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? Join Robert as he finishes this fascinating study!
ROBERT >> On these Sunday mornings here on The Truth In Love, we’ve been talking about Bible prophecy and the last days. And we learned that the last days began some 2,000 years ago with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit after the ascension of Christ back into heaven, that we now live and continue to live in the last days, and that when Jesus comes, it will not be the beginning of the last days, but the end of the last days. Jesus will come on the last day of the last days, when everybody will be raised, and he’ll destroy that last enemy, death. He’ll turn his kingdom over to his Father at that time. But there are many who are looking for signs of his coming. And we began talking about that last week from Matthew chapter 24, and we will continue to talk about that a little bit more this morning.
SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> As we consider the signs of the times, let’s remember that Matthew chapter 24 is not talking about signs at the end of the world, but it’s talking about signs in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
You’ll notice the very first verses of Matthew 24, Jesus points to the temple that then stood and said that it would be destroyed, not one stone would be left upon another. And we noticed last week according to the Jewish historian Josephus how the Roman armies came and they surrounded the city of Jerusalem and they destroyed that temple utterly and completely. The words of Jesus, his prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem has been fulfilled. It took place in 70 AD. He had told his disciples that there would be numerous signs before the coming of that destruction. He mentions, for example, in verse 4 and verse 5 the false Christs, people saying I am the Christ trying to deceive. And all of that took place before 70 AD.We read about wars and rumors of wars, we read about nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, about pestilences and earthquakes in various places. Again, all of those things took place in that generation of the apostles of the first century.
He says, These are the beginning of sorrows. And then he goes on to talk about tribulation for God’s people, how they would be killed by their enemies. And again, we see that persecution and we see that killing of Christians. Just read the book of Acts, and you’ll see that all of those took place. He also talks here about false prophets and about lawlessness and about the gospel being preached to the end of the world. And again, all of those things took place before 70 AD. Paul had said in Colossians 1:23 that the gospel had been preached to the whole creation under heaven. And so we see these signs in Matthew 24, not signs that we should look for at the end of the world, at the coming of Christ; but these are signs preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. And then in verse 15 of Matthew 24 Jesus spoke about the abomination of desolation. He refers to a prophecy of Daniel in Daniel chapter 9. Daniel’s prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation spoke of the first coming of Christ when he would put an end to sins by his death upon the cross. And then at that time, Jerusalem, its temple would be destroyed by the prince of the people. He was talking about the Roman commander Titus and how he would besiege the city of Jerusalem and destroy the holy place.
In Luke 21:20 we saw that, When you see the army surrounding the city, know that the abomination or the desolation has come. And so again, Daniel nor Jesus
is talking about the end of the world; but at the first coming of Christ, just after that, the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed. Indeed it was about 40 years later, in 70 AD. It’s here that Jesus gives instructions to the Christians. He says if you’re in Judea, you need to flee to the mountains. He says you don’t go back home and try to get your clothes. You’ve got to get out of there. He went on to talk about those who might be pregnant and nursing in that day or those who might try to take flight on the Sabbath day or in the winter. If it happened then, it would be difficult to travel, especially for these who had their babies. And so he was encouraging them to get away and to flee from this place because a terrible tribulation was coming upon God’s people Israel because of their rejection of Christ, because they refused to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Obviously this is not talking about the end of the world. Nobody’s going to escape Christ’s final coming in judgment at the end of the world. It won’t matter if you flee from Judea, or if you’re trying to get away, it won’t matter if it’s winter, it won’t matter if you’ve got babies because nobody will be able to escape. Here Jesus is talking about a local destruction, God’s judgment on his people in the city of Jerusalem, not the end of the world.
Jesus goes on and tells us here that this great tribulation would be terrible, and so terrible like never before. But he says the time will be shortened. God’s people will have an opportunity to escape. War against them will not continue to spread throughout the world. But then he tells us here that it will come, verse 27, that when Jesus does come, it will be like lightning from the east to the west. He says you don’t worry about these false prophets who are saying the Christ is here or the Christ is there.
No, when Jesus comes, everybody’s going to know it. It’ll be like lightning from the east to the west. It will not be a secret coming at all, but every eye will see him, as we learned last week from Revelation 1:7.
So there will be these various signs before the coming of destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And there will be this siege by the Roman armies around that city. And if you’re a Christian in those days, Jesus says you need to get out of there. But he says don’t worry about when the Lord comes.
When he comes, it will be like lightning. Everybody will see it, everybody will know it. And then it’s right here that we have verses 29 and following, what we call a little apocalypse, because it was written in highly figurative language, and it speaks of the fall of Israel because of the rejection of the gospel. It speaks of God’s judgment upon them in a highly figurative way, as though the heavens were falling, the moon was turning to blood, we see Christ coming. But all of this is very familiar to the Old Testament prophets. This is how they spoke of the fall of Babylon. This is how they spoke of God’s judgment on Egypt. This is how they spoke of the fall of the many nations that were the enemies of God’s people long ago in history, and this is how Jesus is speaking of the fall of Israel here in the first century, not at the end of the world.
Now you’ll notice that we’re going to pick up the lesson from last week here in verse 32 and verse 33. Let’s read it together, Matthew 24 beginning in verse 32. “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, that it’s at the doors.”
And so when they saw those signs take place and when they saw that army surround the city, they could know that it was coming, they could get ready, they could get out of that place and flee
to escape that judgment. But then he says, look at verse 34, and this is so important to our study here in Matthew 24. He says, “Assuredly I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”
In other words, everything Jesus had spoken of before verse 34 concerning the signs of the destruction of Jerusalem, concerning the armies surrounding that city, concerning them fleeing from that place, all of that would take place in that generation to which he was then speaking. He was not talking about the end of the world. No, not at all. He was talking about that generation. Before it would pass away, these things would take place. It did take place within 40 years. Within that generation, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Roman armies.
Now, I know some want to redefine the term generation here to mean race, to mean the Jewish race; but this is certainly not how the term is used. If you look throughout the book of Matthew, you’ll see that it’s talking about that generation of Jews, not the race of Jews.
In Matthew 1:17, the very opening of the book, “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until Christ are fourteen generations.”
Obviously he’s talking about different generations of people, not races of people.
Notice it also in Matthew chapter 11. Look with me in verse 16. “But to what shall I liken this generation?”
It’s like children sit in the marketplaces and calling to their companions. This is the generation that rejected the coming Christ.
Look at it in chapter 12, verse 38 through 45. Here we also see the same idea. Some of the scribes and the Pharisees answered, saying, Teacher, we want to see a sign from You. “But He answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no signs will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
That generation that rejected Christ, not the race of Jews throughout all of history. You read a little further here in verse 45, He goes and he takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of man is worst than the first. So it shall also be with this wicked generation. In chapter 16 of Matthew, look in verse 4. Here it says, A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given it except the sign of Jonah.
Chapter 17 and verse 17, Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.”
That generation that Jesus was with is the generation of you, not the whole race of the Jews.
And then Matthew 23:36, just before we come into Matthew 24, he spoke of that generation. Here he says,“Assuredly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”
And so wouldn’t it be nonsense for Jesus to tell his disciples what was going to happen to the Jews and then to say their race would not pass away until it did? No, Jesus said very explicitly here in Matthew 24:34 that that generation to which he was then speaking would not pass away until all those things had happened. Jesus was not talking about the end of the world. He was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that happened in that generation. Jesus explicitly said that no one but his Father alone knows when the world will come to an end.
Look at the next two verses, verse 35 and 36. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My
You see in these two verses a complete contrast to what we read before about the destruction of Jerusalem. There would be signs before its coming. They would see the abomination of desolation, the Roman armies around the city of Jerusalem. They would see all of that. You could know when it was coming. You’d get out of that place. But what does he say about the passing of heaven and earth? He says nobody knows when that’s going to happen. My Father only, Jesus says. It’s going to come suddenly. It will come unexpectedly. It will be like the days of Noah.
Look at verse 37. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Everything was going on as normal in Noah’s day. There was nothing unusual. There were no signs when the flood came and took them all away. And that same suddenness, that same unexpectedness will characterize our Lord’s coming at the end of the world. Look at it further here.
If you look on down in verse 40 he says, “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.”
You see here he describes it like an army coming through, some of them taking captives, others will be left. This is not an unusual figure. We read about these kinds of battles often in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 11:11 we read about the army coming suddenly, unexpectedly, taking some and leaving others. And so he’s trying to emphasize that this is the way it’s going to be at the end of the world. But now let’s look a little further. Let’s go on down. And we’ll notice here that it’s like a thief that breaks into a house.
He says in verse 42, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
You see, a thief isn’t going to call us up and say, Hey, I’ll be there Monday night at 12 o’clock so you canbe ready; no, not at all. And that’s the way it’s going to be at the end of the world when Jesus comes: Suddenly, unexpectedly. He’s not going to give us any signs to indicate when he’s coming any more than a thief would. And so Jesus will come, and he will come in judgment, and so we must always be ready and we must always be prepared.
Look at it in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. The apostle Paul is writing to the churches there about the end of the world. There were many questions about it that they had. And of course he had taught them when he was among them, but he wanted to remind them of the things that he had already taught. Look what he says here.
1 Thessalonians chapter 5, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”
He had taught them what Jesus had taught. It would be sudden, it would be unexpectedly. He went on to say in verse 3, “When they say, Peace and safety! then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this day should overtake you as a thief.”
We see this same figure again in 2 Peter 3:10, where the Bible says, “Butthe day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. And the heavens
will pass away with a great noise, the elements will burn with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
There’ll be no signs to indicate when Jesus is coming again. The coming of Christ, the end of the world is not something you can wait to prepare for when you see some signs; but rather you must always be prepared, because there are no signs. I want to read further in Matthew 24.
Listen to these words in verse 45. Here it says, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, My master is delaying his coming, and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him at an hour when he is not aware of it, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Yes, we must always be prepared. I think I can relate some to that servant. I remember when I was a child, and there would be times, a few times when my parents would go out on their own and leave us kids with a babysitter. If I knew when they were coming back home, if I knew it was going to be 10 o’clock, then I would be sure to clean up the house and butter up the babysitter so that when they came home, everything would be all right. But if I didn’t know, well, I would have to always be ready. I couldn’t have things thrown all over the house, I couldn’t have bothered the babysitter, got in fights with my brother and sisters, because they might come right at that very moment. But you see, we don’t know when the Lord is coming again, and we’ve got to always be ready, always know that our Lord could come at any moment. And that’s really the message of Matthew chapter 25 when he speaks of the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins. The wise virgins, they were prepared for the coming of the bridegroom in the parable of Jesus concerning these virgins. They had gathered their oil, and so when the bridegroom came, they were ready to go in to the banquet. But you see, the five foolish virgins had no oil.And when the bridegroom came, the door was shut.
Look at verse 10 of Matthew 25. “And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came. And those who were ready went in with him to the wedding, and the door was shut.”
I wonder how many will find the door to heaven shut when Jesus comes again because they find themselves unprepared. Maybe they were looking for signs, and they hadn’t yet seen those signs, and so they didn’t yet think he was coming. How important it is to know that when he comes, it’ll be sudden, and it’ll be unexpected, and we must always be ready.
As it says here at the end of that parable, verse 13, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
Jesus is coming again. And some people are wondering, why hasn’t he already come? It’s been so long, it’s been 2,000 years now, and they’re wanting the Lord to come. He will come, but he is giving opportunity now for everyone who’s not ready to get right with him.
Peter said in 2 Peter 3:9 that, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but He’s longsuffering toward us, not wishing that any should perish but all should come to repentance.”
That’s 2 Peter 3:9. The Lord is going to fulfill his promise; but he’s longsuffering, he’s patient with us now because he doesn’t want any of us to perish. He wants us to repent. He wants us to turn from our sins and
to get right with him before it is everlastingly too late, because he will come as a thief in the night, 2 Peter 3:10.
So how is your relationship with God this morning?
Are you right with him, or do you need to turn away from sin and make things right with God today?
Jesus Christ calls us to come to him. He assures us of eternal life by dying upon the cross of Calvary, paying the price for our sins so that we could be forgiven and was raised that third day to show us the power, to demonstrate the assurance that we have of eternal life through him. But you must looking at that cross put your trust in him, and seeing what it cost to pay for our sins, turn away from those sins, and as Christ gave himself for you, give yourself to him in the waters of baptism, being baptized into his death, as Paul described in Romans 6:3-4, being buried with him, and being raised to walk in newness of life. So get up and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. And let us know here at The Truth In Love how we can help you towards heaven today.
SINGINH>> Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.
Let the water and the blood from thy riven side which flowed
be of sin the double cure.
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.
Naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace.
Vile I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.
SINGING>> Only in thee, oh savior mine,
dwelleth my soul in peace divine,
peace that the world though all combine,
never can take from me.
Pleasures of earth so seemingly sweet
fail at the last my longing to meet.
Only in thee my bliss is complete,
only dear Lord, in thee.
Only in thee, dear savior slain,
losing thy life, my own to gain,
trusting, I’m cleansed from every stain;
thou art my only plea.
Only in thee my heart will delight,
till in that land where cometh no night
faith will be lost in heavenly sight,
only dear Lord, in thee.
ROBERT >> I hope you found today’s lesson helpful. And to help you in your continued study, we’d like to offer you a free copy of today’s lesson. Thankfully, members of churches of Christ make these materials available to our viewers absolutely free of charge. All you have to do is contact us and let us know the name of the program that you’d like to have a copy of. You can see the title of today’s program on your screen. Let us know the format which you’d like to have it. You can have the program in the form of an audio CD or a DVD or a written transcript. You can have any of those formats, again, free of charge. It won’t cost you a thing. You can contact us in a number of ways.
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>> 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.