Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. – Matthew 24:4-8
Matthew 24:3-25:46 is called the Olivet discourse. Jesus’ prophecy was primarily a reply to the disciples’ question: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus gave them:
General signs and a summary of key events leading up to the last days.
Special warning signs that would announce the final days of the present age, which will be the great tribulation.
Spectacular signs that will occur when Christ triumphantly returns to earth at the end of the great tribulation “with power and great glory”.
A warning for those who have chosen to trust Christ during the horrible tribulation period, calling them to be alert to the signs leading up to Christ’s expected return to end the tribulation.
A challenge for believers living before the tribulation to be spiritually ready for the unknown time when Christ will come to take His faithful followers from this world, sparing them from the severe tribulation judgements He will unleash on the earth. Note that although Christ will remove His true church from the world prior to the tribulation judgements, some people will come to Christ during the tribulation; but they will do so under great persecution from the antichrist. Those who survive are the believers that Christ will rescue when He physically returns to earth to end the tribulation and destroy the forces of the antichrist.
A description of the judgement of nations after Jesus’ return to earth.
Notice that many details of Christ coming (and the end times in general) are not revealed in Matthew 24. For that matter, no one has so far been able to interpret or figure out all of the Bible’s prophecies about the end times with complete certainty. In some cases, the timing or order of events is uncertain; in other instances, the specific details of signs or events are not completely clear. No doubt, this is in the plan of God, as the New Testament writers and Jesus Himself were not trying to reveal all the details about the end times. Their main concern was to challenge God’s people to “keep watch” and to be ready for Christ’s coming. For this reason, Jesus’ prophecy contains an element of mystery requiring humility, readiness and a heart focused on the Lord Jesus Himself. We can expect God to give His people additional insight and understanding about end-time events as they unfold.
PROPHETIC ADDRESS FROM THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.
“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
“Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
THE DAY AND HOUR UNKNOWN
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, He will put him in charge of all His possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to Himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
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