Matthew 24

Thursday Evening Bible Study

May 17, 2007


Jesus has been teaching in the Temple during this final week in Jerusalem.

Sometimes it’s just hard to get motivated.


Being A MOM !

One day a man comes home from work to find total mayhem at home. The kids were outside still in their pajamas playing in the mud and muck. There were empty food boxes and wrappers all around. As he proceeded into the house, he found an even bigger mess. Dishes on the counter, dog food spilled on the floor, a broken glass under the table, and a small pile of sand by the back door. The family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing, and a lamp had been knocked over. He headed up the stairs, stepping over toys, to look for his wife. He was becoming worried that she may be ill, or that something had happened to her. He found her in the bedroom, still in bed with her pajamas on, reading a book. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked “what happened here today?” She again smiled and answered, “You know everyday when you come home from work and ask me what I did today?” “Yes”, was his reply.” She answered, “Well, today I didn’t do it!”

Jesus is getting near to the time when He will no longer be with the disciples.  How is He going to keep them motivated?  What kinds of things are going to keep them going?

:1-2 Temple Destruction

:1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.

:2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

Herod the Great began renovating Zerubbabel’s temple in 20 BC. In Jesus’ day, the work was still going on. The work would not be finished until 64 AD.

Herod’s Temple was known for it’s massive stones, many of them 10-12 feet in length, some up to 26 feet in length. It was difficult to see how they could ever come apart.

The Romans were known for being respecters of other nations’ religions. They had never torn down another nation’s temples. I would imagine the Jews in Israel felt pretty good about their Temple, despite the fact of the Roman rule over the land. But that changed in AD 70 when Titus moved to put down the Jewish revolt.

When the Titus took Jerusalem, he intended that the temple be left in tact. After getting into the city, the battle headed toward the temple where 6,000 Jews were holed up. On August 30, in the attack in the inner court, a soldier tossed a firebrand through a window into one of the side chambers. Titus rushed up shouting commands for the fire to be extinguished, but wasn't obeyed. Another soldier tossed a burning brand into the Holy Place that set the sanctuary itself on fire. The 6,000 people in the temple complex died.

The fire melted the gold of the Temple and the molten gold seeped into the cracks between the stones. The Romans pulled the stones apart in order to salvage the gold.

:3-14 Signs of the End

:3 Now 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?"

Now across the Kidron valley, sitting on the Mount of Olives and looking back at the Temple, the disciples start asking questions. They’re assuming that the destruction of the Temple would be the end of the world. Jesus will move on to a time long after the destruction of the Temple. What follows is called the “Olivet Discourse”, Jesus’ message from the Mount of Olives.

Mark (13:3) tells us that Peter, James, John, and Andrew were the specific disciples asking the questions.

Some see verses 4-14 as a description of events during the first half of the tribulation and verses 15-28 as the second half of the tribulation.

I’m not sure I’d limit verses 4-14 to the first half of the tribulation, unless you want to conclude that we’re already in that time period (I don’t think that’s true).

Another possibility is that vs. 4-8 precede the tribulation, vs.9-14 refers to the first half of the seven year tribulation, vs.15-28 refer to the last half or the tribulation, and vs.29-51 refer to related subjects to His coming.

:4-8 Before the Tribulation

:4 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you.

:5 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

:6 "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

We see these kinds of things continually through man’s history.

:7 "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

Nation will rise … - there is some concern in security circles that Israel is preparing for a possible war with Iran this summer. The Iranians are on the verge of the ability to build a nuclear bomb. Ahmadinejad feels it’s his purpose in life to bring about the end of the world and the coming rule of the “Mahdi”, or Islamic ruler of the world.

:8 "All these are the beginning of sorrows.

:9-14 1st Half of Tribulation

:9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.

:10 "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.

:11 "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

:12 "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

An increase in crime. People not caring any more.

loveagape – brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence

will grow coldpsucho – to breathe, blow, cool by blowing

Increased sin decreases godly love.

:13 "But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

This may be something that is meant solely for those in the Tribulation, but I don’t think so. The principle applies across the board to all believers.

There is a sense in which we have security in our salvation.

(John 10:28-29 NKJV) "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. {29} "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

But there is also a sense in Scripture that reminds us that we need to make it to the end of the race and not quit halfway through.

(Heb 3:12-14 NKJV) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; {13} but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. {14} For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,

:14 "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

The gospel will be preached to the nations. Some see the angel of Rev. 14:6-7 as fulfilling this.

I don’t think we ought to sit around though and expect the angel to finish what we were unwilling to do. We ought to be concerned about preaching the gospel to the nations.

An American evangelist was invited to preach in Peru. Since he spoke no Spanish, a local missionary agreed to interpret. At the close of the first service, a Peruvian pastor came up to the interpreter and said, “I could understand every word you said. But who was that rude fellow who kept interrupting you?”

-- Elzena A. Scott, Mesa, Arizona, in The Christian Reader, March/April, 1995, p. 16.

Sometimes God wants us to be that “rude” fellow who was faithful to share Jesus, even with people who couldn’t understand him.

Jesus told His disciples:

(Mat 28:18-20 NKJV) And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. {19} "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
This is our commission as well.


Dr. Kermit Long says, “With all our education, our fine buildings, our image of the church, we are doing less to win people to Christ than our unschooled forefathers did. We’re no longer fishers of men, but keepers of the aquarium, and we spend most of our time swiping fish from each other’s bowl.”

:15-28 The Great Tribulation (2nd half)

:15 "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand),

As unclear as it is as to when events will take place in the Tribulation, there is one event that stands out as a very concrete time marker – this “abomination of desolation”. It comes from the prophecy known as the “Seventy Weeks” of Daniel, a prophecy concerning the time of the Messiah’s arrival. We’ve seen in previous studies that the “weeks” are groups of seven years, and that the first 69 weeks gave the time of the Messiah’s first appearance, actually predicting the day of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, something that had just occurred days earlier in our narrative in Matthew. The final “week” is the period of time we call the “Tribulation”, a period of seven years that leads up to the Messiah’s Second Coming.

(Dan 9:26-27 NKJV) "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

At the end of the first 69 weeks, Messiah would be cut off – Jesus would die. The people of the prince to come destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, the “people” being the Romans. The “prince who is to come” is the antichrist. The antichrist will have some sort of connection to Rome. Now we zoom into the future where the final “week” will occur:

{27} Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;

The “he” is the antichrist, who will make some sort of treaty with Israel for seven years. Some have suggested that the treaty might even have something to do with the rebuilding of the Temple, though that might have already occurred when this happens.

But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."

This is the “abomination of desolation”. The antichrist will do something so “abominable” that his act will eventually lead to desolation, perhaps the destruction of the future Temple.
The “abomination” might have to do with the stopping of sacrifice.
Paul gives us another hint:

(2 Th 2:3-4 NKJV) Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, {4} who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

In Jesus’ day, there had already been one abomination of desolation – the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes had ordered a pig sacrificed to Jupiter in the Temple of Jerusalem. This was an abomination. The desolation was the Temple becoming “unclean”. The Temple would later be cleansed when the Maccabees revolted and took back the Temple.
But Jesus isn’t talking about a past abomination of desolation, He’s talking about something that is still yet to come.
One of the things this event requires is that there must be a Temple.

:16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

People in Israel will need to pay attention to this.

John’s vision matches up with this picture:

(Rev 12:13-14 NKJV) Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. {14} But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

The “woman” is Israel, who will flee for 3 ½ years from the antichrist. The “wilderness”, as the “mountains” (our verse) is most likely the area of Jordan west of the Dead Sea, the area around the ancient city of Petra (Is. 16).

:17 "Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.

Houses had patios on their rooftops.

:18 "And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

:19 "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

:20 "And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

:21 "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

We call this final 3 ½ years of the Tribulation the “Great Tribulation”, because it will be so much worse than the first 3 ½ years.

:22 "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

the elect – who are “the elect”? The answer to this question will change how you view this chapter.

There are some who say the “elect” is the church, those God has chosen to believe in Him.

There are Scriptures to back this view – the New Testament epistles has references to the church as being “elect”.
These folks will also tend to look at the church as having replaced Israel in God’s prophetic plan. They will take Old Testament passages intended for the nation of Israel and say that the church will now fulfill these prophecies, such as establishing a kingdom on the earth.
If the “elect” is the church, then you also have to come to the conclusion that the church is going to go through the tribulation period.

I believe the “elect” is the nation of Israel.

Look at the passage. Who would be affected by their “flight” (vs. 20) being on the Sabbath? Only the Jew who has restrictions as to how far they can travel on the Sabbath.
Some may say, “But He’s talking to His disciples (vs.3)!” I would reply that it’s Jesus’ JEWISH disciples He’s talking to.

:23 "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it.

:24 "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

signs and wonders – some folks get fooled by miracles and pseudo-miracles. Just because a miraculous thing happens doesn’t mean that God was behind it. Satan and the antichrist will be able to perform miracles and deceive many.

(Deu 13:1-3 NKJV) "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, {2} "and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'; which you have not known; 'and let us serve them,' {3} "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The antichrist himself will deceive many into thinking that he is the Messiah. The prefix “anti” means “instead of”, not “opposite”. We think of the antichrist as the “opposite” of Jesus (which he is), but in reality he is the one who is coming to take the place of Jesus, the one people will believe in “instead of” Jesus.

elect – again, the nation of Israel will apparently be persuaded for a short time to follow after the antichrist, before he turns on them.

:25 "See, I have told you beforehand.

:26 "Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it.

inner rooms – it’s interesting that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had a prophecy years ago claiming that Jesus would come back, and when He didn’t, they claimed that He actually did come back in 1917 and was in a secret chamber at their headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

:27 "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

It will be very obvious when Jesus returns. There will be no doubt about it.

(Rev 1:7 NKJV) Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him…

:28 "For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

There’s a lot of debate over what this phrase means. It’s a bit unclear.

eaglesaetos – an eagle; some think this should be translated “vultures” since eagles don’t eat dead carcasses.

What does this mean?

1. Some see it as eagles – the believers are the eagles, Jesus is the carcass – in other words we’ll know Jesus has returned because we’ll be with Him.

2. Some see it as a carcass and vultures – in other words, it is obvious when Jesus returns, just like it’s obvious that someone is dead when there’s vultures flying around.

3. In the same way, some think that where there’s spiritual corruption (the carcass), there will be judgment (the vultures).

4. Another idea is that Jesus is alluding to the battle of Armageddon, where the land of Israel will be littered with carcasses and birds eating the dead bodies (Rev. 19:17-19), which takes place at the return of Christ.

:29-31 Jesus Returns

:29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

These same pictures of the end of the world are found in

(Isa 13:9-10 NKJV) Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. {10} For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine.

(Joel 2:31 NKJV) The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

(Joel 3:15 NKJV) The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness.

:30 "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

What is the “sign”?

Some see it as the “lightning flashing from the east and the west” …

Others see it as the Shekinah, the glory of God.

It might be Jesus Himself.

(Zec 12:10 NKJV) "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

:31 "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

This would be the gathering of the rest of the Jews who have survived and were scattered during the Tribulation.

:32-35 The Fig Tree

: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.

The parable has a couple of important aspects.

1. There are signs that show us what is around the corner.

Fig trees lose their leaves during the winter. In the springtime the leaves begin to appear again and show you that summer is right around the corner.
In the same way, when you see all these various signs coming together, the signs are like the leaves on the fig tree, showing you that you are in a special season of the year. The signs should be showing us that Jesus is very close. The more signs, the closer He is.
Some might say, “But Christians have been saying that Jesus is coming back for centuries!” I would say that looking at the signs, He’s now closer than ever.

2. The fig tree itself has significance.

We’ve already seen the subtle references to the identity of the fig tree in this final week of Jesus’ life.
(Mat 21:18-19 NKJV) Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. {19} And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Immediately the fig tree withered away.
It is after this episode of Jesus cursing the fruitless fig tree that Jesus tells a parable about a landowner looking for fruit from his vineyard and what the landowner would do to the vinedressers who would not give him his fruit.
(Mat 21:33-34 NKJV) "Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. {34} "Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.
(Mat 21:41 NKJV) They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."
(Mat 21:45 NKJV) Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.
I think Jesus has already identified the fig tree as a picture of Israel.
Not only would these various “signs” be a signal that the end was near, but the budding of Israel once again as a nation is a sign as well, perhaps the greatest sign we’ve seen yet.
What other ancient nation has been conquered, scattered, and come back to life after two thousand years?

:33 "So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near; at the doors!

:34 "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

Two possibilities:

“Generation” might refer to the Jews, the race of the Jews, that they won’t pass away until all this is fulfilled. In other words, the Jews won’t be exterminated, no matter how hard the latest Hitler tries.

“Generation” might refer to the group of folks who are around when the fig tree puts forth leaves. Israel became a nation in May of 1948. We’re still in that era.

:35 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

There are only two things in this room that are forever.

The people you are sitting with.

The book you are studying.

Don’t spend too much time on things that don’t last.

:36-44 Coming Unexpectedly

:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

People that try and set dates and predict when Jesus will return are not telling the truth.

:37 "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

:38 "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,

:39 "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

days of Noah – we can learn lessons about what the days of Noah were like – the violence and the rebellion, but the picture Jesus paints is the picture of life as usual. There will be a sense in which life will be going on as usual when Jesus returns.

:40 "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.

:41 "Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.

Some see these verses as a description of what will happen at the second coming – and in this case the one that is taken is taken in judgment because they did not believe in the Lord Jesus, and the one that is left is the believer who comes into the Kingdom of Jesus.

I see this as a picture of the Rapture – the one event tied to the Second Coming that is completely unknown as to when it will happen.

The sequence of main events:

The battle of Gog and Magog – Iran and Russia invade Israel (Eze. 38-39).
The Rapture
The Tribulation starts
The abomination of desolation, midway through the Tribulation
The Great Tribulation, culminating in the battle of Armageddon
Jesus returns

You could probably make a point of calculating the day that Jesus returns based on the abomination of desolation, even counting to the day when He comes. In fact, the armies at Armageddon are not gathered to fight each other, they’re gathered to fight Jesus (Rev. 19:19).

But the Rapture, the snatching away of the church before the Tribulation starts, this could happen at any moment, while life goes on as usual.

:42 "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

:43 "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.

:44 "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Three (of many) reasons why I believe in the Rapture happening before the Tribulation:

1. It best reconciles a sudden return with a predictable return.

I can predict when Jesus is coming back.
(Dan 12:11 NKJV) "And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.

When the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1290 days (3 1/2 years) until Jesus returns.

But the Rapture, when Jesus takes His church off this earth, which happens at the beginning of the tribulation period, can't be pinpointed. We can only get the sense that it's getting closer.

2. Jesus promises to keep the faithful church from the tribulation

(Rev 3:10 NKJV) "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

3. It fits best with our understanding of the tribulation being a time of God's wrath

(Rev 6:17 NKJV) "For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
(1 Th 5:9 NKJV) For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

:45-51 Two Different Servants

:45 "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?

:46 "Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

:47 "Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

:48 "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'

:49 "and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,

:50 "the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

:51 "and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Be Ready

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the fascination of prophecy that we neglect the very reason God has given it to us.
God’s desire is to motivate us to follow Him.
Some people want to scoff at our interest in prophetic things – they say, “Christians have been saying for thousands of years that Jesus would come back, and they were all fooling themselves”.
Note that it was the “evil” servant who took the line that the Master was not coming back.
Note that Jesus’ intention was for us to live each day as if today was the day of His return.
And when you wake up, read the newspapers, and read your Bible, you will hopefully realize that it’s not just wishful thinking, He’s right at the door.
When Dwight David Eisenhower (his mother named him Dwight after D.L. Moody) was President of the United States he visited family in Denver over a weekend. His wife, Mamie, was from there. He went to a Presbyterian church on Sunday morning, and then set off on a special errand. He had been told about a little guy by the name of Paul Hanley, Jr. who was dying of cancer.
Imagine the scene as President Eisenhower in his limousine arrived unannounced on a Sunday afternoon at the modest little home of the Haleys. When Paul Haley, Sr. answered the knock at the door, imagine his surprise at finding President and Mrs. Eisenhower standing there. He had not shaved that morning, nor combed his hair. He was wearing an faded, old pair of blue jeans, and a dirty T-shirt.
Eisenhower, pretending to ignore his appearance, said kindly, “I heard that little Paul is sick. I stopped by to see him. Is it all right if I come in. I have a little something for him.”
At the end of his visit, the President took little Paul into his arms and carried him out to the limousine so that he could sit in it for a moment. Then he took him back to the house, returned to his car and left. The whole visit only twenty minutes. But in that short time a crowd had gathered.
When Eisenhower was gone, everybody in the neighborhood was talking about how exciting it was to have the President of the United States drop by. Everybody, that is, except Paul Hanley, Sr. All he could say was, “Think of it. The President of the United States—and here I am without my hair combed, unshaved, wearing a grubby T-shirt, and this pair of old, faded jeans.”

-- Moody Founder's Week Messages, 1978, p. 10-11.