When studying the current culture and interpretations of the Last Days, we often hear about the supposed signs of the end. What does the Bible say about signs and the Last Days?
ROBERT >> We hear a lot today about the signs of the times: Earthquakes, volcanos, hurricanes, worldwide famine, wars and rumors of wars. What does it all mean? Are we living in the end times?
SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> Already we’ve learned last week that Bible prophecy often speaks of the last days. And the last days does not refer to a time just before the end; but it began 2,000 years ago with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and it will continue until Christ comes again. Christ will not come at the beginning of the last days, but the very last day of the last days. Whenever there’s an international crisis or military conflict or famine or earthquake, there are those who see it as a sign of the end of the world.
But let’s ask, will there be signs of the end times?
Can we know by seeing these signs that the Lord is about to come?
Is the Lord going to come in our generation?
Well, throughout these last days there have been those who have claimed to know when Jesus is coming again.Their predictions have largely been based upon the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 24. And yet, one by one, they’ve all failed in their predictions. We should not be surprised, because the Bible teaches us that there will be no signs of the end times. Let’s take a look at Matthew chapter 24 together this morning, and let’s see just what it’s all about.
Let’s notice in the first two verses where it says, “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, Do you not see all these things? Assuredly I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Jesus here speaks of the destruction of the temple, and he prophesies that that temple that then stood there in Jerusalem in the first century would be utterly destroyed. Now, the disciples, they wanted to know when this would happen.
Look at verse 3. “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciplescame to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
They thought that this would not happen until Jesus came at the end of the world. We’re going to see they were wrong. This prophecy that Jesus spoke concerning the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was actually fulfilled in AD 70 by the Roman army, just about 40 years after Jesus gave this prophecy in Matthew 24. The Roman commander, Titus, according to the historian Josephus, quote, Gave orders that they should now demolish the whole city and temple. It was laid so completely even with the ground by those who dug it up from the foundation that there was nothing left to make those believe who came hither that it had ever been inhabited. And so what Jesus said about 30 AD here in Matthew chapter 24 was completely fulfilled in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the temple there in Jerusalem. We’re not looking for that to happen: It already was fulfilled. In Jesus’ answer to his disciples concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and when that would happen, he first deals with the impending destruction of Jerusalem, and then the signs that would precede that event, not the end of the world.
We look in verse 4, And “Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no one deceives you.”
And he goes on talking about the various signs that would happen before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And then he told
them that there would be no signs to indicate his coming at the end of the world.
This is what we find in verse 35 when he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”
Let’s look at it a little bit closer. Let’s go back and look at all of the signs which the Lord mentioned beginning in verse 4 of Matthew 24.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
That is, the end of the temple and the end of the world. These are things that would precede that. Notice further, “For nation will rise against nation, kingdom againstkingdom, and there will be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you’ll be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Every one of these signs took place before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. We saw there were many false prophets among God’s people there in the first century, and they were trying to turn the people away. You can read in history about the famines and the earthquakes and the pestilences that took place during that generation. And we can also read about the horrible tribulation and persecution that the church had to deal with. Just read through the book of Acts. And read Colossians 1:23, where the apostle Paul said that the gospel has been preached to the whole creation under heaven. All of these signs you read here in Matthew 24 were not signs telling us of the generation before the end of the world, but signs of that generation before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And then look what he says in verse 15 when he speaks of the desolation of abomination. Here it says, “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, whoever reads, let him understand.”
The desolation that Daniel spoke of way back in Daniel chapter 9 is about the destruction of the temple in the city of Jerusalem. He says the desolation was in the holy place; that is, in the temple of God there in the city of Jerusalem. What is this talking about?
Well, if you’ll look at the parallel in Luke 21:20, you’ll see how Luke interprets this abomination in the holy place.
Luke 21:20, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.”
This obviously refers to the Romans who besieged, who surrounded Jerusalem and then finally came in to destroy the temple in 70 AD.
Let me give you another quote from Josephus, the Jewish historian. He said, And now the Romans, upon burning of the holy house itself and of the buildings round about it, brought their incense to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate, and there did they offer sacrifices to them.
All of this confirms what Daniel had said long ago in Daniel 9:24-27, where you see Daniel connects the desolation of Jerusalem with Christ’s first coming, with his crucifixion, and the people of the prince, namely, Titus, the Roman commander, and not at his second coming and the end of the world.
Let me go back with you this morning
and read Daniel chapter 9. I want to look at it with you here.
Daniel chapter 9, where we read of what we might call the 70 weeks prophecy, because he breaks down the history that would follow into 70 weeks of years. But this is what he says, Daniel chapter 9, beginning in verse 24. Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city. So God is talking here through Daniel about his people and about the holy city. And he also says, To finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. These all have reference to the coming of Jesus Christ and how it would bring an end to sin with his suffering at the cross. And then verse 25 he says, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.”
And so Daniel looks ahead to that time when the then-destroyed temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt, and this all happened centuries before Christ, and the city was restored.
After that, the Messiah, the Prince would come. And then we read in verse 26, And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Daniel now points us to when Christ does come, when he’s cut off, when he’s put to death; and then after that, the people of the prince, Titus, that Roman commander, would then destroy the city and the sanctuary. So as you can see, in Matthew chapter 24, as here in Daniel chapter 9, Jesus is talking about his first coming, and he’s talking about how he would die for the sins of the world and how not long after that this Roman commander would destroy the city of Jerusalem, would destroy the holy temple there in Jerusalem. All of that took place, all of those signs leading up to it, and then here come the Roman armies and surround Jerusalem. All of that took place in 70 AD, a long time ago.
Now, as we read on in Matthew chapter 24, we come to verse 16, and we see Jesus’ instructions and how that he was speaking again of the destruction of Jerusalem, not the end of the world. Look here in verse 16. He said “when you see this desolation, when you see these armies surrounding the city, he says, Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For 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. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
It’s obvious here from these instructions of Jesus that there’ll be no place to run, there’ll be no time to take things out of your house or go back and get clothes. You’ve got to get out of there immediately, or you’re going to be destroyed in the destruction of Jerusalem. But when the Lord comes the second time, it’s not going to matter whether you flee here or you flee there; you cannot escape that judgment. And you’ll also notice here, it’s not going to matter if you’re pregnant or you’re nursing, if it’s winter or if it’s on the Sabbath when the world ends, because nobody will escape on that day. Jesus is talking not about the end of the world and his final coming, but he’s talking here about coming in judgment on
Jerusalem, on that city, on that temple there, 70 AD. And you’ll also notice that he speaks of a great tribulation and what a terrible time that will be, Such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. The point is that after that destruction, that horrible day, there’ll still be time left. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have said those days would not have had to be shortened if they were at the end of time. Those days were shortened, because continued war would have spread throughout the land, making it impossible for Christians to escape. But you know, following Christ’s instructions here, they fled to a place called Pella, according to the historian Eusebius. And there’s no evidence that any Christians were killed or captured by the Romans in the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Jews on the other hand, they sought safety within the walls of the city, and 1,100,000 died, and 97,000 were enslaved. Indeed, it was a horrible, terrible tribulation, a judgment of God upon his people for rejecting the Christ and for rejecting the gospel.
So what have we seen here in Matthew 24? We have seen Jesus talk about the destruction of the temple, we have seen the signs leading up to that time, and we have seen the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel that was associated with the first coming of Christ, not the second coming of Christ, when the Roman armies would surround the city and destroy that place.
We’ve seen Jesus’ instructions to get out of there, to flee from that place so that you can escape.
Now let’s go a little bit further, and let’s look at verse 23 through 28. Here it says, “Then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ! or There! do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. And therefore if they say to you, Look, He is in the desert! do not go out; or Look, He is in the inner room! do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
Here we see Jesus warning of false Christs. If they say they’re here, they’re there, don’t believe it. Well, that fits perfectly with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD; but Jesus’ warning of false Christs shows that he was speaking of that destruction, not the end of the world, because then it won’t matter. That’ll be the end of everything. And when Jesus comes, he makes it clear, you’re going to know that Jesus has come. Nobody will be able to deceive you. It’ll be like lightning from the east and to the west. Everybody will see it when Jesus comes at the end of the world. Revelation 1:7, let’s read it together.
We see where the fact is that it will not be a secret coming and it will not be something that anybody could ever deceive you about. No, you’ll know it.
Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, amen.”
Now it’s right here in Matthew 24 that we come to a most difficult paragraph in the chapter. It’s because people fail to realize the use of apocalyptic language. Jesus here in Matthew 24 beginning in verse 29, will use apocalyptic language, a highly figurative language, to describe God’s judgment upon the Jewish nation and their fall at Jerusalem, not the end of the world. Let’s read it together. Verse 29, “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 the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Now, that sounds like the end of the world; but this is apocalyptic language, and this is the language of the prophets of old. We’ve seen this same kind of thing over and over again from many of the Old Testament prophets, speaking of a removing of the moon and the stars and a turning of the moon to blood and the signs in the heavens. And so I want you to notice some of that so you can get a feel for this kind of language.
I’m going to go back to Isaiah 13:10. Here it says, “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.”
Sounds very similar to the language used in Matthew 24. Well, what is Isaiah 13 talking about?
Well, according to the very first verse, it’s talking about the burden against Babylon, how God would destroy that great empire, how he would bring it down. There would be a removal of that government. And so when you read in the prophets about the removing of the stars and the changes in our space, we understand that this is a figurative way of talking about the removing of a nation, the removing of a government.
We see it in Isaiah chapter 19. Look in verse 1. The burden against Egypt is what we’re talking about here. “Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst.”
God would bring judgment upon Egypt, he would discipline that nation. And he did that in history. But it’s spoken of him as coming in the clouds, just as in Matthew 24. Jesus came, and he came in judgment upon Israel, upon their city, upon their temple to show God’s displeasure with them in their rejection of the Christ.
Look at it in Isaiah 34:4, and let’s notice the language that’s used there. Again, it’s very similar to that of Matthew 24. Here it says, “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, as a fruit falling from a fig tree.”
Here’s God’s judgment on some of the other nations that had been the enemies of God’ people and how they would fall and be judged in history.
Those things took place. But the heavens and the stars didn’t literally and actually fall. It wasn’t the end of the world. Look at it in Ezekiel. Ezekiel also uses often this apocalyptic language, this highly figurative language when it speaks of the falling of nations, empires, of God’s judgment upon others.
Here in Ezekiel chapter 32, again he’s talking about one of Israel’s long-time enemies, Egypt.
Ezekiel 32:7-8, “When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, and bring darkness upon your land, says the Lord God.”
And we could read on in Joel chapter 2 about Judah, in Amos 8:9 about Israel. This is quite common in the prophets, to speak of God’s judgment upon nations.
And so here in Matthew 24, “when we see the Son of Man coming and we see the stars falling, the moon turning to blood, it was a sign of the fact that the Son of Man was reigning in heaven.”
Literally, according to Matthew 24:40, “And then shall appear the sign of
the Son of Man in heaven.”
This is saying that Jesus Christ, though they rejected him, was still ruling and reigning in heaven on high. And when Jerusalem fell, when the temple was destroyed, it was a demonstration to the world of God’s judgment upon these people who rejected their Messiah, the Christ, the savior of the world. Jesus spoke all these things so that they would know the time for the fulfillment of his prophecy concerning the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, not the end of the world.
We’re not finished with this chapter yet. We’ll have to come back next week. And we’ll learn some more about when Jerusalem fell, but when the end of the world will take place. So I hope that you will stay tuned, that you’ll continue to tune in here to The Truth In Love each week, and that if we can help you towards heaven today, that you’ll let us know, because that’s what we want to do.
SINGING>> Years I spent in vanity and pride,
caring not my Lord was crucified,
knowing not it was for me he died on Calvary.
Mercy there was great,
and grace was free; pardon there was multiplied tome;
there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan;
oh, the grace that brought it down to man;
oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
pardon there was multiplied to me;
there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.
SINGING>> All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust him,
in his presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to thee, my blessed savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender.
Lord, I give myself to thee.
Fill me with thy love and power, let thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all.
I surrender all.
All to thee,
my blessed savior, I surrender all.
ROBERT >> Thank you for watching our program today. We’d really like to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments, or requests, if you’d like a personal home Bible study or special prayers, if you’d like to order today’s lesson or any other lesson on CD, DVD, or in manuscript form, let me encourage you to write The Truth In Love at P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053.
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All our materials, our services are absolutely free of charge. We want to thank the many churches of Christ who help support this program and encourage you to visit one of them in your area very soon. Their names will be scrolled on the screen at the end of our program. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven. So let us know how we can help you, and please join us next time right here on The Truth In Love. >> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace. From the toils that bind me it will bring release. Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so, showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow. Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam. Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall. Sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all. Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low till the
shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go. When my heart is weary, when the day is long, sing to me of heaven, sing that old, sweet song. Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam. Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall. Sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.