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Matthew 24:1-13 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:50 mins 12 secs

Signs of the Times; Matthew 24 and the Tribulation

 

The abomination of desolation is a key to understanding the chronology of the Tribulation. We see this in Matthew 24:15 NASB "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)."

 

Jesus said a lot more than what any one of the Gospel writers record. What happens is that Matthew goes into that long message and he pulls out the parts related to the coming of the kingdom because that is the theme that is the focus of Matthew's Gospel. Luke's Gospel is different, and in Luke 21 after the abomination of desolation is mentioned Jesus makes the statement, "But before all these things happen you will be persecuted," and "before all these things happen" takes us back into the church age. Then there is the warning of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, of the Jews being scattered through all the nations of the earth, and that of course is not what happens in the Tribulation period, it is what happened in AD 70. So the focus of Luke's account is to take out the element of the Olivet discourse that related to the warning to Israel, that this destruction was coming and when they saw armies surround Jerusalem that they were to flee. This actually happened in 66 AD when the Jewish revolt began. The Roman procurator surrounded Jerusalem and the Jewish believers couldn't figure out how they were going to get out, to heed Jesus' warning and escape. But then the procurator was running out of supplies and had to go back the Caesarea to be supplied. So he broke the siege and took his troops back. On the way he died and so there were a couple of years before the replacement came, Titus, and during this time the Jewish believers in Israelfollowed the Lord's advice and escaped and there wasn't a single Jewish believer left west of the Jordan. They survived. So Luke's focus is more on that aspect and not on the long-term prophecy.

 

In Matthew 24 the situation begins when Jesus has been in the temple. In the temple He has lamented Jerusalem and the negative volition in Jerusalem, and this is given in the last three verses of chapter 23.

Matthew 23:37-39 NASB "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'" – a quote from Psalm 118:26, and this will be fulfilled at the time of the end of the Tribulation period when the remnant of Israel that has been saved during the Tribulation and have followed the Lord's advice and escaped to the area around Petra, and it is there that they will call upon the Lord to deliver them, and that is when the Lord returns.

Following His lament over Jerusalem Jesus left the temple. He went out the eastern gate, down across the Kidron valley, and goes up the ascent on the east side of the Mount of Olives. As He departs the temple His disciples look back at the beautiful temple, all of the building of the temple, and asked Jesus what was going to happen. Matthew 24:2 NASB "And He said to them, 'Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down'." He predicts the coming judgment that will take place when the Romans come in AD 70 and completely destroy the temple.

Then the disciples ask Jesus a very important question. Matthew 24:3 NASB "As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things happen, and what {will be} the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'" This is the kind of question people are always asking. In this particular prophecy what Jesus is preparing the disciples for is the fulfilment of the prophecy that will take place during the end time. We are in the church age, the Rapture is coming, but He is going to talk about what will happen during the Tribulation period in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. So there is preparation for fulfilment now and then the fulfilment does not happen until the end time. The prophecy all looks forward to the future.

As we look at verses 3-14 this is where Jesus makes various statements about things that are coming up. There is a focus on such things like there will be false religions, false Christ's, wars and rumours of wars, but that "the end is not here." That is important because what did the disciples ask? It was, What will be the sign of the end of the age? In our Bibles we should circle the word "end" in verse 3, and in verse 6, and connect them, because this is a key word for understanding what is going on here. Then when we get down to verse 13, "But the one who endures to the end, he will be delivered." Those three "ends" all refer to the end time event of Daniel's 70th week. This means none of this refers to anything going on in the present church age.

Revelation 10:7 NASB "but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets." This is after the seal judgments, after the trumpet judgments, and is at a pause when the strong angel opens the little book related to judgments. The words "the mystery of God is finished," are the same Greek words as used in Matthew 24. It will be the end. In this verse, verse 10, even at that point the end hasn't come yet. In Matthew 24:14 NASB "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." The very next verse, v. 15, takes us to the abomination of desolation. The end period comes after this abomination of desolation. That means that this term the end actually refers to the end of the Tribulation period, not the end times, not the seven-year Tribulation period itself, but the end of the Tribulation period.

Starting with Jesus' answer in Matthew 24:4, even though there are things that will happen in the Tribulation period and leading up to it that are also trends in the church age, and just because there are similarities doesn't mean that they are the same thing. What happens in vv. 4-14 are the signs of His coming, not trends of the ages. These are just the beginnings of the birth pangs, and the birth pangs are that which come during the last half of the Tribulation period when the intensity of the judgments is at its highest. That is the period immediately preceding the day of the Lord which refers to the coming of Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom. So we put all of these things together and we begin to get an idea of what is going on in the end time. We see a certain parallelism between the Olivet discourse and the seal judgments of Revelation. Almost all of the things in the seal judgments are mentioned by the Lord as that which comes just before the end as part of the beginning of sorrows, part of the lead-up to and immediately precedes the abomination of desolation. In Mark 13:21ff we have the same thing. What this shows us is that Matthew 24 is going to give us a framework for understanding the chronology of Revelation.

What we see from Matthew 24 is that all of these things that happen—at least in the seal judgments if not in the trumpet judgments—clearly occur in the first half of the Tribulation period and precede the abomination of desolation which is mentioned in Matthew 24:15. Following that in Matthew 24:16 we read Jesus' warning: NASB "then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. [17] Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. [18] Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. [19] But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! [20] But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. [21] For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will." So the intense part of the Tribulation occurs following the abomination of desolation and the first half is the beginning of sorrows.

The two witnesses of Revelation chapter eleven are killed after 1,260 days, which is three and a half years; so after the first half of the Tribulation they will be killed, their bodies will be laid out for observation for three and a half days, and we are told in 11:10 NASB "And those who dwell on the earth {will} rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth." We see here a picture of the hatred, the antagonism of the earth dwellers toward God. Then in v. 11 we are told that these two witnesses are going to be resurrected, taken to heaven, v. 12, and in v. 13 NASB "And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." This is when the majority of Jews living in Jerusalem respond to the message of these two witnesses, when they accept Jesus as their Messiah, when they recognise that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and they gave glory to the God of heaven.

In chapter twelve the woman is Israel, the child that is born is Jesus, so part of that is reflecting back on what has already happened. There is a "a male {child,} who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron." That is Jesus. Then there is a time shift. Verse 7 talks about a war in heaven that breaks out. This is when Lucifer, the dragon, the devil from old, is cast out. This happens at the mid point of the Tribulation. Revelation 12:13 NASB "And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male {child.} [14] But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent." This is Matthew 24:15, the believing Jews who saw the abomination of desolation, respond to what Jesus taught and flee into the wilderness for protection—"for a time and times and half a time," i.e. three and a half years. They are out in the wilderness for the last half of the Tribulation so the events of that earthquake in Jerusalem and giving glory to the God of heaven must take place before the mid point of the Tribulation. Revelation 12:17 NASB "So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus." So this is talking about regenerate Israelites in this chapter who have fled into the wilderness. When we put all of this together what we discover is that the seal judgments and trumpet judgments must precede the mid point of the Tribulation. That is the chronological flow of Revelation. When we hear about peace in Jerusalem in the first half that is related to Israel, it is not peace in the world. It is the last three and a half years when the intensity is poured out that we see the Antichrist, the abomination of desolation, and it is there that literally all hell breaks loose on earth. At the end Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom.    

Illustrations