In the first two messages in this series, we were considering the future period of time that we call “the revolt against the kingdom.” This period will be a most strange one on earth, yet it is a very critical one in God’s plans. It is set forth in many passages of Scripture. All the truth regarding Daniel’s seventieth week is related to this period. The entirety of the first nineteen chapters of Revelation is related to this time as well. Yet there are also many other passages that deal with this critical time of testing in the kingdom.
In our last message, we considered Psalm 2 and the revolt of certain of the rulers in the kingdom. We saw that this happens at a time of turmoil on earth, and that they think to throw off the control of God over the world. God is not worried by this revolt, but warns these rebellious rulers that He may strike them in His anger and they will be destroyed. Now, we will continue our study and look at another passage that will teach us about the revolt against the kingdom.
Another passage that reveals much truth about the time of the revolt against the kingdom is Matthew 24. The Lord spoke the truth of this passage close to the end of His ministry. He had already explained the kingdom to His disciples, including its secrets. Now, the disciples want to know about the conclusion of the kingdom.
3. Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
The disciples asked the Lord two things here. First they asked what would be the sign of His coming. And yet this makes little sense, for when the Lord told His disciples that He was about to go where they could not follow (John 13:33), Peter was shocked and upset, and we would assume he spoke for them all in this. They had no idea He was leaving them, so it hardly makes sense that they would ask about His coming. But this is easily explained, for “coming” is a poor translation of the Greek word parousia. This word means literally “a personal presence,” but it was used in the technical sense of an official presence, or a presence because of who you are and what you do. The disciples realized that, while the Lord was present with them, He was not present in His official capacity as the King of God’s kingdom. Thus, they were wondering when He was going to take to Himself this position and become the King they knew He was. They wanted Him to do this, but it would not have required Him going away at all for Him to do it.
The phrase “end of the age” here is an important one. In Greek, it is tes sunteleias tou aionos. The word sunteleia, when it is translated “end,” does not really fully convey what the word means. The idea of sunteleia is of a consummation, not just of an end. For example, a pregnancy can end in an abortion or a miscarriage, but it can only consummate in the birth of a baby. A courtship may end with a breakup, but it can only consummate in a marriage. The word aion does not mean “an age,” but is a reference to the great eon of the kingdom of God on earth. God’s great eon to come does not just end; it consummates in the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His thousand-year Parousia on earth. What the disciples wanted to know about was the consummation of the kingdom eon, not the “end of the age.”
The time they were referring to is the time called by the Lord Jesus Christ the “harvest” in the parable of growing grain in Mark 4, as we saw it in the beginning of this study.
Mark 4:29. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.
This parable describes the growth and progress of the kingdom of God like the growth and progress of grain in a man’s field. The final stage of the kingdom is described as the “harvest.” That this is also the consummation of the eon is made plain by considering the explanation of the parable of the tares among the wheat in Matthew 13.
Matthew 13:36. Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
37. He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.
In verse 39, the Lord clearly reveals that the harvest is the end of this age, or again in Greek “the consummation of the eon.” While it is a risky thing to assume that a symbol in one parable is the same symbol in another, for this is sometimes not the case, the subject of what the Lord is talking about in both parables would lead us to believe that, in this case, the harvest is the consummation of the eon in both parables. Moreover we can say with certainty that this is not referring to the end of this wicked eon in which we live, for while this eon will end, it has no consummation. This speaks of the consummation of the eon of the kingdom of God on earth.
The disciples, then, asked the Lord what would be the sign of His official presence and the consummation of the Kingdom eon. The Lord gave an open and honest answer to these questions. Yet every sign He gave is meaningless unless we recognize that the government of God takes control of the earth in a premillennial kingdom before the revolt against the kingdom takes place. Under God’s government, there will be no false christs, no wars or rumors of wars, no famines, no earthquakes, and no pestilences. They will be gone for many centuries as the kingdom of God continues, and when they reappear again, it will be a great sign. It will indicate God’s wrath being kindled “but a little,” as we read in Psalm 2.
4. And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.
The Lord is concerned first of all that the disciples allow no one to deceive them. Notice that He speaks as if these men themselves will be alive and present when these great events take place. This is utter foolishness unless there is a great resurrection before the revolt against the kingdom and these men are raised back to life on this earth once again. Many Christians seem able only to believe in life after death if it takes place in heaven, a land “far, far away.” Since there are no rules in this “never-never land” and no reason for anything to have to make sense, they can make up what they want about heaven and feel edified and comforted by it. Yet when we really start to believe the Bible and what It says about the future and life after death, we realize that God is not only able to raise the dead to live on this earth once again, but that He is going to do this. These disciples, with Matthias replacing Judas, will be raised from the dead and living in the kingdom when the revolt against the kingdom takes place. Therefore, there will be need for them to be careful that no one deceives them.
5. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
Christ states this as a sign of His official presence and the consummation of the eon. Yet if this sign took place today, it would be completely meaningless. In the almost 2000 years since Christ said this, there has been a constant stream of false christs. Most of my readers can probably name several that they know of who have made this claim in their own lifetimes. If this is what the Lord meant, it was no sign at all. It would be like saying that if there is cold weather in the winter in Minnesota, it is a sign. Well, that could not be a sign unless the climate in Minnesota at some point changed completely to eliminate cold weather in the winter. If that happened, such a thing could be a sign. Otherwise, it is something that has always happened for thousands of years, and so could hardly be a sign. The same is true of false christs. There had been false christs before the Lord Jesus came on the scene, and there have been false christs ever since. The only way this could be a sign is if the constant stream of false christs stopped for a significant period of time. And this is exactly what is going to happen. During the long period of God’s government, no one would dare to claim to be Christ, for one who did so would immediately be dealt with most severely. Surely nothing but humiliation, death, and destruction could await one who dared to make such a claim while God is in control of the world’s governments.
One thing that will mark the beginning of the revolt against the kingdom, however, is that God will choose to remove His restraints that have held back the reappearance of wickedness and iniquity from the earth. I believe that this is what Paul is talking about in II Thessalonians 2:7, when he writes:
7. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
The Holy Spirit, through the Divine punishments He will bring against all the wicked and evildoers in the kingdom, will restrain the secret of lawlessness. He will see to it that every transgression and disobedience receives a just reward, as Hebrews 2:2 declares. Eventually, however, to start the kingdom test, the test after Adam’s sin of open revolt, He will be taken out of the way and cease for a time to restrain the wicked. When He is no longer restraining, men will start acting in wicked ways again, and will get more and more bold in their wickedness. When they do, false christs will start to appear again, after not having been present for hundreds of years. Then, this will be a great sign.
6. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
The second sign is wars and rumors of wars that the disciples will hear of. Again, this would be no sign today, for wars and rumors of wars had been present from the time of the flood to the day Christ walked the earth, and have likewise have been present from that day to this. The appearance of wars and rumors of wars could never be a sign in our day, for they have never disappeared. Yet during the eon of the premillennial kingdom, the nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4. Therefore, when they hear of wars and rumors of wars, this will be a most positive sign to them that things are changing, and that the parousia and the consummation of the eon are close to coming to pass. Yet He reassures them that they should not be troubled by all this. This is all according to the plan, and these things must come to pass. Yet the end of these things is not yet when these signs appear.
This word “end” is the Greek word telos, which means “end.” These wars and rumors of wars have no consummation, for wars shall be done away with for good after this revolt is put down.
7. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
These wars and rumors of wars take place because nation will rise against nation and government against government. Another sign is given: that natural disasters will start to take place, such as famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. Again, these are things that have been happening on earth from at least the time of the flood on to today. It would be no sign for these things to take place. Some have tried to work out of this difficulty by suggesting that this means that these things will increase in intensity. They use earthquakes as the example, and claim that there are more earthquakes now than there have ever been. This would be very difficult to prove, however, since the measurement of earthquakes is something that has only become possible within the last century. Our knowledge of earthquakes in the past is very limited, and since we have been measuring them, there is no sign of them greatly increasing. Yet even if it could be proved that earthquakes are increasing in number and intensity, that is not what Christ says the sign is to be. The sign is not earthquakes increasing in number and intensity, but earthquakes happening at all. Again this points to the fact that the period commonly called the “great tribulation” does not follow immediately on our day in the dispensation of grace, but rather comes after a long period of God governing the earth and seeing to it that natural disasters like famines, plagues, and earthquakes do not happen during the reign of His government over the world.
8. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
These signs are called the “beginning of sorrows,” and they are indeed the beginning of sorrows coming into the world after the long period of God’s kingdom when they have not been present. These signs are not just the course of this evil age, which is what they would be if we saw them today. The Lord did not give as signs things that have always been and will always be!
Many have difficulty believing that the earth will enjoy a time when these things will not be present. Believe it or not, this is what God says will be true in His kingdom. At this crucial time of the revolt against the kingdom, however, they will start to reappear. This signals the beginning of a time of testing, the revolt of some men, and the conclusion of this stage of the kingdom.
9. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.
At this time the twelve apostles, who will be among the most respected, honored, and loved men in God’s kingdom on the part of all who love and are loyal to Him, will find that their reputations earn them the opposite privilege from these rebels against the throne. Since these twelve men are among the closest to God, they will be among the most hated individuals by those who wish to throw off God. Thus they will be delivered up to tribulation and death, and all the rebellious nations will hate them since they are associated with the name of Jesus Christ.
10. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
This reversal of opinion regarding the apostles on the part of the rebels will cause many others to stumble as well. Perhaps they will fear that these rebels will turn against them if they do not act in ways that they like! The result is that they will betray one another and hate one another. This will not at all have been the way of things during God’s kingdom, when love for your neighbor will be the rule everywhere on earth. Those who stumble in this way show that they have not imbibed the kingdom character as they should have done.
11. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
The false christs are not alone in rising up. Others are less ambitious, and just rise up as false prophets. This less vainglorious claim will deceive many, perhaps because they have not been used to liars and deceivers during God’s kingdom, when truth will reign.
12. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
One thing that the kingdom will do on the earth is kindle the fires of love in the hearts of men, who today know very little of real love. During the kingdom God will act to cause love to be the common experience of all on earth. Yet during the days of this revolt, lawlessness will begin to abound. But how can lawlessness abound among those who love each other? For as Christ said, loving the Lord your God and loving your neighbor as yourself sums up all the law and the prophets. If the love of people continued to burn as brightly as ever, they could not act in lawless ways. Yet lawlessness will abound, and this will cause the love of many, which had existed while God’s kingdom was in full control, to grow cold. Indeed, it must grow cold before they can treat each other lawlessly.
13. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
He who does not stumble in these ways but endures to the end shall be saved. Matthew 24 covers a short period. The one who endures to the end of it shall be saved. Yet this needs to be clarified, since many have specialized the Biblical word “saved” until it only means “salvation from sin and death.” If this is a “plan of salvation,” then endurance through the tribulation period will be enough to “save” people. Yet that is not what it means here.
“Saved” can mean to rescue, yet it can also mean to preserve, as when we save money in the bank, or to bless, as in the phrase “God save the queen.” “Saved” here means blessed, and how they are blessed we can find in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 2:7. “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
Revelation 2:11. “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
Revelation 2:17. “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
Revelation 2:26-28. “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.”
Revelation 3:5. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Revelation 3:12. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”
Revelation 3:21. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
Revelation 21:7. “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”
These seven blessings will be given to the one who endures and overcomes the tribulation time of testing. This verse does not tell us how to be saved, and it has nothing to do with men in the kingdom before the revolt, but only applies during this short period of the revolt against the kingdom.
14. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world. Yet the word “preached” is not a good translation here. The English translators of the Bible loved their preachers, and so wanted to get the idea of preach-craft into the Bible. Yet the word actually means to herald. A herald does not take a word from God and write a long dissertation of his own about it, as preachers do. Instead, he merely repeats what God has said word for word. The word “world” here is the Greek word oikoumene, coming from oikos, which means “house.” The oikoumene world is the inhabited world. So this gospel of the kingdom will be heralded in the whole inhabited earth.
What “gospel of the kingdom” is being referred to here? Many have taken the word “gospel” and specialized it to mean the salvation-bringing message that we are to believe today. Yet this is not the basic meaning of the world. “Gospel” is the Greek word euangelion. Eu means good, and angelion comes from angel or “messenger,” and means a message. Yet an euangelion is good because it is right, not necessarily because it is “good news,” as some suggest the word means. A gospel is spoken in view of a need, and contains an element of promise. This all applies very well to the right message of our salvation today, yet it can apply equally well to other messages.
In this context, I do not believe there can be any real doubt which gospel the Lord Jesus Christ is referring to, since He tells us. He says that “this gospel of the kingdom” will be heralded. The gospel He is referring to, then, can mean nothing other than the words He has just been speaking to the twelve in verses 4-13. In other words, Matthew 24 will be proclaimed in all the inhabited world. It will be spoken in view of a need, since people will be in danger of being offended, becoming lawless, and letting their love grow cold. It will let people know how they are to behave in these new and disturbing circumstances that have arisen. And it contains an element of promise. If they will endure to the end, they will be blessed. It is true that things might be harder for them for a time if they stay loyal to Christ. Some might die for their faithfulness to Him. But they will be raised at His parousia, and their reward will be great if they have endured and overcome.