The Second Coming of Christ - Part 2: A Closer Look at the Lord's End Times Warnings
The Second Coming of Christ
Part 2 - A Closer Look at the Lord's End Times Warnings
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared February 27, 2023)
(Edited March 3, 2023)
*Please open your Bibles to Matthew 24, as we continue talking about the second coming of Jesus Christ. In the previous chapters, the Lord was in the temple, and Jesus had just condemned the Jewish religious leaders in the strongest ways. He condemned them for their hard-hearted rejection of their Messiah and much more. Let's see what happened next in Matthew 24:1-3:
1. Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple.
2. And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.''
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?''
*Jesus' disciples wanted answers, and that's what we are looking for in Matthew 24. Today we will take a closer look at the Lord's end times warnings.
1. SO FIRST NOTICE THAT HIS WARNINGS ARE ABOUT DECEPTION.
*In Matthew 24, Jesus actually gave us three warnings about spiritual deception. The first warning is in vs. 4-5 where Jesus told His disciples, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."
*Then in vs. 11-12, Jesus warns us with these words: "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold."
*We see more dangerous deception down in vs. 23-26. There Jesus said:
23. "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it.
24. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
25. See, I have told you beforehand.
26. Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it."
*There will be many false Christs. One of the most well known in our lifetimes was a Korean named Sun Myung Moon. Mr. Moon was born in 1920, and he was the founder of the cult called the "Unification Church." Mr. Moon preached that he was the Messiah and the second coming of Christ. Moon also taught that he was here to fulfill the work of Jesus that was cut short when He died on the cross.
*In 2004, at a ceremony in a Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. of all places, Mr. Moon crowned himself with what was called the "Crown of Peace." There he gave a long speech in which he stated that he was "sent to Earth to save the world's 6 billion people."
*Mr. Moon had also said that when he was fifteen years old Jesus anointed him to carry out his unfinished work by becoming parent to all of humanity. And he said, "Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."
*Mr. Moon died September 3rd, 2012, at the age of 92, but his cult still has a presence in over 100 countries. Membership estimates range from 250,000 to 3,000,000. (1)
*An even more troubling false Christ is the Twelfth Imam looked for by the 150 to 200 million "Twelver" Shi'a Muslims in the world today. Iran is the only country where Twelver Shi'ism is the state religion. But they are also the majority of the total populations in Iraq and Azerbaijan. Twelvers are also a sizable minority in countries like Lebanon, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
*[PIC 1] Here is a picture from one of their websites.
*Twelver Shi'as believe that Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam, will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos and civil war. At that time, the Twelfth Imam will come wielding God's Double-Bladed Sword, and this supposedly heralds the apocalypse.
*When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was Mayor of Tehran, Iran, he reportedly ordered the city council to build a boulevard to prepare for the Twelfth Imam. In 2006, the Washington Post reported that after Ahmadinejad became President, he told his cabinet that he expects the Twelfth Imam to arrive in a few years. He actually looked forward to a clash with the West, believing it could speed up the arrival of the Twelfth Imam.
[PIC 2] This is a picture of the Jamkaran mosque in Iran.
*Many of the devout believers in the Twelfth Imam pray at this mosque, because it houses a well from which, they believe he will emerge. When Ahmadinejad won the Presidential election, he immediately gave $17 million of government funds to this shrine for the false messiah. (2)
*This should not surprise us, because again in vs. 4-5 Jesus said, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."
*Millions and millions of people have been deceived and blinded by Satan. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." So, when it comes to end times, Jesus warns us about deception.
2. JESUS ALSO WARNS US ABOUT COMING DISASTERS.
*In vs. 6-7, Jesus warned us about political disasters: "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. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. . ."
*Then in vs. 7-8 Jesus warned us about physical disasters: "There will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows."
*The latest example was the Mw 7.8 earthquake that hit parts of Turkey and Syria on February 6, 2023. Thousands of buildings collapsed, and as of today, over 51,000 deaths have been reported with over 122,000 more people injured. (3)
3. THE LORD'S WARNINGS ARE ABOUT COMING DISASTERS, BUT THEY ARE ALSO ABOUT THE DANGER OF PERSECUTION.
*In vs. 9-10 Jesus gave us this warning us about persecution: "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another."
*This is by no means the first time that Jesus warned His followers about the danger of hateful persecution. Even in the Sermon on the Mount back in Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus said:
10. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
*Notice that Jesus did not say "IF they revile and persecute you." He said, "WHEN they revile and persecute you." Bill Prater reminds us that persecution comes in many forms and can range from mild to the most extreme and severe.
*By God's grace, we who live in the United States are blessed to live in the freest country in the world. But harsh persecution of Christians goes on in many parts of the world today. The 2020 World Watch List shows the 50 countries where Christians are persecuted the worst. In those nations 260 million Christians suffer high to severe levels of persecution. But even here in the United States, anti-Christian bigotry is rapidly on the rise, and there will be times when we are hated and rejected for the Lord Jesus Christ, so Jesus warned us about the danger of persecution. (4)
4. BUT ALSO NOTICE THAT SOME OF THE LORD'S WARNINGS SEEM TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE APPLICATION.
*One example is vs. 15-21, where Jesus gave this warning to His followers:
15. "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place'' (whoever reads, let him understand),
16. then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
17. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house.
18. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.
19. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days!
20. And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.
21. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be."
*Here are some good questions from these verses: Who was Jesus talking to? When are these things going to happen? And what in the world is the Abomination of Desolation? The original words mean "an idolatrous, detestable, foul thing that spoils something else." And the Lord was talking about making the holy place in the Temple desolate.
*The Prophet Daniel spoke of the Abomination of Desolation three times. The most important reference for us today is in Daniel 9, so please keep your place here and turn back to Daniel 9. In this Scripture passage, the prophet was praying his heart out over his own sins and the sins of his people. Then starting in Daniel 9:21, the prophet said:
21. yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.
22. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.
23. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:
24. Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.
25. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.
26. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.'' (5)
*These words were spoken to Daniel about 500 years before Jesus was born. They are not talking about the church. They are talking about the Jews.
[PIC 3] And when it comes to the timing, here is a simple chart of Daniel's 70 weeks.
*John MacArthur explained that the weeks here are weeks of years. In other words, each of these weeks includes 7 years. Daniel chapter 9 is saying that there will be 70 times 7, or 490 years to the Kingdom of Messiah.
*Daniel 9:25 tells us when that 490-year period began: 'from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.' In 445 BC, King Artaxerxes of Persia issued a decree permitting the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem. From that date, 7 weeks or 49 years were to pass before the new Temple was dedicated in Jerusalem. And they did. Then 62 more weeks of years, for a total of 69 weeks were to pass before the coming of the Messiah. And they did.
*Again, there are different views on these prophecies, but Sir Robert Anderson and Harold Hoehner calculated that from the time of Artaxerxes' decree for the Jews to return home, to the time when Jesus presented Himself as the Messiah on the first Palm Sunday was exactly 69 weeks or 483 years.
*That leaves one week unaccounted for. The 69 weeks ended when Messiah came. But the 70th week hasn't come yet. In between the 69th and the 70th week there is a time gap which God did not reveal in the Old Testament. This gap is the Church Age which has been going on for the last 2,000 years. It is part of the mystery that Paul talks about in his letters to the church.
*But what is the Abomination of desolation? One common interpretation was really a preview of what was to come. John MacArthur said almost all scholars agree that a wicked ruler named Antiochus Epiphanes was responsible for a preview of the abomination Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24:15.
*Antiochus was a Syrian king who reigned in Palestine from about 175 to 163 BC. He was a great persecutor of the Jewish people, and slaughtered thousands of men, women, and children, trying to stamp out the Jewish religion.
*Antiochus also committed one of the worst acts in Jewish history. He desecrated the Temple by butchering a pig on the altar. Then he forced the priests to eat the pig, and set up an idol to Zeus. The Jews then abandoned the Temple, not wishing to go into a defiled place. And that put a halt to the daily sacrifices (as predicted by Daniel 11:31), until the Jews regained control of the Temple during the Maccabean revolution. (6)
*That all had to be a preview of what the Lord speaks about here in Matthew 24, because Jesus was warning something yet to come. Most Biblical experts agree that the Abomination of Desolation the Lord spoke of here was initially fulfilled 40 years later when Jerusalem was conquered by the Romans, and the Temple was destroyed.
[PIC 4] This is the Arch of Titus that shows the plunder of Jerusalem and the Temple. This arch still stands today in Rome.
[PIC 5] This picture is part of the sculpture on the inner arch, and it shows the "Spoils of Jerusalem."
*The Jewish revolt began in 66 AD, and the siege of Jerusalem began early in the war. Unable to breach the city's defenses, the Roman armies established a permanent camp just outside the city. They dug a trench around the city walls and built another wall around Jerusalem as high as the city walls. Anyone caught in the trench attempting to flee the city would be crucified in rows on top of the dirt wall facing Jerusalem. The Jewish historian Josephus estimated that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege. (7)
*Phillip Schaff, in his HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, gave this vivid picture of the destruction of the Temple: "Titus according to Josephus intended at first to save that magnificent work of architecture, but the destruction of the Temple was determined by a higher decree. Titus' own soldiers, roused to madness by the stubborn resistance, and greedy of the golden treasures, could not be restrained from the work of destruction.
*When the flames arose the Jews raised a hideous yell, and tried to put out the fire. Others clung to the futile hope from the declaration of a false prophet, that in the midst of the raging fire, God would give a signal for the deliverance of his people. The legions competed with each other in feeding the flames, and made the people feel the full force of their unchained rage. Soon the whole structure was in a blaze and lit up the skies. It was burned on the tenth of August, 70 AD, the same day of the year on which, according to tradition, the first temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
*Josephus said, 'No one can conceive a louder, more terrible shriek, than arose from all sides during the burning of the temple. The echo from all the mountains around, even to Perea, increased the deafening roar. Yet the misery itself was more terrible than this disorder. The blood was larger in quantity than the fire. And those that were slain were more in number than those that slew them. The ground was nowhere visible. All was covered with corpses. Over these heaps the soldiers pursued the fugitives.'
*The Romans planted their eagles on the shapeless ruins, offered their sacrifices to them, and proclaimed Titus' greatness with the utmost acclamations of joy. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place." (8)
*Of course the Lord saw it coming and warned His followers not to even enter the city. Luke 21:20-24 adds this to what Matthew says:
20. "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.
21. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.
22. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
23. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.
24. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."
*Christians saw it coming and many did flee to safety. This is certainly a valid interpretation of what the Lord said here in Matthew 24:15-20. And some believe it is the only fulfillment of the Lord's prophecy. But I believe there has to be more, because in Matthew 24:21, the Lord said, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be."
*I cannot imagine how bad the fall of Jerusalem was, but worse things are surely coming in this sin-plagued world. The Book of Revelation makes this truth clear. There is much worse to come. So the final fulfillment of this prophecy must come in Daniel's final week of Jewish history.
*That's why we need to talk about the Antichrist before we leave our study of the second coming. We will also talk in detail about the rapture, and how it differs from the second coming of Christ. Today, please notice that the Lord's warnings seem to have more than one application.
5. AND THEY SHOULD MOVE ALL OF US TO TRUST IN HIS DELIVERANCE.
*There are actually 3 examples of God's deliverance in today's Scripture. One is the shortening of days we see in vs. 21-22. There Jesus said:
21. "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened."
*This deliverance is for the believers who will still be alive at the end of the Tribulation. Then down in vs. 27-28, we can see a brief description of the rapture of the church. There Jesus said, "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together."
*Lord willing we will talk about the rapture soon, but the most important deliverance in Matthew 24 comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. And We see the gospel back up in vs. 13-14, where Jesus said, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 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."
*The gospel is the good news that God loves us, and wants to save us from our sins. It's the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead, so He is able to save anyone who will receive Him as their Lord and Savior.
*The main thing today is to know that Jesus Christ is surely coming again, and He will surely save anyone who will trust Him as their Lord and Savior. Have you done that? It is the only way to get ready for the Lord's return. Call on the Lord Jesus to save you, as we go back to God in prayer.
-Eileen Barker. Abstract of "The Unification Church: A Kaleidoscopic Introduction." Society Register 2, no. 2 (2018): 19–62.
-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unification_Church#cite_note-2 - Eileen Barker. Abstract of "The Unification Church: A Kaleidoscopic Introduction." Society Register 2, no. 2 (2018): 19–62.
-Doug Ross on the Twelfth Imam - http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2009/03/beginning-of-end.html
-In Iran, Arming for Armageddon - By Charles Krauthammer - Friday, December 16, 2005 - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/15/AR2005121501428.html
-SermonCentral sermon "Sermon on the Mount - Lesson 9" by Bill Prater - Matthew 5:10-12
-Adapted from Christianity Today - The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian by Jayson Casper- January 15, 2020 - https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/january/top-christian-persecution-open-doors-2020-world-watch-list.html
(5) Also see Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 12:11.
(6) Adapted from "Signs of Christ's Return - The Abomination of Desolation" by John MacArthur - Matthew 24:15 - http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg2369.htm
- MacArthur's Sources: Sir Robert Anderson - "The Coming Prince" [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1954] and Harold Hoehner - "Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ" [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977]
(8) Adapted from History Of The Christian Church by Philip Schaff - vol. 1 - Source: "The Abomination of Desolation" by David B. Curtis - Matthew 24:15-20 - Dec. 21, 1997 - www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/eschatology/abom_des.htm