Signs of the End Times
Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple
Signs of the end times are found in Matthew 24 – a particularly important passage of Scripture. In this passage Jesus predicts the destruction of what was then the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was first built by Solomon in the Old Testament, then rebuilt in the New Testament, and will finally be rebuilt for the third and final time before Christ returns.
The disciples were in awe of the beauty of the Temple but Jesus startles them by predicting it’s destruction.
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.” (Matthew 24:2) NKJV
Burning with curiosity, the disciples wait for Jesus to sit down on the Mount of Olives and privately come to Him to get more information:
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?” (Matthew 24:3) NKJV
The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age
Jesus begins his response with a very revealing statement:
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4-5) NKJV
Let’s consider an outline of Jesus’ responses on the subject of the signs of the times and the end of the age:
|1||Beware of deception (false Messiahs).||24:5|
|2||There will be wars and rumors of wars.||24:6|
|3||Nation will rise up against nation.||24:7|
|4||There will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes (the beginning of sorrows).||24:7-8|
|5||Christians will be delivered up to tribulation, death and hatred.||24:9|
|6||As a result of tribulation, many Christians will be offended and betray and hate each other.||24:10|
|7||Then many false prophets will arise and deceive many.||24:11|
|8||Lawlessness will abound, causing the love of many Christians to grow cold.||24:12|
|9||Only those Christians who endure to the end will be saved.||24:13|
|10||The gospel of the Kingdom of God will be preached throughout the world as a witness to the nations, and then the end will come.||24:14|
The Great Tribulation
Jesus then identifies a major sign of the end of the age which is the Abomination of Desolation spoke of by the prophet Daniel. It appears that this event is of great significance in the scheme of things and that it will trigger what the Bible describes as the Great Tribulation.
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. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22) NKJV
Jesus then proceeds to warn that during the Great Tribulation many false Christs will appear claiming to be the Messiah (Jesus Christ). They will even perform great signs and wonders through Satanic power to fool people.
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. “(Matthew 24:23-24) NKJV
This is a very interesting statement because it poses a dilemma; can the elect of God (Christians) be deceived? This is a question that I wrestled with many years ago as I reads this passage of Scripture. Nowhere in the New Testament is the term “elect” used as a reference to Israel as an ethnic group or nation. It is always used of believers. The pronouns “you”, “your”, and “us” in all three gospel accounts of the end-time teaching of Christ clearly indicates that Jesus was addressing disciples. There is simply no contextual justification to understand that the term “elect” is national Israel and that the instruction in the Olivet Discourse is referring to anyone else other than believers in Christ. The Olivet Discourse is focusing on the parousia or second coming of Christ for believers.
But if we describe the elect as those who are believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, then surely they cannot be deceived. Surely they are ones who have received the truths of the Kingdom of God as revealed in the Bible, and have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? While considering this passage of scripture almost thirty years ago, I decided to pray and ask the Lord to give me the answer; and this is what the Holy Spirit revealed to me:
Deception is very deceptive
The greatest deception will come from within the church (Trojan Horse)
Picture of two diverging lines (progressive deviation from truth)
I want to deal with each point individually.
1. DECEPTION IS VERY DECEPTIVE
When the Lord spoke to me in this way it sounded really strange. But if you think about it, the nature of deception is that it it designed to fool people. It looks normal, or like truth, but is not. Think of how camouflage is used by the military, and creatures in nature. Camouflage is very effective because the enemy can be hidden from view in plain sight of it’s prey!
So we can see that camouflage is designed to hide something. Usually it hides a predator. So how does this apply to Matthew 24:24?
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11: 13-15) NKJV
Satan and those whom he influences, disguise themselves into ministers of righteousness; and this is designed to deceive their unwary victims! And this leads to my second point.
2. THE GREATEST SPIRITUAL DECEPTION WILL COME FROM WITHIN THE CHURCH (TROJAN HORSE)
And here are a few of Trojan Horses already within the Christian Church. These enemies of Christ are preaching a false gospel that is designed to lead the unwary astray.
- The Emerging Church Movement
- The Seeker Friendly Church movement (which preaches a watered down broad-road gospel of health, wealth, prosperity, the love of self and money, and post-modernism – which includes relative truth)
- The New Apostolic Reformation (which is nothing less than a subversive Masonic movement headed up by the Knights of Malta)
- The New Mystics movement (which preaches doctrines of demons and elevates subjective spiritual experiences above Bible truth and sound Christian doctrine)
- New Age spirituality (which deifies man as god and denies Jesus Christ)
- The Ecumenical movement (which preaches the need for a one world religion)
- Crislam (which preaches the merging of Islam with Christianity)
- The Word of Faith prosperity gospel (which preaches the love of money) (Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Jerry Savelle, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Mike Murdoch, and many more).
- The false gospel of self-help and personal development (I AM) (which preaches love of self)
- Bible versions that are slowly but surely perverting and distorting the Word of God.
- The Purpose Driven Movement [The Purpose Driven Life & The Purpose Driven Church] (headed up by apostate Rick Warren)
- New Age new thought movement (metaphysics / mind science / word of faith / prosperity gospel / deification of man as god) as preached by people such as Joel Osteen, Paula White, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Crefflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Joseph Prince, Oprah Winfrey etc.
It is not possible to go into detail on each of these right now, but I will attempt to do so in future. Sufficed it so say that the proponents of these Trojan Horses incriminate themselves.
3. PICTURE OF DIVERGING LINES (PROGRESSIVE DEVIATION FROM TRUTH)
This image demonstrates the principle of diverging lines. They are lines that progressively move further and further away from their starting point, and in opposite directions. For purpose of illustration, let’s assume in this diagram, that point A is the starting point and that this starting point represents Biblical truth or absolute truth. The first diverging line (A to B) is moving in a different direction from A to C. So we can conclude that both lines are moving further and further away from truth.
But divergence is not always this obvious. To illustrate how deceptive the outcome of progressive divergence can be, let’s consider a plane flying from London to New York. In every case, a plane is blown off course during flight (i.e. deviated from its predetermined flight path), by strong winds. The pilot uses sophisticated instruments to ensure that the passengers arrive at their chosen destination safely.
Failure to check the actual flight path alongside the intended flight path will result in disaster. The reason the pilot needs instruments is that can be very difficult to realize that the aircraft is being blown off course. Diversion often comes in small increments which have a compounding effect over a long distance. As Christians, we too have an “instrument” that we can use to test whether or not we are still on course, or whether we too are being diverted from truth. This guidance instrument is the Bible. Biblical doctrine is a crucial component that helps Christians determine whether or not they are still in the faith, or have unwittingly been deceived and diverted toward an unknown foreign destination. This is why we are instructed to study the word of God. Once we have a thorough understanding of God’s truth, we will easily be able spot deception or half truths designed to lead us astray.
Small amounts of error mixed with truth can have a profound effect on our spiritual life over a long period of time. It is the cumulative effect of compounding spiritual deception that has an almost imperceptible negative effect on us. The Bible refers to doctrines of demons. Doctrines of demons are simply demonic lies that sound like truth but are not. Remember – deception is very deceptive. So it is very important that we test everything we hear, to confirm whether or not the teaching conforms to sound Bible doctrine.
Here are some of the ways in which Satan deviates Christians from truth:
- Through subjective emotional feelings.
- Through the preaching of half truths and what I call patchwork quilt theology (for example a sermon that liberally borrows from unrelated texts [usually taken out of context], and various Bible translations, in order to arrive at what sounds like truth, but is in fact a lie). A Bible text referred to outside it’s proper context, is a pretext!
- Through a poor understanding of what the Bible teaches.
- Through accepting everything that is preached or taught from the pulpit, without testing it against Scripture (absolute truth).
- Through not testing every spirit. (There are times it appears that we are hearing truth but it comes with a feeling that “something is wrong”, although we may not always be sure what it is. In most cases, this is a red light and a warning from the Holy Spirit to pay more attention to what is being said and to evaluate it more critically. On closer inspection we will soon notice the cleverly hidden deception).
- By ignoring the fruit (of a persons life, ministry, teachings etc). Jesus said that we can easily identify a tree by it’s fruit. The fruit gives the game away. If it bears oranges, it cannot be a lemon tree – no matter how much it says it is or tries to be. For example, if someone say that they do not love money, but always preach about it and are preoccupied with their cars, clothes, house and bank balance, then it is self-evident that they do love money.
- Through the influence of others who have a hidden agenda. An example of this could be a “christian” who writes a book, or writes a song, or has a ministry that is aimed at glorifying themselves rather than God. Unfortunately this problem has become endemic in the prosperity and personality-driven mega-churches which teach the love of self and the love of money.
- Through claims that Christianity has to be modernized, or updated, or re-imagined, in order to make it more relevant to our post-modern society.
- By getting believers to elevate other so-called truths above the Word of God (whatever is important to them, their church, or their group).
- By preaching a false gospel of mega-grace (that as believers we are free to live as we please because God is loving, merciful and long-suffering; after all – a loving God will not send anyone to hell will he?).
Now that I have shared a bit about what the Lord showed me about Matthew 24:24, lets move on.
The Coming of the Son of Man
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31) NKJV
From this passage we can see that the return of Jesus will be immediately after the Great Tribulation.
The Parable of the Fig Tree
“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. (Matthew 24: 32-35) NKJV
This simply means that the signs unfolding around us will make it clear that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent. It will become self-evident. The words of Christ spoken to the disciples in Matthew 24:25 (“See I have told you beforehand.”), will ring in the ears of Christians as a reminder that He (as God) had foreknowledge of them.
No One Knows the Day or Hour (of Christ’s return)
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. (Matthew 24:36) NKJV
The Bible is very explicit on this point – NO ONE KNOWS THE EXACT TIME THAT CHRIST WILL RETURN. I do not need to labor this point. Suffice it to say that Christians should avoid people who profess to know when Christ will return. Only God the Father knows the appointed time. Rather than waste time and effort trying to predict dates and times, let’s get on with preaching the gospel!
The Faithful Servant and the Evil Servant
The Faithful Servant
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. (Matthew 24:45-47) NKJV
So, the good faithful servant is one who is going about the Master’s business; one who is actively engaged in doing the world of the Kingdom and going about the Master’s business.
The Evil Servant
But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24: 45-51) NKJV
The evil servant is one who argues that Christ will not return in the near future, using this as an excuse to live a self-indulgent, lazy life. Such a person is no longer actively engaged with the Master’s business; some times such a person is referred to as “unprofitable servant” in various parts of the Bible. There are various warnings in Scripture about lazy, unprofitable, even evil servants who claim to be servants of righteousness but who live for themselves rather than seeking to glorify God, and to promote His kingdom. May it not be so with you and me!