The Great Tribulation

Posted: March 4, 2013 in Matthew

Matthew 24:15-25, “The Great Tribulation”

Sometimes words can be deceptive.  Depending on the context, we might use the same word to describe totally opposite things.  To say “I love pizza” is a very different thing than to say with sarcasm “I love my taxes.”  Other times, it’s not the context but the actual usage of the word that changes, which might cause some confusion.  Such is the case with the Great Tribulation.  This isn’t “great” as in, “It’s grrreat & wonderful!”  This is “great” as in “huge – massively awful.”  When God pours out His wrath upon the earth during the time period known as the Great Tribulation, it will be a time of tremendous hardship and deception.  Yet there is good news in all of this: the Tribulation is governed and limited by God.  God sets the limits for what can take place, and God assures the world that it will not forever take place.  The Great (Awful) Tribulation has a great (wonderful) ending: the return of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 24 has begun the final extended teaching from Jesus in Matthew, known as the Olivet Discourse.  In these final hours before His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion (only 2 days away!), Jesus had left Jerusalem for the last time, after proclaiming woe upon woe against the scribes and the Pharisees.  He had warned of the desolation of the city that was soon to approach, and even told the disciples that the temple itself would be utterly destroyed.  Going outside the city to the Mount of Olives, perhaps while looking upon Jerusalem as a whole, the disciples (likely only 4: Peter, James, John, Andrew) asked Jesus about this.  When would this happen?  What would be the sign of His coming & the end of the age?  Jesus responds with the Olivet Discourse.  To this point, He’s told them of the things that would lead up to the time of the end.  There would be many trials that would happen in the world, but none was a reason to panic.  Nothing would yet approach the days of the Great Tribulation.  It is that period of time Jesus is about to describe.

Matthew 24:15–28
15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),

  1. Note the "therefore". Jesus did not take a pause in order to insert a section break, He was continuing to speak. This is a direct answer of their questions back in vs. 3.  They had asked about the sign of the end – here it is. 
  2. What is the sign? The “abomination of desolation.” Here, Matthew inserts a bit of editorial comment directly from him to the reader, telling us to understand. Obviously Jesus was speaking of something that was well known to the Jews of the day, but it might not be obvious to later readers. We need to take the time to understand this if we’re going to understand what Jesus was saying.  Daniel wrote of this three times: in chapters 9, 11, and 12. In Ch 9, Daniel receives a prophecy and vision from the angel Gabriel, who tells him of 70 weeks (7-year periods) that were appointed for the nation of Israel in regards to their future Messiah. 69 of these weeks (7 weeks + 62 weeks, dan 9:25) were given as a timeline for the Jews to know when to expect the first coming of Messiah. Daniel was told that Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the promised Messiah would come…marvelous news to a Jewish prophet who had witnessed the rampage of the Babylonians over his people. But the news wasn’t all cheery. Daniel 9:26–27, "(26) “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. (27) Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”" []. Messiah cut off…the city is destroyed again…another prince comes (antichrist) and makes a covenant for the final week (7 years). He ends the sacrifices and then does something even more awful…something so bad that Gabriel doesn’t even describe it. What Daniel is told is that the abomination is so bad, it doesn’t only stop the sacrifices, it makes it desolate.  (The reference in Ch 12:11 is regarding the timing of when this all takes place in the middle of that final week.)
  3. The other mention comes with a different prophecy, in which an angel is telling Daniel of various wars that will come as empires displace empires. As this all takes place, one of the kings from the north would come and defile the temple. Daniel 11:31–32, "(31) And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. (32) Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits."  []  What’s interesting here is that between these two prophecies, there seem to be two different instances spoken about. One is about from a king of the north who seemingly hates the Jews; the other is about an unidentified prince who appears to make a covenant with the Jews. What’s going on here? The events of Ch. 11 preview the events of Ch. 9. One has already taken place in history, and it paints a picture of what is still yet to come by the hand of Antichrist.  Historically, we know this particular “king of the north” to be fulfilled in the person of Antiochus (Ἀντίοχος) Epiphanes.  To see this, we need to look at a bit of ancient history.  The Babylonian Empire led by Nebuchadnezzar were the ones who conquered Jerusalem and put the Jews into captivity.  They were overthrown (in a night) by the Medes & the Persians, who later restored the Jews back to their lands & commanded the temple to be rebuilt.  As the Jews rebuilt, world events continued & the Persians were conquered by the Greek king Alexander the Great (technically, he was Macedonian, but it was all part of the Greek culture).  By the time Alexander was 30 years old, he ruled a massive empire that stretched from Greece down to Egypt & all the way over to the Himalaya mountains.  When Alexander died, the empire split into four major parts & eventually the part that ruled over Judea was the Seleucid Empire.  One of the last Seleucid kings was Antiochus Epiphanes (Antiochus IV).  Ruling over the region known as Syria, he would easily be described as a “king of the north.”  This was the king under whom the Jews revolted during the war of the Maccabees, as Antiochus attempted to wipe away any non-Greek cultural influence (including religious).  In anger against the Jews, he committed an act that seems to prefigure the abomination of desolation, which is prophesied to Daniel in Ch. 11.  Earlier, Antiochus had encouraged a division among the Jews – the ones who had followed the Greek culture had even sacrificed pigs in their pagan worship.  At this point, he had a statue of Zeus erected in the Jewish Temple itself & renamed it the Temple of Zeus (“the temple of Jupiter Olympius,” 2 Mac 6:1-2).  The temple was filled with all sorts of profane things – much of which is documented in the records of the Maccabeean revolts.
  4. “OK – that’s a lot of history.  So what?”  Notice how all of that history (to us) reflects what was future prophecy to Daniel in Ch. 11…it fits exactly.  All of that goes to prefigure what Jesus (and Daniel) say are yet to take place during the days of Antichrist and the time of the Great Tribulation.  There is still an abomination of desolation to take place – that is the great sign of the soon coming of the end.  Jesus tells us that this abomination of desolation will be “standing in the holy place.”  This takes place within the temple itself.  That is all of the detail Jesus gives at this time, but the NT goes on to say a bit more.  2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, "(3) Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. (4) He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God." []  Elaborating on what Jesus taught, Paul tells the Thessalonians that Antichrist will set himself up as the object of worship within the Jewish temple, signifying that he desires the world (and specifically the Jews) to worship him as god.  John was given more information as he received prophecy regarding the assistant to Antichrist, the false prophet: Revelation 13:14–15, "(14) and by the signs that it is allowed to perform on behalf of the beast, it deceives the inhabitants of earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that had been wounded by the sword and yet lived; (15) and it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast so that the image of the beast could even speak and cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be killed." []  To put the prophecies of Jesus, Paul, and John together, we find Antichrist (the beast) standing in the temple, demanding to be worshipped as god, and an image/statue is placed there with supernatural ability terrorizing people into actually worshipping it.  (Not terribly unlike the statue of Zeus placed within the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes.)
  5. This is quite the sign!  It’s no wonder that Jesus gave this to the disciples – this isn’t something that could be mistaken for anything else.  Sure, there would be wars & rumors of wars throughout the years – there would be the rise & fall of many nations – diseases, pestilences, problems, natural disasters…but there wouldn’t be anything quite like this.  When this takes place, this is a sure sign to those who are watching that the time of Jesus’ return & the end of the age is close at hand!  Those who worship Christ would need to watch for that day, but they need not panic in the meantime.  There was a Great Commission to be about the business of fulfilling – people need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ & be saved, and Christians are the ones who are to proclaim that gospel.  That can’t be done if believers in Christ are panicked & huddled together on a rooftop somewhere waiting for the end of the world.  Jesus gave a very clear sign of when the end would come, and in doing so He gives hope and a timeline to all those who will be present to see it.
  6. Please note that for there to be an abomination of desolation standing in the holy place of the temple, there needs to be a temple in which the abomination to stand.  To date, that has not yet been constructed – and it does not necessarily need to be constructed prior to the rapture of the Church.  One of the theories surrounding the early days of Antichrist is that he negotiates peace between the Jews & the Muslims (remember that Antichrist is first trusted by many Jews, and makes a covenant with them for 7 years).  During the first 3½ years of Antichrist’s rule, he keeps his evil mostly hidden, and it’s quite possible that the Jewish temple is rebuilt during that time.  Of course, that is speculation – God could work any miracle He desires & the temple could quite possibly be rebuilt prior to the rapture.  Either way, we can be sure there WILL be a temple at some point – we have the word of Jesus on the matter.
    1. One thing that is evident is all of this is the sovereign plan of God throughout history.  It is truly amazing to look back through history and see the plan of salvation, Jesus’ 1st coming, and the road to Jesus’ 2nd coming slowly unveiled through the centuries.  God has laid out His purpose systematically, and nothing can sway it or alter it.  He is fully in control as the sovereign God.  With as chaotic as life seems to be at times, this is immensely comforting!  … …

16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

  1. So when this moment comes – when the “abomination of desolation” is made to be known “standing in the holy place,” now what?  Get out of Dodge, and do it quick!  Wherever someone might be in the land of Judea (modern-day Israel), get out of the cities & go to the mountains.  Don’t stop to pack – don’t go back to the house even to change into appropriate clothing – don’t do anything except run for the hills. That’s serious!  Jesus is not painting the picture of a minor inconvenience; He’s underscoring the immediate dangerous crisis that would now face the people.  This is the idea that if you wait even a few moments, it could cost you your life.  As when Lot & his family lingered at Sodom, the angels had to literally pull them out of the city in order to escape destruction, this is the same sort of urgency taught by Jesus.
  2. Why?  What’s coming?  Although the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD could be seen to prefigure this event, it absolutely could not BE the event.  The abomination of desolation had not taken place.  The Roman emperor Caligula had planned to desecrate the temple, but he died before getting the opportunity.  When the Romans did come in, they destroyed the temple before there was a chance to desecrate it.  Thus, it historically has not yet been fulfilled.  According to Daniel’s prophecy, the abomination of desolation takes place in the middle of the 70th week (Dan 9:27, 12:11).  Seemingly 3½ years into the Tribulation time is when this all comes to pass – and although much of God’s judgment had been known all over the earth to this point, now things really seem to pick up speed as the bowl judgments start to be poured out (Rev 15-16).  Loathsome sores come to those who worship the image of Antichrist, the seas & rivers turn to blood, great heat comes from the sun and scorches men upon the earth, darkness and pain comes to the kingdom of Antichrist, the Euphrates river dries up & demonic spirits come through Antichrist and his false prophet continuing to deceive the world.  On the heels of all this comes the overthrow of the city & system of Babylon (a collaboration of religious paganism and political power), and the armies of the world gather together for the final battle against God at Armageddon, when Jesus will return in all the fullness of His glory and might.  With the exception of the very end, it’s evident that the world will be overrun with chaos, hardship, violence, and pain.  Those who come to faith in Christ will be heavily persecuted during those days and multitudes of saints will be martyred.  Getting back to what Jesus said about leaving town, it’s no wonder He said this with so much urgency!  No one would dare simply wait around in the streets.  Lollygagging would mean one’s own destruction.

19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

  1. Jesus continues to underscore the urgency.  It’s not that He is condemning pregnant women or young mothers here.  “Woe” is used differently than when He spoke to the scribes & Pharisees.  He’s simply stating a truth: these women will have special hardships during those days.  It’s tough enough for a woman 9 months pregnant to simply get through a day – much less flee for her life.  Likewise for those who have to stop and nurse a baby every 2 hours.  These will be days that are hard for the entire world, and although those who have faith in Christ will be saved in eternity, they will still have to live through the same hardships as everyone else.
  2. Note the Jewish characteristic here.  It’s easy enough to understand why winter travel might be difficult (especially if someone is travelling by foot, without access to motor vehicles, as would seem likely during this time) – but only a Jew would have problems getting out of town on the Sabbath day.  Gentiles can go as far as they need to and work as hard as necessary any day of the week, but faithful Jews are supposed to honor the Sabbath & keep it holy.  They are to do no work on the Sabbath, and running out of town surely qualifies as work.  Jewish tradition even came up with a concept of a “Sabbath-day’s journey,” (Acts 1:12) which was the distance a Jew could travel without entering into labor or work.  This worked out to be 2000 cubits, or approximately half a mile.  (Walking ½ a mile at a time isn’t going to get you very far!)  Different traditions through the centuries seemed to enlarge the distance to 8000 cubits (4000 there & back), but even that isn’t very far.
  3. What’s the point?  Jesus is talking directly about/to Jews here.  This is not a statement to the Church, because it is an irrelevant issue.  This is a concern for Jews – specifically for Jews who have come to faith in Christ and are obedient to His command to leave once they see the abomination of desolation in the Jerusalem temple.  Today, it seems inconceivable that so many Jews would have faith in Christ & be obedient to the words of Jesus – but we need to remember that we are living in a different dispensation.  This is the age of the Church.  Once the Church is raptured, the prophetic focus will move back to the Jewish people.  God still has a plan for Israel, and that plan will be fulfilled during the days of the Great Tribulation. Romans 11:25–27, "(25) So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (26) And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.” (27) “And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”" []  For now, all but a remnant of Israel is without faith – but in those days their national blindness will be removed and multitudes of Jews will come to faith in Christ, rightly seeing Jesus to be the Messiah that He has always been.  All of this brings Jesus’ teaching in Matt 24 into focus & it makes sense why He is speaking to Jews fleeing Jerusalem from temple desecration, worried about Sabbath regulations.
    1. Some might wonder why this is important.  Here’s why: it shows the faithfulness of God.  God is good to His promises.  There are scores of promises in the Bible regarding God’s everlasting love for the national people of Israel, and how He has promised them an eternal deliverance, even as He promised a time of great trouble.  To write all of that off as mere symbolic spiritual description of the church is to blatantly ignore the plain meaning of what was written down.  God’s word is always good – God’s word is always faithful.  If we cannot trust what God said in His covenant to Israel, how could we trust what God says in His covenant promises with us?  Perish the thought!  Let God be true & every man a liar!

21 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.

  1. Although Jesus does not go into all of the details at this point, He makes it clear that this will be a time of great trial.  In fact, it will be the time of the greatest of all trials: the Great Tribulation.  As bad as things had ever been upon the earth, there will have been nothing that even comes close to approaching the awfulness of this.
  2. Think about that for a moment.  That’s a pretty intense description.  With all of the tragedies and horrifying atrocities that have taken place through history, there is nothing that will equal the days of the Great Tribulation.  As bad as the destruction of Jerusalem was in 70AD, certainly there is no way it could fit the description of Jesus.  There is nothing that does.  Not the Jewish holocaust that left over 6 million dead at the hands of the Nazis – not the Cambodian genocide that left over 2 million dead because of Pol Pot – not the Soviet atrocities responsible for the death of at least 61 million (a minimum of 20 million from Stalin alone)…and those are only examples from the 20th century!  The bubonic plague outbreak in the Middle Ages (the Black Death) left somewhere between 75-200 million people dead.  And of course none of this accounts for various other diseases, natural disasters, or other tortures and warfare.  As horrible as those events have been throughout history, nothing comes close to what will happen during the days of the Great Tribulation.  It’s that bad.

22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

  1. There is good news in the midst of all of the hardships of the Great Tribulation: it won’t last forever.  The days of the Great Tribulation will be incredibly hard, and literally billions of people will perish.  Before the initial 6 seals are finished opening, already a minimum of ¼ of the earth has been killed by violence or hunger (4th seal – Rev 6:8).  The death toll is not listed in many of the other seals or trumpet judgments, but it’s apparent that many people die as the result of seas being struck & ships destroyed, and with the poisoned water coming as a result of the Wormwood event (2nd & 3rd trumpets – Rev 8:8-11).  By the time the 6th trumpet comes along, 4 angels are released to kill 1/3 of mankind (Rev 9:15) – and the Tribulation is not even half-over!  It’s no wonder Jesus said that unless God had shortened the days, every single person left on planet earth would be left alive!
  2. Why does God shorten the days?  “For the elect’s sake.”  Obviously the reference here is not to anything less than 24-hour days, but a specific time limit has been put on the number of days included in the Great Tribulation (7 years).  The reason God did this is specifically for the elect – for those who have (or who will) put their faith and trust in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sin.  God loves His people, so much so that He shows mercy to the entire world based upon His love for His own.  Everyone on earth benefits because of God’s love for His special elect (not unlike how we all benefit because of God’s love for His Son).
    1. Our God is a merciful God! Think about it: the Great Tribulation is the time specifically set aside by God for Him to pour out His righteous wrath upon the earth.  Humankind has sinned against God since (literally) the beginning of history, and justice demands a response from God.  Thus God gives it.  For 7 years it is made known, ramped up dramatically in the last 3½ years.  There has been nothing like those days in all of history.  It is the fully deserved suffering of mankind by the hand of the Holy Creator God.  And yet…God limits it.  He has mercy for the world because He has mercy upon those whom He loves.  If humans were to get what we truly deserved because of our sin, every single one of us would be wiped out.  Jesus would never have been sent to the cross, and we would face the full punishment due our sin & rebellion against our Creator.  We would all face an eternity in hell without hope, and it would be the righteous punishment.  But God is merciful.  He is abounding in mercy!  He DID send Jesus to die in our place, offering salvation and forgiveness for the entire world.  And beyond that – even in the days of the Great Tribulation, things are not as bad as what they could be.  God still extends the opportunity for people to turn in faith to Christ – He still gives people the chance to be saved.  He could simply explode the planet or otherwise wipe it out of existence, but He doesn’t.  Every person alive has the opportunity to experience the mercy of God for him/herself…if they would just avail themselves of it.  (Have you availed yourself of the mercy of God through Christ?)
  3. Notice Jesus does not say “for the church’s sake.”  Certainly we don’t want to argue from silence, nor put words in Jesus’ mouth.  But it is interesting that elsewhere in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus has specifically labeled His people as His church (Mt 16:18, 18:17).  Nowhere else in the book does Matthew record Jesus using the noun “elect” except in Ch. 24, and all in the context of the days of the Tribulation.  Obviously those who are of the church ARE elect.  We have experienced the benefits of being chosen by God to be saved through Jesus Christ.  When we willingly put our faith & trust in Jesus as our Lord – when we asked Him to forgive our sins & we believed Jesus to be God, then we found that God had known of us from eternity past and had chosen us.  As John writes, we love Him (God) because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).  Like a marriage, there was a mutual choosing.  God chose us & we responded to His love by choosing Christ.  With all of that in mind, Jesus’ use of the term “elect” in this passage does NOT seem to refer to the church.  There seems to be a distinct choice of words away from the “church” in order to refer to a people who will be present during the days of the Great Tribulation.  People with faith in Christ, but also with knowledge of the temple & regard to things like Sabbath day regulations.  Altogether, it supports the idea that Jesus is referring to believing Jews & the Gentiles who will come to faith in Christ through the Jewish witness.

23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

  1. Earlier, Jesus had already introduced the idea of “false prophets” abounding during the days of the Great Tribulation & deceiving many (vs. 11) – here, Jesus expands on it.  Not only will there be false prophets, but there will be “false christs.”  IOW, not only will there be people claiming to speak for God, but people claiming to BE God.  Obviously Antichrist would fall into this category, but Jesus implies there will be multiple pretenders in those days.  Some of these people would even engage in supernatural activities as “proof” of their legitimacy.  Again, we know this to be true of Antichrist and his false prophet.  Revelation 13 shows how they will use miraculous powers to cause the image that is set up in the temple to appear to come to life, and people will worship Antichrist as god.  Antichrist even seems to have a false pseudo-resurrection as he receives a life-threatening wound, and has a miraculous healing from it (Rev 13:3).  All these acts of supernatural power will seem to add legitimacy to the ultimate deceiver.  How many other people there will be engaging in similar sorts of things is not told to us, but considering the amount of demonic activity that will be taking place on the earth at that time & the fact that the restraining presence of the Holy Spirit will have been removed (2 Ths 2:7), surely there will be an abundance of these sorts of people beyond Antichrist.
    1. What is true of the days of the Great Tribulation is (to a large extent) similarly true of the circumstances of the Church Age.  There have been many deceivers that rise up among the church, as John writes in his 1st epistle.  1 John 2:18–19, "(18) Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. (19) They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us." []  John was clear that the singular person known as Antichrist had not yet come, but there were many who carried on in his name.  John even defines it for us by saying those who are antichrist are those who deny God the Father and God the Son (2 Jn 2:22).  One thing that is true for every single believer in Jesus Christ is that at some point, we WILL encounter a false teacher.  On the outside, they will appear to be holy & someone just like any other Christian – but eventually they reveal themselves for what they are.  They will be opposed to God & opposed to His word.  The warning is clear: don’t be deceived by them!  It doesn’t matter how persuasive they might be – it doesn’t matter how much personal charisma they have – it doesn’t matter what miracles they may seem to perform – if what they do and teach does not glorify the Lord Jesus Christ (and in fact, denies Jesus as Lord), then stay far away from them!
    2. It needs to be emphasized that supernatural works are not proof of someone’s spiritual legitimacy.  There are many Christians who truly love the Lord Jesus that open themselves to all sorts of deception when they receive any report of the supernatural as something that means someone must have been empowered by God.  They (understandably) think, “How could they do it, unless God made it possible?”  It’s clear from the Scriptures that Satan and his demonic armies are also capable of acts that appear supernatural (though God has infinitely more power than them).  All over the world today, there are pagan religions that appear to do all sorts of supernatural things.  How much is illusion, or actual demonic-induced power is unknown…but it most certainly is not from God.  How can we say for sure?  Those things deny the Lord Jesus & performed by people who deny the Lord Jesus.  By definition, those events are antichrist.  Be careful not to be deceived!  As Christians, we do not look for signs of miraculous power as evidence of God (we’ve been given all the sign we need with the resurrection of Jesus!), we look for the truth of Christ (belief) & the fruit of the Spirit (love).
  2. One of the ways that people will be deceived during the Tribulation is regarding the coming of Christ.  Considering how much the elect will desire Jesus’ soon return, it’s understandable why they would even be in danger of this kind of deception.  However, Jesus warns them specifically on this point not to believe false reports.  In the next few verses He’ll describe what His return will be like, but for now He introduces the idea that this sort of thing will happen.  People will attempt to persuade believers that these antichrists are the real Jesus Christ who has returned to earth, pointing them out as they pop up.  Don’t be deceived!  Jesus will indeed return, but His return will not be in secret.  He will come back in such a way that everyone will know. 
    1. We can have a similar problem today when it comes to the timing of the rapture.  It seems that every few years there is a new prediction that arises about when the rapture will take place.  People place all kinds of hope in these false predictions & their hope is inevitably shattered when things don’t come to pass.  Christian: when the rapture happens, you will know. There will be no mistaking the rapture when it happens because those who have faith in Christ will rise up in the blink of an eye to meet Jesus in the air.  That’s not something that any true born-again believer in Jesus Christ needs to be concerned about missing.  Jesus will certainly take all who belong to Him.  He knows His own, and He’s fully capable of taking us – despite whether or not we’ve camped out on a hillside somewhere to wait for Him.  In fact, it’s most probable that Jesus would not want us waiting on a hillside, but would rather us out be sharing the gospel with someone else in order that they might join us in that blessed event!
    2. There seems to be two main reasons why people want to predict the rapture.  (1) They want to use it as incentive for other people to get saved.  This is understandable – though people have just as much reason to receive the forgiveness of Christ when they consider their own mortality.  Just as the rapture could take place at any moment, so could death.  Not a single person is guaranteed another heartbeat, and they need to be prepared to meet their Creator at any time.  (2) They themselves might not consider themselves ready & they want time to prepare.  Maybe there’s something they want to do – maybe there’s a sin in their life that they are putting off, trying to wait until the last possible moment.  The time to deal with these things is right now.  We cannot afford to wait.  If as a Christian, you are not ready to see your Savior right now, then you need to do whatever is necessary to be ready.  Obviously as believers, our sins are forgiven in Christ – but if there’s something you would be ashamed of in your life were you to stand before Jesus tonight, you need to deal with that.  Confess it to Him today & forsake it in your life.  Ask for His forgiveness, and He will be faithful and just to extend it (1 Jn 1:9).

25 See, I have told you beforehand.

  1. Don’t you love the grace here?  Jesus did not leave us to guess at what was going to happen in the future.  Although He doesn’t fill in every detail for us, He tells us what to expect & He specifically tells the believers who live during the Tribulation what to look for during those days.  There will be deceivers – there will be false christs…don’t be deceived.  The Lord has given people advance warning, specifically so that they could remain in the truth & not give into the lies of the age.

The days of the Great Tribulation will truly be awful days.  It is for good reason that Jeremiah descried it as the time of “Jacob’s trouble” & that there would be “none like it” (Jer 30:7).  The Jews who come to faith during those days will face immense & immediate hardships.  Antichrist will arise, desecrate the temple, and that is the sign for the Jews (and everyone else) to flee as soon as possible.  As bad as things had been to that point, they were about to get even worse & there would not be time to wait.  How bad will it be?  Left unrestrained, no human would be left alive by the end.

Yet God is merciful.  God will bring an end to the Tribulation.  God loves His people (His elect), and He shows mercy upon the entire world as a result.  The Tribulation is also a time in which God is seen to be faithful.  He keeps His promises to Jew & Gentile alike.  Salvation is made known to the Jews, and His righteous wrath is poured out…just as He always said it would be.  More than ever, this would be a time to guard against deception, and to keep watching for the soon return of Jesus Christ.

For us, we do not watch for the same days, but we do wait for something similar: the call of Jesus to take us home.  We do not live in the Great Tribulation, but we do face tribulation of our own.  Our culture is rife with deceivers & the spirit of antichrist is alive and well…and seemingly growing in our own nation.  Beware that you are not deceived!  As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, God would guard us from the deception that surrounds us.  We have been given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (our teacher), and we’ve been given the word of God (His revelation).  All of this should keep our eyes focused upon Jesus (our Savior).  Instead of being distracted by false teachings and deceptive signs & wonders, may we be focused upon our Lord & the things He has given us to do: fulfill the Great Commission!

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