The Return of the Lord

(Matthew 24:15-28) – Part 2

The last days will be difficult times and a time of tribulation such as has not ever been seen before. Jesus says that when we see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place that those in Judea should flee to the mountains. I believe this is a warning for those who live in the region of Jerusalem and Judea to get out of that place and go to higher ground, and to do so quickly. The prophet Daniel was shown that from the time the continual burnt offering is taken away and the desolating sacrilege is set up there would be 1,290 days. (Daniel 12:11) I believe these are actual days and not prophetic days where a day often means a year. Daniel is then told, “Blessed is he who waits and comes to the thousand three hundred and thirty five days.” (Daniel 12:12) This is a difference of forty-five days.

It is my opinion that the reason these people who wait the additional forty-five days are blessed because they will see the coming of the Lord. I believe the blessing referred to by the angel speaking to Daniel is the end of the age and the returning of the Lord. If that is so, then Jesus’ advice for those in Judea and Jerusalem to flee to the mountains makes sense when they see the desolating sacrilege set up in the holy place.

The only place ever referred to as the “holy place” was in the temple in Jerusalem. No other place from a biblical perspective has ever been called the holy place. So that is the place where this desolating sacrilege will be erected, whatever it may be. But why would Jesus tell his people to flee to the mountains at this time? The fact that the man of sin referred to in Daniel and Revelation will set himself up in the temple proclaiming to be God may be justification enough, but he will have been there for several years prior to this time. But it is when the desolating sacrilege is set up that Jesus tells his people to get out of the place and move to higher ground.

I believe the answer is in Zechariah 14. When Jesus was taken up from the earth after he was resurrected and had appeared to the apostles and disciples, he told them that he would return in the same way that he had left. (Acts 1:11) When Jesus was taken up from the earth at that time he had left from the Mount of Olives also known as Olivet. (Acts 1:12) So when he returns we can expect that he will return in the same way and come back to the same place, that is, the Mount of Olives. This is where the scriptures in Zechariah are important.

Zechariah 14:4-5 says, “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that half of the Mount shall withdraw northwards, and the other half southwards. And you shall flee by the valley of the Lord’s mountain, for the valley between the mountains shall reach to Azal; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.”

So when the Lord’s feet touch the earth at the Mount of Olives on his return, which is where he left the earth some 2,000 years ago, the Mount of Olives will split in two. There will be a great earthquake when the Lord returns that will split the mountain in two from east to west as the mountain is split to the north and south. At that time the great chasm formed by the earthquake will be filled with water for it will split as far as the Dead Sea in the west and the Mediterranean sea in the east. We see this prophesied in Zechariah 14:8, “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter.”

Again I preface this section by stating that these are my opinions and I am happy to hear any other views on this matter for my own learning and information. Looking at this from a geological perspective we could say that in effect Jerusalem may become a seaport as the waters flow from the Mediterranean, living waters, to the Dead Sea in which no life can exist because of the high salt content. In addition we see that living waters will flow out from Jerusalem to the east and the west. There are significant fresh water aquifers beneath Jerusalem and the surrounding areas at depths of between 500-650 metres. When the great earthquake occurs and the landscape changes according to the prophesy of Zechariah, it is feasible that these aquifers of fresh water will hit the surface and flow from Jerusalem to the east and the west following the crack in the fault line caused by the earthquake.

It is interesting to note also that Zechariah prophesied this earthquake, which God had made known to him. Today we know there is a significant fault line passing through Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives. This fault line runs all the way from Africa through to Syria and is alternately called the “Dead Sea Transform” or the “Syrian-African Rift.” There is no way that Zechariah could have known about this geological fault line and the length and directions it follows. This then provides a proof of the accuracy and more importantly the source of prophecy in the Bible. This knowledge could only have come from God.

So we shall see in these last days at the time of the return of the Lord that there will be great tribulation. But he has pre-warned his people and told us when the clock will start on the countdown to his return. The key is hen we see the continual burnt offering removed and the desolating sacrilege is set up in the holy place. At that time those who are his people in the regions of Jerusalem and Judea should flee to the hills if they are to survive the great earthquake and devastation in the area that will occur upon his return.

Wherever the Body is there the Eagles will be Gathered

(Matthew 24:15-28) – Part 1

In speaking of the last days Jesus gives many warnings and indications of what must happen. Amongst the many signs of the end times there will be great desolation and opposition in the Church. Satan will have his messengers attack the Church from without and within. There will be many false teachers and false prophets arise whose sole purpose is to lead astray the people of God. These false prophets and false teachers are the vultures or eagles Jesus refers to when he said wherever the body is there will the eagles be gathered.

He warns us not to be quickly shaken by these people and these times. They will perform pretended signs and wonders to lead people astray. They will say things indicating where you may find Jesus saying, “He is in the wilderness” or “He is in the inner rooms” or he is someplace else. But Jesus says to ignore them. Don’t listen to them and don’t follow them for they do not know what they are talking about. When Jesus returns it will be such a spectacular event and on such a grand scale that no one in the world will miss it. He likens it to the lightning flashing from one end of the sky to the other and it will not be missed by anyone. (Verse 27) You will not have to go looking for Jesus when he returns as he will literally be larger than life, bigger than any Hollywood blockbuster could ever make him and obvious and apparent to every person on the earth.

But coming back to the eagles, these false teachers and false prophets are likened to birds of carrion. You find eagles and vultures out in the deserts and bushlands where there are dead bodies. Animals that have died in remote places from natural causes, killed by other predators or even hit by cars are the food of these carrion birds. They live off of the flesh of the dead.

These false teachers and false prophets are the same. People who choose to follow falsehoods and refuse to seek or accept the truth are spiritually dead. Even these churches, which may have the appearance of being alive, are spiritually dead. The Lord showed such a thing can exist in the prophecy to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6. He begins that prophecy saying, “‘I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead.” Such a church as this is ready to be attacked by these carrion, the false teachers and false prophets. In that section of Revelation there is a warning to beware and repent and so come back to the Lord before falling prey to these vultures.

Individuals will follow after any teaching and forms of belief in the last days, for they choose not to seek the truth by coming to Christ. The apostle Paul was aware of this when he wrote to Timothy saying, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Today we see all manner of teachings that are false. There are philosophies, New Age teachings, occult, humanism, atheism, worship of the things of the earth and more, all of which are false teachings designed to lead people astray. And in the church there are polluted teachings that mix some of these things in as well as mixing up teachings from the Old and New Covenants to produce a mumbo jumbo of teachings that have the appearance of religion, but do nothing to set people free from bondage to sin that is at the heart of the New Covenant.

It is the false prophets and false teachers who promote these things to lead people astray. Why do they do these things? Because they are vultures and eagles feeding off the bodies of the spiritually dead who will not listen to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their end will be with those who are doomed to eternal damnation.

So the warning is clear to all who choose to follow Christ. Seek his ways and learn from him so that when confronted by strange and diverse teachings you are not led astray.

Trouble for the End Times Church

(Matthew 24:9-14)

There will be trouble for the end times church as Jesus tells us in this next section. The church will have trouble and individual Christians will suffer for it. There will be a sifting of the wheat from the chaff in the end times and there will be no fence sitting, as these end times will be times for making a stand.

Jesus says that Christians will be delivered up to death and many will fall away. Those who were their brothers and sisters will betray some, and all Christians will be hated by the nations of the world for bearing the name of Christ. These are drastic times for the church and for Christians. Any who proclaim the name of Jesus will be in difficult circumstance. In spite of these fearful warnings though, we must stand firm and fear not. It is the Lord’s battle and he will wage it according to his plans. If some of us die in that battle for taking a stand for Jesus, then so be it. Our reward will be to stand with Jesus on his return and not suffer the loss of our eternal salvation. We will not be cast out as like the sinners and those who choose to oppose Jesus Christ.

These will be times for bearing testimony to Jesus Christ. They will be times for endurance as it is those who endure to the end who will be saved. They will be wicked times and we will see wickedness multiplied. And because of the increase in sin and wickedness in the world we will see that the love of people for their fellow man will grow cold. People will not readily extend a helping hand to those in need, they will not condemn those who do evil, they will fear retribution and so turn away their eyes when they see a wrong committed and they will ignore or reject the plight of those who have been wronged. This is all part of this prophecy of Christ for these end times and we are seeing many of these things happening today.

Prior to the end coming Jesus says there will be many false prophets who will lead many astray. If we are not solidly grounded in the truth and the word of God, then we may also be led astray. It is essential to learn the truth of the gospel now. At this later time it may be too late. Urgency is of the utmost importance. This is not like a school exam where you can cram it all in the night before. Learning the truth of the Christian message and having the truth of the New Covenant take effect in your life takes time. To become mature in Christ is a long road and you cannot expect it to happen overnight.

There will be opportunity to hear the truth of the gospel in the end days amongst all of the false teaching in the church and in the world. For Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” (Verse 14) The key words here are “this gospel.” There are many gospels in the world and many are tainted by the opinions of some preachers or church positions. There are some that are simply polluted and false that are designed to do bring gain to the preacher. But Jesus says that “this gospel” must be preached before the end. He is talking about the gospel of the truth. He is talking about HIS gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ that leads men to freedom and to peace.

At present the true gospel, like the true church is hidden from the prying eyes of man. The true gospel is the message of salvation from sin, death and the law and sets man free from all of the things that bind him up both under the law and in the nature of the human passions of the flesh. Only through the gospel of Jesus Christ can a man be set free and only through faith and the grace of God is this achieved. At the right time this true gospel of Jesus Christ will be made plain and open to all of mankind. The time is not yet right for when it does go out and is preached to all of mankind, then there will be a polarising effect such as has never been seen before. Everyone will have to take a position either for or against Christ when this gospel is preached. Those who stand against it will make war on those who stand with Christ. But Christ’s soon to come return will shut them down and prove where the truth stands.

These are interesting times we live in for many who are here today will see these things unfold. These will also be times of trouble and in this section we are called to endure for the sake of Jesus Christ. No person can hide their head in the sand over this matter and these teachings. They will happen whether we like it or not. We must make a stand and we will be forced to make a choice. The choices are clear to be with Christ or against him. There is and will be no middle ground. You must choose where you stand and then do something about it to seek the truth of Christ and the transforming power of his gospel.

Signs of the Close of the Age

(Matthew 24:1-8)

As Jesus left the temple his disciples asked him about his second coming and the signs of the close of the age. His response is particularly of interest to us today for we are living in the age when these prophecies are beginning to be fulfilled. These and other prophecies in the Bible point to this age as being the beginning of the time of the end and the fulfilment of the signs of the close of the age.

In this section Jesus specifically mentioned a number of signs. He prefaced his remarks with a warning saying, “See to it that no one leads you astray.” This is a warning we must pay particular attention to. Although at any time the opposition to Christ and Christians has been strong, in these last days it will intensify.

Jesus says that many will come claiming to be the Christ and will lead many astray. We have seen numerous cults from the deadly ones like the Jonestown massacre and the Branch Davidians through to men setting themselves up as if they are Christ. The work of the antichrist structures in the Churches are also testimony to these times. The coming of antichrist movements were already being seen in John’s day as he indicated in his latter letters. They are even more evident today. An antichrist structure in a Church occurs when a man takes the place of Christ. Any Church that has a man set up as the head of the church is an antichrist structure. Jesus is the head of the Church and no man has the right to take his place. An antichrist structure will lead the people in the church away from the truth into all kinds of error, and you will know these false teachers by their fruit. They will bring the people into bondage and take away the freedom that is in Christ Jesus. They will deny Jesus by taking his place at the head of the church. Thus it is essential that we focus on seeking the truth and looking to the Lord so that we are not led astray. There is only one source of truth and that is from Christ.

Jesus then showed the disciples several of the signs of the end. Specifically he said there would be wars and rumours of wars. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There would also be famines and earthquakes in various places.

These signs have never been more apparent than they are today, and especially just at present. Recent deadly earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand are just the culmination of an extended period of increasing seismic activity in the past century. We saw a couple of years ago the earthquakes that led to tsunamis in Indonesia where several hundred thousand died. Current estimates of those dead or missing in Japan are in the order of tens of thousands. Never have we had the number or intensity of earthquakes as we are seeing at this time.

Consider also the wars and skirmishes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and uprisings of the people against their governments in the Middle East including Egypt, Libya and other places. Never have we had the number of wars and rumours of wars as are occurring at this time.

Finally we are seeing issues with food crops. The intense weather systems are destroying crops in some places. Outcomes from the Japan earthquake with radiation contamination of foods and the contamination of the seas from nuclear reactor problems are impacting the food chain. Locust plagues in some places are the worst they have ever been. Drought has killed off many stock animals and crops which have then been washed away in flooding rains in Australia. All of these are the pre-cursors to times of famine.

We are in interesting times for as Jesus said, these are just the birth pangs of the signs of the close of the age. What we are witnessing is the beginning of the end. The time is getting short and the day of the Lord’s return is coming soon. Our challenge is to be prepared for his return, and we shall see in the next few sections that this is a clear message the Lord is giving to us in this last generation. He is telling us that we must be prepared, for these are just the beginnings and it will get worse.

Now is the time when all God fearing people need to have their wits about them. Now is the time when we will be called upon to bear testimony to the truth. There will be tough times ahead and tremendous opposition as the time draws near. The activity of Satan will increase and his lies will permeate everything in this world. He will not be obvious but will be very deceptive and will lead many astray. Satan is the master of deceit and cunning and that is how many will be captured. We who follow the Lord need to learn what is pleasing to God so that we can stand in the face of his opposition. The Lord will be faithful and will stand with us. However he also warns that some will face death for their stand as Christians. This is not a time for the faint hearted but is a time to consolidate and be prepared to stand up for what is right. His aim in telling us these things in advance is to ensure that we understand and have the knowledge that these things will happen so that we should not fear, unlike the rest of mankind.

In spite of these bad times ahead Jesus said that we must not be alarmed. There will be many disasters ahead as we see the fulfilment of these prophecies. As these things unfold we can be assured that his return will be soon. If we stand with him to the end, standing up for the truth and righteousness we will be rewarded and reap eternal life. There is no middle ground and no fence sitting in these times. We must be prepared to make a stand for Christ regardless of the consequences and be prepared to forgo all the things of this life, including life itself if necessary, for the vastly greater reward of life eternal with him. Focus on the Lord so that you can become strong in his might, ready, able and willing to stand with him in these final days.

Bible Signs of the Times

(Matthew 16:1-4)

In this section we see Jesus upbraiding the Pharisees and Sadducees who were looking for a sign from heaven to test Jesus. There are many Bible signs of the times throughout both Old & New Testaments relating to Jesus’ coming. The Pharisees and Sadducees were aware of them, but refused to accept this mere carpenter as the Messiah spoken of in the Bible signs of the times discussed in the old books of the prophets.

They wanted proof that Jesus was who he was, but even if they were to receive a sign, they would not have believed. As Jesus showed in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31) The sign that Jesus offered to the Pharisees and Sadducees was exactly this. He said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4) In effect when Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by the great fish, spending three days in its belly, he was presumed dead. However when he was regurgitated he effectively rose from the dead. In Jesus’ case he would spend three days in the tomb and actually did rise from the dead. This is the parallel he was drawing by quoting the sign of Jonah.

But as we see, the Pharisees and Sadducees still would not believe even after he was raised from the dead. The chief priests of the time and elders of the temple paid off the guards and told them to spread the story that Jesus disciples came by night and stole the body away while the guards slept.

So Jesus upbraided them for although they could look at the signs in the sky to predict the weather, they were blind to the signs of the times. The Bible signs of the times have been given to us so that we may be aware of what is happening and what is to come. We can see from what is going on around us, and comparing this to the Bible and see the hand of the Lord. Let us look at some of the things occurring today and consider what they mean in the light of scripture and the Bible signs of the times.

2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” If you desire to follow Jesus and to live a godly life, you need to know that there will be persecutions and you will have trouble. This goes with your call to Christ. But you will also be strengthened by looking to Christ and be given the means to come through such persecutions. So as far as Bible signs of the times go, this is one at a personal level. When you are persecuted for the Lord, not if you do wrong, you are blessed and can take comfort that you are doing something right. If you were not, the devil would not persecute you.

Matthew 24:6 “And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” Consider the wars and skirmishes of recent times. The world or parts of it have been in constant war and fighting for the past century where nations have risen against nations. Look at the two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, two wars in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and the many crises in places like Uganda, Cuba, the Falklands, Yugoslavia, Georgia in the USSR, Timor, the middle east and many more that have occurred in recent years. These are pointers to the beginning of the end of this age; the birth pangs of the end as it is described.

Matthew 24:7 “…there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” The seismic activity in recent years is unparalleled in the world’s history. There are more earthquakes occurring in more places than ever before. While there is some argument that we now have more and better equipment to identify and measure earthquakes, if we look only at the major quakes, i.e. greater than magnitude 8 on the Richter scale we see a definite increase. In the 1980’s there were 4 Mag 8+ quakes, in the 1990’s there were 6 Mag 8+ quakes and in the 2000’s there were 13 Mag 8+ quakes. This data is according to the US Geological Survey dep’t and can be seen graphically here.

Matthew 24:12 “And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.” Man’s inhumanity to man is beyond precedent today. Random acts of terror; random shootings and stabbings are daily news events. People lock themselves away for fear of violence on the streets.

Luke 21:25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.” We are seeing more damage caused by sea and tsunamis than ever before. Consider the tsunami that hit Indonesia on Boxing Day 2004. Nobody knows exactly how many people perished in that disaster, but they have accounted for at least 220,00 lives lost and possibly as many as 280,000. Recently in 2010 & 2011 there have been freak waves that hit Sydney and nearby beaches washing people out to sae with some lives lost. The common response to this freak weather was “Where did it come from? People and reporters were perplexed, as too were the weather experts. This is another manifestation of this sign in the Bible written several thousand years ago.

The prophet Daniel enquired of the Lord what some of the prophesies of the last days meant. He was told, “…Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4) Was there ever a time in history like the one we are in today in respect of these matters? The Internet has made knowledge accessible to everyone and it is increasing at a rapid rate daily. Technological advance is such that sometimes gadgets are obsolete within months of their release. Consider the first IBM PC was released in 1981 and the change to the world in just 30 years since then as a result of that invention. And mankind is running to and fro all over the place. The pace of change is such that “busy-ness” is the norm for most people today and with global flights so cheap, people are on the move.

The upshot of all of these Bible signs of the times is that it is plain we are in the beginnings of the end times. Make no mistake, the Lord is returning in the not too distant future. We have not been given to know when that will be, but we have been given these and many other signs to help us understand what is happening, and to point to the approaching end of this age.