Title: 7 Hum Drum Signs and 2 World Changing Promises
Text: Matthew 24:3-14
FCF: We often fear or are intimidated by the study of the end of the world
Prop: The world will be changed by the Kingdom of God, so we must endure as disciples of Christ.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 24. I must confess that I have not been looking forward to the study of this discourse called by some “The Olivet Discourse.” I think the main reason I have been concerned about preaching this section is that there are several viewpoints on the end times. All week I have been studying this passage knowing that whatever I come up with as my conclusion will probably be in disagreement with about 60% of Evangelical Christianity.
My passion as your pastor, as an expositor of the word of God, is not to stand up here each Sunday and give you a systematized explanation for each doctrine we come to in scripture. Some men preach this way. No my passion is far simpler – perhaps even naive. My greatest desire is to accurately relate what the author of the passage of scripture intends His readers to see. Therefore we are not going to approach this discourse as if it is Jesus’ complete eschatological system. Frankly because I don’t think Jesus had any intention of doing that.
Nevertheless, there is a need here for us to understand the basic viewpoints of eschatology, if for no other reason than to perform my due diligence as your pastor.
There are three basic ways to approach this passage of scripture.
[Slide 2A] 1.) A Futurist Perspective – Everything Jesus says relates to something that has yet to be.
[Slide 2B] 2.) A Preterist Perspective – Everything Jesus says relates to something that has already happened.
[Slide 2C] 3.) A Preterist-Futureist Perspective – Some of what Jesus says has happened, some of what Jesus said has not happened.
Of course there are many different shades in the spectrum, but these are the three primary colors.
[Slide 3A] And generally speaking if you are a futurist, you would probably fall into a premillennial view of eschatology. Meaning you believe that Jesus will return prior to a literal 1000 year reign on earth.
[Slide 3B] If you are a preterist you would primarily fall into one of two camps, either a postmillennial or amillennial view of eschatology, meaning that Christ comes after a figurative 1000 year time of reigning, which is happening currently. In a postmillennial perspective, everything gets better so Christ can come, in a amillennial perspective, everything gets worse till Christ has to come.
[Slide 3C] And if you are a Preterist-Futureist – you are probably just confused. J I’m just kidding. I would probably fall into that category… which maybe I shouldn’t have admitted J
[Slide 3D] Seriously though a preterist-futurist would house most premillenialists, especially those who are not strict dispensationalists.
[Slide 4(blank)] Now I have just thrown around 6 or 7 words that are probably totally unfamiliar to you. Don’t get lost. The main question you must ask yourself is simply this: Has whatever Jesus is saying at this time happened yet? Your answer determines where you fall.
Now I am going to try to remain as unbiased as I can. Typically if something Jesus says would be difficult for a position to harmonize or contributes toward a position, I will try to say so. But like I said, I am not going to approach the Olivet discourse to defend a certain system or attack another. Simply because that is probably not how Jesus or Matthew intended their words to be used.
So with all that out of the way…after pronouncing judgment on Israel, specifically that the glory of the Lord, Jesus Himself, will be removed from them but would return someday. After predicting that the temple and the city of Jerusalem itself would be destroyed, Jesus sits down with His disciples to rest on the Mount of Olives. So far as we can tell, this is Tuesday evening. It has been a full day telling the Jews that they had misunderstood, misapplied, and disobeyed God’s Word, and because of this they would be judged. And now, the disciples express their curiosity over the details of what He has predicted. Some of them come privately to Jesus to ask…
I am in Matthew 24, I’ll start reading in verse 3. I am reading from the CSB and you can follow along in whatever version you prefer or the pew bible starting on page 1121. If you don’t have a bible keep the one in the pew for yourself.
We have much to discuss again… let’s get to it.
I.) The world will continue to behave as it always has, so we must endure as disciples of Christ.
a. [Slide 5] 3 – While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives
i. The Mount of Olives or the mountain to the east of Jerusalem plays a significant role in the end times. Zechariah 14 talks about this mountain being split in two from east to west with half the mountain moving to the north and the other half moving to the south. This essentially provides a way for the people in Jerusalem to escape the nations that have come against them.
ii. This passage of Zechariah is particularly difficult for Postmillennialists to deal with, since they assume that the church ushers in the kingdom of God. This passage seems to say that Jesus has to come to rescue His people, not because they made the word a place fit for His Kingdom.
iii. Jesus sitting at the Mount of Olives, predicting when He will touch it again is nothing short of poetic.
b. [Slide 6] The disciples approached Him privately and said,
i. Mark actually specifies which disciples asked the question.
ii. However, we should probably interpret this to mean that the question was asked privately, meaning sans the crowd, not with only a select group of the disciples . Jesus’ answer was no doubt meant for the disciples to hear, although it is unclear how out of earshot the crowd was.
c. [Slide 7] “Tell us when will these things happen?
i. The first of three questions.
ii. Obviously the question is, “Tell us when the temple will be destroyed”
iii. But notice the next question…
d. [Slide 8] And what is the sign of your coming
i. The disciples had obviously heard something of Jesus’ pronouncement at the end of chapter 23.
ii. That he was leaving and not coming again until they said “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” Which every Jew at that time considered a prophesy concerning the culmination of all things.
e. [Slide 9] And of the end of the age?”
i. They connect that belief with their final question regarding the end of time.
ii. The disciples, very clearly, saw the temple’s destruction woven to the end times.
iii. Why would they think such things? Frankly, because Old Testament prophesy does. The destruction of Jerusalem as a whole is woven in end time language.
iv. This is particularly problematic for a strict preterist in this passage. If the destruction of Jerusalem has already happened, and won’t happen again, then we have to conclude that the world should have been ended by now. This is why most preterists are not strict preterists. In other words they would confess that some of what Jesus says here has to be in the future. It is just a question of what.
v. So how does Jesus reply?
f. [Slide 10] 4-5 – Jesus replied to them, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many.
i. Jesus will now proceed to tell the disciples 9 different signs. So Jesus takes their 2nd and 3rd question first. Will He ever address the other question? We’ll see.
ii. With all 9 of these signs, if you are a strict preterist or a strict futurist you are going to run into some problems. Why?
1. Because if you conclude that everything has already happened, then everything in this list should not be a fear we need face any longer. At very least it should have not been something the disciples feared after AD 70. But at least 3 disciples lived beyond AD 70 and they certainly faced these things still.
2. But, If you are a strict futurist, then what do you do with the fact that all these signs have happened to some degree already. Sure you could make the case that Jesus is predicting these things on a larger scale than ever before seen… but such a case is not made explicitly by Jesus.
iii. That is why it seems to me that Jesus’ list of signs here are most likely referring to general signs that have been and will continue to be present before the end.
iv. His first warning, is to be careful because there will be pretend Messiah’s, those who both come in Christ’s name, meaning with His authority, but also claiming to be Him.
v. Such a description is general enough to encompass every year from the garden to today. Countless heresies, cults, isms, false religions exist where people have laid claim to authority similar to Christ… and many have even claimed to be Him.
vi. Not only were there 3 other men at the time of Jesus claiming to be the Messiah – which the bible documents in Acts 5 and 21, but there was even a man named Judah who died at the hands of the Romans in 72 BC, who was treated as the Messiah.
vii. There have been at least 30 men who have claimed to be the Jewish Messiah, and many more who have claimed to be the Christian Jesus.
viii. So the first sign is that the world will continue to be a place that is full of false teachings, and false Messiahs.
ix. But what other signs does Jesus offer?
g. [Slide 11] 6 – 7- You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
i. When hasn’t there been wars and rumors of wars in the history of mankind? When haven’t nations risen up against nations and kingdoms against Kingdoms?
ii. Jesus cautions that the disciples should not be alarmed. Don’t worry or fret. Why?
iii. Because this must happen. Things must continue as they always have, so that the end may come.
iv. This is the second sign, that the world will continue to be a place of war and violence.
h. [Slide 12] There will be famines, and earthquakes in various places.
i. When hasn’t there been famines and earthquakes? Luke even adds plagues in there. Has the earth ever had a time with no famines, plagues and earthquakes?
ii. Could this be talking about a larger global issue? Sure. But Jesus does not make that plain.
iii. Some have suggested that the words “various places” suggest a more global or rampant problem than is normal. However, based on Greek grammar alone, you cannot make this case.
iv. So the third sign is that the world will continue to groan under the sickness of sin and produce natural disasters everywhere.
i. [Slide 13] 8 – All these events are the beginning of labor pains.
i. Yet all these are but Braxton Hicks contractions. False labor.
ii. They are the signs that the end is coming, but still not the end.
j. [Slide 14] Passage Truth: Jesus teaches His disciples that the world will very much continue as it always has. That many things that have been plagues upon mankind will continue to be problems. In a real way, their assumption that the temple being destroyed and the end of the world happens at the same time could have been a very dangerous belief they may have held. Jesus wants to dispel that by saying life will go on as it always has. Don’t think that once the temple is destroyed, I will return.
k. Passage Application: His application to this particular point is, essentially, to keep on doing what I have instructed you to do. Keep on being what you have been called to be. Why? Because this is not the end. It is only birth pains.
l. [Slide 15] Broader Biblical Truth: Broadening this concept to a whole bible truth, regardless of eschatology we can conclude that there is nothing new under the sun. Think back to our study in foundations. Think back to all we have learned. Would you say that we have seen false teachings, wars and rumors of wars, nations rising up against each other, famines, plagues, earthquakes from various places? Friends, we saw all this and more in the pages of Genesis. We saw this in the garden. We saw this in Lot, in Sodom, The Amalekites and Philistines. And we will continue to see them as we track through the Old Testament. And beyond AD 70 and even today, do we see false messiahs? Wars? Natural disasters? These first 3 signs check all the boxes. Will there be a future time when these 3 signs are amplified? Perhaps. But friends, Jesus’ application is the same regardless of whether this refers to the 70th week of Daniel, or this world in general…
m. Broader Biblical Application: Jesus tells His disciples to not be deceived, to not be alarmed. Generally speaking, Jesus says, don’t let these things stop you from doing what I have called you to do! Be my disciples. Endure! Carry On!
[Slide 16(blank)] Why is this so important? Why does Jesus want to emphasize that going forward unaffected by these signs is absolutely imperative? Because many won’t. The world will seep into the church. And that is where the rest of the signs focus.
II.) The true disciples of Christ will not fail their mission, so we must endure as disciples of Christ.
a. [Slide 17] 9 – Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and they will kill you.
i. Then doesn’t have to mean sequentially after the previous words. It can mean then, from that time, or at that time. This is more likely the case here. So Jesus isn’t giving a sequence of events so much as He is merely continuing a list of signs.
ii. A strict preterist has a little bit of a dilemma here. Jesus uses a second person plural pronoun. If we were southerners it would be, y’all. So He is saying that all of them would be persecuted and all of them would be killed. Although we can’t be sure, historical record seems to indicate that at least 3 apostles were not killed prior to AD 70. So if Jesus is preparing his disciples for the fall of Jerusalem, he kinda lied to them that they would all die before it happened.
iii. Again I would contend that Jesus is referring to a very general understanding of the world. When hasn’t the world persecuted and killed God’s people. There are exceptions, but those exceptions prove the rule.
b. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.
i. This is a particularly forceful prooftext for a futurist of all kinds.
ii. While you could attempt to make an argument that the only nations that mattered to a Jew were Israel and Rome, and both certainly hated Christians… Jesus says all nations.
iii. The Greek is every non-Jew. Or perhaps, EVERY SINGLE PEOPLE GROUP.
iv. And that is particularly difficult for a preterist to explain since it simply was not true of Christians or Jews prior to AD 70 or even to some degree today. Although those in favor of God’s people are certainly dwindling.
v. So the fourth sign is that God’s people always suffer at the hands of the world. This will not change. Jesus’ predicts that until the end… His people will be killed and hated for His name, probably to increasing degree until the end.
c. [Slide 18] 10 – Then many will fall away, betray one another and hate one another.
i. If such an environment exists, many will attempt to free themselves of it by falling away or abandoning their faith.
ii. They will gain clout with the ones persecuting God’s people by turning in those that once called them brothers.
iii. But friends, this has always happened. Jesus just got done condemning the Pharisees for doing this to the prophets of God.
iv. The fifth sign is that there will be apostates who reject the faith and betray to death God’s people.
d. [Slide 19] 11 – Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many
i. What do you get when the church is hated by the world and infiltrated by people who are pretend Christians?
ii. New churches are formed that agree with the world around them and are not persecuted. At the head of those churches are people who preach a gospel that is not the gospel.
iii. We know that Paul faced this, probably around the same time that Matthew’s readers were reading his words, Paul was addressing the Galatian church with the same things.
iv. The most troubling thing in this statement is that many will be deceived.
v. The sixth sign is that false prophets will come and offer something that has the form of godliness but denies its power. And many will be deceived. Again, this has always happened. From the garden to now. And it will continue.
e. [Slide 20] 12 –because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.
i. The general disregard for holiness and disregard for God’s ways and laws culminates in the only conclusion it could…
nbsp; ii. Love for God ceases. We see this in the Ephesian church as John writes to them that they had lost their first love.
iii. We saw it in the Pharisees as they despised God’s law and made their own. We see it in the time of the judges when they despised God’s law and did whatever they wanted. And we saw it in the garden, when the serpent said, “Did God say…?”
iv. The seventh sign, is that as it always has been, God’s laws are either replaced or thrown away, and since obedience to God’s commands and loving God are woven… it is impossible to despise His law and love Him at the same time. And friends this has always been. And Jesus says it will continue to be.
v. But… the remaining two signs… They break the paradigm
f. [Slide 21] 13 – But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
i. This verse and the one that follows it, my friends, is THE theme of this entire discourse. From chapter 24 through 25, if you can get this concept, then casting all the opinions about eschatology aside, you will walk away with the exact message Jesus intended His disciples to get, and that Matthew intended the Jews to get.
ii. The one who endures till the end… what does that mean? And saved… saved from what?
iii. The endurance here is referencing everything that He had just said. The false messiahs, the wars, the natural disasters, the persecution, the apostates, the false prophets, the lawlessness… if their faith endures … what…
iv. That they will be saved. Saved from what though? I see three basic options
1. Futurists see this as a promise for salvation from the 70th week of Daniel. A time of great trouble. This is possible, but futurists also see everything we’ve talked about being the 70th week also. So there is a logical problem there. How can they be saved if they endure, when they are not made to endure?
2. Eternal death is an appropriate conclusion, the ultimate or final wrath of God where He casts those not in Christ into the 2nd death, which is the lake of fire. But we must make a quick comment that in the Greek there is not a direct causation between endurance and salvation. In other words it is not the works done of enduring which secures the salvation of the person. Instead, it is a comment correlating two truths. If all who are genuinely saved endure, then all who endure are genuinely saved.
3. Finally, being saved from the wrath of God on this world, is also an appropriate conclusion. In fact, John in Revelation 3 reveals the words of Jesus to the church of Philadelphia that because they had endured steadfastly, Jesus would spare them the great trouble that would be about to come upon the whole world. Meaning from this perspective the church would need to endure some of the time of great trouble, but would be spared the worst of it on the earth as well as the ultimate wrath of God too.
4. Whichever you view death as, it would include the ultimate wrath of God, salvation from eternal death.
v. So this eighth sign is a sign unlike all the rest. It is a world changing promise. And that promise is that God’s people even though they will always be hunted by the world and hated by fake Christians, they will always be loved by God and shown mercy.
g. [Slide 22] 14 –This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
i. This happens to be a rather large thorn in the side of a preterist. If all this was supposed to have happened prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, the historical data simply does not match it. Some of the greatest evangelistic endeavors to unreached parts of the world happened after AD 70 and are continuing to happen to today. They attempt to explain this by saying that all means all different kinds of people groups, but the word does not mean all kinds, it means all, as in complete and whole. This is the utter most parts of the earth.
ii. Where a preterist struggles a postmillennial thrives. This verse seems to prove that the influence of the gospel in all the world is essential to the end of the age. However, the word to proclaim here does not necessarily indicate influence or even acceptance. It is simply that the gospel has been given.
iii. Has this happened yet? Futurists see the time of the 144,000 witnesses as when this will ultimately be completed. The work of these evangelists during the time of great trouble will complete this prophesy.
iv. So the ninth and final sign is again, a world changing promise. A promise that Christ hinted at when they stood upon mountain in Caesarea Philippi. Jesus prophesies the ultimate success of His people, His church, to keep the gates of hell at bay as they preach the kingdom message throughout all the earth. That work is ongoing, and the promises that it will be fulfilled.
h. [Slide 23] Passage Truth: Jesus contrasts the visible church and the invisible church here. Perhaps Matthew is contrasting the visible Israel and the Invisible Israel also. Jesus shows four more hum drum signs of the end of the age. That people will kill and hate His followers… they always have. There will be those who call themselves His followers that will fall away betray genuine followers… they always have. Many will come in His name and prophesy false things. Lawlessness will increase to the point that Love for God will fizzle. All this is how it always has been! But two additional signs Jesus gives. That those who are genuinely His followers will endure. And the kingdom’s gospel message will be spread to every inhabited place on the earth. Jesus predicts the ultimate success of His church. Not converting all, but preaching to all.
i. Passage Application: His application then… is the same. Be my disciples. In fact, In the last discourse of the book of Matthew… Jesus will tell them to get to work on this particular part of the promise.
j. [Slide 24] Broader Biblical Truth: For us then, we must realize that God’s church will not be thwarted by all that has been or all that will be. Regardless of whether that is in a Tribulational context or simply the way the world has always been. His Kingdom’s gospel will not be stopped. And His Genuine Kingdom Citizens will not be deceived.
k. Broader Biblical Application: And so the application again finds us. In the midst of the world being against us, in the midst of some of the visible church being against us… we must press on! For the cause of Jesus Christ. For His glory! And it doesn’t matter if what is next for us is rapture, tribulation, or His coming… it doesn’t change what Jesus wants from His disciples. The call is… to carry on.
[Slide 25 (blank)] So let’s try to understand what this text means for us, and how we can live today because of it.
[Slide 26] One Commentator said,
“Baptists in particular have commendably tolerated quite a bit of diversity on this topic” – Craig L Bloomberg The New American Commentary on Matthew vol 22 pg 352
And I am proud to continue in that Baptist tradition, by simply saying it does not matter where you fall on this. Are you a preterist? A futurist? Some sort of halvsie? This guy… J
It doesn’t matter. Why? Because it isn’t what Jesus’ point was. Regardless of where you fall, the application for us is the same.
[Slide 27 (end)] Endure. Keep fighting. Finish the race! It isn’t going to get easier. We are guaranteed trouble in this world… but we are also guaranteed that Christ has overcome the world.
Even in this country, for almost 250 years we have celebrated relative freedom to worship the way we want. But that time is coming to an end. If you can’t see the writing on the wall, then you aren’t paying attention. Even with conservative government leaders in place, some of the most morally debauched laws are being created in this country. And we have already, repeatedly now, reminded ourselves that God is currently judging this country. It will not get easier here my friends.
Are you ready? Am I ready?
I want to immediately apply this passage today. I would like to ask all the deacons of the church to come forward to pray. Specifically we are going to ask the Lord for grace to endure. That He may see to it as He has promised in His word that we will continue to be His disciples furthering His Kingdom. That we would trust that promise. That we would trust that He has overcome the world. That He has declared His victory. That He is Sovereign! That He would protect us, and not allow those who are not believers among us to fall away but would lead them to repentance and faith. That we would be drawn together in the love of Christ and endure and that we would go boldly into whatever lies ahead, for His glory and His Kingdom.
As they pray you join. You lift your voice up in trust. In repentance even. You can come to the steps, you can stay where you are. May this be a sacred time where we can cry out to our King – for His courage to face whatever is next.