The Second Question
In our last three studies we looked at four of the signs marking the end of the age. We saw that spiritual deception, wars, earthquakes, famines and diseases and the persecution of faithful Christians would increase in intensity and frequency as this age come to its close. We also looked at the last great apostasy in the Church. In the previous study we looked at the Lord Jesus’ answer to the first question he was asked by the apostles. In this study we will look at the Lord Jesus’ answer to the other two questions the apostles asked Him.
Question 2: What will be “The Sign” of Your Coming?
(Vs. 14) “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The last great sign that will mark the end of the age will be the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom to every nation. The Lord Jesus cannot return until this job is done. God in His foreknowledge knows when it will be completed and the day of Jesus’ return is fixed in eternity however, in time on earth it is variable as no man knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ Second Coming. However, Jesus’ coming will be delayed as long as the Church does not do what He Himself commanded us to do. Remember the Lord Jesus said, “Work while it is day for the night is coming when no one will be able to work.” The “night” is a metaphor for the Great Tribulation and when used in this context teaches us something about the conditions that will prevail during the Antichrist’s reign.
The Gospel of the Kingdom
The Gospel of the Kingdom is the gospel but it includes the Second Coming of Christ to set up God’s visible kingdom on earth when the Lord Jesus will reign over the nations with a rod of iron. There are those today who teach a form of it that is not Biblical. These are those who promote Kingdom Now and Kingdom Dominion theology. In other words these people are teaching that the Church is going to take over the nations for Christ and present the kingdom of God to Him at his Second Coming. This of course is not Biblical. The prophet Daniel tells us that the saints inherit the Kingdom on earth only after Antichrist has come and has been destroyed. (Daniel 7:18, 26-27) Those into Kingdom Dominion doctrine bypass the Great Tribulation and do not acknowledge Israel’s place in God’s end-time prophetic plan and purposes. They also teach that the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ depends on them taking what they call Kingdom Dominion over the nations. They have taken a Biblical truth and misinterpreted it to suit their own doctrinal stance. The saints will inherit the Kingdom of God but not before the Time of Jacob’s Trouble also called the time of Great Tribulation has transpired.
The Gospel of the Kingdom in the Great Tribulation
During the time that the Antichrist rules it will be virtually impossible to preach the Gospel in the way we do now. Paul tells us in Second Thessalonians that the Holy Spirit who has been restraining the Antichrist from coming to power will no longer restrain him and only then will the Antichrist be revealed to the world. The Gospel of the Kingdom will still be preached but open proclamation will be a crime punishable by imprisonment or death because the Antichrist and his empire will actively oppose and try to suppress the preaching of the Gospel. This was the case in the ancient Roman Empire and it will be so again within the last Beast Empire just before the Lord Jesus comes back. In some way the Holy Spirit will not be convicting people in the same way that He does now. Apart from the faithful remnant the majority of mankind will have already given their allegiance to the Antichrist and taken the mark of his empire. The last great sign before Jesus returns will be the worldwide preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom in every nation. Again the word “nation” implies “ethnic nations” i.e., the different nationalities within those nations. True believers have one primary purpose and responsibility on this earth and that is the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. This command to preach the Gospel was the last one Jesus gave before He ascended to heaven. (Matthew 28:16-20) So then the Gospel of the Kingdom is not just the Gospel, although it is that, but also the Gospel that includes the Second Coming of Christ to establish His Millennial reign on earth. This is the last ‘great sign.’ Both the prophet Joel and the apostles Peter and John wrote about this last end-time harvest of souls. On the Day of Pentecost Peter said that what had happened was a partial fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy and that the ultimate fulfilment of it would come at the end of this age just before the Lord Jesus comes back.
Upon all flesh
After the Holy Spirit had fallen on the Day of Pentecost the apostle Peter said; “but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:‘ And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,‘ That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy.‘ And I will grant wonders in the sky above And signs on the earth below, Blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke. ‘The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood, Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”(Acts 2:16-21) Several things we can see in this prophetic scripture Peter quoted. Firstly; when Peter said, “but this was what was spoken of through the prophet Joel” the Greek text of the Bible says; “This is like that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel.” In other words it was similar pattern or a harbinger of what was to ultimately come at the end of the age. Secondly; on the Day of Pentecost there was no wonders in the sky above or signs on the earth below or blood and fire and vapour of smoke, neither was the sun turned into darkness and the moon turned into blood. Thirdly; the prophecy in its context will be fully and ultimately fulfilled just before the great and glorious day of the LORD. This Day of the LORD will be the period of time that occurs just prior to the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Day of Pentecost was the former rain of the Spirit and a harbinger of the latter rain of the Spirit to fall in the last days. Today the Spirit is falling as the gospel of the Kingdom goes forth into the nations through radio, television and the internet.
Get the job done!
According to the Lord Jesus He cannot come back until the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations and only then will the end come. How far is this away only God knows? In eternity the day is fixed when God will send the Lord Jesus back. As Paul wrote; “…Although God overlooked the ignorance of earlier times, He now commands all men everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31) Down here in time as we know it is a variable. In a very real sense the Lord Jesus cannot come back until every nation has heard the message of the gospel of the kingdom. Added to this we can hasten the Lord’s return by preaching the gospel of the kingdom. It is not so much that we are waiting on the Lord Jesus to come back but that He is waiting on us to be ready. At present the Church in the western democracies by enlarge are not preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Many ministers are preaching about salvation but ignoring or avoiding end-time prophecy and not warning their people about what is going to happen on earth in the future. Sadly multitudes of sincere Christians being taught Alpha and Purpose driven and kingdom now and faith prosperity will not be ready when the time of the Big Trouble comes upon the world. There are still many within the nations of the world today that need to hear the good news of that gospel of the kingdom. Today the Lord Jesus is saying to His Body the Church; “Get the job done!” Finally the Lord Jesus answered their third question.
Question 3: When will the Temple be destroyed?
Now for the answer to the disciple’s question concerning the destruction of the temple we need to turn to Luke’s gospel. Luke records this event, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-24)
The “Abomination of desolation”
In 70 AD the Roman army laid siege to Jerusalem so that no one could escape. Its destruction was certain, as Jesus had prophesied 40 years before it actually happened. A political situation arose in Rome that required the armies to withdraw for a very brief period of time. During this time all those faithful Christians who believed what Jesus had said fled the city and gathered at a place called Pella where they found refuge from the Romans. This was a type of the rapture and resurrection to come. After this the Romans returned and laid siege to Jerusalem once again and continued the siege until the city was taken and the temple destroyed. The soldiers raised pagan emblems of worship on the ruins of the temple mount where the Holy of Holies had been situated and worshipped them. This was the “abomination of desolation” that Jesus spoke about that happened in 70 AD and would be repeated several times throughout history with a final abomination perpetrated by the Antichrist right at the end of this age. In Luke’s gospel the Lord Jesus accurately described what would happen in 70AD and in Matthew chapter twenty-four He speaks about the same situation but His primary focus is placed on what will happen at the end of this age during the period called “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” After this time the Lord Jesus will return to set up His Millennial Kingdom on earth.
In these four studies we have looked at how the Lord Jesus answered the three questions put to him by his disciples. In Matthew chapter 24 verses 1-14 we have covered the time period from 70AD to the end of the age. In His discourse on the Mount of Olives we discovered the following things. Jerusalem was to be sacked by the Romans and the Temple destroyed and that spiritual deception and many false Messiahs would appear in Israel and false prophets would increase and abound in the Church especially in the last days. He also warned that there would be wars and rumours of wars, nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom and that not only war but famines, earthquakes and pestilence would increase in frequency and intensity like the labour pains of a woman about to give birth to the baby. He also mentioned that the love of most Christians would grow cold and they would lose their first love for the Lord Jesus Christ because of prevailing wickedness. Added to this He also told His disciples that persecution of faithful Christians would also escalate in frequency and intensity as this age draws to a close. Finally the last great sign would be the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom. In the next study we will focus on the last three and a half years of this present age when the man of sin is revealed and the Time of Great Tribulation kicks into full swing.
The Time of Great Tribulation
It will be a time unlike any other time in history. A time never before experience in past history and never to be experienced again in future history. The Lord Jesus was absolutely clear about this when He said; “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Matthew 24:21-22) Daniel the prophet spoke about this same time period and clearly in its context it concerned the very last days leading up to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Daniel wrote; “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the [c]expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”(Daniel 12:1-3) The time of Jacob’s Trouble will be the subject of the next study.