The end of the age is coming. Jesus warned His disciples that this world as we know it has a finite life span. Unfortunately, through the years, Jesus’ Words have been twisted and misunderstood. Among other disputes within the church that have arisen from this teaching is the timing of how all this will occur.
A large part of this problem of interpretation is sequencing. Bible prophecy often has a telescoping aspect. The far away seems near. Prophets saw the future as God intended but couldn’t necessarily distinguish between what would happen sooner versus later. This resulted in dual fulfillment of some prophecies and the mashing together of many events so that they all seemed to happen at the same time. This is the issue associated with Jesus’ prophecies in Matthew 24.
How do we know this? First, in Matthew 24:4 (ESV), Jesus warns His disciples about one major principle after they’ve asked Him what the end will look like:
And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.”
The NIV and KJV translations use the word “deceive.” Make sure you aren’t deceived. That’s the principle command beginning this passage of end-times events. If you’re Jesus’ disciple, you need to rightly divide the Word of God to get this right.
Jesus says that over the years false prophets will arise; wars; rumors of wars; nations fighting other nations; internal conflict within nations as factions, i.e. kingdoms, contest with one another, and a multitude of natural catastrophic events such as famines and earthquakes. These will all increase dramatically in latter days, but as with the labor of a woman soon to give birth, they are simply the signs of this impending event (Matthew 24:5-8).
We have seen all these signs ramp up since the beginning of the 20th Century. World War I followed by WWII, followed by the birth of Israel as a nation as a major milestone that initiated the Middle East conflicts; increasing civil unrest within nations, including America, beginning with the radical 1960s until today with such animosity between people of differing political, racial, and social beliefs that civil war seems imminent; multiplied natural disasters of unprecedented scope and of such intensity as has never before been experienced on earth; all these are but birth pains.
The next Word that Jesus says is critical: “Then.” Matthew 24:8 records this:
“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.”
Websters Dictionary 1828 gives this second definition of the word “then”: Afterward; soon afterward or immediately.
Thus, the various birth pains happen, and only then does the next event occur. Speaking of the church, Jesus tells us that “they” will deliver us up to tribulation and all nations will hate us because of the Name of Jesus. Who are “they”? Unbelievers to whom Christianity is a threat. What do true Christians do? They discern and perceive the truth. In this, they are not deceived as is the rest of the world. “They” cannot abide by this because it doesn’t allow them to control Christ-followers as they can everyone else. This tribulation has been happening in the 10/40 Window for many years. I believe it must come to America for fulfillment of the prophecy.
Following this – let’s call it for what it is – persecution, Jesus tells us the next sequence of events in Matthew 24:10-12:
“And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”
“And then” indicates this comes after, or perhaps in the midst of, the tribulation of persecution. Who will fall away? One must be part of something to fall away from it. In this case, again, the church is the object from which people will turn away. Within the church, betrayals will occur. More and more false doctrines will be taught as so-called prophets tickle the ears of many.
We’ve already seen a great increase in lawlessness in just the last couple years. It is caused by those with hard hearts whose conscience has been seared and the truth is foreign to them. This results in growing coldness, indifference, and the lack of any kind of love for others. What has been visibly progressing to this point will grow more pronounced.
Have we seen the indicators of these things? Absolutely. Consider how churches have abandoned the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God. The people in these churches believe anything because they’ve discarded the truth. All who embrace the falsehoods will turn against those who hold to true Biblical values. The wolves in sheep’s clothing will act on behalf of the world – because they are of the world – and only a remnant of the true church will remain.
All this will continue up until the Rapture when Jesus snatches this remnant – His true Bride – away to deliver the unbelieving world up to God’s wrath. During the Tribulation, a revival of belief in Christ will cause many to follow Him, contrary to all the suffering they will endure from those who hate Christ. This brings us to Matthew 24:13-14 in the timing sequence:
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 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.”
Those who come to faith during this awful period must endure. As they do, their perseverance of belief in Jesus will save them. As to the Gospel being preached throughout the world, God has it covered with the witnesses He brings forth, and even an angel proclaiming the Good News. All these things happen according to God’s sequential timing; then the end comes with the return of Jesus in His Second Coming.
After warning of all these things that the His church will experience, Jesus turns His attention back to Israel and the events that will happen beginning at the midpoint of the Tribulation. Antichrist will desecrate the newly built temple, and Jews who have heard and believed Jesus’ Words will flee to the stronghold of Petra as the Great Tribulation of the second half of the 7-year horrors continue to befall the earth.
The chaos and violence are so immense during this time that humanity would completely destroy itself and the world without God’s intervention. However, He brings an end and does so because of those who have come to faith in Him, and in order to save them for His future purposes.
It all makes sense when we get the timing right. Everything will occur in its proper order. Thank God He has given us this glimpse of things to come so that we can prepare; that we can brace ourselves in order to be a light to the world as we occupy until Jesus comes.