Matthew Chapters 24 and 25, Part 1
by Karl Kemp
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"Scripture Quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)
This paper was taken from my paper titled "A Verse-by-Verse Study of Six important Eschatological Chapters of the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 15; Matthew 24, 25; and Revelation 20-22," dated November 1998. Originally this paper was done on a word processor that had limited capabilities (no italics and no footnotes, for example); the original format was scanned into Word 2002 in 2007 to create the internet version of this paper. I was able to use bold, italics, and underlining in that document. All Bible quotations were taken from the 1977 edition of the NASB unless otherwise noted.
I am splitting this paper into six parts to put it on several Christian article sites in October, 2012. I am modifying and improving the paper at this time and correcting several typographical errors. For one thing, I am updating the cross-references to discussions in my other papers. Sometimes I will use double brackets [[ ]] and (( )) to make them more obvious.
MATTHEW CHAPTER 24.
Matthew chapter 24 contains some very important teaching on the end times. One reason this chapter is important is that it seems to rather clearly show that the pre-week-rapture viewpoint cannot be correct: The coming of Christ and the rapture pictured in Matt. 24:29-31 (at least it has always seemed clear to me, and to many others, that this is what these verses are talking about) take place after the abomination of desolation mentioned in Matt. 24:15, which all agree will take place in the (approximate) middle of Daniel's 70th week.
This causes no problem for the end-of-the-week rapture viewpoint, or for the mid-week rapture viewpoint, believing, as I do, that the abomination of desolation will be initiated about a month before the mid-week return of Christ and the rapture. (On the abomination of desolation, including its timing, see under Matt. 24:15.) Once we factor in this timing for the abomination and the fact that the short great tribulation of Matt. 24:21, 22 speaks of very intense warfare that will last only a few weeks and terminate before the middle of Daniel's 70th week (as discussed under Matt. 24:21, 22), Matthew chapter 24 fits the mid-week-rapture viewpoint better than it fits the end-of-the-week rapture viewpoint.
"And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. (2) And He answered and said to them, 'Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.' [[Palm Sunday has already passed, and only a couple of days remain before the all-important atoning death of the Lamb of God. Israel (speaking of the great majority) hasn't repented and submitted to the Messiah. This was no time to fasten one's eyes on the temple buildings, with their spectacular beauty and glory. The temple, with the city of Jerusalem, was headed for total destruction at the hands of the Romans (some forty years later in AD 70), in accordance with these prophetic words of Jesus Christ. (Also see Matt. 21:33-46; 22:1-14, especially 22:7; 23:29-39, especially 23:35-38; Luke 19:41-44; and 21:20-24.)
The disciples of Jesus must keep their hearts fixed on Him (and on God the Father who sent Him) and on His words - the days of new-covenant salvation have arrived. It was time for the atoning death of the Lamb of God, His resurrection and ascension, and the outpouring of the promised new-covenant gift of the Holy Spirit. He, the Spirit of life, would solve the spiritual death problem through the new birth and His indwelling presence, and He, the Righteous, Holy Spirit of God would solve the bondage to sin problem and impart the righteousness and holiness of God to those who walk by faith (in accordance with the terms of the new covenant) and by the Spirit on a continuous basis.]] (3) And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, His disciples came to Him privately [[Mark 13:3 informs us that Jesus "was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple." In other words, He was on the western side of the Mount of Olives, from where they could see the temple. This verse in Mark further informs us that "Peter and James and John and Andrew [the four disciples of the twelve always listed first] were questioning Him privately." This extended passage (Matt. 24:1-25:46) is often called the "Olivet discourse," based on the Mount of Olives.
Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36 are accounts of the same discourse as Matthew chapter 24, but the accounts are not fully parallel. For one thing, neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke gives us the full account of what Jesus said. (Each of them does some editing, including selecting which quotations to include and putting the quotations in their present formats, under the overall direction of the Holy Spirit.) Also some of these "quotations" of what Jesus said are not word-for-word quotations, which is the case with many quotations in the Bible, and in other writings of the ancient world. It is easy to verify that some of the "quotations" are not word-for-word "quotations" (whether in the Greek, or in the English translations): Compare, for example, Matt. 24:15 with the parallel verse in Mark 13:14]], saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?' [[There is widespread agreement that the disciples' question assumed that the prophesied destruction of the temple was just part of the events that would take place at the end of the age; Matthew apparently had this assumption in mind as he put this chapter together (but cf. Luke 21:24). As events unfolded this assumption proved to be incorrect. The temple was destroyed in AD 70, and over nineteen hundred years have passed, and Christ still has not returned on the clouds in great glory. The accounts in Matthew chapter 24 and Mark chapter 13 don't deal at all with the AD 70 destruction of the temple. The account in Luke chapter 21 does include verses that deal with this AD 70 destruction (Luke 21:20-24).
In Matthew's account "THE SIGN of [Christ's] coming and of the end of the age" is apparently given in 24:30: "and then THE SIGN of the Son of Man will appear in the sky...and they shall see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory." In other words, the (primary) sign that they/we are to look for is the coming of Christ Jesus Himself, "coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory" at the end of the age. This emphasis fits the warnings in this chapter that there will be false Christs, false prophets, and FALSE SIGNS (24:4, 5, 11, 23-27). And it fits the strong warnings in this chapter on the need for all Christians to always be ready for the coming of Christ, since we don't know the time of His coming (24:36, 42-51).
This doesn't mean, however, that there won't be any signs preceding Christ's coming in glory. Matthew chapter 24 mentions several very definite events (signs) that will take place shortly before He comes: the "abomination of desolation" (24:15), the short "great tribulation" (24:21, 22), and the darkening of the sun and moon, etc. (24:29), and there are quite a few less-definite signs of His coming mentioned in this chapter (e.g., 24:14). Also see Matt. 24:32-34. I'll read 24:33, "even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door."
The book of Revelation confirms that there will be signs preceding Christ's return in glory, and it gives us quite a bit of information regarding these events. For a discussion on the signs that will precede the Lord's return, see chapter 4 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," which was published in 1990. At the beginning of chapter 4, I said, "I agree with the widespread viewpoint that the Lord Jesus Christ will return very soon, probably before the end of this century." I also said, "If the year 1998, for example, were to come and there was no evidence of the seven-year covenant with Israel, the ministry of the two prophets, the rebuilding of the temple, etc., then I would have to say that the Lord will not return before the year 2000." Now we're a couple of months into 1998, and I'm ready to say that I don't believe Christ will return before the year 2000, and He probably won't return before the year 2001. Now we are near the end of 2012, and I'm ready to say that I don't believe Christ will return before 2015, and He probably won't return before 2016.
I am thankful (before God) that I can still totally recommend my 360 page book, "The Mid-Week Rapture: A Verse-by-Verse Study of Key Prophetic Passages," even though it was written in 1990. There is only one place in the book that I am aware of where I have changed my viewpoint on any interpretation worth mentioning since I wrote the book, and it is a relatively minor point. In the book I suggested that the seventh and last bowl of wrath will probably extend to cover God's judgments at the end of the millennium, which is the viewpoint of many; now I believe that the seventh bowl of wrath will just extend to cover God's destruction of Antichrist and his followers at the end of Daniel's 70th week. I am also aware of typographical errors and places where improvements could be made. There is a fold-out chronological chart at the end of the book and a chapter of the book explains the chart in some detail. Like I said, I highly recommend that you get a copy of the book, which is available on my website, at amazon.com, and at armageddonbooks.com.
Now it is October, 2012. I still believe the Lord Jesus will return very soon (things are shaking more every year in and around Israel, in Europe, in the Moslem world, and worldwide), but I'm also sure that definite signs will announce His coming, including the seven-year covenant of Dan. 9:27; the three and one half year ministry of the two prophets of Revelation chapter 11; the rebuilding of the temple (which is confirmed by Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:3, 4; and Rev. 11:1, 2); and the sounding of the first six trumpets of the book of Revelation, with the abomination of desolation taking place about the time of the sounding of the sixth trumpet, followed by the short great tribulation; and then with the Lord Jesus returning at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (Rev. 11:15).
Things could come together any time, but I don't have any definite idea regarding when the final seven-year period will begin. I believe it could begin almost any time, like within the next year. On the seven-year covenant/treaty that begins the seven-year period, see under Dan. 9:27, starting on page 127 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." Daniel 9:27 (NASB) mentions that "he [Antichrist] will make a strong covenant" with Israel. The Hebrew could also be translated "will confirm a covenant," as translated by the KJV, NKJV, and the NIV, which could very well prove to be the right idea. On the fact that Antichrist will not yet have been manifested as Antichrist or begun to act like Antichrist at the time this covenant is initiated, see the section titled "The Growth and Transformation of the Little Horn" on pages 64, 65 of "The Mid-Week Rapture."]] (4) And Jesus answered and said to them, 'See to it that no one misleads you. (5) For many will come in my name, saying, "I am the Christ," and will mislead many. [[Robert Gundry ("Matthew" [Eerdmans, 1982], page 477) points out that there is no evidence of anyone claiming to be the Messiah during the hundred years between Jesus' death and resurrection and the unsuccessful revolt against Rome led by Bar-Kochha from AD 132-135; he was regarded to be the Messiah by many. There were, however, several false prophets that arose in the days between Jesus' resurrection and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. (Josephus mentions several of them.) Matthew 24:23-26 warn against false Christs and false prophets who will show great signs and wonders. These verses (24:23-26) and 24:11 apparently deal with the very end of this age, whereas 24:4, 5 cover this entire Christian age. But keep in mind that those early disciples didn't think in terms of there being many hundreds of years before Christ returned.
We certainly have been forewarned; we must be very careful who we listen to, and who we follow, and all the more so in these last days. The fact that people have supernatural knowledge and/or work miracles isn't proof that they are of God. Ministers must he tested by what they teach (does it line up with. the Bible?) and by how they live (do they live in line with the lifestyle required by the Bible?).]] (6) And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. (7) For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines [Luke 21:11 mentions "plagues and famines."] and earthquakes. (8) But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. [[I believe the time period covered by Matt. 24:6-8, as with 24:4, 5, is this entire age, up until the very last days, the days which progress beyond the "beginning of birth pangs" mentioned in 24:8. Matthew's account seems to picture the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15) as the time of transition beyond the beginning of birth pangs, which fits with everything I believe about end-time prophecy. (Note "Therefore" at the beginning of 24:15.)
I believe the prophecy of warfare pictured in Rev. 6:3, 4 (the second seal) speaks of the same warfare as Matt. 24:6, 7 and the limited famine pictured in Rev. 6:5, 6 (the third seal) correlates with "the famines in various places" of Matt. 24:7, and that both passages cover this entire age. Furthermore, the rider on the white horse in Rev. 6:1, 2 undoubtedly correlates with the preaching of the gospel throughout this age that Jesus mentioned in Matt. 24:14. (See under Matt. 24:14; the seven seals of the book of Revelation are discussed on pages 19-24 of "The Mid-Week Rapture"; they are also discussed in the article of Revelation chapter 6 on this Christian article site.) The earthquakes of Matt. 24:7 also apparently cover this entire age. It's very clear that there will be major earthquakes in the very last days.
Earthquakes in themselves (like wars, famines, plagues, etc.) aren't definite signs of the end, but earthquakes (etc.) that become more frequent and more intense, like birth pangs associated with childbirth, can help demonstrate that the end is near. (This is also true regarding an increase in the activity of false Christs and false prophets [cf. 24:4, 5].) We have seen some of this increase in our generation, and I expect there's a greater increase yet to come.
On birth pangs, cf., e.g., Isa. 13:6-13, especially verse 8; and Rom. 8:18-25, especially verses 21-23. As Rom. 8:18-25 show, these birth pangs will lead to a glorious birth. Also see Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:12, 13; Rev. 20:11; and 21:1; all these verses speak of the new heavens and new earth that will result from this end-time birth. Some of these references include the millennial kingdom under the terminology the new heavens and new earth, but it is clear that they will not come forth in their glorious fulness until after the millennium and the great-white-throne judgment at the end of the millennium. Also see Matt. 19:28 and Rev. 12:5 on this end-time birth into the fulness of eternal life. Revelation 12:5, which I consider to be the most important verse in the Bible to show that the resurrection and rapture will take place right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, is discussed in substantial detail in chapter 21 of "The Mid-Week Rapture.") It is also discussed in articles 8-10 of the series "The Mid-Week Rapture" on this Christian article site (click on my name beside any of my articles and it will take you to a listing of all of my articles on this site). That series serves as a good introduction for my book and as an introduction for the mid-week rapture viewpoint.]] (9) Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. (10) And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. (11) And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. (12) And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. [The KJV; NKJV have "the love of many," but there is widespread agreement, including the BAGD Greek Lexicon, the NIV, and many commentators, that "most" (the majority) is the idea here.] (13) But the one who endures to the end [This enduring is contrasted with the falling away, etc. of 24:10, with the being misled of 24:11, and with the lawlessness and growing cold in love for God and one another of 24:12 (cf. 24:10).], he shall be saved. [[I believe "Then" at the beginning of Matt. 24:9 takes us beyond the beginning of birth pangs of 24:8. I also believe, as I mentioned, that 24:15 (which starts with the word "Therefore") shows that the time of transition beyond the beginning of birth pangs will be the abomination of desolation. The increase in lawlessness mentioned in 24:12 fits well with the revelation of the "man of lawlessness" spoken of in 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. The man of lawlessness (Antichrist) will be revealed/manifested at the time of his abomination of desolation. (See 2 Thess. 2:4. Second Thess. 2:1-12 are discussed in the last chapter of "The Mid-Week Rapture." 2 Thess. 2:1-5 are discussed in "The Mid-Week Rapture #3" on this Christian article site.)
A DISCUSSION ON THE FIRST HALF OF DANIEL'S 70TH WEEK. There can be no doubting that the abomination of desolation (which will be initiated in the approximate middle of Daniel's 70th week, about a month before the actual middle) will be a time of very substantial transition, but I believe we can also say that the events of the first half of this seven-year period will result in noticeable transition. Many of the details we know regarding Daniel's 70th week, the first half and the second half, come from the book of Revelation, which takes us substantially beyond the revelation contained in Matthew chapters 24 and 25 (the Olivet Discourse). The book of Revelation, which was given about AD 95, some sixty-five years after the Olivet discourse, is a very special revelation from God the Father that deals, for the most part, with the last days (see, e.g., Rev. 1:1-3).
Especially relevant during the first half of Daniel's 70th week are the events associated with the sounding of the first six of the seven trumpets of the book of Revelation, and the three and one-half year ministry of the two prophets. The seventh (and last) trumpet (Rev. 11:15) will sound right in the middle of the seven-year period; Christ will return; the resurrection and rapture will take place; and judgment day will officially begin. The sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:13-21) will sound about the time of the abomination of desolation, about a month before the seventh trumpet, and it will initiate the warfare of the short "great tribulation" mentioned in Matt. 24:21. The first five trumpets will all sound earlier, undoubtedly all within the first half of the seven-year period.
On the first six trumpets, see my paper on Revelation chapters 8 and 9 on this Christian article site. On the two prophets (witnesses) of Rev. 11:3-12, see number 5 on page 12 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." On the seven trumpets, see numbers 6-12 on pages 13-16 of the book. (These numbers correspond with the numbers on the "Chronological Chart for Daniel's 70th Week" in the back of the book. I recommend looking at this chart when reading numbers 5-12. These discussions point the reader to fuller discussions of the topics for those interested. These few pages covering numbers 5-12 will give the reader a somewhat brief overview of the last days up until the time of the mid-week rapture.) The two prophets are also discussed in "The Mid-Week Rapture" #5, 6 on this Christian article site.
As we continue with Matthew chapter 24, we'll, come to the abomination of desolation in 24:15; to the short great tribulation in 24:21, 22; and to the mid-week return of Christ and the rapture in 24:30, 31.
It seems clear that there will be some increase in persecution, false prophets, apostasy, etc. during the first half of Daniel's 70th week, when the church will still be here (before the mid-week rapture), and we have been forewarned; however, God's grace will be sufficient for us to manifest a high level of victory during this period. Consider, for example, the spectacular level of victory of the two prophets of Rev. 11:3-12. It is significant, for example, that Rev. 3:10 informs us that we (the overcomers/those who are faithful to Christ in the days before He returns) won't be living on the earth during "the hour of testing" that will take place throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week. (See under Rev. 3:10 in my paper on Revelation chapters 1-10.) See chapter 3 of my book, which is titled, "Christians Will Be Saved from the Day of Wrath."
WE NEED TO CONSIDER WHY THE SCENARIO PICTURED IN MATTHEW 24:9-13 IS SO NEGATIVE. The extremely negative scenario regarding the Christian community pictured in Matt. 24:9-13, and especially the spiritual state of most of the Christians ((for example "many [the majority of Christians] will fall away and deliver up one another and hate one another" [24:10]; and "because lawlessness is increased, most peoples [speaking of Christians] love [for God and for one another] will grow cold" [24:12])) is not found in Mark 13:9-13 or Luke 21:12-19. (Mark 13:12, 13 and Luke 21:16, 17 [cf. Matt. 10:21, 22, 34-39] don't speak of Christians delivering up one another, but of Christians being delivered up because of their faith in Christ. That's a big difference!) For one thing, in the accounts of the Olivet discourse given in Mark 13:9-13 and Luke 21:12-19 (also for Matt. 10:21, 22, 34-39), it isn't just the end of the age that is in view (cf. Luke 21:12), as it apparently is in Matt. 24:9-13.
I cannot be dogmatic on this point, but I believe Matt. 24:9-13 tend to give a wrong impression of the state of the true Christian church in the last days (whether a month, or a few years) before the rapture. We'll discuss this important issue over the next several pages. I'm not suggesting that there's an error here in Matthew chapter 24, but I am saying that we can easily get the wrong impression, and that we are dependent on subsequent revelation to adequately understand the details of the end times. REVELATION IS PROGRESSIVE! God didn't just give us Matthew chapter 24; He also gave us the rest of the Bible, including the book of Revelation and many other very important prophetic passages. We need the balanced truth derived from the entirety of God's Word.
In the days of the Old Testament, it was almost impossible to not get the wrong impression from many key prophecies - prophecies that were not in error (even though they didn't give the full picture) - prophecies dealing with the Messiah and salvation through Him. For one key example: It wasn't at all clear, or understood, or (apparently) supposed to be understood at that time, that there would be two separate, and totally different, comings of Messiah. A large number of prophecies mix His first and second comings together with no apparent recognition that He was to come twice (see, for example, Isa. 9:1-7; 11:1-16; 42:1-9; 49:1-13; and Zech. 9:9, 10). So too, even though we can clearly see the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament from our present perspective, God didn't clearly reveal that fact until after Jesus had been resurrected. The apostles didn't even understand that Jesus would be resurrected until after His resurrection, so they clearly didn't understand His deity in the days before His resurrection (see John 20:9 and Luke chapter 24, for example).
Furthermore, as discussed on pages 347, 348 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," I believe we also tend to get the wrong impression regarding the timing of the rapture from the apostle Paul's teaching in 2 Thess. 2:1-12. (2 Thess. 2:1-12 are discussed in the last chapter of my book.) As I mentioned on page 347, if all I had was Paul's teaching in 2 Thessalonians, I would hold the end-of-the-week-rapture viewpoint. Second Thess. 2:1-12 (along with the rest of Paul's writings in the New Testament) does, however, leave room for the mid-week-rapture viewpoint, but, in my opinion, it (like Matthew chapter 24) doesn't leave room for the pre-week-rapture viewpoint. When the apostle Paul wrote this epistle, and probably even at the end of his life (some thirty years before the book of Revelation was given [about AD 95]), God apparently hadn't revealed to him some of the details regarding the last days, including the timing of the rapture. As I mentioned, I believe we're dependent on the book of Revelation for many of these end-time details.
At least two points should he made which substantially qualify/modify the scenario pictured in Matt. 24:9-13. The first point is that the intense trials, lawlessness, apostasy, etc. pictured in these verses are centered in Israel, where the abomination of desolation will be initiated (at the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem). Note that 24:15-22 give directions for those in Israel. It probably isn't legitimate to assume that Matt. 24:9-13 reflect the situation for Christians worldwide.
Now the second point, a very important point: I believe these verses apply (at least for the most part) to the Christians who will be living on the earth after the rapture, especially the remnant of the nation Israel; these people won't submit to Christ in time to be taken in the rapture. (We'll discuss the gathering/conversion of this remnant under Matt. 24:31.) I believe it is significant that the extremely negative scenario pictured in Matt. 24:9-13 fits much better with verses like Dan. 7:21, 25; 12:6-12; Rev. 12:13-17; and 13:5, 7, verses that deal exclusively with the second half of Daniel's 70th week, which doesn't start until the rapture has taken place, right in the middle of the seven-year period. (All these verses in Daniel and Revelation are discussed in substantial detail in "The Mid-Week Rapture," in the chapters dealing with Daniel chapters 7, 12 and Revelation chapters 12, 13. Revelation chapters 11-13, which are super-important chapters, are discussed in Article #s 5-13 in my series titled "The Mid-Week Rapture" on this Christian article site.
Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, will lead a rebellion against God starting (for the most part at least) at the abomination of desolation (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3, 4). Many "Christians" will apparently join in this rebellion led by Antichrist, and before that many will be following false end-time prophets. In our day there are many who call themselves Christians (often sincerely) who don't begin to understand, or have faith in, the essential (Biblical) truths of the Christian gospel. They deny basics like the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, His atoning death, His resurrection, His second coming, the existence of the devil, and eternal judgment. I assume that many such people will find it very easy to follow the end-time false prophets (they are doing this to some extent already) and Antichrist and his right hand man, the false prophet of Rev. 13:11ff.
Antichrist will be manifested as Antichrist at the abomination of desolation (about a month before the rapture); however, his super-evil three and one-half year reign that is mentioned in Dan. 7:21, 25 and Rev. 13:5, 7 doesn't begin until just after the rapture. Two things will take place in the middle of Daniel's 70th week that will initiate his super-evil reign. The primary thing is that the devil, having just been cast down to the earth right in the middle of the seven-year period, will give Antichrist "his power and his throne and great authority" (Rev. 13:2; 12:7-9), but it is also quite significant the Antichrist will come back from the dead shortly before the middle of Daniel's 70th week (cf. Rev. 11:7; 13:3, 12-15; and 17:8, 11).
We will continue with this verse-by-verse study of Matthew chapters 24 and 25 under the heading, "We Need to Consider Why the Scenario Pictured under Matt. 24:9-13 Is So Negative" under Matt. 24:13 in Part 2.
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