The Future According to Jesus
The Olivet Discourse - Matthew 24
(cf. Mark 13 and Luke 21)
In order to understand Jesus' extensive answer to his Disciples' questions, I think it is best to see what follows throughout the chapter as a kind of telescoping of events from AD 70 (Roman General Titus' destruction of Jerusalem) to the end times. A clue to help with this kind of interpretation is found in the Apostles' questions themselves, "Tell us when this will happen (i.e. the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple buildings), and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?" Apparently the Disciples thought the destruction of Herod's magnificent Temple would signal Jesus' Second Coming and the end of the age; however, as we closely examine Jesus' prophecy we discover his predictions are still unfolding - with many yet to be fulfilled. Consequently, Jesus gave his Disciples an answer they probably did not expect. We're glad He did because it gives us a wonderful glimpse into the future!
Let me also give you a few other "ground rules" which help to clarify Matthew 24. I believe it is natural to understand Jesus' use of "you" to refer to believers who are alive at the time our Lord's prophecies are being fulfilled. Please note vv. 4, 6, 9, 15, 26,
33, 34, 42 and 44. In addition, I am convinced we need to see our Lord's Coming as one event! Jesus' teaching in Matthew 24 gives us good reason to come to such a conclusion.
I. Events which do not specifically signal the End, vv. 1-14
N.B. Please bear in mind that while each of these signs do not specifically indicate the End, they do lead up to the End with increased intensity. Note, for example, expressions like, "the end is still to come," and "these are the beginning of birth pangs."
A. Impostors of Christ, i.e. antichrists, vv. 4-5, cf. vv. 24-25
B. Wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, vv. 6-7
C. Persecution of believers and the falling away of false believers, vv. 9-13
1. Many will be led astray, v. 12
2. True believers will persevere, v. 13
D. Worldwide missionary activity
II. Events which do specifically signal the End, vv. 15-29
A. Abomination that causes desolation, i.e. activity of the Antichrist, v. 15
N.B. Please note the reference to Daniel 9:24-27 in verse 15. Also, other references to the Antichrist are found in II Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13.
B. Persecution of believers by the Antichrist, i.e. during the Great Tribulation,
vv. 16-22. (Please note the Great Tribulation is cut short because of the elect who
I believe will be raptured before the wrath of God falls on the earth at the end of
that time period.)
C. Apostasy, i.e. a falling away of false believers because of the deception of the
Antichrist, vv. 24-25, cf. II Thessalonians 2:9-12 and Revelation 13:11-14.
D. Perseverance of true believers in spite of persecution by the Antichrist, vv. 24-25,
II Thessalonians 2:13-15 and Revelation 13:10; 14:12-13.
N.B. The term "elect" most naturally is understood as referring to all true believers, i.e.
the Church. Please note vv. 22, 24 and 31.
III. The End, vv. 30-31
A. The Son of Man comes in the clouds, v. 30; cf. Daniel 7:13; Acts 1:9-11;
I Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 1:7.
B. The loud trumpet calls, v. 31; cf. Isaiah 27:13; Zechariah 9:14;
I Corinthians 15:32; I Thessalonians 4:15; Revelation 11:15.
C. The Rapture occurs, v. 31; cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:6-10
N.B. After believers meet the Lord in the air, I believe they return back to reign with their conquering King of Kings and Lord of Lords, cf. Revelation 19:11-21. The three occurrences of apantesis, "meet," in the New Testament all have the idea of meeting and returning back with person who has been met, cf. Matthew 25:6; Acts 28:15 and
I Thessalonians 4:17.
IV. Exhortations to believers before the End comes, vv. 32-52
N.B. Matthew 25 is a continuation of this passage.
A. When you see these things, i.e. the activity of the Antichrist, you will know the
end is near, vv. 32-33.
B. When the end-time events begin to occur, the generation alive at that time will
experience the Coming of the Son of Man, v. 34. (Jesus' prophecy is sure, v. 35!)
C. Even though there will be signs which will indicate the time is near for Christ's
Coming, there is no way to predict the precise moment. It will be an abrupt
interruption of normal life, vv. 36-41.
D. Therefore, keep watch and be ready, vv. 42-44!
The way to be ready for the Master has to do with personal lifestyle. We must therefore live as faithful and wise servants of Christ until He comes, vv. 45-51!