- Sermon Notes
In the Last Days - 2
In Matthew chapter 24 we find Jesus sitting on the Mount of Olives answering two questions from His disciples. His answers to these questions make up what we call the Olivet Discourse, this message that Jesus gave while sitting on the Mount of Olives. As we’ll see as we study through this chapter, the very fact that Jesus is giving this message there, on the Mount of Olives is significant because the scriptures tell us that is the very location where Jesus Himself will return.
Let's go back and get the context. Jesus had just finished confronting the Jewish leaders for their religious hypocrisy and then he prophesied over the city of Jerusalem. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem how I've longed to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!"
Jesus prophesied that the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed and the magnificent Jewish Temple in Jerusalem made of marble and gold would be destroyed, literally no stone would be left upon another.
After Jesus gave us that amazing declaration against Jerusalem, the disciples came to Him privately and asked, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
The answer Jesus gives to these questions give us great insight into the events of the last days and since we are living closer to the last days than the disciples themselves lived, these verses are actually more relevant to us than it was to them.
One of the reasons Jesus gives such prophetic insight into the events of the last days is so that we will not be misled. "Behold, I have told you in advance.” If someone says that the Messiah is in the wilderness or in a secret place, do not believe them. But also, if someone says he knows the day or the hour, did not believe him either. There have been many books written pro-claiming that they know the day and the hour and many so-called prophets have become famous, or maybe infamous for the same reason.
Jesus is telling us the events of the last days so that we will understand the signs of the times and make our lives ready. Since Jesus is telling us in advance, then we need to make sure we understand the events of the last days to come.
I. Watch for the Signs of the Times
- Jesus gives warnings of the condition of things leading up to the last days events. These are given so that we know when "the time is near."
- Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders because they would not discern the signs of the times. In other words, God expects us to have discernment.
- Notice the similarity. In God's Word the Jewish people had been told in advance how to recognize the coming of God's Messiah. They were even given the number of years from a point in history to the coming of the Messiah.
- But here's the point, all of these signs of the times were before their eyes, yet they refused to see. They refused, they would not; they chose to make their eyes blind to what was right before their very eyes.
- In a similar way, we have been given God's Word in advance so that we might discern the signs of the times.
- And God expects us to make ready our lives, to be prepared. To quote the famous American philosopher, Bob Dylan, "The times, they are a chang’in."
- God is not giving us these things to make us afraid or fill our lives with stress and worry; we have enough of that already. No, He's giving us these things in advance to prepare our lives and to strengthen our faith.
Illus – the couple who husband was overcome with stress.
A. Prophecy strengthens faith
- When Jesus says, "Behold, I told you in advance," He wants us to prepare our lives, but also He wants to strengthen our faith.
- When God tells us the end of things, before they occur, our faith is strengthened because we see the greatness of His power and sovereignty over all things.
Isaiah 46:9-10 He declares the end from the beginning.
Illus - I took a philosophy class at OSU and was asked to write a paper on the question, "Are we not just a set of chemical reactions?" My answer; the prophecy of scripture declares the greatness of God.
B. There will be birth pangs
- Jesus listed several conditions of the last days that are to be considered as birth pangs. In other words, the closer that we are to the events of the last days, the greater in intensity and the closer together these things will occur.
- There will be wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened.
- There will be famines and earthquakes with greater intensity and closer together. If you looked at the charts and graphs from the last 35 years, even the last 150 years; it's amazing.
- If we just looked at the number of earthquakes magnitude 7.0 and higher there is an amazing trend. From 1863-1900 – 12 earthquakes; 1901-1938 – 53 earthquakes; 1939-1976 – 71 earthquakes; 1977-2014 – 164 (190 est.)
C. Unrighteousness will increase
- Lawlessness and unrighteousness will increase and most people's love will grow cold in the last days.
2 Timothy 3:1-4 The condition of people in the last days…
- There will be many false messiah's and the false prophets who will deceive many people. In fact, deception will be growing in intensity as we get nearer to the last days.
- Yet the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness against the nations. What's interesting is that when the world enters into the time of the great Tribulation, the gospel will continue to be given.
Revelation 14:6, And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
II. Be Ready for His Coming
- We are given the signs of His return so that we might make ready our lives. That is the point that Jesus makes in this very chapter.
- But there are several aspects of the last days that we need to understand so that we are not misled or confused.
- In the verses we’re studying today, Jesus speaks of his glorious return to the world of which he will rule and reign for 1000 years. And the scriptures say that we will actually return with Him. We need a deeper understanding of the events of the last days that we are entering into.
A. The church will be raptured
- Jesus describes the terrible conditions on the earth when the wrath of God is poured out upon it as we'll see in a few moments, but the church will be taken up to meet the Lord in the air, for God has made it clear that we are not destined for wrath.
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 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
B. The antichrist will arise first
- Before Jesus returns, Satan will first deceive many by causing the antichrist to arise.
- The antichrist will be a world leader who will be seen as an extraordinary diplomatic genius and will finally be able to bring peace to the Middle East, or at least it will seem that way.
2 Corinthians 11:14-15, No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
- The antichrist will arise in times of great economic turmoil and the enemies of Israel will be arising in power.
- Consider the changes that are happening on the world scene today. Russia is rising out of the ashes of communism to the amazement of many. Many Arab nations are being transformed before our very eyes. Israel itself is gravely concerned.
- But the antichrist will bring a covenant of peace, or a treaty with the nations of the world to have peace with Israel.
Illus - Islamic teaching suggests that a great Muslim leader will arise and will lead the world from Jerusalem for seven years.
- Verse 15 - But the antichrist will betray this covenant of peace and will set himself up in the newly rebuilt Temple to create a new religion with him at the center.
2 Thessalonians 2:3, The apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
C. There will be a great tribulation
- Verse 21 - there shall be a great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world nor shall ever occur again.
- There will be two major things happening during this terrible day of Tribulation:
1. The wrath of God will be poured out upon the earth which will be seen as terrible cataclysmic events.
2. The antichrist will betray his covenant of peace 3 ½ years later, at that point, all hell will break loose against Israel as all of Israel's enemies attack. This will lead to the great battle of Armageddon.
- The battle of Armageddon will culminate in the return of the Lord Himself.
D. Jesus will return in great glory
- The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn…
- He will enter into Jerusalem through the Eastern gate. Though today it has been shut up and a cemetery placed in front of it to prevent the Messiah from entering in.
- When He returns the Mount of Olives will be split in two and the people of Israel will mourn as one mourns for an only son.
Zechariah 14:3-11 The day when there will be true peace in Israel
- From Jerusalem He will reign for 1000 years.
Zechariah 12:8-11 Israel will at first mourn when they see Him
Revelation 20:1-5 Jesus will rule and reign over all the earth.
Matthew 24:23-44 NASB