MIDDLE EASTERN TURMOIL & MEGATHLIPSIS
Revelation: Apocalyptic and Prophetic Themes
The book of Revelation, which has the unique literary form of letters plus visions of the future, borrows from Old Testament and Intertestamental apocalyptic, as well as from Old Testament prophetic literature as a whole. For example, it highlights:
- a) The Son of Man,
- b) The second coming of Christ,
- c) The ultimate glory of the kingdom of God (Revelation 21), and
- d) The resurrection of final judgment:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11–15).
In Intertestamental apocalyptic writings, we also find themes that surface in Revelation: a) a woman representing a people and a city: The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:18),
- b) Horns representing authority and eyes representing understanding: Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth (Revelation 5:6),
- c) Trumpets signifying a superhuman or divine voice (Revelation 8:6–11:19),
- d) White robes symbolizing the glory of the coming age: Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed (Revelation 6:11),
- e) Crowns depicting dominion: I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest (Revelation 6:2),
- f) The number seven standing for fullness or perfection: Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals… Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them (Revelation 5:1; 8:6),
- g) The number 12 standing for the ultimate perfect people of God: From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, 6from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, 7from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000… down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 7:5–8; 22:2), and
- h) The frequent appearance of angels: After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree… Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars (Revelation 7:1; 10:1)
Proclaiming the Gospel to all Ethnics Matthew 24:14
In this verse, Jesus indicates that the gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed worldwide and then the end will come. In addition, this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come: This good news of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world. It will be a witness to all nations. Then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
This passage in Revelation is clearly related to this prophecy. Let’s compare, Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water’ (Revelation 14:6-7).
This description of the last days in Revelation identifies an angel of the Lord who will either personally proclaim, or cause the Gospel to be proclaimed to the whole world. This is a fulfillment or cross reference of Jesus prophecy in Matthew 24:14. As this world wide message is made known, we are then enabled to see through the eyes of John’s heart that: I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested (Revelation 14:14-16).
The Revelation of Jesus Christ let’s us know that He who is the Spirit of prophecy, prophesied the end as depicted in the Revelation. Soon after the proclamation of the gospel, the end will come. When we see one “like a son of man”, appearing on a cloud just as He left in the clouds (Acts 1), then the earth will be harvested, as the time is fulfilled. Jesus also told us in Matthew 13:39 that the Harvest will take place at the end of the age and the harvesters will be angels: The enemy who plants them is the devil. The harvest is judgment day. And the workers are angels.
An Abomination that causes Desolation, or Where’s Israel? Matthew 24:15
Beginning with Matthew 24:15, Jesus changes His homiletic approach, as He changes his metaphors from the fairly generic to statements that are more precise. He makes a reference to a key prediction which, gives us a reference point for the last day’s events for all those who are of the faith and are alive during this time. The prophecy in question is about the abomination that causes desolation. So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand (Matthew 24:15)
When Jesus directs our considerations to this scandal (abomination) that causes misery (desolation), Jesus does so in order to ensure that we are capable of understanding the consequence of this vital foretelling prediction. Jesus tells us that in order to understand what He is prophesying, we need to understand the prophecies of Daniel. This is important to prophetic sequencing, as Daniel uses the expression “abomination that causes desolation” a total of three times in his proclamations. In one of these prophecies, Daniel gives us a vivid and detailed depiction of this prophetic episode.
In Daniel 9:27, we read that: He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven (week).’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (or it). (or And one who causes desolation will come upon the pinnacle of the abominable temple, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolated city). Daniel goes on to explain that there will be this seven year period of trials that must take place at the end of the age. He identifies this as a 70th week
Matthew 24:15-26 gives us greater clarification concerning the tribulation time period, as Jesus tells us that: “(So) when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11),’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christ’s and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
Matthew 24:15 identifies the personality or event that becomes the focal point of reference that gives us our understanding of the Beasts identifying mark as far as prophecy is concerned. Even though this is a veiled proclamation, Jesus is addressing the Beast who will establish his power during the tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 13:1-18), and He is addressing the hardships that will be rendered to all who refuse to worship him and take his mark (666/616). Matthew 24:16-20 instructs us that those who are living in Jerusalem need to run for their lives when they see the Beast in his seat of authority. Jesus warning is a dire one, as 24:21-22 tell us that there never has been nor shall ever again be a period of time like this on the earth. His warning is so severe that He tells us that if those days were not abbreviated (ended) by His return, no person would survive, with all flesh being destroyed. Jesus then speaks of the prominent places that the false Christ’s and false prophets would assume in those days, and how those who are alive during this time will be able to identify and avoid them.
Most of us understand that there is much turmoil in Israel today. Israel is persecuted, surrounded by enemies—the Palestinians, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, etc. However, this hatred and persecution of Israel is only a hint of what will happen in the end times (Matthew 24:15-21). The latest round of persecution began when Israel was reconstituted as a nation in 1948, following the division of the lands and peoples at the conclusion of WWII. These artificial boundaries and reconstituted nations were supposed to alleviate ancient hatreds and conflicts. The recreation of national boundaries includes India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the disputed Cashmere region, and the tribal steeps.
Rather than quelling hostilities, the opposite has occurred. India and Pakistan have both become Nuclear powers. Israel and Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon have fought many wars, with some conflicts still being fought. Many Biblical prophecy scholars believed the six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967 was the “beginning of the end.” Could what is taking place in Israel today indicate that the end is near? Absolutely it could. Does it necessarily mean the end is near? Absolutely not. Jesus Himself said it best, when He said: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (Matthew 24:4-6).
Every time there is an explosion of conflict in or around Israel, many see it as a sure sign of the quickly approaching end times. The problem with this is that it creates a “boy that cried wolf” syndrome. We may eventually tire of the conflict in Israel, so much so that we will not recognize when true prophetically significant events occur. Conflict in Israel is not necessarily a sign of the end times.
Conflict in Israel has been a reality whenever Israel has existed as a nation. Whether it was the Egyptians, Amalekites, Midianites, Moabites, Ammonites, Amorites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, or Romans, the nation of Israel has always been surrounded by and persecuted by its neighbors. Why is this? According to the Bible, it is because God has a special plan for the nation of Israel, and Satan wants to defeat that plan. Satanically influenced hatred of Israel—and especially Israel’s God—is the reason Israel’s neighbors have always wanted to see Israel destroyed. Whether it is Sennacherib, king of Assyria; Haman, official of Persia; Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany; or Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, attempts to ultimately destroy Israel will always fail. The persecutors of Israel will come and go, but the persecution will remain until the second coming of Christ. As a result, conflict in Israel cannot be considered a reliable indicator of the soon arrival of the end times.
At the same time, there will be terrible conflict in Israel during the end times. That is why the time is known as the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation, and the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). Here is what the Bible does say about Israel in the end times: a) There will be a mass exodus of Jews returning to the land of Israel: Then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you… I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth… For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land… For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land…The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’” (Deuteronomy 30:3; Isaiah 43:6; Ezekiel 34:11-13; 36:24; 37:1-14)
- b) The Antichrist will make a 7-year treaty of “peace” with Israel. Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it… will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering… And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Isaiah 28:18; Daniel 9:27)
- c) The Temple may need to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it… will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering… So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand… Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God… So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand… I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 11:1).
- d) The Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel, and worldwide persecution of Israel will result. Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it… will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering… So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand… At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered… From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days… For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hoofs… So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand… For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again… When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child (Daniel 9:27; 12:1, 11; Zechariah 11:16; Matthew 24:15, 21; Revelation 12:13).
Israel will be invaded (Ezekiel chapters 38-39)
- e) Israel will finally recognize Jesus as their Messiah: And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zechariah 12:10).
- f) Israel will be regenerated, restored, and gathered: I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me… Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again… And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob (Jeremiah 33:8; Ezekiel 11:17; Romans 11:26)
Matthew 24:15-22 refers to the demolition of Jerusalem, with Luke granting greater clarity in Luke 21:20-24: When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Christ admonished all the residents of Jerusalem to flee the city in order to save their lives. This prophetic proclamation about the destruction of Jerusalem is a prophetic foreshadowing of what is in store for Jerusalem again at the end of the age. We need to note that this is a double fulfillment picture, starting in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem, and repeating at the end. Titus did demolish the city in A.D. 70, but he did not fulfill the word in its entirety as Christ gave in the Olivet Discourse. The final culmination will happen when the Antichrist is established in authority and sets up an image of himself in the future temple that will be in Jerusalem (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4; Revelation 13:1-18). Scripture says that the Antichrist will rule from Jerusalem for 42 months (3 1/2 years), during the last half of the tribulation.
Temple Tantrum and the End Matthew 24:15
The Bible mentions that some end-times events will occur in a temple in Jerusalem (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15). 2 Thessalonians 2:4, speaking of the Antichrist, tells us, “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” The Prophet Ezekiel described a temple that has as of yet never existed (Ezekiel chapters 40-48).Before the end times can occur, a temple possibly needs to be present for these events to occur.
There is still the “small” problem of the Islamic Dome of the Rock mosque being on the site where the Jewish temple is supposed to be. Most Muslims believe that this is the place where their prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven. This makes it the one of the most sacred Muslim shrines. For the Jews to take over this place and build a temple upon it would be unthinkable in today’s political climate. However, some believe that during the tribulation, the building of the Temple will be rebuilt, and that it will be protected by the Antichrist (Daniel 9:24-27). I don’t personally hold that the Temple has to be rebuilt. Using the principle of Double Prophetic Fulfillment, the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 is sufficient for the prophetic inclusions surrounding the Temple.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Dr. Luke’s Divergent Word Matthew 24:15/Luke 21:12
Luke’s account focuses on a siege of Jerusalem that is substantially divergent from the Matthew account. It is the presumption that they are both dealing with the same event that is the source of misunderstandings. Everyone seems to overlook what Luke says after mentioning the famed series of signs: However, before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. (Luke 21:12)
Luke then focuses on a desolation of Jerusalem that precedes the series of signs that earmark both passages! Matthew focuses on a desolation that follows that same series of signs. Luke’s rendering deals with the fall of Jerusalem that occurred 38 years later in AD 70. Matthew all but ignores it.
Luke notes, “this generation shall not pass away until all is fulfilled.” It is interesting that Jerusalem fell 38 years later, the very same duration that it took for that earlier generation to expire during the wanderings in the wilderness.
In contrast, Matthew’s account deals with events that follow that same series of signs, including the Abomination of Desolation announced in Matthew 24:15.
(Some try to suggest that this event happened during the siege of 70 ad., but that is contrary to the substantial eye witness accounts recorded. A war was going on and no idol was so established, “standing in the Holy Place,” etc. In fact, Titus was frustrated by the fire that broke out in the Temple (MIssler, Koinonia House)8 and he later had to command his soldiers to dismantle it “stone by stone” to recover the gold that had melted, etc. This, too, was a fulfillment of our Lord’s prophecy.)
It is important to note the details of the attacks of the Romans in 66-70. Vespasian and his son, Titus, were sent by Nero to make war with the Jews. However, the death of Nero delayed the siege, and subsequently Vespasian acceded to the throne of the empire and left his son Titus to complete the siege. Luke’s account had warned his listeners: And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereunto (Luke 21:20-21).
Over 1,100,000 perished in the siege. Those who heeded Jesus’ warning apparently escaped. Some scholars infer that few, if any, Christians perished in the siege.
By contrast, Matthew’s account conspicuously terminates with the Second Coming of Christ and the cosmic upheavals incident thereto, which are alluded to in both accounts.
When we were in school, learning to diagram sentences was useful in understanding grammar: subject, predicate, adverbial phrases, etc. Here, too, a composite diagram may prove helpful.
Matthew’s account, written for the Jew, seems destined to be a survival handbook for those enduring the forthcoming unprecedented time.
Luke’s Gospel, written for the Gentiles, seems to totally ignore the Great Tribulation. In fact, it would seem that his readers shouldn’t be concerned. Some have interpreted these differences to mean that the church wouldn’t be around for the Tribulation. I think its because this period of persecution deals with separate parts of the world at the same time. One in trouble, the other oblivious:
And when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near (Luke 21:28).
(The word for “redemption,” apolutrosis, appears nine times in the New Testament, and always is used to refer to the redemption of the Body.)
There are numerous complex issues that still emerge from these several accounts. It isn’t clear that they even occurred at the same time or place.
Matthew and Mark clearly identify a private briefing on the Mount of Olives to the “insider” group of disciples.
Luke, on the other hand, remarks: And in the day time he was teaching in the Temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the Temple, for to hear him (Luke 21:36-38).
Clearly, a side-by-side verse-by-verse study of these passages is essential. To facilitate a more detailed review of these much debated issues.
70 and Seven: Daniel’s View
The abomination that causes desolation will take place when “he” the world ruler sets himself up in God’s temple proclaiming himself God. This abominable act of the Antichrist will cause the temple to become desolate and unfit for worship. After the abomination that causes desolation there are still 3 ½ years remaining before the end of the age.
Great Scott: Great Tribulation Matthew 24:16-20
At the time of the abomination that causes desolation all followers of Christ who are in the area around Jerusalem must flee to the mountains immediately, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath (Matthew 24:16-20).
Following His warning to flee Judea, Jesus describes a time of persecution and death that will spread to the whole world. The Great Tribulation will be so dreadful that Jesus says there has never been anything like it in the past and never will be anything like it the future. He says if those days were to continue on unchecked no one would survive. However, because of the elect the Great Tribulation will be brought to a close before its natural conclusion. The return of the Son of Man is what cuts that time short.
Megus Thlipsis Matthew 24:21-22
For then there will be great [megas] distress [thlipsis], unequaled from the beginning of the world until now– and never to be equaled again If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:21-22).
- Megus means big (lit. or fig., in a very wide application) :–( + fear) exceedingly, great (-est), high, large, loud, mighty, + (be) sore (afraid), strong, X to years.
- Thlipsis means pressure (lit. or fig.):–afflicted, (-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.
Notice that Jesus uses almost the same words to describe this period as Daniel. It’s as though Jesus is ensuring that we do not miss the connection. Compare these verses: For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now– and never to be equaled again (Matthew 24:21). At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. However, at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered (Daniel 12:1).
Another important similarity of these two passages is that they both describe the believers being delivered after the Great Tribulation. Daniel says, “everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered.” Jesus says, “immediately after the distress of those days…of the Son of Man will appear…his angels…will gather his elect” (Matthew 24:29-31).
Shorter days? Matthew 24:22
Matthew 24:22 and Mark 13:20 probably also have a double prophetic fulfillment in their application. These two passages deal with the siege and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Again, this is when the final outpouring of destruction on Jerusalem by the antichrist happens during the Tribulation.
Matthew 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened.
Mark 13:20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, which he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.
Either way whether it has one or both in view the baseline truth is the same, God is going to initiate the protection of his chosen people.
More deception Matthew 24:23-27
As we return to the Olivet Discourse, once again, Jesus is warning us of the deception that will take place in the last days. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christ’s and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect, if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:23-27).
Jesus says that the deception will be so great that “even the elect would be deceived if that were possible.” However, the Bible is clear on this point; true believers will not be deceived. John makes a clear case that indicates the elect will not be deceived in Revelation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–not all whose names have been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8).
Jesus also warns us that false Christ’s and false prophets will appear to deceive the elect, in verse 24. We know there have been imposters ever since Christ’s First Advent. The description Jesus gives us foretells of the rise of the Antichrist and the False Prophet (Revelation 16:13, 19:20). The deception in the last days will be so great that Jesus finds it necessary to say, “See, I have told you ahead of time.”
So, how will we keep from being deceived? The same way we keep from being deceived today! Do not believe everything you hear! Stay in the Word, test everything against Scripture and be lead by the Holy Spirit! Jesus knows that many will come along and try to get us to follow them. However, He clearly tells us that we are to wait for His visible appearing in the clouds of the sky and His physical return to earth.
Matthew 24:27-31 addresses the topic of the second coming of Christ. His second coming would be:
1) Done in the open, possibly seen by everyone alive (v.27)
2) Witnessed by the sun, moon and stars (signs in the sky) (v.29)
3) A great gathering of the elect from the four corners of the earth (v.31).
Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather (Matthew 24:28).
In this verse, Jesus is saying that His return to earth is the timing of His arrival, parousia, verse 27. The gathering of the vultures is a reference to the battle of Armageddon when the Lord slays the armies of the Antichrist and the birds of the air feed on the slain bodies. This is a picture portrayed several times in Scripture. For example,
On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds (Ezekiel 39:4)
Even More End Times Deception Matthew 24:23-28
Matt 24:23-28 and Mark 13:21-23 both give rise to the arrival of false Christ’s, false prophets attempting to mislead many. 2 Peter 2:1-3 gives further credence to this. Although that passage applies to today as well, the intensity is still not at the peak it will undoubtedly reach during the Tribulation. Revelation 16 teaches about this exact event:
Rev 16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Rev 16:14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Rev 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
Satan, the antichrist and the false prophet release these false Christ’s to deceive and mislead performing miracles. Of note, here is v15, which shows Christ’s return at the second coming as again coming like a thief. Yes, those who received Christ as their savior and have survived to this point could most likely calculate the day of his return, but absolutely no Scripture alludes to the time and hour of his return.
Also, take a look at Matthew 24:27: For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Christ has warned the apostles when people say go here or there the Messiah has returned that it has occurred to not be fooled and the imagery He uses to describe his coming is beautiful. Think back to the last lightning storm you experienced…when lightning struck, what occurred? The entire sky would light up. Christ is saying here that when He returns, every eye shall see (Revelation 1:7).
Second Coming Matthew 24:29-30
Matt 24:29-30, Mark 13:24-26 and Luke 21:25-27 identifies that this will be the most glorious sight to behold for every believer…and the most dread thing for all of the wicked generation to see. Talked about throughout the Old Testament (Isa 13:10; Ezek 32:7-8; Joel 2:31; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Dan 7:13; Zech 12:12) it is an anticipated event for both Christian and Jew alike. In addition, we see more details of His return in Rev 19:11-21. When Christ returns He will crush the armies gathered at Armageddon (which will be the biggest battle in history to never have been fought).
The Second Half of the Tribulation and His Coming
As we continue this study, we see that the Olivet Discourse is still focused on Israel and parallels closely John’s account of the Tribulation in the book of Revelation. At this point, I will state that the Olivet Discourse deals with the Tribulation, which is the detailed version of Daniel’s 70th week. From that, we can draw the conclusion that the Olivet Discourse is a prophecy for the Jews not the Gentile nations. The Gentiles will most certainly be impacted by the Tribulation as the judgments put forth in the Tribulation are God’s wrath on a wicked world, and as a part of the world they will be the target of these judgments…but Israel is in site. Of the three end times groups of people, only two are in sight (the Jews and Gentiles)…the Church is not in view.
Dark Days with the Sun, Moon and Stars Matthew 24:29
Once again, after bringing us right up to His arrival [parousia] Jesus stops and backs up to give us more details about how those last days will be. Immediately after the distress [tribulation] of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’ (Matthew 24:29)
Jesus explains that right after the Great Tribulation we will see the sun, moon and stars being darkened. This is a sign that has been well established in the Old Testament in connection to the Day of the Lord. The sign of the sun, the moon and the stars being darkened is what the prophet Joel said would come before the Day of the Lord. See excerpts from Joel chapter 2. Before them, the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful (Joel 2:10-11). The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD (Joel 2:31).
Jesus’ use of this well-known Old Testament sign provides even more evidence that the Day of the Lord and return of Christ will follow the Great Tribulation, just as Jesus is telling us.
Cloudy Days Matthew 24:30
At the time that the sun, moon and stars are darkened, Jesus says we will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky in great glory. At that time, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).
Christ’s coming on the clouds of the sky was first revealed by the Old Testament prophets and then described again in the New Testament. The following are a few other examples that describe this coming of the Lord on the clouds. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him– the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The LORD thundered from heaven (Psalm 18:9-13). In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13). After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him (Revelation 1:7).
When we add these other passages to the picture of His return in the Olivet Discourse the picture becomes extraordinary. Christ will come down from heaven appearing in brightness and glory breaking out of the darkness that surrounds the earth.
Angel’s We Have Heard on High Matthew 24:31
Jesus tells us about His coming in the clouds of the sky with His angels. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect (Matthew 24:31)
His reference to the angels at His coming is something that Jesus taught at various times in His ministry. See the following examples. …The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, (Matthew 13:39-41). When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory (Matthew 25: 31). If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels (Luke 9:26).
The apostles also tell us that when Jesus appears coming down from heaven, His angels will be with Him, “thousands upon thousands.” This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels (2 Thessalonians 1:7). See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones (Jude 1:14).
Jesus will appear in glory with “thousands upon thousands” of His holy angels, but something even more amazing is about to happen.
Trumpet Sound Matthew 23:31
The scene is set Jesus Christ has come down from heaven and appears out of the darkness on the clouds of the sky with thousands upon thousands of His angels. From there He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call to gather His followers. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect (Matthew 24:31)
Jesus points out that the trumpet call of God is the signal for the gathering of the saints. This trumpet call is an aspect of the coming of the Lord that is well established throughout Scripture. Below are several examples, which connect the Lord’s appearing, and the trumpet call. Then the LORD will appear over them; his arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign LORD will sound the trumpet, (Zechariah 9:14). Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming (Joel 2:1). For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
Many of the prophets wrote of this trumpet call in connection with the coming of the Lord. The trumpet call is recorded from Exodus 19 to Revelation 11:15. We will learn more about this trumpet call as we continue our study in subsequent chapters. For now, we know it as the signal to gather Christ’s elect.
Election Day 2 1 Peter 2:4 Revelation 17:14
Jesus says that when He appears He will send His angels to gather His elect. Who are His elect, who will be gathered at the trumpet call? The word “elect” is translated form the Greek word eklektos. Eklektos means select; by implication, favorite:–chosen, elect.
Eklektos is used twenty-three times in the New Testament writings. Eklekos is used for believing Israel, the Church, the angels of God and even Christ Himself as the Chosen One of God. Let’s look at a few examples. As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by men but chosen [eklektos] by God and precious to him (1 Peter 2:4). But you are a chosen [eklektos] people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).
The elect is also used in the book of Revelation to refer to His called, chosen and faithful followers. They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with him will be his called, chosen [eklektos] and faithful followers (Revelation 17:14).
From these examples we can see that eklektos in Scripture refers to all believers, Jewish, non-Jewish. When Jesus tells us that His elect will be gathered by the angels when the trumpet sounds, He is including all the followers of Jesus Christ, everyone whose name is written in the Book of Life.
Gathered from the four winds of the earth and from heaven Matthew 24:31
In this verse, Jesus also tells us that when the angels gather His elect, they will be gathered from the four winds and from heaven. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:31).
What does Jesus mean when He says His elect will be gathered from the four winds and one end of the heavens to the other? Once again, we need to search the Scripture to determine the answer. There are several passages, which will help us correctly interpret what Jesus is saying when he says “the four winds.” The gospel of Mark confirms He is referring to the earth. In addition, he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens (Mark 13:27).
Therefore, the elect are gathered from the earth and from heaven.
In Psalm 50, the same event is described. Compare these two passages and see.
|Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: ‘Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice’
|They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other
This is further confirmed by Paul’s account of the gathering: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Therefore, we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Therefore, we can see that the Lord comes down from heaven on the clouds of the sky to meet us in the air. The heavens are above, the earth is below, the trumpet sounds, and He sends His angels to gather His elect. Who then are the ones being gathered from heaven? From Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 5:8, we see that, when someone dies in Christ, they are at home with the Lord. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Since Jesus is currently on the throne in heaven, we know that the dead in Christ are with the Lord in heaven. The dead in Christ will be in heaven until the time of the resurrection when Jesus summons the heavens above to gather the dead in Christ. Those who are still alive on the earth at the time of the resurrection will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Therefore, at the time of the resurrection, Jesus will come down from heaven on the clouds of the sky and send His angels to gather all believers to meet Him in the air. Putting everything together, we can see the following sequence of events for the return of Christ:
- Immediately after the abomination that causes desolation there will be a Great Tribulation.
- The Great Tribulation will be a time of persecution and death for the people of God and great deception for the nations of the world.
- After the Great Tribulation, the sun, moon and stars will be darkened.
- Out of this darkness, the Son of Man will appear coming on the clouds of the sky.
- Then the trumpet will sound and the angels will gather all believers, the dead from heaven and the living from earth.
Therefore, the resurrection of believers will take place after the Great Tribulation, or Post-Tribulation.
“When you see all these things…this generation will not pass?” Matthew 24:34
This quote of Jesus in regards to the end times is found in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” The key to understanding what Jesus means is understanding the context; that is, understanding the verses that are surrounding verse 34, but especially the verses prior to verse 34. In Matthew 24:4-31, Jesus is speaking of events that have not yet happened. The generation of people living when those events occur is the generation that Jesus speaks of “not passing” until He returns. Jesus had already told those living during His first time on earth that the kingdom had been taken from them (Matthew 21:43). Therefore, it is imperative that Matthew 24-25 be seen as speaking of a future time and that the word generation is referring to the people alive when the events of Matthew 24-25 are occurring.
Another possibility is that Jesus was giving a prophecy with a “double fulfillment.” Some of what He was predicting was going to occur in that generation. Some of what Jesus prophesied fits with what occurred when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Other aspects of Jesus’ prophecy, however, did not occur in A.D.70 for example, Matthew 24:29-31. However, this view does not work with Jesus’ statement that “all these things” will take place in “this generation.” Therefore, it is best to understand “this generation” as referring to the generation in which the end-times events occur. Essentially, Jesus is saying that the end times will happen quickly. This concept is echoed in many other Scriptures (Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:20; Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20).
Let’s see what else Jesus says about the last days. Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened (Matthew 24:32-34).
What can we conclude from this passage? Since Jesus often used farming analogies in His teachings, the fig tree is most likely a fig tree. He means we can know about His coming, “when you see all these things.” When we see what things? The things that He has just finish telling us about:
- The abomination that causes desolation
- The Great Tribulation, false Christ’s and false prophets
- The darkening of the sun, moon and stars
- The appearing of Son of Man on the clouds of the sky
Jesus is saying that those of us who see these things [signs] will know that the day is near. Jesus tells us when these things begin He is near. He goes on to tell us that we cannot know the day or hour of His return. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. However, of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only (KJV Matthew 24:35-36).
When Jesus was saying that we could not know the “that day or hour,” He was not saying we wouldn’t know the general time or season of His return. In fact, the Word clearly reveals that believers will know when the end is near. In Hebrews we are told we will “see the day approaching.” Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).
Furthermore, Jesus commands us “Therefore, keep watch!” If we cannot know the times of the end, why would Jesus say, “When you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” Why do Jesus, Paul and John each provide signs and events for us to watch for if we cannot know the general time of Christ’s return? See what they said. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come (Matthew 24:42). Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come (Mark 13:33). Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed the man doomed to destruction (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come (1 John 2:18).
These are just a few of verses that tell us to watch for the signs we have been given. The apostle Paul tells us to watch for the rebellion and the Antichrist. John tells us the Antichrist is coming. These are signs we are to watch for!