will have to endure much persecution until the moment that Jesus once again sets foot upon the earth.  How much persecution?  As Jesus says, they “will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”  The book of Revelation records John gazing at a great multitude of people which no one could number, all of which came out of the great tribulation (Rev 7:9,14).
  2. That there will be a time of terrible persecution during the Great Tribulation does not at all take away from the persecution that exists of Christians today.  Certainly persecution has always existed for the Church & will always exist.  Jesus made that perfectly clear prior to His own crucifixion, telling the disciples plainly that if the world persecuted Him, it would certainly persecute the disciples as well (Jn 15:20).  Jesus’ teaching, church history, and plain observation tells us that those who follow Christ suffer immensely all over the world, and it is the norm, rather than the exception.  (The fact Christians in the United States have been relatively free from physical persecution is truly the exception!)  With all that in mind, Jesus isn’t talking to the Church here.  The time for the persecution of the Church will be over because the age of the Church will be over.  This will be a time of persecution for those who have faith in Christ after the Church has been raptured, and the attention of the world is once again on the Jewish people.  All the nations of the world will hate them & seek to kill them.  And it’s not only the outside Gentile nations; it’s also people in their own midst.

10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.

  1. Notice the “one another.”  Not only will there be persecution from outside of the Jews, there will seemingly be persecution from among the Jews.  Those who do not come to faith in Christ (or those who are false converts) will be offended at being associated with the ones who have come to faith.  They will betray and hate the Jewish Christians (along with all of those who have come to faith in Christ during this time).  Just as Jesus was betrayed by one of His own, so will people be betrayed by those closest to them.
  2. We see a foretaste of this all over the world – specifically in Muslim & Hindu nations, in areas where Christianity is heavily persecuted.  Someone might hear the gospel and come to faith, and that puts him/her at odds with the rest of his family.  It’s not uncommon for fathers to turn against sons & husbands to turn against wives who have come to faith in Christ, and to isolate, excommunicate, and even physically assault them in retaliation for leaving their pagan beliefs.  To come to Christ in one of these nations is not as simple as praying a prayer, walking an aisle, and deciding to come to church every once in a while – it is to make a determined break with your family & culture, counting the cost of eternity over whatever it is you might face.  Your very family members who once loved you and would have protected you with their lives might turn against you to the death – and yet, Jesus is still worth it all.

11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

  1. Again, there is a further rise in deception.  Deception is a hallmark of this age, and it will also be a hallmark of the Great Tribulation.  The Bible speaks of Antichrist who will deceive the world into thinking that he is the great savior, worthy to receive worship.  He will be joined by a false prophet, who does signs and wonders to help people believe Antichrist and to worship him.  No doubt there will be many who preach the false gospel of Antichrist during that time, just as there are many preachers of false gospels today.  The Bible makes it clear that multitudes will follow the pagan religious and political system known as “Mystery Babylon” (Rev 17), demonstrating how widespread the deception is.  (How deceived are they?  So much so that they will believe they can take on Almighty God in warfare & win!)
  2. Not only will there be a rise in deception, there will be a rise in lawlessness.  People will forsake the law and righteousness of God, seeking to exalt things that are diametrically opposed to His holiness.  Again, we see a foretaste of this in our own culture today.  It’s not that people merely don’t know the right thing to do & they stumble into sin – people are deliberately living according to sin.  They choose to be without law (ἀνομίαν), wanting nothing to do with God.  As a result of lawlessness, people become loveless.  Sin is uniquely focused upon oneself, doing whatever it is that pleases “me,” regardless of whatever consequences might come in “your” life.  True love (as exampled by Jesus, ἀγάπη) is the opposite.  This kind of love is selfless & sacrificial, seeking the best of someone else.  Where lawlessness abounds, “lovelessness” abounds as well.
  3. Clearly, the time of the Great Tribulation is not going to be a walk in the park!  This is not something that anyone would want to experience for themselves.  For those who think, “It’s OK if I miss the rapture, I can still get saved during the Tribulation,” you’re fooling yourself.  (1) You don’t know if you’ll live to see tomorrow, much less the days of the Great Tribulation.  (2) If you walk into those days as deceived as you are right now, what makes you think that your mindset is going to change when you’re there?  If you know today that you are currently without Christ & His salvation, the time to receive Him is NOW.

13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

  1. The person who perseveres under the pressure – the person who doesn’t give into the deception of the false prophets & teachers – the person who walks in love & faith, submitted to Jesus Christ even during the days of the Great Tribulation…this is the person who will be saved.  It’s not that their works save them, but their works show them to be saved.  They have held up under the pressure because they will have truly belonged to Christ Jesus & He is the One who gave them the strength they needed at the time they needed it.  Keep in mind there will be immense pressure during the Tribulation to abandon faith in Christ.  Not only will there be terrible persecution of believers, but it will be impossible to buy or sell anything unless a person takes the mark of Antichrist (Rev 13:16-17).  Believers will not be able to purchase even food or gasoline without the mark, and of course no believer in Christ will take the mark during that time.  They will truly be saved for all of eternity, but there is no doubt that they will be suffering for a period of years.  Not all of them will live to the end of the Tribulation (multitudes will be martyred), but those who endure to the end of their life will find that Jesus has indeed saved them.  Jesus does not give them any illusion that it will be easy – He only promises that the perseverance will be worth it.
  2. Although it is a different context, there is a similar truth in the Church age right now.  Those who endure in Christ, walking with Him until the moment He calls them home – those are the ones who have such a steadfast assurance of salvation.  Our assurance of eternity is not found in a prayer that we prayed long ago – or an aisle that we walked – or even a baptism that we had.  Our assurance is found in Christ, as we steadfastly abide in Him.  We may (and will) fail along the way.  We will sin against Him – we will royally mess up…yet we know that God is good to His word & His promise for forgiveness.  We continue to trust in Christ, and we’re continually assured of the salvation that He graciously promises.

14 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.

  1. Here’s the answer to the question.  What is the sign of Jesus’ coming & the end of the age?  The completion of the gospel preaching.  There will be many things that take place prior to this.  The Church will have already been raptured, and there will have been much suffering and deception that has taken place upon the earth.  Yet the gospel will still be preached.  The Jews will have 144,000 people specifically sealed for those days – there will be two witnesses proclaiming the word of God in Jerusalem – there will be all sorts of signs and wonders in heavens, specifically fulfilling prophecy – and on top of everything else, God will personally assure that the gospel of Jesus will be proclaimed in every corner of the world. Revelation 14:6–7, "(6) Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— (7) saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”"  []  Not a single person will have been left with an excuse!  Every single person and nation will have had the opportunity to come to faith in Christ, humbly repenting of their sin & surrendering him/herself to God.  In all of His grace, love, and holiness, God gives people a final chance to receive of the forgiveness of Christ before Jesus comes in His wrath and holiness.  And sadly, multitudes will still refuse Him even at that late hour.  (Don’t be one who refuses the call of Christ!)

Conclusion:
It’s understandable why the disciples had questions about the end-times – many Christians do!  Once Jesus assured them that not only would Jerusalem be left desolate, but the temple would be destroyed, they had many questions about the future.  After all, Jesus had just told them that everything they had known in this world would be turned upside down.  What was Jesus’ response?  Don’t panic; endure.

To the disciples sitting at His feet, and to all Christians throughout the Church Age, Jesus tells us not to panic.  There would be many troubles to come.  The 1st century Jews would have their own set of troubles in 70AD, previewing the terrible days of the Great Tribulation.  All Christians everywhere would need to be on guard against false teachers, warmongering, world troubles, and persecution throughout the centuries.  These things would come, but they would not be the end.  Christians were to patiently endure these things – not to be troubled, and not to be caught unaware.

For the believers that will indeed live through those days, Jesus also gives very clear instruction about the things that they are to expect.  All of the troubles of this world will be ramped up, and focused squarely upon those who come to faith in Christ in the last days.  Jesus tells them to endure.  Those days will not last, and the end will indeed finally come.

What Jesus told the disciples on the Mount of Olives is something we all need to be reminded of: don’t panic – endure.  We have gotten jumpy as American Evangelicals, almost like racers who are at the starting blocks, or football players on the line.  We’re so ready to go that anything we hear tends to make us jump to a false start.  Be careful!  Although world events tend to turn around the United States of America, Biblical & prophetic events do not.  We will go through hard times – undoubtedly we will go through much harder times than we have ever gone through before.  However, we are still in the beginnings of the prophetic birth-pangs – and we will be, right up to the moment of the Rapture.  So don’t panic.  Persevere in Christ, and keep doing what Jesus has told us to do: share the gospel around the world and make disciples of all the nations.  Take people to Jesus as we patiently await the day that Jesus will call us home.

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