Holy Father, we humble our hearts before you. We want to rightly divide Your Word on every topic, including end-time prophecy. We want to be fully ready for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Last time when we stopped we had just finished discussing Matt. 24:29 and some important cross-references. I'll read Matt. 24:29 and make a few brief comments, then we'll go on to verses 30, 31. "But immediately after the tribulation of those days [referring to the days of the short great tribulation of Matt. 24:21, 22] the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light [Most of the light coming from the sun and the moon will be blocked out by the large amounts of smoke and dust generated during the warfare of the short great tribulation.], and the stars will fall from the sky and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. [Satan's kingdom will be greatly shaken at that time, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. As we saw in Revelation chapter 12, Satan and his angels (who are pictured as stars in Rev. 12:4), will be cast down to the earth at that time.] (30) And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky [The primary sign we need to be looking for is the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, when He returns with the clouds of heaven and the sound of the trumpet right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. If I only had Matthew chapter 24, I wouldn't say that the Lord will return right in the middle of the seven-year period. I believe in the mid-week return of Christ because of the light from other prophetic passages of the Bible, especially passages from the books of Revelation and Daniel. I believe the evidence for the mid-week return of Christ and the rapture is overwhelming, but if I only had Matthew chapter 24 (by itself), I would probably lean toward the end-of-the-week rapture.], and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn [They will mourn because they will know that the day of judgment has come.], and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. [Many verses speak of the Lord Jesus Christ coming with the clouds of heaven and with power and great glory.] (31) And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other."
As I have mentioned, it is very important to see that this is the same trumpet as the trumpet of 1 Thess. 4:16, the last trumpet of 1 Cor. 15:52, and the seventh and last trumpet of Rev. 11:15. To say that He will gather together His elect "from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other" means He will gather them worldwide. This is the same gathering together to Christ that the apostle Paul spoke of in 2 Thess. 2:1, for example. (As I mentioned, the Greek noun used in 2 Thess. 2:1 for our "gathering together" to Christ when He returns was derived from the Greek verb used here in Matt. 24:31 for "they will gather together." The verb used here is "episunago." We see the rapture here in verse 31, but I believe we can also see the Lord begin to gather the repentant end-time elect remnant of Israel on the earth. Many verses prophesy of their salvation in the last days (including Dan. 12:1 and Joel 2:32, verses we have discussed already). They will be saved in the end times, but not in time to be taken in the rapture. Isaiah 27:12, 13 is another important passage for the gathering of the end-time elect remnant of Israel, and it even mentions the sounding of a "great trumpet." I'll read those verses, "In that day the LORD [Yahweh] will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown [Matt. 24:31 mentions "a great trumpet."], and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem."
Now I'll read Matt. 24:32-34 and comment on these verses, "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; (33) so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. (34) Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." In Matthew chapter 24 the Lord Jesus spoke of several things that will come to pass before He returns and the rapture takes place. Especially relevant are the abomination of desolation of verse 15, and the short great tribulation of verses 21, 22.
In verse 34 Jesus said that "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." If you had heard the Lord speak of "this generation" back then (probably AD 30), you would have thought He was speaking of the generation living then, but it is clear from our perspective that many generations have come and gone and the abomination of desolation or the short great tribulation have not yet come to pass. He must have been speaking of the last generation that will live on the earth before He returns; and it seems that we are that last generation.
The Lord spoke quite a bit in this chapter about things that will come to pass in the days before He returns, but it is very important to see that He also put a strong emphasis on the need for every Christian of every generation to always be ready for His return, since (for one thing) we don't know when He will return. It is very important to see that we cannot wait for the abomination of desolation, or any other event, to get ready for His coming. What if back at AD 70, or AD 100, for example, some Christians were waiting for the abomination of desolation before they would get serious with God and the new-covenant; they were heading for a big crash if they did not change. He could come for us in judgment as a thief in the night at any time if we are living in rebellion against Him. We are commanded to get ready for, and stay ready for, His coming all the time.
How do we get ready for His coming? By submitting to the truth of the gospel in faith and continuing to walk in line with the truth of the gospel on a continuous basis, by grace through faith. This includes our being forgiven through the atoning blood of the Lamb of God and our being made righteous and holy through that atoning blood that is backed up by the mighty Spirit of God who dwells in every born-again Christian. "He Himself bore our sins [with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin] in His body on the cross, SO THAT WE MIGHT DIE TO SIN AND LIVE TO RIGHTEOUSNESS, for by His wounds you were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24).
I'll read Matt. 24:35, 36 and make some comments, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. [Everything He said will come to pass.] (36) But of that day and hour no one knows [He is speaking of the time of His return and the rapture, etc.] But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." The dominant idea here, which I have mentioned already, is that since we don't know when He is coming, we must get ready and always stay ready for His coming. To help demonstrate this important point, I'll jump down and read verse 42, "Therefore be on the alert [or we could translate, "Therefore be watching (always watching, always ready for His coming)], for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." And He goes on in the verses that follow verse 42 to elaborate on the need to always stay ready for His coming, since we don't know when He is coming.
It seems clear to me that these exhortations are aimed (at least for the most part) at the what-has-turned-out-to-be many generations of Christians who live and die and never see definite end-time signs like the abomination of desolation followed by the short great tribulation that Jesus spoke of in Matthew chapter 24, or other definite end-time signs like the three and one-half year ministry of the two witnesses (also called prophets) that will come to pass throughout the first half of Daniel's 70th week, or the sounding of the first six trumpets that we learn about from the super-important book of Revelation. The Christians who live to see those things come to pass and understand what is happening according to the prophetic scriptures should not need to be exhorted to continue to stay faithful until He comes.
We can probably say that the earliest definite sign that we are in the very last days before the Lord returns will be the seven-year treaty of Dan. 9:27. Apparently Antichrist will make, or confirm, that treaty with Israel. After that event comes to pass, we may still have doubts whether that was the treaty that was spoken of in Dan. 9:27. All such doubts will be removed, however, when we see the three and one-half year ministry of the two witnesses/prophets of Revelation chapter 11 and when we see the events of first six trumpets start to come to pass in sequence. The two witnesses/prophets will be powerfully proclaiming to Israel and to the world that the day of judgment is super-imminent.
Jesus said, as recorded in Matt. 24:36, that of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. The fact that Jesus didn't know the day and hour then (before He was glorified, etc.) does not mean that He doesn't know the day and hour now. Also, it seems clear to me that the last generation of Christians living on the earth will know more and more as time goes on, and eventually (after we see the abomination of desolation, for example), we will know about when the Lord will return. Furthermore, this information will not harm us. Real Christians who know that the Lord is coming in about a month, for example, will not be using (or abusing) this information to make room for a few weeks of sin before getting ready to stand before God. As I mentioned, the Christians who live to see those things come to pass, and understand what is happening according to the prophetic scriptures, will not need to be exhorted to continue to stay faithful until He comes.
Now let's go to verse 37. The New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, which I always use unless I mention otherwise, starts out this verse with the word "For." "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah." The NIV doesn't have the word "for" at the beginning of the verse; I'll read the verse from the NIV, "As it was in the day of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." The KJV and NKJV have the word "But" at the beginning of verse 37, instead of the word "for." I prefer a translation that does not include the word "for." Many Greek manuscripts have the word "de." I assume that "de" is the correct reading; this Greek word can be translated "but," or "and," and it is often left untranslated.
Jesus wasn't saying in verse 37 and the verses that follow that all mankind, including the believers who will be ready for His coming, will be taken by surprise when He comes. How could He, when He just said (in verse 33, for example) that when we see all these things come to pass, we are to recognize that His coming is very near, right at the door. It is significant that Noah and His family, who were ready for the coming of the flood, were not taken by surprise when the flood came. For one thing, as Genesis chapter 7 shows, God told Noah to get into the ark and that AFTER SEVEN DAYS the waters of the flood would come upon the earth. And it is significant that the next two verses in Matthew speak of the unbelievers being taken by surprise by the flood. They were busy doing everything but taking God's Word seriously and repenting and getting ready for God's judgment of the flood.
I'll read Matt. 24: 38, 39, "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so will the coming of the Son of Man be." They were taken away by the judgment of the flood because they did not take God's word seriously and repent and get ready for that day of judgment.
Matthew 24:40, 41, "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. (41) Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left." It is important to see that being taken here in verses 40, 41 refers to being taken in the rapture, as Noah was taken in the ark. Some Christians think that being taken here means being taken in judgment, like those who were taken away by the judgment of the flood. For one thing, it is significant that a different Greek verb is used in verses 40, 41 for being taken in the rapture than the verb used in verse 39 for being taken away in judgment. The Greek verb used in verse 39 is "airo," but the verb used here in verses 40, 41 is "paralambano." Let's look at John 14:3, which is another verse that uses this Greek verb "paralambano," Jesus said, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself [or, take you to Myself], that where I am, there you may be also."
Matthew 24:42, 43, "Therefore be on the alert [or, be watching], for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. [Since we don't know when the Lord is coming, it is necessary for each Christian of each generation to be on the alert, to be watching, always ready for His return.] (43) But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert [he would have kept watching] and would not have allowed his house to be broken into." The idea here is that since the head of the house doesn't know at what time of the night the thief is coming, he must always be on the alert (watching), and in the same way, since Christians don't know when the Lord is coming, we must always be alert (watching) and fully ready for His coming. However, as I mentioned these words are aimed, at least for the most part, at the many generations of Christians who live in the days before the definite end-time signs begin to come to pass.
Matthew 24:44, "For this reason [that is, since we don't know when the Lord is coming] you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think he will." The New American Standard Bible has the last two words in italics. I believe this translation misses the point that Jesus made here. I'm going to read a paragraph from my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," page 44, under Matt. 24:44, I believe a translation like the following would better communicate the intended meaning, "For the hour that you do not think He comes, the Son of Man comes." For those who are always alert and watching for His coming (those who take His Word seriously), there never comes a time when they think that He will not come. It is the one who is looking for an opportunity to sin (and the one who puts off repenting) who thinks in terms of an hour when the Son of Man will not return. During the interval that the Lord will not come, he can get by with sin - he thinks. For such a one, "the hour that he does not think he comes the Son of Man comes"; He comes in judgment, as a thief in the night. I believe Matt. 24:48-51 confirm that this is the intended meaning of Matt. 24:42-44.
Now, starting in verse 45 and going to the end of Matthew chapter 24, Jesus gives an illustration of a faithful servant who always stays ready for the return of his Master and then one of an unfaithful servant (even a servant who was in a position of leadership) who thinks his Master is not coming for a long time, so he has plenty of time to live in sin - he thinks - before he needs to get ready for his master's return, even though the Lord has commanded us to always stay ready for His return, since, for one thing, we don't know when He will return. Jesus said the unfaithful servant will be assigned a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:45-51, "Who then is that faithful and sensible slave [or, servant] whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? (46) Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. [This servant stays alert and faithful to his master at all times, like he was commanded to do.] (47) Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. [The verses that follow contain a powerful warning of the need for Christians to stay faithful until the Lord comes, or until death.] (48) But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' (49) and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; (50) the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know. [As we have been discussing, a dominant point that the Lord Jesus has been making is that since we don't know when He is coming, we must always stay ready for His coming. In that sense, there must never be a day when we don't expect Him, and we think we have some time for sin. He commanded each Christian of each generation to stay faithful until He returns, or until death. There never is time to try to get by with sin; it is very dangerous. Christians who give themselves to live in sin are in danger of Christ's coming for them like a thief in the night. However, as we discussed in previous articles, He does not come against faithful Christians like a thief in the night.] (51) and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." It is clear that such persons will not have a place in God's eternal kingdom.
Now we will begin a verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapters 11-13. These chapters are extremely important, and they are very interesting. For one thing, they rather clearly demonstrate (I believe) that the seventh and last trumpet of the book of Revelation will sound right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week and that at that time the Lord will return, the devil and his angels will be cast down to the earth, and the resurrection, glorification, and rapture of God's people will take place.
We'll start with Rev. 11:1, 2, "Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, 'Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. [[Apparently John didn't literally measure anything with this measuring rod, but he was given very important information that allows us to measure up the situation that will exist in the last days. Here in verse 1, for example, it is confirmed that the temple in Jerusalem and the sacrificial altar will be functioning in the last days, and that (at least some of) the people of Israel will be worshiping in the rebuilt temple. Based on earlier prophecies in the book of Daniel, Matthew chapter 24, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, and other prophetic passages, we knew that the temple has to be rebuilt and functioning in the last days. For one thing, we knew (based on earlier prophecies) that Antichrist will go into the temple, stop the sacrifices, and want to be worshiped himself. Antichrist's abomination of desolation will take place about a month before the middle of the seven-year period, so the temple must be functional for a least the later part of the first half of Daniel's 70th week. Verse 2 adds some important information about the temple, as it will exist in the last days.]] (2) Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations [or, the Gentiles; the KJV, NKJV, and the NIV translate "Gentiles" here.]; and they [the nations/Gentiles] will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months."
The forty-two months refers to the first half of Daniel's 70th week. It is during the first half of the seven-year period that the temple and sacrificial altar will be functioning, in the days before Antichrist stops the sacrifices, etc. at the time of his abomination of desolation. Here in verse 2 we learn that at the same time the people of Israel are worshiping in the temple, the court outside the temple (and the rest of the city of Jerusalem) will be under the control of the nations/Gentiles. It is quite possible (even probable) that the seven-year treaty of Dan. 9:27 will grant Israel the right to rebuild the temple and that Israel will agree to turn over the control of Jerusalem to the nations/Gentiles.
The fact that the court outside the temple has been given to the nations/Gentiles fits the fact that the Jewish temple will be located on the temple mount, where two Moslem mosques are presently located. The temple will apparently be built about a hundred yards to the north of the Dome of the Rock.
The words, "and they will tread under the holy city for forty two months" infer that the nations/Gentiles will not control Jerusalem during the second half of Daniel's 70th week. I won't get into that detail here, but I'll refer the reader to the sub-section in my book titled, "The Lord Jesus Christ Will Claim Jerusalem as His City" under Dan. 7:9, 10. I believe He will claim Jerusalem as His city at the time of His mid-week return. His return is pictured in Rev. 11:15-17. The seventh and last trumpet sounds in Rev. 11:15.
Luke 21:20-24 are an important cross-reference regarding the nations/Gentiles treading Jerusalem under foot. I'll read these verses and make a few comments: Jesus said, "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. [These words prophesy of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Daniel 9:26 had prophesied of this destruction.] (21) Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, (22) because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. (23) Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days, for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; (24) and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot [or, we could translate "will be tread under foot." The same Greek verb for tread/trample, "pateo," is used in Luke 21:24 and Rev. 11:2]; Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the nations/Gentiles until the times of the nations/Gentiles are fulfilled.
The words of Rev. 11:2 about the nations/Gentiles treading Jerusalem under foot undoubtedly build on Luke 21:24. When will the times of the nations/Gentiles be fulfilled? Based on Revelation 11:2, which infers that the nations/Gentiles will not tread Jerusalem under foot during the second half of Daniel's 70th week, and many other considerations, I believe we can say that the times of the nations/Gentiles will come to an end right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. At this time the Lord Jesus Christ will return and begin to reign on the earth, very much including judgment. (See Rev. 11:15-18, for example.) At that time the glory of God will begin to return to Jerusalem and to the repentant end-time elect remnant of Israel.
Revelation 11:3, 4, "And I will grant authority to My two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. [Here we learn of the twelve hundred and sixty day ministry of the two witnesses/prophets (which equals three and one-half years). Their ministry, which plays a very important role in the last days, will take place throughout the first half of Daniel's 70th week, at the same time of the events spoken of in verses 1 and 2. The powerful, earth-shaking ministry of the two prophets will warn Israel and all mankind of the need to repent and make peace with God through His Son, in that the day of judgment is fast approaching. The day of judgment (the day of the Lord) will officially begin when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week.] (4) These [the two prophets] are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth." I'll read the paragraph that I have under this verse in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," on page 279. "This verse builds on Zechariah chapter 4, which speaks of a 'lampstand' (Zech. 4:2, 11) and the 'two olive trees' (Zech. 4:3, 11). Zechariah 4:14 says, 'Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth." ' The 'two olive trees' of Zechariah chapter 4 represent God's two leaders (Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest) who lived in Zechariah's day. (These two leaders prefigure the Lord Jesus Christ, the King-High Priest who ultimately builds God's eternal temple and city.) The two prophets of Rev. 11:3-12 will give forth much light as they burn with the oil of the Holy Spirit (note that they are called lampstands here). Olive trees yield olive oil, which was burned in ancient lamps." So, we can see that the fact that the two prophets are called olive trees and lampstands refers to the fact that these two ministers will be heavily anointed by the Spirit of God and will give forth much light, warning Israel and all mankind that the day of judgment is at hand. As we continue we will see that the most people will reject what the two prophets say; rather than repent, they will hate the prophets.
It's time to stop for today. We'll come back to these verses in the next article. God bless you!
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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