Part 6 of the “7 Things” Series. This Commentary on the Olivet Discourse explains the Lord’s prophecies on the Church Age, the events leading up to His return, and the actual conditions surrounding His Glorious Appearing. It also includes a clear interpretation of the three parables of Matthew 25 showing why they aren’t intended for the Church.
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Hi, this is Jack Kelley. On this session we’re going to talk about the conditions surrounding the Second Coming. This is number five on our list of Seven Things You Must Know To Understand End Times Prophecy.
To get a clear view of what these conditions will be, we’ll go to the expert himself. We’re going to the Book of Matthew, we’re going to be in chapter 24 for most of the time.
In verse 3 of chapter 24:
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Now, Mark 13:3 tells us these four disciples were Peter, James, John, and Andrew and they were actually asking the Lord three questions:
- When will the temple be destroyed?
- What will be the sign of Your coming?
- What will be the sign of the end of the age?
Now, why this question about the temple? Let’s back up and get a little perspective on this passage. This was Tuesday of the last week of the Lord’s life. He had ridden into town on the previous Sunday, what we call Palm Sunday, and for the only day in His entire ministry He had not only permitted but encouraged the crowd to proclaim Him as the Messiah. In fact, when the Pharisees and the teachers of the law heard the crowd shouting Psalm 118, “Hosanna to Him who comes in the Name of the Lord!” They said, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” The implication here was that they were reminding Jesus that His disciples were blaspheming by attributing that Psalm to this event, because that Psalm 118 was reserved for the entrance of the Messianic King into Jerusalem. Jesus said simply, “I tell you the truth. If they would be quiet, the very stones would cry out.” And so, He was saying this was the day ordained in history.
In previous sessions we have said that this was the day—we’ve said that this day fulfilled prophecy of Daniel 9 right to the day. It had been 173,880 days since the decree was issued to restore and rebuild Jerusalem by Artaxerxes Longimanus back in Persia and so, this is the day that was set aside in history for the Messianic king to enter Jerusalem. And so, Jesus was telling the Pharisees, “Look, there’s nothing that’s going to stop this. There’s nothing that can prevent this. If I make these people be quiet—if it takes, the very stones will shout the fact that I am the Messiah King who was to come!”
And so, He’d been there on Sunday and then of course, the next day was Monday and that’s the day that He cleansed the temple. This was then the following day from that, Tuesday, and it was a day like many—like most of the days of the last week of His life—filled with contention, bitter arguments, and very forceful discussions back and forth between Him and the teachers of the Law. You can read all of this in the Gospel of Matthew. This was, in itself, a fulfillment of prophecy.
You know, the fulfillments of prophecy that took place during this week are so numerous that, if you were standing there with a checklist of the 330-odd prophecies that were fulfilled in the First Coming of Jesus Christ, you would have checked off most of them in this week. In fact, some of them happened so rapidly, right on top of each other, that you almost wouldn’t have been able to check them off fast enough.
But you see, in this instance, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy from Exodus in the story of the Passover. You remember, on the 10th day of the month the Hebrew slaves were to choose a lamb and they were to spend the next three days inspecting this lamb to made sure it had no defect, no spot or blemish. On the tenth day they set aside they selected the lamb and set him aside and they started inspecting him. They inspected him for three days, and then, after that three-day inspection, on the 14th they slaughtered the lamb. They took the blood; they put it over their doorpost. They ate the Passover meal that night and about midnight, the destroying angel came through Egypt and took the firstborn. And of course, the next day they all left Egypt and were free again for the first time in several hundred years.
Now Jesus, as you might guess, has been called the Passover Lamb. In fact, that’s the way John introduced Him in his Gospel. He said:
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
And so, He was the personification—the literal fulfillment of the Passover Lamb. And so, the day He rode into Jerusalem (the day we call Palm Sunday) was, in our calendar, April 6th, 32 A.D., but on the Hebrew calendar it was the 10th day of Nissan. The day the Passover Lamb was to be selected. And so that is the day, the only day in history that Jesus permitted Himself to be called the Messiah because by letting that happen, it was in effect, the people were selecting the Passover Lamb.
You remember earlier in His ministry when people guessed that He was the Messiah, He told them, “Shhh! Don’t tell anybody!” And when they tried to take Him by force, basically, and make Him king, He disappeared from their midst on a couple of different occasions. But this particular day He not only permitted, He encouraged it to happen. He went out of His way to fulfill prophecy. He got a colt, a donkey that had never been ridden before. He had His disciples go get it and bring it to Him so that He could ride that, fulfilling prophecies from Zechariah. And on and on it goes.
Now, on the 10th day then, having been selected, the next three days in order to fulfill the prophecy were days of intense interrogation, questioning, challenging. Because you see, they were fulfilling the requirements of Passover, carefully inspecting the chosen Lamb to make sure that there was no spot or blemish. In the case of Jesus, they were making sure there was no defect in His doctrine, they couldn’t catch Him in anything, they couldn’t cause Him to say anything that conflicted with anything He had previously said. It was the most intense scrutiny that He had ever undergone in all of His three year ministry and it happened on those three days—Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And then of course, Thursday is the day that He was crucified and three days and three nights later, the following Sunday, He rose again from the dead. And so that’s how that whole week transpired.
But this is Tuesday. This is the second of the three days and what’s happened here is that they are leaving the temple area, walking eastward back along the path down from the East Gate and up alongside the Garden of Gethsemane to the top of the Mount of Olives and just over the top of the Mount of Olives, a little village called Bethany where Mary and Martha and Lazarus lived. That’s where Jesus was spending the Passover; that’s where He and His disciples were camped, there in the home of Lazarus.
And so, as they are walking out of the temple gate and across the Kidron Valley (just a little valley there) and then right on the other side of the Brook Kidron is the Garden of Gethsemane. You start up a really steep hill to the peak of the Mount of Olives and then just down to the other side to Bethany.
As they are walking along up there, one of the disciples looked back and he saw what was considered in those days one of the most beautiful sights anyone could ever see, and that is, as he looked back he looked down on the temple mount, because the Mount of Olives is higher than the Temple Mount. So, he looked down on the Temple Mount and all the precincts, all of which were built of polished white limestone. And as the sun was setting the reflection of the sun off that polished white limestone, turned everything to this rich golden color and everyone wanted to have that view, at least once in their life. In fact, it was said in those days that he who has never seen the temple in Jerusalem has never seen a beautiful building. And so, this was one of the most beautiful sights that a man could set his eyes on in those days. One of the disciples remarked about it and said, “Look at all the buildings! Isn’t that beautiful!” and Jesus turned to him and said, “I tell you the truth: the day will come soon when not one stone will not be left standing on another.”
And so, that is what prompted the disciples first question when they went to the Mount of Olives—when will the temple be destroyed? Then they tacked on another two questions: What will be the sign of Your coming? And, what will be the sign of the end of the age?
This of course is in Matthew 24:3, and this is the question that leads to a two-chapter briefing, if you will, that we call the Olivet Discourse. You’ll find it in Matthew 24 & 25. You’ll find Peter’s version in Mark 13 & 14 and you’ll find Luke writing about it in chapter 21 of his Gospel. In fact, in Luke’s Gospel, that’s the only place where question one is dealt with. In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 21 you read about the events surrounding the destruction of the temple, about 38 years or so after Jesus was crucified.
Matthew and Mark deal with the second and third questions (what will be the sign of Your coming? And, what will be the sign of the end of the age?) and of course, it’s that second question that we’re interested in in this session because we’re talking about conditions surrounding the Second Coming. And so, we’re interested in what the Lord had to say about what would be the sign of His Coming.
All right. With that introduction, then, let’s start looking at the Lord’s answer starting in verse 4:
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
So here Jesus is saying that the concept of war and the idea of countries being at odds with one another would be characteristics of the age, but that that wouldn’t mean that every time a war came there was about to be the end of the age coming. He’s telling them to be aware of the fact that there is going to be lots of wars and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re at the end of the age.
Then He says in verse 7:
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
Now, you know that birth pangs start off fairly mild and fairly far apart at the beginning of the delivery process, and then as the time for delivery comes closer these birth pangs get closer together and more intense until finally at the end it seems like they are happening almost one right on top of the other. And so, what He’s saying is that the earthquakes He’s talked about, the famines and the pestilence that Luke mentions in his Gospel, these are things that will be obvious throughout the age but as we approach the end, they’ll get a lot more severe, and they’ll get a lot more intense, and they’ll get a lot more frequent.
Of course, we’re recording this just after the first of the year in 2005 and so we’ve just in the past couple of weeks we’ve had this huge disaster over in the Far East—the tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia and India and Sumatra and other countries along the Far East there.
What you see is, this is one of the most devastating events of its kind. A lot of people are saying, “Does this mean the end of the age is come?” Well, it just means it’s coming closer because there have been a lot of earthquakes this year, there have been a lot of hurricanes; there have been a lot of killer storms and these are indicators that the end of the age is coming.
Now it says, in verse 9:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
This is the indication the Lord is giving here is that the Jewish people will never quite fit into the world and they’ll always be at odds with nations that they happen to be in. Then, later on when they get back into their own nation they’ll be at odds with the nations around them.
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Now, remember here He is talking to Jewish men in Israel. All through this series we’ve talked about the fact that Israel is not only not promised that they will escape the Great Tribulation; we learn that one of the two major purposes for the Great Tribulation is the purification of Israel. And so, when He is saying that “he who stands firm to the end” He was talking about the Jewish people clinging to their faith throughout the Great Tribulation as the Lord brings this purification process on Israel, and those who remain faithful throughout the process will be saved.
In verse 14 He says:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
You know, I’ve had this ministry for about five years now—the website ministry (gracethrufaith.com) and when we first started the ministry, we bought a map of the world and we plastered it up on the wall in our office and as we watch the growth of the website we are able to spot different countries where our articles are read. It started off with just a handful, mostly in the U.S. and then it started blossoming and going around the world until now, we are in every state in the U.S. on a regular basis and we are visited regularly in over 125 countries around the world.
Well, you know there are only slightly over 200 countries total, so at most there are only 50 to 75 countries let’s say, that aren’t represented here and that aren’t regular visitors to our website. And so, we’ve always taken this verse in a kind of half joking manner saying, “You know, when we get a little pin in every country in the world then that means the end will come.” And so, we keep pins in the maps and every time, every month we go through the list of countries that have visited us in the preceding month and we update it, we add pins to it.
It’s exciting to watch because now you look at the map and you’ve got many more nations with pins in them than without. There are a few places in Africa and some places over in Asia and—not many countries left though that haven’t got a pin in the map. As we get closer and closer I’ll try to keep you informed here so that you’ll know that when we put the last pin in the last nation then that means that the end will come, it says here in verse 14!
Then Jesus says in verse 15:
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
Now these are things again that point to the Jewishness of this passage. He says, when you see standing in the holy place (talking about the temple in Jerusalem) when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation—that’s a very Jewish phrase, as we’ve talked about on our earlier sessions. This is a phrase that has a specific meaning, it’s happened once in history before and so the people would know exactly what to look for, and they’d know exactly when it happened because they would recognize it when it came.
And then He said, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. And you see, those who are in Judea—Judea is a literal place, physical location on the map. In those days Israel was called Judea. That was the name that they went under in those days and so, when He says, those who are in Judea, He means those in Israel. And so there you have another thing that points this passage to the Jewish people.
Then the third thing is, pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. Well, in the wintertime the mountains of Judea are impassable. There is often snow on the ground up there in the higher elevations and so that’s why He says, pray that your flight will not be in the winter.
But the most important one is that it be not on the Sabbath because you see, orthodox Jews are prevented from travelling on the Sabbath more than one thousand steps.
You’ll find that, for example, from the Temple Mount to the little village of Bethany where Jesus was staying was within what’s called a Sabbath day’s journey. It was within one thousand paces of the temple. And so that’s why Jesus could stay there, otherwise, it would be too far away, and when the Passover Sabbath came He wouldn’t have been able to travel into the city.
And so, this was a very well known Jewish law observed every week, every Sabbath, by the Jews. And so that’s why He told them to pray that their flight will not be on the Sabbath because on the Sabbath they wouldn’t be permitted to run.
Now, He’s telling them that when they see the abomination that causes desolation to flee into the mountains, He’s telling them to head for the hills. He says you’d better pray that this doesn’t happen on the Sabbath because if it does you won’t be allowed to head into the hills.
Then He says:
For then there will be great distress,
The same word is translated in the King James as “tribulation”.
unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
Now you see, here He’s giving this time, this event if you will, a new name. Because up until this point, as we learned from our previous studies, this period of judgment at the end of the age was always called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. That name came from Jeremiah 30, we talked about that in an earlier session. But now Jesus is changing the name, whether He intended to or not; it became changed because of so many New Testament Christians studying this passage, and the name comes from this chapter 24 where it says, “for then there will be great tribulation, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”
And by saying this, He sets apart the normal and natural persecution that the Church has faced down through the centuries. He sets this event apart from all that. Because you know, in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells His disciples, “In this world you’ll have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Well, that’s tribulation with a small “t”, if you will; that is literally translated pressure or persecution. But here, He sets apart this event at the end of the age by calling it the Great Tribulation. And that says, okay, this is the final judgment—and just to make His point He says that there has never been anything this serious or intense happening on Earth before and there never will be again. This is the biggest one of all. Ever.
Well, think of some of the times of tribulation the world has seen: the world wars, the holocaust, the great Flood of Noah, in fact. Think of all those, and He’s saying this will be even more intense, even more devastating than any of those. This will be the worst one that ever happened and there’ll never be another one like it.
Now just so you’ll understand, because we have some kind of a—sort of a watered-down view of what this Great Tribulation is like. There are many passages in the Old Testament that talk about it. But just so you’ll understand because it fits in with our context here of the conditions surrounding the Second Coming, here is a passage from Isaiah 13:9–13 describing the Great Tribulation.
Starting in verse 9 of Isaiah 13:
See, the day of the Lord is coming
—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
to make the land desolate
and destroy the sinners within it.
The stars of heaven and their constellations
will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light.
I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
I will make people scarcer than pure gold,
more rare than the gold of Ophir.
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
and the earth will shake from its place
at the wrath of the Lord Almighty,
in the day of his burning anger.
That sounds pretty serious! Let’s look at this one from Amos 5:18-20:
Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!
I love to read this to my post trib friends.
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
And so you see this Great Tribulation is going to be a terrible, terrible event.
You know, just as an example, this disaster over in the Far East, this tsunami where the death toll now reached close to 150,000 and they say that due to the disease, the pestilence, and the lack of medical attention that the people will suffer through over there, the death toll might actually (before it’s all done) be double that. As many as 300,000 people killed in one event like that.
And so, people are starting to ask, “Does this mean that we’re at the end of the age? Is this one of the signs that we’re at the end of the age?” I checked the population of the world recently, and it’s approaching six billion people. Let’s just round it off to six billion. If the experts are right and three hundred thousand ultimately are killed because of the tsunami and the aftereffects of it, three hundred thousand people—that’s five one-thousandths of one percent of the world population. Five one-thousandths of one percent of the world population.
Now contrast that with what happens in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation. In chapter 6, we have the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Keep in mind, the Great Tribulation doesn’t begin until chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation. And so this story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is something that happens before the Great Tribulation ever starts. It happens in that first three and a half year period of the Seventieth Week of Daniel, but it happens before the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
In Revelation 6 it says that when these Four Horsemen have made their appearance and done their thing, one out of four people on Earth will have been killed—twenty five percent of that six billion population will have been killed before the Great Tribulation ever begins. Now contrast that with the five one-thousandths of one percent in the tsunami and you get an idea of how incredibly disastrous this whole period of judgment is going to be for the world—it is a huge disaster. And as the Lord says, ‘Never seen before, never to be repeated again.’ In Matthew 24:21 He said, “If I didn’t return and put a stop to it not a single human being would survive it.”
And so, the Great Tribulation is an event not to be taken lightly; it’s an event that no one would want to be anywhere near. And praise the Lord, He has told the Church that He will hide us during that time and that we will escape all of the Great Tribulation.
All right. Now we’re ready to deal with the conditions right at the Second Coming. For this I’m going to start in Matthew 24 and look at verses 29, 30 and 31 where He says—and again, I’m quoting Jesus’ own words here:
“Immediately after the distress of those days
“‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
Okay now, we’ve got several good things here to take a look at. It says they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. This is the sentence, this is the claim that got Jesus crucified, you remember?
He’s standing in the trial in front of Caiaphas the High Priest, and the High Priest puts Him under oath. He says, “I adjure you by the Living God, tell us: are you the Christ?” Jesus replies because at this point He hasn’t said a thing in His entire trial. At this point though He is required to answer; and He has to tell the truth because the law requires Him, once He’s put on oath like that, the Law requires Him to answer and, being unable to lie, has to tell the truth. And so, He says, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” And that did it for them. The High Priest tore his garments and they said, “He blasphemes! What do you think?” And the Sanhedrin says, “He is worthy of death!” and that starts the whole process. So, those who say that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah didn’t read that passage very carefully.
Then, in the next sentence He says, “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Now, there are several groups called the elect. The Jews were called the elect, and the Church has been called the elect. And so, when you look at this; when He’s calling His elect, He’s calling His own. Let’s put it that way. He’s calling His own. And where is He calling them from? From one end of the heavens to the other. This is the only hint you get anywhere in Matthew 24 that a group of believers is somewhere in Heaven. And of course, those of us who believe in a pre-trib rapture say, “Well that’s Him calling us. He’s saying, ‘Hey fellas, come on, gather ready. It’s time to go back.’” Because you see, we go up to Heaven to be with Jesus (this is John 14:1-3). We’re hidden during the time of the Great Tribulation—remember the passages when we talked about the rapture, that all say we are going to be removed from the time and the place and any relation to the Great Tribulation. And so we’re hidden up there with Him during the time of judgment and then, when it’s time for Him to come back, we come back with Him. And in Revelation 19 you see all the holy ones riding on white horses coming back with Him—that’s us.
Now, in Mark’s version of this, in Mark 13:27, you have the phrase “from the ends of the Earth to the ends of Heaven” because Mark is writing primarily to Gentiles, and he’s telling the Gentiles that the Church will be gone in Heaven but there will be believers on Earth as well, a great number of people who will have come to faith in Jesus Christ during the Great Tribulation and survived and so they’ll still be on Earth. And so when He calls from one end, from the ends of the Earth as Mark says to the ends of Heaven, He’s calling both groups. He’s calling the ones in Heaven to come back. He’s calling the ones on Earth to gather round because the sign of the Son of Man is coming.
Then the last one is, He says, “When that sign appears in the sky (and Revelation 19 tells us that the sign will be the Heavens opening up and this great cloud of holy ones riding on their white horses with Him in the lead, all coming back toward Earth). He said, “and the nations of Earth will mourn.”
Now, why would the nations of the Earth mourn? This is an event that we have looked forward to for all two thousand years now. Ever since He left the first time, believers have been looking for Him to come back. So why do the nations of the Earth mourn?
Because they will know intrinsically in their hearts that what the Bible has said about Him has been true, that He is Lord and Savior. And they will also know that, as He appears in the sky to make His return trip, it will be too late for them to change their destinies. The door will be closed, the bell will sound, the game will be over and those left outside will be outside forever.
And so there are very important things in here and this happens (Matthew 24 tells us) immediately after the end of the Great Tribulation.
Now let’s skip down to verses 34 and 35 here where we look at another interesting passage in this, because here it says (Jesus is again talking):
Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Here He’s saying to His disciples that all the prophecies relating to Him and His Second Coming will be fulfilled. He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away—there is nothing about what I have told you that isn’t going to happen.”
Now, the critical part of this two-verse passage is the word generation. This word generation has caused a lot of controversy over the years (as you might guess) because here He’s saying, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away.”
Now, the word generation translated there comes from the Greek word, genea; it’s the word from which we get the word “generation” and “genealogy” and things like that. It can mean generation; it is also translated race. And so, people look at that phrase and they take one of three views about this.
The first view is the one held by the Preterists which says that (you know, the Preterists are the ones who believe that all the prophecies of the Second Coming, and Great Tribulation, the Millennium and so on are already fulfilled in history). And so, they look at this passage and say, well, that proves it. Where He says, “I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away.” They say He’s talking to the generation that’s standing around Him right then, the generation of people who are standing around Him right then. That’s the Preterist’s view.
The Idealist’s view, those who believe that the prophecies concerning the end times and the Millennium and all that are just kind of an allegory and are a story, if you will, about the ongoing battle between Good and Evil. They take the second translation of the word genea (race) and they say that simply means that the Jewish race will survive all this. That all through the age of man, there will be Jews on the Earth, the attempts to exterminate the race will fail and the Jews will survive to the end. And, in a sense that’s true. The Jewish people have been remarkably resilient because of the fact that they’ve been watched over by God and so they have never disappeared. They’ve never been vanished from the Earth like so many of the races of those days. You know, you don’t find any Edomites on the Earth today; you don’t find any Ammonites—all those people are gone. And so the Jewish people have been resilient; they do survive and there’s a sense in which that translation is adequate. But it doesn’t completely answer the question.
The third view, the view that’s followed by the Futurists, the ones that believe that the prophecies of the end times are all literal and are all in our future, we read this passage to say where Jesus is telling us the generation that sees the beginning of the fulfillment of these end times signs will also be alive to see their completion. In other words, we believe the passage is saying that all the end times prophecies related to the Second Coming of Jesus will take place within the lifetime of the generation on Earth that’s alive when they begin.
Now one of the most critical end times prophecies of course is the rebirth of the nation Israel in 1948. A lot of people have taken that as the starting point for the fulfillment of all these prophecies. I believe they are correct in that, although all of the prophecies related to the First Coming were fulfilled after the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt, not after the nation of Israel was regathered the first time after the Babylonian captivity. And so if the same thing happens at the time of the Second Coming, rather than looking at 1948, we really ought to be looking at 1967 because ’67 is when Jerusalem became a Jewish city again for the first time in a couple of thousand years.
But the big mistake that’s made in this passage is when we say, “This generation will certainly not pass away” of people believing from that, that all the end times prophecies have to be fulfilled within a generation of these dates, either one of them. And that’s not what it says.
You see, a generation is not a life span—a generation is the time that transpires between the birth of a man and the birth of his first son. All through the Bible as you look at the length of generations, if you average it all up, it comes out just about to forty years. And so from that, people who have looked at this passage and viewed it as the generation that sees the beginning of these signs will also see their fulfillment, those who take the rebirth of Israel say, “Well it has to happen within forty years of 1948.” There was a book written called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Has to Happen in 1988 and of course, it turned out not to be correct.
Well then some others say, “No, the mistake was it’s the city of Jerusalem.” And so they take the city Jerusalem—’67 is when it became a Jewish city again and they add forty years to that, and it comes out to 2007 and of course, that’s still in the future so we don’t know whether that’s going to be fulfilled within that span of time or not.
But the problem is, He never says it will happen within a generation. He simply says that the people who are being born at the time these signs start their fulfilment will also still be alive when all is said and done. And so He’s saying not, it will happen within a generation, but it will happen within the lifetime of the generation that’s being born when these signs begin.
Now, a lifetime in the Bible is more like seventy years. So, if you take seventy years from 1948, or seventy years from 1967, whichever, you can see that this concept is still in the future. But the important thing is that He is talking about the Second Coming. Lots of people like the guy who wrote the book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Has to Happen in 1988, they pin the rapture to the forty years, and the rapture is not what’s being spoken about here—what’s being spoken about here is the Second Coming.
And so, if you read this passage literally as a Futurist, Pre-trib, Pre-mill literal interpretation of Scripture, what it says to you is that the generation that’s alive when these signs start to be fulfilled will still be alive when all is completed. And so, everything relative to the five hundred-and-some-odd Second Coming prophecies that are left unfulfilled yet in the Bible, will take place during the span of one lifetime. That’s exactly what happened in the First Coming of the Lord; all the prophecies related to the First Coming of the Lord were fulfilled within the lifetime of the generation that was alive when it first started.
All right, let’s skip down now to another controversial verse in this Matthew 24 passage (actually, it’s several verses) starting with 36 and reading through 41:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
In the Luke passage, verse 34 of chapter 17, He adds the phrase:
Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
Of course, people who look for the rapture in the Gospels go right to this verse because they say, “Well, there’s your rapture. People will be working, one taken the other left.” And they also put it in the context of the ‘No one knows about the day or the hour’ and say, “Well, here we’ve got a rapture in the Olivet Discourse.” Some who see the rapture as being post-trib point to it and say, “The rapture happens right at the time of the Coming of the Son of Man.” Both of these views are incorrect.
First of all, it doesn’t say, “No one knows the day or the hour.” It says, “No one knows about the day or the hour.” And then it says, “Not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father.”
And so, Jesus was saying to His disciples that at that point, even He didn’t know the details of the Second Coming. Now you say, “Well, He’s God! How come He could not know?” Well, He purposely put aside all those things when He came to Earth. He operated and worked and lived and ministered only in the power of a human being. His miracles were all performed by the power of the Holy Spirit—the same power that you have available to you in performing miracles. That’s why He could say to His disciples, “It’s good for you that I’m going away because if I go away, the Holy Spirit will come, and you will do even greater things than you’ve seen Me doing.”
And so, He was saying, “Nobody knows about the day or the hour.” Now, obviously He found out later on. When He got to Heaven, all this and He came back and He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty, assumed His role of deity again and then all of these things were back in His conscious mind. In fact, in the opening verses of the Book of Revelation, it says that the book is the revelation of Jesus Christ which was given to Him.
And so the things that He dictated to John that became the Book of Revelation are things that were about Him and had been given to Him. And so you see that, between the time when He ascended from the grave into Heaven in 32 A.D. and the time when the Book of Revelation was written in 95 A.D. all of this became knowledge available to Him again and so He knew about it. But at the time He was on Earth He didn’t know these details.
Then it says:
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
Well, this is an interesting phrase as well, because from an earlier discussion we know that there were three groups of people on Earth at the time of Noah. There was Noah and his family who were preserved through the Flood, there were the nations that perished in the Flood, and there was a man named Enoch who disappeared off the face of the Earth, was taken alive into Heaven before the Flood.
And so, if Jesus is saying it’s going to be the same in these days as it was in the days of Noah, then you have Israel representing Noah, if you will, preserved through the Great Tribulation. The nations, being the unbelievers, just as it was at the time of the Flood, perishing in the Great Tribulation; and you have one group who disappears before the Great Tribulation, and that would be the Church. Now, that’s just a little clue; a little hint. You can’t build doctrine on that. We’ve talked about that before when we’ve talked about the rapture. It’s just one of those ideas that is interesting to consider if you already believe that the rapture is going to come before the Great Tribulation.
But the most interesting part of this passage is down at the end where it says:
at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Like I said, Luke’s version in Luke 17:34:
two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.
We think of being taken and the other left as being signs of the rapture. At the rapture, the believers will be taken, and the unbelievers will be left. If those words were accurate translations of the Greek, you could make a good point with that. But you see, they’re really not that accurate. It’s just a general approximation, not a totally accurate translation because in the English, we have a sparsity of words. The Greek language had many more words where you could differentiate between different kinds of things by the words you use.
For instance, in the Greek there are four words that mean love. And they all mean a different kind of love and the kind of love you’re talking about is indicated by the word you use. But we only have that one word—love. And so you have to sort of imply the word and you have to hope the other person gets it. That’s one of the problems with the English language. People who have English as a second language complain about the fact that you can’t be as specific in English as you can be in some of these other languages.
So, let’s go back to the Greek. What does that word “taken” mean? The Greek word is paralambano, it means to join with oneself. Look at it as if you were in a baseball field in school back when you were a kid and you’re choosing up sides for the team and the captains are chosen and they start selecting their team and one of them points to you and says, “I’ll take you.” Well, “take”—what he’s really saying is, “I’m going to join you with me. You’re going to be on my team.”
So that word taken means to join with oneself. Well, that’s not a problem; when the Lord comes in the rapture, He takes the believers, He joins them to Himself. Okay, so what’s the problem?
The problem was with the other word—one taken the other left. The word “left” in the Greek is aphiemi and it means to send away. And that’s a big problem because, in the rapture, the believers (the Church) is taken, sure enough; but the unbelievers are not sent away anywhere, they’re just ignored. It’s a secret event. The Lord comes down in the air and He calls us up to Him and the believers come.
The unbelievers don’t even hear His voice, they don’t see Him, and it being a secret event—one minute the Church is there, the next minute it’s gone. But the unbelievers aren’t sent anywhere. And so, that word left should have been translated sent away and that would have relieved all of the problems relative to the translation.
You see, you can’t put the rapture in this passage, it doesn’t fit there. What fits there, when it says, “one taken and the other left” is a preview if you will, a summary of the Sheep and Goat Judgment that explains this whole idea more fully when we get to the next chapter (Matthew 25).
And so, what He’s talking about is the disposition of living survivors of the Great Tribulation, some who are believers and some who are not. There will be two men in a field; one is a believer, he’ll be received into the Lord’s Kingdom. The other is not a believer, he’ll be sent away into the outer darkness.
Two women grinding with a hand mill; one will be received into the Lord’s Kingdom, the other sent away into the outer darkness. Two people sleeping in the same bed; one will be received into the Lord’s Kingdom, the other sent away into the outer darkness. That’s really what that passage in Matthew 24 reads.
You see, we’ve talked about this before in the context of the rapture of the Church. The doctrine of the rapture was not taught anywhere in the Gospels. The Lord never taught it; He never taught it to His disciples and they never taught it to us. It doesn’t appear in any of the Gospels.
The doctrine of the rapture was not introduced on Planet Earth until A.D. 51, twenty-some years after the crucifixion. It was introduced by Paul and that’s the first time. In fact, he says in 1 Corinthians 15:51, “I’m revealing a mystery (a secret). I’m telling you a secret. We’re not all going die. We’re going to be changed in the twinkling of an eye” and so on. We covered this in our earlier session on the rapture. If you missed that then get the CD called “The Great Tribulation and the Rapture of the Church” and you’ll have a clearer view of it.
But for the purpose of our talk here, “The Conditions Surrounding the Second Coming”, there is no indication anywhere in what the Lord said that there would be a rapture of the Church happening in conjunction with the Second Coming. The people who believe in this are called post-trib believers. Post-tribulation rapture, believing the rapture of the Church will happen at the very end of the Great Tribulation. As you can see, as the Lord explains all this; if you go to the original language, if you go back and look at the passages carefully, you will see that He never talks about any rapture of the Church. There is nothing that you can even imply as being referencing the rapture of the Church. It just doesn’t happen there. The rapture of the Church happened long before that and that’s the way the passage reads.
All right. Let’s finish up this session now with a really quick look at three sections from Matthew 25. We said at the beginning that the Olivet Discourse (Matthew’s version of it) takes up most of chapter 24 and chapter 25. Chapter 25 has to do with three stories the Lord tells to make His point. I believe two of them are parables and one is not.
The first one, Matthew 25, I’m just going to read you the first couple of verses there starting in verse 1. This is called the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (or Ten Virgins) and it says:
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
All right. That’s the opening paragraph to this so-called Parable of the Ten Virgins. I want you to see clearly what we are talking about here.
First of all, let’s look at the timing of this parable.
It says, “At that time”—well, at what time? According to Matthew 24:29, it is after the end of the Great Tribulation, and according to Matthew 24:30 it is after the Lord’s visible return to Earth. And so here you have something that takes place after the Second Coming.
And what is it? It is put into the symbolism of a wedding party, you’ve got a bridegroom and you’ve got some bridesmaids. But the problem is, you don’t have a bride mentioned anywhere. And if there’s any group that is known as the Bride, it is the Church. And you understand, the Church is not mentioned in this parable. And so, those who claim that this parable is speaking about the Church, and that there will be some backsliders at the end of the age who won’t go into the Kingdom because of that are simply misreading the passage.
In the first place, no matter what your rapture position is (pre, mid, post or what) nobody puts the rapture of the Church after the Second Coming. And yet this parable speaks of a time after the Second Coming.
Now, the second thing is, it says that there were ten of these virgins (sometimes called bridesmaids, by the way, in older translations) giving you the idea that these are not the bride but rather the bride’s attendants. And it says the foolish ones took lamps but didn’t take any oil. In those days, a lamp didn’t have an oil reservoir like ours do today. A lamp was really a dish into which you placed a floating wick and then you poured oil into it. The oil was soaked up in the wick, you light the wick and as long as there was oil in the dish the wick produced some light. And so the foolish ones took lamps but didn’t take any oil. The wise took oil in jars along with their lamps.
Well, you know the parable: the bridegroom is a long time in coming but finally He does come, and they all wake up and they start off to catch up with the bridegroom. The five who don’t have any oil ask the five who have some if they can borrow some of theirs and of course, the five who have oil say, “No. If we give you any of ours there might not be enough for us. So Hurry up. Go to the people who sell oil and buy some from them.”
While the five are on their way to buy oil, the Lord comes, He takes the five who had the oil, takes them into the banquet, closes the door. Later on the five who had no oil show up and they knock on the door and try to get in and He says, “I’m sorry, I can’t let you in. I don’t know who you are.” And so that’s the parable.
Well, here’s what’s happening here: This story has to do with the disposition of believers on Earth at the end of the age when the Lord comes back. The oil stands for the Holy Spirit. The five who have the Holy Spirit are believers who survived the Great Tribulation. They weren’t believers in time for the rapture, but they became believers during the Great Tribulation and now, they are living believers who have survived that period of time and the Lord is taking them into (in the context of the parable) into the banquet. The banquet is symbolic of the Kingdom. So, He’s accepting the five who have oil into the Kingdom.
What that means is that the ones who survive the Great Tribulation, who have come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, will be invited into the Kingdom. They’ll go alive into the Millennial Kingdom at the end of the Great Tribulation, just following the Second Coming. The ones who don’t have oil are ones who didn’t accept Him and therefore, they don’t get in. Because the way you get into the banquet is to be a believer. The way you get into the Kingdom is to be a believer. Those who survive the Great Tribulation but are not believers yet, it’s too late for them. They can’t get in.
The third thing I want you to see from all of this is, He’s talking about taking them into a banquet—not taking them into the wedding, but taking them into the banquet. You see, the banquet always followed the wedding. In the context of the parable, we’re not told when, we’re just told that the wedding has already taken place. Because now it’s time for the wedding banquet which follows it.
So the fact that you don’t see a bride anywhere, the fact that they’re going into the banquet and not to the wedding, and the fact that these virgins are often called bridesmaids and never the bride tells you this parable is not about the Church. It’s about living believers and nonbelievers who have survived the Great Tribulation and are now having their eternal destiny decided. The believers go into the Kingdom, the unbelievers are excluded.
Now let’s take a look at the second story here in Matthew 25:14-18. I’m going to read just to get us started here, and this is the Parable of the Talents. And so it says:
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
All right, so lots of people have tried to interpret this passage. Most of them get it wrong because the problem is the word “talent” that’s one of the biggest problems. The word “talent” is in the Greek economy, a measure of money and it can also be a measure of weight. And in this case it is specifically referred to as a measure of money.
A lot of times, when people are trying to interpret this parable into the Church they use the word talent as a skill or an ability or certain gifts that the Lord may have given us. That’s only because the word “talent” happens to exist in the English language as well. And so, that’s the first problem.
The second problem we have with the way this parable is normally interpreted is that, in a parable, by definition everything is symbolic of something else.
The word parable comes from a Greek word which means to lay alongside. It’s to tell a story; a hypothetical, fictional story to illustrate a point. And so, everything in the parable is symbolic of something else.
There was no real man going on a journey. He didn’t give his people bunches of money to invest on his behalf. That would make it a true story; this is a symbolic story. Everything symbolizes something else. And so the talent has to symbolize something else. Now, the Lord doesn’t care that much about money because it’s all His already; He doesn’t need money for anything. But what is the Lord’s most valued possession that we could insert in the place of this talent and we could say, ‘Well the talent symbolizes this important possession of the Lord’s”?
Well, if you go to Psalm 138:2, it reads like this: “I will bow down toward Your holy temple and I will praise Your Name for Your love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your Name and Your Word.” Your Name and Your Word.
And you see here, I believe this is what is being represented by the talent. The most valued possessions the Lord has: His Name and His Word. In this case, He’s holding those accountable who are alive at the end of the age; and I believe in this particular instance, He’s holding the Jewish people accountable for what they’ve done about His Name and about His Word.
You see, His Name was so important and so valuable that the Jews were not allowed to speak You spoke the Lord’s Name on pain of death. That’s what the commandment “Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain” really means. They were not to use the Name of the Lord. They could only speak the Name of the Lord one time and that was in this Yom Kippur ceremony on one day, and only then after great ceremonial preparation. And so, the Jews were entrusted with the Name of the Lord.
They also were entrusted with His Word. They were given the responsibility for writing down the things that He said and that He wanted the world to know. And they did a tremendous job at that. But they were supposed to disseminate it, they were supposed to multiply His Word.
What this parable really means is, to some He gave His Word, and they went out and talked to people about it and they caused people to hear about the Lord and they caused people to come to faith because of that. But others hid His Word and didn’t do anything with it. And He’s holding them accountable now for proselytizing. He’s holding them accountable for evangelizing. He’s holding them accountable for spreading His Name and His Word throughout the land. And some did and some didn’t, and He is holding them responsible for that and compensating them accordingly.
Now, the third one is the one I don’t think is a parable. This is the story of the Sheep and the Goats. What it is, is He’s giving an example. It’s in Matthew 25:31-33 are the verses I’m going to read to you. And I want you to see that this is the expansion of the idea that was first brought up in Matthew 24:36-41, where we talked about those two words “taken” and “left”. Watch how this fits when you look at it this way—and again, the time is important here, and He makes it very clear when He says in verse 31:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
And so, what’s the time we’re talking about here? When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, and He sits on His throne in heavenly glory—this obviously follows the Second Coming. And so therefore again, it cannot be a story about the Church, about some who are faithful and some who are backsliders.
This is a story about believers alive at the end of the age. Just like the Parable of the Ten Virgins, just like the Parable of the Talents, this is a story of the disposition of Tribulation survivors. And what He does is, He separates all the nations. He brings them all into the Kidron Valley for judgment and He separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep are being used here as a representation of believers and the goats are representations of unbelievers.
If you read the story, you’ll see that eventually the sheep are welcomed into the Kingdom, and it refers you back to the word, paralambano, joined with oneself.
The Lord says, “Come, ye who are blessed by My Father. Enter the Kingdom that was prepared for you before the foundation of the Earth.” And so He’s joining them with Him in the Kingdom.
The goats, He says, “Depart from Me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” He sends them away. Remember the word, aphiemi, to send away.
And so the Sheep And Goats Judgment is another illustration, just like the Parable of the Virgins and the Parable of the Talents, of how He is going to judge surviving people at the end of the Great Tribulation at the beginning of His Kingdom. He’s going to welcome some into the Kingdom and He’s going to send some off the planet into the outer darkness—the place prepared for the devil and his angels.
Now, it’s interesting to me that that place is not prepared for man, but for the devil and his angels—man has to choose to go there. And the way he chooses to go there is by rejecting the pardon that was purchased at the cross in His Name. By saying, “No thank you. I don’t want Your pardon. I will make my own way. I’ll work my way in. I will do this on my own.”
Those are the people that He’s saying, “Okay. I did everything I possibly could to make it possible for you to come into My Kingdom with Me. But at the final analysis you chose to reject all My efforts on your behalf. Therefore, there’s only one other destiny available and that’s the destiny that’s been prepared for the devil and his angels. That is the eternal darkness, and so there is where you are going to spend Eternity.”
You see, the question in all of this is not whether a person has eternal life or not—everyone ever conceived has eternal life. The question is where are you going to spend eternity? And there are only two destinations. You can spend eternity being blessed in the presence of the Lord or you can spend eternity being cursed in the absence of the Lord.
Those who choose to go into the presence of the Lord forever by accepting the pardon that He purchased at the cross with their name on it, they get to go. Those who reject that, choose automatically to spend eternity in punishment with the devil and his angels.
It’s very simple. These are the only two destinies available to man. There’s no second chance. There’s no life coming again where you can make up for the mistakes of this life. There’s no eternal progression. There’s no reincarnation. The Bible’s very clear on these things. There is simply Heaven or Hell, life, or death. Life being eternal blessing in the presence of the Lord. Death being eternal separation and punishment in the absence of the Lord.