Most people know the story of the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger. Many know He came to die on a cross for sinners. They celebrate His birth with carols, decorations, parties and gifts; even though a strong, growing vocal minority would like to see Christmas removed from the American landscape.
But although much of the world is aware of and even celebrates Christ’s first coming, most of Christendom despises and ignores His second coming to judge the world. Many who call themselves Christians are ignorant or misguided about this Biblical truth.
Unbelievers don’t want to hear about the second coming of Christ, or judgment and hell. They dread it and down deep in their hearts they know it is true. If as adults we believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, they would laugh us off as foolish; but because they have a vague uneasiness that the Bible and Christianity may possibly be true, they hate and try to silence Christianity and those who declare it. They mistakenly think that if they silence Christians, God and His Truth will go away.
Regardless, we Christians need to lovingly and faithfully warn them. In fact, one of the best ways to share the Gospel is to begin by warning sinners of the Biblical facts concerning Christ’s second coming.
Jesus constantly warned of His second coming throughout His ministry. In Luke 12:40 He taught, “Be ready also: for the Son of Man comes at an hour when you don’t expect Him.” In Acts 17:30-31 Paul approached the unconverted religionists in Athens with the warning, “The times of this ignorance, God winked at; but now commands every man everywhere to repent. Because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained; whereof He has given assurance unto all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead.” Jesus, who was crucified, buried and raised from the dead on the third day, is one day returning to this earth. His second coming will be to judge and rule over this world for a Millennium, one thousand years.
Go to the link on PROPHECY to learn more about the Millennium and of the eternal state which follows.
Though unbelievers hate and despise the idea of Christ’s return to judge this world, we Christians long for His return and we sing, “Oh, Lord Jesus, how long, how long, ere we sing that glad song, Christ Returneth, Christ Returneth. Hallelujah Amen. Hallelujah Amen.”
Listen to these Biblical promises of Christ’s second coming that challenge us as Christians to be faithful and ready for His return.
“Be patient therefore brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receives the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient, establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh.” James 5:7-8
I encourage you to read the major passages on the details of the return of Christ for His own as found in I Corinthians 15:51-58 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
How can we prepare for His coming? Let’s return to Luke 21 as we wind up our study of Christ’s Olivet Discourse. Jesus says to us in verse 28, “Look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.”
I. LOOK UP WITH ANTICIPATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT.
When we look at the circumstances around us: political, economic and moral darkness, we have reason to feel hopeless, despondent and in despair.
But when we look up to Jesus who bids us to be of good cheer for He is returning for us and to take over this world one day, perhaps sooner than we can imagine; He give us His blessed hope. James wrote in James 5:8 “Be patient, establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws near.” The last promise and the last prayer in the Bible are found in Revelation 22:20. They are “Surely I come quickly. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
II. LOOK IN WITH INTROSPECTION AND SELF-JUDGMENT.
That’s Jesus’ challenge to us in verse 34 of Luke 21. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
Christ is warning us here to beware of living lives of excess, immoderation and self-indulgence, living for fun and pleasure and self-satisfaction. Imagine! Christians partying while the world around us goes to hell.
It’s not sinful for Christians to have fun and enjoy life. I love Church socials and wacky fun. I love to see our children and our teens enjoying occasional church socials and parties in the homes; but it is wrong for Christians to be surfeited or weighed down, trying to drown themselves in the pleasures of life and forget the reality of Christ’s imminent return.
If anything, church parties and socials should be occasions when we invite our unsaved friends to join us in our fun times so that they can see first hand the reality of Christian joy. That may be the first step to winning them to Christ.
The joyful anticipation of meeting Christ imminently should lead to growth in virtue and holiness. Listen to John in I John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. and every man who has this hope in him, purifies himself even as He (Jesus) is pure.
Paul says the same thing in Titus 2:11-14. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldy lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession, zealous of good works.”
Paul writes these kinds of warnings to the various churches. You can read another of them in Romans 13:11-14. Peter also warns Christians of the return of Christ in II Peter 3. In verse 11 he reminds us as Christians, “See then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.”
John, an old man when he writes His Epistles, in I John 2:28 reminds Christians, “And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
III. LOOK OUT WITH EVANGELISTIC CONCERN
In the Matthew 24 account of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus refers to the need for evangelistic activity. He reminds us that in Noah’s time in the days before the Flood began, life went on as usual with people eating and drinking and getting married and ignoring Noah’s warning of a world wide flood right up to the day Noah and his family entered the ark. In Luke 21:35 Jesus speaks of the world’s population as being trapped in a snare when He returns to judge.
In II Peter 3 Peter likens the universal world wide flood of Noah’s Day to the world wide judgment that will fall on the earth when Christ returns. As people scorned a flood in Noah’s day; so today, unconverted scientists and teachers close their minds to all the evidence of a flood because they know that if they believe it to be true, to be consistent they must also believe in the world wide judgment Peter warned of in this 3rd chapter.
How do you stand? Is your faith in Christ who died for your sins and rose again for your justification? If so, you are justified and ready for the return of Christ. If not, you stand condemned to the fiery judgment that awaits this earth and all those who dwell on this earth.
Thank God for the doxology in Jude’s little one chapter epistle. Verses 24 and 25 declare “Now unto Him (Jesus our Saviour) who is able to keep you from falling and to present you FAULTLESS before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, OUR SAVIOUR, JESUS, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever, Amen.”
The Budding of the Fig Tree
In the previous article concerning the budding of the fig tree, Jesus used the fig tree as an illustration that as the buds assure us that the leaves and fruit are not far behind; so the generation that sees and experiences the cataclysmic end of this sin-cursed age, as described in Luke 21:20-26 will also experience the ushering in of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom.
There, I made the statement that Christ’s true Church, composed of all His redeemed; will not be among this generation that experiences the indescribable terrors of the Tribulation as God’s wrath is poured out on this sin-cursed earth in its final hours. Why? Because seven years earlier, Christ’s true Church, composed of all those whose trust for salvation is in Christ Himself, will have been caught up supernaturally into Heaven in new glorified bodies, impervious to sin and sin’s curse.
In this article I want to give you reasons why I believe Christ’s redeemed, true Church will escape the Tribulation.
I. The Revelation in context
First, let me give you a reason you can discover for yourself simply by reading through The Revelation, John’s heavenly vision of the end times. Let’s trace the Church through the book of The Revelation.
In Rev. 1-3 Jesus speaks to the seven churches of Asia Minor, a type of the entire Church Age since it began at Pentecost. It’s quite evident that the seven churches trace church history on this earth from the time of the Apostles to the beginning of the Millennial reign of Christ. The dates I give you are rough estimates.
Ephesus – The Apostolic Church from 30-100 AD Revelation 2:1-7
Smyrna – The Persecuted Church from 100-312 AD Revelation2:8-11
Pergamos – The Idolatrous Church from 312 – 606 AD Revelation 2:12-17
Thyatira – The Church of the Dark Ages 606 – 1517 Revelation 2:18-29
Sardis – The Church of the Reformation 1517 – to 1750 Revelation 3:1-6
Philadelphia – The Faithful Church 1750 – Rapture Revelation 3:7-13
Laodicea – The Apostate Church 1950 – Tribulation Revelation 3:14-22
2. In Revelation 4:1-2 we see the Church being caught up into Heaven, which speaks of the Rapture of the Saints. The Tribulation follows on earth.
3. Revelation chapter 4-5 The Church in Heaven is identified by the Elders, clothed in white raiment with crowns on their heads. In Chapter 4 they give glory to Christ, their Creator. In chapter 5 they give glory to Christ their Redeemer.
4. Note, the Church is not mentioned in Rev. 6-18, which chapters are a description of the Tribulation. The reason for the absence of the Church on earth is because it has already been caught up into Heaven before the Tribulation began.
An exception is the false church, described as the harlot in Revelation 17. She is seen riding the Beast or controlling the Anti-christ until in his fury, he destroys the harlot church and proclaims himself as god, demanding all to worship him or face execution.
5. in Revelation 19, The Church, clothed in white raiment and crowns on their heads, follows Christ from Heaven to this earth to witnesses the destruction of all Christ’s enemies as He assumes His Millennial rule over the entire world.
II. The faithful Church will not face the wrath of God during The Tribulation.
I Thessalonians 5:1-11 makes that clear. Though the Church is chastened when needed by Christ, she never faces God’s wrath. See verse 9 in that fifth chapter.
Yes, we face tribulations in this world, as Jesus said we would in John 16:33, but that is a far cry from the horrors of The Great Tribulation under the Anti-christ. II Thessalonians 2 also makes it clear that the church escapes the Great Tribulation. To understand this chapter, go to the category PROPHECY and scroll to # 8, The big Picture. That will help explain II Thessalonians 2 in detail.
Titus 2:11-13 is also a great passage on the Rapture, describing it as a Blessed Hope. If the Great Tribulation is part of the picture for Christians, then the rapture of the church ceases to be a “Blessed Hope”.
So I do not believe true Christians need to look forward to The Great Tribulation. Rather, we escape it via the Rapture.
The Churches of Philadelphia and Laodicea
Finally, I want to share some thoughts with you concerning two of the seven Churches we mentioned at the beginning of this article; the Church of Philadelphia and the Church of Laodicea.
First the faithful Church of Philadelphia, characterized by brotherly love. This church, faithful to God’s Word and to fulfilling the Great Commission of evangelizing the world, probably got started early in the 18th century and will be caught up in the Rapture just before the Great Tribulation is unleashed on this earth.
Christ’s promise to the Philadelphian Church ONLY is found in Revelation 3:10. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (testing) which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” From this verse I find comfort that His faithful church will be raptured before the Tribulation is unleashed.
In contrast, the Church of Laodicea which I personally believe symbolizes the new church movement that got started about 1950 and will continue into the Tribulation. For more information abut this crucial event that took place in 1950 go to my category, LIBERALISM and Scroll to the article, The Kingdom of God in America.
Is the Laodicean Church a part of the true Church, the spiritual body of Christ? I believe it is. It tells us in Rev. 3 that Christ loves the Church, but He is grieved and even disgusted with it. It nauseates Him. Does the Laodicean Church get raptured? I wonder! Jesus only promises the Philadelphian Church deliverance from the hour of testing to come upon the world. Again, I believe He is referring to deliverance from the Tribulation. It would not surprise me if the Laodicean Christians goes through the Tribulation and faces martyrdom for their faith.
Regardless, both are true Churches, though one is carnal and the other is spiritual. In either case, these are people who seeing they are sinners, have put their trust in Christ and been given the gift of eternal life which no power can take from them. See Romans 8 on this. But just because they have eternal life is no guarantee that they will both escape the Tribulation. Look again at Revelation 3:10. Note why the Philadelphian Church escapes the Tribulation. Can the same be said of the Laodicean Church?
In which Church are you?
How can we distinguish a Philadelphian Church from a Laodicean Church?
The best way I know is to read Jesus’ message to each of the churches. To the Philadelphian Church, Christ message is found in Revelation 3:7-12. To the Laodicean Church His message is found in Revelation 3:14-21.
I think we could summarize the two churches this way. The Philadelphian Church hungers for God’s Word. Preaching the Word is the most important thing. The Laodicean Church has turned away from the preaching of God’s Word. They reject any preaching that makes them feel guilty. They label Biblical preaching that deals with sin as “legalistic”. Their entire church life centers in good emotional feelings of what they call worship as their preachers give them what they want to hear. Their lives are not much different from the lost all around them.
Christ tells the Laodicean Church that He stands at the door of their hearts, knocking to gain entrance. He wants fellowship with these carnal Christians. To those who open the door, He will come in and enjoy fellowship with them.
It is not our responsibility to judge churches anymore than we judge individual Christians. However, we need spiritual discernment to know where God wants us to worship and be fed. It tells us in Acts 17:10-11 that the Christians in Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they listened carefully to the preaching and then discerned whether the preaching they were hearing was in line with the Word of God.
What you eat and don’t eat to a large extent determines your physical health. The preaching you hear and digest at church to a large extent determines your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your children. May God give you His discernment and His peace as you determine where you are going to worship and be fed God’s Word.
Read again Christ’s messages to the Church of Philadelphia and to Laodicea in Revelation 3:7-21 and then determine whether yours is a Philadelphian Church or a Laodicean Church.
Along with the doctrines of salvation and Christian living, the Second Coming of Christ is a dominant theme of the New Testament. In fact, the Old Testament is filled with prophecies of this event. It is the culmination of our salvation when we are glorified sinless and present with Christ for eternity.
The end time events begin with Christ returning to catch His Church up into Heaven in an event that has come to be known as the rapture of the saints. Though the word rapture is not used in the Bible, Jesus described this rapturous event of being caught up into the presence of Christ in John 14:1-3.
The Apostle Paul, writing by inspiration of God, gives us the most information concerning this event in I Corinthians 15:51-58, I Thessalonians 4:13-18. In Romans 8:23 it is referred to as the redemption of our bodies. Romans13:11-14 reminds us that we have no time to waste as we await Christ’s return, Paul also wrote to Timothy and Titus about this great event. II Timothy 4:8 and Titus 2:11-14.
The writer of Hebrews also mentions it in Hebrews 9:28.
The Apostle John refers to it in I John 3:1-3. The last promise and the last prayer in the Bible, found in Revelation 22:20 concern the Rapture.
The Olivet Discourse, found in Luke 21, Matthew 24-25 and Mark 13, is Christ’s answer to His disciples’ question concerning the course of this present age and end time events. It does not mention the Rapture of the Saints, for the privilege of announcing and explaining that event to Christ’s Church was given to the Apostle Paul after Christ had ascended back to Heaven and after the Church was supernaturally established at Pentecost.
However, the Olivet Discourse traces the history of this age to its consummation when Christ returns to this earth to reign. First, Jesus describes this present age as one characterized by wars and rumors of wars, as nations and kingdoms rise up one against another, as well as an age of natural disasters. He also describes the world-wide religious deception and persecution of Christians. He speaks of the universe-altering signs that appear in the last days before His return to reign on this earth in His glorious Kingdom.
In Luke 21:29-32 He uses fig trees and other trees in general to illustrate a point we must remember. When fig trees, as well as other trees begin to put forth their leaves and blossoms, we know that summer is coming. So when we see Jerusalem surrounded by armies and the cataclysmic events that follow, described in verses 20-28; those living on this earth will know that the end of this age has come and Christ is ready to reign over this earth.
The question that divides Christians is Who is the you in verse 31 and this generation in verse 32 referring to? Certainly they are the same group of people.
Some believe they were the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking. That cannot be possible, for they did not live to see all the prophesied events of verse 8-28
Some believe they were the people who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 AD. Again, that cannot be possible for the same reason, even though they witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and their temple.
In recent years when Israel returned to their homeland and became a nation in 1948, many Bible teachers began teaching that this was the “budding of the fig tree” and that this generation would see the return of Christ and the fulfillment of prophecy. Although all of this is supremely significant prophetically; time has shown that the adult generation of 1948 were not the generation to see the return of Christ. Most of them have died.
So who is the generation who is spoken of in verses 31-32? They are those who will be living in the midst of the cataclysmic events described in Luke 21:20-28. Though the people living in 70 AD witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem, there is going to be a future generation who will see Jerusalem surrounded by armies as Armageddon draws near. The events of 70 AD were but a foretaste of what is to come in The Tribulation under the Anti-christ.
One thing for certain is that the Church, the redeemed Body of Christ, will not be on earth to witness all of this. We will have been raptured into Heaven seven years earlier. For more on the rapture of the saints and the seven years of Tribulation under the control of Anti-christ, go to my series on PROPHECY.
In the next post, Lord willing, I will give you Scriptural reasons why the true Church will not go through the Tribulation on earth. We will have been caught up to Heaven before that begins. Christians will never know nor see the Anti-christ.
As we continue our study of Christ’s Olivet Discourse in Luke 21, I want to begin by turning your attention to Hebrews 12:18-29. Please, take time to read that first and then you will have a background for what follows. Note in this Hebrew 12 passage two shakings of the earth. The first shaking, described in Hebrews 12:18-21, took place at Mt. Sinai as Moses was preparing to receive the Law of God from God Himself. Exodus 19 describes the scene. In that chapter all the Israelites were warned to stay away from Mt. Sinai. They were not to even come close to it. Instant death was the penalty for touching that mountain.
The second shaking of the earth described in Hebrews 12:22-25 is infinitely more severe. It involves not only the shaking of the earth, but also the Heavens. The purpose of this second shaking is given in Hebrews 12:26-29. It is to shake to utter destruction everything in our universe that has been defiled by sin and Satan; so that which cannot be shaken, Christ’s Kingdom, can be revealed. Now turning back to Luke 21:20-28, Jesus describes the final hours of The Great Tribulation, the worst time this earth has ever seen since its creation. This shaking is incomprehensible. Our minds can scarcely grasp it.
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE GREAT TRIBULATION
To keep events in perspective, let’s review what we’ve learned in this chapter. It all began with Jesus’ announcement of the coming destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. His Disciples asked when this would take place and what signs would indicate when it would happen. Jesus could easily have answered, “In about forty more years” (which would be 70 AD); but He didn’t give them that information.
Jesus did not answer by giving a date. Instead, He warned in verse 8 of the coming deception of those who would claim to be the Christ. He warned His Disciples and us to not fall under their spell and follow false Messiahs. That deception has been going on ever since He returned to Heaven, as people continue to follow false Messiahs.
WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS
Then in verse 9-10 Jesus warns us of wars and commotions as nations and kingdom rise up against one another. That has been going on for over 2000 years now. World history is a study of wars worldwide. Certainly in the over 75 years I have lived, I have only known wars and rumors of wars.
This sin-cursed, disintegrating planet headed for destruction has already experienced earthquakes, famines, pestilence, plagues and fearful sights over these past 2000 years, just as Jesus warned in verse 11. In spite of all man’s feeble and costly attempts to “Save the Planet”, he is powerless to do anything about its coming destruction. I am not advocating that we pollute it. I hate pollution. We ought to care about ecology, though we are foolish to be ecological extremists and make it our religion by worshipping planet earth. Saving our earth is a lost cause!
PERSECUTION AND MARTYRDOM FOR CHRIST
Then in verse 12, Jesus looks at His twelve Apostles and says directly to them, “But before any of these events begin to happen, you Apostles are going to be arrested by the Jewish leaders and taken before the synagogues and imprisoned for the Gospel. Later you and other believers are going to be brought before gentile kings and rulers and suffer for My name’s sake.”
That’s exactly what happened to the Apostles. They were all eventually martyred for Christ, as was the Apostle Paul who was converted later and became Christ’s Apostle to the Gentiles. Furthermore, that persecution has continued to be the experiences of millions upon millions of Christ’s followers these past 2000 years even to this present day.
Perhaps some of us today will be persecuted and face martyrdom for Christ. He encourages us here in verses13-15 to give no thought as to what we will say when we are arrested and brought before authorities. Christ promises that He will give us the wisdom to know exactly what to say, just as He did for Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Read his inspirational story in Acts 6:9 through 7:60
POST MILLENNIAL POSITION
Now you Post Millennialists are going to tell me that the invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD was the fulfillment of Luke 21:20-22 and therefore we are now in the Millennial Reign of Christ. (even though it’s been over 2000 years now.) I do not begrudge you your opinion nor believe that you are not a good Christian. But let me show you why I believe Christ’s Millennial Reign is yet future.
Yes, I agree with you that Jerusalem was invaded in 70 AD and that Jesus was referring to this event when He spoke of it in verse 20-22. But that was just a foreshadowing of events to come. Jesus does not stop there in His description of the events leading up to His coming Kingdom. Note what else He says in describing the events that preceded Christ’s coming Kingdom.
OTHER EVENTS PRECEDING THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST
In verse 24 Jesus prophesies that “Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” That’s been going on ever since 700 BC when Assyria conquered and dispersed Israel throughout the world. That continues today, 2700 years later, and will continue until Christ returns to reign. Not only was Jerusalem destroyed by Roman invaders in 70 AD, but verse 25-26 give us an inkling of the cataclysmic events yet to take place in the Heavens. Those same events are described in more detail in Revelation 16:17-21.
No one will deny that these events have not yet taken place. In Revelation 19:1 we learn that it is after these cataclysmic events that Christ returns in glory to reign on this earth, as described in Revelation 19 and 20. Note in chapter 20 that Satan is bound and powerless throughout the 1000 year reign of Christ. Afterwards he is released for a short season and stirs up one last desperate rebellion against Christ and is instantly cast into the Lake of Fire where the Anti-Christ and his false prophet had been cast one thousand years earlier.
Yes, I agree with Post Millennialists that the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD is prophesied in Luke 21:20-22, but that passage is also referring to Armageddon, a future invasion of Jerusalem as is also referred to here. Luke 21:20-33 is describing the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem and the world just before Christ returns to inaugurate His Millennial Kingdom.
THIS INFORMATION WAS NOT NEW TO THE APOSTLES
As devout Jews, they attended the Synagogues weekly and heard the reading of the Scriptures, including the Prophets. As they heard the following Scriptures, they had already learned of the cataclysmic events prophesied of the end times. Here are some of those Scriptures that would be profitable to read at this time. As you read them, remember that this is what Jesus was referring to as He described the events that will usher in Messiah’s glorious Kingdom.
Isaiah 13, 24
Joel 2, 3
SEALS, TRUMPETS AND BOWL JUDGMENTS
In the Book of Revelation, John the aged Apostle, banished to the Isle of Patmos, writes visions of the future.
Rev. 1-3 The glorified Christ and the Church Age
Rev. 4 The Church caught up into Heaven (The Rapture)
Rev. 5 The Church in Heaven before the Throne of Christ.
Rev. 6-18 The Tribulation unleashed on the world and the cataclysmic judgments prophesied by those Old Testament prophets fulfilled.
Rev. 19-20 Millennial Kingdom of Christ and final judgment of unbelievers.
Rev. 21-22 The eternal state of Christians in Heaven
DEAR CHRISTIAN FRIEND,
Though we may suffer for Christ in this life, you and I will never experience the pouring out of God’s wrath on this earth, for we shall escape all of this in The Rapture. More about this in the next article.
It’s at the height of Israel’s rejection of Christ as Messiah and just before His crucifixion that Jesus unveils a broad, general overview of the future in His Olivet Discourse with His disciples as they sit together with Him on the Mount of Olives just outside the city of Jerusalem. This Olivet Discourse is found in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21.
The future Jesus describes is much worse than anyone could imagine. We’re not headed towards utopia and world peace. Just the opposite is true. It’s only going to get worse, before Jesus is inaugurated as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and turns this sin-cursed world around.
In this Church Age, and in this Time of the Gentiles there are more false Christians than true Christians and there are more false teachers, than true teachers of God’s Word,
This age is characterized by wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods. This is an age of famines and plagues. Persecution and martyrdom of Christians has continued ever since the Church began at Pentecost and continues to this day and will continue through the Tribulation.
All of this is the culmination of Redemptive history which will bring about the end of sin and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness. All of these things Jesus spoke of on the Mount of Olives, had been prophesied throughout the Old Testament by prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Zechariah and Malachi.
The first prophet to prophesy of the Return of Christ in glory was Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam. Read of him in Genesis 5:18-24 and again in Jude 14. Note that Enoch never died. Like Christians in the coming Rapture, he was caught up alive into Heaven.
As we see prophecy unfold before our eyes, we recognize it as evidence of Christ’s omniscience, truthfulness and omnipotence to control all these events.
The next event on God’s calendar is the catching up into Heaven of the glorified bodies of Christians worldwide, instantly, in the twinkling of an eye. This event is not referred to in the Olivet Discourse. It is a promise to Christ’s Church. The Apostle Paul was given the privilege of unfolding this truth. He speaks of it in I Corinthians 15:51-58 and again in I Thessalonian 4:13-18, 5:2,9, Titus 2:11-13. It is also taught in Hebrews 9:28 and I John 3:1-3 Jesus also made the first reference to it in John 14:1-3.
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
Upon the catching up or rapture of Christians to Heaven, the Anti-christ will be revealed on this earth and will immediately make a peace treaty to protect the Jews. The world will be glad to see Christians gone and will welcome the Anti-christ as the peace maker they have so longed for. Read the following passages of Scripture for information concerning the Anti-christ and the beginning of the Tribulation, which interestingly will last for exactly seven years. Daniel 9, Matthew 24, II Thessalonians 2, and Revelation chapter 6-18,
For more concerning the Tribulation and the Seventy Weeks of Years, go to my PROPHECY link and study # 13, The Seventy Weeks
In the middle of the Tribulation, the Anti-christ will break his covenant with the Jews and will defile the Jewish temple by putting an image of himself in the Holy Place, demanding the world worship him as god. That will signal the beginning of the Great Tribulation and the beginning of the pouring out of God’s Judgments on the earth.
These last three and a half years will be the worst this world has ever seen. It will be the environmentalists worst nightmare with bitter rivers, bloody oceans, meteors falling to the earth, gigantic earthquakes, and the disappearance of islands and mountains from the face of the earth.
All of this is described in the opening of seven seals from Revelation 6:1 through 8:1. As the seventh seal is opened, seven trumpets sound bringing in more terrifying events recorded in Revelation 8-11. and as the seventh trumpet sounds, Revelation 16 announces seven more bowls or vials of judgment that will be poured out on the earth.
EVANGELISM DURING THE TRIBULATION
During the Tribulation 144,000 Jews, (not Jehovah Witnesses) exactly 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, will take the Gospel to the world. This is mentioned in Revelation chapter 7 and 14. In addition, two witnesses, perhaps two Old Testament prophets, will return to earth to preach the Gospel. Their story is told in Revelation 11. Read about their death and resurrection at this time. In addition to the 144,000 Jews and the two witnesses, an angel spoken of in Revelation 14:6 will fly around the world preaching the Gospel for the final time. How many will be saved from all of this evangelism, we do not know. Those saved will refuse to worship the Anti-christ and be martyred. Their souls be caught up into Heaven.
THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON
The final event of the Great Tribulation will be Christ’s returning to earth to fight His enemies in the Battle of Armageddon. It will be fought in the plains of Megiddo. You can read of this battle in Revelation 14 and 16. Christ will be victorious and bring an end to The Great Tribulation as the Anti-christ and the false prophet are cast alive into the eternal Lake Of Fire.
The earth will experience the final terrible hours of the curse of sin and then Christ will renew the earth, remove the curse from it and it will become once more somewhat like the Garden of Eden. Christ will come to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This coming will be His visible, glorious return to earth to reign, in contrast to the Rapture; that is, the secret return of Christ to catch up all Christian from the earth seven years earlier just before the Tribulation is unleashed on this earth.
Also Zechariah 12 and 13 prophesy of the Jews returning as a nation to Jesus as their Messiah and Saviour. Christ will reign over the earth for one thousand years. You can read more about that under PROPHECY in the articles on The Millennium. Also you can read a brief summary of the Millennium in Revelation 20.
If you have never yet put your trust in Christ, today is the day of salvation. Don’t put it off. One second after the Rapture has taken place, it will be too late for you, according to II Thessalonians 2:1-12.
What must you do to be saved? Get over your pride and admit you are a sinner who cannot save himself by his good works. Believe that Jesus is God in human flesh and that He came into this world to die on a cross to bear the punishment for your sins. Receive Him by faith. He will forgive your sins, come to live in your heart by His Holy Spirit and regenerate you, making you a new person who hates sin and loves righteousness. No, you won’t be perfect until you are in Heaven. But when you sin, confess it to God and the blood that saved you will continue to wash away that sin. Read I John 5:11-13 and get this decision settled once and for all right now.
We rejoin Jesus with His disciples on the Mount of Olives as He warns them of what lies ahead. The disciples have lots to deal with. They are well aware of and excited over the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah 11 and 35, as well as many other prophecies of the Kingdom scattered throughout the Old Testament.
Though they are familiar with the Old Testament truth that the Messiah must die for the sins of the world, as prophesied in Isaiah 53 and typified by the sacrifice of animals for sin and though Jesus will be crucified within two days, they are still struggling with this depressing truth.
Not only that, but Jesus has also hinted that He is about to leave them for a long time before He would return to reign, as illustrated in a story recorded in Luke 19 11-27. In Luke 21 He had been telling them of the deception, tribulation and sorrows that would escalate while He was absent from them,
He has also warned them in this chapter of the persecution that each of them would face, as well as multiplied millions of other Christians during His absence from them.
They are well aware of their own frailties and are wondering to themselves whether they can possibly endure the persecution that is coming on them. Will they fail their Lord? No doubt, we have often asked the same question of ourselves as we consider the possibility of worldwide persecution of Christians in our age. Will we fail the Lord?
In the midst of their fears, Jesus assures them in verses 18-19 “But not a hair of your head will perish.” Just before that, in verse 16 and 17 He had told them that some of them would be hated and martyred by Christ haters.
Jesus is saying to them and to us that in spite of persecution, we do not need to fear rejecting Christ or perishing. That is, we do not need to fear facing eternal damnation in hell. If we are saved by grace through faith in Christ’s sacrifice for us and apart from any good works of our own, then it is impossible for us to lose that eternal life by our failure to be all that we ought to be. That’s the message of Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5-6. Sure Ephesians 2:10 goes on to remind us that even though we are not saved by our good works, we are Christ’s workmanship, saved to live out the good works God has before ordained for us. That is, according to Philippians 2:12-13, we are saved to work out the salvation that God is working in us.
GOD’S REPEATED PROMISE OF ETERNAL LIFE.
Jesus is promising His disciples then and us now that in spite of persecution and death, we will survive and not perish, or experience eternal loss. So the age old question is can one who has put His trust in Christ and been born again ever do anything to reverse and remove the eternal life that God has given us? The answer is clearly NO!
Yes, we can fail the Lord and miss out on rewards in Heaven, but the repeated answer of God’s Word is that we cannot lose our salvation. Listen to His repeated promise of eternal life. I encourage you to open your Bible and read the following passages. I will quote parts of the verses for emphasis.
In John 1 Jesus, the eternal Word of God and Creator of the universe, became flesh in the person of Jesus and went to the cross for our sins. Read the promise in verses 11-13 “But as many as received Him, to them gave He the power (authority) to become the sons of God, even to them who believe in His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of men, but of God.”
John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have EVERLASTING life….
Read in John 4 Jesus’ conversation with an immoral woman of Samaria when He asked her for a drink of water. Listen to His promise to her in verse 13-14. “Whosoever drinks of this water (from Jacob’s well) shall thirst again. But whosoever drinks from the water (eternal life) that I shall give Him, shall never thirst, but that water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
John 5:24 “He that hears My Word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall NOT come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”
John 6:35 “I am the Bread of Life; he that comes to Me shall never hunger; and He that believes on Me shall never thirst.
Are you grasping this? If your trust is in Jesus sacrifice on the cross as the full payment for your sins, and you are not trusting in your own works of self righteousness, God has saved you and given to you eternal life which can never be taken away from you, not even by Satan himself.
John 6:37-40 “All that the Father gives Me, shall come to Me” (Have you come to Christ in simple faith for salvation? Then be assured the Father has given you to His Son.) “and Him who comes to me, I WILL IN NO WISE, (UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE) CAST OUT. And this is the Father’s will which has sent Me, that of all which He has given Me, I SHOULD LOSE NOTHING…..”
John 10:27-30 “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall NEVER PERISH., neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” That’s double security! We are safe in Christ’s hands and in the Father’s hands.
In John 17 Jesus is praying for His disciples and us, just before He is arrested and crucified. In verse 11 He prays, “Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they all may be one as We are.”
Yes, the Gospels are filled with promises of our security In Christ; but so are other portions of the New Testament. Let’s look at some of them.
CAN CARNAL CHRISTIANS BE SAVED?
I Corinthians is one of Paul’s Epistles written to one of the most carnal or self-centered of churches. This church is every pastor’s nightmare, filled with problems of pride, selfishness, division and confusion.
Yet Paul begins His Epistle to them by reminding them of what Christ had done for them.
I Corinthians 1:4 “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ.
Verse 5 “That in everything ye are enriched by Him in all utterance and in all knowledge.’ These were not ignorant Christians.
Verse 7 “So that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These people were gifted by the Spirit of God.
Verse 8 Note this wonderful promise to this carnal church. “Who shall confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And then in verse 9 he writes to them and to us, “GOD IS FAITHFUL, by whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
WHAT IS A PREACHER’S RESPONSIBILITY?
But Paul, like every preacher, is called, not only to preach the Gospel; but to deal with the sin of the congregation. The preacher who only preaches the Gospel is failing to fulfill his responsibility, Many Christians want their preachers to just preach Christ and leave the sin problems alone. They tell us that God will take care of the sin problems if we just preach Christ. I understand their concerns. It’s true that if Christ is magnified, He will draw people to Him. Some tell us that we can catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar, implying that we should just preach the Gospel and not be negative by dealing with sin.
Let’s examine what God’s Word says about this, In Ephesians 4:11-13 we have the responsibilities of a pastor spelled out. As you read the passage you will see that it is our responsibility to not only preach the Gospel, but preach the entire Word of God in such a way as to build up the saints and equip them to fulfill their ministries and help them attain spiritual maturity, even to the fullness of Christ.
In II Timothy 4:2-5 Paul teaches Pastor Timothy to preach the Word. That includes everything from Genesis through Revelation. In so doing, we are to rebuke, reprove and exhort with longsuffering, that is, patience, as we teach doctrine (the teachings of all the Bible) applying them to life.
Even the Old Testament prophets were to do the same thing. Isaiah 58:1 exhorts prophets and preachers to “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet and show MY PEOPLE their transgressions.”
What happens when we deal with sin in the congregation. II Timothy 4:3-4 tells us, ” For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts, they shall go after preachers and teachers who give them what they want to hear. As a result, they shall turn away their ears form the Truth and follow after those who teach them fables.
In Jude 20, 21 and 24 we have three related truths concerning spiritual growth.
Verse 20 teaches us to build ourselves up in the Word,. We do that by reading it and exposing ourselves to sound Biblical teaching.
Verse 21 warns us to keep ourselves in the love of God. Our love for God grows as our love for His Word grows and we expose and submit ourselves to it.
Verse 24 reminds us that having taken our responsibilities of verses 20 and 21, God takes the responsibility of keeping us from falling and of presenting us “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”
Jesus in His Olivet Discourse is teaching His disciples future events leading up to His return to reign on this earth for a Millennium. Luke 21:27-28. But before He returns to this earth certain things must take place in this Church Age: religious deception 21:8 and all sorts of natural disasters and wars 21:9-11
But before these things come to pass, in verses 12-19 Jesus warns His disciples, as well as Christians in general, that we will experience severe persecution, even to martyrdom. Martyrdom of Christians has continued for 2000 years and there is more today worldwide than at any time in history.
This was difficult for His disciples to grasp. In fact, it was shocking! Their hearts were set on the Golden Age and they looked forward to being leaders in the Kingdom. See Luke 9:46 and Matthew 20:20-28.
Yet they should not have been surprised. Jesus had warned of persecution early in His ministry in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:10-12.
The persecution of Christians would come from two sources, Jesus warned. It would come from the Jewish unbelievers as Christians were brought before the Synagogues and it would also come from Gentile rulers.
That’s exactly what happened to the Apostles, as recorded in Acts. First it came from the Jews, as the new Christians were brought before the Synagogues and beaten. Actually, Stephen an early deacon was the first Christian martyr. His Christ-glorifying death got through to the Christ-hating Saul of Tarsus. Saul soon was saved and became the flaming evangelist and missionary, whose name as an Apostle of Christ was changed to Paul.
Have you ever thought about this? If Christianity is but a myth for ignorant, misguided people, why all the hatred towards Christians? If it is nothing but a myth, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, why do people get so worked up about Christianity? The reason they hate Christianity is because they know it is true and they hate the God who sees them as rebellious sinners facing hell and they hate those of us who love Him and share the Gospel with them.
If God could reach into the heart of Christ-hating Saul of Tarsus who frothed at the mouth with hatred for Christ, he is well able to reach those who hate Him in this age. Christians, let’s get the Gospel to those enemies of God. They can become the greatest of missionaries and evangelists when God get through with them.
One more thing
In Luke 21:20-36 is Jesus only speaking of the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD, or is He also referring to the Tribulation yet to come?
Post-Millennialists answer that it speaks only of the Roman invasion of 70 AD.
Pre-Millennialists believe it speaks of the Roman invasion of 70 AD as a foretaste of the persecution that is yet to come during the Great Tribulation
Let me show you why the events of 70 AD did not usher in Christ’s Kingdom.
1. The Jews were not converted to Christ as a nation in 70 AD nor did it usher in Christ’s Kingdom. Read Ezekiel 36-39 and Zechariah 12-14 and see if those events have been literally fulfilled. Of course, they have not been fulfilled yet, but they will be when Christ returns to reign.
2. Two thousand years later, the Jews are still being trodden down by the gentiles as Jesus prophesied in Luke 21:27. That mistreatment of Jews by non Jews will continue until Christ returns to set things right. It’s our responsibility as Christians to befriend the Jews and give them the Gospel.
3. The Jews as a nation do not yet recognize Jesus as their Messiah. They will when Jesus returns to reign. Read those Ezekiel and Zechariah passages again.
4. The great sign in the heavens spoken of in Luke 21:27 have not yet occurred. They will during the Tribulation just before Christ returns in His glory to reign over the whole world.
5. Although the Gospel has been preached around the world these past 2000 years, it has not yet reached everyone on earth. That will take place during the Tribulations when the 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes) peach the Gospel of the Kingdom and an angel joins in preaching the Gospel to the whole world. See Matthew 24:14. Don’t let the cults confuse you on this as some of them claim to be the 144,000.
6. Before God’s wrath is poured out on this earth during the Tribulation, Christians must be removed from this world. That will take place in the Rapture of the Church, taught in I Corinthians 15:50-58 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18. God promises that Christians will never experience the wrath of God which will be poured out on the world in those last years before Christ comes in His Kingdom. Read carefully I Thessalonians 5:1-11 for assurance that you as a Christian will never experience God’s wrath when it is poured out on this earth.
Did the persecution Christ prophesied in Luke 21 come?
The answer is yes. It began with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. Not only that, but through the past 2000 years we have seen the wars, earthquakes, pestilences and other natural disasters Jesus prophesied. If Jesus has been right about these things, doesn’t it make sense that all the other details of the Olivet Discourse are going to come to pass on schedule just as Jesus prophesied?
How shall we as Christians respond to persecution?
1. Rejoice, we are blessed. Matthew 5:1-16
2. If we live godly lives, expect persecution. Philippians 1:29, II Tim. 3:12
Are we living in the last days?
Every generation of Christians finds themselves living in the last days, but for each succeeding generation these warnings become more relevant, pertinent and urgent than for any generation of the past. Reading I Timothy 4:1-5 I am convinced that we are closer to Christ’s return today than at any time in history. Are you ready to meet Him? You will meet Him one day either as His friend or foe. Woe be to those who meet Him as His foes when He comes to pour out His wrath in that day.
As we continue our study of prophecy in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Luke 21 we must approach it with one of two preconceived assumptions. It is either obscure and hidden truth or else it is obviously clear and plain. One thing for certain is that it is revelation from God. What is revelation? It is revealed; not hidden obscure truth. That’s the purpose of the book of The Revelation. It is revealing to us truths about the future.
Since what God says about the past is clear and plain and accurate, it is reasonable to expect that what He says about the future is also clear and plain and can be expected to be fulfilled.
Jesus is returning to this earth in power and great glory.
That is stated in Luke 21:27-28. God-fearing Israelites were certainly aware of Christ’s coming Kingdom. God made a covenant with David which is recorded n II Samuel 7 and repeated again in Psalm 89, This covenant is God’s promise that someone from David’s line would one day reign over the earth forever. This Kingdom is repeatedly mentioned throughout the Old Testament. You can read about His Kingdom in Isaiah 9:6-7, 11:1-10, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Ezekiel 36-39, Daniel 2:44, and Zechariah 12-14.
Jesus’ Disciples were certainly aware of Christ as the Messiah. They had walked with Him and sat under His ministry for three years and were convinced He was the Messiah. Peter, speaking for the rest of them, confessed Jesus as the Son of God. They had witnessed Jesus’ miracles and listened to Him as He taught the people and confronted the Scribes and Pharisees with their hypocrisy. They were ready and anxious for Him to establish His Kingdom and they looked forward to helping Him administrate it.
They had witnessed His glorious Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. They had to be impressed with the adulation of the huge crowds that greeted Him with palm branches and with their robes thrown down in honor to Him. They had watched Him cleanse His temple and drive out the money changers and sellers of animals and birds for sacrifice. They could not help but be aware of the enmity of the priests and Pharisees as Christ exposed their evil hearts.
The Disciples were ready and anxious for Christ to establish His Kingdom and give them honor and responsibility in that Kingdom. That concern prompted their question in Luke 21:7 as to when that Kingdom would be established.
The second part of their question concerned the signs that would indicate it was at hand? So Jesus devotes most of His Discourse to answering the question of signs of His coming Kingdom.
I. DECEPTION 21:8
We dealt with the first sign in the previous article. That sign is the deception of many false prophets and false Messiahs. That deception began in the first century and has increased over the past two millennia.
II. DISASTERS 21:9-11
World-wide wars, commotions, pestilence and natural disasters are all evidences of God’s hand on history, as we move closer to the Kingdom when Christ reigns from Jerusalem. Romans 8:18-23 speaks of the curse on the entire creation brought on as a result of man’s sin. That curse will not be removed until Jesus comes back to reign.
As long as we have rebellious hearts that reject Christ as Saviour and King, we can count on a disastrous life. When we receive Christ as Saviour, we immediately have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
When we surrender to Christ as Lord of our lives, we have the peace of God controlling our hearts, even though we lives in a world that groans under the curse of sin. See Colossians 3:15 and Philippians 4:4-7. Rebellious Christians can count on unrest and disaster following them throughout their lives.
In the midst of disaster throughout this church age, we Christians can take comfort that all these things are simply evidences of the truth of Christ’s words and assurance that His Kingdom on earth will one day be a reality.
Though we can have His peace ruling in our hearts, we live in a troubled world groaning under the curse of sin. Disasters, disturbances, pestilences, political unrest, wars, earthquakes, famines, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis have continued to fall upon this sin-cursed, world for these past two millennia.
In each generation Christians have taken comfort that the persecution, wars and disasters are all to be expected and that they are signs of the return of Christ to reign on this earth.
These disasters will intensify during the Tribulation beyond anything we have ever seen or heard. Thank God, Christians will miss that by being raptured out of this world before the Anti-christ is revealed.
In Acts 2:1-13 the miraculous events of Pentecost occurred, including the supernatural gift of Christians to speak and share the Gospel of Christ in foreign languages they had never learned. Many were saved. Then Peter, quoting Joel 2:28-32 began to speak in Acts 2:14-21 and he described the entire church age, beginning with Pentecost and ending with the Great Tribulation.
You may wonder why there was no mention of the Rapture of the Church. The answer to that question is that the Rapture was a secret mystery given to the Apostle Paul to reveal to the Church. His major teaching on this is found in I Corinthians 15:51-58 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
In our next message in this series, we will deal with the promised persecution of the Church as Jesus taught it in Luke 21:12-18 and I will show you why we hold to a Pre-Millennial view of prophecy.
Jesus, in His Olivet Discourse found in Luke 21, Mark 13 and Matthew 24-25, answers His disciple’s question of when He was returning and what the signs that preceded His return would be. Those signs would include religious deception, world wide natural disasters, and the persecution of Christians, starting with the apostles themselves.
In this message, I want to warn, especially those who have had a solid Biblical background from childhood, of the possibility of our being deceived by Satan.
THE REALITY OF RELIGIOUS DECEPTION
While the true church grows and make progress against the Kingdom of Satan in this world, as Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18; the false church is growing even faster, deceiving the world. God’s judgment of that false church is described in Revelation 17 and in Revelation 18:4 we are warned to flee from it before we end up sharing in it’s violent destruction during the Tribulation, described in Revelations 6-19,
Deception is something Jesus warned about in Luke 21:8. He had also warned of it three years earlier in His Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. Note Jesus’ warning of deception in Matthew 7:15-23.
Later in Matthew 13:24-43 Jesus warned pf the reality of the danger of genuine and phony Christians growing up together in the same families and in the same churches. He likened the phonies to tares in a wheat field. Tares are imitations of wheat. They look like wheat, but they are empty, lacking any grain. When asked what should be done with the tares, Jesus advised that they be left alone to grow together with the wheat. By trying to separate them from the wheat as it was growing and developing, there was the danger of uprooting the genuine wheat also. Rather, the tares were to be left alone. At the harvest the true wheat would be manifest and the separation would take place at that time.
This truth is not contradicting the Biblical imperative of parental discipline or church discipline.
Parents should warn and punish the disobedience of their children. I encourage you to go to the FAMILY link for more instruction on raising and disciplining your children.
I Corinthians 5 requires churches to remove from their fellowship Christians who flagrantly despise and disobey God’s Word by living in sin after being warned by their brothers and sisters in Christ. Read Acts 5 to learn how seriously God takes such behavior. Read Matthew 18:15-20 for detailed instructions for carrying out church discipline. Note that the spirit in which we carry it out is as important as the action itself. Our desire must be for the restoration of our fallen brother or sister.
HOW CAN WE AVOID BEING DECEIVED?
Cleave to Christ!
In Acts 11:21-23 Barnabas warned the young believers to “cleave to Christ”. Get to know Him through reading the Word of God and through listening to the sound preaching of the Word. Church is more than enjoying exciting worship experiences and hearing positive moralisms on how to be successful in life. Only as we are saturated in the Word of God are we going to be strong enough spiritually to avoid deception.
To cleave to Christ involves much more than simply learning intellectually the deep things of God. It involves much more than simply seeking giddy emotional experiences with what we believe to be with Christ or the Holy Spirit that result in our feeling self-righteous and superior to other Christians.
The right kind of preaching connected to the right kind of listening are going to result in a deep growing love for Jesus. True Christianity results in a deepening love for Jesus.
As a man stops dating other women to cleave only to his wife, so we Christians leave the attractions and the worthless values of this Satanic inspired world system to give our attention and allegiance and our love and loyalty to Christ alone. “Not only are we challenged to cleave to Christ.” but we are also challenged to
Take heed to the doctrine!
“Take heed to the doctrine” Paul warns young Timothy in I Timothy 4:16. and he expands on that in I Timothy 6:3-5 by challenging Timothy to make sure that the doctrine he preaches leads to practical godliness; not simply an academic exercise that leads to futility and strife and pride in a religious vocabulary. What a waste of time it is to sit under such preaching!
Only preaching that grounds us in the doctrines of The Christian Faith and warns us of going in the wrong direction is going to keep us on the right track. Many people avoid preaching that deals with sin because they don’t want to feel guilty.
I thank God for preaching that has made me feel guilty. Guilt is not a bad thing. It’s not something you have to live with. Guilt is the easiest thing in the world to get rid of. Just confess your sin to God. Admit to Him that you are guilty of that sin that is brought to your attention through sound preaching. The moment that sin is confessed as sin, instantly the guilt is gone. Christ’s blood that was shed two thousand years ago on the cross, cleanses you from that sin and removes the guilt. Read about this in I John 1:5-10.
By avoiding such preaching, sin continues to take its toll on your life. and blinds you to false teachers. You are an easy target for the devil and he keeps you defeated and miserable.
A third way to be protected from Satanic deception and oppression is to be filled with the Spirit.
Be filled with the Spirit!
Since the Spirit of God lives in you if you are a Christian, as is taught in I Corinthians 12:13, when you cleave to Christ and take heed to sound doctrine, you are automatically filled with the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is not some emotional experience you must seek, as is taught by false teachers. Rather it is accomplished by surrendering to Christ and taking heed to His Word. Any obedient Christian filling himself with the Word of God is automatically filled with the Spirit. The two are one and the same and they bring about the same results. Compare Ephesians 5:17-33 with Colossians 3:16-25 and note the correlation to being filled with the Spirit to being filled with the Word of God.
So it is only as we cleave to Christ by taking heed to the preaching of God’s Word and are filled with Christ’s Spirit; that we are protected from Satanic deception. Those who allow themselves to follow their own inclinations and ignore the Word, are easy pickings for Satan’s deception.
Are we living in the latter days?
Every generation of Christians since the days of the Apostles and the early church find themselves living in the latter days. These warnings for each succeeding generation become more relevant, more pertinent and more urgent than for any past generation.
Paul’s warning to young Timothy in II Timothy 4:1-4 is even more relevant to us today than it was to Timothy 2000 years ago. We are closer to Christ’s return today than at any time in church history.
In addition to the warnings from I Timothy that we have covered in this message, let me encourage you to read the following warnings concerning the dangers we face in these very evil days. Read and mediate on them and grow in spiritual strength so you can resist the devil.
II Timothy 3:1-7 and 4:1-5
II Peter 2:1-22 and 3:3-15
I John 2:18-19, and 4:1-6
II John 7-11
Read Christ’s warnings to the Seven churches of Asia Minor found in Revelation chapter 2 and 3. These seven churches are pictures of the churches down through Church history, even to our present day. We ignore these warnings to our own peril.
May God help you, whether you are a new or a mature Christian, to take these warnings to heart and at the same time rest in the doxology of Jude 24-25 “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power both now and forever Amen.”
Post Millennialists believe that they have an optimistic view of history. They believe that Christ’s Kingdom began at His Resurrection and that ever since, Christ and His Church have been progressively conquering the world and establishing His Kingdom on earth and that when it is firmly established, Christ will return to take us to Heaven.
The reason they believe this is because they equate Christ’s Kingdom to His Church. I agree with Post Millennialists that the Church is the expression of Christ’s Kingdom on the earth today. The Bible clearly teaches that in Colossians 1:13, as well as other New Testament Scriptures. Every true believer ought to practically be living in Christ’s Kingdom by submitting himself to the Lordship of Christ in every area of his life.
However, the Post-Millennialists (first cousins to the A-Millennialists) do not believe that Christ is returning to establish His Kingdom on this earth for one thousand years, as is taught in Revelation 20.
They believe that we Pre-Millennialists have a negative view of history, in that we believe the world is growing worse and worse and that when all hope is lost, that Christ will come riding on His white horse as the Lone Ranger and save the day by bringing in His Kingdom.
WHAT DOES JESUS SAY ABOUT ALL OF THIS?
That’s the subject of the Olivet Discourse we’ve been studying in Luke 21. Other accounts of this Discourse are found in Mark 13 and Matthew 24-25. In these chapters is Jesus’ longest answer to any question ever asked Him. Why is the answer so detailed? It’s an important question the disciples asked in Luke 21:7 and again in Acts 1:6 just before Jesus ascended back to Heaven. They were concerned for the establishment of Christ’s Messianic Kingdom, promised and described repeatedly as one of the major themes of the Old Testament.
Christ’s Messianic Kingdom is described in detail in many passages such as Isaiah 11 and 35, Micah 4 and Zechariah 14 as peaceful, prosperous, righteous and holy. None of this has been true of the world these past two thousand years. Also, all Israel will have received Jesus as their Messiah.
There’s lots to be fearful of today; wars, nuclear holocaust, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, germ warfare, the financial collapse of our markets. As prophesied in Luke 21:6 men’s hearts are failing them for fear.
Thank God, that though the future of this world looks bleak and dismal; we Christians have answers and comfort from God’s Word and we are constantly challenged to not fear these things. Just a few encouraging passage on this include Luke 12:22-32, Psalm 27, Hebrews 12:5-6, and Matthew 10:28-42.
The early church took comfort in the promises of Psalm 27. Peter, in his first sermon, reminded the early church of that Psalm in Acts 4:24-29.
Look at the disciple’s question once more in Luke 21:7 When Jesus prophesied in Luke 21:6 the total destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the disciples asked Him in verse 7 when this would occur and what signs would precede the end of this age.
First, I should remind you that the dismantlement of the temple, stone by stone was literally fulfilled forty years later in 70 AD when the Roman soldiers burned the temple and then dismantled it stone by stone to take the gold that had melted between the stones. You can see the ruins of the temple in Jerusalem today. That is an indication to me that everything else Jesus warned of in this chapter has been and will be fulfilled just as literally.
Jesus answered their questions by first of all warning them not to be deceived by false messiahs who would appear. Then through the rest of chapter 21 He described the course of this age and it is a bleak description of the future. He warned them of escalating deception, wars and commotions, as nations rise against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms. He warned of disasters such as earthquakes, famines, pestilences, as well as fearful sights and signs in the heavens.
But before any of this would happen, in verse 12 Jesus warned about impending persecution of Christians before the Jewish judges in the synagogues and also before the gentile kings and other political rulers.
Jesus encouraged them in verse 13-15 that this persecution would give them opportunities to witness for Christ. He encouraged them not to worry about how they should answer in times of trial and persecution. God would give them the right words to say.
Thank God, we can take comfort that He is always with us in trials and persecutions. In Matthew 28:20 in His Great Commission to us, He promises us the support of His presence. In John 16:33 He promise us His peace in our tribulations. In fact, Romans 5:3 teaches us that we can glory in our tribulations, knowing that they are working in our lives to produce patience.
In II Corinthians 4:17 Paul, who suffered as much or more than most Christians, said he gloried in his tribulations, recognizing that in the balance scales, they were not nearly as heavy as the glory that awaited him in Heaven.
In Colossians 1:24 Paul counted it a privilege to suffer in the place of Jesus who had returned to Heaven. Because Jesus was not present, His enemies were taking their wrath out on Paul who reminded them of Christ.
Though we suffer tribulation in this life, the Bible teaches us that as Christians we will be caught up into Heaven in what Christians refer to as The Rapture just before The Great Tribulation occurs on this earth. We escape The Great Tribulation because that is the time of God’s wrath being poured out on this and God has not appointed His people to His wrath, but to obtain salvation. Read and rest in the promises of I Thessalonians 4:13-19 and 5:1-11.
Other comforting promises of the Rapture are found in John 14:1-6, Matthew 24:36-44, I Corinthians 15:51-58, Philippians 3:20-21, Titus 2:11-14. and Hebrews 9:28.
JESUS HAS FULL CONTROL OF THE FUTURE
When Jesus, God in human flesh, hung dying on a cross one hot afternoon, it appeared to His followers and to the masses, that His life had ended in horrible failure. However, His life had been totally successful. He had accomplished His purpose in coming into the world.
1. He had purchased our redemption with His own shed blood.
2. He had sealed the future doom of Satan.
3. God vindicated Jesus’ sacrifice by raising Him from the dead three days later.
4. He returned to Heaven, as Lord of all, according to Philippians. 2:9-11.
5. He sent His Holy Spirit, as promised, to be our comfort and guide and to empower us for service.
As Christ was successful in His First Coming, so it is just as certain that He will accomplish every purpose of His Second Coming.
But before Jesus returns, bad things must take place, so expect them and don’t be terrified.
As true Christianity grows throughout the world, false Christianity is growing side by side with it. Jesus taught that in His Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-43. The counterfeit Church will come to its full expression during the Tribulation as the Harlot Church of Revelation 17. That Church will be destroyed by the Anti-christ, so that he alone can be worshipped.
Sometimes false Christianity, like the tares, cannot be distinguished from the True Church, characterized by wheat. We are warned not to attempt to pull up the tares for fear of pulling up wheat with it. God will judge in the proper time and will separate the wheat from the chaff.
IT ONLY GETS WORSE
During the Tribulation as the seals are broken starting in Revelation 6, God’s judgments will be poured out on this earth like never before. Wars, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, fires and demonic torment will break out beyond anything man has ever seen or experienced before.
In Revelation 16-19 God will use demons to call the nations of the world together to attempt to fight against Christ in the Battle of Armageddon in the fields of the land of Israel. This is no local battle such as the Roman attack against Jerusalem in 70 AD. This is global warfare against Christ.
Christ will be victorious. His enemies will be killed and Christ will usher in His one thousand year reign of peace, prosperity and righteousness.
At the close of this Millennium there will be one final battle with Satan. He will be cast into the Lake of Fire where the Anti-Christ had been cast one thousand years earlier. Then Christ will destroy this earth and the heavens as we know them in one giant explosion, as described in II Peter 3:9-13.
In this nothingness, a Great White Throne will appear with Christ sitting on it. Before Him will be brought all the unsaved dead. They will be judged for their works. Because they have rejected Christ as their Saviour in life, their names will not be found in the Book of Life and they will be cast alive into the Lake of Fire with the Beast, False Prophet and Satan.
Christ will create new Heavens and a new earth on which Christians will live with Christ, perfected and free from sin and temptation forever. Read again the 3rd chapter of II Peter and learn how it is all going to end. Note that the reason Christ has held off this judgment so far has been because He is long-suffering and not willing that any should perish. If you are an unbeliever, how much further are you going to push His patience?
In Jesus’ famous Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21, Jesus and His disciples are together on the Mt. Of Olives, just across the Kidron Valley from the beautiful gold covered temple built by several generations of King Herods. As they are admiring its beauty and grandeur, Jesus shocks them with the truth that soon that temple will be totally dismantled, stone by stone. That happened in 70 AD, just forty years later as the Roman soldiers torched the city, including the temple and then dismantled the temple, stone by stone in order to get the gold that had melted between the stones.
Understand that at this point, just hours before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, that fact has not yet hit them. They are more concerned about the Kingdom age and their part in it. Their question concerns when the temple is going to be destroyed and the signs that are going to signal the return of Christ ,
Jesus does not give them that answer. Instead, He warns them not to be deceived by false Messiahs. Then He goes into much detail giving them the longest answer to any question they had ever asked Him. In His answer, which makes up most of the Olivet Discourse; He graphically describes future events which cover The Time of the Gentiles and The Church Age.
The Time of the Gentiles began with Assyria’s capture of Israel in 722 BC and has continued through the past 2700 years. It will conclude with the Battle of Armageddon at the close of the Great Tribulation when Christ defeats His enemies and prepares to reign from Jerusalem over the whole world. That battle is described in Revelation 19:11-21.
The Church Age began at Pentecost and will conclude when the “called out” church will be the “called up” church.
Let me give you five reasons why Jesus must return to this earth. All of these reasons are linked to His repeated promise that He would return.
1. Christ is returning to this earth to be exalted.
Jesus’ first coming to this earth was in obscurity and humiliation. It concluded with His crucifixion, as He shed His blood on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. That was the last time the unconverted ever saw Jesus; dead and hanging on a cross. Three days later, He arose bodily from the dead, showing that He had conquered death and that The Father was satisfied with His sacrifice for our sins. I Corinthians 15:3-8 lists the only people who saw Jesus after His resurrection. All of them were Christians only. Hebrew 9:28 speaks of that first coming to offer Himself for our sins. It also mentions His second coming to consummate our salvation by glorifying us in Heaven. No further sacrifice will be needed then, because His sacrifice on the cross was the once for all, final sacrifice for sin forever.
Philippians 2:5-11 details both His first coming to die for our sins and His second coming to reign over the whole world. His second coming is as certain as His first coming.
Though only believers saw Jesus after His Resurrection and only believers will see Jesus when He comes back for us in the Rapture; when Jesus returns to judge and reign, the whole world will see Him. You can read of this in Matthew 24:25-31, Revelation 6:12-17 and Luke 21:28-33 In the Luke 21 passage, it tells us that “this generation” (that is, the generation who is alive at that time) will not pass away until all these events are fulfilled and Christ establishes His Kingdom. Revelation 1:7 announces that “every eye shall see Him”, including “they which pierced Him” when they crucified Him 2000 years ago,.
2. Christ is returning to this earth to Destroy Satan
Satan is presently the god of this present world system. When satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, as recorded in Luke 4, Satan offered Jesus all the Kingdoms of the world, if He would only bow down aand worship him. Could Satan really make thatoffer? Yes he could for the world system was his to offer. I John 5:9 tells us that this whole world lies in the lap or under the control of Satan.
Why are we Christian so enthralled with this present evil world system that is doomed to destruction? I’m not talking about God’s wonderful creation. I’m talking about the sinful world system that attempts to shut God and the Bible out of their lives. We know that Jesus died to save us from hell. But are we as aware of the fact that Jesus died to also deliver us from our infatuation with this present evil world system. That’s what Paul tells us in Titus 2:11-15.
There are only two supernatural powers in this world: Christ and Satan. Whoever refuses to worship Christ, worship’s Satan. Whoever is not devoted to Christ is devoted to Satan. Whoever is not controlled by God is controlled by Satan. Who controls you?
3. Christ is returning to fulfill His promise to Adam’s fallen race.
That promise is found in Genesis 3:15. In that one short verse is the story of the whole Bible. It is serving notice to Satan after He had tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God; that although Satan would do damage to Christ and His Kingdom, eventually God would strike a mortal blow to him by sending His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to redeem sinners. Later, God will cast Satan into the Lake of Fire forever where he can no longer do Christ and His Kingdom any harm.
Paul, in Romans 16:20 encourages us with the truth that one day Christ is returning to this earth and He is going to allow us to have a part in crushing Satan :under our feet” forever. What a grand day that will be!
4. Christ is returning to fulfill His Covenants with Israel.
The Old Testament is filled with references to that Covenant. To Abraham God promised that through His Seed He would bless the world. Read Genesis 12, and 17. Galatians 3;16 identifies that Seed by name, Jesus.
God’s Covenant to David, found I II Samuel 7 and in Psalm 89 promises that David’s Seed, Jesus, would one day reign over the earth forever. Other promises concerning Christ’s future Kingdom over the earth are found in Isaiah 11, 35, and 40, Jeremiah 23, Ezekiel chapters 34-39, and Zechariah chapters 12-14, as well as many other lesser known passages.
5. Christ is returning to keep His promise to His own, His Beloved Church.
Some of the well known passages to His Church concerning His return include: John 14:1-3, Acts 1:9-11, I Corinthians 15;12-23, 51-58, Philippians 3:20-21, Titus 2:11-14, I Thessalonians 4:13-18, II Thessalonians 1:7-10, Hebrews 9:28, I John 3:1-3 and the final promise in the Bible, Revelation 22:20.
How should our study of the Second Coming affect our lives?
To approach our study of the Second Coming of Christ as we would try to solve a crossword puzzle or just out of idle curiosity, is of little value. To try to pry into matters of the future that are not clearly revealed in Scripture are none of our business.
Rather as Romans 13:11-14 teaches, our study of prophecy ought to affect how we live our lives daily. II Peter 3:11-18 also challenges us to live holy lives in the light of Him imminent return. I challenge you to read these last two passages of Scripture and truly worship Christ and warn sinners to come to Christ, as you watch and wait for His return.
In this message I want to pause in our detailed study of the Olivet Discourse to think about something as basic as Truth.
TRUTH John 14:6
Christ is the Way to God personified. There is no other way.
He is the Truth of God personified. There is no truth apart from Him.
He is Life personified. There is no life apart from Him; only mere existence.
Any philosophy or theory contrary to the Bible is false.
Anyone without Christ, regardless of his scholarship, does not know truth.
Pilate is an example of the typical man without Christ. When Jesus spoke of truth to him in John 18:37, Pilate responded with the cynical question, “What is truth?” He did not wait for an answer for he was convinced there was no answer. Like men today, he believed that no one can know absolute truth about anything. Like the existentialist today, he believed “All truth is relative. What’s wrong for you may be right for me.”
UNFATHOMABLE DEPTHS OF TRUTH
Nevertheless, God speaks Truth through His Word, the Bible. His truth has unfathomable depths as evidenced by:
the unfathomable Love of God. Ephesians 3:14-19
the incomprehensible power of God. Ephesians 3:19-20
the unsearchable wisdom of God. Romans 11:33-36 and
the unquestionable sovereignty of God. Isaiah 55;8-9
Though people question God’s ways and the things He allows, they have no business doing so. When my missionary father was suddenly killed in a car accident in the mountains of Peru back in 1937 where he was a missionary, leaving my 27 year old mother a widow and my brother and me fatherless at the age of one and four, my mother told me in later years that she took great comfort at that time in reading and thinking about Isaiah 55:8-9 and resting in the sovereignty and wisdom of God.
SIMPLE & REVEALED TRUTH
Though God’s truth has unfathomable depths, yet it is simple enough for any Christ-lover to understand. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 13:11 that truth is given to His own to understand; but not to the rebellious, In Luke 10:21 we learn that God hides truth from the proud and self-righteous. He reveals it to the humble and child-like believer.
Towards the end of His ministry Luke 19:11-13 tells us that Jesus’ Disciples had the mistaken idea that His Kingdom would immediately appear. Jesus corrected them by telling the story of a nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. They could not fathom the long period of time between His first and second coming, nor can we.
Very early in His ministry, Luke 4:16-20 records that Jesus had gone into the synagogue in Nazereth and taken the scroll and read a prophecy from Isaiah 61:1-2. The part He read spoke of His first coming. He purposely did not read the last part of Isaiah 61:2 which spoke of His second coming to carry out vengeance, for His first coming was not the time of vengeance, but of grace and mercy. His vengeance will be poured out on His enemies when He returns to set the world straight and establish His Millennial Kingdom.
As Jesus sat with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, he looked across the Kidron Valley to the magnificent temple. It was a place that was to be known as a House of Prayer. However the corrupt priests had turned it into “a den of thieves”, Jesus said in Luke 19:46. It was now a place of false religion; so Jesus warned that it was going to be destroyed. That took place forty years later in 70 AD when the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and dismantled the temple stone by stone in order to get at the gold and precious stones that had beautified the temple.
As the vestiges of Christ-rejecting Judaism were destroyed then, so Revelation 17 & 18 prophesies that God is one day going to utterly destroy the modern day ecumenical church which will be headquartered in Rome. Not only will the false church be destroyed, but also the cursed one world political and economic system in that day. Even now, we are seeing signs of that doomed one world system beginning to take shape. We’re also seeing seeds of its coming destruction
But then on the Mount of Olives, as Jesus spoke to His Disciples of the end times, they had the nagging concern, “When Jesus? When are you going to return and set up Your Kingdom?” Even in the last moments before Jesus ascended back to Heaven, the disciple had this constant, gnawing concern. “Will you at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?” They had a rightful reason to be concerned about the coming Kingdom. It is prophesied all through the Old Testament, as we have noted in other prophetic articles which you can find on this website under the category PROPHESY Next time we will give you reasons why Christ must return to establish His Kingdom.
Christianity crumbles if Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead.
In Luke 21 we continue our study of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, just outside the city of Jerusalem, as He explains truths concerning His approaching death, resurrection, ascension to Heaven and then His future return to reign over this earth.
Next day He will gather in an upper room with His disciples for their last supper together. There He will comfort them concerning these matters. That conversation is found in John 13-17.
In His Olivet Discourse, He answers their questions concerning His return to reign, as the Old Testament prophets had prophesied. Even Job, who probably lived about 2000 BC during the time of Abraham, shared some amazing, inspired, prophetic insights concerning the resurrection in Job 19:23-27.
There are three phases of the resurrection
First, Christ’s bodily resurrection
This is part of the Doctrine of Christ upon which our faith stands or falls. I Corinthians 15:23 lists this resurrection as being the firstfruits of all future resurrections. As the firstfruits of a crop assure us more is coming, so Christ’s resurrection assures us that more resurrections are coming. According to II John 7-11, this doctrine is so important that to deny it classifies one as an apostate.
Along with the details of Christ’s resurrection as found in the final chapters of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; I Corinthians 15 is the major chapter in the Bible that explains the doctrine of the Resurrection of Christ and what it means for us.
If there is no resurrection, Christianity crumbles. We have no hope and we are living in a dream world. We, of all people, are to be pitied as the biggest fools on earth.
While the unconverted live to draw all the pleasures they can out of life; we Christians live solely for the glory of God. Our entire existence and purpose is to live in the light of eternity and lead others to prepare to meet God. That’s the burden of Paul which he shares with us in II Corinthians 5:7-21.
Going back to I Corinthians 15, we are made aware that upon the bodily resurrection of Christ, hangs the veracity and our assurance of His Second Coming to this earth.
The second phase of the resurrection is Christ’s coming for Christians. This coming is better known as The Rapture of Saints.
This resurrection is referred to in I Corinthians 15:23 “Afterwards, they that are Christ’s at His coming.” Because Christ rose bodily from the dead in a glorified body, we are guaranteed that we Christians will also rise in glorified bodies when Christ returns for us.
I Corinthians 15:50-58 describes this second coming for His own. It will take place in an instant, “in the twinkling of an eye” The dead in Christ shall be changed into our glorified bodies. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 gives further details of this wonderful event. Note, that it will take place in the air. Jesus will not come down to earth at this coming. We will be caught up or snatched up in an instant, whether we died and were in grave, or whether we are alive on that glad day.
The best part of all of this is that we are promised that from that moment on, we will forever be with the Lord. Never again throughout eternity will we ever be separated from Christ our Saviour and Lord. What a comfort that ought to be for each of us as Christians! This coming according to Hebrews 9:27-28 is for those who await His coming with anticipation. I John 3:2-3 teaches us that the very thought and anticipation of this coming is a purifying hope to us. I surely don’t want to be found involved in sin when He returns for me.
Titus 2:13 speaks of His two comings: first, the Blessed Hope of the rapture of the saints and then seven years later, His glorious appearing when He returns and King of kings and Lord or lords to reign for a Millennium.
There are no signs of the rapture. It is imminent. In fact, it has been imminent for these past 2000 years. According to I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul expected Jesus to return in his life time, and Christians have expected His imminent return ever since.
The third phase of Christ’s Resurrection is His coming in glory to this earth.
At that coming, Jesus feet will touch earth on the Mount of Olives, according to Zechariah 14:4. He will be returning in power and great glory to begin His Millennial reign on earth, described in Revelation 19-20.
The Order of the Olivet Discourse, as found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21
Now go to the three Gospel accounts of the Olivet Discourse. Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Note the ways these chapters are organized.
In Mathew 24, Jesus describes this present age in verses 4-14. He describes His coming in glory in 24:15-35. Then He concludes with the warning of His imminent Rapture for His own in 24:36-51.
The same order is found in Mark 13. The present Church age in 13:5-13, His coming in glory in 13:14-31 and the imminent rapture of saints in 13:32-37
Finally, the same order is found in Luke 21. This present age starts with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70AD. Luke 21:6-24. This present age is summarized in Luke 21:24 as involving Israel being trodden down of the gentiles until the time of the gentiles be fulfilled.
Then in 21:25-33 we read of Christ’s coming in glory to reign. Note in verse 31 that it is announced that Christ’s Kingdom is about to begin. Verse 32 says that those living at that time will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled. Finally in 21:34-36 we are warned again of the rapture, which is the next event on Christ prophetic agenda.
Let it be clear. When Jesus returns to reign, no one will miss it. You won’t have to wonder, is this the return of Christ prophesied in the Bible? It will be unmistakable. The doctrine of Christ’s second coming is a terrifying event for the lost; but it is the blessed hope of the Christian. Read of its terror in Revelation 6:1`2-17.
The Church, A Called Out People for His Name
In Acts 15 the early church was having a special called council meeting to take care of some problems. James, the leader of the Jerusalem church is speaking by inspiration of God and in 15:13-18 lays out God’s plan for the church age. But before we look at that plan, understand that God originally called the Jews out from the rest of the world to be His special people and to bless the world. They failed. So God established the Church, composed of Jewish and Gentile saints in Christ to bless the world.
He begins by referring to Simeon, the elderly man spoken of in Luke 2:25-35, who first referred to how God was going to bless the Gentiles. In Acts 15:14 James makes a crucial statement regarding God’s purpose. In this age God is calling out a new, distinct people from the Gentiles and from the Jews to glorify His name. This new people is no less than the Church.
When the Church is completed, James says in Acts 15:16-17, then He will return His attention to the Jews and bless them. In other words, after the last sinner, Jew or gentile in this Church Age has come to Christ and His Church is complete, then Christ is going to turn His attention to the Jews during the Tribulation and they will be saved, as Romans 11:25-33 states.
Jesus plain promise of His return
Finally, turn to Jesus plain promise in John 14:1-3 that He has gone to prepare a place for us, and He has promised to return for us that where He is, there we may be also. That is prophesy stripped down to the bare bones. Though He has given us much more information, and I am glad to share what I understand; yet in the final analysis, John 14:1-3 is good enough for me. If I knew nothing else about prophesy, I would be satisfied just to know that I will be with Jesus throughout eternity.
Where do you stand with Christ? That’s the only question you need to deal with. Will you be caught up with the saints to meet the Lord in the air or will you be left behind to face the wrath of Christ as described in Revelation 6:12-17 and in Revelation 20:12-15? I urge you not to postpone this matter another hour. Settle it now and forever by trusting Christ as your Saviour and submitting to Him as your Lord.
In this natural world, intelligence and a relatively high IQ are essential when it comes to learning, especially difficult facts and concepts. When Jesus taught, He spoke simply and plainly to the poor and mostly uneducated crowds, including His own disciples.
Luke10:21 tells us Jesus rejoiced that Scriptural truth is hidden to proud, unrepentant people; but grasped by simple, humble, unsophisticated people who hunger to know and please God. His truth goes right over the heads and hearts of those who reject Christ, no matter how intelligent they are.
I’m so glad that when God chose the writers of the Bible, that He did not choose many of the so-called intelligent people to write it. They would, no doubt, have utterly confused me with their intellectualism.
Thank God, that we can understand the Bible literally. Certainly, there are figures of speech which are to be understood figuratively. For example, no one has a problem with Jesus being described figuratively as the door to salvation or a grape vine, to which we are joined as branches. We do not believe that Jesus is a wooden door or a literal grape vine. Those are obvious figures of speech.
But when it comes to prophecy, some intellectuals are convinced that Jesus used figurative speech to explain what lies ahead. If that’s the case, it’s beyond me how the common, uneducated people understood what He was saying. It’s true that the Apostle John, by inspiration of God, described coming events in The Revelation as seals on the title deed to the earth being broken and opened. He describes judgment being poured out of bowls on to the earth and he also describes coming events as trumpets sounding. Though seals, bowls and trumpets are figurative symbols, the contents of those judgments are certainly literal.
In spite of some figurative language, most prophetic writings can be interpreted as literal events yet to occur. Jesus said, in Matthew 13:11 that it is God’s desire that we understand prophesied events. Verse 15 of that chapter explains that the lack of understanding on the part of many is not a mental problem, but a heart problem; a heart that has been hardened by sin.
In John 7:17 we learn that those with a desire to love God and do His will have no problem understanding Biblical truth; whereas, those who are rebellious towards God, are blinded to truth by their rebellion.
The question we must face is, are we to interpret prophetic truth concerning the second coming of Christ, as figurative, or literal? That’s not a difficult question to answer. Just look at all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the first coming of Christ to this earth to die for our sins. All of them were fulfilled literally.
EXAMPLES OF O.T. PROPHECIES OF CHRIST’S FIRST COMING and their literal fulfillment in the N.T.
Jesus is referred to as the Promised Seed of the woman Genesis 3:15 He is ultimately victorious over Satan. Revelation 20:1-3, 10.
Jesus is the promised Seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Genesis 12, See Galatians 3:16
Jesus is from the line of Judah Genesis 49:10 See Revelation 4:5
Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 refers to Jesus as a star out of Jacob and reigning with His scepter. Revelation 22:16
From David’s family II Samuel 7:12-13 Psalm 89:34-37 Luke 2:4
Born of virgin. Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:18-23 Luke 1:26-37
Born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 Luke 2:1-7
Came out of Egypt. Hosea 11:11 Matthew 2:16-21
Announced by an Elijah-type herald. John the Baptist Malachi.3:1 Matthew 3:1-5
Bethlehem‘s babies massacred Jeremiah 31:15 Matthew 2:16
His ministry would include Gentiles. Isaiah 42:1-4 Matthew 15:21-28
His ministry included healing Isaiah 53:4 Luke 9:6
Teaching with parables. Isaiah 6:9-10 Psalm78:2 Matthew 13
Rejected of men Isaiah 53 Psalm 118:22 John 1:11
Triumphal entry Zechariah 9:9 Psalm 118:26 Luke 19
Betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver. Psalm 41:9 Matthew 27:9
Opened not His mouth when accused. Isaiah 53:7 John 19:9
Given vinegar and gall to drink Psalm 69:21 Matthew 27:48
Parted garments, cast lots for His robe. Psalm 22:18 Matthew 27:35
Description of His crucifixion and dying words. Psalm 22
Not a bone broken. Psalm 34:20 Numbers 9:1 John 19:33
His side pierced. Zechariah 12:10 Psalm 22:16 John 19:34
Buried in a rich man’s tomb Isaiah 53:9 John 19:38-41
Raised in 3 days. Psalm 16:10-11 Jonah 1:17 Matthew 12:39-40
He would ascend into Heaven. Psalm 68:18 Acts 1
He would sit at the right hand of God. Psalm 110:1 Hebrews 1:3
All of these Old Testament prophesies were fulfilled to the letter when Jesus came the first time to die for our sins. Why should we not expect the prophesies of His second coming to be fulfilled as literally as they were at His first coming?
O.T. PROPHECIES OF CHRIST’S SECOND COMING
Jesus, from Tribe of Judah, to reign. Genesis 49:10 Isaiah 9:6-9
The Millennium will be a reign of peace. Psalm 2:6,10 Psalm 46, 72:1-8
A description of the Millennium Isaiah 11, 35, Micah 4:1-8 Revelation 20 is all that this sin-sick world longs for.
The salvation of the Jews Zechariah 12,13
Geological changes when Jesus arrives on the Mount of Olives
Holiness the hallmark of His reign. Zechariah 14
BE CAUTIOUS HOW YOU HANDLE PROPHETIC TRUTH
To deny these facts of His second coming is as sinful as to deny the facts of His first coming.
Note what Jesus said about His return. Luke 12:35-40, 17:20-37, 19:11-19
John 14:1-3 To reject what Jesus said concerning His return is to deny His virtue and credibility.
Let us join John in praying for His coming. Revelation 22:20
Join the Apostle Paul in waiting for His coming. I Corinthians 1:4-8
Look for His coming. Titus 2:11-14, Hebrews 9:27-28
Hope for His coming in our lifetime. I Corinthians 15:19-26, 50-58,
I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Titus 2:13
Let that blessed hope motivate us to live a pure life. I John 3:1-3
Love His coming. II Timothy 4:8
Be warned of the curse in I Corinthians 16:22 “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha (Cursed when I come.)
In our previous article we dealt with the desolation of Israel, as prophesied by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse, in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.
Note the questions of His Disciples.
1. When will the temple be destroyed?
2. What will be the signs of Jesus’ return to earth?
Jesus does not answer the WHEN question, but warns them to not be deceived by false teachers.
In Luke 21:7. we find Jesus’ Disciples confused and concerned with the timing of the establishment of Christ’s Millennial reign over the earth. We Christians continue to be confused and divided over it even to this present time. Prophetically, we all fall into one of three camps: Pre-Millennialists, Post-Millennialists or A-Millennialists.
The A-Millennialists are not looking for any Millennial reign of Christ.
The Post-Millennialists believe Jesus’ Millennium has been in force ever since Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven and that He is building His Kingdom through His Church. They believe Jesus will return when His Kingdom is fully established. They believe the Bible does not teach the Rapture of the Church. As for the Tribulation, they believe that it took place in 70 AD when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The A-Millennialists, as the Post-Millennialists, believe the Kingdom is totally spiritual and not a literal, physical one thousand year reign of Jesus from Jerusalem over this earth.
Most of us Pre-Millennialists agree with Post-Millennialists, as well as the A-Millennialists, that Christ’s Kingdom is spiritual. However, we Pre-Millennialists also believe that Christ will return to earth in His glorified body to establish his literal, Millennial Kingdom (one thousand years reign) over the earth.
The Last Days
Prior to the Kingdom Age is a period known as “The Last Days” These are the days that precede Jesus’ Millennium.
The entire 2000 plus years of the Church Age, beginning at Pentecost and ending with the Rapture of the Saints, are described by Peter in his sermon in Acts 2:14-21 as “The Last Days”
Hebrews 10:25 tells us, Christ’s Church, that we can see the day approaching.
In I John 2:18 John clearly announces to us that we are in “the Last Time”.
Jude 14-15 prophecies that Christ will come with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment on the earth. Again, he is speaking of the Millennial reign of Christ.
Before Jesus returns publicly in great glory to reign, He is returning suddenly, unexpectedly and secretly to catch up His own to Himself. The Christian dead will be raised first in glorified bodies, then we Christians who remain alive at that moment, will also be changed and given glorified bodies to meet the Lord in the air. See John 14:1-3, I Corinthians 15:51-58, I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I John 3:1-3 for the details concerning this event. The unsaved will not see Jesus when He comes, but will note the sudden absence of all Christians from this earth.
Once we are gone from this earth, along with the sin-restraining work of the Holy Spirit, all hell will break loose on this earth as the Anti-christ is revealed and takes over the control of the world in what is described as The Tribulation, or the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. You can read prophecies of this period of 70 weeks of Daniel in Daniel 9, Matthew 24, Luke 21, II Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13:8. The seven years of Tribulation on this earth are described in Revelation 6-18.
At the end of the seven years of Tribulation, Jesus will return publicly in great glory to destroy the Anti-christ and his false prophet and his armies. We will follow Him and witness the destruction. Jude 14-15, Revelation 19:11-21 Then Jesus will establish His Millennial reign from the city of Jerusalem, as clearly shown in. Zechariah 14 and Micah 4. From there, Isaiah 9:6-7 tells us, He will reign on David’s throne. Christians who have lived and suffered for Him in this life, will reign with Him then, II Timothy 2:12 promises us.
His Millennium will be; not for an unspecified period of time, but for one thousand years. Describing the length of Christ’s Kingdom, Revelation 20:1-7 repeats the number one thousand six times.
Christ’s Kingdom will be characterized by peace, good health and prosperity and holiness for all who submit to Him. A description of life on earth during that reign is found in Isaiah 11, 35 and Micah 4 as well as other Old Testament passages.
Again, I remind you that Post-Millennialists believe that we have been in Christ’s Kingdom ever since the resurrection of Christ and that it has lasted now for over two thousand years.
I would agree that the Church is the expression of Christ’s spiritual Kingdom in the world today. We are moving forward and making progress against the Kingdom of darkness, as Christ promised would happen in Matthew 16:18. However, Christ’s spiritual Kingdom over His Church, does not nullify His promised Millennial Kingdom from Jerusalem over the whole world
Isaac Watts 1674-1748 is a beloved hymn writer of the church. Christians, both Post-Millennialists and Pre-Millennialists, sing together hymns such as Jesus Shall Reign. As a Pre-Millennialist, I sing that song, rejoicing that as the church evangelizes the world, Christ’s spiritual kingdom continues to grow. However, I also understand that we are singing about a future event when Jesus shall reign for one thousand years over the whole world as king on David’s throne, as promised in the Davidic Covenant in II Samuel 7.
Jesus Shall Reign where’er the sun
Does its successive journeys run.
His Kingdom spread from shore to shore
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
From north to south the princes meet
To pay their homage at His feet.
While western empires own their Lord,
And savage tribes attend His Word.
To Him shall endless prayers be made,
And endless praises crown His head.
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.
People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song,
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.
Another well known Christmas carol, “Joy to the World”, another of Isaac Watt’s hymns, not only celebrates the birth of Jesus, the new Born King; but it also describes His coming Millennial Kingdom.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.
And Heaven and Heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the earth, the Saviour reigns,
Let men, their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy.
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.
No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow,
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
As people are saved and submit to Christ’s Lordship, His spiritual kingdom continues to grow; but Christ’s Millennial Kingdom has not yet come.
In the meantime, in this Church Age, I must agree with Scripture, such as II Timothy 3 and 4, and II Peter 3 that this world system is not getting better and but is growing worse and worse.
Perhaps the strongest argument for the Pre-Millennial position is the description of the Tribulation in Revelation 6-18, which will be the worst years in all of world history, This Tribulation followed by the return of Christ in His glory to this earth precedes the inauguration of His Millennial Kingdom in Revelation 19-20.
But before all of this happens; the Church, described in Revelation 3 is caught up into Heaven in chapter 4 before the Tribulation is unleashed. This is the time of the Rapture of the Church, as described in I Corinthians 15:51-58 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18. In Revelation 4 and 5 we see the Church in Heaven worshipping the Lord Jesus.
No, Christ’s Kingdom is not prospering today. Rather, Satan is working to destroy Christ’s Church as we draw closer to the end of this Church Age. The Apostasy which began two thousands years ago, is continuing to accelerate and deepen as we draw nearer to the return of Christ. Christ will soon come to fight and annihilate Anti-christ and his forces in the Battle of Armageddon and then set up His glorious Kingdom and reign from Jerusalem for one thousand years.
How do Bible believing Christians become Post or A-Millennialists? It happens as they use a non-literal, symbolic method of interpreting unfulfilled prophecy, assigning their own meaning to words. The problem with this is that when one starts assigning meaning to words other than their normal meanings, one can decide that a word, phrase or sentence can mean whatever one wants it to mean. All objectivity concerning the meaning of words is lost. For example, to the Post-Millennialist, the term 1000 years used six times in Revelation 20:1-7 does not mean one thousand years. To them, it only means a long time. Of course, if we have been in Christ’s Kingdom ever since Christ’s resurrection, then the Post Millennialist is forced to conclude that one thousand years doesn’t really mean one thousand years. That seems to me a dangerous road to start down.
Am I pessimistic about the future? Absolutely not! These are exciting days to be a Christian. Based just on the deepening apostasy and the dangerous situation of Israel today, I believe the rapture is very close at hand.
Are you ready for His return? Remember the warning of II Thess. 2:1-2 that those who knowingly reject Christ in this church age because they love their sins, will believe the lie of the Anti-Christ and follow him to destruction. Read it there in II Thessalonians 2:8-12 and make your decision for or against Christ. The decision you make will be eternal with eternal consequences. To attempt to make no decision concerning Him is to reject Him.
Shortly before Jesus was crucified, He met with His disciples just outside of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives to share with them the future, especially as it concerned Israel and Jerusalem. He warned them of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. He also spoke to them of the signs that would occur before His return to reign on this earth.
The Mount of Olives is an extremely important geographical location as far as Jesus is concerned. Not only is it where He met with His disciples just before His trial and crucifixion to share His Olivet Discourse which we are presently studying; it is also the location of the Garden of Gethsemane where He often resorted to pray, as He did the night in which He was betrayed by Judas. It is also the place where He ascended back to Heaven after His resurrection from the dead, as witnessed by His Apostles. This is described in Acts 1. Finally, it will be the place where Jesus returns to this earth in His glory to put down His enemies and rule over this earth in the Millennium. That event is prophesied in Zechariah 14.
Note the questions of His disciples. When will the temple be destroyed? What are the signs of Jesus’ return and the end of the Age?
JESUS WARNS US TO NOT BE DECEIVED CONCERNING PROPHECY
The basic answer to these questions concerning prophecy is a warning from Jesus to not be deceived. Luke 21:8, Mark 13:5 and Matthew 24:4. Understand that there is much deception, confusion and wrong thinking in the world when it comes to prophecy concerning Jesus.
There are three parts to this prophesy concerning Israel, as found in Luke 21.
Part 1. The destruction of the temple is prophesied in Luke 21:20-24. That event took place in 70 AD when the Roman army captured and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including the temple. Not one stone was left upon another.
Part 2. The last half of verse 24 “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled” is the transition. It refers to the past 2000 years in which the Jews have been scattered and trodden down by the Gentiles throughout the world. In all this time, Christ’s true Church has been a friend to the Jews as we lovingly seek to lead them to their true Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Many have been saved and have come into the Church, the Body of Christ. They have learned the wonderful truth in Galatians 3:27-29 that in Christ Jesus we are no longer Jew nor Gentile, but one new body, the Church.
Part 3 of Prophecy, Luke 21:25-32 describes the seven years of Tribulation which follows the secret rapture of the Church. This is known as the time of “Jacob’s Trouble” prophesied in Jeremiah 30:7. Here is found the promise that the Jews will be supernaturally saved out of it. This will be the time, yet to come, when Anti-christ defiles the temple and the Holy Place as prophesied in Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15, II Thessalonians 2:3-4 and in Revelation 13.
THE DESOLATION OF ISRAEL
Consider the ongoing desolation that has dogged Israel through their 4000 year history. Her story has been a sad, sad story of ongoing sorrow and heart ache.
The name Israel and the word desolation are such a sad contradiction. God chose Israel to bless her and make her a blessing to the whole world, as prophesied in the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12,13 and 17. The desolation has followed them because they have turned away from God to go their own way.
Read a synopsis of her story in Ezekiel 16. It describes her as a castaway new born baby lying out in the field to die. The story goes on to tell how God found her in the field and pitied and loved her and took her to be His own child. The story goes on, telling how she grew up to become a beautiful young woman.
Then in verse 15 the story takes a turn for the worse. This young woman turned from her loving God and became a harlot chasing after false gods and living a life of wickedness and rebellion against her God. The chapter goes on to describe God’s judgment on her and her abominations.
Then in verse 60-63 the story has a happy ending as God remembers the Covenant that He had made with Abraham, her father.
In the latter chapters of Ezekiel starting with chapter 34 and continuing to the end of the book, the future of Israel is unfolded for us and it is truly an exciting, wonderful future that awaits this people who have rejected their Messiah for so many centuries.
It’s the same with the words Christian and desolation. They also are contradictory. God saved us to bless us and make us a blessing to others. Desolation follows us as we rebel against God and go our own ways.
Let me give you just a brief summary of Israel‘s perpetual desolation.
From 1800 BC to 1400 BC Israel was desolate as slaves in Egypt for 400 years. You remember that God used Moses to deliver them from slavery and start their journey to their Promised Land of Israel. Joshua completed that journey by leading them into the land of Canaan, their permanent Home.
They were further desolated for another 300 years during the time of the Judges. This was a time characterized by failure and defeat, although God came to their rescue whenever they cried to Him for mercy. Overall, the story of Israel under the Judges is quite pathetic and depressing.
Then starting with I Samuel, we read the story of the kings of Israel. Saul, the first king, was the people’s choice, rather than God’s choice. It was a story of sin, failure and defeat.
Then followed the stories of David and his son, Solomon. Though both men failed God personally, God in His sovereignty and grace, gave them each forty years to reign over Israel. Solomon’s especially, was a peaceful and prosperous reign. Following Solomon’s reign, because of the pride and stubbornness of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, Israel and Judah divided as two separate nations, Israel with ten tribes and Judah with two.
The story of the kings of divided Israel and Judah are a mixture of good, but mostly evil kings and the abominations that overtook them for another three hundred and fifty years.
Finally in 722 BC, God allowed the Assyrian Empire to conquer the ten northern tribes of Israel and disperse them throughout the nations of the world, where they are to this day.
Then in 586 BC the Babylonians conquered the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, taking them into captivity for seventy years. In the meantime Persia conquered Babylon and in time freed the Children of Judah to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple and city.
Four hundred more silent years passed as Israel pined in their desolate state awaiting the birth of their promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Both Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, and Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus, were from the line of Judah; thus Jesus is the rightful promised King of Judah. Though Israel rejected Him as their Messiah and King, He is one day returning to this earth to reign over them, as well as the whole world in His Millennial reign.
ISRAEL‘S OPPORTUNITY TO BE SAVED TODAY
In the meantime, the desolation of Israel has continued these past 2000 years as the Jews continue to await their promised Messiah. Thank God that during this time countless numbers of Jews have been converted to Christ and have been joined by God’s Spirit into Christ’s Church, along with converted gentiles. As Christians, our identity is no longer Jew or Gentile. We are one new Body, His Church, a New Kingdom, loving grateful subjects of the Lord Jesus, whom we have gladly made King of our lives. All of this wonderful truth is taught in the New Testament, especially in Romans, Galatians and Ephesians.
We live in a world that scoffs and mocks God and uses the name of Jesus, our precious Saviour, as a curse word. They despise Him, as they do all of those who publicly confess Him as Saviour and Lord.
WILL GLOBAL WARMING DESTROY THIS EARTH?
Liberals who deny the inspiration and authority of the Bible are very concerned about man bringing an end to this world as we know it through pollution and so-called “global warming”. Dear friend, though most Christians are angered by man’s thoughtlessness and carelessness in polluting this beautiful planet; man is not powerful enough to destroy this earth. Talk about pollution, wait until you see what God is going to do to this planet during the tribulation! You can read about it in The Revelation. the last book of the Bible.
When Jesus returns to this earth in His glory, following the seven years of tribulation, the earth will be refreshed and returned to its original beauty and pre-curse state. Then for one thousand years Jesus will reign over this earth, showing sinful men and women the blessedness of life under His sovereignty.
At the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, sinful man will once more rebel and Christ will put a final end to all rebellion. In an instant. Then Christ Himself will cause this earth and the universe as we know it to be imploded into nothingness in one tremendous explosion.
After that He will create a new Heaven and a new earth wherein dwells only righteousness. Read the final chapters of Revelation and decide whether you want to be a Christ receiver and spend eternity with Christ in Heaven or be a Christ rejecter and spend eternity in Hell.
There are those who believe that since the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, that is proof that Jesus returned at that time and established His Millennial Kingdom. Millennium means one thousand years. It has now been two thousands years since that time and I still see no evidence of Jesus’ reign on this earth, So I reject that prophetic position. At the same time, no true Bible teacher rejects that God who rules from Heaven is sovereign in the affairs of men and that genuine Christians ought to bow to His Lordship. Lord willing, I will deal with this prophetic confusion among Christians in the next article as we contrast Pre and Post Millennialism.
As we move into Luke 21 Jesus has ceased His public preaching ministry. He has cleansed the temple, gotten rid of the sacrificial animals and has closed down operations there. As He dies on the cross in a day or two, the divine hands of God will wrent in two from top to bottom the heavy veil hanging before the Holy of Holies, showing that the way into that sacred dwelling place of God has been made available to anyone who trusts the shed blood of Christ for salvation. See Mark 15:37-38 for a record of this amazing miracle. See Hebrews 10:`9-10 for the doctrinal implication of this miracle.
Jesus’ enemies have quit asking Him any more questions. They have been silenced by His answers. Jesus had asked the scribes a penetrating question concerning King David’s Lord and Son. Of course, that Lord and Son is none other than Jesus Himself. The scribes, rejecting Jesus, gave Him no answer. The conversations with His enemies has ceased.
As we come to Luke 21 we see a poor widow being observed by Jesus as she casts her last two cents into the temple treasury and He hears the people marveling at the beauty and grandeur of the Temple.
With that, Jesus prophesies the total destruction of the temple. He then walks a short way with His Disciples from the temple to the Mount of Olives where He often resorted to talk to His Heavenly Father. There He begins what is known as His Olivet Discourse with His disciples. Three accounts of the Olivet Discourse are found, not only in Luke 21, but also in Mark 13 and Matthew 24-25, where we find the most complete account.
Jesus’ explanation to His Disciples and to us concerning the course of the Church Age is outlined in this conversation. It was initiated, Mark 13 tells us, by the question of Peter, James, John and Andrew, “Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”
Jesus’ answer beginning with Luke 21:8 is primarily a warning to not be deceived. Then He fills them in on the disastrous events yet to come before Christ returns to reign on this earth.
Though Jesus is with His disciples at the time of this conversation, the disciples are asking when He will be appearing. The Greek word is parousia, a word that has the idea of His appearing to judge and rule the world. Those who knew their Old Testament, were aware of the many prophecies of Messiah’s coming to reign on the earth, but they thought it might happen while He was still on this earth. So they were looking for signs that Jesus would launch His Kingdom.
Note, that Jesus does not mention the Rapture of the Church, for the Church has not yet begun. That will take place at Pentecost after Jesus has ascended back to Heaven. The Church will begin as the promised Gift of the Holy Spirit descends on His little band of followers including His Disciples to unite them into one Body and empower them for service.
Although in the Upper Room, Jesus will promises His Disciples in John 13-17 that He will return for them and take them to His Home in Heaven; the truth of the Rapture will be fully taught by the Apostle Paul, who at this time is still Saul of Tarsus, an enemy of Christ. That teaching concerning the rapture is found primarily in I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4, as well as from the very lips of Jesus in John 14:3.
But for now, Jesus, speaking on the Mount of Olives, outlines for His Disciples the events that must take place before He returns to establish His Millennial Kingdom. As we read this long list, it is quite evident that there is a long period of time and many events that must take place in the interim. So far, that period has stretched into 2000 years.
In Matthew 24 Jesus begins His Olivet Discourse. Now note the question of the Disciples as they came to Him privately as recorded in Matthew 24:3, “Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the signs of Thy coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus’ immediate and primary answer to His Disciples and to us is, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Then He begins to list a long string of events that must take place before He will return to reign, events that most of us have witnessed or heard about in our lifetime. It has only been in the past century that there has been an increased preaching and writing concerning the return of Christ. Why is that? Because of the events that are increasing before our eyes. Surely, the coming of the Lord is drawing nigh. Listen to Mark 13:29 “When ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it (His Coming) is nigh, even at the doors.” Does that excite you? It surely excites me!
Note in Luke 13:35 that Jesus gave basically the same warning concerning the Fall of Jerusalem several months earlier. In that warning is a promise at the very end of the verse. “Ye shall not see Me until the time come when ye shall say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!” There Jesus promises that one day Israel will receive Him as their Messiah and Saviour.
Let’s think for a moment about this temple Jesus prophesied would be utterly destroyed. There had been two earlier temples. First, was Solomon’s temple. It had been grand and beautiful, but it was destroyed by the Babylonians when Judah went into captivity. Then there was a second temple built by Zerubbabel while Judah was still in captivity to Persia, following the Babylonian captivity. This temple was not quite as grand as Solomon’s.
The temple standing at the time of Christ, had been built by Herod and was also built on a grand scale. It took over many years to build. It’s massive walls were built of beautiful white stone in that area. When cut and polished it was as beautiful as marble. The eastern walls were plated with gold and were dazzling in the morning sunlight. The walls were imbedded with beautiful precious stones and gifts given by the people.
The temple sparkled with the glory of these material things, but inwardly the glory had departed., and the people went about their religious ritual oblivious to God’s departed glory. Their religion was a counterfeit, outward show, as is so much of Christianity today.
That’s why Jesus pronounced judgment on it all, even as He does today. Any of those Jews then or now could read of all of this coming judgment, and future salvation of Israel, by reading their prophet Zechariah who prophesied it all in Zechariah 12-14.
SIGNS OF THE END OF THE AGE
The Disciple’s concern in Luke 21:7 and Matthew 24:3 is all about WHEN? When will this wicked world be judged? When will Christ Jesus return to usher in His Millennial Kingdom?
Again, I remind you, Jesus primary answer is “Don’t be deceived!” Lots of events will happen first. His Kingdom will not come for a long time. The question I would like to ask those who believe we are presently living in Christ’s Kingdom today is, If Jesus returned to establish His Kingdom in 70 AD, how do all these other events fit in that Jesus said would precede His return to reign? Jesus said that not only would Jerusalem be destroyed, as it was in 70 AD, but in addition there would be
1. Wars and rumors of wars
2. Nations rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms
3. Famines, pestilences, earthquakes all over the world
4. Ongoing persecution of Christians; not just in the first century.
5. Great tribulation in the world, not seen since the beginning of time.
6. Finally, the return of Christ would be seen as a flash of lightening that streaks across the horizon of the whole world.
7. All Israel is to be converted to Christ before He begins His reign. That has not happened yet.
8. Satan will be bound for 1000 years during Christ’s Kingdom. Satan is not presently bound. He is more active than ever today.
9. Earth’s conditions are not changed, as described in Isaiah 11 and 35, which describe life during the Kingdom Age.
Israel waited through 400 years of silence from God from the time of the last of the Old Testament prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi until Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Now she has waited for 2000 more years for their Messiah to appear. Time means nothing to God. A thousand years is as one day and one day is as a thousand years.
I don’t know when Jesus is returning to establish His Kingdom. I think it[s soon. So did the Apostle Paul expect Jesus to return in His lifetime. He wrote, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.” I Thessalonians 4:15. Preachers, especially in the past two hundred years, have increasingly preached the blessed hope of Christ’s soon return.
Let me close with a repeated warning, an encouragement from Jesus and a prayer, the very last prayer in the Bible.
Warning: Let no man deceive you concerning the return of Christ. Luke 21:8
Encouragement: Jesus has promised to come back for us. John 14:1-6
Prayer: Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20
There is much teaching in Scripture about sacrificial and proportional giving, and of the blessing it brings to us as well as to others; but the purpose of the story before us in Luke 21:1-6 is not one of those lessons about giving and it’s rewards.
In this story Jesus told about a widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury, Jesus is simply making an observation that the widow gave all she had, whereas the rich gave from their abundance.
THE SETTING OF THIS STORY
To learn the proper lesson from this story, we must understand the setting. This is Jesus’ final week of earthly ministry. He has cleansed the temple and exposed the covetous religious leaders. He has nothing more to say to the crowds, nor to the religious leaders who were leading the people astray. His three years of earthly ministry are finished. The Jews have rejected their Messiah. .
Now Jesus is about to pronounce judgment on the people and their religion and total destruction on the temple and the city of Jerusalem.
This event concerning the poor widow who gave her last two mites to the temple is the last straw for Jesus. He is ready to cut loose and pronounce judgment on Israel here in Luke 21. You can also find an account of this judgment on Israel and the course of these past 2000 years in His Olivet Discourse in Mark 13; but the most complete account is found in Matthew 23 where you will read the harshest and most blistering denunciation of the Jewish leaders that Jesus ever spoke.
After the denunciation, Jesus took His disciples with Him to the Mount of Olives to speak to them privately about the future course of history for the Jews and for the rest of the world. This is known as the Olivet Discourse and you will find it in Luke 21:7-36, Mark 13:3-37 and Matthew 24-25.
Were all the disciples there listening to Him? Probably. I’ve always pictured them all there, but Mark 13:3 seems to teach that this was given privately to Peter, James and John only. In any event, these three are the ones who asked the question of Jesus.
Note that Jesus told this story of the widow between two events.
In Luke 20:45-47 He warned His disciples, as the Jewish crowds listened, to beware of their false religious leaders.
Then in Luke 21:5-36 He pronounced judgment on the temple and Jerusalem.
In between the warning and the judgment, came this event of the widow giving her two pence.
Why did Jesus make this observation of the widow just then? It seems like a strange time to be giving His disciples a lesson on stewardship.
WHAT THIS STORY WAS NOT TEACHING
Jesus was not primarily teaching a stewardship lesson here. He was just making an observation concerning the widow who gave everything she had to the temple treasury and contrasting her giving with the giving of the wealthy who gave a little out of their wealth.
Just a side thought here. Jesus is God. He was God then and He is still God today. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever as Hebrews 13:5 declares. He is always looking on our hearts. He is always observing how we spend our time, talents, energy and money. Let’s never lose sight of that. He is fully aware of our sacrifices and our motives and He will reward accordingly.
Jesus was not teaching here that the measure of our giving is determined by how much we have left after giving.
He was not teaching self-denial here; although He does teach self-denial elsewhere, such as in Matthew 16:23-25.
He was not teaching that the highest level of spirituality is for us to give away everything we own and take a vow of poverty. That is stupidity and an evidence of spiritual blindness.
How do we know Jesus was not making these points? Because He didn’t. He just made an observation, contrasting that the widow gave all she had, whereas the rich simply gave from their abundance.
If there is a stewardship lesson to be given here, it is that God wants us to give away everything we own: our house, car, clothes, food and everything else. That is NOT the lesson of this story, nor is it normally His will for any of us; or Jesus would have made that point.
To teach people to give away all they own is foolish and irresponsible.
Some exceptions to that statement
1. Elijah told the widow who was preparing her last meal before she died with her son to give it to him. God told Elijah to ask her for all of it. You are aware of the rest of that thrilling story. If not, read it in I Kings 17.
2. Jesus once told a rich young man to sell everything he had and give it all to the poor. That story is in Matthew 19:16-22. He challenged that man to do so in order to confront him with his pride and self-righteousness on which he was counting to earn Heaven.
3. I think of another example of a young man, William Borden, who gave up everything to serve Christ. William Borden was heir to the Borden Dairy estate and a millionaire.
As a high school graduation gift, he parents sent him around the world. During his trip the Lord called him to be a missionary to China. He wrote home, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” And at the age of eighteen he wrote in the back of his Bible, “No Reserves.”
As a student at Yale, he sought to win college men to Christ and His service. After graduation he entered two more words in his Bible. “No Retreats”
After finishing Princeton Seminary, in 1913 Borden sailed for China to begin his ministry. While on the trip, in Egypt he developed meningitis and died within the month.
But underneath the words, “No reserves” and “No retreats”, Borden had written the words “No regrets.” God used Borden’s story to speak to the hearts of many young people of that era who gave their lives for Christ’s service.
4, Certainly the Apostle Paul is one of the chief examples of this kind of total sacrifice for Christ. You can’t read the Book of Acts and Paul’s Epistles without being struck with Paul’s total sacrifice for Christ His Saviour and Lord.
If God leads someone to give all they own to His cause, we must not try to hold them back. However, we must never teach nor encourage needy people, especially widows to give away all their life savings, leaving themselves in total poverty in hopes that God will bless them. Preachers who would teach such are evil men to be avoided. Jesus described them in Luke 20:47, Matthew 23:14 and Mark 12:40 as people who devour widow’s houses; that is, take advantage of them.
IF THIS STORY DOES NOT TEACH STEWARDSHIP, THEN WHY IS IT FOUND HERE?
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus was furious with the wicked religious leaders who were taking advantage of the poor. They had confused values as they taught the people to observe their man-made traditions and ignore God’s clear commands. That’s what was being talked about in Matthew 15:1-9. They were teaching that giving to the temple took precedence over giving to the support of needy parents. Mark 7:6-13 gives the same lesson.
He uses the word corbon, (which means devoted to God) to refer to their offerings.
TOO BAD, TOO BAD! We’ve already given our money to God!
In other words, selfish sons and daughters could ignore the needs of their needy parents simply by declaring that the money that could have been used to help their parents, had already been given to God. It was as if they were saying, “Too bad! Too bad! We can’t help you. We’ve already given our money to God!”
THE FINAL STRAW
So as Jesus, in sorrow and utter exhaustion, was looking down; suddenly He lifted up His head and saw the widow and others giving their money to the temple treasury and as He saw and heard others glorying in the wealth and beauty of the temple, He cut loose. This was the final straw. In Luke 21:6 He proclaims, “As for thee things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Here Jesus prophesied of the judgment and utter devastation of the temple and of the city of Jerusalem. That destruction took place forty years later when Titus led the Roman army to totally destroy the temple and the city in 70 AD.
God will judge preachers today, some on television, who pressure poor and needy people to send their money to their cause, promising God will bless them for their sacrifice. Some of these prosperity preachers, are no better than the bankers and CEO’s today who live in luxury and then cry to Congress to bail them out at tax payer expense.
In nations where dead, oppressive religion reigns, you will find magnificent cathedrals and you will find masses of people, kept in ignorance and poverty and bondage to religion, as they struggle in their poverty to pay their religious leaders to pray them out of Purgatory (a sheer invention of their religion) into Heaven. With such religious leaders, God is furious and they will face eternal damnation in Hell.
A FINAL THOUGHT
Though Spirit-led Christians delight in sacrificing their lives and all that they possesses to God and though sometimes they give perhaps more than they should, we who are in spiritual leadership should never encourage it, but rather try to dissuade them from such extreme sacrifice. That’s what the Apostle Paul did as he tried to dissuade the Macedonian Christians from giving more than they should. Read II Corinthians 8:1-5 on this. Paul rightly cautioned them about going overboard in their sacrificial giving. They had to entreat Paul to take their offerings. Nevertheless, the people insisted on giving sacrificially to the poor saints in Jerusalem. Paul commends them for that sacrifice.
May God help us as church leaders to never put people in bondage by pressuring them to give beyond their means with the promise that God will bless them for it.