Jesus Speaks About the End Times
Whilst studying Matthew 24 there were a couple of things that didn't immediately make sense to me with regards to the order of things.
The disciples asked Jesus about two things: 1) the destruction of the temple, and 2) the signs of the end times.
Jesus then gave them one answer which was a continuous flow, covering both questions. For example, Jesus first gave His disciples the signs of the end times from a high-level view (the ones that people needed to stay alert for at all times from then onward), then He explained the next event which was the destruction of the temple, and then He goes right to the end times in more detail.
There are different ways to look at Matthew 24, but they don't always make much sense. For example, some people say all events have already happened in the 1st century (with no future application). But this is wrong, because the second coming of Jesus hasn't happened yet. Then some people say all has yet to happen. This is wrong too, because the events around the temple have already happened. Others say that there is a or a mix of the two events, e.g. a partial fulfillment, and a more direct application to the last days.
Ellen White says it best.
These lessons are for our benefit. We need to stay our faith upon God, for there is just before us a time that will try men's souls. Christ, upon the Mount of Olives, rehearsed the fearful judgments that were to precede His second coming: "Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars." "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows." While these prophecies received a partial fulfillment at the destruction of Jerusalem, they have a more direct application to the last days.
- Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 5, 753.1
Matthew 24 overlaps with Mark 13, Luke 21, and the seals from the book of Revelation.
Some of the events in Matthew 24 will be local (in divers places), whereas others will have a more global effect.
As always, careful study of the scripture is required, but I personally believe that Jesus tried to make it as simple as possible, because He knew we would be studying it one day. As the last days approach rapidly more and more of these prophecies will start to make sense, just as God had intended all along.
Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple
1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.
2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
Please note that "these things" in verse 2 refer to "the buildings of the temple" in verse 1.
The temple was completely, and systematically destroyed in 70 AD.
- David Roberts
The sacrifices of the temple were no longer needed, because of the sacrifice that Jesus had made, so therefore the temple was completely destroyed.
3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
So here are the two questions:
1) When shall "these things" be? (Referring to the destruction of the temple buildings)
2) What are the signs of Jesus' coming, and of the end of the world?
The Signs of the End Times
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
These are sometimes also referred to as "birthing pains" which tend to get more frequent, and more severe towards the end.
For example, in 1974 there were 4,500 earthquakes, but in 2014 there were 118,000 earthquakes. These numbers will increase as we get closer to the end. Probably increasing in deadliness as well.
The gospel of Luke adds a bit more to this:
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
- Luke 21:25-26 (KJV)
Ellen White adds this:
There will soon be a sudden change in God's dealings. The world in its perversity is being visited by casualties,--by floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, famines, wars, and bloodshed. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power; yet He will not at all acquit the wicked. "The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet." O that men might understand the patience and longsuffering of God! He is putting under restraint His own attributes. His omnipotent power is under the control of Omnipotence. O that men would understand that God refuses to be wearied out with the world's perversity, and still holds out the hope of forgiveness even to the most undeserving! But His forbearance will not always continue. Who is prepared for the sudden change that will take place in God's dealing with sinful men? Who will be prepared to escape the punishment that will certainly fall upon transgressors?
- Ellen White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 356
For an overview of all the signs, please click here.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
This has been happening quite a lot, and seems to be on-going for centuries.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
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.
Once this prophecy has been fulfilled, the end will come.
Because of things like the internet this prophecy has almost been fulfilled already.
We're not far off in other words.
The Abomination of Desolation
15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Abomination of desolation means "a deliberate attempt to mock and deny the reality of God's presence". For example, in 168 BC Antiochus Epiphanes sacrificed a pig (unclean animal) to Zeus on the sacred temple altar. Daniel had predicted this would happen.
The Luke equivalent of Matthew 24, makes it quite clear what this abomination of desolation is:
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
- Luke 21:20 (KJV)
The abomination of desolation for the temple was when the Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem (the Holy place).
The Romans then went on to kill 1.1 million jews.
What follows is mainly a warning for Jerusalem in 70 AD, but it also applies to us today (see below).
16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.
The abomination of desolation for the last days is the Sunday law (abomination) followed by the complete destruction of the Earth (desolation).
Ellen White speaks about this also.
The time is not far distant, when, like the early disciples, we shall be forced to seek a refuge in desolate and solitary places. As the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman armies was the signal for flight to the Judean Christians, so the assumption of power on the part of our nation [the United States] in the decree enforcing the papal sabbath will be a warning to us. It will then be time to leave the large cities, preparatory to leaving the smaller ones for retired homes in secluded places among the mountains.
- Ellen White, Maranatha, p. 181
So when the Sunday Law hits it is the time to leave the large cities.
For further study, please click here.
The Great Tribulation
21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Tribulation for Christians means persecution (for your beliefs).
Some have argued that "the tribulation from 70 AD" (1.1 million jews slaughtered) was "the great tribulation" described above, but I think we can all agree that the tribulation of the Dark Ages, the Holocaust, and the end times, are pretty bad too.
Here are the great tribulations that we know of so far:
- Jerusalem 70 AD (1.1 million jews killed)
- Dark Ages (around 50 million Christians killed)
- Holocaust (6 million Jews killed plus 5 million others)
- End Times
The tribulation mentioned in this verse is that of the Dark Ages though (538-1798).
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
25 Behold, I have told you before.
26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Jesus mentions the false christs again. Jesus will come with the clouds as lightning. In a twinkling of an eye. So if a false christ appears somewhere else, it will be a false christ.
Clouds and lightning - don't forget.
28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.
We must read this verse together with the sixth seal.
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
- Revelation 6:12-13 (KJV)
These signs have already happened, e.g.:
- Great earthquake in 1755 (Lisbon)
- Sun and moon darkened in 1780 (Dark Day)
- Stars fell from heaven in 1833 (Leonids, meteor shower)
The great earthquake killed roughly 90,000 people, and was felt in Europe, Africa, and America.
The sun and moon were darkened straight after the papal persecution (Dark Ages).
And the stars fell as never seen before.
The gospel of Luke adds "the sea and the waves roaring".
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.
- Luke 21:25 (KJV)
The Coming of the Son of Man
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
This is referring to the seven plagues. Right at the very end.
The trumpet here is not an "angel" trumpet, but the trump of God.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (KJV)
Again, Jesus will never set foot on this Earth. We will meet up with Him in the clouds.
The Parable of the Fig Tree
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
"This generation" refers to the end-time generation.
Ellen White words it like this.
At the close of the great papal persecution, Christ declared, the sun should be darkened, and the moon should not give her light. Next, the stars should fall from heaven. And He says, "Learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that He is near, even at the doors" (Matthew 24:32, 33, margin). Christ has given signs of His coming. He declares that we may know when He is near, even at the doors. He says of those who see these signs, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." These signs have appeared. [See The Great Controversy, 306-308, 333, 334.] Now we know of a surety that the Lord's coming is at hand.
- Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 632
Final events will happen fast.
The calamities by land and sea, the unsettled state of society, the alarms of war, are portentous. They forecast approaching events of the greatest magnitude. The agencies of evil are combining their forces and consolidating. They are strengthening for the last great crisis. Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones.
- Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 11
The time to prepare is now.
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
No One Knows the Day or Hour
36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
This is worth repeating, e.g. no man knoweth that day and hour.
So if someone says "seven years from when event X happens" is the second coming, you are setting dates. If someone says "6000 years after the Fall" is the second coming, you are setting dates.
There are actually several events we never have a date for. Ever!
- Second coming
- Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
- Close of probation
- The third angels message
For a further study on time setting boundaries, please click here.
Grow closer to God every day.
Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
- Isaiah 55:6-7 (KJV)
The Faithful Servant and the Evil Servant
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This is not the time to be friends with the world.
Many different views have been given for Matthew 24, and I hope this has helped a little bit.
I believe Matthew 24 is very relevant for the last days. Study this first, and then move on to the book of Revelation, e.g. the seals, the trumpets, and the plagues.
A lot of people will not be prepared for the last days. Most Christians believe they will "raptured" before things get bad. This is not correct. We will all go through some kind of tribulation, and a large portion of us will die. To learn more about why the "rapture" is not Biblical, please click here.
If you're a bit lost, please check out the Mark of the beast articles on this website.