Ever heard of Charles Taze Russell? He founded a Bible Society and in the early 1870’s, this ‘Bible scholar’, through a thorough study of the Holy Scriptures, predicted that God would gather His flock back to Himself in 1878. When that didn’t occur, he recalculated and stated it would definitely happen in the autumn of 1881. Oh well, … he said that in the spiritual realm, it did happen (???). Then in the early 1900’s, Mr. Russell said the year of 1914 as “…the full end of the time of the Gentiles…”. No Go; …again. After his passing, Russell’s successor, J.F. Rutherford, predicted that the 40th anniversary of what happened ‘spiritually’ in 1878 would be the real harvest of the saints. So the spring of 1918 came … and went (…are we seeing a pattern here?)
Then in 1920, Rutherford, now leader of the ‘Bible Society’, wrote a booklet predicting the resurrection of the OT patriarchs in 1925. (Ho-hum …). Then this same Bible Society predicted in 1966, that the year 1975 would be the ‘Year of Jubilee’, which would usher in Christ’s 1000 year reign. (Game over …) By the way, the name of this Bible Society came to be known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the publishing hub of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. <read Deut.18:20-22, …regarding false prophets>
In Matt. 24, Jesus and His students are just leaving the Temple after Jesus’ woe-filled critique of the Jewish religious rulers. While sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples asked the question that every generation of Believers has asked since Jesus’ ascension; “… when will this happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming at the end of the age?” (v.3). The rest of chapter 24 deals with this very subject. Jesus is not glossing over end-time predictions; …. nor is He naming dates. Jesus is showing His followers, then and now, that He knows what will be coming and He instructs His followers on how to be prepared. The first teaching He gives is to … .
V.4 – “… Watch out …” – ‘be on guard’; ‘take heed’; ‘be alert’. Throughout this chapter, there are two priorities to ‘watch out’ for: a) deceivers; false teachers; pretend Messiahs … and b) … Jesus, the Master, when He returns. We don’t want to be ‘sleeping’ (v.42-44).
V.5-8 – Josephus tells of several of these false Messiahs that were noteworthy just before the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD. The “… birth pains… ” (v.8) that Jesus refers to is probably drawn from Isaiah 26:16-19, where the Prophet is referencing the birth pains that result in a resurrection. How apropos for an end time discussion.
V.9-14 – Though our ‘forefathers-in-the-faith’ suffered sever persecutions, Jesus is referring to a future time when “all nations” will hate folk who follow Jesus. “…Many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other …”(v.10); … can we not see this beginning to happen (2 Thes.2:3; 2 Tim.3:1-5; 4:3-5). Just listen to the folk that occupy the pulpits in some churches and you will hear teachings that affirm lifestyles that were considered abominable just 50 years ago … as well as 2,000 years ago … in the church of Jesus Christ. We are to ‘stand firm’ / ‘persevere’ “… to the end…”, for that time will not come until the Kingdom is preached to all the nations (v.13,14). Bible publishers have recently committed to having God’s Holy Writ translated into all known languages within the next 10 years. “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
V.15-25 – Jesus is referring to prophesies made by Daniel (Dan.9:27; 11:31,32; 12:11). Rabbis and Jewish scholars, who were contemporaries of Jesus, thought this prophesy was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphañes on Dec.25, 167BC. Indeed it partially was, but Jesus here in this paragraph states that it will happen completely in the final days. Those days will be times of great distress, which will be shortened specifically for God’s elect so they can be saved from the horrors of those days.
V.26-35 – Jesus clearly tells the disciples (and us) that anyone who says that He is anywhere on terra-firma in those days is lying. Jesus will be visible to all people at the same time, … like lightning flashing in one place but being seen everywhere. Somehow, Jesus will be seen by His elect worldwide simultaneously in the sky.
Jesus does not give us the day or the hour of His coming, but He does give us a season. Note the reference to the fig tree (v.32). Remember Jesus cursing a fig tree back in 21:18-22? We noted that most expositors believe the fig tree represented unrepentant Israel, which was soon to be destroyed by the Roman army. Here in v.32, Jesus uses a fig tree that has its ‘sap rising’, showing life again coming into the plant. So it is with Israel in our time. It once again is developing tender twigs, …showing signs of life after nearly 2 millennia of dormancy. It is indeed exciting to see the prophesies that Jesus has just shared as well as Israel coming into being again happening at the same time in history. “…Even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door…”. (v.33 NASB).
V.36-44 – Jesus states His coming back for His own will be similar to Noah’s time before the flood. For 120 years, Noah built the ark and walked with God in the midst of a people who were oblivious to God’s righteous wrath toward them. Noah’s life and the ark gave testimony of Noah standing firm until the end (v.13), when he and his family entered the ark, God closed the door, and they were lifted above the destruction. Jesus states the same is in store for His elect when He returns to rescue them: … we shall be raised in Christ, far above the destruction that will take place on the earth. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (v.42).
1) Jesus states He IS coming back! (Rev.19:11-16)
2) We are called to endure/ persevere until He comes. (James 5:7-11; Heb.10:19-25)
While we are waiting, we don’t want to be ‘date-setters’ as the Millerites were, who were positive Jesus was returning on Oct.22, 1844. But neither do we want to go to the opposite extreme and state that Jesus is not coming back and the Scriptures we just read are all metaphorical in nature. No, dearest saints, … we do know the ‘season’ of His return; … we do know that we will endure intense persecutions close to His return; … we do know that things on earth will get miserable before His return; …and most of all, we KNOW He’s coming…
“… so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Heb.9:28)