In Matthew 24, Jesus’ disciples asked the question, “What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” In response, Jesus gave a list of specific signs that will precede His return and indicate if we were living in the end times. Matthew 24 is a compact overview of the end times. This seven-year period of time is also known as Daniel’s 70th week. Jesus also gives us the sequence of events relative to the church. The end times will begin with a period known as the Beginning of the Birth Pangs. The Beginning of the Birth Pangs will last 3 ½ years and will be followed by the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord (an additional 3 ½ years). Matthew 24 runs parallel to Revelation 6 (the seven seals), and by comparing each account, we are better able to understand the specific end times signs we are to look for (Rise of the Antichrist, War by the Antichrist, the establishing of the Antichrist’s kingdom, Famine created by the Antichrist, Major Earthquakes, Antichrist declaring himself God in the newly built temple in Israel, Death of Millions, unprecedented persecution and Martyrdom in the Church, and Cosmic signs in the skies. These are the specific signs that will precede Jesus’ Second Coming.
While not referred to in Matthew 24, Daniel 9:27 gives us the catalyst event which initiates the end times; A seven-year covenant will be signed between Israel and some political leader to the North. At that moment the end times will begin.
Again, in Matthew 24 Jesus explains the specific signs that will follow the signing of the 7 year covenant. These signs will indicate if we are living in Daniel’s 70th week.
Matthew 24:1-51 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2"Do you see all these things (the temple building see Luke 21:5,6)?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." (Jesus is teaching that the end times would not begin until after the destruction of the temple occurred. See Daniel 9:24-27. The destruction of the temple is given as one of the signposts preceding Daniel’s 70th week. The sequence in Daniel is 1. 69th week ends and Messiah is cut off 2. Temple destroyed 3. 70th week begins.)
3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, (Q #1) "when will this happen, (referring to the destruction of the temple. See Luke 21:12-24) (Q #2) and what will be the sign of your coming (Gk = Parousia, the Second Coming or the Rapture) and of the end of the age.” (The prophets of old saw two ages; the current age in which they were living and dealing with sin and all kinds of bad things. And a future golden age that is coming when the Messiah will reign and usher in the Millennial Kingdom when things will be very good, almost perfect. They are asking what will be the sign that the current age is ending and the golden age is beginning? Jesus will explain the sign of His Coming are the events of Daniel’s 70th week.)
PHASE 1 - THE BEGINNING OF THE BIRTHPANGS COVER THE FIRST 3 ½ YEARS OF DANIEL’S 70TH WEEK (Mt 24:4-8).
4Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,'(This is the first seal of Rev 6:1,2 = The Antichrist, the future ruler of the world, will begin to arise.) and will deceive many. (God never gives a warning unless there is a danger. We must pay attention to this warning because there is a grave danger of being terribly deceived in the last days by the rise of false religious teachers and finally the Antichrist. The beginning of the week begins with a seven year covenant he will sign with Israel see Daniel 9:27. We must be ready!)
6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars,(this is the second seal of Rev 6:3,4 = Antichrist will take peace from the earth using a “great sword” & men will kill one another) but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (When we see the rise of the Antichrist and his deception we are to know that we are still in the first ½ of Daniel’s 70th week.)
7Nation will rise against nation(individual nations), and kingdom against kingdom (coalitions of nations). There will be famines and earthquakes in various places (this is the third seal of Rev 6:5,6 – Antichrist will cause great famine and economic collapse).
8All these are the beginning of birth pains (All these things, the rise of the Antichrist, the wars associated with the Antichrist and the famines created by the Antichrist, are merely the beginning of the birth pangs. The Beginning of the Birth Pangs refers to the first 3 ½ years or the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week. Although the world is presently witnessing events that are reflected in the first three seals, when the covenant is signed, these same events will intensify. The trials will escalate as we get into the “Great Tribulation.”)
PHASE 2 – THE “BEGINNING OF THE BIRTH PANGS” ARE OVER AND THE “HARD LABOR OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION” BEGINS AT THE MIDDLE OF DANIEL’S 70TH WEEK. Mt 24:9-14 covers the second half of Daniel’s 70th week, up to the Day of the Lord.
9"Then(Note, the signs are consecutive.) you will be handed over to be persecuted(by the Antichrist) and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. (This refers to both the fourth seal of Rev 6:7,8 = Antichrist and the False Prophet will cause death by the sword, famine and plagues and the fifth seal of Rev 6:9-11 = Antichrist will martyr the saints due to their obedience to the Word of God and their testimony to Jesus. See Rev 12:11.) 10At that time(Specifically, the time of the Great Tribulation) many will turn away from the faith (“the apostasy” will occur and many will abandon and deny Jesus rather than face the persecution of the Antichrist. Paul gives us characteristics of the apostasy of the last days in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.) and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (The deception by the False Prophet will cause a great falling away from the faith – 2 Thes 2:15, 17, and many will be swept away in panic.)
12Because of the increase of wickedness (throughout the world empire of Antichrist), the love of most will grow cold (love for Jesus will disappear), 13but he who stands firm(faithful believers who endure and persevere) to the end(of the Great Tribulation) will be saved (physically delivered by the Rapture!). 14And this gospel of the kingdom(the eternal gospel of Rev 14:6,7) will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (the goal of the church will be to stand firm and preach the gospel despite the persecution of Antichrist), and then the end (The Day of the Lord) will come.
Now Jesus gives us additional detail about the second half of Daniel’s 70th week, specifically, the Great Tribulation, in verses 15-28. The event which triggers the Great Tribulation is “THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION.” The Antichrist will proclaim himself to be God in the Jewish temple. That event will desecrate the temple and begin the desolation of the nation Israel. It will occur exactly at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week. Mt 24:15-28 covers the details of the second half of Daniel’s 70th week.
THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION
15"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand— (Daniel referred to this event in Daniel 9:24-27. Jesus describes the Antichrist who has been rising to world domination and is now at the height of his power. Antichrist is the Abomination which causes the desecration of the “yet to be built” Jewish temple. He will proclaim himself God in the rebuilt temple. This is an unmistakable indicator of the end of the age. Daniel tells us this is the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week. When this event occurs, the Great Tribulation will begin. See Daniel 11:31, 12:11.)
16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains(When you see the Antichrist set up an image of himself in the temple declaring himself world ruler, if you are living in the Jerusalem area, you must flee, because this is the event that triggers the Great Tribulation! If you do not bow down to this image, you will be put to death immediately.)17Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house.(Take no time to pack.) 18Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! (Because this will slow you down and you will not be able to escape.) 20Pray that your flight will not take place in winter(if they retreat into the desert toward Petra, it may be extremely cold and you will not have provisions or clothing) or on the Sabbath.(It appears the nation will be under some orthodox Sabbath rules and travel will not be permitted. All of these warnings are stressing the sense of urgency to get away as fast and far as you can because time is of the essence.)
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
21For then(After the Antichrist stands in the temple.) there will be great distress (Greek = “Great Tribulation.” This is the first time this term is used.), unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. (It will be a period of unparalleled trouble. It will be worse than the Crusades, worse than the Spanish Inquisition, worse than the Holocaust. We must be prepared and heed this warning! The danger is not that the church will be left behind, but that we will be asleep and caught off guard. see Dan 12:1). 22If those days(The days of Antichrist’s/Satan’s persecution of God’s elect and the Great Tribulation. Martyrdom is the 5th seal of Rev 6.) had not been cut short (Q: What is cut short? Certainly not Daniel’s 70th week. Scripture teaches both first and second half are exactly 1260 days. The Great Tribulation is “amputated” – Antichrist’s persecution will be cut short in order to keep all believers from being martyred), no one would survive (particularly Jews living in Israel), but for the sake of the elect (the church, the true believers surviving the severe persecution of the Antichrist) those days will be shortened (It is clear Daniel’s 70th week is not shortened, that is determined and fixed - Dan 9:24 and its duration is referred to repeatedly – Dan 7:25, 12:17, Rev 11:2-3, 12:5-6, 12:14. What is shortened is the second phase of Daniel’s 70th week, or the Great Tribulation. It will be cut short by the Rapture of the elect to heaven.)
JESUS WARNS “DO NOT BE DECEIVED” 3X
23At that time if anyone says to you(to those in hiding), 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles(Antichrist will send false christs and false prophets into the world with false signs in order to deceive many. The ultimate deception occurs when Antichrist will rise from the dead by the False Prophet) to deceive even the elect--if that were possible (but it’s not). 25See, I have told you ahead of time(A warning to be prepared for this deception). 26"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. (They will be declaring a false message – that the Messiah has returned at last, He is in the desert, come out of hiding!!! He has come back to the inner rooms of the temple, come out!!! Don’t believe them because Antichrist wants to kill you. Don’t be deceived. The true Messiah isn’t coming until we see the next sign…)
A COSMIC SIGN IN THE SKY
27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming (Greek = “Parousia” the glorious appearing of Jesus) of the Son of Man. 28Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather(Two thoughts: a Jewish proverb meaning moral corruption requires divine judgment. When Jesus returns, there will be a time of divine judgment during the Day of the Lord. Or, One vulture circling overhead does not mean much, but a gathering of vultures means that a dead body is nearby. Likewise, one sign of the end may not be significant, but when many signs occur, the second coming is near.) 29"Immediately after the distress of those days(After the Great Tribulation) 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' (Cosmic Disturbance is the key sign for believers to look for. The natural light sources in the heavens will be turned off plunging the earth into total, awesome, fierce darkness. This Cosmic Disturbance will mark the end of the Great Tribulation. And Joel 2:31 tells us this sign also occurs immediately before the Day of the Lord begins! See Rev 6:12-13.)
PHASE 3: DELIVERANCE AND THE COMING OF THE LORD JESUS - THE RAPTURE
30"At that time(of universal darkness) the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky (The Rapture – You will not need a TV to see this event. The Shekinah glory of Jesus will appear in the sky, dispelling the darkness, flooding the world with supernatural light that will come from the east and encompass and illuminate the entire earth, and the church will be caught up into this glory.), and all the nations of the earth will mourn (when they see it). They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (His return will be anything but secret! Every eye shall see Him, “Rev 1:7” and every hear will hear the shout and the voice of an archangel with the trumpet of God “1 Thess 4:16”.) 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call,(a blast of the heavenly trumpet will draw our attention to the sky.) and they will gather his elect (the church) from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (The dead in Christ will burst from their tombs and they, along with living believers “who remain” will be caught up in the sky to be with Him. The church will be whisked away and the entire world will watch!)
THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE
Jesus has revealed the sequence of end-times events which will occur immediately prior to the Lord’s Second Coming. It follows that and discerning believers will know the approximate time because of these signs and indicators. The parable of the fig tree teaches we can know the general time period or the “season” of His return. After the beginning of the birth pangs (Matthew 24:4-8) and the hard labor of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:9-14 with expanded details in 24:15-28) will come the delivery or the Rapture of the Church (Matthew 24:29-31). The season during which believers can look for the coming of the Lord is the season of hard labor or the Great Tribulation. Not just any tribulation, but a Great Tribulation that can only be described “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” The Bible indicates that at the mid-point of Daniel’s 70th week, Satan will come down to earth having great wrath (Rev 12:12) and will give the beast (Antichrist) supernatural powers (Rev 13:2, 2 Thess 2:9). With these supernatural powers, the beast will begin a campaign of terror against the elect of God (Rev 13:7, Mt 24:22). These are the leaves of the fig tree that are a signal the final season has indeed begun. In other words, when we begin to see these signs revealed in Mt 24, we will know the Second Coming is very near!
32"Now learn this lesson from the fig tree(The fig tree is a general time indicator.): As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. (The meaning is this, when a fig tree begins to bloom, men know that summer is near. So it is with the end times; when we begin to see the prophetic events described in Mt 24 occur, the generation then living will know the Lord’s return is very near and we are living in the last days. The point of the parable is obvious; there are specific signs that will precede the Lord’s coming. These indicators allow us to know the general time or season of His coming.) 33Even so, when you see all these things (the events described in verses 4-31; There were a few signs that occurred prior to Daniel’s 70th week; Israel had to become a nation before Jesus could return. This happened in 1948. 5 million Jews have been re-gathered in Palestine in fulfillment of Ez 37. Jerusalem came under Jewish control in the 6 Day War of 1967. However, Israel does not yet have control of the temple mount. There are specific future signs to be looking for as well; The rebuilding of the temple, the signing of the seven year covenant, a king from the north conquering 3 nations introducing us to the rise of the Antichrist, the apostasy and false signs of the False Prophet, the mark of the beast 666, the famines, the abomination of desolation, the coming of Elijah, the unprecedented persecution of believers and Israel, the darkness of the heavens), you know that it (the Second Coming) is near, right at the door. (We don’t know the exact date of the Lord’s return, but we do know the period or the season is upon them.) 34I tell you the truth, this generation(the generation that sees the events of Mt 24:3-31) will certainly not pass away (they will be raptured) until all these things have happened. 35Heaven and earth will pass away(Revelation 21, 22 tells of a new heaven and a new earth), but my words will never pass away. (Jesus’ words concerning the Second coming… He will come again!!!)
36"No one knows about that day or hour(The fig tree will give you the approximate time, but the exact year, month, day and hour of the Rapture is unknown and it has been withheld from the Church.), not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son (Jesus did not know), but only the Father. (Only the Father knows the exact date, the specific time, the day, the hour of the Rapture).
SEPARATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE UNRIGHTEOUS – THE RAPTURE
37As it was in the days of Noah(the unbelieving world was totally caught off guard and unprepared for the judgment of the flood), so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man (Most people will be going about their normal activities with no sense of the approaching judgment. Just as the unbelieving world was caught off guard and unprepared for the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the world of unbelievers WILL be caught off guard by His Second Coming because they do not know the signs of the season. The unbelieving world will be totally oblivious and caught off guard at the Lord’s coming and the judgment of the Day of the Lord. Why? Because they do not know the signs of the end.)38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage(This is not referring to gluttony or drunkenness, rather most people will be oblivious to the prophetic scriptures and going about their normal activities with no sense of the approaching judgment), up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away(Gk = an unfriendly taking). That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (Totally caught off guard, doing whatever, with no awareness of approaching judgment.) 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken(Gk = a friendly taking at the Rapture) and the other left (to go through the Day of the Lord). 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
WARNINGS CONCERNING THE END TIMES
42"Therefore keep watch (A warning to be watchful. Be ready, be prepared, don’t be caught off guard!), because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into(Jesus’ coming will be like a “thief in the night” for the unbelievers who are asleep and not prepared). 44So you also must be ready(We are to be on the alert by looking for these signs, keeping ourselves awake so that this day does not surprise us. Even if we know we are in the 70th week, we still won’t know the exact timing of the Rapture.), because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Again, the church is not in danger of being “Left Behind”, but in being caught off guard).
45"Who then is the faithful(A warning to be faithful.) and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food (Referring to spiritual food prior to Daniel’s 70th week, and literal food for those in the 70th week.) at the proper time? 46It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' 49and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.