The End of Days, part II
February 22 05
Last week, we talked about how the whole world -- even some people who don't know God -- have some insight as to the end of time as we know it. We talked about the coming of Christ being soon, but no one knows the day nor the hour of His coming. He could come tonight. He might not come for another 50 years. We don't know. One thing we do know is that He told us to watch for the signs of the times.
In Matthew 24, as well as Mark 13 and Luke 21, Jesus gives us a series of signs to watch for and these include the advent of many false Christs -- that is, those who would say, "I am the anointed one." There will be "wars and rumors of wars...nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom...there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes...these are the beginning of sorrows...many false prophets will rise up...[and] the 'abomination of desolation'...then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be...immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then...they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:5-30).
Many will say, "Well, that already happened in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the second temple." True only up to a certain point. Notice the question that Jesus' disciples asked. In verse 2, Jesus talks about the temple being torn down. In verse 3, his disciples ask Him when that would be AND what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the age. These are three separate questions and Jesus answers them all. So, part of His answer speaks to the destruction of the temple, but His answer also applies to His second coming and the end of the age.
We also have to remember that sometimes prophecy has more than one fulfillment. Sometimes the first fulfillment is a shadow of things to come. So, the chaos in Jerusalem surrounding the destruction of the temple will repeat itself in the future. Today, we see many calling themselves the "anointed ones." We see wars and hear of rumors of wars, and as we go through time, we know that these wars are not slowing down. We see famine. We see disease. There is so much disease today that the medical experts, even with all of the lastest technology, cannot keep up. They can't even keep up with naming the new diseases that are discovered every year. And there are earthquakes, growing in intensity and frequency. Jesus calls this the beginning of sorrows.
But when we get to verse 14, we see that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world and then the end will come. That hasn't happened yet. In verse 15, we are told about Daniel's prophecy concerning the antichrist in the temple. In history, we see that Antiochus Epiphanes defiled the temple and was a "type" of antichrist. The Romans also desecrated the temple, so this prophecy has been partially fulfilled, but clearly Jesus is saying here that THE antichrist to come will also defile the temple. The clue to understanding that all has not yet been fulfilled is in verse 21, where Jesus says the tribulation to come will be worse than anything that has ever happened or will ever happen. That is how we know that we haven't hit the tribulation period yet. And then in verse 29, Jesus says that IMMEDIATELY following the tribulation, He will return, coming on the clouds "with power and great glory." That has not happened yet.
So, we see the signs growing in frequency and intensity, so we know that we can expect the tribulation period to come soon. But the greatest sign yet is given in verse 32. Israel is the fig tree (Joel 1:7, Hosea 9:10, Matthew 21:12-19). Jesus says that when you see the fig tree put forth its leaves, you know that summer is near, "so you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near -- even at the doors...this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place" (Matthew 24:32-34). What things? The signs. What is near? His coming. What generation? The generation that sees the fig tree put forth its leaves.
In 1948, Israel officially became a nation again, after 2500 years of being under other kingdoms and being scattered throughout the world. The "dry bones" prophecy of Ezekiel 37 is now taking place. Jews are returning to their homeland, although many of them will remain scattered around the world. That just means the 144,000 will be able to preach the gospel of the kingdom in all different nations across the globe in languages that their neighbors will understand. (Now you know who will be standing at the sheep and goat judgment!)
We are living in exciting times. Jesus is coming soon. We may not know the day nor the hour, but we do know that it is near -- even at the door. So, let us watch and occupy until He comes. Let us preach the gospel so that more people will have a chance to be saved before that great tribulation comes.