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Jesus' Teaching on Signs Continued
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Matthew 24:9a ...

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you...

Matthew 24:9a

... skips over the start of The Tribulation, when the Treaty of Hell and Death is signed between Antichrist and the leaders of Israel,

And he (Antichrist) shall confirm the covenant with many (the leaders of Israel) for one week (the last seven years of Daniel’s prophecy)

Dan. 9:27

... and jumps smack-dab into the midst of Daniel’s Seventieth Week - describing the persecution that will occur then. It’s unlikely that the persecution verse 9 describes will break out against the church suddenly. That’s because persecution never arises “out of nowhere” - “ex nihilo.” It requires a specific backdrop - a social milieu that paves its way and then facilitates it. Two preconditions are ordinarily at play:

  1. a collapse of the cultural norms that ordinarily hold cruelty in check - a collapse that leaves people disoriented and confused, unable or unwilling to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil; and, concomitantly,
  2. some kind of rationale that lends it legitimacy.

And, not surprisingly, a collapse of cultural norms is exactly what verse 12 describes...

And because iniquity shall abound ...

Matt. 24:12

Verse 12 tells us that The Tribulation will be marked by rampant (“abounding” - plhqunw) “lawlessness” (anomia). What’s implied here is not simply a marginal increase in lawlessness, but a pervasive, far-reaching collapse of ethical norms - the kind of collapse that led to God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah and the kind that Isaiah vainly warned Judah to turn away from just before she was conquered by the Babylonians...

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20

A moral collapse of the nature and scope spelled out in verse 12 is never instantaneous. It always originates in a long-term erosion of the moral order - always beginning with its intellectual underpinning. The superstructure may appear sound and intact for many years, but eventually the disintegration spreads - from the foundation below ground to the edifice above ground - from the “enlightened avant-garde” to the larger community that envelopes it - from university journals and cutting edge, “Greenwich Village” novels and plays to commercially promoted, prime-time television serials and pop art.

Once the old moral order is no longer honored “on the street,” anyone who still clings to it - anyone who dares admit that his life is still governed by a Biblically grounded code of conduct - will be openly mocked - and eventually censured for intolerance and narrow-minded bigotry.

And that’s pretty much what has happened here in America over the last fifty years or so - and even more so in Western Europe - especially since the 1970s when post-modern relativism broke into pop culture and completely revamped it.

The stage, then, is set for open persecution - the kind that verse 9 tells us will be a hallmark of the fast approaching Tribulation. All that’s required is a rationale to justify it and a spark to light the fuse.

Matthew 24:9b

... and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

Matthew 24:9b

... tells us that the persecution will be world-wide in scope. For some Christians in the Third World it will initially amount to little more than an escalation of what they’re accustomed to - of what they’ve come to expect - though it will soon reach levels that surpass the suffering that even they have undergone - especially after the Abomination of Desolation mentioned in verse 15 - which takes place mid-way through Daniel’s Seventieth Week.

...and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate...

Dan. 9:27

Matthew 24:10

And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

Matthew 24:10

Verse 10 describes a “separation” that will take place among Christians as open persecution begins to break out: two groups will arise within the Christian church - and begin to oppose and break away from each other. It’s an event that our interpretive model - Matthew 10 - clearly predicts.

  1. One group will insist on “reasonable” accommodation with “the powers that be” - an accommodation they hope will lessen their vulnerability to persecution and reduce their marginal status.
  2. The other group, however, will remain faithful - rejecting any concessions and boldly testifying to the historic truths of the Christian faith - that God has sent Jesus Christ into the world to liberate men and women from the power of Satan and deliver them safely into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son...

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son ...

Col. 1:13

... that there is no other gate leading to salvation - that Jesus alone is the way...

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 14:6

Once again, it’s exactly what our interpretive model (Matthew 10) calls for. And because there’s little doubt that the origins of the separation described in verse 10...

And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

Matthew 24:10

... can be traced back to the “Birth Pangs of the Messiah” described in Matthew 24:7-8, it’s perfectly reasonable to look for evidence of it in today’s culture. And, indeed, those indications abound - with more and more main line denominations being torn asunder by conservative/liberal splits - denominations that for decades have managed to cobble together fragile settlements uniting their conservative and liberal wings. The Episcopalians, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Lutherans, and the United Methodists - all are suffering from defections mounted by conservative congregations unwilling to renounce the traditional dogmas of the church in favor of a post-modern relativism that transforms the biblical text into whatever their liberal biases call for - whether it’s abortion, premarital sex, ordination of flagrant homosexuals, gay marriage - whatever.

Matthew 24:11

And then many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

Matthew 24:11

What’s described here in verse 11 - the rise of false prophets - can be traced back to the “Birth Pangs of the Messiah” - the era leading up to The Tribulation and characterized by horrendous political, cultural, economic, and military turmoil. And that’s to be expected: during times of pervasive and unrelenting turmoil, self-proclaimed messiahs invariably emerge - promising deliverance and peddling false hopes.

And although the focus of verse 11 is false Christs arising within the Christian community, the same will be occurring among the unsaved as well - political and military charlatans vowing to rectify the ever mounting social and economic ills plaguing the world.

One of those charlatans will be the Anti-christ - who will initially promise peace - a promise that will prove irresistibly appealing in a world rent by political, economic, and military conflict.

He’s the horseman of the first seal in Revelation 6 - and he rides forth with a bow but no arrows in his quiver - symbolizing his intention to use non-violent means to acquire political power - at least initially. He will cultivate a reputation for successfully negotiating an end to conflicts - and will eventually use his skills and reputation to draft a peace settlement in the Middle East - The Treaty of Hell and Death.

And he (the anti-Christ) shall confirm the covenant with many (the leaders of Israel) for one week...

Dan. 9:27

Matthew 24:12

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

Matthew 24:12

Two points need to be noted here...

  1. The word “abound,” as we’ve already noted, means multiplied - which tells us that iniquity will not merely increase marginally, but on a vast scale - indicating, a widespread moral collapse; and,
  2. because the original Greek includes the article “the” (ton), the phrase “the many” should be translated “the majority” - meaning the vast majority of believers will compromise their faith and pull back on their witness.

What we’re told here in verse 12 is what very few of us are willing to face up to - a heart-breaking tragedy: the majority of believers will fall away - meaning they’ll refuse to rally to the cause of Christ - they’ll try lessening their vulnerability to persecution by abandoning their witness.

Matthew 24:13

But he who shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Matthew 24:13

Here again we have the same promise we highlighted in Matthew 10...

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father who is in heaven.

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Matt. 10:32-33

...a passage of scripture that we interpreted (see graphic on page 11) in light of 2 Timothy 2:11-13 - which tells us that what’s at issue is not salvation and damnation, but reward and loss of reward.

This is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:

If we believe not, yet he remains faithful: he cannot deny himself.

2 Tim. 2:11-13

What we have here is a prototypical pattern - a cultural archetype found in both the Old and New Testaments; indeed, it’s “common coin” not only in scripture, but throughout secular literature as well: those who serve their Lord most faithfully in warfare - who draw up alongside him when others pull back - who not only pledge their loyalty, but follow through with their pledges - they become their Lord’s “band of brothers” - regardless of the status into which they’re born. They are, in a very real sense, “knighted” - meaning they’re lifted to the status of “Lords of the Realm” and are accorded the inestimable privilege of ruling alongside him.

The best known example in the Old Testament - though certainly not the only one - is David’s thirty seven “mighty men” of valor - who, despite the hardship and suffering it entailed, rallied to David’s side against the Philistines - and then went on to rule with him when he became king (2 Samuel 23:8-39 and 1 Chronicles 11:10–47).

Shakespeare’s Henry V is one of the best examples found in secular literature. Who can possible forget the lines Screenshot20120727at124548PMShakespeare gives Henry V to speak in Act 4, Scene 3 ...

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today who sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition (i.e., make him a “lord of the realm”);

And gentlemen (i.e., lords) in England now-a-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their manhood cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us on Saint Crispin’s day.

Press here to link to a video showing Henry's "Band of Brothers" soliloquy.

Henry is saying that anyone who rallies to his cause - who dares shed his blood alongside him in battle - will be made a Lord of the Realm (“this day shall gentle his condition”).

It’s exactly what Paul is telling us in Philippians 3:11-14.

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection (exanastasis) of the dead.

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

I press toward the mark for the prize (brabeion) of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Phil. 3:11 -14

Paul doesn’t doubt that his salvation is secure. He isn’t saying there’s a possibility he’ll miss the resurrection to eternal life. He knows he has been fully justified in the blood of the Lamb - and that his justification is an unconditional gift - wholly unrelated to any merit on his part.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Rom. 3:27-28

What Paul is striving toward is the prize (brabeion) - the reward that God promises to anyone who serves him faithfully - who doesn’t draw back when faced with hardship and suffering. It’s the same word he uses in 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize (brabeion)? So run, that ye may obtain.

1 Cor. 9:24

A prize requires effort on the part of the recipient; a gift, on the other hand, requires nothing but the taking of it on the part of the recipient. Paul isn’t speaking here about the gift, he’s obviously speaking here about the prize - the prize that God awards believers who remain faithful - who stand alongside him in spiritual warfare - who don’t draw back in the face of adversity - the prize of ruling alongside him in the coming kingdom - of becoming one of Christ’s “band of brothers” - of being invited into the special circle of intimacy Christ reserves for his “mighty men of valor.” That’s what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3:11-14.

The word for “resurrection” in verse 11 is not the word Paul normally uses, “anastasiV;” it’s “exanastasis” (ex + anastasiV). The prefix “ex“ means “out of” - implying that...

  1. within the resurrection of the justified (raised to eternal life - a gift),
  2. there’s a second “resurrection” - a resurrection of the faithful justified to the status of co-ruler with Christ (raised to reward).

Matthew 24:14

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Matthew 24:14

The “gospel of the kingdom” is the “gospel of God” - meaning the “gospel of salvation” - though for many years scholars sought to distinguish between the two. Most scholars today, however, acknowledge that the term “gospel of the kingdom” is nothing more than a metonymy - a figure of speech that substitutes one word or phrase for another that conveys essentially the same meaning, but less offensively. Much like a euphemism. Why a metonymy? Because the Jews were always reluctant to use the word “God” for fear of profaning the “ineffable name.” So instead of saying or writing “the kingdom of God,” they would instead say or write “the kingdom of heaven.” And it’s the same here: instead of saying or writing “the gospel of God” - meaning the gospel of salvation - the good news of God’s redeeming grace - they would say or write “the gospel of the kingdom.” And that is what’s at issue here in verse 14: a Revival - the scope and nature of which will dwarf all past revivals.

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands...

Rev. 7:9

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, Who are these arrayed in white robes? and where do they come from?

And I said unto him, Sir, you know. And he said to me, These are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Rev. 7:13-14

It’s important to note that the verse here, Matthew 24:14, follows in the wake of Matthew 24:9, which marks the beginning of the Tribulation. Therefore, it’s only during The Tribulation that the gospel will be preached to all mankind – it’s only then that every man, woman, and child will be reached. It’s not that first the gospel will be preached throughout the world – reaching into its every nook and cranny, then comes The Tribulation; and finally the Second Coming. The correct sequence is...

  1. first The Tribulation begins (Matthew 24:9);
  2. then, the gospel is preached throughout the entire world, reaching its every nook and cranny (Matthew 24:14);
  3. then, the Second Coming.

More souls will be redeemed during The Tribulation than at any other time in human history. The Tribulation will spark a world-wide revival, “The Tribulation Revival.”

And why? The answer is obvious: persecution will have purged the church of all the dross. She will be rid of both the false and the faithless. Those who remain will be passionate and totally “sold out” - holding back nothing. And the same will be true for those added: they too will have counted the cost - and will bring to the cause of Christ a zeal and commitment formed and molded in the cauldron of fire - and the more who are martyred, the more the gospel of salvation will spread. The description Tertullian gave of the early church will once again ring true: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Matthew 24:15

When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whosoever reads, let him understand:)

Matthew 24:15

Matthew 24:15 tells us that the Tribulation and the Second Coming presume the resurrection of Israel and the recapture of Jerusalem; otherwise, Matthew 24:15 must be interpreted figuratively rather than literally - an option that is permissible only if the context clearly and unmistakeably calls for it. And, quite obviously, that’s not the case here: Jesus has gone out of his way to frame most of Matthew 24 in very specific and concrete terms - obviating any kind of figurative interpretation that ignores the material reality of either Israel or Jeruslaem.

Verse 15 also clearly links the events described in Matthew 24 to the prophecy of Daniel - not only because the Abomination of Desolation is described there, but because Jesus himself unambiguously cites Daniel.

Clearly, then, the resurrection of the state of Israel and the recapture of Jerusalem - the first occurring in 1948 and the second in 1967 - are events that, though not specifically mentioned in Matthew 24, are, incontrovertibly, part of the “Birth Pangs” era - the lead-up to the Tribulation - indispensable props on the stage God is setting for Christ’s return. That’s why both events are included in the graphic on page 1 - second column from the left.

But that’s not all. Zechariah Chapters Twelve through Fourteen are also clearly set against the backdrop of the End Days - and describe events that will take place before and during Christ’s return. And that makes Zechariah 12:1-3 especially relevant ...

The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.

And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

Zech. 12:1-3

What’s described here in Zechariah 12:1-3 is occuring at this very moment; indeed, its step by step fulfulliment is being emblazoned across the headlines of our newspapers and featured on the five o’clock news almost every day: Jerusalem is becoming a “cup of trembling” and a “burdensome stone” - not only in the Middle east, but throughout the whole world. She is being made a scape-goat for much of the political turmoil that threatens world peace - and ever more so with each passing month - until one day she’s made the scape-goat.

For anyone born after 1950, it’s difficult to remember a time when Israel was not cast in “pariah guise” - when she was not an outcast nation with few if any friends among the nations of the world. Nevertheless, though always an outcast nation within the Arab and, more generaly, the Muslim world, she was at one time a “darling” here in America and throughout Europe. That all began to change, however, after Israel captured Gaza and the West Bank, establishing her authority over millions of hostile Palestinians living there. Ever since then, she has been losing stature - cast in the guise of an oppressor - an obstacle to world peace - a recalcitrant, racist nation. It’s a perception she has not been able to shake - regardless of all the facts to the contrary she and her few friends have mustered in her defense.

In all likelihood, the word “Jerusalem” in verse 2 is a figure of speech called a metonymy - meaning Jerusalem stands for Israel as a whole, not just the city of Jerusalem - though without doubt Jerusalem itself is a focal point of much of the conflict arising in the Middle East. The term “cup of trembling,” also in verse 2, can be translated “cup of reeling.” In short, Zechariah is telling us that in the “Last Days” the Lord will make Jerusalem a source of unremitting turmoil - turmoil so intense that it will cause men and women throughout the world, most especially world leaders, to stagger, to lose their “good judgment” and common sense.

It also conveys the sense of a “fixation” - implying that the whole world will become obsessessed with Israel and, more specifically, Jerusalem - which is exactly what has been occurring since at least 1973, the year of the Yom Kippur War.

Clearly, then, Israel’s loss of status throughout the world - the hostility that has become her lot - this also is a sign of the approaching Tribulation - and a warning that it’s very close at hand - which is why this event is listed in the graphic on page 5, 3rd column from the left under “Israel becomes an outcast nation.”

Both the lead up to the Tribulation, called the “Birth Pangs of the Messiah,” and the Tribulation itself comprise God’s last call to mankind; it’s not a time of wrath only; it’s also a time of grace, a final appeal to repent and be saved. Let’s commit ourselves to preparing for it even now - so that as times get worse, we’ll be ready to step out in courage. May God grant us all the honor of being “knighted” for faithful service and enrolled in his glorious “band of brothers.”

You're now ready to undertake a study of what follows Jesus' description of the signs heralding the approach of the Tribulation: Matthew 24:32 through to the end of Matthew 25, the Parables of Readiness and Judgment. Press the link below. Thiss will complete your study of Matthew's version of Jesus' Olivet Discourse.

Parables of Readiness and Judgment

 

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