JUDGMENT ON THE JERUSALEM TEMPLE DOESN’T SIGNAL THE END OF THE AGE
John MacArthur: Now, you understand that the whole of the Olivet Discourse is future. Now, that is not to say that some of the things that will happen then don’t happen now, but they’ll happen then at a scale and on a level and on proportions that are far beyond anything we’ve ever known now. We have war now, we have earthquake now, we have famine now, we have trouble in our world now, we have killing now, we have persecution now, we have hatred now, we even have some things happening in the sky that disturb us now, but nothing compared to the incredible display that’s going to take place in that compressed, brief period of time called the birth pains of the kingdom when God sends the earth into wracked pain as it brings forth the King in His kingdom.
Richard Gardner: Stressed repeatedly in this material is the conviction that such happenings, painful as they may be, are part of a larger plan or design by which God will fulfill the divine purpose for history. It is in this sense that these events, sometimes called the messianic woes, must take place (cf. Dan. 2:28; Rev. 1:1; Matt. 18:7).
John Walvoord: Taken as a whole, the opening section, ending with Matthew 24:14, itemizes general signs, events, and situations which mark the progress of the age, and, with growing intensity, indicate that the end of the age is approaching. These signs, however, by their very characteristics and because they have occurred throughout the present age, do not constitute a direct answer to the question of “the sign” of the coming of the Lord..
R.V.G. Tasker: It would seem that the disciples, by placing these two questions in juxtaposition, associated very closely in their minds the impending fall of Jerusalem and the coming of Jesus which would mark the end of the present age. In one sense they were right to do so, for in the fall of Jerusalem judgment would be passed upon the old Israel, so that it would no longer be exclusively the people of God; and at the Parousia the Son of man would “come again” to “judge both the quick and the dead”. But Jesus seems anxious that the disciples should not suppose that these two “judgments’ would of necessity follow in immediate chronological sequence. Accordingly, in the teaching recorded in verses 5-14 He warns them not to be misled by the deceptive utterances of false Messiahs who would appear from time to time, and not to imagine that events which might seem to be cataclysmic in character, such as wars between nations, earthquakes, and widespread famines, were infallible signs that the end was near. Such happenings would in fact constitute the prolonged birth-pangs of the new age. The end would only come, as He states explicitly in verse 14, after world-wide evangelism; and that evangelism would be continually hampered by persecutions, martyrdoms, the hatred of the world for those who professed the name of Jesus, loss of faith, the treachery of friends and the failure of love to endure in the face of widespread lawlessness – conditions which would call for the supreme quality of steadfastness (9-13).
I. (:4-8) FALSE INDICATORS OF THE END OF THE AGE
A. (:4-5) Deceptive False Messiahs
“And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.’”
Leon Morris: This will surely be a reference to the last days, for there is little evidence that any of the turbulent men so active preceding the fall of Jerusalem ever claimed to be the Messiah. Some claimed to be prophets, but that is not the same thing.
Warren Wiersbe: The Jews have often been led astray by false prophets and false christs. The rider on the white horse in Revelation 6:1-2 is the Antichrist, that final world dictator who will lead the nations astray. He will begin his career as a peacemaker, signing a covenant with Israel to protect her from her enemies (Dan. 9:27). Israel will welcome this man as their great benefactor (John 5:43).
Grant Osborne: Jesus calls out for unceasing vigilance (present tense “watch out” [βλέπετε], used at key points of Mark’s discourse [Mark 13:5, 9, 23, 33] to call for spiritual watchfulness) in light of the great deception to come. “Deceive” (πλανάω) is used often in this discourse (24:4, 5, 11, 24) to signify false teachers who lead others astray into apostasy.
John MacArthur: Second Thessalonians 2: “And now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by our gathering together unto Him that you be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled neither by spirit nor by word nor by letter as from us as that the day of the Lord is present.” Somebody was telling the Thessalonians that the day of the Lord had already started, that they were already in it. And he says, “Don’t believe it. Don’t you get disturbed by anybody, not a letter or anything, not anybody, not a spirit, not anybody. Don’t let anybody make you think we’ve entered the day of the Lord.” Why? Verse 3: “Let no one deceive you by any means for that day can’t come except there come a falling away first and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” And Paul is in line with Daniel. And Paul is in line with Jesus. And Paul is in line with Revelation and saying the very same thing. Before the coming of the Lord, there will be the revealing of this man of sin, the son of perdition, the willful king, the king with fierce face, the beast who deceives the world. He opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped so that he, as God, sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
And it says, verse 8: “Then shall that wicked one be revealed.” Verse 9: “Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders and with all deceivableness in unrighteousness in them that perish.” He comes and deceives the whole world.
You see, the Bible is tremendously consistent. The whole thing, that second half of the Tribulation, the last three and a half years, begins with the ascendency of the false Messiah. Prior to him, there will be a whole lot of them. And even perhaps during his reign, a whole lot of them, fighting against him unsuccessfully. So the first sign of the end of man’s age is deception. Deception that is so effective, it literally ultimately results in the deception of the whole wide world. And it’s no wonder that the Lord says, “You better beware.”
David Thompson: This coincides with the first seal judgment in Revelation 6:2a. There will be many who will actually claim they are coming in the name of Christ and actually claim they are Christ. There will be a major masquerading of people during the Tribulation claiming to be Jesus. There will be religious confusion.
[Note: Explanation of the Pre-Wrath Rapture position — Many commentators use the designation “Tribulation period” to refer to the entire 70th week of Daniel. This can be confusing since believers experience tribulation on a constant basis … just varying in degree and intensity in the end times. The specific period designated at the “Great Tribulation” starts in the middle of the 70th week and the time is cut off for the sake of the elect. The Rapture than occurs to deliver believers followed immediately by the judgments of the Day of the Lord that finish off the 70th week.]
B. (:6-7) Destructive Wars and Natural Catastrophes
- (:6-7a) Wars and Rumors of Wars
“And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.
7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,”
Charles Swindoll: We see the ultimate expression of this in Revelation 13, where the beast from the sea exercises unchecked military power, waging war against the saints and subduing “every tribe and people and tongue and nation” under his authority (Rev. 13:3-7). Similar to how the birth pangs of a pregnant woman intensify as labor progresses and delivery approaches, warfare will increase throughout the world as the end nears, culminating in full-on global conflict.
John MacArthur: Now, you say, “Well, we’ve always had this.” You’re right. We have always had it. Oh, we’ve had time periods of brief peace in the world, and most nations themselves have had times of war and times of peace. And we’re not denying that that will be true throughout all of man’s day. There will be times of war and there will be nations fighting nations and kingdoms fighting kingdoms. But still, what our Lord is saying here is that in the end, the beginning of sorrows that bring the kingdom, there will be worldwide warfare on a scale unknown prior to that time. In massive proportions, there will be an intensification of war across the earth. And the wars will be national, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom. There will be great groups of people, cultures against cultures. . .
The point that I want you to see is that Daniel looks to the end, and talk about a world war – he sees a world war that’s mind-boggling, where you have the whole force of Western power in Europe and perhaps even some way the United States could be linked into that, though there is nothing in Scripture to say that. You have the great force of the Russian confederacy, you have the great amalgamation of all that is in Africa, which today is agitated to the point of boiling over. And then you have the Orient, Red China and all of that, and all converging in Israel for a holocaust of war at the end time. And so, says Daniel, we anticipate this kind of battle.
Look at Zechariah chapter 14, and the prophet Zechariah sees the same thing. As Zechariah looks to the end time, in verse 1 he says, “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh and thy spoils shall be divided in the midst of thee” – listen to this – “for I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle.” The whole world is going to converge on Jerusalem in a final, incredible battle. “The city is taken, the houses are rifled, and the women are ravished. Half the city goes forth into captivity, the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. And then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations as when he fought in the day of battle.” And that’s exactly the way Daniel ended his prophecy, that he will come to his end and he’ll not be able to find anyone to help him then. So there’s going to be a worldwide war, again converging on Jerusalem, and Zechariah points it out in the same, exact way. So this is a very consistent picture from the prophets as well as from our Lord Himself.
At the end of the prophet Haggai, verse 22 of chapter 2, “I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, I will overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them and the horses and their riders shall come down, everyone by the sword of his brother. ‘In that day,’ saith the Lord of hosts, ‘will I take thee, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the Lord, ‘and make thee as a signet; for I have chosen thee,’ says the Lord of hosts.” It’s as if Zerubbabel is seen in his descendant – in that final time when God sends His own army to destroy the armies of the world and then sets up that one who comes out of the loins of David, out of the loins of Zerubbabel, to be the King, none other than Messiah. . .
So you can see that the Revelation, as well as the prophets of the Old Testament, support the words of our Lord that that will be a time of war and rumors of wars and nations rising against nation.
David Thompson: This coincides with the second seal judgment in Revelation 6:3-4. Just before Christ returns there will be worldwide unrest and lack of peace and war. Now verse 6 seems to suggest that wars will initially be civil wars and verse 7 means wars will be national. In other words, there will be war talk locally, nationally and internationally. During the Tribulation, no one will be immune to threat of war no matter where one lives.
- (:7b) Famines and Earthquakes
“and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.”
Charles Swindoll: The third sign of the end involves the proliferation of famines, earthquakes, and other natural disasters (Matt. 24:7-8). Geological disturbances will coincide with spiritual deception and political turmoil, adding further panic and widespread desperation. Starvation and the spread of diseases will add to the misery. We can imagine that the disasters will include the decimation of crops and livestock, the drying up of streams, wells, and reservoirs, and the destruction of natural and man-made infrastructures necessary for delivering vital resources, like food, water, and electricity. Supply lines will be disrupted, and lives will be lost. Today, on a limited scale, we can already observe the effects of natural disasters on cities and nations. These things are merely a foreshadowing of the intensification of catastrophes associated with the Tribulation period.
David Thompson: This coincides with the third seal judgment in Rev. 6:5-6. Famines and earthquakes will cause major worldwide social, geographical, financial, physical and medical chaos and crises. It will be these first three signs that will lead to many people dying (seal judgment four–Rev. 6:7-8). In fact, one-quarter of the world’s population will die through these first three signs. Predator animals will attack and kill and eat people for food. Now having listed three terrible signs, Jesus makes a startling statement in verse 8–this is just the beginning of trouble. The beginning of birth pangs is not the worst pain.
C. (:8) Described as the Beginning of Birth Pangs
“But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”
Warren Wiersbe: The image of a woman in travail is a picture of the tribulation period (Isa. 13:6-11; 1 Thess. 5:5).
Grant Osborne: The image of labor pains at birth was a common metaphor for calamities like death (cf. 2 Sam 22:6; Ps 18:4) or national crises (Isa 13:8; Jer 6:24), and it was a natural image for eschatological cataclysm (Isa 26:17–18; 1 En. 62:4). It normally referred to the messianic woes that would usher in the final events of history, but here it is the “beginning” of that period Jesus is referring to. His point is the same as v. 6—wars, famines, and earthquakes do herald the start of the last days, but they do not constitute the eschaton itself, nor do they signify that it is near.
Leon Morris: Jesus places the happenings of which he has been speaking in their proper place in the scheme of the last things. All these things is comprehensive; the totality of the tumults and troubles does not mean simply an especially disastrous period in the history of the race. It means the beginning of the process that will usher in the final state of affairs; it is the beginning of birth pangs (REB brings out the meaning with a little addition, “first birth-pangs of the new age”). Among the Jews there was a widespread expectation that before the Messiah came to set up the kingdom of God in a form that would last forever there would be trouble on the largest possible scale. The powers of evil will not give up without a struggle, and thus there will be disaster after disaster. Jesus is pointing to this period which was so widely expected and speaking of it in traditional language.
II. (:9-14a) FUTURE EVENTS SIGNALING THE END OF THE AGE
A. (:9-10) Great Treachery
- (:9) Severe Persecution
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation,
and will kill you,
and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.”
Charles Swindoll: The fourth sign of the end is that believers will experience severe persecution from those who hate Christ (24:9). Those who will come to faith in Christ after the rapture of the church —often referred to as “Tribulation saints” —will become the targets of persecution and execution. Because those believers will identify themselves with Jesus Christ at a time when the rest of the world worships the Antichrist, the seething hatred of the unsaved will rise up against them. Many will be hunted down, arrested, tried, and killed. Martyrdom will greatly increase, but those believers will be heirs to an eternal reward. The book of Revelation describes a great multitude of believers “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” who will “come out of the great tribulation” (Rev. 7:9-17). These are people who will have suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Antichrist and his wicked empire (Rev. 6:9-11; 13:7-10).
David Thompson: This coincides with seal judgment number five (Rev. 6:9-11). I want you to notice that before Christ comes Israel will be hated by all nations. They will be hated, hounded and killed because of Jesus Christ. During the Tribulation, this will be true for any who believe on Christ, but specifically this will be true for Israel.
2. (:10) Surprising Betrayal
“And at that time many will fall away
and will deliver up one another
and hate one another.”
Marvin Rosenthal: During the first three and one-half years, false Christs and false prophets will emerge; they will do false signs and wonders to seemingly authenticate their false message. Believers will be seduced, hated, and betrayed (Matt. 24:9-10). The love of many for God will grow cold (Matt. 24:12). In that environment, the faith that exhibits patience – that endures in the midst of adversity, that does not reject the true Christ for a false Christ – will be rewarded: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation.”
The apostasy, then, to which Paul referred (2 Thess. 2:3-4), will involve Israel, not the church. It will commence when many within the nation sign a covenant with the Antichrist (unknown to them, a covenant with death) — at the beginning of that seventieth week. The apostasy will encompass a total abandonment or falling away from renewed covenant relationship (the seventieth week) and from the God of their forefathers and the promised Messiah. They will embrace a counterfeit religion (humanism) and a counterfeit Messiah (the Antichrist) who offers a counterfeit peace and solution to the Middle East dilemma.
In the middle of that seventieth week of Jewish apostasy, the Antichrist will break the covenant with Israel. Having entered the Middle East on the pretext of protecting Israel from her enemies, he will defeat Egypt, Syria, and other nations. Then he will “plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas [the Mediterranean and Dead Seas] in the glorious holy mountain [Mount Zion]” (Dan. 11:42-45). Only then, in the middle of the seventieth week, with the setting up of his image in the temple, will the Jews realize his true character and real identity and that they have made a covenant with death.
B. (:11) Great Deception
“And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.”
Stu Weber: Verse 11 sounds similar to verse 5 above, describing false prophets instead of false Christs. A prophet was a spokesman for God; therefore, a false prophet was one who falsely claimed to be God’s spokesman. This was a more subtle form of deception, since there was only one Christ. However, there can be many prophets from God, and it was easier to pass oneself off as a prophet. Jesus said there would be many such deceivers and that they would deceive many people. The person who attempts to remain faithful to Christ may find great difficulty in discerning between so many claimants to God’s true revelation. The false prophets would be clever in their deception, winning great followings. The true disciple of Christ must always remain alert.
C. (:12-13) Great Apostasy but Deliverance of the Saints at the End
- (:12) Great Apostasy
“And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”
2. (:13) Deliverance of the Saints at the End
“But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.”
Warren Wiersbe: “The end” does not mean the end of this life; it refers to the end of the age (Matt. 24:14). Those believers on earth during this terrible period, who endure in their faith, will be saved when the Lord comes at the end and delivers them.
Leon Morris: The power of God is such that he can and will sustain his faithful servants through whatever trials they may be called upon to endure.
D. (:14a) Gospel Proclamation Worldwide
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world
for a witness to all the nations,”
Charles Swindoll: The sixth sign of the end is a worldwide declaration of the gospel (24:14). Despite the global horrors growing toward an unspeakable crescendo —with false Christs, destructive warfare, natural disasters, and persecution —the message of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ will still be proclaimed. All nations will hear the gospel, giving everybody an opportunity to believe unto eternal life. How will such an ambitious worldwide mission occur during the short time of the future seven-year Tribulation period? Perhaps God will use angelic messengers to bring the good news, as He did in the very first proclamation of the Resurrection, at the empty tomb (28:5-7). The book of Revelation suggests such a future angelic proclamation:
I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
It is also likely that God will work through the 144,000 converts from the twelve tribes of Israel described in Revelation 7:1-8. These Hebrews will serve as faithful, courageous, and diligent witnesses for Christ during the darkest period of the earth’s history. God will preserve them from harm during the Tribulation and use them to fulfill the ancient Old Testament calling of Israel to be God’s witnesses among the nations (see Isa. 43:1-13). God’s plan for Israel was always that they would serve as the light of truth for the Gentiles. During the Tribulation, they will finally fulfill this global mission.
David Thompson: The main message of the Tribulation will not be the Gospel of grace, but the Gospel of the kingdom, which specifically says the King of Kings will come back and establish a kingdom for Israel. It is during this time when God’s Word will reach the whole world. Truth is in seven years something will take place which the Church could not do in 2000 years. It is at this time when the end will come. Now “the end” refers to the end of Israel being mistreated and finally being esteemed as the nation of God. This is not the end of the Church Age, this is not the end of the universe–this is the end of the Tribulation and the end of Israel not being in her kingdom with her King.
III. (:14b) FINAL ARRIVAL OF THE END
“and then the end shall come.”
Grant Osborne: This turns around v. 6, “the end is not yet.” This does not mean that all the nations will be converted before the end can come but rather that the universal proclamation will continue until the end. Romans 11:25–26 says that at the parousia of Christ the Gentile mission will be completed and “all Israel will be saved.”