THE SIGN OF THE END OF THE AGE
THE last week of the life of Jesus was full of activities, but these necessary labors did not crowd out His fellowship and communion with God the Father in prayer. His clash with the Jerusalem authorities ended with His unparalleled denunciation of the scribes and the Pharisees, whom He called hypocrites (Matthew, chapter 23). His denunciations were spoken only to and about those who were hypocritical, for there were notable examples of the highest type of honor and integrity among the Pharisees. With this scathing message to the scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus concluded His public earthly ministry.I. PROPHECY REGARDING THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE
During Passion Week, Jesus spent each night in Bethany and returned to Jerusalem the next day. The day on which He denounced the Pharisees was probably Tuesday. Having spoken this last message, He left the Temple and went to Bethany. Upon reaching the summit of the Mount of Olives, He sat down and delivered the message called the Olivet Discourse, a brief outline of which is as follows:
Prophecy regarding the destruction of the Temple (Matt. 24:1,2).
A brief survey of the Christian Dispensation and the Tribulation (Matt. 24:3-31).
The Rapture of the Church and the rewarding of the saints (Matt. 24:3225:30).
The judgment of the living nations at the Second Coming of Christ (Matt. 25:31-46).
Since, however, the aim of this discussion is not to expound the entire message of the Olivet Discourse, but to discover the sign of the end of the age, only that portion of Scripture which bears upon this subject is quoted here, namely, Matthew 24:1-35:
24 And Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way; and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered and said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray. 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and earthquakes in divers places. 8 But all these things are the beginning of travail. 9 Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all the nations for my name's sake. 10 And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. 12 And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. 13 But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come. 15 When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), 16 then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains: 17 let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out things that are in his house: 18 and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak. 19 But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! 20 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on a sabbath: 21 for then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Here; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Behold, I have told you beforehand. 26 If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not. 27 For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 28 Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. 29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 32 Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; 33 even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
As Jesus was leaving the Temple, His disciples came to Him and called His attention to the buildings of the Temple. Luke, in his account of this incident, states that some spoke to Him of the Temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and offerings. Knowing that the disciples were unduly interested in the material phases of the Temple and of its services, Jesus foretold its complete destruction: "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." This prophecy was literally fulfilled. In the war of A.D. 70 the Romans captured Jerusalem and completely destroyed the city. Although Titus, the Roman general, ordered his men to spare the Temple, one of them threw a burning fagot into it which set the sacred structure on fire and completely destroyed it. Later, according to reports, the Romans dug up the foundation in quest for the gold which had been melted by the fire, and which had run down between the stones. In their search for this gold, they literally fulfilled this prophecy of Jesus.II. QUESTIONS ASKED BY THE APOSTLES
When Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Oliveslooking back toward the city and the TemplePeter, James, John, and Andrew came to him and asked two questions: "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matt. 24:3).III. WARNING AGAINST FALSE MESSIAHS
The mention of the destruction of the Temple caused the disciples to think of two events associated with the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem. When two or more ideas are associated in one's thinking, the mention of one frequently pulls related or associated ideas out of the subconscious mind into the field of consciousness. Often one says, "That reminds me ..." Such an expression is an echo of the operation of the same psychological principle. Without a doubt three definite events were associated in the minds of the apostles. Jesus mentioned one of them in referring to the destruction of the Temple. His speaking thus pulled up into the field of consciousness two other associated ideas: namely, His coming in glory and power and the ushering in of the Golden Age, the Millennium. Are these three ideasthe destruction of the Temple, the coming of Christ in glory, and the introduction of the new eraassociated in any passage in the Scriptures? Most certainly. In Zechariah, chapter 14, for instance, the Prophet foretells the destruction of Jerusalem in the day of Jehovah (vv. 1,2), the going forth of Jehovah to battle against the nations besieging Jerusalem when His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives (vv. 3,4), and the golden era of the Millennium when Jehovah will be King over all the earth (v. 9 ff.). By asking this question, the Apostles showed that they were familiar with the Book of Zechariah, at least with chapter 14, and possibly related passages. All people who want the truth should search the Scriptures daily. To neglect to do so is a tragic mistake. Jesus answered the two questions raised by the apostles. Matthew, however, gives His answer to the second question only "and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" The answer to the first question is recorded in the parallel passage of Luke 21:20-24.
An examination of Matthew 24:4-31 shows that Matthew did not record Christ's answer to the first question: namely, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, which occurred in A.D. 70. For in verses 4 and 5 Jesus warns against false messiahs. In verse 6 He speaks about the wars which characterize the Christian Dispensation. In verses 7 and 8 He designates the sign of the end of the age. In verses 9-14 He speaks of the first half of the Tribulation, which is called a period of travail. In verses 15-28 He discusses the second half of the Tribulation. Finally, in verses 29-31 He speaks of His glorious Coming after the Tribulation. In view of all these facts, one sees that Matthew does not record Christ's answer to the first question. On the other hand, a close scrutiny of verses 4-31 shows that in this passage Jesus was answering the question relative to the sign of His Coming and of the end of the world.
This second question is a double one. The apostles understood that there would be one sign of two events: the Second Coming and the end of the world. The expression "the end of the world" is very unfortunate. The apostles did not use the word that is usually rendered world, a term referring to the literal, physical, material earth. On the contrary, they used a term that generally refers to an age, a period of time. The apostles, therefore, understood that there would be some thing or some event which would serve as a sign of the nearness of Christ's Coming and of the end of the present dispensation, during which Christ is absent from the earth and in the presence of God.
In verses 4 and 5 Jesus warned His disciples against being led astray by false messiahs. He revealed that many would come in His name, claiming to be the Messiah. They would come in His name, not as Jesus of Nazareth, but as the Messiah for whom the nation has long waited.IV. THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION
The first one who claimed to be the promised Messiah was Bar Cochba, who led a revolt against the Romans in A.D. 132. According to tradition, the famous Rabbi Akiba co-operated with and encouraged this impostor. The revolt against Rome dragged on for four years before it was finally suppressed. Those Jews who survived to the end of the war were banished from the country and scattered among the nations.
From time to time, since the days of Bar Cochba to the present, different ones have laid claim to Messianic honors and have promised the people of Israel deliverance from their oppressors and from the miserable plights in which they have found themselves. No doubt some of these men making such claims were honest, but deceived. In all probability some were deceivers and impostors. In many cases these false messiahs with inflammatory propaganda whipped certain unsuspecting and suffering Jewish communities into hysterical revolts against the civil authorities. On such occasions the governments against whom these revolts were launched blotted out, with ruthless iron hands, every vestige of insubordination. When these insurrections were suppressed, the civil authorities usually enacted legislation that limited the liberties of the Jews and made their lot more miserableeven approximating abject slavery in the Jewish ghettos. Those who are interested in false messiahs should read Messianic Speculations in Israel, by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.
After warning the disciples against false messiahs, Jesus speaks of the period during which He would be absent from the world and foretells that it would be characterized by wars and rumors of wars: "And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled; for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet" (v. 6). Although Jesus the Messiah is called by the Prophet Isaiah the "Prince of Peace," and by his disciples was thus recognized, He did not wish them to have any delusions concerning the peace of the world. In His last quiet talk with them, He said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). In both these quotations Jesus assumes that there will be wars and tribulations for His disciples throughout the period of the Christian Dispensation.V. THE SIGN OF CHRIST'S SECOND COMING AND OF THE END OF THE AGE
The reason that there will be wars throughout this era is that the causes of war are still here. What causes wars? In the first place, the one who first caused insurrection and rebellion against God's authority is still plying his nefarious activities wherever possible (Ezek. 28:11-19). In the Hebrew language he is called Satan, the adversary; in the Greek he is called the devil. By the Lord Jesus he is called the prince of the world (John 12:31 and 14:30). By the Apostle Paul he is spoken of as the prince of the powers of the air (Eph. 2:1-3). So long as Satan is loose in the world, that long there will be wars.
The second cause of wars is the unregenerated heart of man: "Whence come wars and whence come fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your pleasures that war in your members?" (James 4:1). So long as the hearts of men are not regenerated by the Spirit of God, just that long will there be strife and wars. Jesus said, therefore, "... these things [wars and rumors of wars] must needs come to pass."
When, however, the devil and all evil spirits are cast into the abyss (Rev. 20:1-3), and all men accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and become regenerated, we shall have a warless worldbut never until then.
Whenever a local war breaks out, Jesus declares, "the end is not yet." For such wars have no prophetic significance since they occur throughout the Christian Era.
When an ordinary local war breaks out, the disciples are not to fear, nor to be troubled, because "the end is not yet." The end of what? The end of the period of which they were speakingthe end of the age.
When a local war breaks out, the end of the age is not yet. "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and earthquakes in divers places. 8 But all these things are the beginning of travail" (Matt. 24:7,8). But what is the significance of the expression "nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom"? This expression is an Old Testament idiom found in II Chronicles 15:1-7. As one sees in II Chronicles 14:9-15, the kingdom of Judah had been invaded by a hostile force. Then the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the Prophet, who went out to meet King Asa of Judah, and who said, VI. THE PERIOD OF TRAVAIL
2 ... Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: Jehovah is with you, while ye are with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. 3 Now for a long season Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law: 4 but when in their distress they turned unto Jehovah, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them. 5 And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in; but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 And they were broken in pieces, nation against nation, and city against city; for God did vex them with all adversity. 7 But be ye strong, and let not your hands be slack; for your work shall be rewarded (II Chron. 15:2b-7).
"This message was spoken directly to the king and to the people of his kingdom, 'all Judah and Benjamin.' Azariah laid down the general proposition that Jehovah is with His people when they are faithful to Him. He also pointed out that for a long season Israel had been without the true God, and a teaching priest, and the law. Then in their distress they had turned to and found Jehovah. In those days of moral and spiritual declension, declared the prophet, ... there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in; but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 And they were broken in pieces, nation against nation, and city against city; for God did vex them with all adversity' (II Chron. 15:5,6). Note the expression, 'There was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in.' What is meant by going out and coming in? Since the message was delivered to the king and the people of Judah, the southern kingdom, the going out and coming in can mean but one thing, namely, their going out of the kingdom of Judah into an adjoining country, and the coming in of a citizen of a neighboring nation by crossing the border into Judah. If an inhabitant of Judah, for instance, wished to cross the border into Israel in order to avoid the horrors of war, he did not escape, because there was war in Israel also. Thus it is clear from the facts of the context that before the prophet's mind appeared a vision of the kingdom of Judah and the nations bordering thereon. Great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the land of Judah and adjoining nations. These nations were 'broken in pieces, nation against nation, and city against city.' The conflict concerning which the prophet was speaking started by the rising up of one of these nations seen in the vision against another; then another came into the conflict. The struggle thus spread until it affected all the territory before the mind of the prophet when he made this historical statement." From Messiah: His Historical Appearance by David L. Cooper, pp. 299-300.
Isaiah the Prophet uses the same idiom in Isaiah 19:1-4. He foretells the devastating civil war that would wreck the entire country. In foretelling it, the Lord uses this same idiom: "And I will stir up the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom" (Isa. 19:2). Since this Old Testament idiom, in the only two instances of its occurrence, indicates a war which breaks out by the rising of one nation against another, or one group against another, and the spreading of the conflict until it involves all the territory that is before the speaker's mind when he uses the expression, one is logically forced to accept the same significance when used by the Lord (Matt. 24:7). When Jesus says, "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom," He refers to a war that begins by the rising of one nation against another and by its spreading until it affects all the territory which is before His mind at the time. From the Olivet Discourse in which this idiom appears, one sees that Jesus has a world outlook in view when He uses the idiom. It, therefore, indicates a world war that starts by the rising of one nation against another and by its developing into a world war.
Having seen that the expression "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" on the lips of Jesus indicates a world war, one is in a position to continue his investigation as to the sign of the end of the age. According to Jesus, there will also occur famines and earthquakes in different places, and pestilences. "But all these things are the beginning of travail" (Matt. 24:8). All of what things? A world war, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in different places of the world.
These four disasters occurring at the same time are the beginning of travail. Another translation which makes the prophecy stand out in bold relief is "all these things are the first birth pain" the warning pain notifying the world that the time is at hand for the creation itself to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21).
Since Jesus gave a world war accompanied by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in different places as the sign of His coming and of the end of the age, no one has any logical reason to expect the return of the Lord and the end of the age until these things have occurred. From time to time throughout the Christian Dispensation, men have arisen who have confidently expected the Lord to return in their own day and have proclaimed from the housetops, as it were, that He was to return on a certain day. It is needless to say that these and all who accepted their teaching were sadly disappointed. God does not run the affairs of the earth according to man-made schedules and timetables. Neither does He fulfill prophecy according to the guessings and speculations of men. On the contrary, He fulfills His predictions as they are written. Men err, "not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matt. 22:29).
Men must not put up their opinions, or what they think should be, as the criterion by which to judge what should or may come to pass. There is but one absolute normthe infallibly inspired written Word. When the devil tempted the Lord Jesus, He took a positive stand upon the written Word, saying, "It is written." For Him the written Word was final.
One man looks at a given passage and declares that it teaches a certain doctrine. Another looks at the same passage and sees in it something entirely different. Again, the third man looks at it and is positive that it teaches something different from what the other two men see in it. All three cannot be right. Only one can be right. How can one know that he is interpreting the Scriptures correctly? The man who wills to do the will of God shall know of the doctrine of the Redeemer (John 7:17). Regardless of how brilliant a person may be, and what his educational qualifications are, he cannot see truth perfectly unless he is absolutely surrendered to do the will of God under all conditions, as God leads and enables him.
A person can take something into his heart that is questionable, that may develop into a spiritual idol, and that is influencing him unconsciouslywithout his being aware of what has come to pass in his very innermost souland at the same time he wants to know the will of God on some important matter. As proof of this proposition, study carefully the following quotation:
14 Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. 2 And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 3 Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? 4 Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Every man of the house of Israel that taketh his idols into his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I Jehovah will answer him therein according to the multitude of his idols; 5 that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols (Ezek. 14:1-5).
One must, moreover, believe that the Scriptures are God's revealed will and that God said what He meant and meant what He said. Finally he must follow the Golden Rule of Interpretation: "When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise."
Has there been a world war attended by famines, earthquakes in different places, and pestilences, such as Jesus foretold in the Olivet Discourse? In the summer of 1914, without any declaration of war, Germany rose up against France and struck with her great military might; England entered the fray; then Russia threw her might into the conflict. From time to time different nations were drawn into the struggle. At that time, according to certain statisticians, there were sixty-four sovereign nations in the world. All but seven countries were involved: Denmark, Holland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
One or two of these seven were on the verge of entering when the war stopped, November 11, 1918. Without question all nations were affected by this holocaust of destruction.
By common consent, the great war of 1914-18 is spoken of as World War I. There is no question in the mind of the world about that great conflict being a world war. The war of 1939-45 is called World War II. Frequently we hear people talking about World War III, by which the world is often threatened. According to the sure word of prophecy, there will be three world wars during the Great Tribulation. As to whether or not there will be another world war before the Tribulation begins, no one can say. But the Lord knows.
According to the prediction of Jesus, as we have seen, accompanying the war which He mentions are famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in different parts of the world. Was the world at that time plagued with any of these? There were famines on an unprecedented scale in eastern and central Europe, as well as in China and the Far East. According to some statistics, hundreds of thousands of people died of malnutrition and starvation. But what about earthquakes? There was an unprecedented number of earthquakes. What about pestilences? Myriads of people were swept into untimely graves by cholera and typhus epidemics; but, according to some statisticians, the flu epidemic of 1918-19 alone took a toll of approximately 23,000,000 people.
"But all these things are the beginning of travail," or "But all these things are the first birth pain" (Matt. 24:8). As has already been seen, the events referred to by "all these things" are a world war, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various parts of the world. These disasters constitute the warning pain, notifying men that the period of travail is approaching. What is the significance of the expression travail? The prophets use this figure of speech to convey to the minds of men the distress and suffering that will come upon the world. For instance, Isaiah declares:VII. A RAPID SURVEY OF THE TRIBULATION
7 Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. 8 Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? shall a nation be brought forth at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. 9 Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith Jehovah: shall I that cause to bring forth shut the womb? saith thy God (Isa. 66:7-9).
Standing before an intelligent audience, Isaiah declares, "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child." He speaks in irony in order to grip the attention of the people. Then he asks, "Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things?" These rhetorical questions demand an emphatic denialNo one! Along with these questions he asks, "Shall a land be born in one day?"¹ An impossibility. "Shall a nation be brought forth at once?" The answer to this questionno. As the labor pains are necessary to the natural birth of a child, so there must be a period of suffering and distress before the new Israel is born. "For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." This translation of the Hebrew is accurate, but it does not fit in with the thought of the passage. Another rendering just as accurate and faithful to the text, and that accords with the drift of thought, is "When Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." Zion, the mother of world-Jewry, figuratively speaking, must go through the period of travail in order that she might bring forth her children. As the labor pains in childbirth end in the birth of a child, so Zion's travail will result in the birth of the new Israel. God, who brings to the birth, lets nature take its course and allows the child to be delivered.
Jeremiah the Prophet uses the same figure of travail to convey the idea of intense suffering and applies it to the individual Israelite.
4 And these are the words that Jehovah spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. 5 For thus saith Jehovah: We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. 6 Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child: wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? 7 Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble but he shall be saved out of it (Jer. 30:4-7).
It is hard for one to visualize the intense suffering through which Israel will pass in the period of travail. Zechariah states that two thirds of the people of Israel will die during this period, and that the third part which survives will be further purged:
8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith Jehovah, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein 9 And I will bring the third part into the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on my name and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God (Zech. 13:8,9).
In Matthew 24:9-28 is a prediction concerning the Great Tribulation. Since in Chapter VI of this volume the Great Tribulation is discussed, only the briefest mention of various items will be made here.VIII. THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
As may be seen in Chapter V, the Rapture of all born-again believers occurs before the Tribulation begins and takes place between the events "mentioned in Matthew 24:8 and those in verse 9.
The Great Tribulation continues for seven years. The first half of it is set forth in verses 9-14. In these verses one sees that the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will be persecuted. Since the church will be removed before the Tribulation, who are these that will be persecuted during that time? They are the tribulation saints that are won to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by the 144,000 Jewish servants of God who conduct the world-wide revival (Isa. 26:9; Rev. 7:1-17).
Since iniquity will abound and the tribulation saints will be persecuted, the love of the manythose who have made a public profession of Christ without being born againwill wax cold and fall away. During the Tribulation, "this gospel of the kingdom² shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14).
The second half of the Tribulation is presented in Matthew 24:15-28. In verses 15-18 Jesus assumes that the Jewish Temple will be standing in the Tribulation. Isaiah foresees the rebuilding of this structure (Isa. 66:1-4).
In verses 19-23 Jesus vividly sets forth the distress of the second half of the Tribulation. Nothing in the past or future can compare with it. If those days were allowed to continue, the entire human family would be wiped from the face of the globe. They have, therefore, in the counsel of God, been shortened.
Verses 23-28 foretell the appearance of false messiahs and false prophets who will by the power of Satan perform wonders in order to deceive the people. These miracles will be of such a nature that even the elect will have difficulty in determining the origin or the power by which they are wrought. These false leaders will claim that the Messiah is present in the world, having secretly come. When, however, the Lord comes, His glory will emblazon the heavens and will flash across the skies as the lightning flashes from east to west.
AND THE RAPTURE OF THE TRIBULATION SAINTS
At the conclusion of the Tribulation, the last blackout that is mentioned in the Scripture will occur: "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken" (Matt. 24:29). This prediction is to be interpreted literally.
When the entire earth is enveloped in midnight darkness, "then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven" (Matt. 24:30a). The inhabitants of the world will be terrified and mourn, for they shall see the sign of the Son of man which will burst in full-orbed splendor in the skies above.
Then Christ will send forth His angels with the sound of a trumpet to gather His elect from the four corners of the globe. Who are these elect? They are undoubtedly the tribulation saints who survive to the end of the Tribulation.
¹ Some expositors, not noticing accurately the wording of the question, Shall a land be born in one day?" (Isa. 66:8), have confused it with the prediction "And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day" (Zech. 3:9). As one knows from parallel passages, Israel's period of travail will last seven years. When, at the end of the period, the remnant of Israel repudiates its national sin and pleads for mercy, God will remove the iniquity of that land in one daythe last day of the Tribulation (Hos. 6:1-3). There is, therefore, no contradiction between these passages, but perfect harmony.
² In Galatians 1:6-10 Paul declares that there is but one gospel. When matters concerning the Kingdom stand out in bold relief, the message is called the gospel of the Kingdom. When, however, the emphasis is placed upon the grace of God, the message is called the gospel of the grace of God. When the gospel is thought of in connection with eternity, it is called the everlasting gospel.
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