MATTHEW 24:1-8  


 

MATTHEW 24

CONTENTS

I.     INTRODUCTION
II.    THE STAGE IS SET, Verses 1-3
III.   THE BEGINNING OF BIRTH PANGS, Verses 4-8
IV.   EVENTS BETWEEN 30 AD AND THE FALL OF JERUSALEM IN 70 AD
V.    THE TRIBULATION, Verses 9-28
VI.   THE NATURE OF THE SECOND COMING, Verses 27-30
VII.  THE ARRIVAL OF JESUS, Verse 31a
VIII. THE RAPTURE: THE GATHERING OF THE SAINTS, Verse 31b
IX.   THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE, Verses 32-36
X.    THE RAPTURE DESCRIBED, Verses 37-42
XI.   TWO PARABLES, Verses 43-51

I. INTRODUCTION

It was the 12 of the month Nisan in the year 4071 A.H. (in the year of man) or 30 AD as it came to be designated by chronology researchers many years later.  Two days before the beginning of the Passover Festival (Mat. 26:2), Jesus was once again in the Temple area teaching the religious Jews and His disciples. During this final week before the crucifixion, Jesus had made His final plea to the nation of Israel, exhorting them to accept Him as the promised Messiah. But they failed to respond, and He had to pronounce judgment upon them instead of blessing (Mat. 21:33-44; 23:33-39). He now has on His mind to teach some essential truths to His disciples concerning the progress of history from the time of His resurrection until His second coming, which will begin THE END OF THE AGE. The result is what has come to be called, THE OLIVET DISCOURSE.

PREVIEW

In Matthew 24, Jesus is talking primarily to the disciples as those who will be the foundation builders of the church. The information is for the church – not for Israel.
When they asked him about his coming, it was the coming that He had been telling them about for many months. Mat. 10:23; 16:27-28.
And during this discourse, Jesus will make a direct association of that second coming with the Old Testament prophecies about THE DAY OF THE LORD. There is only one 2nd coming. That coming is what will end the church’s presence on the earth and begin the time period of THE END OF THE AGE. All that is described in verses 4-44 occurs while the church is on the earth. It is not written for the nation of
Israel.

It is argued that this understanding is not valid because dispensational distinctions prevent God from DEALING with Israel and the church at the same time. However, whom God DEALS with is no issue in dispensational distinctions. Furthermore, during the first 40 years of the church, there was time allotted for God to formally displace Israel through the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 21:33-45; 23:29-39). This time between dispensations is called transition and allows God to administer a smooth transfer of evangelistic function from the previous agency to the next one. The same thing will occur during the 70th week of Daniel. God restarts Israel's time clock, giving her the rest of the promised 490 years. (From Cyrus year one, 483 years were fulfilled until the crucifixion of Jesus. At that time God turned away from Israel with 7 years left for the fulfillment of her evangelistic commission). The purpose of this last 7 years is to bring Israel back into a right relationship with God, and it is the evangelistic activity of the church which contributes to this (Dan. 11:33-35). By the end of the 7 year period, Israel will once again be restored to relationship and fellowship with God, be functioning as the evangelistic agency, and be the foundation for the nation's role in the millennial kingdom of Jesus.
For amplification, see the article: Prewrath and Dispensations.

JEWISH CONTEXT?
It is claimed that Jesus gives this teaching in a Jewish context and that it does not apply to the church.
Just because Jesus is talking to Jews (the disciples) in Jerusalem and in the vicinity of the temple, does not mean that the information he is giving is a “Jewish context.” Obviously, this is the geography and the culture and the people - BUT - these particular people are going to be used to build the church, comprised of both Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:11-21). At the same time it needs to be recognized that God’s plan still has a specific place for Israel and that is in an end times context. Thus, anytime we find teaching about the end times, we will find a Jewish context. This does not make it restricted to the dispensation of Israel. The church began with only Jews in the upper room - but that was not “Jewish” in context. In fact, it took several years before the evangelistic thrust went beyond Judea and Samaria and reached to the Gentiles. The church met AROUND the temple area on most occasions in the early days, but that does not make it “Jewish” in context.

Matt. 24:1-2   And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He answered and said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

This is predicting the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD at the hand of Rome, but that does not make it “Jewish” in context. It occurs during the church age - and Luke records the warning that is given to CHRISTIANS (through the teaching to the disciples) who will be in Judea when the armies arrive (Luke 21:12-24). AND - the YOU who is addressed in Luke is the same YOU who is addressed in Matthew. The YOU refers to Christians who are alive at whatever time the particular incidents mentioned occur.

When Jesus had OTHERS in view (ie, unbelieving Jews or Gentiles) He clarified it in the text. At Luke 21:20, "when YOU see" is specific info to the disciples and through them to any believers in the vicinity.

Then let THOSE WHO ARE IN JUDEA: This is more impersonal and is a warning that can extend to ANYONE. That is, anyone who is made aware of the warning and or anticipates the dangers when Rome surrounds Jerusalem (the first time), should get out of town - that includes believers and unbelieving Jews - which by the way, IS exactly what happened in 68 AD.

Notice at Luke 21:23-24, “wrath to this people,” refers to the unbelieving Jews of Israel - not to the YOU who is being addressed. And, “THEY will fall by the edge of the sword,” - refers to the same Jews and not to the church. When Jesus referred to someone OTHER THAN the disciples as representatives of His church, He indicated it accordingly.

At Luke 21:26, MEN fainting from fear . . ..

And at verse 27, “and then THEY will see” refers to the unbelievers of the world.

The church is in view at verse 28 with YOUR heads and YOUR redemption.
Thus, the warning for preparation in verses 29-36, "that YOUR hearts," contrasted with
verse 35, "for it will come on those who dwell on the earth."
It is the same thing at Mat. 24.30, all the tribes of the earth will mourn (certainly not a Jewish context).

As Jesus continues, the YOU takes on a more generic idea as He warns everyone who will hear
the message - to be ready, because one will be taken and one will be left - and that is the primary
focus in the parable that He gives at verse 45. This "more generic" application is based on the destiny
that is mentioned at verse 51.

DECEPTION
Matthew 24:
4-8 deals with the issue of DECEPTION. From the inception of the church age in 30 AD, the world will experience a great variety of various troublesome historical trends such as false teachers, wars, famines, plagues, earthquakes, and even strange celestial phenomena. None of these things are to suggest progress toward “the end” and the second coming of Jesus. They are not to be the cause of concern or elicit any EXPECTATION, for they are normal and will continue until the time of the tribulation.

It is when the church (you) is delivered up to tribulation (verses 9-28) that the SEASON of the second coming will be present. When that happens, then the second coming can be expected to occur at any day or hour, without any other warning. Verses 24:36, 42.

The point of focus in verses 15-26, is on the church’s ministry to Israel in the land of Palestine during the tribulation. The land of Palestine is always the focal point of the prophetic scriptures and will be the hub of divine activity during the end-times. The church has a part in the end-times and is not removed beforehand. The END-TIMES period begins with the 70th week of Daniel. This is the 7 year period promised to Israel in order to fulfill her allotted time as God’s evangelistic agent, and to institute the Messiah’s earthly kingdom.

See Topic: The 70 weeks of Daniel

From the time of Israel’s restoration from the Babylonian Captivity in 536 BC via the decree of Cyrus (3589 A.H.), she was responsible for representing the Messianic promise to the world. God gave Israel 490 years to fulfill this responsibility, but after 483 years had passed, she had failed. That failure reached its ultimate expression when the nation failed to accept the Messiah when He came (Mat. 21-33:45; 23:34-39). Because of that God interrupted the time that He had promised to Israel and temporarily took away her evangelistic responsibility, and gave it to a NEW agent, the church (1 Peter 2:9-10).

See Topic: Dispensations

In the future, at the start of the time period known as THE END TIMES, God will give to the nation of Israel, the remaining 7 years that He promised to her. This has been theologically designated as the 70th week of Daniel. During that time the church will be instrumental in bringing the gospel to Israel (Mat. 10:21-23; Dan. 11:33-35) so she can be restored to that function. However, Israel will not function as the agent until after the rapture, but will still be spiritually neutralized until she embraces Jesus as the Messiah after His arrival. This will occur when the 144,000 are saved right after the rapture, as is recorded at Revelation 7:1-8. These will then function as God’s evangelistic servants to escort both Jew and Gentiles into the Messiah’s earthly kingdom (Rev. 14:1-7).

See Topic: The 144,000 Bond Servants


In the remaining verses of the Olivet Discourse (24:45-51; 25:1-46), Jesus gave 4 parables to teach what will happen in connection with His return at the inception of THE END OF THE AGE. The first 3 have to do with preparedness at the day of the Lord return of Jesus. These parables are illustrations from human life to emphasize the need for faith in Christ before he comes.

The 4th one has to do with the living believers who go into the kingdom after the battle of Armageddon. The parables do not provide any chronological data. We have to use the rest of scripture to determine the progress of events.
1. The END TIMES will begin with the establishment of a covenant of peace and religious toleration between the peoples of the Middle East (M.E.P.T.A.). Daniel 9:27; Rev. 6:1-2, the first seal). This is known as the 70th week of Daniel.

2. AT the midpoint of the week, the covenant will be broken and the antichrist will begin the tribulation of persecuting Jews and Christians, and anyone who will not take the mark of the beast. Mat. 24:15-21; Revelation 6:3-4 (the second seal); 12:7-17; 13.

3. The time period known as THE END OF THE AGE, will start when Jesus arrives in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. This will occur at some unknown day and hour after the midpoint of the 70th week. Matthew 24:31-42; 2Thes. 1:6-10; 2:1-3.
It is also at this time that the rapture will occur.

4. The conversion of the 144,000 Jewish bond-servants will occur immediately after the return of Jesus and the rapture of the saints. Revelation 6:12-17; 7:1-8; Mat. 24:29-44

5. The ministry of the 144,000 and of the two witnesses of Revelation 11:1-13 will result in converts from Jew and gentile throughout the world.

6. The day-of-the-Lord judgments will be poured out on the earth after the conversion of the 144,000 bond-servants. Rev. 6:17; 7:1-3; 8:1-7.

7. This wrath and judgment from God will last until the end of the week, and for an additional 30 days after that (Dan. 12:11; Rev. 15-16), culminating in the battle of Armageddon.

8. Armageddon will involve a local judgment in Palestine, but there will also be physical judgments on the homelands of the armies as well. Rev. 14:18-20; 19:11-19.

9. After Armageddon, during the next 45 days (Dan. 12:12), the separation of the sheep and goats will occur to show who believed in Christ after the rapture and who can thus go into the kingdom. Matthew 25:31-46.

10. During that same 45 days, the separation of the fat and lean sheep of Israel will occur, with the believers (lean) going alive into the kingdom, and the unbelievers (the fat) being excluded and destroyed. Ezekiel 34:17-32.

CORRELATION OF THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS

FIRST, I want to suggest that regardless of how one correlates the information found in the various passages of the Synoptic Gospels, the ORDER of the events DOES NOT CHANGE. Thus, whether there was ONE or TWO or a dozen different times that Jesus taught on this subject, the chronological flow of the events must be consistently maintained.

SECOND, we need to acknowledge the idea that the gospel writers record only PORTIONS of what Jesus taught (John 20:30; 21:25) and not even COMPLETE messages. This helps us divide the information that was taught into various categories.
In Matthew 10, for example, it should be clear that Jesus taught the disciples things about their ministry from that moment in 29 AD until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD (verses 16-20). We know this because of the reference to the authority that the SYNAGOGUES had to prosecute violators of their religious standards. This authority they no longer had after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Then at verses 10:21-22, there is a distinct change in focus that applies the information to the period extending from 70 AD until the SECOND COMING.
"For you shall not finish with the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes."

THIRD, we need to recognize that the information Jesus taught is not recorded in the same chronological order by the other gospel writers. It thus, becomes difficult to correlate all the information into one continuing narrative.

FOURTH, we should notice that there is duplication of information within some of the gospel accounts. This duplication of information within the same gospel record indicates that the same information was taught by Jesus at different times. Basically what we are dealing with is teaching that was given within the time frame of late 28 AD until the Passover season of 30 AD, but some of it was repeated in the Olivet Discourse.

(1) The 30-70 AD persecution teaching of Luke 21:12-19 occurs in similar language earlier at Luke 12:11-12.
(2) That teaching, although not recorded by Matthew in his “Olivet” chapter, is recorded earlier in Matthew 10:17-20
(3) The tribulation teaching of Matthew 24:9-14 occurs earlier in Matthew 10:21-22.

THE CHRONOLOGY

The “Olivet” chronology as presented in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels is accurate. That is, ALL of the information recorded there BELONGS there. Matthew's GENERAL Gospel record is based on FIRST HAND knowledge, as he was personally present during the teaching. It is more reasonable to view his account as chronologically accurate. The records of Mark and Luke are based on second hand knowledge, as they received their information from others. This lends itself to general chronological inaccuracy, which is exactly what has happened.
This has occurred in Luke's record despite his lofty intentions stated at Luke 1:1-4. Those intentions apply to the birth of Christ and the general outline of His ministry within the context of contemporary men and dates; Augustus, Quirinius, Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas and Caiaphas.

But when it comes to the teaching of Jesus, and various events throughout his ministry, Luke records the CONTENT of what Jesus taught, without always preserving the same chronological flow that Matthew does. This can be seen by comparison with John's gospel as well.
This does not affect the doctrine of inspiration. The CONTENT is accurate. The fact that chronological precision is not preserved is obvious, and is not crucial to the preservation of TRUTH.
Matthew's ORDER should be followed, with Mark agreeing with that order for the most part, and all three preserving a correct chronology in the Olivet Discourse.

THE OLIVET DISCOURSE

In my opinion, the content of Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 17:22-37, and Luke 21 should all be placed within the context of one message, even though some of the information was taught on more than one occasion.
I believe that Luke has taken snippets of the Olivet Discourse and has placed them in Luke 12 and 17, but careful analysis shows us that there is no connection in that placement to the surrounding context of Luke's narrative.

Although there were multiple teaching sessions on the same subject matter, as shown above, the flow of the content, and the occurrence of key chronological words, within the pertinent passages of the three Synoptic Gospels, indicate that what we know as The Olivet Discourse, did contain ALL of the information that is found in the respective Olivet chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke. None of the writers recorded the entire discourse, but all of what was recorded in the respective chapters was taught by Jesus in the same discourse given to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, and does present chronological accuracy.

Matthew does not record the entirety of the Olivet Discourse for his focus is not on the specific time frame of 30 to 70 AD, but the time frame from 70 AD until His second coming, and the END TIMES beginning with the tribulation.

Luke on the other hand, places greater emphasis on the 30 to 70 AD time frame before he records the END TIMES information, and then, does not even mention the tribulation, and gives little attention to the rapture. However, as mentioned above, he did record the SAME rapture information as occurs in Matthew 24, but he records it in chapter 17:22-37.
He also records the teaching about the persecution between 30 and 70 AD, at chapter 12:11-12. And Matthew's Olivet parables, Luke records at 12:35-48.
It truly seems that Luke has mostly just recorded various FACTS and simple snippets of Christ's ministry, without putting them in any chronological order.

So in the end, I am compelled to place Luke's record of 21:12-24 within the same discourse that Matthew records because of the flow of the language at verse 12, "But before all these things." This requires a natural transition from "the beginning of birth pangs" which are described almost word for word by the three Synoptic writers, even though Luke does not use that term. If it were not for this connection, "before all these things," then the theory that it is a different discourse might be viable.
Furthermore, I see no indication that there are two separate locations involved with this discourse. The "baited" statement of Jesus at Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2 and Luke 21:6, was given on the way out of the temple area. But the questions of the disciples were not asked until later when they were on the mountain (Mat. 24:3; Mark 13:3). Luke does not state WHEN the questions are asked, just that they WERE asked. Since the information before and after the "70 AD" section is basically the same, there is no reason to think that it comes from a different discourse.

Mark incorporates some of the pre-70 AD instruction, as can be seen at chapter 13:9-11. He MIXES both time periods within his record, as Luke does, without giving the key chronological designation of Luke 21:12, "before all these things," and without mentioning specifically the impending fall of Jerusalem.
What we must do is apply the obvious transitional style of Jesus that is shown to us here in Matthew 10, even though it is not so obvious in the other gospels.
That transition will be seen in more detail when we get to verse 23. There without any preparation, Jesus JUMPS from an early church context to an END-TIMES context, "you shall not finish with the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes."

SUMMARY OF SYNOPTIC CORRELATION

Matthew 24:4-8 = the beginning birth pangs
Mark 13:5-8 = the beginning birth pangs
Luke 21:8-11 = the beginning birth pangs

Matthew skips over the 30 to 70 AD persecution that was taught earlier at chapter 10, but it WAS taught again in the Olivet Discourse.

Mark 13:9-11 = the 30 to 70 AD persecution
(The gospel proclamation of verse 10 has a double application - to the Apostolic era and the tribulation)

Luke 21:12-19 = the 30 to 70 AD persecution
(Luke does not mention the gospel proclamation)

Matthew skips the fall of Jerusalem.
Mark skips the fall of Jerusalem.
Luke 21:20-24 = the fall of Jerusalem

Thus, only Luke mentions the warning to flee Judea, within that context of the siege of Jerusalem, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,” (21:20-21).

The warning to flee is taught in both contexts: (1) 68 AD, and (2) when the abomination of desolation is set up in the Holy Place at the midpoint of the 70th week, when the tribulation will begin. Luke mentions it in the tribulation context at 17:31-33, out of chronological order.

Matthew 24:9-26 = the tribulation; mentions the gospel proclamation.

Mark 13:12-23 = the tribulation; mentions the gospel proclamation at verse 10, with a double application to the Apostolic era and the tribulation.

Luke skips the tribulation, although records information about it in chapter 17:31-33, out of chronological order, and does not mention the gospel proclamation.

Matthew 24:27-25:30 = Second coming and rapture with FIVE second-coming parables.
(The vultures gathering image occurs at verse 28)
(The days of Noah and one taken/one left data occurs in verses 37-42)

Mark 13:24-37 = second coming and rapture with TWO parables.
(The days of Noah and one taken/one left data is not recorded by Mark)
(The vultures gathering image is not recorded by Mark)

Luke 21:25-36 = second coming and rapture with ONE parable, although he records THREE of the same second-coming parables out of chronological order, at Luke 12:35-48, and a VARIATION of one at Luke 19:11-27 – probably taught at that time.
(The days of Noah and the one taken/one left data is not recorded in Luke 21, but is recorded at chapter 17:26-30 and 34-36, out of chronological order.)
(The vultures gathering image occurs out of chronological order at Luke 17:37).


II. THE STAGE IS SET

Matthew 24:1 (NASB is used unless otherwise noted)

Mankind has always been preoccupied with the future, and of course, the disciples of Jesus were no exception. To prepare the disciples to receive this important information, it appears as though He actually baited the curiosity of the disciples by speaking of a future destruction of the temple with very strong language.

And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.
(Luke 21:5, And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said.
Mark 13:1, And as He was going out of the temple, ONE of His disciples said to Him, Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!)

The disciple's are quite enamored with the temple structure. They have probably been discussing this among themselves, and ONE OF THEM takes it upon himself to broach the subject with the Lord. The "bait" then, appears to be recorded at Mt.24:2 and Luke 21:6, as they are LEAVING the temple area.

VERSE 2

Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you,
there shall surely not be left one stone upon
another, which will not be torn down.
(Luke 21:6, As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.
Mark 13:2, And Jesus said to him, Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down.)

VERSE 3

On the way to the mount, they are surely discussing this strange prediction by Jesus, and finally when they have settled down in private, the obvious question must be asked – “when?”
But in actuality, they asked Him four specific questions.

1. When will these things be? Mt. 24:3; Mk. 13:4; Lk. 21:7
2. What will be the sign of these things? Lk. 21:7; Mk. 13:4 (when these things will be fulfilled).
3. What will be the sign of your coming? Mt. 24:3
4. And the sign of the end of the age? Mt. 24:3

Mark seems to limit the questioning to Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mark 13:3), but surely they are simply the ones speaking in turn, as all the disciples would be present.
There are FOUR questions asked, and perhaps, once the first disciple spoke, the next one asked what was on his mind. The result would seem like Jesus is suddenly “bombarded” with the curiosity of the disciples, as they speak in turn without waiting for an answer to the first question.
I can imagine:
P: When will these things be?
JA: (Yes, and) What will be the sign of these things?
JO: (and for that matter) What will be the sign of your coming?
A: (Yes) And the sign of the end of the age?

The answers of Jesus, recorded for us in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21, give us an outline for the history of the church from its inception in 30 AD unto the start of the time period known as THE END OF THE AGE. This time period will begin with the arrival of Jesus in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory and be completed at the end of the Messiah’s 1000 year earthly reign. This time period is also known as THE DAY OF THE LORD. It is at this time that Jesus will use the angels to gather up the elect (Saints; all the living church age believers and all dead believers from all previous generations) out from this world, give them new resurrection bodies, and take them into the third heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; 5:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; 2:1-2; Rev. 7:9ff).

Now, as mentioned above, there are two main differences between the information recorded by Luke and what is recorded by Matthew and Mark.
1. Luke records the prophecy of events between 30 AD and 70 AD and Matthew does not. However, Mark DOES record that information, AND, Matthew records it at a different place in his gospel – chapter 10.

2. Luke records the prophecy of the siege and fall of Jerusalem and neither Matthew nor Mark do so.

This has led to a theory suggesting that Luke records a different discourse than what Matthew and Mark record. It is suggested that since Luke deals with the impending destruction of Jerusalem and Matthew does not, then the two writers had two entirely different messages in mind. However, the similarities far out weigh the differences. Luke records the answer to “When will these things become,” and Matthew does not, and in both accounts the same question is recorded. This should indicate that there is only one discourse in view. In addition, the same description of the beginning birth pangs is recorded by both men. Matthew chose – and it must be believed that this was through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – not to mention the impending destruction of the temple and city, but to focus on the future tribulation. Luke, on the other hand, through the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose to focus on the crisis of the church prior to the fall of Jerusalem rather than the future tribulation. In fact, Luke does not record anything about the tribulation in his entire gospel account. Except for this difference then, the historical trends are mentioned by both, and the end-times signs of the second coming are mentioned by both.

We are shown a unique parallelism by comparing the two gospels. We learn that the early church will go through the same kind of suffering and persecution as what will come during the tribulation. In fact, Acts 14:22 states, "through many tribulations, we are to enter the kingdom of God."
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, indicating that the AFFLICTION encountered by the early church COULD HAVE escalated into the end-times tribulation, and relief would, in that case, come through “the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,” (2 Thes. 1:6-10).

The first two questions deal with the tearing down of the temple.
The answer to this issue is recorded only by Luke and is fulfilled in 68-70 AD.
The last two questions are dealt with by all three writers.
When Jesus answered the four questions, he did it in a LOGICAL and CHRONOLOGICAL order, using key chronological words to indicate progress and transition.

He began with a very stern warning.

VERSE 4 (Mark 13:5; Luke 21:8a)

And answering, Jesus said to them,
See to it that no one deceives you.

The possibility of deception requires specific information so that the church might be oriented to the progress of history and not get discouraged at hardship and be distracted from her evangelistic purpose.

Paul wrote at 1Timothy 4:1, “But the Spirit specifically says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”
And at 2 Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
And Peter wrote that “false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies . . . and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” 2 Peter 2:1-2

If the church, or more specifically, individual believers, get too distracted and discouraged at the progress of evil in the world, they will lose sight of the true objective for their continued sojourn here on the earth, which is to function as ambassadors within the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; 2Cor. 5:20).
See Topic: AMBASSADORSHIP

In fact, this is exactly what happened to the Thessalonian believers as Paul wrote,
”that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” 2Thes. 2:2

These believers were experiencing some very great persecution (2Thes. 1:4), which Paul described as AFFLICTION (using the verb, thlibo – tribulation, verse 1:6).
Their concern was not the reality of “tribulation” type pressure. This was to be expected, as was taught by Jesus and the apostles from the beginning.

Jesus prepared the disciples with “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” John 15:20. And at John 16:2, “but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.”

Paul taught that “Through many tribulations we are to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
And at 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

At 1 Peter 4:12, we are told that we should not be "surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing, as though A STRANGE THING were happening to you."
 
No, the concern of the Thessalonians was not the reality of their persecution pressure, but their concern was that they had MISSED the promised RELIEF from that pressure and from the day of God’s wrath, which was to come at the revelation of Jesus from heaven (2Thes. 1:7). This had been promised in Paul’s first letter to them (1Thes. 1:10, 4:13-5:11).

Thus, the specific instruction from Jesus and later from the apostles is designed to orient the believers to the progress of historical trends and the advance of evil and oppressive persecution that would come in the years following His death and resurrection. It was not to be a surprise to them, nor were they to look for His second coming outside the context of specific prophecies. For even though “many will come in My name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (Mat. 24:5),
and even though “false christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Mat. 24:24) - DO NOT BELIEVE THEM (verse 26).
“For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mat. 24:27).
In other words, it will NOT be a SECRET coming that no one knows about or sees. It will be visible and glorious, and “every eye will see Him.” (Rev. 1:7; Mat. 24:30).

And so we have the Olivet Discourse, wherein Jesus orients us to the general historical trends that will occur during the church age, and the specific time of persecution leading up to His return at the Day of the LORD. That is, “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He, (God the Father) will show in His own time,” (1 Timothy 6:14-15, BFT).

As this is studied, we need to keep in mind that Jesus was speaking to the disciples as the first fruits of the church, and that the information given to them is applicable to the church throughout its history.

Jesus chose the disciples as representatives of His message, and as His representatives, He taught them concerning the issues of ambassadorship for their benefit and for the benefit of those who would believe in Him through them. Although upon occasion Jesus taught directly to the Jews of the nation of Israel, as ones who were expected to accept Him as the Messiah, most of the time He was teaching His disciples the information they and the church would need for spiritual life fulfillment after His departure. Since the disciples were the foundation blocks of the church, the information they received is just as applicable to all the church as it was to them. In the passage before us, Jesus is not talking to the Jewish nation, but to the disciples as the first leaders of the church, and He is giving them information that is and will be pertinent to the church throughout its history on the earth.

As we properly harmonize the three accounts that we have in the synoptic gospels, it will be clear that the progress of the future is viewed from 30 AD, as an uninterrupted history of the church, until Matthew 24:29-31, when Jesus will return in association with the Day of the LORD signs, and will gather His elect from the world.

It is at this time that we are first introduced to the word, parousia, to refer to the second coming of Jesus. Matthew uses it four times and it is used 13 additional times in the epistles - consistently for the ONE and only second coming of Jesus, which will be visible, physical and in GLORY. The word means a "being" beside (para). Thus, both ideas of arrival and presence are in view, with greater emphasis on the idea of ARRIVAL, thus the translation, COMING.

The disciples asked, "What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?"

The answer is prefaced with warning not to be misled because there will be many who come with deceiving words of false claims either about WHO the Messiah is, or about His return. Matthew writes, “Watch out that no one deceives you.”
The present active imperative of blepo communicates an urgency and danger. “Be looking” is more accurately expressed in our modern idiom as “Watch out!”
“That no one misleads you” is an aorist active subjunctive of planao. It means to wander or cause to wander. It is possible for someone to so influence another that they will wander away from what is right and proper. Thus, the rendering, “deceive you” is acceptable.
Luke uses the passive voice, “Watch out that you not be deceived.” This is an aorist PASSIVE subjunctive. In each case, the subjunctive mood indicates the POTENTIAL for deception and therefore the urgency of the danger is highlighted.

The context of Matthew 24 indicates that "the end of the age" refers to a PERIOD of time rather than a single day event. However, that end-of-the-age time period will be initiated by the COMING of Jesus, so when Jesus says at verse 6, "this is not yet the end," He means it is not yet the time for the second coming (the parousia). And at verse 14, the gospel will first be proclaimed throughout the world of that "tribulation" generation, and "then shall the end (parousia) come." Accordingly, the second coming is identified as both the ARRIVAL and the PRESENCE of Christ AND the end of the age time PERIOD – the Day of the Lord.

At verse 13, "whoever endures until the end will be delivered," the word "end" SEEMS to refer to the end of the specific events just outlined in verses 9-12. However, the END of the events of the tribulation and the end of the age, when Jesus returns is the same point in time. For according to verse 29, it is AFTER the tribulation of those days,” that is, after the tribulation has been cut short by the sovereign decree of God the Father (Mat. 24:22), that the signs of the day of the Lord will occur, followed by the visible arrival of Jesus in the clouds of the sky.
And this ARRIVAL of Jesus will initiate the TIME PERIOD known as THE END OF THE AGE.
For more details see: THE END OF THE AGE.


III. THE BEGINNING OF BIRTH PANGS

At Matthew 24:5-6, Jesus explains that there will be several things that occur throughout history, as normal or matter-of-course historical trends. These things should not elicit any special concerns from the disciples CONCERNING the end of the age, because the end will be prefaced by the specific time of tribulation, which will be evidenced by the presence of the abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place. Jesus mentions these GENERAL historical trends in order to keep the disciples and the believers of the church after them, oriented and aware so that they might not be deceived and misled.

At Matthew 24:5-9, Jesus breaks down the historical trends into three periods.

1. Those before 70 AD.
2. Those between 70 AD and the great tribulation.
3. And those during the great tribulation.

CHURCH AGE TRENDS - General trends both before and after 70 AD:

VERSE 5

For many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ,
(Lk. 21:8, I am He, and, The time is at hand) and will
deceive many. (do not go after them. LK)
(For the mystery of lawlessness is already working - 2 Th.2:7)

As mentioned above, the apostles gave additional information on the arrival of false teachers.
Paul wrote at 1Timothy 4:1, “But the Spirit specifically says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”
And at 2 Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
And Peter wrote that “false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies . . . and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” 2 Peter 2:1-2

Before I continue I need to point out that there are THREE places in this discourse where the presence of false prophets is said to be a challenge to the faith of believers in Christ.
1. PRIOR to the tribulation, during the period of “beginning birth pangs.”
2. DURING the tribulation: False prophets teaching general error about various doctrinal truths at verse 11.
3. DURING the tribulation: Specific claims to be the Messiah or that the Messiah has arrived at verses 23-27.

VERSE 6

And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars;
see that you are not disturbed, for it must happen,
but it is not yet the end.
(Luke 21:9, And when you hear of wars and disturbances,
do not be alarmed; for these things must happen first,
but the end is not immediate.)
(Mark 13:7, And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.)

Luke uses the word, “disturbances” in place of rumors. The word in the Greek is akatastasia – something that is against stability. It has the idea of social and regional conflicts that could possibly escalate into war, and in many cases, probably do.
These "wars and rumors" have been occurring since 30 AD, and are to be viewed as general trends without placing any specific significance upon them. In fact, Jesus calls them "the beginning of birth pains at verse 8.  "Beginning birth pains" are those intermittent pushes and shoves which indicate that a pregnancy is moving toward its "end." These occur during the last couple MONTHS of a pregnancy. However, before that "end" can occur, there must be the final birth pains which are the body's actions to bring that baby into the world and "end" the pregnancy. These FINAL birth pangs occur just hours before the birth.

The "pregnancy" is God's plan to establish the Messiah's reign on the earth via His return at the Day of the Lord.
The beginning birth pains are those historical trends which progress from Messiah's first advent until the revelation of the beast, the man of lawlessness at the midpoint of Daniel's 70th week.
The final birth pains take place during the oppressive reign of the beast which is called the tribulation, the great one.
The end of the "pregnancy" -the birth- is the TIME PERIOD leading up to and including the reign of Messiah on the earth.
It will begin when Jesus returns at the Day of the Lord and administers the divine agenda for establishing His 1000 year earthly kingdom.
 

1. See that you are not frightened: This is an aorist active imperative of instruction from the verb, horao. It means to observe or pay attention. It is followed by the present passive indicative of throeo, which means to be afraid, disturbed and intimidated. The NORMAL inclination is to see each succeeding war or rumor of war as a sign that the second coming is near. We need to understand that this is not the case. All of these GENERAL wars and rumors of war are natural historical trends that will continue throughout history, and mean NOTHING as to eschatology – that is, in reference to the fulfillment of end-times prophecies. And that includes the seals of Revelation 6.

2. For these things MUST take place: Lit: It is necessary for these things to become.
This is the present active indicative of the verb, dei, which means to be necessary.
It is followed by the aorist middle infinitive of ginomai (to become).
This indicates that the things just mentioned MUST, as a matter of course, and in the normal progress of history, come to pass. There is nothing prophetically significant about it.
At Luke 21:6, Luke gives it added emphasis, "for these things must take place FIRST."

3. Jesus said, "the end is not yet." This clarifies that when the "wars and rumors" occur, the oriented Christian should not be deceived into thinking that it portends the end of the age and the second coming of Jesus. Jesus' explanation of why it is not yet the end, is amplified at Matthew 24:7 and Luke 21:10-11. Basically, it is because there are yet to be many horrific things that will come upon the world throughout the history following the first century. Accordingly, Jesus will describe historical trends that take place on a much larger scale than the ones just mentioned.

VERSE 7

For nation shall rise against nation
and kingdom against kingdom - - .
(Mark 13:8a; Luke 21:10)

There are two things in this passage, or rather the discourse, which tell us that these "larger scale" trends are those which will occur after AD 70.

1. The idea of "kingdom against kingdom" conflicts does not describe the conflicts that took place within the Roman Empire prior to 70 AD.

2. At Luke 21:12, the phrase, "but before all these things."
Here Jesus backs up in His discourse in order to describe the persecutions of the early church and the events leading up to and culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

By saying, "before all these things," Jesus is placing the following information before the "larger scale" trends just described. And so, chronologically, these events should be viewed first.

Another crucial point is that we must understand that Jesus taught about two different times of persecution and two different times of crisis for Jerusalem. He uses similarity of language to describe both, and we must be careful to make the separation between the two situations or else we will miss the true intent of His teaching.

When Jesus talkED about the persecution between 30-70 AD, he useD language that is very similar to what He useD to describe the persecution of the great tribulation. But by careful analysis, the distinction between the two periods can be preserved. The same principle applies to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the oppression by the beast in the great tribulation. As mentioned earlier, a parallelism is thus established that reveals the possibility that the early church persecutions COULD HAVE actually escalated into the end-times tribulation.

Matthew 24:7

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,
and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes,
(Mark 13:8b, there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.)
(and plagues, and great signs from heaven; Luke 21:11)

Verse 8
Now all these things are the beginning of birth pangs.

All this continues from 70 AD as the beginning of birth pangs.
What are these Birth pangs for? They are for the END OF THE AGE that as identified as the subject at verses 3, 6, and 14. The END will begin at the return of Jesus (verses 32-35), which is identified elsewhere as the Day of the LORD (Joel 2:31; 1Thes. 5:2; 2Peter 3:10ff).

To recap: The rumors of war are not a sign of the end BECAUSE (for) there will be massive world-wide conflicts (kingdom against kingdom, etc.) along with famines, plagues, earthquakes and atmospheric disturbances. But all these things are just birth pangs leading up to the end but are not the end. And since we are dealing with a symbolic "pregnancy" instead of a literal nine month pregnancy, there is no way to determine the length of time allotted to this time of "beginning birth pangs." In other words, the beginning birth pangs should not be viewed as "signs of the season," for they are not. The signs of the season begin with the final birth pangs; birth pangs, which generally point to the end occurring within a matter of hours. This season is when the church comes under the oppressive reign of the beast at the midpoint of Daniel's 70th week. These are the signs that Jesus has in mind at Matthew 24:33, "you too when you see all these things." The context indicates that the "all these things" refers back to a specific time period in the context (the tribulation) which begins with a specific historical event, identified as the rise of the beast who sets up the abomination of desolation in the Holy Place.

The final or advanced stage of birth pangs begins with Matthew 24:9, the events of the great tribulation. It is during this time frame (verses 9-28) that the gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world, "and then shall the end come (verse 14)." The result of that gospel proclamation will be new converts added to the church, all of whom will be raptured at the Day of the LORD, and at least the 144,000 Jewish converts after the rapture.

In the meantime, the normal historical trends of a world under a physical and spiritual curse, will continue until we arrive at a time when alleviation from much of the pain will be administered by a world ruler seeking to establish THE peace on the earth.
Some prophecy writers have interpreted the words of Jesus to mean that these things will INCREASE, as in, become more numerous just before His second coming, but that is NOT what Jesus said.
Jesus said that when these things occur, we are NOT to think that the end is at hand, for they are normal and to be expected.
But of course, as the degeneration of the earth increases through the curse, and as the manifestations of man’s sinfulness increases, these historical trends will naturally become more frequent and more intense. And of course, we are getting closer and closer to the second coming. But this is NOT because there is an increase of these historical trends, but because of the natural progression of TIME.

1. The wars and rumors continue via nation and kingdom conflicts. This can be traced through historical records and does not need to be documented here.

2. Famines occur as a result of climate cycles, warfare, and man's mismanagement of the environment. This too is a well-known historical reality, and does not need to be documented.

3. Plagues occur for the same reasons as well as from mankind's general moral decline. The occurrence of recurring and new devastating diseases is a historical reality.

4. Earthquakes occur because of the curse on the earth, and the law of entropy affecting the earth’s geological structure. There is nothing unusual here.
To list some of the largest ones:
February 14, 1556, central China, estimated at 8.0
November 1, 1755, Lisbon, Portugal, estimated at 9.0
January 26, 1700, a 9.0 on the west coast of North America
August 13, 1868, a 9.0 occurred in Arica, Peru.
January 31, 1906, off the coast of Ecuador and Colombia.
April 18, 1906, a 7.9 in San Francisco.
November 4, 1952, 9.0 in Kamchatka, Russia
May 22, 1960, 9.5 in Southern Chile.
March 27, 1964, 9.2 in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
December 26, 2004, 9.1 off the island of Sumatra.
November 15, 2006, 8.3, Kuril Islands
January 13, 2007, 8.1, East of the Kuril Islands
April 1, 2007, 8.1, Solomon Islands
September 12, 2007, 8.5, Southern Sumatra, Indonesia
September 29,2009, 8.1 Samoa Islands Region
February 27, 2010, 8.8, Offshore Maule, Chile

Recent quakes can be traced at:  http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/

7. Terrors: At Luke 21:11, the word is phobātron, which simply indicates things that cause great fear. This would include anything not already mentioned, such as, severe storms (hurricanes, tornados, etc.) and volcanoes, which have all caused great fear throughout the years.

6. Celestial phenomena from meteors, comets and various planetary alignments to UFO's will surprise and deceive mankind.

All these things will occur, bringing us naturally closer to the "season" of final birth pangs but are not signs in and of themselves.

So - when the huge famine hits in 43-44 AD (Acts 11:28), the disciples won’t get all excited 
and think that the end is near.
Or when Rome starts fighting off rebellions, including the Jewish revolt, they will not think 
that the end is near.
And when the earthquakes and eruption associated with Mt. Vesuvius occur in 79 A.D., 
destroying the cities of Pompeii, Stabiae, and Herculaneum, 
they will not think that the end is near.
Even when Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed earlier in 70 A.D., 
they will KNOW that the end is not near.
What do they need to watch for in order to know that the end is near?
They will know that the end is near when the tribulation begins. 
And they will know that the tribulation has begun when the abomination of desolation 
is set up in the Holy Place.

Thus, the natural flow of the teaching of Jesus is to record the progress of the church from AD 70 into and to the end of the great tribulation. The message of Jesus bypasses any "direct" mention of the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel and simply picks up at the mid-point of the week when the man of lawlessness begins his oppressive reign as the beast out of the sea. In fact, everywhere in scripture, the emphasis is not on the 1st half of the week, but always on the 2nd half. There is a conspicuous absence of information about the 1st half, but an abundance of information about the middle of the week, the oppressive reign of the beast and all that follows.

The probable reason is because the 1st half is a time of peace for most, if not all, the world, as a result of the covenant that is established by the world ruler and the peoples of Palestine (The “many” of Daniel 9:27). Revelation 6:3 records the taking of THE (Greek) peace from the earth at the second seal, which is what happens when the beast breaks the covenant of peace and religious toleration. If the general historical trend from 30 AD is "wars and rumors," then there will be no "official" peace that can be taken from the earth except one that has been established.

The history of the church, then, progresses without interruption up into that first half of the 70th week and into the tribulation (the great one) from which she shall be delivered, as that tribulation is cut short (Matthew 24:22) by the sovereign decree of God the Father. This will be followed immediately by the signs in the sun, moon and stars (Mat. 24:29), the sign of the Son of man (Mat. 24:30a), and then by the visible return of Jesus in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (Mat. 24:30b). And as Jesus appears, He will use His angels to gather His elect (the saints) out from the earth (Mat. 24:31) as is described at 1Thes. 4:14-17. This then will begin the Day of the LORD and initiate the time period of THE END OF THE AGE. Paul taught about this arrival of the Day of the Lord at 1Thes. 5:1-11, 2Thes. 2:1-3, and 2Peter 3:9-13. He also taught that this COULD happen during his own lifetime as seen at 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.

THE SEALS PARALLEL THEORY

There are many who believe that the events prophesied in Matthew 24 parallel the 6 seals of Revelation 6. It is even stated that because of this observation, some of them have come to recognize that the PreWrath view of the rapture is more consistent with Scripture. The theory states that each of the “birth pang” items correspond respectively with the 4 seals; that Mat. 24:9-28 corresponds with the 5th seal; and that Matthew 24:29-31 corresponds with the 6th seal.

I do believe that there is a parallel between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6, however, it has nothing to do with the birth pangs.

1. As taught above, the birth pangs are the normal historical trends that have been going on since the first century and have no bearing on WHEN the “end” will occur.
Jesus said, “See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.”

2. The parallels that the theory purports are mismatched, strained and inaccurate.

3. For details on the inaccuracy of this theory see:
Birth Pangs/Seals Theory
 

IV. EVENTS BETWEEN 30 AD AND THE FALL OF JERUSALEM IN 70 AD. 
Luke 21:12-24 (Mark 13:9-13)

Now, before we continue with what Jesus taught about the beginning of the tribulation at Matthew 24:9, the natural FLOW of the discourse needs to be preserved by inserting the information that Mark and Luke provide for us (or AT LEAST, the proper chronological ORDER).


BUT BEFORE ALL THESE THINGS

By saying, "before all these things," Jesus is placing the following information before the "larger scale" trends just described. And so, chronologically, these events should be viewed first.

As a reminder of what I wrote above, I repeat. Jesus taught about two different times of persecution and two different times of crisis for Jerusalem. He used similarity of language to describe both, and we must be careful to make the separation between the two situations or else we will miss the true intent of His teaching.

When Jesus talked about the persecution between 30-70 AD, he used language that is very similar to what He used to describe the persecution of the great tribulation. But by careful analysis, the distinction between the two periods can be preserved. The same principle applies to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the oppression by the beast in the great tribulation even to the point of telling the people to flee Judea.

SPECIFIC PERSECUTION BETWEEN 30-70 AD
(based on Luke 21:12, "But before all these things")

Luke 21:12-19

"They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you,
delivering you to the synagogues and prisons,
bringing you before kings and governors because of My name.
It will provide you occasion for a testimony.
Therefore establish in your hearts, not to practice to defend yourselves;
for I will give you speech and wisdom which all of your opponents
will be unable to resist or refute.
But you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers
and relatives and friends, and they will kill some from among you,
and you will be hated by all because of My name.
Yet a hair from your head will not perish.
By your endurance you will possess your lives."

 

Mark also records this information at Mark 13:9-13 and it is best to see the inclusion of this information in his “Olivet” chapter, as indication that it was indeed, taught on that occasion, and parallels Luke 21:12-19. Except it seems that Mark 13:12-13 should be viewed as paralleling Matthew 24:9-10, and refers to the future tribulation instead of the 30-70 AD persecution.

Mark 13:9-13
9 "But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.
10 "The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 "When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13 "You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

Although Matthew does not record the 30-70 AD persecution data in his “Olivet” chapter, he does record the earlier teaching session on that subject at Matthew 10:16-23.

16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 "But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child ; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 "But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

WE KNOW that this is referring to the time period prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, because AFTER 70 AD, the Jews had no authority to haul people before their religious court system – “the synagogues” - as they did prior to 70 AD (Acts 4:1-3; 6:12; 9:1-2). And outside, Palestine, they had no authority to prosecute those who might disagree with their faith system, although they could challenge them (Acts 13:45). And they would also enlist the help of local governments to attack the Christians (17:5-9).
Of course, after 70 AD, Christians will still be brought before Gentile court systems, just as occurred before 70 AD.

At Matthew 10:23, Jesus takes the persecution of the Christians and the gospel proclamation beyond the immediate time frame of the apostolic era and applies it to the church age in general without making any reference to the fall of Jerusalem 40 years after His resurrection.

"You shall not finish with the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes."

This simply confirms the idea that there is no "interruption" of the historical progress of the church until Jesus returns at the Day of the LORD. And the disciples will know that Christ’s promised return would not occur until sometime after the completion of their mission.

 

THE TWO PERIODS OF PERSECUTION

There are two periods of crisis for the church on the earth.
1. The period of restraint. This is the period of time from the inception of the church at the Day of Pentecost in 30 AD until the beginning of the tribulation. 2Thes. 2:5-12

During this time “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” but is under restraint according to the agenda of the plan of God.
The restrainer is preventing the full expression of “the deception of wickedness” and the full expression of Satan’s wrath.
See Topic: THE RESTRAINER

But both man and Satan hate the LIGHT of God’s character and truth, and attempt to dim or extinguish the light as much as possible. Accordingly, this period is characterized by (1) the advance of false teaching. 1Tim. 4:1; 2Tim. 3:13; 2Peter 2:1-2.
And (2) general “tribulation” from hatred and persecution of God’s people.
2Tim. 3:12; Acts 14:22; 1Thes. 3:3; John 15:20-21; 16:33.

It should also be divided into two sub-time periods.
    A. From 30 to 70 AD: During this time there is a specialized Jewish persecution of the
        church as well as general Gentile persecution.
        Matthew 10:16-20; Mark 13:9-11; Luke 21:12-19

        (The details of this time period are not pertinent to our study of eschatology,
         so I will not comment on it in full at this time. I will discuss it in general below.)

    B. From 70 AD until the start of the tribulation: This is characterized by GENERAL
        persecution of Christianity by all who are opposed to it, without any specialized
        Jewish persecution. 2Tim. 3:12; Acts 14:22; 1Thes. 3:3; John 15:20-21; 16:33.

2. The tribulation itself: This is the time of intense persecution that will begin at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week, which has already been described. It will be discussed in more detail at verse 9.

THE FIRST TIME PERIOD: 30 to 70 AD

Mark 13:9, 11

Now keep yourselves alert; for they will deliver you to courts
and you will be flogged in synagogues,
and you will stand before governors and kings because of me,
as a testimony to them.

This is a valid concern for the representatives of the Messiah, but it was not an issue prior to the crucifixion, at least there is no mention of such persecution during that time. It did not become a problem until after the resurrection and the beginning of the church age. The reference to synagogues refers to the persecution from Jews which would take place between 30 and 70 AD, and can be summarized by what Saul did as recorded at Acts 22:19, "in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed," and Acts 26:11, "and as I punished them often in all the synagogues."
Likewise with the appearance before the Gentile societal leaders, this did not happen before the crucifixion. But it did occur quite frequently during the years before 70 AD.

THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Mark 13:11
And when they arrest you and deliver you up,
do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say,
but whatever is given you in that hour;
for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.

This refers to the ministry of the Holy Spirit specifically to the believers of the apostolic church, which provides an "inspiration" type message for those who encounter this persecution. This does not mean that the believer is to neglect his spiritual growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, but what it does mean is that for the trusting believer, there need be no occasion for worry nor preparation of a formal statement of defense. God the Holy Spirit will so work in the believer's soul that the truth he has learned will be brought to the mind and the Holy Spirit will speak through him to meet the needs of the moment.

Luke mentions this teaching from Jesus twice, which indicates that He probably taught it to the disciples on more than one occasion.

At Luke 12:11-12

"And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not become anxious about how or what you should speak in your defense, or what you should say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."

And at Luke 21:12-15, in his "Olivet Discourse" chapter -

"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. "It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.

The context at Mark 13, appears to be referring to the time of the tribulation, but I suggest that he is just giving a summary of what Jesus taught and that the true chronological perspective is preserved for us only in Matthew 10, 24 and Luke 21.

Luke 21:12-24 makes it clear that this period of "inspirational" defense through the Holy Spirit will occur between 30 AD and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The clause at verse 12, "but before all these things," refers to what happens before the events of verses 10-11 occur (the national conflicts, earthquakes, famines, and the signs in the heavens). And then at verses 20-24, it is clear that Jesus is referring to a time period before 70 AD, for these verses describe the destruction of the city that occurs at that time.

The point I want to emphasize is that this special help from the Spirit, in the manner that it is described by Jesus is a temporary provision for the apostolic era and is not continued throughout the church age beyond that era. The Spirit will certainly continue to minister to His people through leading and filling, but the language that Jesus uses in this context speaks of an inspiration from the Spirit, and this does not occur after the apostolic era ends. That is, God will not ZAP someone with the information he needs to either represent the gospel or defend his faith. The standard principle for preparation is the process of spiritual growth as described by Peter at 1 Peter 3:15-16.

"But set apart the Lord Christ (place his viewpoint and character) in your heart, always prepared with a reply (apologia) to everyone who asks you a word concerning the confidence that is within you, but with visible humility (gentleness) and respect; maintaining a good conscience, so that in the thing in which you are slandered,
those who criticize your good behavior in Christ, may be put to shame," (BFT).

 

THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL

Mark 13:10
And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all the nations.

The world-wide proclamation of the gospel was fulfilled by the apostles (at least in the context of the Roman Empire) prior to 70 AD according to language that we find at Colossians 1:6, 23. But it also has great significance for the period of time prior to the Day of the LORD. For there shall be, indeed, needs to be a blanket of gospel truth announced to Israel both locally, in Palestine, as well as world-wide, in order to sow the seed that will sprout in the 144,000 Jews who are converted just after the Day of the LORD arrives, (Revelation 7:1-8).

There also needs to be a maximum gospel proclamation to the world as a whole, "before" the return of Jesus to provide a "final warning" as it were, to all peoples so that, "whoever calls upon the name of the LORD, shall be saved." Joel 2:32

Matthew 24:14,

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed
in the whole world for a witness to all the nations,
and then the end shall come.

Indeed, the ministry of "the church" will never be complete either to the world or to Israel until Jesus returns. Matthew 10:16-23

Verse 23,

". . . you shall not finish with the cities of Israel,
until the Son of Man comes."

 

DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM - 70 AD

Once we recognize the 30-70 AD time context of Luke 21:12-19, it should be clear that Jesus picks up at verses 20-24 with the siege of Jerusalem by the armies of Rome. This event actually becomes the point of contact and overlap between AD 70 and the future oppression by the beast during the great tribulation.

And once again, we must be very careful in recognizing the precision in the words of Jesus to distinguish between these two events, and at the same time realize that He used similarity of language to describe both.

Luke 21:20

Now when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,
then recognize that her desolation is near.

This then answers SPECIFICALLY the questions asked by the disciples, “When will these things be and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
Although both Matthew and Mark record this question, “When will these things be,” in response to the statement of Jesus that the temple will be destroyed, neither writers actually record the answer as Luke does.

 

Luke 21:21
Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains,
and let those who are in the midst of the city depart,
and those who are in the country, do not enter it;

Notice there are THREE items of exhortation given by Jesus.
(1) Get out of Judea and flee to the mountains.
(2) Get out of the city itself.
(3) Do not go into the city.

This information will be most usable to the Christians who are in the area, and only those who are privy to Matthew’s record or the VERBAL history of what Jesus taught will be able to heed the warnings. However, it is not really an illogical thing to imagine that many unbelievers who are witnesses to the initial siege of the city by Vespacian in 68 AD, will simply think it wise to leave. And history does in fact record that many people were able to escape the onslaught of the Romans that came two years later in 70 AD, and tradition (Eusebius and Epiphanius), although questioned by some, states that the escape was to Pella in Perea.

As mentioned above, Jesus taught about fleeing Jerusalem in two different historical settings. (1) 68 AD, and (2) when the abomination of desolation is set up in the Holy Place at the midpoint of the 70th week, when the tribulation will begin.

Only Luke mentions the warning to flee Judea, within that context of the siege of Jerusalem, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,” (21:20-21).

And only Matthew and Mark record the warning in a tribulation context in the OLIVET chapters. However, Luke mentions it in the tribulation context at 17:31-33, but out of chronological order. This will be covered later.

Luke 21:22
because these are days of vengeance,
in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

The statement, “all things fulfilled,” does not refer to the "entire" plan of God for Jerusalem, but specifically, that which involves a world-wide dispersion. A world-wide dispersion is not what happens in the yet future oppression by the beast, nor what happens when the nations surround Jerusalem during the Armageddon campaign (Zechariah 12:1-5).

This prophecy of Jesus specifically fulfills Old Testament passages that deal with the destruction of the city and the dispersion of the people. Leviticus 26:27; Deuteronomy 28:49-68

It deals with the national discipline that God will administer upon the Jewish people because of their failure to be faithful to God and to the law of Moses.

The principle is stated at Jeremiah 18:7-10 and Ezekiel 14:12-20.
See FIVE CYCLES OF DISCIPLINE (Discipline: national).

Specifically, that faithlessness will culminate in the rejection of Jesus, their Messiah. Matthew 21:33-46; 23:37-39

That is why the term "days of vengeance" is used at Luke 21:22.

Luke 21:23-24,
Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babies in those days;
for there will be great calamity upon the land, and wrath to THIS people,

In the context of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, there will be great hardship on everyone in the area. And especially those who are in some kind of physically challenged situation will be even more severely distressed.

A good summary of this is provided by William Hendriksen in His NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY, The Gospel of Luke, pages 938-39.

“What happened, in fulfillment of this prophecy, was as follows: Even several years before the outbreak of the Jewish War the Roman yoke was becoming more oppressive than ever. Action produced reaction, with result that Jewish hatred of their heathen oppressors rose to the point of organized rebellion. By no means every Jew was in sympathy with this movement, but after a while the warnings of the moderates were drowned out by the voices of the Zealots. Emperor Nero sent his famous general Vespasian to Galilee, which was soon overrun. But, due to the forced return to Rome of this general and Nero's suicide, the conquest of Galilee was short-lived. A period of confusion followed in Rome, with four emperors in one year. See on verses 8-11. The Jews took advantage of this situation so that the rebellion began to make some headway again. But then Vespasian, now emperor, having restored order, sent his son Titus (who himself later on became emperor, A.D. 79-81) to Jerusalem with a large army. The siege began in April of the year A.D. 70, while Jerusalem was still filled with Passover pilgrims. For the terror that ensured one should read Josephus, Jewish War, especially Books IV to VII. After a siege of about five months the Romans finally overwhelmed the entire city. According to Josephus the total number of prisoners taken throughout the entire war was 97,000, while 1,100,000 perished during the siege (Jewish War VI. 420). Even though these figures may be exaggerated, the number must have been enormous.

   The war was inexcusably cruel. Not only was the temple given up to the flames but the entire city – except three towers and a portion of the western wall – was razed. By the thousands aged men, women, regardless of their physical condition, and even little children were murdered. Some of the prisoners were subsequently thrown to the wild beasts, others were sold into slavery ‘into all the nations,’ while a select number of the strongest and best-looking captives figured in the triumphal procession which Rome gave to the conquerors, and which Josephus describes in such elaborate detail, as if the terrible slaughter were really something to be proud of.”

However, many people taking the opportunity of the interruption of the siege in 68 BC, did indeed escape the area and took refuge in the hill country east on the other side of the Jordan River.

Luke 21:24
and they will fall by the edge of the sword,
and will be led captive into all the nations,
and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles
until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

This is exactly what Gabriel communicated to Daniel in the famous "70 weeks" prophecy.

Daniel 9:26,

(And after the 62 weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing,)
And the people of the prince who is to come
will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
And its end will come with a flood; and to the end there will be war;
(it is) a decree of desolations.

 

The Roman army under Titus besieged the city in 70 AD on the 14th of the month Nisan until its fall, 134 days later on the 8th of Elul. This was prophesied by Daniel as taking place after the cutting off of Messiah. The cutting off of Messiah must be understood from the context of Isaiah 53:8 -

He was cut off from the land of the living,
for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due.


(There is a different Hebrew word for cut off at Isaiah 53:8, but that does not change the parallel).

This of course refers to the provision of salvation through the sin sacrifice of the Messiah, the details of which do not come under the scope of this work.

The "prince who is to come" is the little horn of Daniel 7:7-22 and refers to the future dictator of a ten-nation confederacy with its political roots in ancient Rome. This man will make a 7 year covenant of peace and religious toleration (M.E.P.T.A. – Middle East Peace and Tolerance Accord) with the peoples of Palestine (the many) and will then break it 3 1/2 years later (Daniel 9:27). But the people of that "end times" prince refers to the Romans, who in 70 AD destroyed the city and the sanctuary; the people from whom this prince descended, not to those who are associated with him when he comes on the scene.

Then after 70 AD, until the end (end-times) there will be war, just as Jesus said at Matthew 24:6, and a decree of desolations which includes the famines and earthquakes of Matthew 24:7. And the plagues mentioned at Luke 21:11.

At this point in Luke’s record, verses 25-28, he jumps to the time immediately before the second coming of Jesus, when the signs that announce the arrival of the Day of the Lord will occur, and does not mention the future tribulation that precedes those signs.
Before Matthew and Mark record this information about the second coming, they write about that tribulation (Matthew 24:9-28); Mark 13:14-23).
Luke does not record any information about the tribulation except at 17:31-33, out of chronological order, for he drops it right in the middle of rapture information, when in actuality, it applies to the midpoint of the 70th week when the abomination of desolation will be set up in the rebuilt sanctuary in Jerusalem.
Jesus also taught about FLEEING from the city in reference to the 68-70 AD siege of Jerusalem, but Luke is the only one who records it in that context at 21:20-21.

CONTINUE TO MATTHEW 24:9-26
 

 
 

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