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! Jesus revealed much for us in this passage.
Signs of the End (Part 2)
Matthew 24: 3-14
In our last study we began to consider what is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse. Just prior to His crucifixion, Jesus spoke at length concerning the events that will lead up to His second coming. Some who hold to an Amillennialist theology believe the Olivet Discourse and much of the book of Revelation speak of events that have either already transpired, or are merely symbolic, and not to be taken literally. As a premillennialist, I am convinced Jesus spoke of real, literal events that must transpire, and that these events are yet to come in our future.
As we continue to examine the aspects of time revealed in the text, I want to quickly review our last study concerning: Signs of the End.
I. A Time of Social Discord (4-7a)
Threat of War (6-7a)
II. A Time of Natural Disasters (7b-8)
III. A Time of Spiritual Division (9-13) – Here Jesus warns of coming spiritual division and deception. The end times will be a time of great adversity and persecution for those who follow Christ and are committed to proclaiming the Gospel. Jesus warns of:
A. Affliction (9) – Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. Jesus speaks of the days leading up to the appearance of anti-Christ. In those days, nearing the end times, believers will be afflicted and some of them will even be killed. These will be apprehended and detained for their faith in Christ. While being incarcerated, many of them will suffer intense persecution, and even death. Such persecution will not be reserved for isolated pockets, controlled by extremists. Jesus declared the whole world will be united in their hatred of believers.
One can sense the closeness of the Lord’s return as we consider the great affliction Christians suffer around the world. According to a Fox News report, dated April 17, 2017, nearly 215 million Christians face persecution somewhere in the world, with 100 million of those living in Asia. They report that between 2005 and 2015 there were an estimated 900,000 Christians martyred for their faith. These estimates are believed to be conservative since statistics are unavailable from North Korea, and large portions of Iraq and Syria. The Christian advocacy group, Open Doors website www.opendoorsusa.org reports that on average monthly, 322 Christians are killed; 214 churches or Christian properties are destroyed, and 772 acts of violence occur toward those of Christian faith. Clearly we are seeing the warnings of Jesus fulfilled.
B. Betrayal (10) – And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. As we draw near to the end times, Jesus warned of intense betrayal of Christians by those who know them. Many will be offended because of their faith in Christ. These will be betrayed to local authorities or extremists groups because of their faith. Believers will be hated simply because they have received Christ as their Savior.
Such betrayal and offense is common today. In many parts of the world, believers fear to make their newfound faith in Christ public. They can’t even trust their families and friends. Persecution and death are a reality, so many of these are forced to serve the Lord in silence and in underground churches. Honor killings are common and accepted in many parts of the world, and family members are reported to authorities if found to be a professing Christian.
Such intense persecution is not being experienced in America like it is in many other countries, but even here Christians are being marginalized and attacked for our faith. We see the real hatred of Christianity among many, even in places of leadership and authority. Some who have been appointed to serve in judicial roles or cabinet positions have been deemed unfit to serve by their peers and those charged with approving their appointment simply because of their faith in Christ. Such opposition and hatred will only continue to increase as we near the Lord’s return.
C. False Doctrine (11) – And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. Jesus had already warned of this in V.5 of this discourse. In the end times, along with the anti-Christ, there will arise many false prophets who will deceive many. These will preach a message of deception, and yet many will believe their doctrine and follow them. We do know that God will preserve 144,000 to preach the true Gospel during the Great Tribulation, but sadly many will follow the false teaches of false prophets into deception.
Such deception is on the rise around the world today and will continue to increase as time goes on. Satan knows he cannot defeat the church and the truth of the Gospel, but he is a master of creating counterfeits of deception. Many today preach a false gospel under the banner of Christianity. There is no call for repentance or faith, just a universal acceptance. There is no mention of sanctified living or complete transformation in Christ. They preach a shallow, cheap gospel, void of the atoning sacrifice for sin or God’s righteous indignation toward sin. These typically preach a gospel centered on human effort and social affluence. The true Gospel has become so watered-down by many well-known “preachers’ today that I can see how easily deceived many will be when confronted with persecution for genuine faith. Those deceived will accept any form of religion or theology that promotes and satisfies the flesh. I know we don’t like it, but the Lord is much more concerned with our holiness than our happiness.