Summary: Just days prior to the crucifixion, Jesus spoke to His disciples regarding the events surrounding the end times. While we cannot predict the day, nor the hour, we can see the stage being set for His return!
Signs of the End (Part 1)
Matthew 24: 3-14
Today I want to begin a study on what is known as the Olivet Discourse. Jesus spoke these words in His last days prior to the crucifixion in response to the disciples’ questions regarding His return and the end of the age.
These verses have been discussed and debated for centuries. There are varied doctrines and theologies concerning the end times and the exact order of these events. While it is not my desire to debate or deal with those issues in this study, there is much that we can learn from the words of our Lord regarding His return and the climate within the world preceding His return. I will say that most Baptist agree that the church will be raptured prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation and those seven years of suffering and devastation will happen prior to the Lord’s return to establish His kingdom during the Millennial Reign.
In order to properly discern the words of our Lord, we must approach the Olivet Discourse literally. As Jesus spoke to the disciples, He spoke to men who had been taught of the coming of Messiah through the Old Testament prophets. Their view, since it was based in Scripture, was similar to the New Testament view in many ways. However, there was a major difference – most viewed the Lord’s coming as a single event. They believed when Messiah came, He would establish His kingdom then. They did not see the coming of Christ in two events – His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, followed by His literal return to the earth at the end of the age. His prophetic words in verse two concerning the Temple would be fulfilled in 70AD as the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. As we approach this discourse, we must do so with the understanding that Jesus spoke entirely of events that would happen in the future.
While I would never make a prediction regarding the time our Lord will return, and reject such predictions as heresy, we can see the stage being set globally for His coming. As we begin, I want to examine the aspects of time revealed as we consider: Signs of the End.
I. A Time of Social Discord (4-7a) – Jesus warned of the social division and deception that will transpire at the end of the age. We must bear in mind that all of this will culminate during the Great Tribulation, but we are clearly seeing the promotion and advancement of these events today. Consider:
Jesus warned of Deception (4-5) – And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. During the tribulation the anti-Christ will come on the scene, deceiving and uniting the world, but Jesus warned of many false Christs and prophets leading up to and during that time. These will speak with passion and deceive many. Matt.24:24 – For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Even some of the saved by grace will be tempted to believe their message of deception. We have witnessed the rise and fall of many charismatic leaders throughout history. Hitler deceived the Germans leading up to, and during World War II. In modern times, men like Jim Jones and David Koresh claimed to be Messiah and gathered a following of believers. Dictators in certain countries have a god-like status before their people and are followed with unquestioned devotion. Such deception will continue to increase as we approach our Lord’s return.
Jesus warned of the continual threat and presence of war (6-7a) – And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. The Jews certainly knew the heartache and hardships of war. At this moment they suffered under Roman domination. Since the Northern Kingdom had been conquered by the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians, they had not known real peace. Sadly, this trend has continued since the days of Christ upon the earth. There have been few days of peace upon the earth. In my lifetime we have experienced war in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, and we have been at war with terrorists’ regimes since 2001. Civil war has ravaged parts of Africa for decades. Syria has endured civil war and unrest for years. Ukraine is embattled in an ongoing war with Russia for territory. China and India are in a standoff, threating attacks. Today we face the threat of war with North Korea, Iran, Russia, and even China. Israel faces continual attack from the Palestinians and those sympathetic to their cause. ISIS continues to attack, terrorize, and brutalize anyone it deems a threat to their agenda or loyal to Israel or the Christian faith. These things must come to pass, and yet the end is not come. Clearly the stage is being set for the Lord’s return!