Matthew 24

Today: [Matthew 24] Has this Chapter Already Come to Pass? In chapter 24 of Matthew Jesus describes future events. Today there is a common consensus that all of these things spoken by Jesus have already happened. Is this true? Still others suggest that it is immature of us to look to end time events, that if we were REALLY spiritual we wouldn’t be concerned with any alleged second coming of Christ. Is this accurate? Are we simple minded to believe that Jesus will one day physically appear again in the earth? These are important questions we should all be familiar with that are addressed in our study today.
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[Mat 24:1-51 KJV] 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. 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? 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. 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. 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. 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:) 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: 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. 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. 28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

In verse 1 of our chapter the disciples of Jesus point out to Him the impressive buildings of the temple of Herod, to which Jesus replies dismissively that there will not be one stone left upon another that would not be thrown down. Did this prophecy come to pass? Most would assuredly say yes, because the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, about 40 years after the resurrection of Christ. What about the Wailing Wall? It is believed to be a surviving structure from the temple of Jesus time. If this wall stands, and actually is part of the temple complex, then Jesus’ prediction most certainly did not come to pass. Jewish sources point to this and scoff at the words of Jesus as false prophecy. Is this true? If Jesus predicts the temple would be so destroyed and this wall is actually part of the temple does that invalidate the other claims of Christ and His followers? Jewish sources and unbelievers would say yes, however archeology suggests that this wall was not a direct portion of the temple complex, but was part of a structure added by Herod in order to give him access to the temple without having to pass by among the common people, but was designed to give him privileged access by a means that others were not allowed to use. While this view is most certainly rejected by many, if it is correct means that the people wailing there are not lamenting the temple but lamenting a structure dedicated to Herod’s effete opinion that he was too good to be required to enter the temple along with the common people.

This is a fitting opening to Matthew 24 which in recent years has become a source of controversy as to its predictions by Jesus. There is a school of thought in the body of Christ that contends that everything Jesus said in this chapter has already come to pass and therefore must be looked at differently that might be suggested on the surface. This view is called the “preterist” view. I would suggest as we consider this chapter was ask ourselves if that is the simplest understanding of the chapter or not, or if perhaps some things have come to pass while others have not. The subject at hand is the destruction of the temple, and the disciples come to Jesus privately in v. 3 and ask Him what is actually a three part question:

  1. What shall these things be (the destruction of the temple).
  2. What shall be the sign of thy coming (Jesus’ return)
  3. When shall be the end of the world?

If what follows in Jesus’ answers is actually a reply to all three aspects of the disciples’ questions then we would expect the things revealed would speak to immediate fulfillment describing events about to take place not long after Jesus’ death, and also to speak of things to come long after. Therefore, the answer whether all these things in ch. 24 have occurred already then we ask the question has Jesus returned already? Has the end of the world happened yet? Obviously not (although some teach that Jesus return was his appearance after his resurrection, and the end of the world was the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, a view which stretches credulity in the context of what the disciples are actually asking Him to speak of). These things are important for you as a believer to know, because doubtless if you are a serious student of scripture you will be confronted with these perspectives and need to be able to answer them for yourself and for others.

In verse 4 Jesus warns the disciples not to allow men to deceive them. A very important point because there is much deception always surrounding the subject of the end times. Jesus says that many will come in His name (invoking the name of Jesus) and say that they are Christ. Surely many have claimed to be Christ incarnate but there is a deeper warning. The word Christ means “anointed one”. Many ministers today use the name of Jesus and claim to be anointed, yet people hearing them do not know how to distinguish anointing from charisma, or forceful personality. We have to be able to tell the difference. Jesus because someone says “Jesus” or “in Jesus name” and just because they are compelling in their oratory does not mean they are anointed from on high. Unfortunately the majority of Christianity, even evangelicals have no concept of the anointing or the unction of the Holy Spirit, and therefore are very vulnerable to this type of deception.

Jesus goes on in v. 6-8 to say that just because there are times of war and tumult such as earthquakes, etc., it doesn’t mean that the end is near or even taking place. There is a suggestion then that the end of time was not immediate in Jesus thinking to events that were taking place in His day or what He saw regarding the destruction of the temple that would come not long after His death and resurrection. He speaks in v. 8 of the beginning of sorrows and a time (v. 9) of protracted persecution which did in fact take place most immanently in the 3 centuries immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of believers were most cruelly tortured and executed by Rome and Roman emperors until Constantine made Christianity a protected status religion in the days of his reign. In verses 11-13 Jesus describes a time of false prophecy abounding and the love of many growing cold. That descriptor could fit the church at almost every age since the fourth century, including the day we now live in, but the promise is that those who endure to the end shall be saved. What does this mean? We must endure coldness of heart and the brutalizing of the truth that is so common both in and out of the church today. It is very difficult today to know what is truth and what is not. Our culture places a high premium on mere opinion and condemns as naïve anyone who takes a faith stand on something as out dated as the word of God.

In verse 14 Jesus says that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations and then shall the end come. Has the gospel been preached with signs following to all the world? In spite of massive missionary efforts over the course of many centuries we could not definitely say that this has in fact come to pass, but certainly there are not many people groups or nations who have not heard the gospel. Many believe that missionary and evangelistic efforts are the key that once fulfilled will actually bring Jesus back in our time if we fulfill in our generation the Great Commission.

In verse 15 we see reference to the abomination of desolation spoken by the prophet Daniel. Here Jesus calls Daniel a prophet but any Jewish scholar will quickly tell you that Daniel is not considered to be a prophet by Jewish authorities. This viewpoint of rejecting Daniel as a prophet came about after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, because Jewish authorities could not accept Daniel as prophet and reject Jesus as Messiah, therefore they rejected Daniel as a true prophetic voice and depreciated his writings in their canon. What is the abomination of desolation? It is the standing in the temple of a pagan lord, claiming that he was the Messiah. There are actually several times this happened in Jewish history before Jesus’ time but not after because of the destruction of the temple. Therefore, this is seen as something that could not have come to pass as yet. Does this mean the temple will be rebuilt? Perhaps, perhaps not because the temple refered to may be a spiritual temple, pointing to a false Messiah of the Christian and Jewish people.

Jesus then in describes a time of unparalleled persecution that would come upon the people of the Middle East and in fact all the world. Has this come to pass?

The years after the destruction of the temple were a terrible time, but did not rise to the level Jesus described as being so bad that all of humanity was threatened with extinction (v. 22 except those days be shorted there should no flesh be saved, or survive). Therefore we would say that portion of what Jesus predicted has yet to come to pass. You can see then that some of what Jesus spoke of came immediately to pass and some of what He described has yet to come to pass, if you accept His words at face value, not reading into them with a forced agenda of personal interpretation.

Jesus then gives warning about false Christs claiming that He has returned in secret. This is important to consider because the idea of an apocalyptic return of Christ is under assault in Christianity as never before. The doctrine of the rapture is more commonly repudiated than it is defended, and those who believe in a second coming of Christ are scoff at and laughed to scorn from the pulpits of some of the most conservative churches and denominations in the Evangelical movement. Many are teaching that Jesus’ return will be spiritual in nature, in the hearts of men and not in a visible, literal return that we will ever see. The words of Jesus however in verse 27 absolutely identify this as false doctrine. He will come as the angels declared at the Mount of Ascension and “every eye shall see Him, as lightning from east to the west so shall the coming of the son of Man be…”

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: 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. 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. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 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 Noe [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. 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.

In verse 29 Jesus says that the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give her light and the stars shall fall from heaven. Has this come to pass? We have had eclipses, both lunar and solar, and there are meteor showers over the earth almost 24 hours a day at one point or another. Is this what Jesus is describing or is this a description of something much more apocalyptic in nature, that will affect all of humanity in a blazing display of supernatural signs heralding the coming of Christ? The fact that Jesus describes it in connection with His return would again say to us that these will be unambiguous events that will leave nothing to question in direct advance of the appearing of Christ in the heavens to all mankind. This may seem childish to the pseudo-sophisticates of modern theology but the language is clear and without any confusion – and has doubtless not taken place in human history as of yet.

We then come to v. 32 that has most certainly come to pass. The fig tree being restored speaks of the reestablishing of the nation of Israel which took place in 1948. Pay very close attention to verse 34 because Jesus says that the generation living at the time Israel would become a nation (1948) would not pass away till all the things He is speaking of would come to pass. This is very clear language. The question is – how long is a generation? There are many, many interpretations of this but if we let SCRIPTURE interpret SCRIPTURE reading in Gen. 15:14-16 you will see that God Himself speaking to Abraham identifies a generation as being exactly 100 years. That tells us that between 1948 and 2048 we should be paying very close attention to the prophetic timeline, if we are to take Jesus reference as applying to Israel becoming a nation and that meaning 1948 and that the generation spoken of is actually a specific number of calendar years (which in all that would be the simplest interpretation to make). In any case you have to stretch these verses completely out of context and proportion if you are going to rigidly hold to the now commonly believed view that all of this has come to pass already, which patently cannot be accurate if you are to take the words of Jesus in the simplest form, as stated.

In verse 36 Jesus begins to sum up His remarks by saying regardless of what He has thus far made clear, no man – not even Jesus Himself knows the day or the hour when these things will in totality be fulfilled. The days of the end will be as the days of Noah – business as usual and then God will intervene. The important thing to note is that the people in Noah’s day were ignorant of what was coming, and even when Noah warned them, they only scoffed. The time frame in which these things will come to pass will be a time of great mockery of the allegedly simple-minded view of the end times suggested in ch. 24 as it is today when even those who hold themselves to be theological authorities that must be deferred to, are deeply skeptical of any literal interpretations of scriptures such as what we are studying in ch. 24 of Matthew. Our responsibility is not to enter into vain theological arguments but rather (v. 42) to be watchful for we do not know (even if we think we know) when the Lord will come. If scripture be true, then there can be no accurate date setting. We can look at the times we live in and sense that yes the circumstances seem to be fortuitous but in the end we are to conduct ourselves in godly fear knowing that God is God and He can conclude the human race at any time with a wave of His hand and bring all humanity to judgment without any need to first ask our permission to do so. Therefore we are simply to be found faithful as Jesus concluding words suggest, rather than being abusive toward each other or taking unfair advantage let us be diligent to make our own calling and election sure in light of the potential, immanent coming of Christ at any hour including the one we are living right now.

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