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Entries in Prophecy (22)

Saturday
Nov072015

Jesus Reveals The Future- Part V

Luke 21:25-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 01, 2015.

Today we continue working through the prophetic teaching that Jesus gives in Luke 21.  In these verses Jesus points to a time when he will come back to earth again, often called the Second Coming.  After having walked through the signs of the age of sorrows, and the destructions of Jerusalem that would occur, Jesus then turns to his Second Coming.

Then Jesus Will Come Back

We finished last week talking about the Times of the Gentiles.  This undisclosed amount of time would continue to manifest Gentile domination until the time allotted by God was completed.  This long period of time would eventually come to a close leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.  It can be tempting to make the Second Coming of Jesus be a spiritual coming in 70 AD.  However, I will point out later why this stretches all credulity.

The first thing Jesus points out in verse 25 is that there will be signs in the heavens, specifically the sun, moon and stars.  It is somewhat vague here.  However, in Matthew 24 it states that the sun and the moon will be darkened and the stars will fall.  Such phrases would have been recognized by the hearers of his day.  They are used in the Old Testament as part of the Day of the Lord, when God judges the whole earth.  We have the same language used in Revelation 6:12-14 regarding the opening of the 6th Seal.  “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.  And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.  Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.”  Darkness of the sun and a blood-like moon is usually a sign of massive dust or ash particles in the air.  However, there is more going on here.  The picture of a scroll rolling up is used to describe the sky.  Some have said this could be pointing to some kind of nuclear warfare event.  However, it could also be the effects of an asteroid or comet striking the Earth.  Now it is common in the Bible for natural events to point towards spiritual events.  So when the Bible talks about stars falling, it can be a simple description of celestial objects entering the Earth’s atmosphere and shining like a star as it burns up in the atmosphere or strikes the earth.  It is nonsensical to hold the Bible accountable to a modern, technical definition of a star.  We even still refer to meteorites as “falling stars,” even though we know they are not technically suns.  Yet, we must also realize that the idea of falling stars has been used as a metaphor for falling angels.  We will come back to this later.  The main point is that there will be disturbances in the heavens, most likely both natural and spiritual things.

Then Jesus says that there will be distress and perplexity on the Earth.  Just as the heavens are disturbed, so the Earth will be too.  The term for distress means to be in dire straits.  It was a metaphor similar to being between a rock and a hard place.  This leads to the second term, “perplexity.”  Perplexity points out the inability to move forward or escape.  This can be due to a distressed mental state, “I can’t see my way out.”  Or, it can be due to a strategic error, “Checkmate.”  Either way, people on earth will be in a state of being boxed in and not sure what to do next.

This leads to a description of the seas and waves roaring.  I think that this also hold a natural and metaphorical meaning.  Powerful blasts of “space rocks” would cause massive tsunamis and tidal waves.  Yet, the Bible also uses the tumultuous sea as a metaphor for the peoples of the Earth.  They are pushed by tidal forces beyond their control.  They are tossed to and fro by the winds of the air.  This was a picture of the frenzied and driven nature of mankind.

The next description is that men’s hearts will fail them in fear of what is coming.  Earlier Jesus had told his disciples not to fear the things of the time of sorrow.  However, these things will be tied to the wrath of God being poured out on the Earth.  The phrase literally means that men would faint or drop dead out of fear of those things coming upon the earth.  Now as I have said earlier there is both a natural and supernatural aspect to these things.  Jesus says that the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  This reference is to more than just the natural powers of the sun and planetary motions.  Here are some Scriptures that reveal that the powers of the heavens are not just about celestial objects.  1 Peter 3:22, “Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities, and powers having been made subject to Him.”  Jude 1:13, “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.”  Revelation 12:3-4,9, “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.  His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth… He was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”  Thus we see that the powers of the heavens and the stars are often a reference to spiritual entities.  In Revelation 12 we see that a time will come when Satan and the angels that follow him will be forced out of the heavens and down to the earth.  Thus the last days will be scary from a natural standpoint and a supernatural standpoint.

It is at this point that Jesus says that the Son of Man will visibly return in great power and glory.  In Revelation 19 we see that this is during the great battle of Armageddon.  The armies of the world will be drawn to the Middle East by demonic messengers, where they will destroy Israel and then turn their power against the Lord Jesus as He returns.  In fact, notice that Jesus says, “they will see…in a cloud.”  The Second Coming of Christ is not an invisible, spiritual event.  It will be very visible.  Every eye will see Jesus coming on the clouds.  This fulfills what the angel told the disciples in Acts 1.  They were watching Jesus ascend into heaven until he disappeared in a cloud.  The angel said, “In like manner he will return from heaven.”  The rolling clouds and visible, glorious power of Christ is described as very bright and he will be followed by the hosts of heaven. 

Thus Jesus says that when we see these things happening we should look up for our redemption is near.   As Christians we are already redeemed in that the blood of Christ has purchased us back from sin and death.  However, our redemption is not complete.  We are still stuck in sinful flesh, and in a sinful world full of wickedness.  Christ will come to redeem natural Israel, and to complete the redemption of His Church.

It is important for us to understand that, though it has been a long time, God has a plan that is slowly working itself out.  This plan does have a point at which the present order comes to an end.  Think about this.  If you have not put your faith in Jesus and become his disciples, then you need to give this serious thought.  If you are not ready for His Second Coming, then you will be caught up in the judgments on the wicked.  But if you repent then you will be cared for by God Himself.  He will bring you through the fire of those times and you set your feet on a rock so that you can stand.  He will remove the wicked from the Earth and establish a kingdom of righteousness.  We have seen each of these things happen one by one.  A time of sorrows began back in the first century AD.  Jerusalem was destroyed in the first century and is now under threat of destruction again.  Mankind as a whole is rejecting the gospel of Jesus and is primed to receive the man of sin as its leader in these last days.  We are on the precipice of the wrath of God being poured out and the Second Coming of Jesus.  Prepare yourself today!

Jesus Reveals Future V audio

Tuesday
Oct272015

Jesus Reveals The Future- Part IV

Luke 21:20-24.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 25, 2015.

We continue this section where Jesus reveals to his disciples what the future held for them and the world.  The disciples wanted to know the timing and the sign that would point to the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the age, and the coming back of Jesus.  The answer Jesus gives them starts by pointing out what things would be like before the end of the age and the coming back of Jesus.  In Luke they are called “the things that must come to pass first.”  In Matthew and Mark they are called “the beginning of sorrows.”  So here is the list of sorrows that would be happening throughout the time leading up to the 2nd coming of Jesus.

The Things That Must Come To Pass First

  1. False Christs will come.
  2. Wars and Turmoil will come.
  3. Great Earthquakes will come.
  4. Famines and Pestilences will come.
  5. Fearful Sights and Great Heavenly Signs will come.
  6. Persecution and Martyrdom of Christians will come.

It is at this point that Jesus has finished this list and now turns to give revelation regarding the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Will Be Desolated

When we read verses 20-24 the message is clear, Jerusalem will be completely destroyed.  The word that is translated “desolation” literally means to be made into a wilderness, without inhabitant and barren.  If you have looked into the history of Jerusalem then you will know that there were long periods of time that Jerusalem was a wasteland.  In fact many explorers through the centuries have commented in awe that the devastated place they were looking at was a “land flowing with milk and honey” at one time.

Jesus gives them a sign by which they can know the desolation is near and they should leave.  That sign is when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies.  I will point out that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record this desolation but do not point out the armies as the sign.  Instead they point to something called the Abomination of Desolation standing in the Holy Place.  We will come back to this later.  However, it is important to note that it is clear there is far more discussion than is recorded here.  The different Gospels are focusing on many of the same parts and yet also on some that are different.  In each case the person who sees either of these things are told to flee or they will be caught up in the destruction.  Much like Lot and his wife we should not want to watch the judgments of God being poured out and neither does God want His people to be caught up in the judgment.  Around the year AD 66 the Roman legions began to encircle Jerusalem and eventually destroyed in AD 70.  It is common knowledge that Christians of that day understood what God was doing and had either been forced from the area because of persecution, or left as they saw the destruction coming.  One historian from the 4th century AD refers to a city called Pella on the eastern side of the Jordan River as a popular place they fled to.

Verse 22 calls this the days of vengeance so that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  Thus the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersal of the people to the nations were prophesied in the Old Testament.  Moses reveals it in Deuteronomy 29:23, the prophet Micah does so in Micah 3, Jeremiah 26:9 and also Zechariah 14.  One thing we see here is the grace and mercy of God.  Though He has already warned of judgment for 1500 years, He first sends His Son, Jesus, to offer him up as a sacrifice for sins and then gives the nation 40 years to repent and be saved.  It is due to the hardness of their own hearts that the people perish under the judgment of God.  In one place it is referred to as “wrath upon this people.”  So AD 70 clearly was a watershed moment as the wrath of God is poured out upon the unbelieving portion of Israel, destroying its capitol, and scattering the people to the nations.  Yet, there is a problem.  If all things that are written are to be fulfilled we need to deal with Zechariah 14.  When you read this chapter about the destruction of Jerusalem it is striking how different it is from what happened in AD 70.  Two major things stick out.  In Zech. 14 the Messiah comes after half the city is destroyed and fights for them.  His feet touch the Mt. of Olives and split it in half.  He strikes the armies of the people with a plague where their flesh dissolves while they are standing.  Now some people try to make this figurative language and explain that anyone who stands against Jesus will see their whole life fall apart (i.e. dissolve) as they go to the grave in destruction.  Yet, this doesn’t pass the smell test.  Even when prophecies have figurative or symbolic meanings, they is still a literal fulfillment of the prophecy.  Is Jesus talking about more than one desolation?  We will come back to this.

In verse 24, Jesus clearly reveals the people being deported out of the land into the nations of the world.  They will cease to be a nation.  They would lose their homeland and be dispersed to the winds.  This is basically what has happened from the end of the first century until 1948.  Yes, some Jews have lived in that area off and on throughout the centuries, but, as a people, they have generally not had a homeland to call their own.

This brings us to the phrase that Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled.  The word until should jump out to you.  This condition of Israel being homeless and scattered would be the case until the times of the Gentiles reached their completion.  Of course we are not told how much time that would be.  The word trample has the sense of doing what you want.  Think about how the temple was a series of restrictions.  There was a wide area that anyone could be in.  But at some point a boundary showed where no Gentiles could pass.  Then there was a boundary where no female Israelite could pass, then an area where only the priests could go, until you reached the Holies of Holies where only one man could go only once a year. Though we may think of this as bad and exclusionary, It would be a misunderstanding to do so. The Gentiles would be trampling all such holy distinctions without thought for the God of Israel.  Thus trample is a sense of control and domination.  Also, note that the word is “times.”  This denotes a history of dominations by more than one nation over the years.  Of course, this has been the history of the area.  It was initially under the control of the Romans (including the Byzantine era), then the Muslims, then times of Europeans in control.  In 1948 the people of Israel were able to reestablish as a nation.  So does this mean the times of the Gentiles are over?  Some have pointed out that Jerusalem wasn’t under Jewish control until 1967 after the Six Day War.  However, upon taking the city, the defense minister, Moshe Dayan, relinquished control of the temple mount to the Jordanian forces.  Thus there is still a part of Jerusalem being trampled by Gentiles.  So the last 2,000 years has been a time where God has given control of the temple mount to Gentiles.

This leads me to my last point.  I believe that when you look at these predictions in Luke, Matthew and Mark, there is more than one destruction talked about.  Thus another destruction is still yet future.  Let me lay out a couple of reasons why I say this.  Israel does have political control of Jerusalem, yet they are still hard of heart and blind towards Jesus.  Yes, some Jews are becoming Christians.  But the majority are still in unbelief.

One reason I believe another destruction is being talked about is because AD 70 did not have an abomination that causes desolation.  Again this is the term found in Matthew 24.  In Matthew it says this, “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand)…”  Here Jesus tells us that Daniel spoke about this abomination of desolation and Matthew makes sure that the reader doesn’t miss what he just said.  Now there are three places in Daniel where he refers to this.  Daniel 9:27 says that after the messiah is executed then the city will be destroyed.  After that one will enforce a covenant that he breaks later and on the wing of abominations will be one who makes desolate.  The main point is that Daniel says this abomination will happen after messiah is executed and after the city has been destroyed.  In Daniel 11:31 another abomination is mentioned.  This chapter follows the history of the battles between the Ptolemy’s of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria so closely that some scholars reject that it was written by Daniel.  They say it had to be written after the fact.  Thus the abomination of desolation in this chapter fits perfectly with a Syrian King named Antiochus Epiphanes.  In fact in the book of 1 Maccabees it refers to the abomination of desolation as two things.  An idol of Zeus was erected in the Holy place and the altar had pigs sacrificed to false gods on it.  Thus it appears that this abomination of desolation is not the same as chapter 9.  The last place is in Daniel 12 and is mentioning the timing of the event.  It states that from the stopping of the sacrifices until the setting up of the abomination of desolation will be 1,290 days.  This does not fit with what happened during the days of Antiochus Epiphanes.  So Jesus is pointing us back to Daniel 9, and yet Daniel 11 becomes an event that helps us to know what the whole thing would look like.  It is an event of pagan worship that occurs in the temple compound.  This simply did not happen in AD 70.

On top of this the AD 70 destruction does not fit Zechariah 14 as I mentioned earlier.  In fact it ends with the nations of the world coming to Jerusalem to worship the King and being punished if they don’t.  Yes, you can spiritualize all of these things and even be somewhat correct.  But prophecy of this sort is always literally fulfilled also.  When you study Zechariah 12 and Romans 11 you come to the distinct realization that there is going to be a time when the hard hearts of Israel will be softened and the blind eyes will be opened.  Israel will look upon the one whom they have pierced and mourn for him.  A spirit of repentance will be poured out upon them.  This will be an amazing time for them, but at the same time the wrath of God will be poured out on the nations of this world.

Let me end this passage by reminding us that the God of heaven has an issue with the nations of the world.  He is going to bring us into the valley of Judgment.  Are you ready for such a judgment?  The only way you can be ready is to put your faith in Jesus and follow Him.  Anything else is simply a path that leads to destruction.  Believe in him today.

Tuesday
Oct202015

Jesus Reveals the Future III

Luke 21:12-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 18, 2015.

This weekend I attended a conference put on by the Voice of the Martyrs.  It may seem intentional that we are going to talk about persecution and martyrdom today.  But in actuality it wasn’t.  We heard from speakers who had suffered persecution in many different places throughout the world.  However, they each encouraged us that God was using this persecution and turmoil to open doors to the gospel.  Muslims and communists are coming to Jesus among many other people.

One person from Syria said that there were places that would have been impossible to go into and preach the gospel before the civil war that is embroiling that nation started.  But now they are able to preach and see people turn to Christ in the midst of all the pain and suffering.  He then said that the Syrian Christians have quit praying for God to stop the war and have begun praying that God would glorify Himself through them in the midst of whatever they have to go through.  Is it possible that we pray for God to remove thing that we could glorify Him in the midst of them?  It is, very much so.

As we hear the Word today, may God strengthen our hearts for the battle that has already begun in our own land.  Is it dark and bleak?  Of course, but this is when the tactics of the enemy are the weakest and people are the most desperate.  A young man from Iran whose father was martyred for preaching Jesus to muslims, said that the greatest “evangelists” of Iran have been the Ayatollahs and presidents who have persecuted Christians.  Their totalitarian and brutal reign has turned people off of Islam and on to Jesus.

Last week we read how Jesus prophesied a time of sorrows that would lead up to the end of the age.  It would be filled with deception and fear in the form of: False Christs, Wars and Turmoil, Great Earthquakes, Famines and Pestilence, Fearful Sights, and Great Heavenly Signs.  Thus the disciples of Jesus would have to learn how to navigate terrifying times without being terrified and deception without being deceived.  Believers would have to face these sorrows.  However, our Hope is for something beyond national pride, social cohesion, and physical safety.  We overcome the sorrows of this world in order to receive the prize of the inheritance Jesus has held in reserve for us.  Today verse 12 shows us another aspect of this time of sorrows.

Persecution and Martyrdom will come

Even before all the other things previously listed, Jesus says that persecution would begin.  Of course we know that the Church was birthed in the midst of persecution.  Jesus himself was persecuted and martyred because He spoke the Truth.  When his disciples began to call the nation to repentance for this, they immediately suffered persecution.  Persecution has been a hallmark of those who belong to Christ; even to the point of being persecuted by people claiming to be Christians.  2 Timothy 3:12 says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”  It doesn’t say at what level and in what style, but persecuted nonetheless.  In some places it is a brutal, harsh form that forces submission.  In other places it is a soft, inviting form that seduces one into submission.  Either way, to follow Jesus is to be hated by this world.

Jesus tells us that they will “lay their hands one you.”  This is a Hebrew phrase that means to take somebody physically captive, whether for jail, or a momentary beating.  It can be proper authorities or it may be a mob.  The intent is to pursue and take hold of someone in order to stop what they are doing.  This is the definition of persecution.  This world employs a variety of techniques in which it pursues Christians with the intent to squelch what they do.  Some would be brought before religious judges (synagogues) and other put into prisons by the civil magistrates.  They would even stand before kings and rulers for the sake of Jesus.  These descriptions make it clear that Jesus is talking about more than just what would happen in Israel.  It is a description of the kinds of persecution they would encounter throughout the world.  Notice that Jesus highlights that all of this will be happening because of our connection to Him.  In John 15:18-19 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  We are not to take such persecutions personal.  It is not really about you.  It is about the Lord that you are serving.  Thus we need to see our sufferings in this respect as a badge of honor because we suffer for Jesus.

Jesus has shown us what the world would do and why it would do it.  But in verse 13 he turns and tells us what God’s purpose is in allowing it to happen.  It will be an occasion for testimony.  The term translated occasion was often used of disembarking a ship when one has reached the destination.  Thus it came to be also used of the end or purpose to which one was heading.  Jesus is basically saying that though the ship be a ship of suffering and persecution, it is not headed to destruction.  Rather it is bringing us to a place where God will give us a platform one which we can testify about Jesus and the salvation that he is offering.  Thus Jesus then commands us not to meditate on what we will say at that time.  This does not mean we don’t read the Scriptures and meditate on God’s grace and the future judgment.  Rather, it teaches us to rely more upon the Holy Spirit than on our own wisdom and ability.  Jesus promises to fill the mouth of those who are persecuted for his sake with wisdom and words that the world can’t stand against.  It will be you testifying, but in another way it won’t.  The Holy Spirit will anoint you with the power of God.  He will testify through you, not as a robot, but as a willing servant.  Yes, the world will take its stand against you and resist you.  But they will not stand in the end.  No matter what they say and do (even to the point of killing believers), God will not support them.  Short of repentance, they will fall and be taken away in judgment.

It is bad enough to have enemies, but it gets worse.  Jesus tells us that we will be betrayed even by loved ones.  This is a general prophecy and thus we must see that it is not an automatic fact that our family will betray us.  However, in times of deception it will be a common pattern.  Those who are of the natural family are not always faithful to the end.  Thus the Church of Jesus becomes critical.  We are a spiritual family that is to stand together even in the midst of great persecution.  Yet, even this spiritual family has people in it who will betray us, like Judas.  Such are the sufferings of this time of sorrow that we are in.

Jesus then says that some will be put to death.  What we see here is that all will endure persecution, but not all at the same level.  Some will escape capture while others are put in prison.  Some will be released from prison while others are killed.  It is not ours to know exactly what God’s path is for us.  But, it is ours to be faithful to Christ and our fellow Christians in the midst of such difficult times.  We are not called to instigate persecution and martyrdom.  It is not our goal.  Our goal is to testify to a lost world of its sin and God’s love in Jesus.  Persecution and martyrdom are a byproduct of the clash of two kingdoms.  This is why Jesus tells us that we will be hated by all nations (this includes the USA).  This world is seduced by the wisdom of Satan and thus hates those who embrace the wisdom of Jesus.

Jesus then says that not a hair of your head will be lost.  How can he say this when he just said that some would be put to death?  There is a Hebrew phrase that we find in Scripture that has the sense of complete safety.  In 1 Samuel 14:45, when Jonathan was in danger of being killed by his father, King Saul, the people state, “not a hair of his head will fall to the ground.”  Of course we are losing hair all the time.  But the implication is that they will protect Jonathan even to the point of not even losing a hair.  We see it again in Acts 27:34.  Paul is on a ship that is about to be destroyed on the rocks during a great storm.  The soldiers are going to kill all the prisoners so as to lose none of them.  Paul then tells the soldiers not to kill the guys because, “not a hair will fall from you.”  Everyone would survive and make it to the mainland.  The soldiers would not be held responsible for losing anyone.  Notice that Jesus has changed the phrase from hair falling to the ground to hair being lost.  Thus even if the “hair does fall to the ground,” what would it mean that it isn’t lost?  I believe that the implication here is that the same God who has numbered the hairs on their head, will also take note of everything they have lost in his name.  Their sacrifice will not be lost because God will take note of it and holds for them a reward that none can steal.  Persecution is not a loss for the believer, but rather a gain.

Jesus ends with the command for believers to take possession of their soul through enduring faith.  Fear and doubts constantly assail the person going through persecution.  Like a ship on the sea, we are tossed this way and that.  Only a strong faith in Jesus will help us to weather such things without losing our souls.  Perseverance or endurance, by definition, cannot only last for a while.  It must be to the end of the trial and to the end of our life.  May we not lose our souls in this day, but rather remain under the difficulties of this time while serving our Lord.  Let us fight the good fight of faith and live a witness and testimony before the world regardless of what our flesh may fear.  This is what our Lord calls us to be.

Jesus Reveals Future III audio

Tuesday
Oct132015

Jesus Reveals the Future II

Luke 21:8-11-  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 11, 2015.

As we look at this prophetic section, we should do so with the knowledge that revealing the future is a signature characteristic of God.  He is not like some giant computer that can crunch an infinite amount of data in order to predict what will happen.  Rather, as the Creator of the space-time continuum, all of time (past, present, and future) is laid out before Him.  Thus the things in the Bible are not mere educated guesses.  But, instead they are God letting us know what He already sees.  When God does reveal the future, He does so in a way that sheds light and yet still requires us to trust Him.  He never reveals in order to remove any need for faith.

The common attempt by scholars to fit all that is revealed into a timeline often relies on human reasoning that goes beyond what we are told.  Thus it should be expected that they will have areas that will be found to be in error.  I believe it is more important for believers to pay attention to the main points that such revelations emphasize rather than attempting to map out the future in great detail.  We need to heed those warnings and commands that our Lord gives to his disciples. 

In our passage today Jesus begins his answer to the questions his disciples asked him:  when will the temple be destroyed, and what will be the sign that it is about to happen and that you are going to come back and begin the new age of the Kingdom of God.  These questions clearly jumble together several important events that we now know would not be happening at the same time.  Jesus does not separate the questions or berate them.  Instead, he gives them a look at the future ahead along with certain warnings and commands.

The Things That Must Come To Pass First

In verses 8-11 Jesus describes many different things that must come to pass before the End of the Age.  Now in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 we have the parallel accounts of this same discussion.  They describes these very same things as being The Beginning of Sorrows.  This phrase, and the list that Jesus gives, makes it clear to his disciples that they are not entering into a time of peace.  The time ahead will be a time of sorrows.  Although the sorrows are not defined, two other places use this word of sorrow.  Acts 2:24 is a passage regarding the sorrows of death or dying.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:13, Paul reveals that the last days will come upon the world like the sorrows of labor coming upon a woman.  Thus this time ahead would be filled with things that involve physical and emotional sorrows.  Notice that Jesus makes it clear that he is not giving us a list of signs of the end.  Rather, that these things must come to pass first.  You could say that they are a sign of the times that we live in rather than a sign that the end of this age is at hand.  So what are these signs of the age?

False Christs.  Jesus first warns his disciples that many people will come in His name, which means they are claiming to be him.  He also reveals another claim they will make, the time (of the end) has drawn near.  It makes sense that in a time of sorrow deluded and deceiving men would step forward and claim to be able to bring it to an end.  Something that is implicit in this is to notice that in order for this to happen Jesus must be gone.  He had told his disciples that he was leaving.  This is why they were seeking a sign for when he would come back.  Thus the Beginning of Sorrows would start with the ascension of Jesus into heaven.  We could say that there has been an increase in people claiming to be Jesus in the last century compared to the centuries before.  However, our ability to hear about and catalog such claims is greatly increased.  Suffice it to say that Jesus doesn’t claim it will get worse.  He simply warns that this age of sorrows will be characterized by people claiming to be him. 

Now there is something flattering about the idea that Jesus has not only come back, but is also talking with me.  But Jesus clearly warns his followers, don’t be deceived.  Whether the person is deceived themselves, or they are intentionally trying to delude people is immaterial.  No matter how sincere they are we are not to believe them.  Imagine the situation the disciples were in.  They had lived with Jesus for over three years.  When they had questions they could ask him and receive a concrete answer.  But in the future they would have to learn to rely upon the Holy Spirit.  Jesus would not physically be there.  They would be susceptible to an inward pressure to leave the more difficult situation of discerning the will of God through His Word and Spirit, in order to go towards the easier situation of having a person tell us what it is.

This leads to the second imperative regarding false Christs.  Don’t follow them.  Deception starts in the mind, but them moves into our life.  We are supposed to follow Jesus alone.  But when someone comes claiming to be Jesus we might be conflicted.  Jesus has already given us the right way we are to live and believe.  If another comes in his name he is false and only trying to lead us away from the path of Truth and onto the many paths of deception.  Christians need to stay the course that Jesus has put us on rather than being led off on side roads that promise an end of the age, but, in the end, lead to wickedness and a perversion of the truth.  Notice in verse 27 that Jesus helps us to understand why we should believe it.  Jesus says that when he does come back it will be on the clouds in power and great glory.  Matthew adds to this that it will be as visible to the whole world as lightening that flashes from the east to the west.  Jesus is basically telling us that when he comes back it will be seen by the whole world.  No one will have to tell you.  Jesus is not hiding on a mountain in Tibet waiting for the world to be open to his coming.  So don’t be deceived and follow those charlatans that make the claim he has come.

Wars and Turmoil.  Of course the world’s history is a series of wars with relatively few times of peace.  Jesus tells them that there are wars and commotions ahead.  Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom makes it clear that this is about more than just Israel and Rome.  The age of sorrows will be characterized by political turmoil.  This revelation is not meant to wow us.  Sure anyone could guess that there would be wars ahead because mankind has always been warring.  Yet, Jesus is not trying to wow us with this prediction.  Rather, he is trying to prepare us.  The times will not be peaceful religiously, spiritually, and politically.  This leads to the command to not be terrified.  This word has in its meaning “crying out and wailing.”  Many people throughout the world know what it is like to live in a war zone.  It is many things including terrifying.  The despair that comes from such fearful experiences can easily take over.  The chaotic effects of war and political turmoil threaten those who find themselves in such times.  Yet, Jesus lets us know that these are to be expected.  They are not catching God by surprise.  When the believer feels terror and mourning surging up within them, they must be quick to turn to God’s Word and to fellow believers for encouragement and strength.  Christians are called to be emotionally strong, and yet not in themselves.  Jesus is not telling us to never have an emotion.  Rather he is telling us not to let those emotions overwhelm us and define our life.

Great Earthquakes.   The next thing Jesus reveals is great earthquakes.  Earthquakes are always happening and can be very terrifying when they do.  Great earthquakes often have high death tolls and heavy destruction of buildings.  Just like war becomes a threat to our ability to follow Jesus, so natural disasters can paralyze us from following Christ, or can cause us to let self preservation become the rule that we live by.  This is not following Christ.  His disciples would need to experience many kinds of sorrow and yet continue to believe and follow Him alone.

Famines & Pestilences.  These two are often listed like partners in crime throughout the Bible.  Jesus warns that famines and pestilence would characterize the days ahead.  A famine is literally a scarcity of food for any reason.  Thus lack of rain, war, and devastation could all be a cause of famine.  Often following on the heels of famine are pests, plagues, and diseases that rule in the wake of these things.  We have seen the effects of war, famine and plagues upon the whole continent of Africa as well as elsewhere.

Fearful Sights & Great Heavenly Signs.  Lastly, for today, Jesus warns of fearful sights.  This is a very general phrase that can cover the eruptions of volcanoes (like Vesuvius) or horrible and destructive storms.  Along with this would come great, heavenly signs.  They would have understood this to be things like comets, solar eclipses, and lunar eclipses.  Great comets that are visible even in the day are not as common and were seen as a heavenly body that has left its orbit and threatens earth.  Thus comets are a symbol of Satan and those fallen angels who reject the path God has given them.

So, did all these things happen in the first century leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD?  The short answer is yes.  The first century believers over the next 40 years saw these kinds of things happening.  It was important for them to keep their heads and obey the commands of Christ.  They had to beware spiritual deception and they had to guard their hearts from giving into terror and fear.  In fact the Jewish historian Josephus (who was not a Christian and had no reason to support these things) recorded many different things that happened in Jerusalem and in the skies that were seen as evil portends for Jerusalem and its people.  However, the Christians who headed the words of Jesus were prepared for the events of 70AD and for everything after it.

So I ask you a question.  Did these things stop in 70 AD?  Did we leave behind an age of sorrows at that time and enter into something that cannot be described as sorrows?  I would say that we are still in the time of sorrows.  Jesus has not come back yet and the end of the age has not occurred.  Yes, Jerusalem and Israel as a nation were destroyed.  But the followers of Jesus have still needed these instructions for the last 2,000 years.  We must beware deceivers who come claiming to be Jesus.  We need to guard our hearts from being tossed to and fro from terror and fear.  Let us take these things to heart today as we experience them in our own day.  God has not been caught by surprise and He has revealed these things to us in advance so that we may not be either.

Jesus Reveals Future II audio