This is our third study in Matthew 24. We have introduced the chapter in its context and we have evaluated the disciples questions. Now we want to begin to look at Jesus' answer, this will take us several weeks. This morning we want to look at verses 4-14.
As we begin to look at Jesus' answer we must keep in mind the disciples' question. If you remember from our last study, the disciples asked Jesus, "When will the temple be destroyed? When will one stone not be left upon another?" And they also asked, "What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?" We looked at the fact last time that the disciples didn't understand that Jesus was leaving so they were not asking, "When will you return?" The word "coming" is the Greek word "parousia," which means presence. It signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship; His glorious appearing in power. And the "end of the age" refers to the end of the Jewish age, the Old Covenant age; not the end of the world.
We could put the disciples' question this way, "When will the temple be destroyed and what will be the sign of your presence in power and glory as Messiah and the end of the Jewish age?" Amazingly, there is almost unanimity among commentators that the disciples associated the fall of Jerusalem with the Lord's parousia and the end of he age. Most of them say the disciples were wrong but they admit that they viewed these events as happening simultaneously. With the questions in mind, we move to Jesus' answer.
Matthew 24:4-5 (NKJV) And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.
Who is the "them" in verse 4? It is the disciples. Please keep this in mind as we move through this chapter. Jesus is speaking to his disciples. Whatever Jesus' answer means, it must have meaning to them. Any application that we make to ourselves from Scripture can only be made after we understand what it meant to the original audience. Keep in mind the principle of original relevance. Why do I belabor this point? Because most folks today miss it. Walvoord views Matthew 24:4-14 as events of the Church age leading up to the Tribulation (which he views as yet future). He says these signs indicate that the end of the age is approaching (in our time).
James Stuart Russell in his book, "The Parousia," says this on Matthew 24:4-14, "It is impossible to read this section and fail to perceive its distinct reference to the period between our Lord's crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem. Every word is spoken to the disciples, and to them alone. To imagine that the "ye" and "you" in this address apply, not to the disciples to whom Christ was speaking, but to some unknown and yet non-existent persons in a far distant age, is so preposterous a supposition as not to deserve serious notice."
The Lord begins with a warning against expecting His immediate parousia. He doesn't want them to be deceived by false Christs that would soon be appearing. He wants them to understand that he will be gone for what might seem to them like a long time (forty years actually).
Luke 19:12-13 (NKJV) Therefore He said: "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. 13 "So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.'
Jesus was going to leave them to receive His kingdom, and in between His departure at the Ascension and His Second coming, these are the things that would be happening to them.
Luke 21:8 (NKJV) And He said: "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them.
Luke adds the phrase"the time has drawn near." Jesus was not talking about something that would take place hundreds or thousands of years later! Jesus was warning his disciples about something that was drawing very near in their time!
Did such false Messiahs arise and deceive many in those years before the destruction of Jerusalem? Yes! We have a biblical and historical record of many such false Messiahs.
Acts 5:36 (NKJV) "For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.
According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, twelve years after our Lord's death, Theudas persuaded a great multitude to follow him to the river Jordan which he claimed would divide for their passage. "The land," says Josephus, "was overrun with magicians, seducers, and impostors, who drew the people after them in multitudes into solitudes and deserts, to see the signs and miracles which they promised to show by the power of God." At the time of Felix (who is mentioned in Acts 23-25), the country of the Jews was filled with impostors who Felix had put to death every day; a statement which indicates their great number in those days! An Egyptian who "pretended to be a prophet" gathered 30,000 men, claiming that he would show "how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down." Origen mentions a certain wonder-worker, Dositheus, who claimed he was the Christ foretold by Moses.
We see another of these false Christs in Acts:
Acts 8:9-10 (NKJV) But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God."
According to Irenaeus, Simon claimed to be the Son of God and creator of angels. Jerome says that he claimed to be the Word of God, the Almighty. Justin relates that he went to Rome and was acclaimed as a god by his magical powers.
1 John 2:18 (NKJV) Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.
Notice how John, writing in some where around AD 65, doesn't say it is the "last days" but the "last hour." As they have heard from their Lord, many antichrists would come.
These are examples of the false Messiahs of whom history says there were "a great number," and of whom Jesus had prophesied that there would be "many."
Greswel,l in his work "On the Parables," calls attention to the remarkable fact that, while many of these false Messiahs appeared in the interval between our Lord's Ascension and the Jewish war, there is no evidence that any one arose claiming this title before the beginning of His ministry.
WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS
Matthew 24:6 (NKJV) "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Wars are NOT a sign of the end, as the end of verse 6 clearly tells us. He will tell them later in this chapter that when they see a war, not hear of one, they are to flee.
Did the disciples hear of wars, rumors of wars. Yes, they did! There were wars in the tributaries of Rome and all over Palestine, Galilee, and Samaria in AD 66, preceding the destruction of Jerusalem.
In the Annals of Tacitus, a Roman who wrote a history which covers the period prior to 70 A. D., we find such expressions as these: "Disturbances in Germany," "commotions in Africa," "commotions in Thrace," "insurrections in Gaul," "intrigues among the Parthians," "the war in Britain," "war in Armenia."
Among the Jews, the times became turbulent. In Seleucia, 50,000 Jews were killed. There was an uprising against them in Alexandria. In a battle between the Jews and Syrians in Caesarea, 20,000 were killed. During these times, Caligula ordered his statue placed in the temple at Jerusalem. The Jews refused to do this and lived in constant fear that the Emperor's armies would be sent into Palestine. This fear became so real that some of them did not even bother to till their fields.
But though there would be wars, and rumors of wars, Jesus told his disciples: "See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the END is not yet." What end is he talking about? Let's keep in mind their question, they wanted to know when the end of the Jewish age would come. Barnes says, the end here referred to is, "the end of the Jewish economy; the destruction of Jerusalem."
Wars, and rumors of wars were not signs of the end; to the contrary, the Lord wanted them to know that these things were NOT signs of the end. None of these things would be the sign which would cause the disciples to flee into the mountains.
NATION FIGHTING NATION
Matthew 24:7 (NKJV) "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
The word "nation" here is the Greek word ethnos, which means, a race. This past summer I was talking to a man who used this verse to prove that we were in the end times and that the Second coming would be soon. He said, "The word 'nations' is 'ethnos' and just look at all the fighting between ethnic groups today, the end is near."
There are several problems with his view, one of which is these things are not signs of the end. Also, Jesus was speaking to the disciples, this had to have relevance to them! Did they see nation rising against nation? Yes! Josephus says, "At Caesarea in AD 59 the Jews and Syrians contended about the right to the city, and twenty thousand Jews were slain." At Scythopolis, over 13,000 Jews were killed. Thousands were killed in other places, and at Alexandria 50,000 were killed. At Damascus, 10,000 were killed in an hour's time. Jesus is speaking about the conflicts between Gentiles and Jews, which began to take place shortly after this time, and continued to the beginning of the great Jewish war. For some time previously, Gentiles and Jews had been living for the most part, in peace together, but this period was distinguished by wars.
There was a famine foretold by Agabus in:
Acts 11:28 (NKJV) Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.
This famine is mentioned by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eusebius, and is said to have been severe in Jerusalem. Josephus says that many people perished for want of food. Judea was especially hard hit by famine and the disciples sent aid to them.
Acts 11:29 (NKJV) Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
Tacitus speaks of a "failure in the crops, and a famine consequent thereupon." Eusebius also mentions famines during this time in Rome, Judea, and Greece. Yes, there were famines in those years before the fall of Jerusalem.
A pestilence is a the spread of disease, epidemics. Famine and pestilence go hand in hand. Pestilence is often caused by famine. Suetonius wrote of "pestilence" at Rome in the days of Nero which was so severe that "within the space of one autumn there died no less than 30,000 persons." Josephus records that pestilences raged in Babylonia in A. D. 40. Tacitus tells of pestilences in Italy in A. D. 65.
Yes, there were pestilences in the life time of the disciples in those years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Did the disciple experience earthquakes in their life time? Yes, they did. Tacitus mentions earthquakes at Rome. He wrote, "Frequent earthquakes occurred, by which many houses were thrown down," and "twelve populous cities of Asia fell in ruins from an earthquake."
Seneca, writing in the year 58 A. D., said, "How often have cities of Asia and Achaea fallen with one fatal shock! How many cities have been swallowed up in Syria! How many in Macedonia! How often has Cyprus been wasted by this calamity ! How often has Paphos become a ruin! News has often been brought us of the demolition of whole cities at once." In 60 A.D., Hierapous, Colosse, and Laodicea were overthrown from earthquakes. There were earthquakes in Crete, Apamea, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, and Judea. Earthquakes in diverse places!
In spite of what Jesus said, "The end is not yet," many today take this passage out of context and speak ignorantly about "The signs of the times," trying to show that this battle, serious earthquake, or devastating famine is a sign of Christ's imminent return. ALL these things happened in the time prior to AD 70 and the fall of Jerusalem. They are not signs! As we look back over history, when has there been a time when there were not wars, famines, pestilence and earthquakes? These things are not signs. Jesus said to his disciples that these things are the "beginning of sorrows."
Matthew 24:8 (NKJV) "All these are the beginning of sorrows.
The phrase "beginning of sorrows" could be translated "birth pains." This image is sometimes used in the Old Testament simply to express great pain; but it is often used of a woman in pain of child birth. In Isaiah 13:8; 26:17; Jeremiah 4:31; 6:24; Micah 4:9-10, it is used almost as a special term for "the birth pains of Messiah." In our passage it speaks of the period of distress preceding the return of Christ in AD 70. Its use here seems to be expressly chosen to denote the birth pains of a new world. Let's look at how Jesus uses this phrase.
John 16:16 (NKJV) "A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father."
The disciples question Jesus about his statement:
John 16:17-19 (NKJV) Then some of His disciples said among themselves, "What is this that He says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'; and, 'because I go to the Father'?" 18 They said therefore, "What is this that He says, 'A little while'? We do not know what He is saying." 19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, "Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'?
Jesus explains himself in verse 20-23
John 16:20-23 (NKJV) "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 "A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
The disciple would be sorrowful during the Lord's absence but their sorrow would turn to joy at his return. This idea of a woman in labor is used for the suffering that precedes the coming of the Lord in his kingdom.
Micah 4:9-10 (NKJV) Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in your midst? Has your counselor perished? For pangs have seized you like a woman in labor. 10 Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, Like a woman in birth pangs. For now you shall go forth from the city, You shall dwell in the field, And to Babylon you shall go. There you shall be delivered; There the LORD will redeem you From the hand of your enemies.
Jesus said, "All these are the beginning of sorrows." They were not signs to the disciples and they are not signs today. They did not signal the end but stretch over the entire period between the Lord's Ascension and Second coming.
Matthew 24:9 (NKJV) "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.
Who will be delivered up and killed? THE DISCIPLES! Now it is certainly true that all Christians who live a godly life will suffer persecution, but he is speaking to the disciple here. Did the disciples experience tribulation and death? Yes! All you need do is read the book of Acts.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary has this to say about verse 9. "Jesus began His words with a time word, 'Then'. At the middle point of the seven year period preceding Christ's second coming, great distress will begin to be experienced by Israel." He is saying that Jesus is talking about a time still future to us! What would this mean to the disciples? Nothing! Not only does he fail to take into account audience relevance but he fails to compare the other gospel accounts.
Luke 21:12 (NKJV) "But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake.
Notice that Luke adds, "before all these things," showing that the persecutions are to start at the beginning of this period. The persecution of the disciples began immediately after the day of Pentecost.
Mark 13:9 (NKJV) "But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.
Mark adds that they will be beaten in the synagogues, brought before rulers and kings for a testimony. All this was remarkably fulfilled in the lives of the disciples. Peter and John were imprisoned:
Acts 4:3 (NKJV) And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.
Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned:
Acts 16:23-24 (NKJV) And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Paul was brought before Gallio (Acts 28:12), Felix (Acts 24:24), and Agrippa (Acts 25:23). Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:59): James was killed by Herod (Acts 12:2). As soon as Paul began preaching, he began to experience persecution:
Acts 9:23-24 (NKJV) Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. 24 But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him.
Acts 9:29 (NKJV) And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.
Paul was beaten five times by the Jews:
2 Corinthians 11:24 (NKJV) From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.
Jesus said the disciples would be afflicted, beaten, imprisoned; they would be hated for his name's sake and some would be killed; they would be brought before councils, rulers, and kings, for a testimony; they would be given a mouth of wisdom which their adversaries could not dispute. The disciples experienced all of this before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, just as the Lord said they would. It was unmistakably fulfilled in every detail!
Matthew 24:10 (NKJV) "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
Because of the great persecution of those days, many apostatized from the faith. Jesus spoke of this in:
Matthew 13:20-21 (NKJV) "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
In those day many Christians were executed because of others who turned on them and turned them in order to spare themselves.
Matthew 24:11 (NKJV) "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
This is not the same as verse 5, "false Messiahs," but "false teachers" among the believers. Most likely referring to the judaising opponents of Paul. Paul spoke of these.
2 Corinthians 11:13 (NKJV) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
John also spoke of false prophets.
1 John 4:1 (NKJV) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Matthew 24:12 (NKJV) "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
Jesus told the church at Ephesus that they had lost their first love.
Revelation 2:4 (NKJV) "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
The testimony of Josephus shows the utter lawlessness of the Jewish society in the disciples' life time.
Matthew 24:13 (NKJV) "But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
There is much debate about what this verse means. Some take it to mean that if they did not remain faithful to Christ to the point of death, the would not be redeemed. I can't buy that. It makes our salvation a work. It is saying that if we don't endure, we will be lost. I believe that the Bible very clearly teaches that salvation is a gift and that it cannot be lost.
Romans 4:5 (NKJV) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Romans 11:6 (NKJV) And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
None of the elect of God will ever be lost:
Romans 8:30 (NKJV) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
What, then, is he saying here? I think he is telling the believers that if they remain faithful right up to the end, they will be saved from physical death in Jerusalem's fall. The Greek word "saved" is sozo. It means to save, i.e. deliver or protect (lit. or fig.):--heal, preserve, be (make) whole. The Christians who did not endure, but turned back to Judaism, died when Jerusalem fell. Those believers who remained faithful fled to the mountains as the Lord told them to, thus saving their lives.
Matthew 24:14 (NKJV) "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Remember the disciples' question? "What shall be the sign of your coming and, and of the end of the age?" What end is he talking about here? Unless we take this verse clear out of its setting, "the end" in view here is the end or destruction which was to come upon Jerusalem and the temple ending the Jewish age. Jerusalem would be destroyed, but "first" the gospel would be preached unto all nations.
Did this happen? We have seen that everything else so far took place in the life time of the disciples, but did this? Was the gospel preached in all the world before AD 70?
Probably one of the most common beliefs among Christians is that once the gospel is preached to all the world, Christ will return and the world will end. This is a theme verse of the Christian Broadcasting Network. They are trying to fulfill this verse. Most believers would say that this verse has not yet been fulfilled, the gospel has not yet been preached to all the world. How do we know if it has? Well, Jesus said the end would come once the gospel was preached to all the world. And the end that is in view in this context, is the end of Jerusalem, the end of the Old Covenant age. Since Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, we can assume that the gospel was preached to all the world by then or we would have to believe that Jesus was mistaken. Which one can you live with? How can we find out if the gospel was preached in all the world before AD 70? We can go the Scriptures and see if they give us any insight to this matter. Remember what we saw in:
Matthew 24:9 (NKJV) "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.
Why would the apostles be hated in all nations if they had not preached the gospel in all nations? They were hated by all nations because they preached in all nations. Paul declares that the gospel was preached to every creature under heaven:
Colossians 1:5-6 (NKJV) because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;
Colossians 1:23 (NKJV) if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
In Matthew 24:14, the Greek word for preached is kerusso, it is in the future tense. But in Colossians 1:23 the same word kerusso is in the aorist tense (past). Jesus said that it is to be preached and Paul says in AD 62, that it has been preached to every creature. Paul also said that the faith of the Romans was spoken of throughout the whole world.
Romans 1:8 (NKJV) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
Paul said that the gospel was made known to all nations.
Romans 16:25-26 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith;
We know that Paul traveled through Asia Minor, Greece, and Crete; that he was in Italy, and probably in Spain and Gaul (Romans 15:24-28). During this time the other apostles weren't sitting around idle; and there is much proof that within thirty years after this prophecy was spoken, churches were established in all these regions.
Crysostom (375) wrote, "Therefore He added moreover, "And this gospel shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come,"(7) of the downfall of Jerusalem.
For in proof that He meant this, and that before the taking of Jerusalem the gospel was preached, hear what Paul saith, "Their sound went into all the earth;"(8) and again, "The gospel which was preached to every creature which is under Heaven."(9)
Which also is a very great sign of Christ's power, that in twenty or at most thirty years the word had reached the ends of the world. "After this therefore," saith He, "shall come the end of Jerusalem." For that He intimates this was manifested by what follows."
Eusebius (325) wrote, "THUS, under the influence of heavenly power, and with the divine co-operation, the doctrine of the Saviour, like the rays of the sun, quickly illumined the whole world; and straightway, in accordance with the divine Scriptures, the voice of the inspired evangelists and apostles went forth through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." (Book II, Ch.III.)
Many today say that the gospel has not been preached to all the world and Matthew 24:14 has not yet been fulfilled. The Bible says that all the nations of the world heard the gospel preached before AD 70. Who are you going to believe? To deny that Matthew 24:14 has been fulfilled is to deny the clear statements of God's Holy Word; it is to call God a liar.
Matthew 24:14 (NKJV) "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
"Then the end will come." The end of what? What were they asking about? The end of the temple and the Jewish age. He is not saying the world will end when everyone has heard the gospel, or that the Christian age will end.
Jesus very clearly tells his disciples that before the temple would be destroyed and before His parousia and the end of the age, the gospel must be preached in all the world. And it was! The temple was destroyed! He arrived in full glory! The Old Covenant age ended!
This does not mean that the gospel was not to be preached after the end had come. It was to be preached for ever and always. Notice the parable of the wedding feast:
Matthew 22:1-7 (NKJV) And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 "and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 "Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."' 5 "But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 "And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 "But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
Notice what he says to his servants AFTER the city is destroyed:
Matthew 22:8-10 (NKJV) "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 'Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' 10 "So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
We dwell in the New Jerusalem in the very presence of God and the invitation is still going out today. Notice the invitation that goes forth from the New Heaven and Earth:
Revelation 22:17 (NKJV) And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
I hope that you are faithfully proclaiming this message to everyone who is thirsty -- come!
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