By John C. Carpenter
Matthew, one of the original twelve apostles who personally witnessed Jesus' entire ministry, instructs us regarding end times events: and Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Mat 24:1-3). In these verses, Jesus makes three points very clear to His disciples, and to us: (1) the world as we have known it will come to a end, (2) at the appointed time, Jesus Christ will return again to earth, and (3) there are specific signs that will signal the coming end of the world and the return of Christ.
In verse 3, the word sign refers to an indication, miracle, token, wonder, whereas end means entire completion, comsummation of a dispensation. The word world means age, perpetuity, course, world without end. When Jesus speaks of the coming signs of His second coming, and end of the world, He is referring to miraculous indications of the entire spiritual, emotional, and physical completion of the age and world as we have known it. The very first sign Jesus indicated would be prevalent at His coming and the end of the world is deception. Scriptures warn us, Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name [character and authority], saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive [seduce and cause to roam or stray from safety, truth, or virtue] many (Mat 24:4-5). The word Christ means consecrated to religious office or service, especially anointed in ways similar to Christ. In recent decades, some ministers, primarily in the full gospel Christian community, have implied with great arrogance [leaven], directly or subtly, that they were special and anointed. In fact, some individual cult leaders throughout the world have actually claimed to be Jesus Christ in the flesh. In these verses, deceive meansto cause to roam from safety, truth or virtue, to err, or to seduce. Christ clarifies that many individuals will falsely and deceptively claim to be sent by Christ, have the same characteristics as Christ, to be operating in His authority, and to have His power and influence. These false and deceptive claims will, as Christ warns, deceive not a few, but many.
Christ also warns that in the end times shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, but also encourages believers not to be frightened because all these things must occur, and they are not an indication that the very end has yet arrived (Matt 24:6). In addition to wars and rumours of wars, the Lord prophesies that ..nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines [scarcity of food, dearth, extreme hunger], and pestilences [plagues of disease], and earthquakes, in divers places [various locations, opportunities, or conditions] (Mat 24:7). Christ instructs us that all these concerns are just the the beginning [commencement]of sorrows [pain, sorrow, and travail] (Mat 24:8). The Lord further explains that following, and in addition to, these deceptions, claims of anointing, wars and rumor or wars, conflict between nations, famines, plagues, and earthquakes, things will get even worse, including personal suffering and death, for believers in Christ. Christ warns believers Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted[to experience pressure, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble], and shall [even] kill you: and ye shall be hated [detested, and as a result, be painfully persecuted and martyred] of all nations for my name's sake [due to our belief in and love of Christ's person, authority and character] (Mat 24:9). Christ goes on to explain that the persecution and suffering will be so great that believers in Christ shall be afflicted [submitted to stress and anguish, burdened, troubled, hated by all races, tribes, and nations], and even violently killed. As a result of this persecution, many shall be entrapped and made to stumble and sin, and therefore betray one another and hate one another. Christ adds that, in these last days, many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Mat 24:11-12), and warns that the final indication of the end of the world and of His return to earth will occur when those living at the very end shall see the abomination and transgression of the desolation of the temple referenced by the prophet Daniel (Daniel, chapter 8). Christ explains that when this transgression is seen, individuals living at that time should know that the end of the world is suddenly upon them and imminent. In other words, there will be no time to do anything else. Christ describes this imminency by saying, When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:). Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child [pregnant], and to them that give suck [have young children] in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day (Mat 24:15-20). Christ goes on to say that, once this abomination of desolation is seen, the tribulation experienced at that time will be of a severity that has never been seen before, not even since the beginning of the world, nor shall ever be seen again (Mat 24:21). In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ frightenly warns that this tribulation suffering will be the worst that mankind has ever experienced. Christ instructs us that during these times of tribulation, the gospel [good news] of the kingdom shall be preached throughout all the world as evidence of the availability of eternal life, and then the end of the world as we have known it shall occur (Mat 24:14). However, the Lord gives believers during these difficult times considerable encouragement. He says that those who are suffering, yet remain strong and faithful, and endure to the very end of this time of tribulation, shall receive the gift of eternal life (Mat 24:13).
After answering His disciples' question about what sign would indicate the end of the world, the Lord then answered their second question. He informs His disciples that, as there were signs indicating the end of the world as we have known it, there shall also be signs that preceed and indicate His second coming to earth. He explains that immediately [directly, at once, as soon as, straightway following] after the tribulation of these last days, the sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give off light, the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (Mat 24:29), and that following these heavenly signs ...then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Mat 24:30), and that, following His return, Christ shall ...send [forth]his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect [favorite, selected and chosen for eternal salvation]from the four winds [quarters of the earth], from one end [extremity, uttermost part] of heaven to the other (Mat 24:29-31). To emphasize His point about the signs of the end of the world and His return to earth, Christ added one last bit of instruction to His disciples, and used, as He did so often during His earthly ministry, a worldly, physical parable [about a fig tree] to make a spiritual point. Christ explained : now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors [portal, opportunity or time for opening or closing] (Mat 24:32-33). Christ explained to His disciples that when they [and we] see leaves just beginning to appear on a fig tree, they do know [or should know] that this is an indication that summer is nigh and at hand. Likewise, Christ explained that when the generation living in the very last days see all of the signs occur when He has warned will occur, they should know that the end of the world and the return of Christ a second time to earth is, in the Lord's words, even at the doors.
I know that some of you may question that I have not mentioned the rapture of the church. However, in this article, I have purposely ignored the rapture for four reasons: (1) if we are truthful, we must admit that the Scriptures are unclear about the exact timing of the rapture, (2) again, if we are truthful, we must admit that this lack of clarity has led to much argument, anger, and division in the church regarding whether the rapture will occur before the tribulation period [pre-tribulation], at the middle of the tribulation [mid-tribulation], or at the end of the tribulation period [post-tribulation], (3) I have no desire in this article to provoke any anger or division amongst believers, since Holy Scriptures remind us, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psa 133:1), and most importantly, (4) this article is not about the rapture, but about the fact that Jesus Christ clearly instructed His disciples, and we believers, that the end of the world as we know it will one day [I believe soon] come to an end, that Christ shall return a second time to earth, and that there will be some believers who actually witness the signs of the coming end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ.
As the end approaches, and suffering increases, what is important, though, is how believers should respond to these end times. Holy Scriptures give considerable instruction to believers living in the last days regarding what we are to do and how we are to behave. In His own words, Christ warned, Watch [keep awake, be vigilant, remain perceptive and aware] therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh (Mat 25:13). Although Christ, with these words, was referring particularly to His temptation and crucifixion, He also warns us in a general sense, Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mat 26:41). Christ also instructs us, for the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning (Mark 13:34-35). We should also take the apostle Paul's words to heart:Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong (1Co 16:13). Paul wrote Thessalonian believers words applicable to us as well, but of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep [be unaware, unperceptive, ignorant], as do others; but let us watch [keep awake, be vigilant] and be sober [abstain from distractions, be discreet]. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ (1Th 5:1-9). Peter wrote the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, and to us, but the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7). In the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John regarding things which must shortly come to pass, Christ said, Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee (Rev 3:2-3). In our subject verses, Christ's final, yet uplifting, instruction to His disciples [and to us] was, Watch [be vigilant, be awake, be watchful] therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein [the end of the world or the return of] the Son of man cometh (Mat 25:13).  AMEN.



                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
"Let not your
heart be troubled:
ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's
house are many mansions: if it
were not so,
I would have
told you. I go to prepare a place
for you"
(John 14:1-2)

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