OLIVET 2 END GAME 3

OLIVET II

 Olivet’s Knowledge: Epistemology and Resolution

Many people have found it to be ironic that Jesus’ beginning word of essence in the ‘Olivet Discourse’ is: “Take heed that no man deceive you.”  Jesus made this a command, but the command forces a question to be asked: “How do we avoid deception and being deceived?”  Due to the apocalyptic nature of this passage, there is an abundance of speculation and confusion over this passage than almost any other in the New Testament.  The nature of the confusing interpretations seems to rise out of the particular theological assumptions and positions of the advocate, thus granting the passage multiple conclusions based on arbitrary assumptions.

In order to avoid deception, we need to employ tools for proper exegesis that are derived from the study of epistemology, which by its very nature is the study of knowledge – both its range and maximum value. Any exploration of the Olivet passage will challenge more than ones view of hermeneutics by itself. Addressing this passage will also challenge our grasp of the eschatological timeline and implementation plan.

Most students who study eschatology – the study of last things – find that the Olivet Discourse has proven to be a taxing point of accessing a concise understanding.  Some have found it to be perplexing and superficially incongruous; a hermeneutical surd, that presents a staged battleground between the dispensationalist and the Preterist, the historicist and the post tribulational view, the anagogic and the prophetic.  Preterist’s tend to insist that this passage – along with the entire Book of Revelation – has already been fulfilled, lending unsolicited support to the classic dispensational approach to problematic passages of Scripture.  Some find it easier to dismiss portions of the Bible with a wave of future or past application, thus excluding the validity of any practical application for their lives or theologies.  Positions of this sort will also dismiss these passages as simply being allegorical, therefore abating the importance of reality based interpretive structures.

The Power of Resolution

Photographers who are professional or amateurs all understand a prevailing concept in the fine art of shuttering: the resolving power of the lens and mirrors determines its ability to distinguish between two close but distinct, objects.  This ability to amplify objects is increased in its complexity when telescopic applications are undertaken.  A single star viewed with a simple telescope that holds limited resolution capability can easily become a pair of conspicuously distinct stars when viewed with a telescope of greater optical worth. This distinctive ability is known as the “resolving power” of optics.

It is possible to create an analogous situation between optics and Scripture, particularly in the case of prophetic and apocalyptic writings.  In the case of Olivet, we can really benefit by placing our presumptions and presuppositions to the side, and let the texts speak for themselves when possible.

The Hazard of Harmony

Traditional attempts to “harmonize the Gospels” create at least part of the problem. From Augustine forward, theologians have tried to join the four different Gospel perspectives into a singular sequence of events. Although this approach can be useful for a cursory review of the life of Christ for a scholastic exercise, it usually results in a myopic approach to the interpretation of Scripture, with the “Olivet Discourse” (recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) serving as a salient example.

Matthew appears to have been skilled in shorthand.  This has led us to depend on his meticulous rendering. The problem seems to surface however, when we observe that a substantial inconsistency exists between Matthew’s testimony and Luke’s rendition of the life of Christ.  As there are multiple accounts and stories that appear to be identical in both Gospel’s, it has been the prevailing view among conservative scholars to assume that both authors were dealing with the same event and information base.  Sometimes this works, but 1700 years of history proves that it easier to make mistakes, as opposed to accurate interpretation of these passages.

Accepting the Differences in Textual Rational

It is correct to assume that setting aside our presuppositions and trusting the integrity of the texts will improve our “resolving power” in understanding these passages.  This does mean that we have to accept the discrepancies and differences in information that is presented by the authors.  Jesus asks us to value the facts of His messages, so let’s take a closer look at each of them. They each may be focusing on different events from a different perspective and may even address different audiences on different occasions.  Luke’s account was definitely written from a secondary source of information, as neither he nor Paul were presumed to be at Olivet when the messages were given.  The similarities of expression in the various accounts may have caused us to jump to premature conjectures as we have attempted to cause these accounts to segue into one concise statement.

Scripture describes three prophetic time frames related to the last 7 years of this age (Daniel 9:27). The last 7 years is made up of 2 distinct periods each lasting 3½ years. First time frame: beginning of birth pangs with distress in the nations (Matthew 24:4-8; Luke 21:23, 25).  Second time frame: increased labor pangs with counterfeit world peace (first 3½ year period).  Third time frame: hard labor pangs with the Great Tribulation (final 3½ year period).

understanding the first time frame: distress in the nations (Matthew 24:4-8)

The beginning of birth pangs occurs before the 7-year period starts. Israel is the timetable for God’s prophetic plans. They are the reference point for understanding redemptive history past and future. Therefore, my opinion is that the beginning of birth pangs started in 1948 when Israel became a nation or in 1967 when Jerusalem came under Israel’s authority.

Jesus spoke of a specific period of time called the “beginning of birth pangs.” The Greek word birth pangs is translated as sorrows (NKJV). It is to be compared with the increasing trauma a woman experiences during childbirth. This trauma will result in a new world order being birthed at the Millennium. Paul spoke of creation as groaning before the Millennial earth.

Jesus gave twelve major trends that are to be discerned and received as prophetic signs to help the Church prepare for the coming years (Matthew 24:4-8; Mark 13:5-8, Luke 21:7-18). Jesus gave us accelerator signs in different areas of life including spiritual (positive and negative), social, political, technological, natural (signs in heaven and earth).

understanding the Second time frame: counterfeit world peace

The second prophetic time frame occurs in the first 3½ year period. It begins with the Antichrist being revealed as a man of peace who solves the “distress in the nations” (Matthew 24:4-8) and then establishes a counterfeit world peace (1 Thessalonians 5:3). At this time the Harlot Babylon religion persecutes the Church (Revelation 17:2-6) leading to many falling away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1).

The last 7 years begins when the Antichrist makes a covenant with many nations bringing world peace that lasts 3½ years. When he breaks this covenant the Great Tribulation starts (Daniel 9:27).

3 When they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains (Great Tribulation) upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape (1 Thessalonians 5:3); 27 He (Antichrist) shall confirm a covenant with many (nations) for one week (7 years); but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice (in the Jerusalem Temple) (Daniel 9:27).

Two signs that Paul gave to indicate the time of Jesus’ Coming are a falling away from the faith combined with the revealing of the Antichrist on the world stage to establish peace (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day (Jesus’ Second Coming) will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin (Antichrist) is revealed… (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

There will be a falling away from the faith at the end of the age (Matthew 24:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:3-5; 2 Peter 2:1-3). A doctrine of a demon is a teaching inspired by demons: Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry… (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

Two Ages, One (Kingdom) People

During Jesus’ ministry He constantly referred to two ages, this present age in which we now live and a second age which is to come in the future. Below are some of His teachings about the two ages: Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:32).  ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life’  (Luke 18:29, 30).  Jesus replied, ‘The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. However, those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither will marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection’ (Luke 20:34-36).

This present age or dispensation, the one in which we now live, most likely began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God and will not end until Jesus returns for His bride.  I am an obviously modified dispensationalist.  In contrast to this present age, Jesus taught about an age of righteousness that will come after the present age ends.  This age to come will begin when Christ establishes the Kingdom of God on earth in its fullness.  All true believers are waiting for that age to manifest.  In Luke 20:34, Jesus tells us that those who are worthy to take part in “that age” will be called “the children of the resurrection.”

As Jesus only referred to only two ages, “this age” and the “age to come,” we would be wise to restrict our expectations and rules to the same space time continuum.

Old Gives Way to the New

Before we examine the Olivet Discourse, let’s consider what is happening at this time in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has just made His triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem riding on the colt of a donkey in fulfillment of the prophecies in:  Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble (Zechariah 9:9 and Daniel 9:25). Jesus made one last attempt to get through to Israel’s religious leaders as He continued to reveal who He is while instructing them regarding the coming Kingdom of God.  He was instructing them using the parables of the landowner (Matthew 21:33-41), the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14) and the resurrection of believers (Matthew 22:23-32). However, most of the Herodians, all of the Sadducees leadership and some of the Pharisees rejected the Messiah and plotted His death.

Jesus continued teaching them even though He knows their hearts. Then finally, He thoroughly admonishes the elders, chief priests and teachers as He prepared to break with them. Jesus then goes on to tell of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Just 38 years later – 70 AD – this tremendous destruction and slaughter happened exactly as Jesus prophesied.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you (Luke 19:43, 44).

We should note that Jesus said this destruction and slaughter would occur because the Jewish leaders did not recognize the time of His coming.  Even though the Jewish leaders had all the Old Testament prophecies pointing to the coming Messiah, they did not recognize the time of His coming to them. Then just before leaving the temple, Jesus prophesied again about Israel and His return.

In Matthew 23, Jesus confronts the Pharisees about judgment. We understand His statements concerning judgment to be the “woe” proclamations in Matthew 23.  They are pivotal depictions that need to be understood in the context of the end of the age.  Matthew 24:1-2 records the disciples response to Jesus message on the “woes,” and the disciples admiration of the Temple: Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”  As Jesus leaves the temple, His disciples ask Him about the Temples’ Buildings, commenting on the splendor of the surroundings.  Some think it was so that Jesus could explain how the judgment that Jesus talked about related to the temple, Herod, who was the motivator as to the construction of the temple buildings, and how they were built to endure. The temple was made of stones cut out of limestone, thus being enabled to last for thousands of years, barring external circumstances, such as the Romans destroying the temple in A.D. 70.

Matthew 24:2, records an apocalyptic prophecy uttered by Jesus.  In it Jesus tells His disciples that “not one stone of the temple would be left on top of another.”  This was preceded with His prophetic statement concerning His return: For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Matthew 23:38).

With this prophecy, Jesus, quoting from Psalm 118:26, lays down a condition of His return. Israel must acknowledge Jesus as Lord before He will return and establish the Kingdom on earth.

Signs of the End

  1. Jesus gave 12 indicators or signs for the generation in which He will return (Matthew 24:4-8; Luke 21:7-18). Matthew gave us 7 trends which are false Christ’s, war, ethnic conflict, economic warfare, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. Luke described 5 more which are commotions, fearful sights, great signs from heaven, distress in the nations and roaring waves. 5 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars…for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation…and there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes…8 All these are the beginning of sorrows (birth pangs (Matthew 24:5-8) 9 When you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately…11 There will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven…23 There will be great distress in the land…25 There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear.. (Luke 21:9-11, 23-26)
  2. Jesus commanded the people in the generation of His return to know that His return was near when they saw ALL the sign events of Mt. 24 occurring at the same time. There is only one generation in which all these things happen simultaneously on a global basis. 33 When you see all these things, know that it is near–at the doors! 34 Assuredly…this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place… (Matthew 24:33-34)
  3. How long is a biblical generation? A generation in Scripture ranges from 40 to 100 years (Genesis 15:13-16; Numbers 32:13; Psalms 90:10; Matthew 1:17; Acts 7:6). Moses spoke of Israel’s captivity in Egypt as lasting 400 years or 4 generations (Genesis 15:13). Thus, a generation could refer to 100 years. There were 14 generations from Abraham to David (Matthew 1:17) each averaging about 70 years.
  4. Jesus rebuked His generation for not being able to read the signs of His first coming. Asking for a sign was a legitimate request because Joel prophesied that the Messiah would give signs from heaven (Joel 2:30). Their hypocrisy was in testing Jesus by asking for signs beyond those He did perform. 1 The Pharisees…came testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven…2 Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign… (Matthew 16:1-4)
  5. Israel’s unresponsiveness to God was partly related to them not knowing the time of their visitation. There is a relationship between the measure to which people are informed of coming prophetic events and the measure in which they respond to God in context to those events. 42 If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace…43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground…because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:42-44)
  6. Paul taught that the Church should know the times and seasons related to the Lord’s coming. 1 Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night (the unprepared suffer unnecessary loss)…4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief…6 Thereforelet us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6)
  7. Paul said that we are not in darkness that the Day of the Lord should overtake us as a thief. A thief causes one to suffer loss of things that could have been avoided by watching. The thief motif mostly emphasizes the element of loss that one suffers because of an unexpected coming.
  8. Any who set specifics dates for the day of Jesus’ return are corrected and rebuked. However, Jesus told us to know the generation and Paul exhorted us to know the times and seasons. 36 Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels…but My Father only. (Matthew 24:36)

World War 3 and the End Matthew 24:6-7

There is no doubt that world war will be a part of the future. Christ plainly taught that there would be war prior to His return (Matthew 24:4-31). Some hold that He spoke generally of the Church age in verses 4-14 and spoke of the tribulation period starting at its mid-point in verses 15-31. Others believe that Christ spoke of only the seven-year period known as the tribulation in verses 4-31. Though verses 4-14 do seem to be giving general descriptions, they parallel the description given early in Revelation 6, which records details concerning the beginning of the tribulation. Matthew 24:6-7 says there will be “wars and rumors of wars…For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.” Here, Christ makes it very clear that war will play a significant role in the last seven years prior to His return.

To be more specific, the future does hold at least one more world war. There is nothing in Scripture that says there will be only a certain number of world wars. World Wars I and II are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, nor is a possible third World War. It is only the last war that will be fought among many nations that is mentioned in detail, which allows the interpretation that there may be others before the final conflict.

John the Apostle was shown what the end times would be like, specifically the last seven years prior to Christ’s return. Beginning in Revelation 6, he recorded what he saw concerning the future. War is found in this chapter, and continues to be a part of the unfolding events until Christ returns in chapter 19: 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…Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword….Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them…And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back…Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”… He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation…They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty…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 and faithful followers”… I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war…Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army” (Revelation 6:2; 4; 11:7; 12:7; 13:4, 7; 16:14; 17:14; 19:11; 19:19).

Revelation 19:11 says, “. . . in righteousness He [Christ] judges and wages war.” Revelation 19:19 says John “saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him (Christ) who sat upon the horse, and against His army.”  Take special notice that it says the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Christ. This clearly describes a world war. It also should be noted that the victor in this war is clearly Christ, who seizes the beast/antichrist and the false prophet and casts them into the lake of fire, and the armies that followed them are destroyed: But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh (Revelation 19:20-21). So, although there will be at least one more world war, there is no doubt of the outcome—righteousness will prevail as Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, defeats all who oppose Him.

It is also worth mentioning at this time that following the 1,000-year reign of Christ, there will be another uprising, which could possibly have the scope of a world war. Satan will be bound for 1,000 years and then released. Upon his release, he leads a rebellion among the peoples of the earth. Christ quickly puts down this rebellion and permanently judges Satan, casting him into the lake of fire. This will be just like He did with the beast/antichrist and the false prophet: when the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).

Gog and Magog Matthew 24; Revelation 20:7, 8

Prophetically, Gog will be the leader of a great army that attacks the land of Israel in the end times. Gog is described as “the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” from the north, “the land of Magog” (Ezekiel 38:2-3). The prophet Ezekiel prophetically describes Gog attacking Israel with a powerful force (Ezekiel chapters 38–39). According to this prophecy of Ezekiel Gog will be defeated by God Himself on the mountains of Israel. The slaughter will be so great it will take seven months to bury all of the dead: For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them in order to cleanse the land (Ezekiel 39:12). The book of Revelation also mentions Gog and Magog: When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore (Revelation 20:7-8). This prophecy that contained in Revelation 20 is in essence a restatement of Ezekiel’s prophecy, although there is a caveat.  John connects the army inauspiciously to an anti-Abraham covenant promise.  God’s promise to Abraham constituted the fathering of a people whose descendants would be as innumerable as the sand on the sea shore or stars in the sky. Magog was a grandson of Noah: The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras (Genesis 10:2). The descendants of Magog settled to the far north of Israel, probably in Europe and northern Asia: Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him  (Ezekiel 38:2).

Magog refers to “northern barbarians” in general, but it also has a connection to Magog as a person. The people associated with Magog are described as skilled warriors: You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army…Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and make your arrows drop from your right hand. 4 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 and to the wild animals. 5 You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. 6 I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coastlands, and they will know that I am the Lord. 7 “ ‘I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel. 8 It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of. 9 “ ‘Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up—the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel (Ezekiel 38:15; 39:3-9).

The book of Revelation uses Ezekiel’s prophecy about Magog to portray a final end-times attack on the nation of Israel: (he) and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them (Revelation 20:8-9). Many Bible prophecy teachers identify Gog and Magog as Russia and/or China. This is possible, but it is not explicitly clear in the Bible.

Deception: Be Warned!

The first item Jesus speaks about in His response to the disciples questioning warns them about the risk of deception that will prevail in the era that leads up to His return. Jesus essentially issues a warning, challenging those who would be alive during that period of time to exercise care and caution as many will be deceived.  It is worth speculating about the nature of the splendor of the Temple and the connection to deception.  The disciples were dumbfounded by the splendor and majesty of the facilities and rightly so.  The Temple Mount was beautiful to look at, with great riches and wealth contained inside its walls.  Wealth and security can be deceptive. Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, ‘ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4, 5)

The Olivet Discourse contains a reoccurring theme surrounding deception, as Jesus warned His disciples about the age of deception that would be in power prior to the return of the Son of Man. Deception and becoming spiritually alert were the top two priorities of Jesus’ regarding the end of the age.  This is not a new issue, as deception and false teaching are always concerns.  The major difference is in Jesus emphasis in connection to the last end of the age.  As the time draws near, there would be an increased need for caution. The apostolic witness also echoes Jesus’ concern relating to deception and false teaching in the church when they wrote about the last days: For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Following His warning, Jesus then proceeds to explain that humanity would continue to act and respond as they always have, with conflicts and wars continuing all the way to the end of the age. These connections to war and conflicts alone are not singular indicators that the end is at hand: 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 24:6).

Most conservative prophetic commentators typically attach Matthew 24:4-8 to the first part of the tribulation period.  This is partially due to Daniel 9:27, which indicates that the tribulation will be divided into two parts.  These parts may or may not be completely equal in length, as prophetic time can have differentials, although they will make up a time period of about seven years.  The pain of birth refers to the sufferings (persecution/opposition) politically that Israel will experience during this time. The specific signs that refer to Jesus second coming and the end of the age are:

1) False saviors: For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many (5)

2) Reports of wars: 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. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places (6-7)

3) Natural catastrophes: There will be famines and earthquakes in various places (v.7)

Another parallel to this passage is Revelation 6, which is where John foresees the issuance of the seal judgments.  Revelation 6:2 addresses a rider on a white horse, as John says: 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.  Some conclude that this refers to a false messiah.  Revelation 6:4 indicates that peace is removed from the earth, as a new time of war begins: then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.  This emerging war indicates a conflict on a large scale, as the world is almost always fighting somewhere.

This conflict will be one that affects the State of Israel, her allies, the Revived Roman Empire, and the Antichrist’s Kingdom.  Revelation 6:6-8 addresses famine, plague, disease and death: Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages (a denarius), and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” 7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

These references are only the “beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8), as greater horrors are soon to come. It is safe to assume that the Book of Revelation indicates that the last half of the tribulation will not begin until Revelation 13, although it is hard to gage apocalyptic messages and time.  Revelation 13 concerns itself with the events that surround the Beast setting up his rule for 42 months, (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15).  Revelation also refers to a period of 1,260 days (42 months or 3 1/2 years) in 11:3 and 12:6: And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth… The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Signs of the End

Matthew 24:5-8 gives us important information about what to look for in discerning the end, when he tells us that Jesus said that; “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. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” An increase in false messiahs, an increase in warfare, and increases in famines, plagues, and natural disasters—these items are signs of the end times. Even in this passage, though, we are given a warning. We are not to be deceived, because these events are only the beginning of birth pains; the end is still to come.”

Some teachers on end times and prophecy tend to point to every significant earthquake, political intrigue or attack on Israel as a sign that the end times are approaching or here.  It may be true that events of this nature may signal the onset or continuation of the last days, events of this nature are not necessarily indicators that the end times have arrived. The Apostle Paul warned that the main indicator that points to the beginning of the last days would see a significant increase in false teaching. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). The time of trouble have been described as “perilous times” as the increase of evil and the corruption of the character of man increase in their ability to “resist the truth:”

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone… 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 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:3).

Other possible signs of the end also include a rebuilding of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, hostility towards Israel, and advances toward a world influenced by one government. The most important precursor of the end times in my opinion, is the land of Israel. 1948 is a major sign, as Israel becomes a true homeland for displaced Jews was recognized as a self-governing Jewish state for the first time since either 70 or 135 A.D.  God had promised Abraham that his progeny would be in charge of Canaan as gift from God, as “an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8).  Ezekiel prophesied both a substantial and religious recovery of Israel (Ezekiel 37).  Israel as a recognized nation in charge its own land is important in light of end-time prophecy because of Israel’s place in eschatology: Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come… He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand… Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified  (Daniel 10:14; 11:41; Revelation 11:8).

With these signs in mind, we can be wise and discerning in regards to the expectation of the end times. We should not, however, interpret any of these singular events as a clear indication of the soon arrival of the end times. God has given us enough information that we can be prepared, which is all that can be expected.

Birth Pains and Times of Sorrow

Matthew’s version of the Olivet Dissertation begins with a sequence of menacing symbols: For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 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. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:5-8).

Luke’s summation includes ostensibly identical signs: When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away. 10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven (Luke 21:9-11).

Various scholars have observed that these signs also seem to parallel the same series of signs in the opening of the Seven Seals in Revelation Chapter 6.  Matthew’s account continues by saying that: “Then shall…” The bulk of his record deals with events after these ‘sorrows’ or birth contractions. Both Matthew and Mark also include with great emphasis  an additional sign that is absent from Luke’s account: 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).

This passage of Scripture provides us with intriguing possibilities for Scriptural understanding. Jesus authenticates His understanding of the authorship of Daniel, which is a compelling incident in light of modern textual criticism.  Not only is the authorship dilemma addressed, Jesus also gives us heavens view of Daniel’s placement in Scripture.  He was a prophet before he was a Satrap.  Jesus also referred to a key historical event: the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes that had occurred two centuries earlier in 167 b.c.

This is a historical event would have been well known by virtually every Jew, both then and now.   This desecration and the subsequent rededication of the Temple is what is celebrated every year at Hanukkah.  The Hanukkah celebration is even alluded to in John 10:22, 23: then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade

As we have already seen, the “Abomination of Desolation” incident and referral addresses Antiochus establishing an idol that was dedicated to Zeus in the Holy of Holies.  Following the sacrificing of a pig on the altar that was dedicated to YHWH, which precipitated the Maccabean revolt, the Jewish patriots ultimately threw off the Seleucid yoke and ushered in the rule of the Hasmoneans.

Jesus is indicating in His homily that something similar to this particular type of desecration will happen again, only this time the act of desecration will be a part of a era that Jesus Himself labeled “the Great Tribulation,” quoting from Daniel and identifying what Jeremiah called “the time of Jacob’s trouble.”  Both Matthew and Mark renderings include the parenthetical admonition to the reader for understanding, thus challenging us to discern this event as one that carries strategic importance in the unfolding eschatological drama.

Jesus then mentions a number of events that combine with wars.  This is that which He says will be the beginning of the events leading to the return of the Son of Man: Nation {ethnos} will rise against nation {ethnos}, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:7).

In this passage the Greek word ethnos is translated as “nation,” however, an understanding of the Greek definition of ethnos may help us understand what Jesus means when He tells us “ethnos will rise against ethnos.” Ethnos means a race, as in those who are of the same habitat, or a tribe. This alludes specifically to foreign (non-Jewish) peoples, which usually means pagan, definitely gentile heathen nations, and people groups.  We derive our English word ethnic from ethnos.

What this means is that Jesus was telling us that ethnic group will fight against ethnic group and government against government. He was also warning us that there will be natural disasters including famines, pestilences and earthquakes. All these things together will be the “beginnings of birth pains.” This idea of birth pains is from the Old Testament, where the Messiah’s arrival is described as Israel “giving birth” to the Kingdom of God.  The concept of the deliverance of His people (Israel) through birth is described in Isaiah 66:7-11 and Micah 5:2-4: “Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. 8 Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. 9 Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. 10  “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her… 11 For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.” “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Fulfilled or Not fulfilled: That is the Question Matthew 24:5-8; Revelation 4:1

Revelation 4:1: After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this,” introduces a section of Scripture that detail “what must take place after this.” What follows are prophecies of the “end times.” We have not yet reached the tribulation, the revelation of the Antichrist, or other “end-time” events. What we do see is a “preparation” for those events.

Jesus said that the last days would be preceded by several things: many false Christ’s would come, deceiving many; we would “hear of wars and rumors of wars;” and there would be an increase in “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places. All these are the beginning of sorrows:” For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 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. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:5-8). Today’s news is full of false religions, warfare, and natural disasters. We know that events of the tribulation period will include all that Jesus predicted: I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 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. 3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. 5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quarta of wheat for a day’s wages,b and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” 7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth (Revelation 6:1-8); current events seem to be a build-up for greater trouble ahead.

Paul warned that the last days would bring a marked increase in false teaching. “In later times, some will abandon the faith, and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons:” The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Timothy 4:1). The last days are described as “terrible/perilous times” because of the increasingly evil character of man and people whom actively “oppose the truth:” But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone (2 Timothy 3:1-9); also: Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessnessa is revealed, the man doomed to destruction  (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The list of things people will be in the last days—lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power— (2 Timothy 3:1-2) seems to fit our modern age.

Can there be any doubt that the prophecies concerning apostasy are being fulfilled? Our 21st-century world has embraced moral relativism, a philosophy that is tainting even the church. For example, many denominations are having a hard time defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, and many religious leaders today are openly supporting homosexuality. The Bible has become subordinate to the modern church’s quest for a more appealing “truth.” These are “perilous times” spiritually.

The formation of the European Union—and the fact that we have a reunified Germany—is very interesting in light of biblical prophecy. The “ten toes” of Daniel 2:42: As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle,  and the ten-horned beasts of Daniel 7:20: I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully, and Revelation 13:1: And the dragona stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name, are references to a “revived” Roman Empire which will hold power before Christ returns. Although the precise political structure has yet to be formed, the pieces can be seen as falling into place.

In 1948, Israel was recognized as a sovereign state, and this, too, has ramifications for the student of Scripture. God promised Abram that his posterity would have Canaan as “an everlasting possession:” The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8), and Ezekiel prophesied a physical and spiritual resuscitation of Israel (Ezekiel 37). Having Israel as a nation in its own land is important in light of end-time prophecy, because of Israel’s prominence in eschatology: Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come…” He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand… Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified  (Daniel 10:14; 11:41; Revelation 11:8).

While there is no biblical proof that the things mentioned above are the fulfillment of specific end-times prophecies, we can see how many of these events are similar to what the Bible describes. In any case, we are to be watching for these signs because Jesus told us that the day of the Lord—His return for His own—would come like a thief in the night: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare (2 Peter 3:10), unexpected and unannounced. “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

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:

  1. a) The Son of Man,
  2. b) The second coming of Christ,
  3. c) The ultimate glory of the kingdom of God (Revelation 21), and
  4. 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),

  1. 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),
  2. c) Trumpets signifying a superhuman or divine voice (Revelation 8:6–11:19),
  3. 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),
  4. 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),
  5. 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),
  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
  7. 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)

 

 

a Greek a choinix (probably about a liter)

b Greek a denarius

a Some manuscripts sin

a Some late manuscripts And I

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