Suddenly and without warning!
In our last study we discussed the man of sin also called the Antichrist who will come in the character of Antiochus Epiphanes and set himself up in God’s Temple proclaiming himself to be God and demanding to be worshipped as God. When he is being worshipped on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem he will also in some way be worshipped in Christendom. The Temple of God can also refer to the Church. When the man of sin comes to power suddenly and without warning many Jews and Christians will have to flee and leave everything behind as they did in 70AD. When the siege of Jerusalem was lifted for a very brief period of time Simeon, who had replaced James as the senior bishop led the faithful believing remnant secretly and supernaturally through the Roman lines. After that the siege was continued with no hope of escape for anyone left in Jerusalem. What happened during the final hours in the city of Jerusalem is described vividly in the writings of the historian Josephus. It was not a very splendid moment in Israel’s long and troubled history with hungry people committing murder and cannibalism within the walls of the city. After three and a half years and for the sake of the saints the LORD will cut those last days short otherwise all flesh would destroy itself. When you consider the nuclear arsenal on earth today you can well envisage what the Apostle John was trying to convey. How would a first century man describe armoured helicopters and tanks and nuclear exchanges? When we see the faithful remnant escaping just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple we see a picture of the rapture and resurrection of the faithful Body of the Messiah, the faithful Church. And so we continue now looking at this Time of the Big Trouble also called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.
(Vs. 23-25) “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect if that were possible. See I have told you ahead of time.“
A false anointing
At the end of this present age just before Jesus returns again spiritual deception will intensify and multiply in the professing Christian Church. Even today false teachers and prophets in the Church are turning the purity of the gospel into licentiousness and greed. These men and women are teaching doctrines of demons and are even deceiving the elect. Some of these men today are into laughter and hysterics, barking like dogs, waving coats over their audience and blowing on people. Not to mention the numerous ‘prophets’ and ‘fortune tellers’ in Christian wrapping on television with their false prophecies and more so on the internet today. They may have some kind of anointing on them but from whom?
Fleecing the sheep
When the Lord Jesus came into the temple in Jerusalem and saw the money-changers profiteering on the blood of the Lamb He became righteously angry and overturned the tables and drove the money hungry Pharisees out of the temple with a whip! What do you think He would do today in the Church? There are many who are “fleecing the sheep” with their covetous and idolatrous theology! Many of these “racketeers,” are the money preachers who “teach godliness as a means to financial gain!” Much more could be said about these “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Furthermore not to mention those “hireling pastors” who do not guard the flock from the encircling wolves looking to devour the stray lambs! Many of these wolves fleecing the sheep financially are leaders in mega-churches today whose God is money and power and some even building monuments to themselves.
Doctrines of Demons!
The apostle Paul clearly warned us about these kinds of so called apostles, prophets and teachers. “The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1Timothy 4:1-2). Their consciences have been seared to the point where there is no spiritual sensitivity left. In reality they are cold, deliberate manipulators, enchanters and ravenous wolves not sparing the flock. They “masquerade as angels of light” when in reality they serve their real father the devil, they are “an accursed brood!” Many are “twice-dead” I.e., to say they were spiritually alive at one time but because of their deliberate apostasy are now spiritually dead again in trespasses and sins! Indeed Peter’s warning is timely for all of us, “If the righteous are scarcely saved where will the ungodly and sinners appear?” Today this spiritual seduction is not only coming into the Church through the money preachers, the super apostles and false teachers but also through the Interfaith Movement, Ecumenism, secular psychology, New Age philosophies, Secular marketing strategies for church growth and Post Modernism. The “false Christs” Jesus mentioned here are those with “a false anointing.” Like Pharaoh’s magicians these apostate leaders can produce counterfeit signs, miracles and wonders by satanic power and make them look like the real thing! These counterfeit signs, miracles and wonders will open the way for the Antichrist. (2 Thessalonians 2:9)
An Obsession with the Supernatural
The whole world today is becoming obsessed with the Supernatural. The next generation is being groomed by Satan to expect the supernatural as commonplace. Many computer and virtual reality games are designed with supernatural themes. Such films as the Harry Potter and the Twilight Vampire Sagas released some years ago now are the sorts of movies preparing the next generation to accept the Antichrist. In some way he will have supernatural power and so will his generals. Through counterfeit signs and miracles Satan is already deceiving multitudes of Christians. The false “Super Church” at the end of this age will be a supernatural Church embracing all religions. Its members will be able to duplicate signs, miracles and wonders.
(Vs. 26-27) “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightening comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
There will be nothing secret about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will come visibly and openly for all to see. It is interesting to note that the late Rev Sun Moon who claimed to be equal to Jesus Christ actually said that when he flew in his jet from the East to the West that he was the Son of Man who and like the lightening that comes from the East and flashes to the West. He was a false Christ! He has gone to his reward! How far down he has gone into hell only the LORD knows. Of course there are others who actually claim to be Jesus today. The list is almost endless when you look at the 20th and 21st Century. Israel too has had their share of false Messiahs who have all turned out to be false ones. None of them have come back from the dead!
Make way for the Mahdi!
When the Mahdi of Islam arrives on the scene millions of Muslims around the world will rally to his banner. Many westerners will also convert to Islam. In fact today multitudes of young people in America and Europe are converting to Islam not to mention the thousands of ‘Syrian’ refugees flooding into Europe and the UK. Many of them are in fact not Syrian but from other Middle-eastern provinces and some are no doubt ISIS operates infiltrating the western democracies. Tragically there are professing Christians also abandoning the faith for Mohammad a dead false prophet! Mohammed of course was a desert dweller and many went out into the desert of Arabia to see and hear him and to follow after him. In a very real sense whenever you see anyone wanting to be deified or worshipped in any way you see a false Christ. The Dalai Lama of Tibet does not believe in God but allows himself to be worshipped as a god and as the re-incarnation of the Buddha. When you see TV preachers like Kenneth Copeland or Benny Hinn and others of their ilk telling us that they are “little Gods” you see the spirit of Antichrist at work! Now let’s move on…
(Vs. 28) “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”
Whenever you see vultures circling in the sky in a desert you know that something is dying. Vultures always feed on dead and decaying flesh Today in Israel the “vultures” of every false cult and religious sect are active in Israel and especially in Jerusalem. Ultimately the whole world will be in an advanced state of spiritual depravity and decay as the “vultures” of spiritual deception multiply and feed upon the souls of men. At the second coming of Jesus Christ vultures will actually feed on the flesh of the armies of the Antichrist after they have been destroyed on the mountains of Israel. (Ezekiel 39:17-20) (Revelation 19:17-18) The nations are turning against Israel today because God is preparing to bring the Gentile nations down from the plains of Megiddo into the valley of Jehoshaphat to destroy them with fire. This last great battle to end all battles is described in the books of Joel, Zechariah and Revelation. (Joel 3:1-3) (Zechariah 12: 2-5 14:1-5, 12) (Revelation 19:17-21) In fact there will be a series of battles between the Lord Jesus and His armies and the armies of the Antichrist. The Bible describes them. They will take place in the Middle-east and those nations He fights will be Islamic ones that are specifically named in the Bible!
Today right now we see the Super-Powers trying to force Israel to accept a Palestinian state and comply with the “road map” for peace in the Middle East. When Obama was in office he tried to force Israel to withdraw to their 1967 borders which would have made Israel indefensible. The Arab nations and especially Iran wants to see Israel destroyed. The Obama Administration supported them in this endeavour to destroy Israel by brokering a nuclear deal with Iran. Turkey, a main player, in Bible Prophecy, has also distanced itself from Israel. Erdogan has made it perfectly clear where he stands concerning Israel. Most recently he publically called on all Muslims to gather together on the Temple Mount for Islam. Some time ago now the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran called for Israel’s extermination as a nation! His successor Ali Khamenei publically announced his disdain for Israel! Today you have Hassan Rouhani who vehemently hates Israel and America.
Is Allah the God of the Jews and the Christians?
Some leading Evangelicals seem to agree with this. Rick Warren’s so called “Peace Plan” that involves partnering with Islam is a joke from the Biblical perspective! There can be no real and lasting peace in the Middle East until the Prince of Peace comes to reign and to rule over the kingdoms of this world! Furthermore, RW, along with many other prominent Evangelical and well known church leaders signed a document entitled, “A Common Word Between Us and You.” This document accepts Allah as the same God Jews and Christians worship. Of course Allah is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but the Mesopotamian Moon-god of war symbolised by crossed swords and the crescent moon. In fact Allah (he was known by a different name) goes way back even before Mohammad’s time. ‘Allah’ was around in the time of the judges only he wasn’t called Allah in those times. (Judges 8:21) In the scriptures God Himself says He does not lie, however, in the Koran Allah says it’s okay to lie in times of Jihad! A comparison of Allah of Islam with the God of the Jews and the Christians clearly shows that Allah cannot be God. This is a subject in itself and not the purpose of this study.
Devastated and then delivered
Ultimately the nation of Israel and Jerusalem itself will be devastated and then delivered. Israel will have their backs against the sea just like the children of Israel had their backs against the sea in the time of Moses. At this moment of their deepest desperation the Lord Jesus will return, rapture and resurrect His saints and with His powerful angels and with all of the glorified saints fight against those nations attacking Jerusalem. The surviving remnant of Israel will also fight at Jerusalem. At Jesus command by the powerful word coming out of His mouth His armies will go forth to annihilate those armies attacking Jerusalem and after that all Israel will be saved! The Lord and the armies of heaven will fight and destroy the Antichrist and his hordes from hell! Hallelujah! That’s the good News!
“Their flesh will rot and their eyes will melt”
What happened to Pharaoh and his armies at the Red Sea will happen again to the Antichrist and his armies on the mountains of Israel. Pharaoh’s armies were destroyed by water but the Antichrist’s armies will be destroyed by fire. Zechariah writes, “This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot (melt) in their sockets, and their tongues will rot (melt) in their mouths.” (Zechariah 14:12) Peter also said, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare… “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Peter 3:10,12b) Peter was a first century man but the language he used to describe, “The elements melting in the heat” in the original Greek text actually describes the splitting of the Atom or a thermonuclear reaction. How could a first century fisherman know about this? Well he didn’t but the Holy Spirit did and gave it to John by a supernatural revelation. Now let’s continue with the text…
(Vs. 29) “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
Persecution and Apostasy
As the armies of the Nations converge on Jerusalem these signs will be occurring in the heavens. These cosmic signs actually teach us about what will be happening on the earth at this time. In the Bible Jesus is called “The Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2) but the sun is no longer giving its light and the moon is no longer reflecting the light of the sun. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun so the faithful Church reflects the light of Jesus. In Revelation chapter six John tells us that the moon will actually be turned to blood. What could this mean at that time? The Moon in this context may represent the faithful Church no longer reflecting the light of Jesus on the earth at this time because it will have almost been exterminated by the persecution of the Antichrist. (Daniel 7:21) The stars falling from the sky may well indicate the multitudes of Christians falling away from the faith. John picks up on this in Revelation chapter twelve. In this account Satan as the dragon persecuting the Church “sweeps a third of the stars out of the sky and flings them to the earth.” (Revelation 12:4) These stars falling to the earth may well coincide with the great falling away of Christians in the last days mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. In the Old Testament stars are symbolic of Jewish and Gentile believers. (Genesis 15:5 22:17) (1 Chronicles 27:23) (Daniel 12:3) Also when you consider the sun and the moon and the stars this also speaks about what is happening to Israel which in the Bible is represented by the sun, the moon and the stars. (Genesis 37:9) (Revelation 12:1) At this time of great tribulation Israel will be in spiritual darkness and under severe persecution. The apostle Paul writing his second letter to the Thessalonian church clearly spoke of the final great apostasy that would make way and precede the coming of the man of sin also called the Antichrist. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
(Vs. 30) “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”
“Fall on us and hide us!”
Just before Jesus comes to the earth there will be the total breakdown of society as the kingdom of the Antichrist is plunged into chaos. On that day, people will tremble with fear and try to hide from the coming of the Lord. Listen to what the apostle John said, “The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand.” (Revelation 6:14-17) What the apostle John said in Revelation chapter six corresponds to the same time frame that Jesus speaks about here in Matthew chapter twenty-four verse thirty one. It is at this time that the Lord Jesus sends out His angels to rapture and resurrect the saints and to save Israel. At that time both the faithful Jewish and Gentile remnant living on earth will be snatched away and receive their glorified bodies. This momentous event happens immediately after the distress of those days of Great Tribulation (Vs.29) And so we read…
(Vs. 31) “And He (The Lord Jesus) will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Rapture and Resurrection
This is a clear reference to the timing of the rapture and resurrection of the faithful remnant. It takes place at the end of the Great Tribulation, not before it! In this account in Matthew he said that the Lord Jesus would, “gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” However, in Marks gospel we are told that the elect are not only gathered from one end of the heavens to the other but also from “the ends of the earth.” Mark records this event as well, “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mark 13:26).
Moses and Elijah
On the Mount of Transfiguration Elijah and Moses appeared together with the Lord Jesus. At the rapture and resurrection both the living and the dead in Christ will appear with Him when He descends from Heaven to earth. Remember Moses died physically but Elijah was raptured without seeing death. So it will be at the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ! Paul the apostle described this event, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). There is nothing ambiguous in the text about the timing of the rapture! The faithful Church cannot be snatched away until the man of sin is revealed to the faithful. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4) As to meeting the Lord in the air in the Greek text the words “to meet” speak s about people leaving a city to welcome a very important dignitary and then accompanying him back into the city. This is what will happen at the rapture and resurrection. The saints will meet the Lord in the air and immediately return with Him to the earth. This is the plain meaning of the text. The saints do not go up to heaven for seven years during a seven year tribulation period as taught by those holding to the system of eschatology called Dispensationalism promoted by Darby and associates.
Denying the rapture?
There are those today who are telling us that the rapture will not happen and that Matthew twenty four only applies to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and has no future meaning for us. The same people are saying that the world will be eventually Christianised and that the Church will take over the world and present it to Jesus at His coming. However, the last thing that will be happening just before Jesus returns will be “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble”. To deny the rapture is to rob Christians of their hope! If you claim to be a faithful Christian but are chasing after the things of this world then the rapture will not be uppermost in your thinking. However, if you are being faithful to Jesus and wanting to please Him then you will be eagerly watching and longing for His return. In fact, if you are a Christian and have become complacent where spiritual realities are concerned God is going to arrange things in such a way that you will desperately long for Jesus to come back.
The Rapture and the resurrection are the same event!
Those who have already died in Christ will experience the physical resurrection of their bodies. Their spirit and soul will be clothed with an immortal body just as Jesus Himself has. Those believers who have survived the persecution of the Antichrist and his Beast Empire and are still on earth in their human bodies will also receive their immortal bodies at the same time the dead in Christ receive theirs. This will also occur for the Jewish remnant also chosen by grace. After this the plagues of God’s wrath will be poured out without restraint and there will be no mercy for the inhabitants of the earth. After these plagues the Lord Jesus Christ will return to this earth with His glorified Saints and the angels to fight several battles to finally destroy the Antichrist and his armies and to set up the kingdom of God visibly on this earth for a thousand years. (Isaiah 63:1-6) (Revelation 19:11-19) (Revelation 20:1-6)
“All Israel will be saved!”
At His coming, Israel as a nation will recognize Him as their Messiah and turn to Him. (Zechariah 12:10) The Beast and the false prophet will be thrown alive into the lake of fire. (Revelation 19:20) Satan himself will be imprisoned and removed from human contact. (Revelation 20:1-3) For a thousand years the earth will experience a time of peace and tranquillity previously unknown in human history. This earth will fulfil the original purpose that God planned for it. (Isaiah 2:1-5 11:6-9 65:17-25) In the end the Second Coming of Christ will be the only event that will save the world from total destruction. Again look at verse 22 which says, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” We can no longer afford to ignore the prophetic words of Jesus, “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything He tells you. Anyone who does not listen to Him will be completely cut off from among his people.”(Acts 3:22-23)
He is coming when He is least expected!
Paul the apostle said, “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 4:2-3) Just before the Lord Jesus returns to set up His kingdom this earth will experience plagues and catastrophes unprecedented in the history of the world. Isaiah the prophet spoke about this time, “See, the day of the Lord is coming-a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger- to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the noon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of His burning anger.” (Isaiah 13:9-13)
Call upon the Name of the Lord!
If you do not know the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour and Lord then call upon His name right now and seek His salvation with all of your heart. God will respond to your prayer. Isaiah the prophet also said, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7) God’s Word also says, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the scripture says,” Everyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9-13).
“He will be saved out of it!”
In closing consider the words of Jeremiah the prophet, “The days are coming, ’declares the Lord,’ when I will bring my people Israel back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,’ says the Lord. These are the words the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah: “This is what the Lord says: ‘’Cries of fear are heard-terror, not peace. Ask and see: Can a man bear children? Then why do I see every strong man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labour, every face turned deathly pale? How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.” (Jeremiah 30:3-7) Even so come Lord Jesus!