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A Conversation about the End Times

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 24:1–28; Mark 13:1–23; Luke 21:5–24

People long to know what the future holds. What they really need is to know the one who holds the future. The Bible reveals everything we need to know about the future and assures us that God’s eternal plan will be worked out in His providence and according to His will.


Today we set sail into the most interesting prophetic portion of the Gospel accounts. Jesus has predicted the coming desolation of Jerusalem. As the Lord and His disciples now walk over toward the Mount of Olives, the Gospels of Mark and Luke record that they are admiring the magnificence and beauty of the temple. In Matthew’s account, Jesus responds with this prediction: “Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).

As they reach the Mount of Olives, where they have a spectacular view of the temple, Jesus sits down to rest. The disciples ask Him in verse 3, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Now remember, they are not anticipating Jesus’ death and resurrection—though they should be by now. They are still wondering when Jesus will manifest Himself as Israel’s reigning Messiah.[1]

We need to understand that the disciples have no concept of the rapture, which at this point has not been revealed. They are equally confused about the second coming of Christ. Just like the Old Testament prophets, they have no knowledge of the dispensation of the church age. They do not know anything about the rapture; the disciples think Jesus is going to bring in the kingdom any day now. You might be familiar with Acts 1:6, where the disciples ask the resurrected Lord, just before He ascends back to heaven, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

So, keep in mind that these future elements—a rapture, a tribulation, a thousand-year reign—are all going to be revealed in the years to come as the New Testament is completely written.

When Jesus says to the disciples here that the stones of the temple will be dismantled in a great devastation, He is referring to the coming destruction of the temple that will take place in AD 70 at the hands of the Roman army. But then Jesus goes on to describe the tribulation that will precede His return, not in the clouds to rapture His church, but when He returns to earth to set up His kingdom (Revelation 19).

The main point to remember is that Jesus is describing in Matthew 24 the tribulation period, that seven-year time of trouble that comes upon the earth after the rapture—that great event Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4.

Here in Matthew 24 and 25, we have what is called the Olivet Discourse. It is a conversation on the Mount of Olives, and it all relates to the tribulation period and then Jesus Christ’s return at the end of the tribulation to establish His kingdom on earth. Mark and Luke give a condensed version of this discourse, so we will follow Matthew’s Gospel account.

Listen as Jesus describes the coming tribulation in verses 4-8:

“See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”

Notice Jesus uses the pronoun “you” throughout this passage. He is speaking to His disciples, as if they are going to go through this period of time. They will not, of course; this message is intended for all the believers who will have accepted Christ during the tribulation. The Bible tells us that many people will come to faith in Christ after the rapture of the church—and many of them will be Jewish people (see Revelation 7).

The events Jesus outlines here in Matthew’s Gospel are signs of His approaching return at the end of the tribulation. The Lord calls them “birth pains,” meaning the end is not here yet, but it is near.

Now the Lord gives special warnings to Jewish followers of Christ during the tribulation—again using the pronoun “you.” He says in verse 9, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” Because of their faith in Christ, Jewish believers will become the special target of the Antichrist and the God-hating world at large.

There will be a general falling away from the truth by those who initially profess faith in Christ. Betrayal, persecution, deception by false prophets, lawless immorality, and violence will grip this world during the tribulation. Think about it: the church is gone—the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit through millions of Christians disappears overnight. The wickedness of the world will ignite like never before.

In spite of this horrific prediction, there are two rays of hope. First, those who “endure to the end will be saved,” Jesus says in verse 13. Many new believers will be martyred for their faith, but those believers who physically survive the tribulation will see Christ return with His redeemed. They will enter the kingdom era of Christ in their physical bodies.[2] In fact, it will be these millions of believers who have come to Christ during the tribulation over whom we, the church, will co-reign with Christ in His glorious kingdom.

The second ray of hope is found in verse 14. The Lord also predicts that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world” before the end comes. The gospel of Christ and His kingdom will be proclaimed worldwide during the tribulation, and people will come to faith in Him by the millions.

Jesus then warns of the “abomination of desolation” in verse 15. What, exactly, is this? The Old Testament prophet Daniel mentions it in chapter 9 of his book and places it at the very middle of the tribulation. He attributes it to the “prince who is to come” (verse 26). This is the one we call the Antichrist. During the tribulation he will ascend to a position of worldwide leadership. But at the midpoint of the tribulation, he will break his peace covenant with Israel, desecrate the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, and, as 2 Thessalonians 2:4 tells us, he will declare himself to be God.

Jesus issues a warning here to believers living in and around Jerusalem during this future time to flee. Why? The abomination of desolation will initiate a period of severe persecution of all who refuse to worship the Antichrist, especially Jewish believers.

So, here in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus makes it clear that seven years of great trouble will come upon the world just prior to His return to establish His thousand-year kingdom on earth. This seven-year period will especially be a time of testing for Israel, but it will also prepare them to believe in Christ and rejoice when the Lord returns; for there will be no crucifixion this time but a coronation of King Jesus.

If you have trusted in Christ, you will be kept from the tribulation; you will be raptured to meet Christ in the clouds and taken back to the Father’s house—heaven. And beloved, I personally believe that while the tribulation is taking place on earth, we will be in heaven undergoing special training for our assignments when we descend with the Lord to co-reign with Him in the coming kingdom.

[1] Michael J. Vlach, He Will Reign Forever (Lampion Press, 2017), 382.

[2] Louis A. Barbieri Jr., “Matthew,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, ed. John. F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Victor Books, 1985), 77.

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