- Sermon Notes
In the Last Days
Matthew 24 is commonly called the Olivet Discourse. What that means is that this is a message that Jesus gave while sitting on the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem. It would be helpful to imagine the city of Jerusalem in your mind. The famous Jewish Temple stood at the eastern edge of the city with its Eastern gate overlooking the Kidron Valley.
Continuing to head east from the Kidron Valley you come to the famous garden of Gethsemane which is where Jesus and the disciples spent much time together and where Jesus spent his last night praying to His Father before His arrest and crucifixion.
Continuing east, you begin to climb the Mount of Olives, which stands about 500 feet higher than Jerusalem. In those days it was truly covered with olive trees which were all later destroyed by the Roman armies.
This message that Jesus gives on the Mount of Olives actually begins in Jerusalem in Matthew 23. As Jesus finished rebuking the Jewish leaders for being hypocrites and blind guides, He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling. Behold, your house is left to you desolate!"
Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem which would literally be fulfilled in 70 A.D. These words must have amazed the disciples who no doubt must've been as awed at the construction of Herod's Temple as anyone else. A little history of the Temple would be helpful here.
King David had wanted to build a Temple for the Lord, but God would not allow it saying to David that he was a man of war with blood on his hands, but that it would be built by his son Solomon, who would be a man of peace.
Solomon's Temple was considered one of the great wonders of the world at that time, but it was completely destroyed in 586 BC when the Babylonians destroyed the city, took most of the population into exile in Babylon and burned the temple to extract the gold which have made it so famous.
70 years later when some of the Jews returned to Jerusalem, they were allowed to rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, but it was far less than in the days of its former glory. So, almost 500 years later, Herod the Great decided to rebuild the Temple to make a name for himself. He built it with great white marble on slabs of rock that were sometimes 50' x 11' x 16.5' and weighing 500 to 600 tons. He used the greatest architects from Greece, Rome and Egypt. Each block was carved and ground into precise squared edges to create precise joints, so precise you could not even insert a knife blade between them.
So when the disciples pointed out the magnificence of the Temple to Jesus in 24:1 and then Jesus responded, "Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down." The disciples must have been shocked to hear it; which led them to ask Jesus to tell them when would these things be and what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age.
By the way, Jesus's prophecy came to pass exactly as He said it. In 66 A.D. the Jewish nation revolted against Rome. The Roman general Vespasian besieged the city, but was called to Rome to become Emperor after Nero took his own life, and Titus then destroyed the city and the soldiers removed every ounce of gold by overturning every stone.
Jesus's answer to the disciples is a prophecy that is especially relevant in our own day because we are living in the last days and the signs of His coming are for all of us to understand. But this prophecy is given so that we might make ready our lives.
I. Understand the Events to Come
- Notice that there were two questions. "When will these things be," and then, "What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?"
- The first question had to do with when the Temple would be destroyed.
- The second question was about the return of the Lord and the end of the age.
- Some of these events have already been fulfilled, such as the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and some have yet to be fulfilled and so it is important for us to begin with an understanding of the events of the last days.
A. Jerusalem will be the epicenter
- The first prophecy of Jesus was the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the famous Temple of marble and gold.
- The reason for this destruction is seen in several places in the Scriptures.
- First, because God sent His Son to His chosen people and to the city where He had placed His name, but they did not receive Him.
2 Chronicles 6:6, but I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.
Luke 19:41-44 They did not recognize the time of their visitation.
- The prophecies of Jesus regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple were completely fulfilled in 70 A.D., yet many of the prophecies yet to be fulfilled, require Jerusalem to be rebuilt.
- This is exactly what we saw happen on May 14, 1948 when Israel re-established the nation. Then the Six Day War broke out on June 5, 1967 and Jerusalem was once again in the hands of the Jews.
- Jerusalem is so significant to the Lord that after all the events of the last days have been completed and God establishes a New Heaven and a New Earth, He will also bring forth the New Jerusalem.
Revelation 21:1-7 The New Jerusalem out of heaven
B. Antichrist will arise in the last days
Matthew 24:23-25 False Christs and false prophets…
Daniel 9:26-27 The antichrist in scripture
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 He takes his seat in the Temple of God
C. There will be a great Tribulation
- This great Tribulation was prophesied in the book of Daniel to be seven years in duration.
- This is the time period in which the Lord's wrath is poured out on the Earth. Some suggest that this was fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, but the world has seen much worse days than that. No, the great Tribulation, also known as the Day of the Lord, will be something the world has never seen.
- Much of the book of Revelation describes the various aspects of God's wrath as it is being poured out on the world in those days.
II. Be Encouraged and Be Ready
- We will look at the rest of this chapter next week, but we need to understand its application for our own lives today.
- First, Jesus wants us to understand which is why he warns us in advance.
- When you read about how terrible those days will be and what tragic events God has in store for this world, and then see the condition of the world today, it would be easy to be discouraged.
- But Jesus said not to let your heart be troubled.
- But we are also given the events beyond these tragedies to see that our God sits on the throne above all the earth and that His plan is for us is to overcome and be strengthened in our faith.
- But He also wants us to be ready.
A. We are not destined for wrath
- One of the things that should immediately encourage us is to know God's heart toward us.
- The great tribulation which is to come upon the world, which is called the wrath of God is not intended for the church, the bride of Christ.
- In verse 16-20 Jesus tells those who are in Judea to flee to the mountains during the time of tribulation.
- There will be two things happening at the same time. One, the Antichrist will bring the nations under his power to attack Israel. Secondly, natural cataclysmic events of the tribulation will also be occurring at the same time.
- But the church, the bride of Christ, is not destined for the wrath of God, since the wrath that we deserved fell upon Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:9, For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
- How will we be saved from the wrath of God in those days? Answer: by the rapture of the church. The rapture is when the church is "taken up" or "caught up" with the Lord in the air.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 We will be caught up together in the clouds.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 In the twinkling of an eye.
B. Be ready
- In verse 42, Jesus told them to be on the alert. And there are many other scriptures that say the same, God wants us to be ready.
- How? First, by understanding that in the last days, most people's love will grow cold (verse 12).
- When John the Baptist made people ready; prepared for the Lord, he called them to renew their relationship to the Lord, he called them to repentance.
- One of the things we've seen over and over in Scripture that God wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
- Secondly, God wants us to know the signs of the times. Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders who had seen the signs right before their eyes, yet refused to believe them; they refused to see the signs of the time.
Matthew 16:3, "Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?"
- There are many signs of the events of the last days that we will look at, but Jesus mentions just a few for us to understand.
- In verses 6-14 Jesus gives some of the signs of the times, but in verse eight He emphasized that these things are merely the beginning of birth pains.
Matthew 24:1-22 NASB
1 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 said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." 3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"