Matthew 24:1-16 Sign of Thy Coming, End of the World

May 18th, 2009 | By | Category: Matthew, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

The Gospel Of Matthew

Matt. 24:1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple.

This event took place the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Matthew 24 is called “Our Lord’s Great Prophecy.”

Matt. 24:2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

Jesus said, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” These words were fulfilled in AD 69–70 when the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by Titus.

How would we answer the objection that the Western (Wailing) Wall still stands today? The part that dates back to Herod’s day is a buttress wall built by Herod to enlarge the Temple area. Therefore, strictly speaking, the Western Wall is not the Temple proper of Zerubbabel but an addition by Herod. When the Temple was destroyed, it was leveled, and only the substratum remained. Even with the outer city walls, Herodian masonry still exists on the floor level, the substratum.

When the Temple was destroyed in AD 69–70, most of the rubble was cascaded or dumped down into the Tyropean Valley. As a result, the valley was filled up and the remaining wall was buried or covered.

Matt. 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

In order to view the Temple complex in its beauty, Jesus had to be on the Mount of Olives; that is, he had to be far enough away to see the Temple complex as a whole. The disciples admired the stones of the Temple (Mark 13:1). The stones were beautifully beveled in a way that was characteristic of Herod. (Herod rebuilt the Temple of Zerubbabel and further enlarged it.)

Luke 21:5 mentions “gifts” in connection with the Temple (“some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts”). From the Mount of Olives the disciples could see the Gate Beautiful (now called the Golden Gate) embellished with heavy gold leaf. Also, they could look over the gate to the Temple proper. The doors were a gift from Egypt. Both the embellishments and the fine stone work were being admired.

What caused the disciples (Peter, James, John, and Andrew) to state how beautiful the Temple was (Mark 13:1,3; Luke 21:5) and then to ask, “When shall these things be?” In other words, “When will the destruction of the Temple take place?” Previously, in advance of Matthew 24, Jesus had mentioned that the city and the Temple would be destroyed (Luke 19:41–44). As he beheld the city and wept over it, he said, “The days shall come … that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” This advance clue pertaining to the destruction of the city had saddened the disciples, especially in regard to the beautiful, costly Temple.

Another factor leading to the disciples’ question is that Jesus had just said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,” and the disciples considered the Temple to be the “house” (Matt. 23:38). These words also saddened the disciples, for the Temple was the pride, the jewel, of Israel—the Holy City and its Temple.

From verse 3 on, Jesus stressed other things and never did answer the disciples’ question regarding when the Temple would be destroyed. Why? Because they might confuse the destruction of the Temple with the Second Advent. They might think the end of the age had come, whereas the destruction of the Holy City was a separate incident that occurred much earlier.

Whatever structure of false religion that would distract from the true will be destroyed, whether great or small in the eyes of man.

The other two questions were:

1. What shall be the sign of thy presence?

2. What shall be the sign of the end of the age?

Although only four disciples “privately” asked Jesus these questions in a confidential mode, the other seven (minus Judas) were listening—or at least some of the others. Jesus’ voice in answering outdoors would have been easily heard. No doubt Matthew was one of those listening, for of the four Gospel writers, he gave the most complete account, especially when Matthew 25 is included.

As will be seen, Jesus’ answer to the first question “What shall be the sign of thy presence?” included both his invisible presence and the imminence of that presence. Incidentally, a sign would not be needed if Jesus were to return visibly, for all would then know it. But it makes sense for the question to mean “What shall be the sign of your invisible presence? How shall we know that you are here?”

Matt. 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

Matt. 24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

In other words, before Jesus began his discussion, he warned the disciples against being deceived. Indirectly, the fact that many would say, “I am Christ,” implies or infers that the Kingdom was not imminent, that time had to elapse first. “Take heed, beware, lest you be deceived because many shall come” indicates that before the true announcement or occurrence would take place, there would be many deceptions.

Earlier the disciples had asked, “Wilt thou at this time establish the kingdom?” Jesus answered in effect, “No, the Kingdom will not come as soon as you think!”

Matthew states that the deception would consist of some actually assuming to be the Messiah, the Anointed One. They would claim they were Messiah. But Mark 13:6 and Luke 21:8 omit the word “Christ” and simply say, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.” Hence the deception would not always be that another would represent himself as Christ but would represent himself in a high capacity as pointing to the way of truth. Jesus was saying that these would be false announcements. The “man of sin,” which is the chief of the deceptive systems, is pointed out in 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4. Although Roman Catholicism says that Jesus is the Messiah, the system deceives, nevertheless.

Thus two kinds of religious deceptions are pointed out by the differences in the Gospels (“I am Christ” versus “I am”). There are many examples of false Christs—individuals who claimed to be Messiah. Gamaliel’s advice (Acts 5:36,37) to the other Pharisees, etc., who wanted to put the apostles to death, was: “Such action is not necessary. If they really do represent God, we better not interfere, but if their words are false, their counsel and work will come to naught. Look at what happened to Theudas and Judas [false Messiahs in Jesus’ day].” The Pastor also named Sabbathai Levi, who was on the scene in Smyrna years later. A modern-day false Christ is Father Divine. He uses the Trinity aspect, saying that Jesus came first as the Son and that now he has come as the Father (Father Divine).

However, the religious systems have deceived many more than any individuals claiming to be Messiah. Jesus was saying that various deceptions, especially the religious institutions, would arise in the Church’s history before the Kingdom Age. The denominations—Roman Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, etc.—all at one time taught that if you did not follow them, you were not in the Truth and were, therefore, doomed to perdition. Each of the denominations claimed to be the only way. Only in the last 30 or so years have the nominal systems realized the public was fed up with this type of reasoning, and they have since become more lenient toward each other. Nevertheless, others today have the same attitude that only they are right. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an example. Some, like Armstrong, even claim to be apostles. Religious institutions in the past have deceived millions.

Instead of being dependent upon nominal Church membership, a Christian’s relationship is a personal one between that individual, Christ, and the Heavenly Father. The making of one’s calling and election sure is based upon faithfulness to Christ and to God, and not upon identity with a particular group.

The story of the Gospel Age is that deceivers as individuals and also as institutions would precede the end of the age. Verses 23–26 show that deceptions will also take place at the end of the age.

Matt. 24:6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Down through the Gospel Age, actual wars and rumors of wars occurred. These also had to precede the end of the age. Thus, later, after the Holy Spirit had been given and these words of Jesus were meditated upon, the disciples realized that much time had to elapse before the end of the age could come.

Basically, the Holy Spirit is the spirit of remembrance, the remembrance of spiritual things. It calls to mind the words of Jesus, the apostles, the prophets, and of course the Father in His Word. John 14:26 reads, “But the Comforter … shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Thus when the disciples later thought back on what Jesus had said in Matthew 24, they realized that the Kingdom was a distance away and that they probably would be off the scene. Peter especially realized this and so did Paul, who had a vision of the third heaven. However, the apostles did not realize that almost 2,000 years had to pass first.

Matt. 24:7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

Many use verse 6 to describe conditions since World War 1, when the world became involved in conflict, plus the “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” of verse 7. Today the news media and television make us more aware of these kinds of occurrences, whereas, in truth, such troubles have taken place endlessly down through the Gospel Age. Even in the Old Testament there was a seven-year famine in Israel at the time of Joseph versus a five-year famine in Ethiopia in recent times. The Apostle Paul took collections on his missionary journeys to send back to the Jewish brethren who were in famine in Israel and elsewhere during the years of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. (In fact, it would have been natural for those Christians living in the first century to consider the famine that occurred after Jesus’ death and resurrection to be a precursor to his Second Coming and the establishment of the Kingdom.) Then, too, a tremendous earthquake destroyed Pompeii, Italy, in AD 79. Therefore, verses 6 and 7 describe the story of the human race ever since the First Advent until our day. “In divers places” does not mean everywhere, but here an earthquake, over there a threat of war, etc. This has been the history of the Gospel Age.

Matt. 24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Mark 13:8 says, “These are the beginnings of sorrows.” “Sorrows” in the plural represents the series of spasms of a woman in travail. In contrast, 1 Thessalonians 5:3 refers to the singular birth pang: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (See Diaglott interlineary, which has “the birth-pang” for “travail.”) This text refers to the birth (death) pain of the present order. Here in Matthew 24:8 the same Greek word odin is used in the plural form, signifying a series of travail spasms.

Verse 8 is a flashback to verses 6 and 7. Wars, rumors of wars, nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places are all the “beginning of sorrows,” for “the end is not yet.”

In verses 4–8, Jesus is saying, “Be careful! Do not be deceived! From my day on, there will be many false Christs, many wars and rumors of wars, many pestilences, etc. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” In other words, verses 4–8 are a synopsis of the Gospel Age not including the end time, for “the end is not yet.” Thus we are getting a picture of the Gospel Age up to the end period but not including it.

We are speaking of Matthew’s account here. The other accounts will be compared later.

Q: Have these things occurred ever since the apostles went off the scene until the Harvest, or will these things continue and increase in intensity right up to the great Time of Trouble?

A: These things will not necessarily get worse and worse, for the great Time of Trouble involves other factors. It will be of a completely different nature than just these things occurring in greater and greater degrees. For instance, the mass materialization of the fallen angels will have to take place, as in Noah’s day. The fallen angels are held in bondage until the judgment of the great day. Then they will be released as a test, that is, to see what they will do. The Scriptures show that they will inundate the earth, and certainly that is not a cumulative trouble but a unique experience.

Before the Flood the evil angels materialized and had children, who became great men in brutality. The population was evil and grew increasingly so day by day. But the Flood itself was the great trouble, and it wiped out the evildoer. The presence of the fallen angels on earth was a period of terrific trouble, but the Flood was far worse and completely different, for it was a divine judgment whereas the materializations were not. The angels materialized because they wanted to. Through self-choice, they left their first estate and preferred to be here on earth rather than in heaven. In contrast, the Flood was built into the structure of the earth and its atmosphere. It was designed by the Creator to occur when the ring of water eventually collapsed. The collapse was perfectly timed to occur as a divine judgment.

Q: Sometimes verses 6 and 7 are applied to the Harvest period but not to the very end of the age. For example, the frequency of earthquakes has greatly increased. Wouldn’t that be a factor?

A: No one can make such a statement with certainty. Today we can measure earthquakes of all intensities worldwide, but up until a few years ago, man could not do that. In fact, past earthquakes were far more severe than those we have today. Entire civilizations were destroyed, as on the Isle of Crete. Moreover, when scientists examine evidences of earthquakes that occurred in the past and look into the history of various nations, their attempts to assign a year to a particular quake can be quite inaccurate because their chronologies are way off.

And consider the pestilences. Pestilences have been greatly reduced in the Harvest period through medications, antibiotics, etc. For example, the Black Plague was devastating. In Oxford University, England, two out of three students died, and half of the population of that nation expired. We have had nothing like that pestilence in the last 100 years. Right after World War 1, one out of ten died from an influenza, but those figures are far lower now. Also, in the past the mortality rate in time of war was much higher than it is today. Our media—collecting news items from around the globe—make things sound worse today, whereas past civilizations suffered considerably more. A higher percentage of the population was affected. Ever since the flu outbreak following World War 1, the casualty rate has been decreasing.

Verses 4–8 provide a thumbnail sketch of the history of the Gospel Age from the time the apostles asked Jesus the questions (verse 3) up until the beginning of the Harvest. The Harvest is the end of the age, and that is Matthew’s point (Matt. 13:39). However, based on what the other Gospels say, there is an extension into the Harvest period of wars, rumors of wars, etc. But Matthew’s account is written a little differently. Matthew gives a picture of the history of the Gospel Age, whereas Mark and Luke include other things to bring us through the Harvest period to its end.

Verses 6–8 tell the problems that would exist prior to the Lord’s Second Coming. Verse 8 indicates the Gospel Age would be a period of great sorrows that would precede the answer to the two questions: “What shall be the sign of thy presence? What shall be the sign of the end of the age?” These sorrows (the series of troubles) are only the beginning, not the ending.

“Travail” is a period of suffering. The suffering of the Gospel Age has been caused by war, famine, earthquake, etc. The travail of verse 8 is a series of spasms, but in 1 Thessalonians 5:3, “travail” is an improper translation. The thought is of a “birth pang” (singular). It is unusual for that word in the Greek to be in the singular.

In regard to the “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” of verse 7, some feel that the word “pestilences” is omitted in the oldest manuscripts. This is true in Matthew, but the word is found in Luke 21:11. The omission in Matthew 24 is probably due to a transcriber’s oversight. Also, in Mark 13:8, although “pestilences” is not used, the word “troubles” is there, thus broadening the picture.

Actually, the translators did not know whether to use “plagues” or “pestilences,” for although a disease is a plague, a plague is not necessarily a disease. For example, plagues include monsoons, sandstorms, floods, and other outstanding troubles. The broader meaning was intended, although “pestilences” were a common form of plague down through the Gospel Age.

Ancient manuscripts were written on lamb or goat skins that were dried and stretched. The Sinaitic was written continuously—that is, without punctuation or verses—and in all capital letters in Greek. Either a brush or a flat pen was used for the characters. A problem is that with age the letters tend to flake off or fade, making those portions difficult to read. “A,” “D,” and “L” in the uncial Greek look very similar, so that fading and flaking cause real confusion in certain instances. Only diligent study of grammar, context, etc., will straighten out the confusion.

In the Greek the words “famine” and “pestilence” are almost identical, the former being limos and the latter loimos. Furthermore, kai is used very, very frequently. A fatigued copyist could easily mix up the two words. And that is what happened in Matthew 24:7 in the Sinaitic Manuscript—a whole line was omitted: kai loimos.

Matt. 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall  be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

This statement can be regarded two ways depending on the thought conveyed by the word “then.” “Then” can mean “subsequently,” or it can signify a flashback to what was just said, that is, a review in the nature of being repetitive. “Then” occurs a number of times in Matthew 24 and usually in this latter sense. Matthew 24 is not consecutive throughout. Therefore, context determines the meaning of “then.”

Matt. 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

Verses 9 and 10 pertain to persecutions and betrayals by family members and friends that occurred down through the age, especially at the hands of Papacy during the Inquisition. Hundreds of thousands were violently put to death during the terror of the Dark Ages. Jesus spoke these words to comfort those Christians who would suffer, so that when persecutions and betrayals happened, the brethren would not think it strange.

Matt. 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

The term “false prophets” reminds us of the false prophet of Revelation 16. The Fourth Volume couples verse 11 with verse 5; that is, some individuals would claim to be Messiah, and some false religious systems would arise and deceive. “Prophet” means “teacher.” In other words, “false prophets” are false religious systems that teach false doctrine, the chief system being Papacy, the “Jezebel” of Revelation 2:20. The Church of Thyatira was criticized because it “sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” The antitypical Jezebel was tolerated to teach the Christian Church false doctrine.

The fact that Matthew 24:24 again mentions “false Christs” and “false prophets” shows that this chapter covers different time periods. Verse 5 warned that the Christian should not be deceived when many would come saying they were Christ. Verse 11 warns of false prophets. But in a later period, still future, false Christs and false prophets would show “great signs and wonders” that would be deceptions to those not forewarned—deceptions related to a geographic, visible representation of what would seem to be Christ (Matt. 24:23,24). Matthew 24 contains both distinctions and generalities, and each must be put in the proper place.

Matt. 24:12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

Daniel 7:25, in different words, teaches the same thing: “And he [the little horn, ie, Papacy] shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, … and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time [for 1,260 years, from AD 539 to 1799].” The little-horn power was very oppressive to those not in agreement with it, and for such a long period of time that many grew weary of well doing. God looked for those who persevered in faith to be part of the Little Flock. The experience was necessary back there because the consecrated had less doctrinal knowledge, and where there is a paucity of doctrine, the test is especially along the lines of character and faith, hope, and love.

Matt. 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

We will consider the use of the word “end” here versus its use in verses 3 and 6. “End” in verse 3 is sunteleia; the others (including verse 14) are telos. Sunteleia means “the full end (of the age)”; telos can mean either just “the end” or “the full end” depending on context. Telos means “tail,” which can refer to the whole tail or to just the tip of the tail.

From a personal standpoint, to “endure unto the end” means to be faithful unto death, to the end of one’s individual course or Christian walk. Or verse 13 can be considered as applying to the class back there who persevered through the great suffering of that long period of time. But the most practical application is the personal standpoint. In other words, because of iniquity, the love of many waxed cold—but he who endured to the end was saved.

Matt. 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Verse 14 gives us a time perspective. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Verses 9–13 describe a period of time until the gospel would be a witness in all nations.

When the disciples asked in verse 3, “What shall be the sign of your presence and of the end of the age?” Jesus did not just strictly answer their question but told them about the whole age. He used that occasion to give them an outline of the history of the entire Gospel Age. Thus he went far beyond their question by also telling them what would happen in the interim before the end of the age. This information was needed, for they themselves were soon to be hailed before synagogues, etc. In fact, all of the apostles had abrupt deaths except John. Many disciples also died through persecution. Jesus died in AD 33, and 33 years later Nero was on the scene persecuting Christians. Therefore, Jesus’ words here (and in Luke 21) were especially helpful to the early Church, as well as down through the age.

Verse 14 alerted the early Church not to expect the Kingdom very soon. (Although the import of Jesus’ words did not sink in at the time, the Holy Spirit later called them to remembrance.) Before the end of the age could come, the gospel had to be preached in all the world for a witness. Certainly the disciples in the first century knew that that had not happened yet. They realized the experiences described in verses 9–13 would take place up to the time the gospel would be preached in all nations for a witness.

Matt. 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

In Daniel 8:13,14, two saints were speaking: “How long shall be the vision concerning the  daily [continual] sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” Answer: “Two thousand and three hundred [2,300] days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”

Daniel 9:26,27 reads: “And after [seven and—verse 25] threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince [Titus] that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary [Temple]; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he [Messiah] shall confirm the covenant with many for one week [the 70th]: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the [typical] sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for [because of] the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that [which is] determined shall be poured upon the desolate [AD 70].”

These two Daniel citations had a natural as well as a spiritual fulfillment. Natural: Those in the early Church knew about the natural application, but not the spiritual because the spiritual fulfillment was not then due. In regard to Daniel 8:13,14 saying that the “sanctuary” and the “host” would be “trodden under foot,” the early Church thought of an alien power coming in and destroying the Temple and trampling the people (suppressing them in bondage). Daniel 9:26,27 gives more specifics, ie, a definite time period of 69 weeks. In the midst of the 70th week, Jesus would be cut off in death, that is, 3 1/2 years after the end of the 69th week, the time when Jesus consecrated at Jordan.

Prophetic students tend to jump to conclusions based on the time period in which they live. Just as those living in the first century thought the trouble would come exactly at the end of the 70th week or AD 33, so those living at the beginning of this century concluded the great Time of Trouble would occur in 1914. Both dates are important—AD 33 and 1914—but not for the reasons anticipated in regard to the trouble. 

Daniel 9:26 states that an alien power “shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This prophecy would seem to harmonize with Daniel 8:13, which says that the sanctuary and the host would be trodden underfoot (be despoiled), but Daniel 8 is spiritual and natural, whereas Daniel 9 is only natural pertaining to the end of the Jewish Age. The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 69–70 prefigured an experience to come upon Christendom. The trouble on natural or literal Israel foreshadowed the trouble to come on spiritual Israel.

Daniel 11:31 reads, “And arms shall stand on his [Papacy’s] part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” This verse refers to a spiritual daily sacrifice being taken away in the Gospel Age and an abomination that makes desolate being put in its place. This occurred in 539, when the doctrine of the Mass (Transubstantiation) replaced the ever efficacious sacrifice of Christ. Jesus’ death on Calvary is remembered and thought about every day; it is “daily” in the sense of being ever fresh, ever efficacious. Papacy took the doctrine of the individual’s being able to pray to God for forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ name and said that one had to go through its priesthood, testifying sins before a priest in auricular confession. Based on prescribed “Hail Marys,” reading beads, and certain remuneration, etc., one could then be forgiven of sin—supposedly.

Thus attention was diverted away from Calvary to the doctrine of the Mass. In other words, the Mass became the focal point and not Jesus. The Mass is based on the premise that when the words “Corpus meum …” are pronounced, the bread actually becomes Jesus’ body and the wine his blood. But the Scriptures say that Jesus died once for all and that he cannot be crucified afresh (Heb. 10:10).

The doctrine of the Mass was prefigured by what happened to Israel’s Brazen Altar, the altar where the people brought their offerings. Some kings made innovations, and one king actually had a new altar made for the people and then took the authentic Brazen Altar for himself personally. This substitution was obnoxious in God’s sight, for the simplicity of Christ in the plain altar was replaced with an ornate one. We are reminded of the statuary and candles of the Vatican, which are distractions from the real purpose of the Christian. Daniel 12:11 states, “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.” Daniel 11:31 prophesied that the abomination would be put in the place of the daily sacrifice, and this substitution took place in AD 539. Daniel 12:11 assumes that the starting point (AD 539) is known, so 1,290 is simply added (539 + 1,290) to obtain the year 1829, the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary. Notice the next verse: “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty [1,335] days.” The 1,290 and the 1,335 days are co-related, with the 1,335 days occurring a little later. Adding 1,335 to 539 brings us to the year 1874, the beginning of the Second Presence. In other words, “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the Second Presence.”

These time periods were not in the first century. Not until 539 was the doctrine of the Mass set up, empowered, and made more mandatory. In that year the pope was given great authority by the emperor Justinian, who said the Church of Rome was the true Church (as opposed to the Church of Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople). The bishop of Rome was recognized as the head of the Christian Church. Hence the Church of Rome was set up in power in 539; it began to speak authoritatively from that year.

Therefore, when Jesus said in Matthew 24:15, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place,” we do not know whether he was referring to Daniel 8, 9, 11, or 12. Actually, all are involved. Luke 21 applies Daniel 8 and 9 to the first century. Matthew 24 is a later period of time. Luke 21:20–24 has a natural application in the first century. “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

When Jesus gave his “great prophecy,” it probably took three to four hours, of which Matthew records the most. Each Gospel records what were individually considered to be the salient points—hence the differences. Mark wrote on behalf of the Apostle Peter. As amanuensis, Mark recorded certain details that Matthew omitted. And Luke wrote down still other details. Matthew uses the same words as Luke regarding “Let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” (Matt. 24:16), and so does Mark 13:14, but Luke zeros in on the natural fulfillment. Clues are the following: “in the land,” “wrath upon this people,” and “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:23,24). Luke refers to Daniel to justify that this “desolation” was the trouble in the first century at the hands of the Roman armies.

Luke 21:9 says there will be wars and commotions, “but the end is not; [it is] by and by.” The Greek is very abrupt, so the translators correctly supplied the word “is,” and “it is” should also be supplied. (The Greek said, “The end yet by and by.”) In other words, “The end is not yet, but it will occur by and by.”

Luke 21:12 is significant: “But before all these [wars, commotions, nations and kingdoms rising against each other, and great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences of verses 9–11], they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you.” Luke reverses the order of Matthew 24 because the natural application of the first century is being discussed.

In addition, valuable thoughts are expressed whether this persecution occurred during the first century or later, that is, down through the Gospel Age. For example, we are not to meditate in advance on what we will say. However, we must get the background understanding before we are incarcerated. Then, if an opportunity is afforded for speaking publicly, the Holy Spirit will supply us with adequate and appropriate words for the occasion, that is, what to do and say under the given circumstances. “For I [the Holy Spirit] will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist” (Luke 21:15). Enemies will react the same way they did with Stephen, the first Christian martyr. His face was like that of an angel, and he testified eloquently, yet they put him to death. The enemies will not give in, but they will not be able to “gainsay” or offer a proper rebuttal to the words spoken.

Luke wrote his Gospel on behalf of the Apostle Paul. Since Paul had witnessed Stephen’s death, these thoughts from our Lord’s Great Prophecy particularly impressed him. After his conversion, Paul went to see Peter and James, the Lord’s brother, for 15 days to find out more information about Jesus. From Peter he learned about the details of Jesus’ ministry. From James he gleaned details of Jesus’ family life prior to his baptism at Jordan. Paul gave that accumulated information to Luke to write down. In addition, Luke accompanied Paul on many of his missionary travels and kept an up-to-date diary.

In Luke 1:1–4, Luke said that he was on hand as an eyewitness from the beginning and that he would set everything in order accurately. Then Luke tied in events with historical facts and dates (for example, Luke 1:5 in regard to the days of Herod). In the Book of Acts, Luke did the same thing. Therefore, Luke had his own personal experience plus Paul’s enlightenment.

Compare Luke 21:16,18. After saying that some of the consecrated would be put to death, Jesus added, “But there shall not an hair of your head perish” as a new creature. “Hair” symbolizes consecration.

The expression regarding wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, etc., embraces a long period of time. Luke zeros in on the natural application, Matthew and Mark on the spiritual. When all of the Gospels are pieced together, it becomes apparent that a double fulfillment was intended in these pictures.

In both Matthew 24 and Luke 21, a valuable clue is given. Matthew 24:14 tells the importance of the gospel being preached to all nations before the end comes. In other words, this condition had to be attained before the end period could begin. The Luke clue is 21:24, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Also a time period, this verse refers to the “seven times” or 360 x 7 = 2,520 years  from 606 BC to AD 1914 (see Leviticus 26). Thus the two clues, one along one line and the other along another line, bring us up to a period of time roughly commensurate. Altogether, we are told about the first century, the middle of the Gospel Age, and the end.

The gospel being “preached in all the world for a witness” does not mean all nations would be converted prior to the end of the age (Matt. 24:14). Therefore, this verse would be fulfilled sometime after the Bible societies published the Bible in all languages in the early 1800’s. Furthermore, this verse does not mean that present truth had to be preached before the end could come. It was the Bible that had to be preached. Pastor Russell said these conditions existed before the Harvest began; that is, the conditions made possible the Harvest because by the printing of the Bible, people could become familiar with the Scriptures and thus be in a position to certify the truth. They could “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21). Thus the Bible societies preceded the Harvest message itself.

The “gospel” pertains to being a follower of Jesus and hoping to be in heaven; that is, it refers to the high or heavenly calling. The Scriptures clearly say that the Christian who is obedient to Christ and faithful will reign with him. All Christians down through the age grasped the concept that if they suffered with Christ, they would reign with him and be given great honors (Rom. 8:17). That is the “Kingdom” class, not restitution. The New Testament (and especially Jesus in the Gospels) says very little about restitution—the emphasis is on being a follower of Jesus. Incidentally, if restitution were included in the “gospel” preached to all nations, the Harvest would have begun later, for restitution is the lost coin found after 1874. 

Review of Luke 21:9–24

Verses 10 and 11 say that nation would rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and that earthquakes, famines, and pestilences would occur in diverse places—plus fearful sights and great signs from heaven. However, verse 12 tells that before all of these, severe persecution would come upon the Christian. The advice was that the Christian was not to unduly premeditate what he would say or do because in that hour the words would be given by the Holy Spirit.

The trouble referred to in Luke 21:20–24 occurred in AD 69–70. Verse 23 reads: “Woe unto them that are with child [that is, pregnant], and to them that give suck [infants and young ones who breast-feed, for older children would suffer like the adults], in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.” Notice the end of the verse: “There shall be … wrath upon this people”; that is, God’s wrath would be upon the nation of Israel because of their rejection of Jesus. Verse 24 continues: “And they [the Israelites] shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Thus the emphasis in Luke 21 is on the natural picture, whereas Matthew 24 and Mark 13 stress the spiritual aspect primarily.

Let us consider again the expression “the times of the Gentiles,” which refers to the “seven times” of Leviticus 26, which are calculated as follows: 7 x 360 (a lunar year) = 2,520 years from 606 BC to AD 1914. In 606 BC the Temple of Solomon was destroyed as well as Jerusalem and the Jewish polity with the removal of the crown from Zedekiah. Notice, the account does NOT say that the treading down of Jerusalem and the Times of the Gentiles commenced in AD 70, even though the same things happened at that date (ie, the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed, and the Jewish people were led away captive into all nations, the Diaspora having begun). In other words, while Gentile Times began in 606 BC, they were still counting in AD 70 and beyond—until their expiration in 1914. The AD 70 trouble was just an additional experience during the Times of the Gentiles.

Because the Jewish people subsequently suffered so dreadfully under Hitler and the Nazis, some brethren have a problem seeing that Gentile Times ended in 1914 and that “Jerusalem” is no longer being trodden down. Notice, however, that Jesus was not speaking of the Jewish people but of Jerusalem. As a result of British commander General Allenby’s being in the Middle East in 1914, there was a confrontation with Turkish authority. In 1917 Jerusalem was captured without a battle, as it were, and a treaty enjoined so that Jerusalem was no longer in a downtrodden condition and the Jews could return to Palestine en masse. The foreign yoke was broken!

Back to Matthew 24

Verse 14 states that after the gospel was preached “for a witness” in a worldwide fashion,then “the end” would come. With regard to the “abomination of desolation” of verse 15,four texts in Daniel were examined: 8:13,14; 9:26,27; 11:31; and 12:11. The first two citations(especially the ninth chapter) are more related to the AD 70 destruction when the Roman army encompassed Jerusalem. But the eleventh and twelfth chapters are emphasizing a higher picture, a spiritual one.

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