19 – What Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 24
Matthew 24 and Matthew 25, also Mark 13 and Luke 21:7-36
We have taken a look at some of the prophecies about what is going to happen during the Tribulation period, as they are detailed in the Books of Ezekiel and Daniel. This is not an exhaustive look at end time events, but enough to assist in explaining the details mentioned in the Book of Revelation. We shall now look at what Jesus said about the events which would occur at this time. After all, He is the highest authority, so we cannot ignore Him. Jesus had been remonstrating with the Pharisees and the Jewish religious leaders for using the Law of God for their own purposes, on what they had to do in order to attain Eternal Life. They did not see the Law for what it really was – a pointer to the Day when Jesus would be sacrificed as the Lamb of God – fulfilling the Law once, for all people and for all time. Jesus called them hypocrites, blind guides and blind fools, Matthew 23:28
Leaving behind the furore He had stirred up, Jesus left the Temple Courts and took His disciples to a quiet place on the Mount of Olives and began to teach them. He spoke openly and also in parables, explaining what would take place in the near future and also in the much more distant future. They drew His attention to the amazing buildings of the Temple, Matthew 24:1-2, which had been built originally by Solomon to honour God, and completed in 959 BC. But afterwards, the Jews had turned their backs on Him, so the consequence of their rebellion was that The Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The Second Temple was then completed in 516 BC by the returning exiles from Babylon. (Read the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai, who all tell the story of its rebuilding and the excitement of the people as they returned to God).
This building stood in Jerusalem for 496 years and just before Jesus was born, Herod the Great, wishing to ingratiate himself with the Jews, enlarged and embellished the Temple. This took him 10 years, from 20 BC to 10 BC. (Jesus was probably born in about 4 BC). The Jews were naturally proud of their newly remodelled Temple building, so the disciples were quite probably remarking on it, as they came exited with Jesus. They hardly expected Him to say what He then stated: that the Temple would be utterly destroyed. Many of these disciples would have been alive when this prophecy was fulfilled, as the Romans sacked Jerusalem and quite literally, not one stone was left standing on another. Today if you go to Jerusalem, you can walk on the Temple Mount area. All you will find is the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Presently, you can pray at the Wailing Wall with devout people from all over the world, write a prayer on some paper and slip it between the remaining rocks from the Temple, You can walk about in these buildings but God does not inhabit them. He has no need of a Temple built with stones today; His Temple in the heart of each of His people.
So when they arrived on the slopes of the Mount of Olives and looked down over the beautiful sight of Jerusalem preparing for the Passover, with the hustle and bustle of all the foreign pilgrims and holidaymakers, the disciples would have been interested to know what else Jesus had to say, for obviously He had a lot on His heart that He wanted to share with them. With thoughts of the future destruction of the Temple freshly on their minds, they asked Him, “When will this happen? What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3.
This must be the question on every one of our lips, as well as on those of all who are interested in their faith. So we shall look in detail of what Jesus said, in describing the circumstances of His return and the end of the Age.
Firstly Jesus warned His disciples about people coming and leading them into error. He knew the warning would be for us as well, if we would only listen. Paul describes it this way, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord. 17 Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with Him forever,” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
What did Jesus warn us about? He said that many would come in His Name proclaiming themselves to be the Christ (the Anointed One, and His Anointing). They would deceive and lead many astray, Matthew 24:4-5. Consequently, we must remain vigilant and look out for these things to occur. In recent years, there have been a number of people who have claimed to be ‘Jesus returned,’ and who have led many away from the Truth, even shepherding them to commit mass suicide. We have seen the Jonestown, Guyana mass suicide, when 909 people died in 1978 under the instructions of leader Jim Jones. Even in England, a man called David Ike took out whole page ads in newspapers, under the misapprehension that he was Jesus.
We need our own close relationship with Jesus and with His, and Our Father, so that we can understand the Bible for ourselves. Blindly following the words of one man, or one single church, without reading the Bible for ourselves under the instruction of the Holy Spirit is sheer folly, but many have fallen into that trap over recent years. The media is not slow in pointing out where people fail morally (not that the copywriters themselves are necessarily any better!). When the famous pastor of a large well known church divorced for the third time, the press was full of the headlined story ‘Pastor sins again!’. Those who lead have a responsibility to lead in the Spirit and in Truth.
Jesus then spoke to them very specifically about events that would be happening at the time about which He was speaking in Matthew 24:6-7, all about wars and earthquakes. Tunisia, Egypt; Yemen; Jordan; Algeria; Morocco; Bahrain; Libya and Iran have all been and in some cases still are in turmoil with brother fighting against brother. There is also the news of earthquakes and volcano eruptions on a regular basis. Well, we know that the last half of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st have seen more fighting and earthquakes than at any other time in history.
At the time of writing this (November 2015) it seems that the media has only just finished reporting one war and its aftermath when another one springs up in an entirely different part of the world. Burundi and the Central African Republic are in turmoil as are parts of Nigeria and North and South Sudan. The Muslim world is in turmoil as it seeks to impose its brand of ‘religion’ on the world. ISIS develops its own brand of atrocities against Christians and all who wish to lead a peaceful secular life in the areas in which it tries to extend its so-called ‘caliphate’. Terrorism is the way in which these people seek to impose fear on others, and fear is Satan’s biggest weapon as he seeks to impose his will on nations and Communities. The Greek word for ‘nation’ here is the word ‘ethnos’ from which we get the English word ‘ethnic’ meaning a tribe, or a race of people. We remember the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic fighting and genocide in Rwanda, and the Kikuyu, Luo and Kalenjin tribes in Kenya fighting and murdering in a bloody ethnic brawl, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Iran, Syria and wherever else they live and appear to be unable to settle their differences.
“….. And there will be famines and earthquakes in place after place; 8 all this is but the beginning [the early pains] of the birth pangs [of the intolerable anguish]” Matthew 24:7-8. The famines of the Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad, Laos, Cambodia, Namibia, Mali and Somalia come to mind, but also the devastating hunger in Bangladesh and parts of India, and these are the ones we hear about! (Now we have hunger at home and in the mass movement of illegal immigrants into Europe, who are fleeing terror from Muslim countries, especially Syria).
This is a quotation from a daily reading published in November 2015:
“We continue considering the fact that Jesus is the only one who can offer full salvation. Since this is so, we who are Christians are praying daily that multitudes all over the world will come to acknowledge this truth.
An outstanding Eastern philosopher wrote: ‘We had high ideas of God before Jesus came, but Jesus is the highest expression of God we have seen. He is conquering us through the sheer force of His own person.’ A South American politician who claims no commitment to Christianity remarked: ‘Our problems would be solved and our difficulties overcome if we could bring the spirit of Jesus Christ into our working relations.’ And a highly respected Hindu leader, speaking of Jesus’ influence in history, said: ‘We have not been able to escape Him. There was a time when our hearts were bitter against Him, but He is melting them by His sheer winsomeness.’”
These statements bring to mind something that happened years ago in the mosque of Saint Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey. Originally a Christian cathedral, all signs that it had been a place of Christian worship were removed, when it was taken over by Muslims. Centuries later, a Christian tourist, standing in the mosque, looked up at the dome beneath which a Christian altar had once stood. With amazement, he noticed the figure of the ascending Christ showing through the paint that had been used to cover the image. There is a truth to be drawn from this. Jesus cannot be written out and washed over. People may attempt to cover Him with the whitewash of contemporary ideas, but through the frayed edges of this present age, the figure of the ascended Christ is showing through.
Christians (and Jews) are suffering in many areas of the world, particularly in largely Muslim areas, but not exclusively. Idolatry is found in many countries, which are ruled by Satan, who is working hard to eradicate all signs of Christianity. Consequently, we hear of many, who are being martyred for the sake of their faith. Today’s media is filled with atrocities and persecutions occurring in countries such as Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Israel, the Gaza strip, Egypt, South Sudan, in China, Pakistan, North Korea and in fact in many places throughout the world. Perhaps they are not yet occurring in epidemic proportions, but they are increasing enough to remind us that in many of these places, including more liberal western nations, just to be a Christian is enough to face persecution. But notice that Jesus does not say that there will be general persecution. It will, rather be persecution for His Name’s sake.
Attending Church is still not a problem in many parts of the world, even in so-called Christian countries. However, as soon as we begin to discuss the Power that is in the Name of Jesus, His Power to heal, deliver, set free from addiction, and the Power to change people’s lives for salvation and prosperity in every area of our existence, including finance, then we immediately begin to come up against opposition and as we’ve seen, there are a growing number of those countries today. Imagine the hostility that occurs when these things are spoken about in a nation where Satan holds sway? Jesus tells us here, that when that time comes, the persecution to be suffered by Believers will be much, much worse and more extensive, than we can contemplate. The Holy Spirit is still holding Satan back from doing what he would really wish to do, even though we are witnessing unthinkable atrocities being carried out by radical Islamists and many others.
Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians clearly instructs us about this time, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Deceivers had come claiming that the Day of the Lord – the return of Jesus – had already come and the Thessalonians had missed it. So this letter was written to encourage them to stand firm in what they had been taught. Paul made these points regarding the conditions in which people would be living when Jesus is to return, and that this Day would not happen until these two criteria had been met.
1. There will be a time of great rebellion against God, and then the man of rebellion (the Antichrist) will come – 2 Thessalonians 2:3
2. He (the Antichrist) will defy every god there is and tear down every other object of adoration and worship. He will go in and sit as God in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4
Paul then goes on to describe what the Antichrist will do when he comes.
1. He will be Satan’s tool, full of demonic power 2 Thessalonians 2:9
2. He will be able to perform miracles and to trick everyone with his occult powers 2 Thessalonians 2:9
3. He will completely deceive those who are on their way to hell because they have said ‘no’ to the Truth; 2 Thessalonians 2:10
We have not yet witnessed these conditions, but we do need to be aware of them and to remain vigilant. If unbelievers have not become Believers before the Rapture occurs, they should immediately be able to realise the relevance of the times in which they are living. Some, of course, will not recognise the situation especially those who have refused to have anything to do with Jesus before the Rapture. Others may very well recognise it and welcome it as they have been expecting their lord, Satan, to be revealed.
However, it is important to note that it will be very difficult during that period to become Believers, because having already refused to believe in, and to love the Truth to let it save them, God will allow the lies to be believed. The Antichrist will be permitted to make use of all his wiles of congeniality, magic and satanic powers. What a challenge to warn people of this time ahead! 2 Peter 3:9-10
Matthew 24:10-13 describes the situation in the Church today and we saw the warning from God about this in His description of the Church at Laodicea, Revelation 3:14-21 “And then many will be offended and repelled and will begin to distrust and desert [Him Whom they ought to trust and obey] and will stumble and fall away and betray one another and pursue one another with hatred. 11 And many false prophets will rise up and deceive and lead many into error. 12 And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity, 13 But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
Jesus is warning us that we are at risk of being offended and repelled by the Truth. Believers in the Western World today, have ‘never had it so good,’ nor so ‘easy and relaxed,’ in our churches. Sadly, there are some in ‘authority’ who say what we wish to hear, effectively telling us that it is acceptable to be ‘in sin,’ while still being allowed to hold a trusted position of leadership. These deceivers can actually put people who oppose the Truth into positions of standing; they can also lead the gullible astray by telling them that God is a God of love, yet importantly, without showing them the way of Salvation, or warning them of His Justice. But, the moment someone stands up to declare the Truth, they become offended, close ranks, and expel those who do not agree with them.
Is it any wonder that Jesus warns us that there will come a time, when even those who believe but do not have solid teaching and understanding, will turn their back on Him, stumble, fall away, betray each other and pursue one another with hatred? John 15:9-12. So we need to focus ourselves on Jesus and His Word, not on what people say, think and do. Jesus experienced Satan’s full temptation in the wilderness, so personally knows all our weaknesses. Satan offered Jesus everything if He would only bow down and worship him. Jesus used ‘the Word’ to rebuke him, Matthew 4:8-10. How much more do we need to have Scripture on the tip of our tongues at all times, to use when we are under attack. “At that time…many false prophets will appear and deceive many,” says Jesus in Matthew 24:11. This is not just confined to any one denomination, today. Paul encourages Believers to keep a strong determination to stand firm, holding on to everything they have learned and to keep thanking God for fellow Believers, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15.
Jesus then shares one more remarkable piece of information with us. He tells His disciples about THE END; the time of the Tribulation Period just before He returns in Judgement, Matthew 24:14. It is at this time that the Gospel will be preached throughout the world – as a testimony to the nations, which we studied previously in Revelation 7
The second way in which the Gospel will be preached will be through the angels, Revelation 14:6. God does not want any to be condemned to an eternity in Hell. He has done everything so that all men everywhere have been given the opportunity to choose salvation for themselves. The sad state of affairs is that in spite of all of the love, encouragement and final warnings, many will continue to choose death, rather than eternal life. The preaching of the Gospel to every nation, tribe and tongue will not be accomplished before the Rapture occurs, but it will be completed in the Lord’s timing during the seven year Tribulation Period. This means that we must be prepared for Jesus to call us to Him in the ‘clouds’. This may happen sooner than we think; we have little time left to finish our work on the earth!
The end of the Age
Jesus now talks to His disciples about the end of the Age Matthew 24:15-22. We studied in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7-12 where he talked about the abomination that causes desolation, Daniel 12:11-12. This is none other than the Antichrist standing in the Holy of Holies in the Temple at Jerusalem and proclaiming that he is God. This is gross Blasphemy and is instigated by Satan himself who controls the Antichrist.
In order for this to happen, some changes have to take place in Jerusalem. Currently, there is no Temple in the city. The second Temple was completed just before the birth of Jesus. This was destroyed completely by the Romans in 70 AD. Some of the huge stones can still be seen today, but on top of Mount Zion, which as we read earlier, is the second most ‘holy place’ in Islam, stands the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Unless a diplomat of great significance arises and persuades the Muslims to allow the building of this new Temple, or that the Jews recapture the Temple Mount from Arab rule, it will not occur. But the Bible states that a third Temple will exist!
For the first half of the Tribulation Period, the Jews will be allowed to rebuild their Temple, and there is good reason to believe that this is currently prefabricated and ready to be constructed as soon as this becomes possible, whether through diplomacy or the recapture of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Rumours abound at the present time that the Ark of the Covenant is not lost, but has been rediscovered. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but one thing we do know is that during this seven year Tribulation Period, it will be replaced in the Holy of Holies.
At the beginning of the second half of the Tribulation Period, the Antichrist will set himself up as God in the Temple, and this is when opposition to religion will take on a completely different dimension. Every religion – which had been vaguely tolerated up to this point – will be persecuted, but none more so than Judaism. It goes without saying that Christianity will be outlawed after the Rapture. Believers will be seen as the reason that all the trouble in the world has occurred!
This point in time is where Jesus warns His People to run for shelter to the mountains and warns them in the strongest terms not to wait. They are to go straight to the mountains, not even going home for a coat or suitcase, nor even the most treasured possession, but just to flee! The tribulation that will descend on the Jews by the remainder of the population and comes as a result of the Antichrist’s action, will be none other than an intense burst of Satanic activity, the length of which will be shortened for the sake of the elect – God’s Chosen People, the Jews. This is because no human being could endure and survive a longer demonic attack, Matthew 24:22.
The deception that Satan will unleash on the world at this time will be very difficult to counteract. There will be many false Christs, false Messiahs and false prophets, who will be embroiled to the fullest extent possible in witchcraft and demonic activity, including demon worship, Matthew 24:23-27. Christ’s warning is clear. Salvation is available now, and has been for almost 2,000 years, and will continue to be free in advance of all this occurring – if only everyone would listen and respond! When Jesus comes this time, it will not be someone just saying, ‘He’s here,’ or ‘He’s there!’; everyone will know about it, from east to west, north to south. Not one person will miss this event! Jesus’ return will be Glorious, Triumphant and in Victory over Satan and all his demons; it will be a magnificent return with all His saints (the Believers), who will rule and reign with Him.
The Jews will have responded and be miraculously hidden in the Israeli mountains. They will have left with nothing, apart from the clothes which they were wearing and just as God provided for them in the original Exodus, He will again supply their every need! Exodus 13; Nehemiah 9:20-21 Things will be reaching their climax. There will be signs in the Heavens; the sun, the moon, the stars and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, Matthew 24:29-31. Then at that moment in time, what we have fervently and excitedly been waiting for will appear – Jesus will return! It will be with Power and great Glory. What a celebration that will be!
On the day when Jesus and the disciples were on the Mount of Olives and they were quizzing Him on how to read the signs of the end of the Age in Israel, He told them how to recognise them, Matthew 24:32-36. He gave the illustration of the fig tree, which was familiar to them, as they saw these trees every day and picked fruit from them if they were hungry. They could tell the season by the state of the fig tree, so Jesus explained that when all these things that we have learned about in this study happen together, not just isolated incidents such as an earthquake here or there, or a single terrorist attack or a war, they should know that His return would be imminent.
As if that were not enough, He gave them another illustration from the days of Noah, Matthew 24:37-39. When Noah had finally finished building the Ark – it took him 120 years – the day came when those who had rejected Noah’s advice and invitation to join him in the safety of the ark, were swept away by the flood. What had they been doing up to that point? Living ordinary lives! So when the Rapture, followed by the Tribulation Period happens, people will expect that everything will continue just as it had always done. The effect of the Rapture on the population of planet Earth will be shocking, but most people will try to justify the bizarre disappearance of millions of people, all of whom will be Christian.
As if that were not enough, Jesus gives further warnings of signs, as well as another parable. It will not be easy to justify the disappearance of a large number of people from every nation on earth. It will happen quickly and in a manner that would, to the casual onlooker, seem almost random, especially if at the beginning they did not link the fact that all those who disappeared were Believers, Matthew 24:40-44. This would not have occurred if everyone had known when Jesus was coming. They will continue to try filling the God-shaped hole at the core of their beings, with things which do not fit and therefore do not satisfy. We need to ask the Lord to give us new ways to reach people. It is our responsibility to encourage them to make a decision for Christ. Jesus told us we are in charge of His household; so we are responsible for feeding His servants. At the time of His return, He will see what we will have accomplished. Matthew 24:45-51. What food and supplies is Jesus talking about here? He is talking about the Word of God. If we are obedient, then Jesus will reward us with more responsibility on His return.
We need to acknowledge our present apathy before God, to take up the challenge to use our God-given gifts for His people, and those who will become Believers before the time comes for us to be taken from the earth. It is then, that He will congratulate us on a job well done, appoint us into positions of authority and return with Him, to rule and to reign with Him.
Our destiny is to labour for the good of the Kingdom of God, both now and into eternity. There is work for all of us to do. In these days of uncertainly, let us not turn back from all that the Bible tells us, “The just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. Let us fill our minds, hearts and mouths with His Word!
19 Revelation – What Jesus said in Matthew 24 – Challenge Questions
It is suggested that you answer all the questions in your homework but only do those marked with ‘*’ in your group to save time and give more time to prayer.
1. *Read the Notes and the Bible Verses referred to in them. Highlight the points that ‘speak’ to you and be prepared to share with your group.
2. *Can you hear the heart of Jesus as He shares the warnings and challenges at this time before He leaves His disciples? Which do you find most exciting?
3. Are there any warning signs that are new to you? Which are the most challenging and frightening?
Read Revelation 8:1-13
4. *The opening of the seventh seal causes a silence in Heaven. How long does this silence last? When were seals 1 to 6 opened?
5. Can you think of any reasons why this silence might happen?
6. *Describe heaven as John describes it here. What were the angels holding and how many of them are here?
7. What is this instrument traditionally used for and why is it being used here?
8. Do you think that the inhabitants of earth would have heard these trumpets sound? What would their reactions be?
9. *What is in the golden censer?
10. *What happened when the angel with the censer filled it with fire and threw it to the earth? Is this part of God’s judgements on the earth?
11. *At what point in the Tribulation Period do you think the events unfolding in Revelation 8 occur?
12. What was the result of the first angel blowing his trumpet?
13. What was the result of the second angel blowing his trumpet?
14. What was the result of the third angel blowing his trumpet?
15. What was the result of the fourth angel blowing his trumpet?
16. *Which of these Trumpet Judgements reflect the plagues suffered by the Egyptians?
17. Each of the judgements have an ecological effect. What are these effects?
18. *Can you think of any further effects of the judgements that will play into the Antichrist’s hand?
19. What does the solitary eagle flying in mid-air call out? What can he see that they cannot?
20. *If you could pass on one message to the inhabitants of the earth who would be alive at this time, what would it be, and why would you wish to give it?