The End is Coming | Matthew 24:3-14
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 24:3–24:14
Introduction | Fun Times with the End Times
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series covering Chapters 21-25 has been titled the Rejection of the King. During the next 6 weeks we will be looking at a particularly challenging section in Matthew Ch 24 and 25. These chapters are an extended period of teaching Jesus gives his disciples much of which falls into the category of Eschatology (Study of the End Times). It is necessary to reviews this topic of theology in general before we look at our verses specifically. Eschatology is an “open handed issue” meaning, bible believing, gospel-centered, Jesus loving Christians can hold different positions, debate, disagree, without deep division. It is not a closed handed salvation issue like the deity of Jesus Christ, authority of scripture, or the resurrection. Secondary issues are secondary, it’ doesn’t mean they’re not significant. What you believe about eschatology will impact how you live and act as a disciple in this world. End times issues are messy because we often come to passages read them at face value on their own and create a Frankenstein view of what the Bible teaches rather than using scripture to interpret scripture. All study of theology should lead to greater humility and glory to God.
4 Perspectives | Pick Your Team
While we look at differ perspectives we have to hold them with a lesser degree of certainty then other. Theologians for generations have debated and held both dogmatic and conflicting views. We can and do hold distinct views from one another but distinctions do not need to lead to division. Much of these summaries have been adapted from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and other sources.
Dispensational Premillennialism: Only given rise in the last 100-150 years in the US and UK. It is currently the most popular. Tribulation is to come. They believe in a rapture of believers to be with Jesus sometime before the millennium. (This hinges on 1 Thess 4:16-17). Church age ends with a “secret part way return of Jesus to the earth where he raptures up the believers before a 7 year period of tribulation. During this tribulation many Jewish people will convert to trust Jesus as the messiah while the raptured believers are in heaven with Jesus. The Promised Land will return to the nation of Israel. This is followed by a full return of Jesus, the resurrected believers, where they reign over a literal 1,000 period (in fact its hopes to interpret all biblical prophecies as literal where possible) It is dispensational in that it maintains a clear distinction between how God interacts with Jewish People and Christians and believes the promises for Israel in the OT are not realized in or for the Church as a spiritual “Israel”. It takes a literal view of the signs of Christ’s return and holds they are still to come. It also carries with it a great sense of urgency because Christ could literally return at any moment (I agree). This is so attractive because it gives an out (If we’re on team Jesus we won’t have to deal with the worst of what is going to happen) from all of the worst things talked about in the Bible. Very popular, but popular doesn’t mean it’s true or right. Kirk Cameron and Left Behind popularized it recently. Chuck Smith (Calvary Chapel) held this view and so does John MacArthur. Nearest Hope: is in Jesus’ “any moment” return to rapture of believers. New heavens/earth is far off.
Historic Premillennialism: As name implies it very historic. Many early church fathers held this view; more recently Spurgeon and John Piper do as well. Church age will continue until a period of great tribulation (which Christians will remain for). This will be followed by the end of the church age where Jesus will return with resurrected believers (with resurrected bodies) who will reign with Jesus for 1000 years. During this period many/most unbelievers will turn to follow Christ. Satan will be bound during this time and have no influence during the millennium until the end. At that point Satan will be unbound and will launch a final rebellion with the remaining unbelievers and he will be quickly defeated. After that time all unbelievers will be resurrected for final judgement. This will be followed by the eternal state. Glorified saints living with sinners for 1,000 years seems difficult to understand. It’s problematic to wonder what the purpose of such a time is. Why would God choose to do it that way? This is difficult for me to wrap my head around, but that’s ok. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean God can’t or won’t do it. Just because it doesn’t make sense to us doesn’t mean it’s not the way. More popular during periods of persecution and trail; “clearly this can’t be the period where Satan is bound and Jesus is actively reigning with his people.” Nearest hope is resurrection and physical reign of Jesus. New heavens/earth are a ways out, (possibly during the Mill.)
Postmillennialism: This usually includes Preterism (that some or all of the biblical prophecies about the end times refer to events that have already happened.) Tribulation is an “already happened” thing that is not normative beyond the judgement of Jerusalem. The mill is something very different then what a pre mill will describe it as. It believes the preaching of the gospel, faithfulness of believers relying on the grace of God in Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit will eventual usher in an age (Mill) of universal gospel saturation. Argue the world is and will continue to become more Christian Christians will have influence over culture and society and there will be great peace and righteousness. Even when persecuted the church grows faster and stronger. At the end of this millennium (not explicitly 1,000 years) Jesus comes back, believes and unbelievers are resurrected. Judgement occurs and there is an eternal New heavens and new earth. Gains in popularity when the church is experiencing periods of great revival, societal influence, or there is a perceived absence of international conflict and great progress is made in society. It is incredibly hopeful and optimistic about the Gospel’s impact on individuals and the world. Nearest Hope: glorious period of universal reign of the gospel.
Amillennialism: There is not a future millennium because we are in that period now. Satan’s influence has been reduced so the gospel can go forward. Christ reign is not physical over the world but spiritual (All authority in heaven and on earth is his.) Christians who have died are reigning with Him now. Many are “Partial Preterists” but the tribulation can refer to any time during this church age where persecution is experienced. Many major end events are yet to come; Jesus return, resurrection of believers, final judgement, new heavens and new earth will be established. There is no future mill, just the present mill we are in now. What about Satan being bound and Jesus ruling over his people? Who says Satan isn’t bound now and what is happening is merely the outworking of hard human hearts who are opposed to God? Who says Jesus isn’t ruling over his people. If you claim you are a Christian you are both trusting in him for your salvation and pledging your life allegiance to him as lord. We are in a current period where Christians (regenerated saints) are cohabitating with sinners/unbelievers living out kingdom values. Nearest hope: Jesus return and the restoration of all things. “Premillennialists are waiting for the mill, Post Mills are working for it, but amills are enjoying it.”
Premillennialism seems to honor the plainest meaning of Revelation 20 and the seemingly literal meaning of many OT Promises. Postmillennialism seems to honor the power of the Gospel and the promise of the OT for the triumph of God’s people over all the nations. Amillennialism seems to honor the warnings of bleak end times as well as the seamlessness between Christ’s coming and the immediate destruction of death, the removal of enemies of the cross, and the beginning of the new heavens and new earth. -Desiring God All Agree. There will be a day of resurrection for everyone; judgement for those who do not hope in Jesus and salvation for those who do. Jesus will return. There will be an eternal new heavens and new earth.
Keep this in an open hand, but put something in it! If you don’t have some sort of frame work what you’ll see in Daniel (next week) Matthew, 1 Thessalonians, 1and 2 Peter, and Revelations will be this patch work quilt that will make little sense unless you’re interpreting scripture in light of scripture. This is an invitation to wrestle. This is an invitation to study, God’s word, not just the signs of the times. If you’re holding a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other you’re not going to get things right. Why is this so difficult? Because we want certainty and we want to be able to understand where we are in History (God’s story).
Intro to Olivet Discourse | Matthew 24-25
Context matters. Jesus has just been preaching in the temple. It included judgement of the Jewish religious leaders and condemnation on how they have and will treat prophets, and will kill Jesus. He gave a sentence at the end of the sermon saying “Your house has been left desolate” and finished with hope; if they trusted Jesus. He then left the temple. Disciples want clarification and Jesus gives them robust teaching on more than they ask for. Part one is the End is coming. Part two is the Abomination of Desolation 70AD (Discuss) Part 3 is When is Jesus coming? Part 4,5 and 6 is all about getting ready and being ready.
Matthew 24:3-14 3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came 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?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Verse 3 | Two Part Question
Jesus is sitting in the position of a teacher on the Mount of Olives with the city of Jerusalem and temple in plain view. I believe the disciples are asking what they think is one question; when it is really two. Part one: When will these things be? Temple destroyed and desolation of the temple and Jerusalem. Part two: When will you be coming (in glory) and the end of the age. Pre mill would take this into three questions. (Destruction, return in glory, and end of all things.) It seemsJesus is answering two questions.
Verse 4-8 | It’s going to be rough, but it’s only the beginning.
Matthew has one audience, but I believe the Holy Spirit has two, first century Christians and ALL century Christians. I believe you can hold a view (and make a compelling argument) that everything Jesus talks about in this section of His teaching is specifically prophetic in terms of things that will happen (at least in part) before the destruction of the temple in 70AD, AND they have general applications for all Christians for all times. Jesus isn’t just trying to show off how well he can tell the future (He can) he is training his disciples to navigate the world that is to come in the short term (and I believe in the here and now). This section and discourse isn’t just a near future for them and distant history for us, it’s a call to preparation. Don’t be deceived or lead astray by false messiahs - Even after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus many false prophets and even false messiahs came on to the scene (many with political aspirations) during the first century. We have false religions who worship false Christ’s today. Even false claims of divinity, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda in Florida back in 2007. You hope is not to be in who comes; but in who came.
You will hear and experience firsthand wars and conflicts and you will hear reports of war and conflict around the world. When you are in the fog of war and under the shadow of international conflict it is easy to turn to fear and despair. “This is it! This is the end!” Kingdoms and nations will rise and fall these are significant, but creation itself is also broken. There will be periods of famine there will be natural disasters (Tsunamis in Thailand in 2004 and Japan in 2011) but these are not the end. (There was reported to be a great earthquake in Pompeii in 62AD) There will be things that happen in nature that many will experience but we/they are not to think the end is near. It’s only the beginning of birth pains (Travails) is a hopeful trial that will lead to something joyful. It’s the beginning of birth pains, labor lasts a long time! How are all Christians to respond when we see, hear or experience epic wars disasters and tragedy? Dramatically, different than the unbelieving world. We have an eternal hope of a sovereign active God. It doesn’t mean we welcome or resign to suffering, don’t have concern, or engage; but it does mean we don’t panic. We don’t see the suffering and brokenness of the world and become hopeless because “The end is not yet”.
Verse 9 | Trouble in the World, Trouble for the Church
Jesus transitions from general issues to church specific warnings. There are things happening in the world that will be troubling but a least everything in the church will be ok right? We don’t have to worry about the church. No we don’t have to worry because the church, the bride of Christ will be presented to her husband clean and in splendor but it won’t always look that way on the way to the wedding ceremony. Opposition will come from outside. The church in the first century was hated by Rome and persecuted for declaring Jesus is Lord (opposed to Caesar). Each of the disciples Jesus talks to (except Judas who betrays him and John who dies on Patmos) all faced a martyrs deaths, many from Rome. Christians were not universally accepted and while there have been periods of greater and lesser influence over culture and society there has always been and always will be opposition to the Gospel, rejection of Jesus, and his disciples. Jesus last prayer in John 17 talks about not being of the world and that his people will be hated. But they are not to retreat from the world but to engage with and be kept from the evil one.
Verse 10-12 | Don’t grow cold!!!
Unique to Matthew’s gospel. The church will have trails from the outside but also internally as well. The persecution of Christians did, does, and will lead to purification of the church. Those who are with Jesus only when things are good or advantageous will fall away quickly when the heat gets turned up and being faithful to Jesus is not an effortless journey in a hostile world. Desiring acceptance from men, over faithfulness to God, those “fall away” will turn on those who have remained faithful. More than simple disinterest they will become opponents of the truth of the gospel and God’s people, there really is no middle ground. In the first century the Zealots were said to have killed the brave out of fear and the noble out of envy. There is and will be hate in the world that leads to attacks on those who live the law of love God and love people. Christians are said we will be known by the world by our love for one another. False teachers will come (they have, they are, and they will.) again we are not to be deceived. False teaching will lead to lawless living. Lawlessness is really “everyone for themselves” a more modern way to say it is “be true to yourself” Judges describes the times as Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. To say there is no law but your own is to put yourself in the center of your world, when you live for yourself you cannot love others. When selfishness is in the air it causes real love of many to grow cold. “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” -Johnathan Edwards
Verse 13-14 | Keep Going and Keep Preaching!
How are we to deal with all of this? Despair. No! Jesus calls us to endurance. We are not to be weary. We are not motivated to endurance to receive salvation but because of our possession of it. You’re not saved by enduring but your endurance is a mark of your salvation. There has been troubling times in the past, there is pain and trials right now, and there will be troubling times ahead. We don’t retreat, we don’t despair, we endure, and we charge! The disciples want certainty on when Jesus will return, Jesus wants them to have certainty on what their mission is. “You will continue to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the whole world!” Souls will be saved, lives will be changed. People will praise King Jesus! We should have great hope and peace that he is coming back so our biggest concerns shouldn’t be about His return, or the end, but His mission.
Our deepest desires should be to be united with Jesus “To live is Christ and to die is gain” We should have a real sense of urgency in our mission to spread the gospel to a world that is perishing.
We should have full awareness and heart for the trials and tribulation our brothers and sisters around the world are presently facing and eagerly long for a tangible reign of King Jesus over our world.
We should be exceedingly hopeful in the Gospel’s power to transform spiritual dead sinners into adopted son and daughters. Knowing individual transformation, leads to the transformation of families, churches, communities, cultures, and countries.
We should be sober-minded and temperate when our grandest, most hopeful expectations, are met with the reality that not every day is better for everyone, sin is still in the world and a defeated enemy is still kicking and striking God’s people. Not seeking tribulation and trials but understand our call to endure as we share in the sufferings of our savior, knowing Jesus is alive, He is on the throne, He will return, and we will spend eternity in a New Heavens and New Earth with all those who, Trust Jesus!